Video Games Journalism Isn't Worth It; Especially for Canadians

The video games press operates in a doomed state. As the video game industry grows, the rate for writers shrinks. On average, a writer earns $150 per article. A feature length article with interviews takes days or weeks to complete. Interview transcription alone takes hours to sift through. If a writer somehow manages to publish one feature article every other business day, the rate means an annual salary of $19,500. You can compare the near poverty rates of many press outlets with this crowdsourced Google Doc spreadsheet.

One well edited spreadsheet later, I've decided to abandon a career in games press. It's a scary, uncomfortable decision I never wanted to make. I worked for years to become a permanent member of the press, yet industry circumstance forces me to adapt. Writers accept the criminal rates for the experience and hope for a better opportunity. But as the spreadsheet shows, a better opportunity doesn't mean a sustainable career choice. 

Review: Halo 5: Guardians - Playing to Strengths (campaign only)

You can't blame one game as the catalyst for turning the Halo story into a convoluted mess. Halo 4 introduces the Didact as the new antagonist, yet his inconsequential actions create a circular story. In Halo 3, the Flood army changes sides more times than the Italians during World War 2. Regardless of what happens, somewhere in the galaxy, Covenant and Prometheans forces await the Master Chief's arrival. They wait for you to shoot them.

Halo 5: Guardians re-threatens the entire galaxy because we need a reason to shoot aliens. Not much motivates a faceless, robot-like character to risk his life to save everyone, again. To push Master Chief aside, 343 Industries brought in new characters - Spartan Locke and the rest of Fireteam Osiris. But even four new major characters can't define urgency in Halo 5's story. It doesn't matter why Master Chief and Spartan Locke shoot the Prometheans and Covenant - it stopped mattering. Halo 5: Guardians adds long overdue adjustments to movement and weapons to renovate what matters most: gunplay. And the evolution of Halo's core gameplay will last longer than any convoluted space opera about saving the galaxy.  

Review: Until Dawn - A Sort of Butterfly Effect

My mom loves watching stupid teenagers die. I'm not talking about real teenagers, just the ones in slasher films. She loves watching the deranged murderer observe the isolated forest cabin from afar. If a cell phone battery dies or car won't start, then she's watching the right film. She guided me through the first scene of Until Dawn, making the decisions as I controlled the characters. Instead of investigating the strange noise on the branching path, she directed me to the path of footprints. Until Dawn's deliberate use of horror tropes means it doesn't demand logic, it encourages idiocy.

Each character's fate depends on whether or not you want them to fulfill their horror film destiny. The meathead jock doesn't need to die in a bout of pointless heroics - unless you want him to. Each decision affects the characters, yet the decisions don't affect the story. Regardless of who lives or dies in Until Dawn, the murderer's identity and the storyline remains the same. Until Dawn's thrill in controlling the fate of endangered teenagers excites curiosity to see alternate outcomes. But it's the second playthrough that exposes the meager impact of the supposed pivotal story points.

Review: Splatoon - Staying Fresh [Update]

Original Review: June 28, 2015

1-up mushrooms mean nothing in modern Super Mario games. If you run out of lives, a negligible 'Game Over' flashes on screen. A meaningless lives counter, like many other Nintendo ideas, shows their stubbornness to change and adapt. It's why their hardware still uses Friend Codes and lacks digital license ownership.

When Splatoon, Nintendo's online third person-shooter, lacks basic party systems, region filters and voice chat, I can't I'm surprised. But just like a pointless lives counter, I grudgingly deal with the unintelligible multiplayer design. Splatoon drips with imagination when you customize Inklings and spread ink everywhere, making the unnecessary restrictions an even greater blunder.

Ontario atop Leaderboards for Independent Video Game Development

On August 29, 2012, just after 1 p.m., Miguel Sternberg stared obsessively at his computer in his Toronto home office. He had not slept in days. Sleepless and exhausted, Sternberg finally completed the final touches for the launch of his PC video game, They Bleed Pixels. After submitting the final game build, he watched in haze as the sales figures refreshed throughout the afternoon. He waited to find out if the countless hours, savings and government funds would pay off.


Years later, things aren't much calmer for the independent developer as he juggles a new They Bleed Pixels update with two other projects.  Sternberg works alongside programmer Andrij Pilkiw under the studio name, Spooky Squid Games Inc. They hope to hire another employee this year and dedicate time to working on newer projects. "I think at this point we'd like to grow a bit," Sternberg says, "and that takes more money than we have."

Spooky Squid Games and other Canadian developers can expand studios with help from government tax credits and creative grants. Canada's early establishment of video game tax credits helped it become the third largest country for video game development. Quebec and British Columbia now house the world's largest studios and created multimillion dollar franchises such Assassin's Creed and FIFA soccer. Each of Canada's successful video games combined to contribute $2.3 billion to Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014. With most of the large studios in other provinces, Ontario's grants and business incentives transformed the province into the destination for independent game development.

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