Today I celebrate my Independence Day

In this scenario - I'm Sarah.

Let me explain.

It seems a bit dramatic but after nearly 12 solid months of waiting, my YouTube Network - TGN - have finally let me go.

Now, you might think that this is something that I wouldn't want but actually you couldn't be more wrong. Well, you could have by saying something like 'potato' but now I'm splitting hairs.

In the early hours of this morning I received an e-mail, This was a replay in a chain of roughly 15+ e-mails in one of the several e-mail chains in my inbox concerning both the TGN (that's The Gamer Network for anyone who doesn't know, an arm of BBTV - Broadband Television) support team and also my 'handler' at TGN whoo shall remain nameless for obvious legal reasons.

So to cut a twelve month saga reasonably short. I was asked to join TGN a little over two years ago. You should all remember the blog post about this (which I can't link here because im doing this on my phone on a train) and my immense amount of excitement at the time.  Well...

Following on from the initial joining period I worked quite closely with my representative at TGN on my videos: their presentation, format, consistency and even the software I used to edit them. There seemed to be a great deal of support from the company for their new acquisitions. That was until i went onto the official Partner Forums. Page after page of disgruntled and upset partners who wanted to leave because they weren't making major $$$ with their videos. Frankly the money didn't bother me too much - in fact, one of the initial conditions of my joining TGN was that my videos wouldn't to be monetised. I wasn't registered as self employed so didn't want to do it in case I got into issues with (Ba-ba-ba-baaaaa) the Taxman. 

So my rep was happy with this. Got it written I to my 12 month contract and verbally (that bit is important) informed me that after the initial 12 months I would go onto a 'rolling contract' which would mean I would stay with the network but if I wanted to leave I just needed to give them 30 days notice. So after a full year (plus maybe a week or so) I informed TGN that I didn't want to stay with them. After the initial Honeymoon Period the support seemed to drop off entirely. They would occasionally include me a mass email about a new tool in the toolkit for creators (some of them aren't bad actually) but by and large I felt very alone.

My YouTube Analytics was a completely transparent picture of this. Just after Joining TGN I had roughly 3000 subscribers and averaged out at roughly 400-500 views per video. I had very little trouble in my comments section and my average view time was a good number (not great but people stayed for almost the whole video most of the time.

A year later and my subscribers had grown (and continues to, thank you to each and every one of you who  has subscribed since Sept 2014) and my viewers were up to the thousands (over 20k for that incredibly silly Destiny / Death Blossoms video I did) which all seemed great. 

Now. I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that joining TGN affected my stats negatively, this is mearly my opinion on what happened in the proceeding two years. 

After reaching my contract end date I had noticed that there were a lot of trollish comments on my YouTube videos. People would either compare me to other YouTubers (which I'm totally fine with) in a negative way or they would be downright insulting and rude. Now, this kind  of behaviour wasn't new to me. I was a Games Journalist for Christ's sake. You grow a thick skin extremely quickly if you dare have an opinion on The Internet. But this, this felt very sudden, like suddenly people had been 'pointed' towards my channel. Now I know it wasn't because of YouTube 'Suggested' algorithm because that didn't kick in until you hit 5k subscribers.  Where all this online sewage came from. I'm not sure but that's why I shut the Comments section on my channel ages ago. After that I asked to leave TGN - that wasn't the primary reason, I had just started to feel more and more isolated on YouTube. No replies from the Support team, no input from my handler. Nothing. 

But, I had missed my 'contract cut off date' which was never fully explained to me. Now I know what you're saying, "But Mike, surely you read the contract and saw this" and the answer to that question is Of Course I did. The only thing is the very verbal contradiction to that point happened just after me joining the team and it's one of the points that I felt fell through the cracks of joining. Partially my own fault? Absolutely, but personally it should have been clearly explained by my rep that I would be on this mythical 'Rolling Contract'

So there I was, stuck. For another year with a network that I didn't want to be stuck with. I was informed that I would need to email them at least 30 days prior to the end of my contract to terminate my partnership with TGN. So I did what anyone in my position would do: I set up an automated email to go out to their support team every three weeks until the contract ended. 

(PS I would actually like to apologise to the Support Team at TGN for this, in hindsight it was a bit of a dick move but I was really in no other position.  Sorry)

So that brings us to here. 365 days and 14 email chains later. TGN have finally unlinked my YouTube account which means I am now 100% independent with the ScreamingJoypad YouTube channel. What does this mean right now? Absolutely bugger all but let's celebrate the little steps, eh?

Here's to independent bloggers, everywhere! Cheers!


An update: Taking a break

I have a bit of a bad habit of this.  I neglect my blog for god knows how long and then burst back onto it with a flurry of posts and promises that "this time it will be different" and "I'm dedicated to posting every X days" well, this isn't one of those posts....

Any of you who have been following my Twitter account, firstly - sorry - just in general, and secondly you know that recently I took a bit of a step back from hosting the GOG.com Podcast.  This post is partially to explain why and also cover a few questions that I've been getting.


Review - Axiom Verge - PC & PS4

"It just feels good to play"

That's literally the best way I can describe Axiom Verge - you could boil the actual game down to the key aspects that would appeal to a 30 year old gamer like myself: it's inspired by Metroid (which I actually never played - I know, right?) it's simple to pick up but offers levels of complexity with each new area - the world and characters are instantly memorable and the soundtrack - that soundtrack!


Joining GOG.com

So yeah, it happened! I got to join a livestreaming team for a major outlet. One of those little Bucket List things that I've wanted to cross off since getting printed in a magazine (that's Haunted After Dark for those who have forgotten)

It all started with #GAMINGFORTRINITY which was (is at time of writing) a charity fundraiser to raise money for the hospice that looked after my mother during her final days a number of years ago. I wanted to raise £500 through a 24 hour livestream. The livestream - whilst being slightly broken by Virgin Media and their upload-cap at the 21 hour mark - went well.

So during the days following the livestream I reached out to everyone who had helped me, supported me, donated prizes and generally wished me well during the event. I was exceptionally lucky to have GOG.com (Good Old Games) host a portion of my livestream on their channel. The only condition was that I would stream games from their library - which I was more than happy with - I had planned a 24 hours livestream, I needed variety to make it interesting! Plus for full disclosure, I've always had a soft spot for GOG.com - they have helped me out in the past by providing review copies of games and helping me by sponsoring one of the articles we ran during the Slimgamer.com days. So when I reached out to thank them and explain that I would love to stream for them again in the future I was taken back when they said they would like to make it more permanent.

So a few e-mails were exchanged, I spoke to Outstarwalker - one of the hosts and coordinators of the GOG.com Twitch channel and before I knew it I had access to the streaming schedule and my name had been placed in a regular slot on the rosta - I was a GOG.com livestreamer.

Needless to say I'm utterly thrilled about streaming for people like GOG.com - no only are the staff super friendly but the community is honestly a lovely bunch of people, I know I've got my own community and for that I'm always grateful but it's nice to know that I can contribute (however small) to help make GOG.com a bigger brand and do everything I can for them.

You can find out the latest stream over at http://www.gog.com/news/coming_up_on_twitchtvgogcom


Counter Spy Review - PS4

Counter Spy is without a doubt the most interesting game I've played in a while. 

It's certainly the first game I've seen, downloaded and felt compelled to complete just for the amusement without dressing it up as 'work' and pulling a late night gaming session out of my hat to make sure a review or video was done within a certain amount of time. And that's something special these days!

Dynamighty's concept is simple, you have two opposing factions - thinly disguised as the US and the Soviet Union during the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis but instead of trying to blow each other to the moon both parties are trying to literally blow up the moon. Yes, really. Your job as a member of C.O.U.N.T.E.R - the counter terrorism spy network is to infiltrate either of the superpowers bases and steal their Launch Plans. Gather enough launch plans through the levels and you can try the Final Mission where you have to stop one of the super powers launching a missile.

This all sounds pretty standard but when you take into consideration that the game is a 2D platformer with some very cleaver use of camera angles to make it appear 3D and you have a lasting Defcon system meaning that if you fail too many missions for one superpower you could try another or gamble to lower the rating and make things easier for yourself then everything starts to take a weird shape. It's like Metal Gear Solid if it was crossed with Shadow Complex but visualised by the creator of XIII - it's a really lovely game to play - soft jazz playing when you take a guard down give you that 'super-spy' feeling and getting through a section of the map unseen whilst still stealthily taking down your opponents makes you feel like a badass! Subsequently as quickly as you can pull off some pretty spectacular espionage moves everything can also go horribly wrong, forcing you to either noisily take everyone out in theimmdiate vacinity or (if your Defcon level is beyond 1) sprint for the end of the level ignoring all enemies and pickups along the way to prevent a doomsday style clock from ending your entire game.

Continued playthrough can be enjoyed with any constant pickups obtained in previous playthroughs and whilst only being able to equip three at a time it's sometimes a slightly careful balancing act between what you think you'll need (the ability to be practically invisable to security cameras for example) and what the situation will call for (increased damage reduction becasue you just alerted every guard in the place)

The game isn't without it's flaws and bugs though, don't get me wrong - the moments when you're certain you are hugging cover and a distant guard can instantly see you or how enemy bodies can stack depending on where you silently take them down can get a little frustrating but the overall experience is very enjoyable. Currently XX.XX on Playstation 4 otherwise I'd personally highly recommend Counter Spy.


Bloodborne: Chalice Dungeons - Stuff ya need to know

So you’ve just killed the Blood Starved Beast and picked up the Pthumerian chalice.  You have an idea about what it could do, having something to do with a blood ritual and creating a new explorable area but what else can it do? Well, let me give you all the information I have on the Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne.


Symphony of the Goddess Interview - Talking Zelda Music

It's no secret that good music can make a average game great and a great game legendary. Case in point is the Legend of Zelda series - a wonderful and frankly magical series of games which are beautifully complimented by a tremendously memorable and captivating soundtrack. I recently had a chance to ask a few questions of Jason Michael Paul of his self titles production company who are currently producing the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess concerts.

Jason Michael Paul is an American-born concert producer, promoter, and entrepreneur. Paul produced "Dear Friends", "More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy", "PLAY! A Video Game Symphony", the "25th Anniversary Legend of Zelda", and "Legend Of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses", currently touring the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. He has worked with co-producers and contributors such as Luciano Pavarotti & the Three Tenors and video game manufacturer Nintendo. 

MS: Have you got a favourite Zelda game?
JMP: Ocarina of Time. I have even sat painfully in front of the computer screen and watched You Tube videos of David Ramos, a famed Ocarina expert “DocJazz” and still fail.

MS: How has it been converting videogame music to a full scale orchestra?
JMP: It has what I have been doing for many games for over a decade. It is made easier with a great collaboration with the original composers. In 2004, Square Enix asked me to produce Dear Friends- Music from FINAL FANTASY concert. At the time, it was the first of its kind in the world. From that I created and produced another show entitled, PLAY! A Video Game Symphony. It was at that time that I was performing music from Super Mario Bros. and Zelda. At the premiere concert I invited Mr. Koji Kondo to the concert and to perform music which he did. It was there that I began to work closely with Mr. Kondo and Nintendo on music related presentations.

In 2010, Nintendo asked me to produce the opening for the E3 press event at the Nokia that same year. At the press event they made the announcement that I would be producing three concerts in London, Tokyo, and LA as part of the 25th Anniversary series of concerts. It was also announce that I would be producing the Orchestral CD that was included as part of the bundle with Skyword Sword. After the success of the 25thAnniversary concerts, I came up with a touring show, Symphony of the Goddesses and the rest as they say is history.

MS: Have the fans been mostly positive about the concerts?
JMP: Extremely positive!

MS: Do you have a favourite song?
JMP: The new Majora’s Mask Suite and A Link Between Worlds segment I produced for Master Quest.

MS: Would you recommend the concert to non-video game fans?
JMP: Absolutely! It is also a very beautiful orchestral and symphonic performance and experience, that music lovers will enjoy as well.

MS: Are there any other games you'd like to work on in the future?
JMP: Yes, many!

It's clear that Jason has an inate passion for music and a taste for excellence with his work. I'm personally looking forward to hearing the Symhony of the Goddess concert later this year in London and will be sure to offer the most honest and heartfelt reaction I can.

This interview was conducted via e-mail 


Are you sure you’re a gamer?

"Are you sure you’re a gamer?"

It should make me sad to hear anyone say those words but in the last week I’ve had three people ask me that very question. My wife even made a passing joke about me not being a Gamer anymore. In the past that kind of comment would have hurt me; I would have felt like I lost some sense of self identity. But nowadays? I’m not so sure…
Over the last year the identity of being a “Gamer” feels like it’s been lost – buried in pseudo-political ranting’s on Twitter and shameless glorification in website articles. As an actual subculture we’ve either forgotten how to be decent human beings or we’ve perverted the meaning of Gamer so much that personally, I’m glad I’m not identified as one anymore.

Twi-view - Possibly the future

What the fuck is a Twi-view?
Well I'm super glad you asked! A Twi-view short for Twitter Review, see what I did there?) Is a bite sized review of a game. The Twi-view should contain enough information so that followers/readers can make their own decisions on the game without trawling through a 10 minute video or 1000+ words.

Why would you do this?
People are going to click on this link and think "But that's just lazy" and maybe that's partially right. After working in the games industry for nearly a decade now I've been cursed with the ability to make and form opinions about games which are usually pretty accurate to the people who follow me, my audience, you guys! By condensing this information into a single bite of information I can easily rate games which would otherwise I would spend dozens of hours on making a video or creating a written piece which - in this current media climate people would be less inclined to read.

What's the point?
Games journalism and essentially all of games media is in a bit of a state of flux at the moment - people are trying new things, new ways of delivering their media to their audience - it's shortsighted and frankly archaic to believe that 'traditional' methods of content delivery will remain the only popular ones around. Only a few years ago YouTubers weren't considered to be part of the 'main' gaming media and now that outlet is taking over in leaps and bounds. So why not try something new? If it fails, it fails. Life is nothing without risks.

The fuck is wrong with you?
That's an excellent question and one that people have been pondering for years. I'm utterly obsessed with videogames and creating content about them - I love both of my jobs and find they both give me incredible pleasure - so much so that I'm always thinking about new ways of enhancing what I do and making it slightly different from the standard fare.