Gamer – Lewis Denby

27 Aug

We continue this journey with Lewis Denby, who writes everywhere including Knitting World, Tractor Pulling Monthly and Boxing For Kangaroos. Here are his 13 questions.

Q1. Who the hell are you and what do you do?

Lewis Denby – I’m Lewis. Good morning! I’m a self-employed games journalist and editor. I work primarily for BeefJack, but also for PC Gamer, Rock Paper Shotgun, Gamasutra and a few others here and there.

Q2. When did you first get into games? How old were you?

LD – I’d played on some friends’ Mega Drives and so on when I was quite young. But it wasn’t until my family got its first PC in 1996 that I really started playing. That will have made me eight years old.

Q3. Omit nothing, what is your gaming history? Where did it start and how did it progress?

LD – Okay! Early ’90s, I play on various friends’ Mega Drives – mainly dreadful kids’ platformers and the like. In 1996 we get a PC. Games of choice are Flight Sim, some NASCAR game, Microsoft Golf, and Tomb Raider. Er, and Quake, which I totally wouldn’t condone anyone letting an eight-year-old play.

A couple of years later, I’m playing stuff on friends’ PlayStations and N64s, because I still don’t own a console. We’re talking Metal Gear Solid, a bit of GoldenEye, probably some Mario. We finally upgrade the PC and I get hold of Unreal, which looks extraordinarily beautiful. Somehow I don’t end up playing Half-Life for about another two years.

I finally buy my first consoles at the start of the next generation, getting hold of both a Gamecube and a PS2. Around this time I also discover Deus Ex, which initially doesn’t click because I’m probably too young, but eventually come to absolutely adore. I play a load of games. Eventually, as I approach my mid-teens, I decide to start writing about them, setting up a website with a few friends.

Obviously they cave – around the time of Half-Life 2, if I recall. I get a new PC at the time, play that game to death and love it. But around the age of 16 I get more into music, and kinda stop playing games for a couple of years.

Then at 18 I get back into it again around the time I start uni. I get hold of an Xbox 360 and a Wii, as well as a new PC. I’ve been doing a bit of music journalism on the side of my studies, and decide I’d like to try writing about games again. So I do. And I like it. And so I do more. And eventually people think I’m quite good at it, and start to give me money. All this time I’m both playing new games, and playing old ones I missed the first time around. Then I leave uni, don’t want to get a real job, so go self-employed as a games journalist. And, oh look, it’s now.

Q4. Why do you actually play games? Is it for fun? Or maybe something else?

LD – “Games” is such a broad term. Some games, yeah, I play for fun. Most of [my] favourite games, however, are ones which immerse me in worlds I’d never be able to visit, or tell me stories I’d never hear in the real world. So no, those aren’t fun – or, at least, that’s not their primary objective. I play those games because they make me feel something: passion, wonder, awe, happiness or sadness.

And of course, I play a great deal of games for work. In this job, you have to play a great deal of games that aren’t fun at all – and not in the way I just outlined.

Q5. If you could choose one game (just one) to give to other gamers, one that epitomises videogames for you, what would it be?

LD – Y’know… ugh. That’s so tricky. I’m tempted to say Deus Ex, but no. Not GTA3 either. Or… my goodness, I don’t know. To be honest, I feel compelled not to pick one at all, because games can be so many things, and to so many different people. I think perhaps one of the most brilliant things about the medium is that /nothing/ epitomises it. It’s so broad, so all-encompassing. There isn’t something that stands at its pinnacle and represents the whole lot. There are just so many, for so many different reasons.

Q6. What was the last game you completed. Did you enjoy it?

LD – Dreamfall. The sequel to late-90s adventure classic The Longest Journey. I enjoyed it a lot, while at the same time wanting to punch it in the face for so many very reasons. But it paints such a vivid picture of two different worlds, tells a moving – though sometimes horribly contrived – story, and serves as a nice metaphor at a couple of points. I expect I’ll look back on it fondly, having finally played it, while at the same time wishing I could have changed about 50 per cent of the game.

Q7. Now the tough stuff… Favourite gaming platform ever… and why?

LD – The PC. Because it’s more than just a gaming platform. Consoles are restrictive. Computers are open as a platform. You can create and distribute as you please. Console platform holders wouldn’t dream of permitting a whole load of wonderful esoteric PC games on their format.

Q8. Favourite game or franchise?

LD – Deus Ex is my stock answer. I love Vampire Bloodlines, too. Pathologic’s the weird oddball indie gem I always bring up. And more games should be like Portal.

Q9. How do you feel about online gaming?

LD – Wow. Broad question. I feel fine about it. I tend to prefer singleplayer games, but that is just a tendency. Online gaming is fine. Yeah.

Q10. And motion control?

LD – Nice tech, but personally I couldn’t give a flying fuck about it. The novelty wore off with the Wii. The fact that we now don’t necessarily have to hold a controller doesn’t make me any more eager to get involved.

Q11. How about 3D gaming?

LD – Nintendo might be onto something with the glasses-free tech. The 3DS is an impressive piece of equipment, certainly. But it’s not at the top of my priority list in what I’d like games to be focussing on. I’d quite like us to grow up as an industry and stop with the children’s toys, if I’m honest. And cynical.

Q12. Where do YOU want to see the industry in five years time?

LD – More diverse, eclectic, risky and exciting than ever before. I want to see bigger publishers taking a risk, and I want to see more smaller developers working on ambitious projects. I want people to push the boundaries of what “gaming” is, and I want to see the emergence of proper gaming critics who look beyond the standard graphics/gameplay/sound thing and really pick at the bones of what games can be.

Q13. What does gaming mean to you?

LD – Well, it’s quite literally my livelihood, so there’s that. Gaming to me is exciting. I don’t think it’s anywhere close to reaching its potential, and often I wish it’d hurry the bloody hell up. But it will get there. And that’s what keeps me hooked – because when it’s there, it’s going to be phenomenal.

Keep watching for the next Gamer, after Holiday Monday (UK)

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