1550: Alpen Sponsors Characters on Dave

It’s been a while since I talked about how shit adverts are, so let’s talk about how shit adverts are. Or, more accurately, how shit those annoying “bumpers” or whatever they’re called before and after every ad break on a particular channel are.

I’m thinking of two specific examples here, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good one, even thinking years back. Remember the annoying girls frantically scrabbling around with a hammer and a bowl of popcorn before Friends came on? I don’t think I can ever remember what that was fo– wait, Wella Experience, so I guess it did its job to a certain extent. Or did it? Annoying girls frantically scrabbling around with a hammer and a bowl of popcorn before Friends came on didn’t make me want to purchase any of Wella’s Experience products, whatever the hell they were. No; it made me irritable, and it made me fast-forward the moment the screen faded for the ads whenever I watched the episodes on video, which is how I typically ended up watching Friends.

The two specific examples I’m thinking of from 2014 are both from the channel Dave, it of the perpetual Top Gear, QI and Mock the Week reruns. The first is for Admiral multi-car insurance, and the second is for Alpen.

They’re both shit, and not just because they’re repetitive — although by God they’re both repetitive as fuck when they’re repeated a considerable number of times every evening — and they’re both shit for the same reason: they don’t make any sense whatsoever.

Take the Admiral ones. Here’s one. (Actually, these are a little different from the ones that air on TV, but these are the ones that Admiral has inexplicably chosen to upload to their YouTube account.)

And another.

They appear to be attempting to make a catchphrase out of “ooh, that’s primetime!” because, you see, they accompany “primetime” shows on Dave. Trouble is, that doesn’t make any sense. “That’s primetime!” isn’t something people say, and it’s not something you can force people to say. Not to mention the fact that the ads don’t have anything whatsoever to do with what they’re supposedly advertising — multi-car insurance. And no, saying the words “multi-car insurance!” during the advert when something completely incongruous is going on is not advertising multi-car insurance. Like the annoying Wella girls, these ads make me less inclined to ever make use of Admiral’s services.

Then comes Alpen, who have much the same problem. Alpen, as the campaign goes, sponsors “characters on Dave”, or in other words, the shows that are on in the mid-to-late evening and typically involve recognisable, well-known comedians.

A month or so ago, Alpen’s campaign made a reasonable amount of sense. There was a dude tramping around his alpine apartment eating porridge. Geoffrey Palmer said “porridge full of character”, then there was a close-up of the porridge. Fair enough.

Now, however, there’s a bearded bloke who waffles on some idiotic nonsense about what he thinks characters “are” (“Characters have eyes in the back of their head! Hello, mountains!” — he’s standing in front of a window with a view over some mountains), then Geoffrey Palmer says “Alpen sponsors characters on Dave” with a rather worn-out voice, as if he knows what he’s being asked to do is utterly stupid. And no porridge, full of character or no. (Unfortunately there’s no videos of these sequences easily available. Sort it out, YouTube!)

I just don’t understand why or how someone signed off on these. Both the Admiral and the Alpen ads are clearly supposed to be funny, but they’re also obviously composed by people who have absolutely no idea how to write comedy and thus have absolutely no business whatever writing comedy. Or attempting to, anyway.

Anyway, yes. That’s what I’ve been thinking about this evening. What a happy and exciting life I lead, no?

1549: HOUOUIN KYOUMA

Still not finished Steins;Gate – it’s long! — but I wanted to talk about it a bit more, as I played it a whole bunch this evening and think I may be closing in on one of the games several endings.

Like most good visual novels, Steins;Gate does an excellent job of drawing you into its world and helping you understand its protagonist. Despite being entirely composed of static images, character portraits and very occasional “event” images — much like every other visual novel — it manages to craft an extremely convincing setting. Or perhaps, given the game’s focus on manipulation of time, the many-worlds interpretation and all manner of other goodness (this isn’t a spoiler, by the way; it’s a core theme of the whole thing), it would be more accurate to say “settings”.

One of the most interesting things about the game is the effort to which Nitroplus (and, by extension, the translators) has gone to ensure that all the background detail in the world is consistent, detailed and, in many instances, based rather obviously on reality. An extensive in-game glossary allows you to look up information on a variety of different keywords that appear throughout the course of the narrative and dialogue — and these cover a range of subjects from real-life scientific theory to popular hypotheses put forward by science fiction, snippets of otaku culture, online culture, and “chuunibyou” conspiracy theories. Although the game takes obvious pains to twist things slightly from their real-life counterparts — IBM becomes IBN, for example; CERN becomes SERN; names of popular anime and manga get similarly bastardised — it’s obvious that a lot is based on things from the actual, real world, and consequently it’s hard not to feel like the game is subtly sneaking some genuine knowledge into your brain as you play it.

Okay, a lot of it may not be all that useful unless you have an otaku friend who constantly drops references you don’t understand (Hi!) or are acquainted with a conspiracy theorist nutjob, but it’s interesting that it’s in there nonetheless — plus it helps provide a lot of the narrative with an interesting degree of context. It’s also just plain cool for a narrative to be based on real-life urban legends such as John Titor and the question of what CERN are really up to with their Large Hadron Collider.

Aside from all that, though, Steins;Gate is simply a phenomenally well-written visual novel. It’s long and wordy, sure, but all the exposition in the game’s early chapters really pays off with some wonderfully strong character development. The protagonist in particular is a fascinating individual; being a “chuunibyou” conspiracy theorist himself with delusions of being a mad scientist named Hououin Kyouma — a name his voice actor takes considerable delight in bellowing every time it comes up in the script — makes him far more interesting to inhabit the head of than many other “blank slate” protagonist characters seen in other visual novels. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with those — they often fit well with more “dating sim”-style stories in which the protagonist is usually intended to be a self-insert for the player — but, well, yes. Steins;Gate makes a convincing case for the protagonist being a strong character in their own right.

Anyway, three solid hours of reading earlier have driven my eyes a bit squiffy so I’m off to bed. Further thoughts will doubtless follow when I’ve finished the damn thing.

1548: Sell-Out

This is probably going to sound like a terribly “inside baseball” post, but I feel the need to vent a little, so apologies in advance.

I am absolutely sick of the lack of respect given to my profession — games critic, games journalist, person who writes about games, whatever you want to call it — and I am likewise sick of the daily drama that accompanies it, particularly on the UK/European side of things. It’s getting extremely tiresome to put up with the daily snark, outrage and condemnation of this, that or the other, and I really can’t help feeling that ultimately all it does is distract from the reasons most of us got into this business in the first place: loving games.

Whether it’s someone using the infuriating scare quotes around the job title “journalist” (as in “so-called games ‘journalists’”), the regular (and, to my knowledge, usually unjustified) accusations of bribery, corruption and otherwise unethical behaviour or the current favourite of the social justice crowd, complaining whenever a white man writes something, you sometimes have to wonder why people put up with this shit. And indeed some don’t. And I can’t say I blame them.

I’ve been quite fortunate throughout my career in that there’s only been one real occasion where I became a little uncomfortable as a result of the behaviour of a reader or community member. That was back on GamePro, when the GamePro Facebook page was frequented by a rather strange individual who didn’t believe in debit cards and had some peculiar political ideas. He was harmless for the most part, until I posted a piece about an interesting-sounding game developed by a university that promised to explore matters of sexuality and gender. He exploded in a fit of rage; forced to confront things that clearly didn’t fit in with his rather narrow-minded view of the world, he became extremely aggressive and unpleasant, and for the first time I felt a little afraid of the Internet. (The second time I was afraid of the Internet has been well-documented on these pages, but that was nothing to do with work.)

The latest incident in Games Industry Drama involved a recent press event for Ubisoft’s upcoming game Watch Dogs in which attendees were reportedly given a free Nexus 7 — a decent Android tablet. Predictably, this quickly descended into people condemning the people who had accepted them and people arguing about “ethics”, while at the same time NeoGAF was doing its usual thing of whingeing about how game journalists are all paid off and how no-one writes “objective” reviews. (Hahaha.)

It is exhausting to have to process all this sort of thing on a daily basis. I write about games for one reason and one reason only. (Well, two if you count the paycheque.) I write about games because I love writing about games. No other reason. I’m not trying to change the world. I’m not trying to make people rise up and fight against oppressive powers. I’m not trying to make people confront things they’re uncomfortable with. And perhaps I should be doing those things. But I’m not. The reason I write about games is because I love writing about games, and because I love games.

When I come across a brilliant game I love that few people are talking about, the first thing I think about is how I might be able to write about it in a way that gets my passion and enthusiasm across. These are experiences I want to share with people; experiences I want other people to be able to have. And if just one person reads something I’ve written and thinks “hmm, that sounds interesting; maybe I’ll check it out!” then I’m happy.

But if just one person rolls up and calls me a sellout or calls my integrity into question, that sucks. Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with that particular issue in my career, but seeing it constantly going on all around me on a seemingly daily basis is just exhausting. Sometimes I wish everyone would just shut the fuck up and just enjoy themselves for once.

And I realise that by writing this I’m simply contributing to the noise. But it needed to get out of my brain and on to the page. And now I’m done. I’m off to go and play either Final Fantasy XIV or Demon Gaze and not look at social media for the rest of the day.

1547: Reading Steiner

A lengthy Steins;Gate session this evening coupled with a chat about Saya no Uta (aka Song of Saya, a game I haven’t played but am looking forward to trying) with my friend Mark has reminded me both how and why I love the visual novel medium.

I use the word “medium” when referring to visual novels rather than “genre” because in many cases, it’s not entirely accurate to call them “games”, despite the fact that they tend to be festooned in the trappings of video games. Most tend to include some sort of metagame element, be it a simple checklist of endings, a CG gallery with a completion percentage or, in the case of more complex games like Steins;Gate, even achievements. Most of them are presented in a distinctly game-like fashion, with console-style main menus that make pleasing noises when you click on them, colourful but clear text boxes with a little spinny thing in the corner that tells you when you’ve reached the end of the current paragraph, and all manner of other things.

And yet they’re not games. Not really. They’re interactive stories — some having no more than one or two meaningful choices over the course of the entire narrative, and some even eschewing the element of choice whatsoever — that make use of multimedia presentation to distinguish themselves from, you know, reading a book. The combination of static background images, static or lightly animated characters, music, voice acting, sound effects and text all combine to create a very distinctive effect — and one that can be a powerful poke to the imagination.

Books, of course, are the poster childs for stoking the fires of the imagination, but visual novels also do this, albeit in a different way. Whereas in a book it’s left largely up to you how you picture the scene unfolding in front of you, in visual novels you tend to get a bit more in the way of audio-visual cues. You can hear the characters’ voices (at least you can in recent releases; earlier VNs were text-only), you can see the characters, you can hear the music giving you an idea of the overall mood and, if the scene is a particularly important one, there’ll be an “event” image depicting a dramatic moment from whatever is happening.

Far from being an inferior means of stirring the imagination, this approach works in a different way. While books provide the stimulus for mental pictures through descriptive text, visual novels simply use their multimedia element to do so, which allows them to cut back a little on the descriptive text and instead explore the protagonist’s innermost thoughts, or engage in some snappy dialogue between characters.

Visual novels present a particularly good means of expressing a first-person narrative. While in first-person perspective books you tend to feel like you’re just along for the ride, in visual novels it feels like you’re taking a much more active role — even if your influence on the overall story is minimal. You’re sitting inside the main character’s mind looking out through their eyes and listening to their innermost thoughts — and even if the main character is some sort of awful jerk (as they often are in visual novels) this provides a very good means of exploring that character, why they are an awful jerk and how they may or may not go about changing themselves. Character growth! How about that.

This isn’t to say visual novels have to be confined to first-person narratives, however. No; in fact, it can be very effective for a visual novel to “cut away” to another character, or even a complete shift in perspective to third-person. Nitroplus’ visual novel Deus Machina Demonbane is a particularly good example of this being used effectively; during its first-person sections, it’s something of a film noir tale about a down-on-his-luck detective and how he becomes embroiled in a series of increasingly ridiculous events. During its third-person sections, however, the true scale of what Kujou is involved in becomes apparent thanks to being able to get an overall picture of what is going on — coupled with the authentically overblown and distinctly Lovecraftian narration that accompanies these scenes.

Steins;Gate, also from Nitroplus, is a little more traditional than Demonbane in that it remains firmly stuck inside the protagonist’s mind, but my gosh what an interesting head to be stuck inside, for Rintaro Okabe is a strange individual indeed — seemingly convinced he’s a mad scientist named Hououin Kyouma (which his voice actor bellows with admirable aplomb every time it comes up in the script) who is being pursued by “The Organisation”, it’s not entirely clear for a lot of the game whether Okabe genuinely has a screw loose or if he’s just playing up for the people around him. The sheer ridiculousness of his statements would seem to suggest the latter, but then he does something so outrageous that you have to wonder about his mental state. And when Steins;Gate‘s overarching narrative threads start to get moving, things become even more murky.

The upshot of this is that Okabe becomes something of an unreliable narrator. And this is something that visual novels are particularly good at exploring. Saya no Uta is another particularly good example from what little I know of it, but there are countless others, too; when you’re observing a narrative from a first-person perspective, after all, you’re only getting one person’s perspective on it — and how can you be sure that person is telling the truth?

That’s the question, huh? Anyway. That’s that for now. Check out Steins;Gate if you’ve got a yawning chasm in your life that can only be filled by utterly fascinating sci-fi; full review coming soon on USgamer.

1546: Gaze This Way

Been playing an unusual Vita game for review recently. Normally I wouldn’t blog about games that I’m reviewing, but I already wrote a “first impressions” piece about the game over on USgamer a while back, so, well, these are some second impressions, I guess.

The game in question is Demon Gaze from Kadokawa Games, brought to the West by the ever-reliable NIS America. I didn’t know a lot about this game prior to starting to play it save for the fact that it had upset a few people — as many Japanese games tend to — by featuring a selection of pretty anime-style girls with artwork that is occasionally on the suggestive side.

What I wasn’t expecting from it was an old-school dungeon-crawler of the Wizardry mould, right down to creating your own party bit by bit as you can afford to, We’re talking manually choosing race, class and appearance for your characters, then heading out into a grid-based dungeon to fight lots of monsters, solve some rudimentary puzzles and ultimately complete some quests.

What I also wasn’t expecting was a rock-hard level of difficulty almost from the outset. Unlike in some other Japanese role-playing games, a level 1 character in Demon Gaze really is utter shit. Their stats are poor, their HP is low and it’s very rare for them to have any useful abilities from their class. This makes life interesting when you can finally afford to recruit an additional party member and they have to start from this position of non-power while the rest of your adventuring brigade are happily chopping the heads off monsters left, right and centre. You have to take care of the newbie until they find their feet a bit, and then only let them step into the front lines when you’re absolutely sure they can handle it.

Because this isn’t a game that is afraid to kill you and dump you back at the title screen without any ceremony. Step into a fight you can’t win and fail to get away quickly enough and there’s no “retry” option, no fade-to-black-then-wake-up-back-at-the-inn, it’s just Game Over. Reload. I hope you remembered to save every time you get back from an adventure because the game sure as hell isn’t going to auto-save for you.

The other thing that is a bit of a culture shock is that the game doesn’t hold your hand with regard to quests at all. “Go find this dude,” the game will say. “Where are they?” you’ll ponder. “Oh, you know,” replies the game. “Out there. Somewhere. Come back when you find him.” Cue plenty of enjoyable exploration and risk-taking as you search every nook and cranny to complete your objectives. Can the party survive trudging through that poisonous swamp? Only one way to find ou– oh, they’re all dead.

In some senses, this old-school difficulty and unforgiving nature is going to put a lot of people off. But that’s fine; titles like Dark Souls have proven there’s a market for unforgiving games in which you have to take a bit more care than in many other modern titles, and Demon Gaze is seemingly designed along these lines. (That’s not the only similarity, either; both Demon Gaze and the Souls series allow you to leave messages for other players that are then shared on the network, though the former lacks the latter’s ability for true multiplayer.)

I’m a relatively short way into the game so far, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s the sort of thing that feels like it could be a “long-term project” of a game; it’s fairly light on the story side of things (though it does have some seriously adorable characters who often greet you and have their own silly little side-plots when you get back from an adventure) and surprisingly friendly to quick play sessions, making it an ideal handheld game for a bit of grinding on the bus or over lunch.

Full review coming towards the end of the month; for now, suffice to say, I like it a lot.

1545: Changing Communication

I’m trying to make a conscious effort to tone down the effect the Internet has had on the way I communicate over time. This may sound like a peculiar thing to say, given that the majority of the communication I engage in on a daily basis is via the Internet, but just recently a number of things have really started to bug me about the way people talk to one another online, and I simply want to make sure that I’m not a part of it and thus, perhaps, inadvertently annoying someone else.

I think the chief thing I want to make sure I avoid is excessive hyperbole. Most people who use social media have been guilty of this at some point — posting a link to a mildly amusing cat video and declaring “Shut the Internet down. We’re done.” or “This is the best thing ever!” or “There are no words.” or… I could go on, but I won’t. You get the idea.

Declaring things “the best thing ever” or along those lines is excessive hyperbole. It devalues that phrase “the best thing ever” if everything is the best thing ever, and the other examples are just putting undue pressure on something that was probably designed to be a throwaway joke to perform and be somehow amazing.

Particularly gross examples of excessive hyperbole come in the form of headlines from sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy and their numerous imitators. Inevitably conversational in tone but capitalised excessively So They Look Like This And You Won’t Believe What Happened Next, these headlines, on an almost hourly basis, promise laughter until you evacuate your bowels, crying until your eyes shrivel up and stories so heartwarming you’ll cook yourself from the inside. And they’re rarely anything special; at best, they’re sob stories deliberately designed to emotionally manipulate the reader; at worst, they’re pointless nonsense deliberately designed in an attempt to make them “go viral”.

Excessive hyperbole can spill over into discourse, too, and it frequently does. I’ve lost count of the number of times things have been described as “toxic” over the last year or two, when in fact this is, in many cases, an exaggeration. (Well, of course it is; if it was literally toxic then it would kill anyone involved.) And once you jump onto your high horse and brand something as “toxic” there’s really nowhere to go from there; the people who disagree will disagree forcefully because you were forceful in the first place, while the people who agree will look like wet lettuces if they decide to come in with a “Well, I wouldn’t say toxic, but…”. Thus online discourse frequently descends into who can be the most hyperbolic the loudest or the most often, and the quality of discussion suffers enormously as a result.

Last time I wrote about this sort of thing I attracted commenters accusing me of something called “tone policing”, which is where you distract attention away from the core argument that someone is trying to make by focusing on the way they are making it rather than the content. And that, perhaps, is something that people including myself do do, but if it’s becoming an issue then perhaps the people who are getting “tone policed” should consider the way they are making those arguments in the first place. With less hyperbole, less use of strong, emotive language such as “toxic” and more in the way of constructive, descriptive comments, we can all get to know the way we feel about things a lot more easily, and we can move forward in debates and discussions.

As it stands, however, the second someone jumps onto their high horse with a disproportionately passionate reaction to something that is, in many cases, very simple, I simply cannot take them seriously. And I doubt that’s the effect they want to have with their arguments.

I certainly don’t. Which is why I’m making an effort to tone down my own hyperbole and try to speak like a normal human being when communicating on the Internet as much as possible. With a text-based medium of communication like the Internet, you have a moment to pause before you respond to or broadcast something to look back on what you’ve written, reflect and decide whether that’s really what you wanted to say. Things said in the heat of the moment are often regretted with hindsight; those regrets can be easily avoided with a little less hastiness and a little more consideration, both for yourself and for others.

This was a Public Service Announcement on behalf of the National Hyperbole Authority, the best thing to happen to language in three thousand years.

1544: Sick Notes

As I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past, I keep a few copies of defunct UK games magazine PC Zone around as a reminder of some early forays into writing about games professionally. These ’90s issues of the dead magazine feature nothing more exciting than a few walkthroughs by me, but it’s the rest of them I find so fascinating to read with modern eyes.

What particularly caught my attention recently was a section called “Sick Notes”. This was one of the many different things the magazine did with its last page before the back cover — over time, this included a regular column by “Mr Cursor”, a look back on the month’s gaming and what one of the editorial staff had been up to, and numerous other things.

Sick Notes was the brainchild of Charlie Brooker — yes, that Charlie Brooker — and was intended as a complement to the magazine’s other letters pages. PC Zone at this point had several different “reader input” pages, including a traditional “letters to the editor” page, a “Watch Dogs” letters page where readers could write and complain about service they’d received from hardware and software manufacturers, and a “Troubleshooter” letters page where they could ask technical queries about PC problems.

Sick Notes, meanwhile, was marketed as “The Place to Write for Abuse” so you knew what you were getting when you wrote in — and you had to write specifically to Sick Notes. It certainly lived up to its name. Here’s one memorable example that won the monthly £50 “Loser of the Month” prize, with Brooker’s response in bold beneath.

I see that in issue 67 of your “magazine” you asked us to send in a game idea. How’s this then: You start off in a primary school where all goes well and you please the teachers. You then progress to secondary education and achieve above average results and so decide to sit A-levels in your local college and finally, after four years in university, end up with an honours degree in English language and English literature.

AND THEN YOU END UP WRITING YOUR PATHETIC [swearword] PIECE OF [swearword] PAGE-FILLING SO-CALLED COLUMN.

Mark Richardson

There was a boy called Mark Richardson at my school. Everyone called him ‘skids’ because once, in the PE changing rooms, somebody noticed that he had huge brown skidmarks in his underpants. Not that this inability to tackle basic personal hygiene was restricted just to poor wiping skills. He smelled bad pretty much all the time. He was a mess. His face was permanently coated with a faintly shiny film of sweat and grime, his hair so caked in grease it recalled television footage of unfortunate seabirds in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil slick. His clothing was dirty. To use the Whizzer and Chips terminology of the day, it ‘ponged’.

But the worst thing about Skids was the way he picked his nose. He was always at it, plugging a finger in as far as he could, corkscrewing it around inside the nasal cavity, unhooking entire strata of half-dried mucus, drawing out measureless strings of oleaginous grey-green slime. Then he’d take them to his mouth, puckering his lips as if sampling some exotic delicacy. Skids devoured snot. He relished it. Guzzled it. Chewed it up and swallowed it whole, then painted his finger clean with his pink, stubby tongue. Made you sick just to watch him do that.

Anyway, sorry, what were you saying?

This was pretty much par for the course back around the time of PC Zone issue 70 (December 1998) but looking back on it now it’s hard to believe that this existed. And don’t worry, I’m not about to go off on a whole big “This Is Not Okay” social justice rant here; quite the opposite, in fact. I find it a bit sad that people who write for a living — usually for websites rather than magazines these days, though print is still hanging on in there — don’t really have the freedom to express this side of themselves any more; the means for some much-needed stress relief, and for the readers to try their luck against one of the most notoriously acerbic wits in the business.

I mean, sure, these days we have the people who have made a name for themselves with strong opinion pieces — people like Ben Kuchera and Jim Sterling spring to mind immediately, and there are others, too — but it’s not the same thing at all. Brooker didn’t just blindly insult people in Sick Notes — though he always did so with carefully-considered barbs rather than mindless abuse on that page — he also wrote witty, creative, unconventional articles that were entertaining to read far ahead of fulfilling some sort of amorphous “obligation”. And he wasn’t alone, either; the writers of Zone, among them, did all sorts of things with even their most mundane articles, with particularly memorable examples including entire reviews written as movie scripts, a “Franglais” preview of Flashback follow-up Fade to Black written from the perspective of its protagonist Conrad Hart, and countless others I’ve doubtless forgotten.

What’s my point? I’m not quite sure, really, but I think it’s that people who wrote about games used to seem like they were having more fun with it. This isn’t to say that there aren’t great, entertaining writers out there whose work is a pleasure to read, but rather there seems to be something of an unspoken rule that things need to be taken very seriously these days. You’ve got to get that SEO; you’ve got to get those clicks; you’ve got to capitalise on the popular things of the time; you’ve got to be seen to be criticising the things other people are criticising.

Cynical? Perhaps, but it’s why things like Goat Simulator feel so obnoxiously forced; what should be a silly little game that people stumble across organically and then tell their friends about has become something heavily promoted and treated with, in a number of cases, considerably more respect than I think even its creators intended. Fair play to them for successfully capturing the imagination of the press and the public, I guess, but it’s just not the same as the magic I feel reading an old PC Zone and comparing it to its rivals PC Format and PC Gamer as well as multiformat magazines, each of which had their own distinctive tone about them.

We can’t go back now, though; the world expects daily updates as things happen these days, rather than a monthly digest of things the editorial team thought were interesting, intriguing or just amusing. And the world certainly doesn’t expect a member of a site’s staff to hurl such an amazing torrent of intelligent abuse at them as Brooker did to Mark Richardson above; these days, treating your readership with such contempt is probably a firing offence.

Which is kind of weird, when you think about it; websites deal with reader numbers that magazines, even in their heyday, could only dream of, while for a magazine like PC Zone, every reader counted and thus you’d think posting something like Brooker’s response would be taking something of a big risk.

Maybe it was too much of a risk. Maybe that’s why PC Zone doesn’t exist any more. But I’ll be honest with you; I miss those days. I’d much rather be working on a monthly magazine than a constantly-updated website, but this is 2014; that’s the way things are, so I must, as the saying goes, “deal with it”.