Kieron Gillen's workblog




This afternoon I wrote a concept review. It's been a while.

For those of you who aren't really familiar with the British games press, and are too tired to make the mental connections themselves, concept reviews are one of the mainstays of gaming reviews. They're called Concept reviews in a playful reference to the seventies high-concept album monstrosities, and the idea is simply to write a standard review through an rather more tangential approach. So rather than the traditional introduction/description/criticism/conclusion format, you go off and do something a little bit different. Like, say, write it in the style of something else. Or do it as a choose your own adventure or a quiz. Or pretend you've been kidnapped half way through the review, and Hercule Poirot has took over on the keyboard. Or do it in mime, semaphore or the medium of dance.

There's a couple of problems with concept reviews. Firstly, they demand an ability to write like a motherfucker to get away with it. When concept reviews go wrong, they're some of the worst things you can read in the gaming press. Secondly, they demand the writer to still realise he's there to act in the traditional games-journo dual role of critic and buyers-guide-fella. The idea is to impart the information in an unconventional manner, not merely to write a load of entertaining gibberish. Moreso: the best concept reviews often illuminate an important aspect of the game that's impossible to really suggest when taken straight.

The gaming press is going through a concept review dry patch. It's probably linked to the low ebb in videogames writing we're currently experiencing, and their reappearance will be tied into a mag genuinely going into top gear (It's interesting to note that every Brit games mag that's been worth believing in was a Concept review bastion. The notable exception is Edge, which you could consider to be a 100+ issue extended concept review anyway). Or it could just be that there's less character-lead writer-dominant magazines around anymore. Or maybe everyone's just too tired to be creative.

It's been a couple of years since I last did one. I stopped them at the same time I stopped the videogame-journalism-as-autobiography schtick that lead me to the position where people recognised me on Icelandic dancefloors and got me to sign photos on the London Tube. I'd decided that the messanger was getting in the way of the message, so just cut back to the hardest game analysis I could muster, lightened by a few gags.

But I think I'm bored of that now.

And besides: I was pretty good at them. It'll be a shame not too.

I'm only pretty good at them as I obssessed over Jonathan Nash's writing for a good four years and then ripped him off totally.

He's just opened a personnal webpage.

Go read.




Kieron Gillen's Workblog, foo'.