Kieron Gillen's workblog




Currently typing while Jane gets ready for bed, for the tune of Starship's "We built this city". Later, this will segue into Tyler's "I Need a Hero". Man, look what happens if you give your girlfriend access to a file-sharing program, broadband and a sense of mischeviouness.

Man, I'm going to have to stop writing sentences beginning with the word "Man". As yesterday, we killed Digiworld.

Took three hours longer than I expected for the usual suspects to start pissing on its grave while hugging themselves with glee. Which is fine. You start certain projects and you really have to expect the fallout.

Digiworld was a frankly odd model - paid-for journalism created to ape a dead Teletext site with a cult audience - and reliant on certain things working as planned. The essential ones, basically didn't.

It was sold to me as such: Biffo misses the fact he's no longer doing Digitiser. We've created a cheerful technological internet marvel that works in a similar manner to Teletext to create a daily web service. The Four of us - Biffo, Nash, Campbell and yourself - do that. The Digitiser readership was massive. A considerable proportion of that is fanatical. We advertise on Gamescentral - Digitiser's replacement - and let the people know. It's the most specific advertising at our aimed demographic imaginable. We pick up a readership to give a reasonable monetary return quickly, and then run from there. If not, we close after a two month trial period.

I thought it was, at least, worth a try for reasons that I'll get to in a minute. Since I'm playing games anyway, a review and a half a week isn't a major problem. It was, I figured, about a days work a week (I underestimated a tad, but it wasn't a stupid amount). I'd have accepted considerably beneath my page rates for the freedom and autonomy that Digiworld offered, frankly.

And, as I said, it was two months. What's there to lose?

(Except for some friendships. I knew this would be controversial, and its strained my relationships with a fair few people)

It failed, anyway.

Two most obvious reasons: The Advert on Gamescentral was pulled, thus making it impossible to reach the target demographic in any speedy manner. Secondly, a central member of the team flaked in the first couple of weeks of the magazine, thus removing the Raison d'etre of doing it in the Teletext form in the first place. A host of smaller ones I'll spare you.

I'm philosophical. I joined thinking that, in all probability, it was doomed. But two months was something I was more than prepared to write off on the chance that it would work, and it would be a chance to work on a journalistic project with Stuart Campbell and Jonathan Nash. Both were, in their periods, what could probably be best termed star-writers on Amiga Power, and both in their own way hugely influential on my writing, or at least helping me find my voice - or perhaps underlining the importance of a voice - as a journalist.

(The other two main ones were Neil Kulkarni and Taylor Parkes of the Melody Maker. In many ways, what I've done as a games journalist has mainly been based on bringing a Music Journalist sensibility (or insensibility, frankly) to the hard-edge playful napalm juggling games journalism of Amiga Power)

Of course, to most outsiders the idea that anyone gets their voice from a games journalist seems a frankly bizarre idea. But that's because they're outsiders. Things are strange in these parts. One of the main reason why they - and people like Kulks and Parkes - were important to me, was because it's live journalism. As much as I admire someone like Hunter S Thompson or Lester Bangs, their collections of work are dead journalism, exotic butterflies collected in a book. At least some of journalism's kicks is how it interacts with the culture at large, reflects it, deconstructs it and spits it back out. You don't get this once you put a spine on the fucker.

From Nash, I took a devotion to turning an idiosyncratic style into content, surface into feeling. Treating self-indulgence with the seriousness it deserves. Whimsy with teeth. That biting the hand that feeds you is an essential for getting any of the readers to believe you. Being funny. Nash's genuinely the closest to a unique talent, in any field, that I've had the pleasure of sharing an aquaintence with.

From Campbell, I took anger as an artform. Whole chunks of game-theory - or the idea that your job was actually to break down and explain your feelings rather than merely reiterate them. Not compromising, ever. The importance of a direct, conversational voice for making people believe what you're saying. And that sometimes it's well worth being hated by some people. In fact, sometimes there's no other way.

(I'm different from most Games journos in that I seriously considered how good games journalism operated before getting into the gig. I could write for ages about what I've ripped off, disassembled and then turned into myself in old magazines. I consider this a Good Thing, by the way. We're all processes.)

Quick side word about Stuart. He's gained something of an bad rep for his somewhat abrasive online manner and the fact he's at the sharp end of all manner of vitriolic comment from industry veterans. This has, most noticeably, rubbed off on the bottom rung of the new generation of games journalists. Which is a shame. No matter how much you may dislike how Stuart deals with the world, you should be aware that the content of his beliefs is absolutely correct. Take, for example, his long running court cases with various Publishers. If someone makes a comment on his propensity for legal action, the thought should be "Do I believe that a corporation should be able to delay payment to a writer for endless months and/or resell work which they've got no legal rights to?". Do you believe that? Hopefully, no. So you're on Stuart's side then and you'll benefit from any victories he makes. When Stuart's slagging off reviews, ask "Do I believe that a magazine should alter its review score for political reasons entirely unrelated to the games merits?". Yet again, the answer's hopefully no. And on and on and on.

Stuart's the you you're too polite and scared to be. You don't need to like him, but be aware of what he represents and what position you take by slagging him off. Don't like him as a person, fine. But grow up and be able to separate that from the work.

Anyway: Digiworld's dead. I'm glad I did it - it made me play a whole lot more games than I normally do and rediscover the actual craziness in my writing which I pretty much stamped out over the years. My voice has become dangerously sober. Expect it to wander back towards old-skool "This preview's going to be written in the form of a conversation between God and the reviewer" malarkies. Oh - and I made Godzilla, the Metaphor Police, the Glaring Eye and the Lamenting dollar. I have my own personal mythology now. Or rather, another one.

And, right now, if someone went to the site now they could buy all eight issues for four quid, the price of most game mags. For that, they'd get in the region of forty reviews, eight cartoon-animation-things, Over 40 opinion columns of various sorts plus a few extra ones which are more comedy than opinion, 40 back page standing-alone comedy features, 40 sarcastically processed days of news stories and all manner of other malarkies. It wasn't Digitiser. And - y'know - that suits me just fine. We had perfect teeth and with them could smile like venus prickteasing or bite your fucking arm off, depending on our whim.

So I'm proud.

Digi died yesterday. Here's to tomorrow-me-do. And gin.




Kieron Gillen's Workblog, foo'.