X360 Magazine Interview
Games magazines and games websites. Some people have a preference, some enjoy both. With each medium still going strong into the 2010s, we interviewed respected games journalist , muscle-bound all-round-nice guy and editor of X360 Magazine, Simon Miller, about a range of issues relating to the formats themselves as well as the quality of contemporary games journalism itself.
Can you give a brief history of how you came to be editor of X360?
I’ve always loved video games ever since I was a child so after I’d finished an English course at Manchester Metropolitan University I decided to try and get into the industry. As is the common theme, it’s not as easy as you’d hope. With a ridiculous amount of people trying to get in there are either no vacancies, vacancies that have more experienced people applying for them or no need for extra freelancers. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to get a job at Sony writing video game manuals and packaging which gave me my much-needed doorway. When an opening at Imagine became available for a staff writer position, I applied and talked my way in to joining former Nintendo mag, N•Revolution. From there it was just a matter of paying dues and working damned hard!
What are some of your favourite games both old and new?
I’ve always said my favourite game of all-time is The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time and I still stand by it. I was 14 years old when it was released and having a franchise that I had loved for some time evolve in such a way was mind-blowing. I know everyone says it, but leaving Kokiri Forest and seeing Hyrule Field for the first time was insane. Add in the excellent narrative, incredible dungeon design and how the atmosphere remains constantly epic and I still go back to it every year. Aside from this, games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Dragon Age: Origins are high up the list, meaning I’m essentially an RPG whore!
What benefits do games magazines have over games websites?
Well, you can’t take a website into the bathroom for one! The portability and easy nature of a magazine is always going to be something it has over a website and allows readers to feel more personally connected to it. Some of my favourite magazines have always made me feel like I know the writers and I’m excited to see what they think of certain games. Although this can be true of some online outlets, magazines, by and large, build-up relationships between the readers and writers and create a unique personality. Ultimately, though, I think both have a place.
Do you think the feel of handheld devices with internet access will ever be able to compete with the feel of holding and flicking through a magazine?
It’s nice to hold a magazine in your hand. A lot of work goes into the design to achieve this and that’s the point. Holding an iPhone or a Blackberry may be technically awesome but it doesn’t have the same feel as buying a magazine with a well thought out cover and nicely designed features etc. It also makes reading through it a nice experience whereas being restricted to a small screen and scrolling through reams of text can be slightly frustrating.
The internet can offer gamers up-to-date news, whereas news in magazines is usually dated once it’s published – do you see this as much of a problem?
It all depends on how a magazine is approaching its news section. There’s little doubt that if a gaming enthusiast wants news they’ll use the net. It’s fast, easy and if the site is good, is definitely going to have the most up-to-date stories. The majority of people like to go beyond this, though, and get some context and opinion about what’s gone down – magazines have always been good at that. It turns what is a simple piece into a feature and can encourage debate or, and this is usually the norm, criticism! Again, there’s a place for both depending what it is you are after.
Imagine publishing has NowGamer which serves as an online base for its games magazines – do you think sites like these will ever actually replace the magazines they’re linked to?
I don’t think so. For sites and magazines to really flourish as we move forward they have to work together because the opportunities for what can be done grow substantially. Both outlets have positives and negatives, but when you combine the two you eliminate a lot on either side. I think what Imagine is doing at the moment with its magazines and NowGamer is proof of this and the relationship should only benefit both as each continue to evolve.
In the long run, do you think games magazines will survive alongside games websites?
Without doubt. For all the reasons I’ve already mentioned people like to read magazines. It’s comfortable and when done well, can achieve things a website just can’t. There’s also the argument that anyone can start a website, and although only a few go on to find some serious popularity, it’s too easy to stumble onto one that’s just some dude writing in his bedroom, ranting about the latest big release simply because they couldn’t complete it. With magazines, more often than not, you’re getting a dedicated team that is going to be professional.
Do you think the quality of journalism found in magazines is superior to that found on games websites?
Again it depends on the website and the publication. A good writer can shine online or off so I don’t think it really matters where they’ve chosen to submit their work. If they’re good, their work will be good.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become a games journalist?
Get as much experience as possible and keep an eye out for jobs constantly as when one is available, it’s usually gone pretty quick. Ask as many magazines/websites as possible if you can freelance for them and supply sample work as well as a CV because usually you’ll be asked to prove you can write. On a more personal note, send well thought-out emails or letters rather than get in touch over Xbox Live. I often get messages like ‘Dude, I can right gr8! If I send you some wk can I hve jb?’ You may be the greatest unsung talent on Earth but instantly it seems like you don’t even know what a pencil is!
Do you think games journalism will ever be held in a higher regard than it is currently, or even viewed as an art form?
Definitely. As gamers grow up and the industry continues to expand eventually there will be enough history and enough intelligent people writing/talking about games to give them the respect and regard they deserve. The same thing happened with the film industry years ago and it took older individuals who were scared of something new to move on before the medium was accepted. Before long, games will experience the same trend and deservedly so.
Many thanks to Simon for taking the time out from his hectic schedule to give this interview. X360 is available in all good newsagents and their website can be found here