I've got something of a vested interest in it (by which I mean, I've got something interesting up my vest: it's a big hernia).
I always made up stories as a kid - whether it was on the fly with my Star Wars action figures, drawing cartoon strips, or telling the rest of the village that I'd seen a wolf - so it's odd that I took such a meandering route into writing scripts professionally. Particularly given that bad or lazy writing is something about which I get pointlessly incensed.
That said, you can always choose whether or not to listen to anything I say about the quality of writing in video games. Never take my word as gospel.
I mean, on the one hand I've been writing scripts professionally for 15 years, have a few BAFTA nom-noms and a couple of RTS Awards under my truss, so you might think I know something of which I speak... but at the same time I was the guy who wrote Pudsey The Dog The Movie, widely considered to be the greatest atrocity in the history of humankind.
It particularly grates upon my jowls because I see the game being held up by others as an example of great writing and characterisation, when I fail to see it as anything of the sort.
So, I thought it was time to come clean on how hard it was for me to write such frothing bile.
See, talking of BAFTA... some of you might recall, I was on the BAFTA judging panel for best video game story, earlier this year. The chairperson of that panel was Rhianna Pratchett, writer of the two Tomb Raider games...
Mm-hm. Now do you see? I'm literally history's greatest monster.
GENEROUS AND WARM
The BAFTA panel was the only time I've met Rhianna, but she was immediately very likeable, generous and warm.
I don't know her, she's not a friend, but I knew her enough from that one evening that I really struggled to write the Tomb Raider piece the way I did, to not pull the punches that I felt needed to be delivered. They were aimed at the game as a whole, not intended for any individual target.
Part of why I feel I can do that is because I know that any piece of professional scriptwriting can be hobbled by the interference of others. Yes, it's hard when your name is attached to work that you don't feel is representative of what you're capable, but I also find it easier to shrug off the criticism when I know I've not been wholly responsible for the end product. There are all sorts of pressures on any piece of commercial work, and a writer is often a surprisingly tiny cog in the machine.
Let's face it, I've been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of criticism. Fortunately, I've generally been pretty good at shrugging it off - even the tsunami of hysterical hatred which flooded my way in the wake of Pudsey - but I've seen how it can affect some people.
Writing can be such a personal thing that receiving criticism of something you've written can feel like being criticised for being you. I've seen people utterly floored by a bad review, thrown into a downward spiral of self-doubt and depression.
I've been there with the self-doubt - but with me it tends to come from inside me, if for some reason my creative engine isn't firing on all cylinders. When the words don't flow, I start to doubt myself and fear I'll never write again, and that I'm a terrible hack.
So it's the curse (or the blessing, if you're a shamelessly horrible person) of being a reviewer that you have the power to utterly crush another human being. And choosing to wield that power can be difficult when you know the person you risk crushing.
A few times since starting Digitiser2000 I've thought about getting on the lists of games company PR people, but I've always held back.
Establishing a relationship with a PR risks clouding a critic's ability to do their job the way it needs to be done.
Not having that burden, reviewing only stuff that I've bought out of our Digi2000 donor fund, means it's one less thing to worry about.
Yeah, I might still end up ruining someone's day by casually dismissing something they've worked on for four years, but at least I don't have to look them in the eye afterwards.
Plus, I only go all-out when I feel properly passionate, and it's always because I want games to live up to their potential, or because I fear others are not being truthful in their critique and I want to readdress the balance.
It's never because I want to be controversial for the sake of it, or be seen as looking cool for booting a sacred cow between the udders.
CHANGED MY MIND THERE
I was just about to write that any reviewer who tells you it's easy slagging off a game is a liar... but that's not owning it. It might just be me who finds it hard, and plenty of other game reviewers are utter psychopaths who revel in upsetting people.
But one of the reasons PR people exist is to build relationships with journalists and editors to try and get positive coverage for their products. That's how the world works. And often it works well. I can't remember specific examples, but I certainly recall going softer on some games back in the day because the PR person had taken me out to lunch, and I liked them.
On the other hand, I remember one game in particular which we laid into following a lavish freebie trip. The company's PR rang up, utterly incensed, because she felt we owed her game a better review than we gave it.
That wasn't the only time it happened, but fortunately it happened rarely, because the Digitiser team were chronically anti-social oddballs, which meant that most PRs found it easier to just send us the games, and not bother inviting us to anything anyway.
As far as the industry goes, I hope things have moved on in the intervening years, but my dirty guts tell me otherwise.
Having spent years as a professional games journalist, and then a few years training to be a psychotherapist for pity's sake, I think I've become quite adept at spotting when a reviewer is trying not to upset someone they know.
A review, where the writer isn't being true to what they really believe, leaps out at me. And I've seen a lot of them over the last month or so (and a lot of truly great writing too, to be fair).
I often read talk of journos being pressured by an ad department not to be too hard on a certain game, for fear of upsetting potential advertisers, and I've no first-hand experience of that to tell you whether it happens or not. However, the bigger issue is one that we can't do a lot about: human nature. It has nothing to do with ethics, or corruption, or conspiracy, and everything to do with basic emotional responses that we all have.
It takes a particular kind of psychopath to do something easily, which they know might upset another person... and an extra special person to do that thing to someone they know, with whom they've shared a few pints.
THE BRITISH ARMY IS A SAUSAGE FACTORY
Here's a truth that never gets talked about enough.
I come from a big military family, see. My dad, my sister, various nephews and nieces, have all served in the armed forces. I've seen people I care about transformed in the space of a few months after enlisting, going from regular people to someone who would kill another human being just because somebody else told them to.
I was alarmed to discover that one of the first things new recruits have to do is strangle a chicken, to help desensitise them to the idea of killing. More troublingly, casual racism, and rampant patriotism, appears endemic in the military, because it makes it easier to do something horrible in the name of your country, if you no longer see the enemy as human.
I've heard people - who would never have previously used a racist term - come out the end of the British Army sausage factory practically foaming at the mouth about "rag-heads" and "sand monkeys", and being so brainwashed that they would label Nelson Mandela a "terrorist" on Facebook. But I've also seen how that diminishes over time, and they revert to the lovely person they used to be, once free of such conditioning.
Our planet would be a very different place if soldier training the world over saw them handing free promotional t-shirts to targets instead of firing guns at them, and taking enemy effigies to lunch, instead of stabbing them with bayonets.
Point is, the greater the divide between PR and writer the better, I feel. Ultimately, as a critic, there's a responsibility to be honest, and removing barriers to that honesty and congruence is the ideal. At the end of the day, a critic is simply voicing one person's opinions, and it has no worth if they're not being honest.
And I don't mean honest in the sense of not taking back-handers, but honest to themselves; what a game makes them feel. What it stirs in them. Writing, whether it's a script or an opinion piece, is at its best when a person owns who they are, and shares it with the reader; when they write from within, rather than be influenced by external forces.
Being honest doesn't mean you have to strangle a chicken.