The Definitive Defender (of the Queen's English)

The Definitive Defender, originally published in 2006, is the first in the Definitive series to be freely available online. It's the shortest feature in the series, with even this specially expanded and updated WoSblog version clocking in at only 3000 words or so and covering just 11 different games.

It also serves as an illustration of why plummeting standards of literacy might yet finish off videogames magazines once and for all.

People of a certain age, such as myself, can often be heard bemoaning the increasingly-retarded quality of grammar and spelling displayed by younger people, such as almost everyone. "What does it matter if you can't spell and don't know where to put a capital letter or an apostrophe, so long as you get your meaning across?", is the common response of total idiots to such admonishments.

The problem is that it DOES matter, and not just because bad grammar and spelling undermines the authority and credibility of anything you might write. If your readers can see that you don't know the difference between "sew" and "sow", or why it's "bated breath" not "baited breath", then they're quite reasonably going to assume that you've taken an equally sloppy approach to getting your facts right, since you're obviously either incompetent or someone who takes no pride in their work. (Or both.)

Being barely literate can also radically alter the meaning of what you're trying to say. A recent Definitive I wrote for Retro Gamer appeared in print so ham-fistedly edited that the sub-editor had inadvertently managed to invent an entire new game simply by clumsily altering a piece of punctuation.

(As well as inserting meaningless gibberish like "a rich stream of information to mine" in place of "a rich seam".)

It can be even worse than that, though. The version of The Definitive Defender submitted for publication contained the following passage:

"After his stellar success with the magnificent Tempest 2000, Atari perhaps thought Jeff Minter had finally nailed the updating-classic-coin-ops routine, so they gave him a second stab at Defender. It was a decision that turned out to be on a par with asking Gary Glitter and Jonathan King round to babysit while you went on a six-month backpacking holiday, and Atari's own constant interference with the project (like switching it around between a graphics-heavy CD game and a more restrained cartridge one) was tantamount to leaving the cocaine cupboard unlocked at the same time."

Now, as any alert reader will immediately spot, if that second sentence defames anyone it's Gary Glitter and Jonathan King – two people who would have a very hard time claiming that they'd had their good names sullied by a videogames magazine.

The version that appeared in print, however, read like this:

"After his superb Tempest 2000, Atari thought Jeff Minter had finally nailed the updating-classic-coin-ops routine, so they gave him a second stab at Defender. It 's fair to say that it was a poor decision and Atari's own constant interference with the project (like switching it around between a graphics-heavy CD game and a more restrained cartridge one) were tantamount to leaving the cocaine cupboard unlocked."

Suddenly, a line describing Gary Glitter and Jonathan King as hapless cocaine users – something which (as people in the pop business) I'd be willing to bet they've both admitted to on the record, and which in the light of their convictions for paedophilia wouldn't really count as defamatory anyway – has been edited in such a manner that it's now accusing Jeff Minter of being one, which is a very different kettle of pineapples.

(It also, incidentally, takes things which were expressed as possibilities and opinions in the original line and states them as categorical facts, which is also legally rather troublesome.)

The fact that Minter – a man with a well-documented axe to grind against the feature's author – didn't sue RG at that point was down to sheer luck. Maybe he didn't read it, maybe he DOES like a bit of charlie and didn't mind the implication, or maybe he just couldn't afford a libel lawyer, who knows? WoSblog is speculating wildly in ignorance. But a mag like RG, which operates on what must be pretty tight margins, would quite likely be unable to survive losing an entire month's sales by pulling the offending issue of the magazine from the shelves, let alone any possible court award of damages.

In which case, a single idiotic piece of subbing by someone incapable of properly understanding English would have obliterated the best videogames magazine in the country, and – in the event of a court case – quite possibly taken the entirety of Imagine Publishing down with it.

It's not just Retro Gamer by any means. Wherever you look, be it magazines or the BBC website or broadsheet newspapers, the technical standard of the written word is growing increasingly abysmal. It DOES matter. No excuses.

Oh yeah, the feature.


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4 Responses to “The Definitive Defender (of the Queen's English)”

  1. I know that The Definitive isn’t supposed to feature every version ever, but if you’re mentioning clones like Starblitz, Planetoid and Blitz Defender you logically should include the kerbrilliant Stargate knock-off for the Speccy by Steve Evans, Guardian 2 (http://worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0002167).

    BONUS TANGENT. Checking the transcribed inlay readme for the controls, I see that Guardian itself only came out on the C64, despite S Evans’ long history on the Speccy. Then again, most of his rubber games were rubbish — he clumsily shunted Alligata’s catastrophic Commando rip-off Who Dares Wins 2 from the beige original — so possibly he was diligently polishing his Z80 skills to cap his 8-bit career with a painstakingly accurate unofficial port that wrecked the covertape budget when I licensed it for YS. Readers! If you’re buying a covertape game 17 years ago from a copyright-hoovering wholesaler, do not say things like, “This is brilliant, I’ve been playing it all week,” before asking the price.

    I can’t tell from a rapid glance if C64 Guardian 2 is by S Evans or not: most of the cast names are unusually identical for both games, eg the Space Hum is now the Mo and the Phred the Lure, but it looks like the C64 version is missing some monsters, the graphics are pointedly changed from the coin-op’s, the Mo is a little wormy thing that moves in 90-degree turns, the mutants run away from you and S Evans’ name isn’t on the title screen as it tends to be. Hm. Also, in double-checking the Mo/Hum behaviour against the Midway Arcade Treasures emulation, I noticed for the first time that when you shoot a Phred’s Munchies they emit the same squeak of alarm as a nabbed hume. WHY ARE WE FIGHTING WE ARE ALL THE SAME ETC.

  2. lasermink Says:

    I remember Guardian on the C64. It was absolutely brilliantly made, in every way far superior to the official Defender port, apart from one rather disastrous omission: There was no sound when a guy was captured… Tsk. So close.

  3. well, if we count clones, surely protector should be mentioned the best port ever, since it was on the vectrex with it's nice arcady asteroids glow..

  4. Irish Al Says:

    @lasermink
    It was indeed far better than the Atarisoft version, and far FAR better than "Defender 64" by Interceptor Micros. But I think Defender could have still been done much better – witness DropZone.
     

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