At the same time, some games journalists - like all people - have a tendency to be entitled, insufferable, penis-heads. And I speak from experience here.
When we first started Digitiser, we were too shy to ring up PR companies and ask for games. We somehow ended up getting our review copies - in the early days - from an importer called VG Games. Through a mix of necessity - VG Games didn't stock PC or (shudder) Amiga games, so we had to find those for ourselves - and PR people starting to approach us, we began gradually to develop a relationship with the main PR types.
Then one day, VG Games called and complained that they weren't getting enough out of their relationship with us - despite having a plug at the bottom of the reviews which went out to 1.5 million weekly readers - and we told them to stick their review copies up their arseholes.
As Digi grew in popularity, so did our confidence. We started calling the games companies to get on their review copy mailing lists - I still vividly remember the first time I did so: asking Infogrames for some game or other, and being amazed when they coughed up without any hassle whatsoever.
And then this happened: we started to think we deserved review copies. More than that: we felt PR people had some sort of obligation to provide them to us, and would get annoyed when they didn't. What dreadful idiots we were back then.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this week, when Bethesda announced... well, when it announced this:
"At Bethesda, we value media reviews.
"We read them. We watch them. We try to learn from them when they offer critique. And we understand their value to our players.
"Earlier this year we released DOOM. We sent review copies to arrive the day before launch, which led to speculation about the quality of the game. Since then DOOM has emerged as a critical and commercial hit, and is now one of the highest-rated shooters of the past few years.
"With the upcoming launches of Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2, we will continue our policy of sending media review copies one day before release. While we will continue to work with media, streamers, and YouTubers to support their coverage – both before and after release – we want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time.
"We also understand that some of you want to read reviews before you make your decision, and if that’s the case we encourage you to wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts."
Suffice to say, reaction to the news was mixed. A number of games media outlets dressed up their outrage as being in response to Bethesda's "anti-consumer" policy - that by getting review code early, they're able to write their reviews in time for release day, and thereby enable people to make informed purchases.
Others grumbled that Bethesda is just one of several games companies that cherry-picks which outlets to favour when it comes to giving access. So that, y'know, they can weight coverage in their favour.
And...? Bethesda makes games, wants those games to do well, and you can't blame them for doing what it takes to ensure that happens. Why do you, El Games Journo, really care, though?
It's a well-told anecdote, but one of the baddest things we ever did on Digi - in the eyes of our (ahem) "superiors" - was slagging off the head of PR for Sony.
The piece had been cleared to go to air by the sub-editors. All we'd done was express our frustration at not getting a copy of Wipeout on the Playstation to review. Yes, we'd mentioned the PR guy by name, but we were about the last corner of the gaming press not to have reviewed Wipeout, and the PR guy had spent a month ignoring our attempts to contact him.
We got into trouble when Sony's furious PR chief G.O'Connell rang our bosses to complain. The very definition of "Bad PR, O'Connell", as we'd written on Digi. On the plus side, we got our review copy. And copies of all Sony games from that day onwards. O'Connell never spoke to us again, however. Which was no loss, as he had done his level best to avoid speaking to us in the first place.
Thing is though... we were being dicks. We thought he should be treating us with more respect because, y'know, we had 1.5 million weekly viewers. We thought we'd earned the right to special treatment. Plus, we were concerned that we were looking like tits in the eyes of our readers. So... it was a mix of our own pride and ego that was being rattled, rather than any selfless moral stance.
We thought we deserved to get review copies because the likes of Jaz Rignall and Dave Perry were getting review copies. We had a chip on our shoulders. We wanted those review copies, like spoilt kids.
We did not deserve them. And nobody does. A few gaming press outlets have admitted - seemingly through gritted teeth - that of course Bethesda and other games companies have no prerogative to send them review code. But they really don't.
There's nothing to stop any of us setting up our own games magazine or website. What... just because you've done that you're meant to automatically start getting free games? Where is it written that this must happen?
I can count the number of free games I've had since starting Digi2000 on three fingers - most recently Battlezone VR (review imminent). Every other game, even the PlayStation VR, I've bought from my Patreon fund, because - frankly - I can't be arsed with that whole awkward dance with PR people. I know full well that regardless of how many readers I get on here, I'm not obliged to get anything (though it's very nice on the handful of occasions that I have).
So this is what I say: if you write or run a games magazine, and a games publisher doesn't send you a review copy of their latest game, then tough shit.
I get how it would be annoying, when previously you've been blessed with review code weeks earlier than regular plebs, but to then complain about it - under the umbrella of it being because you just want to provide the best coverage for your readers - is at best churlish, and borderline outright dishonest.
Y'know... again, I speak from experience here. It's great getting stuff earlier than anyone else. It's great getting free stuff. Even better when you get that free stuff, and you're being paid to write about it. It's great getting a package full of t-shirts and promotional bits and bobs, or getting to go to game expos, or trips abroad, or meeting with developers.
Yeah, it's a job - but it's also a bloody great job. It's a privilege, and you can't tell me that all these game journos who complained about the stance from Bethesda were doing so entirely selflessly, and were thinking only of their readers.
I mean... c'mon. Really? You expect us to believe that? You're human. It's flattering to think that you've got a special relationship with PR people. Your egos are bruised because a major games publisher no longer thinks you're as important as you once thought you were.
There's no shame in admitting that. Try being me: I used to have 1.5 million readers. Now I've got about six, and they're all mental.
Again, another anecdote sums up this mentality: I got sent on a promotional trip around various Sony studios - at a time when Digi was on better terms with Sony (O'Connell had moved on).
I was given tours of their various offices - seeing games that were occasionally over a year away from release. We were fed, watered, and at the end of it got to dress up as peasants for a medieval banquet.
And my abiding memory of this trip was sitting on the coach next to some ruddy print journo, who complained about how the whole thing was beneath him and boring. People would've killed to have had a trip like we got - and we got it as part of our jobs. And all he could do was complain, like some entitled brat.
It was an attitude I saw again and again: hanging out with a bunch of journos of my acquaintance at the star-studded and glittering Dreamcast launch, who couldn't have tried harder to act bored, before they all disappeared into the toilets to take cocaine. Or the lot that whined the whole day a ton of us got to play giant-size recreations of various Hasbro board games - Monopoly, Cluedo, table football - and just wanted to skip all that, and get drunk.
Not all of them were like that - and even now, there are plenty who get it - but every time I was confronted with that attitude, I was stunned. I may not have been the perfect journo, but at least I never lost sight of how lucky I was.
What the hell do these people want or expect from their jobs? Well, perhaps they expected free games weeks before everyone else gets to play them, but that glory bus is apparently grinding to a halt. You're back in the gutter with the rest of us now.