You know they call themselves ‘Rockstar’. Quite a heady claim to live up to. So what are they like to meet in person? We asked a few prominent journos who’ve done just that…
At the time: Editor-in-chief, Official PlayStation2 Magazine
Now: Global Editorial Director, GamesRadar
What: San Andreas
Where: Los Angeles
Why: The first journo ever to see San Andreas
In the industry of videogames there are ways of doing things. Unwritten rules of engagement, squeezed into being by the economic dominance of gaming’s corporate superpowers. Among them are ‘games companies shall heavily advertise products to the captive audience in specialist magazines’ (Exhibit A: on your screen) and ‘video game journalists shall not be paid much to write about their hobby’ (Exhibit B: me writing this).
(Mr. Pierce was actually paid his own weight in rhinestone encrusted Elvis shades for this - Ed.)
It’s just, sort of, the law that magazine previews should be even-handed, right up to the millisecond before a review savaging - whereas the press releases we receive should be written by gibbons and must always, but always contain the phrase ‘unrivalled excitement.’
It is also the norm that game presentations (where software companies unveil new titles to drunken journalists) are usually affable, but ultimately humdrum affairs. Grins all round, hyperbole and a free buffet; sincerity as plastic as the cutlery. For these occasions most companies wheel out for public speaking duties guys who, for 364 days of the year, make their living elbow deep in C++ code. Either that or a theatrical ‘real-world’ expert (typically an ex-general) who is paid to shout for half an hour solid that the game in question is so absurdly ‘real’ that you could actually keel over while playing it. And then calling for an awkward minute’s silence to remember the servicemen who’ve died so we might play. All of which finally brings me to the point of this waffle.
You see, to my mind Rockstar have not just innovated the way we all play games. For those of us behind the scenes they’ve had a damn good stab at re-imagining the wishy-washy world of the game presentation too. Case in point: back in 2004, as Editor-in-Chief of Official PlayStation2 Magazine, I was lucky enough to be invited by Rockstar to be the first journalist in the world to see Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, at the Electronics Expo in Los Angeles.
Compared with other big hitters, Rockstar’s presence at such events is deliberately understated. Not for them 50 foot plasmas and walls of girls in hotpants - just hordes of iconic yellow & black logos and staff in Japanese denim with angular manes. But while twatting about like a giddy, lanyard soaked fan-boy all over EA’s stand is positively encouraged, just getting access over at Rockstar is akin to bowling up at Gordon Ramsay’s at Claridge’s for Christmas lunch, without a reservation, wearing shorts. Short shorts. Your name’s not down, you’re definitely not coming in.