Once upon a time, really not all that long ago or very far away at all, it was assumed that games were meant for boys and boys alone. They were about soldiers and spaceships and castles, and those are things that boys like. Grown ups and those of a non-masculine persuasion need not apply.
Luckily, the industry has begun to move on, despite the efforts of a determined few. These days, publishers have begun to realise that cutting your audience in half before a product even hits the shelves is not necessarily a sound business model. Still, though, there are undeniably both a whole tranche of games designed for men of a certain age and a wealth of men of a certain age who play games.
It's a rich demographic, for many reasons, so it seems that media outlets which naturally cater to it should be covering games as a matter of course. "Men's lifestyle" mags hit that gender/age combo squarely on the head, but does the UK's Nuts magazine, which adorns the bedrooms of young males across the country, have much of games agenda? We talk to Nuts journalist Rory Buckeridge to find out.
Q:What sort of freedom do you have in terms of games coverage? Is it seen as an important area?
Rory Buckeridge:We have fairly strict entry points for games coverage, and all have to fit a strict news agenda. So if it's a game that we figure fits the kind of profile we're looking for we could have an announcement story, a first look, a first play and then a review. Or any combination of the above. What's important to bear in mind is that any games coverage has to stand up against any other general men's interest story that might break that week. There might be a Ferrari or Lamborghini launch, an amazing news picture from around the world, a celebrity Q&A for the week's big movie release, a TOWIE star in her undies. If it's not as compelling as any of the above, it doesn't get space on our pages. Simple as that. Games has to work as hard as any other content for our attention.
Q:How long have the mags you work for been covering games regularly?
"I had to seriously lobby for two pages of coverage for FHM's first look at GTA: San Andreas, back in 2004"
Rory Buckeridge:Well I was one of the first journalists to really push games coverage over and above reviews into men's consumer magazines. I had to seriously lobby for two pages of coverage for FHM's first look at GTA: San Andreas, back in 2004. And looking back, having to push the editor for two pages out of a 360-odd page magazine seems loopy, but games just didn't secure that kind of coverage at the time. Then I introduced FHM's first E3 coverage, and pushed and pushed on from there. So by the time I started working for men's weeklies in 2007, games coverage was such a staple, that not having games content in a general men's interest mag would seem strange.
Q:What coverage is offered other than reviews? Do you see that changing?
Rory Buckeridge:See above. I can't see it changing enormously, as we cover games at every entry point now, from announcement to review. It's such a key part of the editorial mix, that certainly in the near future I don't think it's going to go anywhere.
Q:Where do you get most limelight, in the mag or online?
Rory Buckeridge:It varies immensely. Nuts games coverage is an essential part of the website's mix now, and also throws up a lot of opportunities, but on a day-to-day basis, as I'm responsible for Nuts magazine news content, so that's where I get the majority of approaches. I guess I'm lucky that I get offered coverage from both ends of the spectrum. I don't care where the opportunities come from, as long as they keep coming.
A:How have attitudes towards games coverage changed in the last ten years?
Rory Buckeridge:Attitudes have changed hugely. Gaming has gone from being viewed as something a bit suspect that individuals with poor interpersonal skills did on their own in bedrooms, to a cultural phenomena every bit as important as music, TV and film. It's been quite a journey.
Q:Music, TV and film are clearly the main entertainment mediums covered - will we ever see equivalent games coverage?
"In our little corner of men's press there's very little difference in the hierarchy between Music, TV, film and games"
Rory Buckeridge:I disagree. I think certainly in our little corner of men's press there's very little difference in the hierarchy between Music, TV, film and games. In fact, games probably edges those mediums in terms of coverage.
Q:How closely tied to generational attitudes is mainstream coverage? Does that come from editors or perceived audience preference?
Rory Buckeridge:It comes enormously and vitally from editors. I've been immensely lucky to have worked with editors who've listened seriously to my banging of the drum for gaming content. But speaking to my colleagues, on newspapers especially, editors still seem to be strangely resistant to games coverage. It still seems to be perceived as a geeky, and slightly weird hobby. Something to be mistrusted, held at arms length, rather than embraced. Or demonised.
A:Are games seen as tech or culture coverage in Nuts?
Rory Buckeridge:Culture. In exactly the same context as music, movies and TV.
Q:Is there a close tie between the availability of ad spend and the amount of coverage? Not in a bought articles way, but more generally, as outlets respond to market shifts?
Rory Buckeridge:Not really. In the early days, advertising really helped in paving the way for coverage, as you'd have vocal support from the ad teams of a strong business argument for making more space for games. Certainly having ad revenue helps, but games coverage would find space in men's magazines now, ad support or no.