So, today marks two years since I went full time as a games critic and my goodness the time has flown by unbelievably quickly. I don’t even know where to begin summarising the past twelve months of my career.
Where Year One of LauraKBuzz was a lot of big, long form and in depth pieces I hope will stand for a long time to come, Year Two of LauraKBuzz has been a very experimental year. Let’s look back at a couple of the pieces of work and events that defined my last twelve months.
Leaving Destructoid and Launching Let’s Play Video Games
So, yeah, here’s the elephant in the room. Until June this year I was UK Editor at Destructoid, pulling a salary and paying Joe Parlock and Vikki Blake a salary to work for me during UK hours.
We were informed we were being let go at midnight, two days before I went under the knife for major surgery which was going to see me out of action for at least a month.
We were left with two days to work out what we were going to do about keeping ourselves financially stable. That’s really not a great situation to be in.
I’m not sure how we managed it, but in that 48 hour window we managed to set a plan for where to go moving forward, get publicity for our departure, advertise where we would be moving to, sort out new branding and accounts and raise the funding needed to continue as a team on the same salary we had been paid at Destructoid.
I still find it amusing that Destructoid could not afford to pay us, but it took us less than two days to crowd fund replacements for those salaries.
If I talk honestly and openly about leaving Destructoid, while it sucks to lose the very powerful networking skills that come with being UK Editor of a known name site in the short term, I feel like in the long term our team is doing better as a solo venture.
Our successes are our own and serve to build our personal brands. We’re a tight knit team rather than a small part of a larger and more unwieldy machine. We have complete ownership to cover the titles we’re interested in without big exciting titles going to more long term staff members.
And with all our recent successes, we’re becoming a known name with a surprisingly high readership in our own right. A lot of my work at LPVG gets more views than it ever did at Destructoid.
I am immensely thankful to everyone’s support. Without all of you, there’s no way Let’s Play Video Games would be the fast growing name in gaming it is today. LPVG is the only place in the world I could picture publishing Five Games that Mimic a Urinary Tract Infection, Games Playable Single-Handed with a Dilator Between Your Legs, What JRPG’s Could Learn From TV’s Gilmore Girls, Genders We Want Added to No Man’s Sky, Clifford the Big Red Dog is a Titan and NSFW: What if Game Developers Made Sex Toys.
As open to weird content as Destructoid was, I know at least a few of those ideas would have been shut down as too stupid or silly. Jokes on them haha.
Writing reviews for Polygon and Jim Sterling
Probably one of the most fulfilling aspects of the past year for me is that I have been trusted and taken seriously enough as a critic to have people and outlets commission me to write reviews for them. That’s super validating on a personal level.
Polygon brought me back to review American Truck Simulator which was great because I genuinely love driving trucks down endlessly long roads and Jim Sterling brought me on to write his reviews of both Street Fighter V and Mighty No. 9.
I feel most proud of those reviews I did for Jim, because in his two years as a solo creator I believe I’m the only person he has commissioned as a freelancer to write long form content for him. That’s a really big thing I appreciate an awful lot.
A segment of me on a podcast got animated to a really high professional standard. That’s really fucking cool.
Emo Kylo Ren Makes AMVs and Plays Games
God this was a fun stupid little series of things to make. I need to do more stuff like this in the coming year. I forgot how fun these were to make.
Quest for the Boob Package
Yep, this sure is a thing I did this year. I need to do more on camera, vlog style videos like this going forward. I really like how the initial quest video section of this leading up to the unboxing turned out.
Reviewing a Tank Dating Sim for a Military Site
A website specialising in military hardware coverage paid me to review a game where you date sentient tanks. That was one of the weirder part of my year for sure.
I Set Up PC VR For Under £25. Results Were Mixed
In this feature I took a £25 budget and attempted to set up VR support on my PC in the run up to the release of 2016’s high end VR headsets. It went about as well as you might expect.
GaymerX Butts Talk
I unfortunately do not have footage of this, but at GaymerX 2016 I gave an hour long talk to a completely packed out room about the narrative design of butts. It went over well, people laughed along the whole time, I apparently managed to make butts engaging for an hour. A new personal milestone.
I really hope I get the chance to do that stupidly beautiful talk again soon.
Podquisition Animated was a beautiful experiment this year that had to take a break due to surgery and travel, but I hope to bring back in the coming months.
I was invited back to Norwich Gaming Festival this year for the second year running and was able to give a talk on getting a job as a gaming critic which went over really well. Attendance was certainly helped by Youtuber Stuart Ashens promoting my talk both on his Youtube channel, and at the end of his own talk at the event.
Year Two of LauraKBuzz was certainly the year I got to meet fans from across the world. From PAX Boston to E3 in L.A., PAX Australia to MCM London, GaymerX to the Pokemon Nationals and EGX, I truly got to travel this year and see fans from all corners of the world.
Ask me two years ago and I never would have believed there was a demand for fan meet ups with me, but this year has shown me there’s certainly a market for that. It’s weird to realise you’re someone people actively want to meet.
How SWERY’s Reactive Hypoglycemia Manifests Itself in his Video Games
In terms of freelance features this year, I’m probably most proud of this interview feature with game developer SWERY about stamina systems in his games and how his own medical conditions impacted those designs. Really proud I managed to pull this together and find a good home for it.
Cooking with Depression
Nothing at all to do with geek culture or gaming, this video series started as a stupid joke and ended up becoming of of the most consistently requested things I did for a while. Not sure where to take the series from here but it was a fun series while it lasted.
Gaming Butts with Yogscast Hannah
I did a few new episodes of Laura’s Gaming Butts this year, not nearly as many as I would have liked to do, but perhaps my favourite was the episode about Lara Croft and Nathan Drake butts I recorded with Yogscast Hannah.
Beyond Good and Evil Leaks
Much of my most notable work this year has been in the form of reporting on leaks and unannounced projects and all of that kicked off this year when I learned from sources at Ubisoft and Nintendo, the same sources who would later help me leak information on the Nintendo Switch before it was officially revealed, that a new Beyond Good and Evil project was finally entering pre development, and Nintendo were in talks to fund its development to secure it as an exclusive.
Later in the year, after pre development on the game was officially confirmed, I put together a video explaining my understanding of the development timeline of the game over the past decade, and revealed that the game would not be a straight forward direct sequel.
Reporting on the Unannounced PS4 Slim Pre Reveal
So, let’s talk about the PS4 Slim haha
The PS4 Slim was revealed by Sony on September 7th 2016. Two weeks before that, on August 24th 2016, I made a video about the PS4 Slim. I talked about possessing the system, I talked about the ridiculousness of PR inflexibility when it comes to not announcing products which have been clearly shown by press to exist, but I stopped shy of showing my own PS4 Slim.
Digital Foundry and Eurogamer had a few days prior shown pictures and video of a PS4 Slim they were able to test but did not own. They very quickly took that footage down due to unspecified legal issues.
I was left scared to talk about a product I had in my hands, which I knew for a fact existed.
I felt frustrated that PR had such a hold over me that I had solid evidence of a piece of tech existing, but feared doing any actual journalism with it.
Polygon covered my video and feature. I got a lot of attention. A lot of people did not believe my claims I had a PS4 Slim ahead of launch.
I was fed up.
I unboxed and reviewed a console which had not yet been revealed, and was still weeks from reveal.
I unboxed and reviewed it knowing there might be legal or work related ramifications. I knew I could be sued or blacklisted.
Outlets covered my review of the system.
I made a compelling case that my work was protected under journalistic protections, and I held my breath for ramifications that somehow never came.
I don’t know if it was my plea at the start of my review that did it. I don’t know if it just spread too fast for them to think they could silence it. I just know I got up a review and unboxing, which were not pulled not were there requests I take it down, two weeks before the system was announced.
Kotaku interviewed me about my review which was pretty surreal. I think that’s when it set in I reviewed an unannounced system before anyone else.
That was a pretty fucking exciting part of my year.
Totally Legit Gaming News
One of the weirder and more adventurous things I’ve done this year, Totally Legit Gaming News was somewhat of a response to being accused of faking video game coverage. I donned a Tin Foil Hat, read fake gaming stories and discussed video game conspiracies.
Oh, and got kidnapped by tin foil PR.
Best of Podquisition
Podquisition has been going for over two years now. I spent a LOT of time putting together a lengthy clip show of our first year. A good place to jump in if you want a feel for the podcast.
Switch Leaks, Rumours, Reporting and More
So, here’s probably the most comprehensive account I can give of my Nintendo Switch reporting up until it was officially revealed haha.
Since then I’ve done a bunch more reporting based on many of the same sources.
How Nintendo Ensures Switch locks into the Dock correctly
JoyCon R IR Fucntionality to Replace Touch when Docked
No Handheld Only Package at Launch
No Headphone Port on Pro Controller
Supports 128 GB Micro SD
Switch Dock Doesn’t Support USB Hard Drives
USB-C Support, No Kickstand Charging
Amiibo delayed for Smash Port
GAME Switch Pricing Plan
Launch Software and Pack Ins
Rabbids Mario RPG
I also wrote / talked about the stresses of working on video game leaks.
Villainous Agency – Undertale and Murder
One of the things I did in the past year of content was complete Undertale’s Genocide mode. It took me 582 attempts and 20 hours of gameplay. I am not good at gaming but I persevered.
I wrote this feature about the fact that Undertale is the only game that has ever made me feel truly villainous.
I also wrote and performed a song about fighting Sans. That was a fun thing haha.
Are We Too Forgiving of Narrative Weakness in Hero Fantasy Video Games?
Well, this article sure ruffled some feathers haha. Very proud of how this turned out.
Improving Video Game Narratives From The Genre Distinction Upwards
Another slightly contentious article, but one I have wanted to write for almost a year. Felt good to finally get it out onto paper.
Rethinking Video Game Difficulty Settings
One more article that a fair few people disagreed with, but that I feel really proud of in retrospect
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT!!!
Another year of the LauraKBuzz Empire complete and summarised. Now to push forward and see what the next brings 😀