Stuart Campbell (game journalist)

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Stuart Campbell is a video game designer, pro-Scottish independence blogger and former video game journalist. Born in Stirling, he moved to Bath in 1991 to work for computer magazine Amiga Power as a staff writer, and gained notoriety for his video game reviews. He has lived in Somerset ever since, and made further contributions to a number of publications both within the video game industry and in the popular media.[1][2][3]

A long term supporter of Scottish independence, Campbell launched a political blog called "Wings Over Scotland" six months after the SNP's victory in the 2011 Scottish elections. It is known for its abrasive and personalised take on Scottish politics - one Tory MSP was described as "fat troughing scum" - and has received both praise and criticism for its "kidney-punch polemicism"[4][1] The website is currently under investigation for failing to file accounts during the Scottish independence referendum, 2014.[5]

Early career[edit]

In 1988, Campbell won the UK National Computer Games Championship's ZX Spectrum category, having won the Scottish title earlier that year. The event was organised by Newsfield Publications and the National Association of Boys' Clubs, with sponsorship from video game publisher US Gold.[2] In late 1989, US Gold and Computer and Video Games magazine sponsored a team of UK players, which included Campbell, to take part in the European Video Games Championship at the Salon de la Micro show in Paris. The UK team won, beating out the French and Spanish competitors.[6]

Using the prize fund from the first two competitions—£1000 of computer hardware and US Gold software—Campbell was able to set up an independent videogame fanzine, Between Planets.[7] Campbell maintained contact with US Gold's PR department, ensuring a steady stream of review material for the fanzine. Campbell's PR contact was also able to convince Ocean Software to send new games to the fanzine for review. With the cachet of legitimate journalism these contacts conferred, Campbell and Between Planets‍ '​ co-founder Simon Reid were able to convince other video game publishers to send them free review copies of their games. The pair printed 60 copies of the first issue, 20 of which they sent to software publishers; the remaining copies were sold on the shelves of video game stores in Bathgate and Edinburgh for a share of the profits. According to Campbell, almost all copies were sold, which allowed the pair to buy more materials to continue the fanzine. After Between Planets was reviewed in Zero magazine, the print run was expanded to 80 copies. The fanzine ran to four issues; Campbell had sent issue three to Future Publishing, which hired him as a full-time staff writer for the Amiga games magazine Amiga Power.[8]

Video game journalism[edit]

Campbell contributed to Amiga Power magazine from January 1991, before the magazine launched in April of that year, to May 1994, being promoted to various positions and culminating with deputising as its editor for ten issues between June 1993 and April 1994. Despite regularly professing his love for titles such as Rainbow Islands and Sensible Soccer, and compiling "top 100" lists, he is perhaps better known for his unreserved and often highly disparaging critiques. In 1993, he awarded the game International Rugby Challenge two marks out of a possible hundred, declaring that the Bosnian War was "Not nearly as bad."[9] In 1993 Campbell remarked that: "Since I've started working for Amiga Power, I've had lots of abuse from various quarters. Readers, rival journalists, complete strangers in the street, my own parents, they've all had a pop. It's all water off a duck's back of course – I'm from Scotland."[10] Issues 27 to 36 have subsequently been cited as belonging to "The Stuart Campbell Era".[11] Campbell remained at the publication until issue 39,[12] which is considered part of the "The Jonathan Davies Era" in the chronology of AP.[13]

In 1993, Amiga Power had to issue an apology during the Cannon Fodder Controversy after Campbell remarked "Old soldiers? I wish them all dead." [14] Campbell then left Amiga Power to work at Sensible Software, where he was made chief executive co-ordinating development director with special responsibility for Gameplay.[15]

Campbell returned to the pages of Amiga Power as a freelance contributor during its final few months in 1996, writing several more reviews and features. He also continued to contribute to the online version of Amiga Power, known as AP2, which was set up by former writer Jonathan Nash after the magazine's death in 1996.[16] He wrote for Teletext's videogame section Digitiser from 1996 to 2001, as well as its short-lived online successor Digiworld with Kieron Gillen and Nash.[17][18]

Campbell's writing broadened to the area of travel, exploring and documenting unusual locations in the UK such as the "ghost villages" of Imber, Tyneham and Bangour, and the derelict 19th-century Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare. A number of these articles appear, among work by other authors, in a 2007 book collection entitled "Weird England".[19]

The majority of Campbell's published work between 2001 and 2010 was concerned with videogame history, such as the "Emulation Zone" section in PC Zone, which ran between 2001 and 2004, with occasional reviews of modern titles for platforms such as the Nintendo DS. As of 2010, Campbell was producing regular freelance articles for Imagine Publishing's retrogaming magazine Retro Gamer, most of which appeared as part of his "The Definitive ..." series of articles, which detailed and clarify the history of long-running popular game series, the last of which in 2012 detailed the Kick Off series. Campbell also contributed to magazines including GamesTM and Total PC Gaming, the website Snappy Gamer, and produced original features for his own subscription-supported website. He continued to review games and other aspects of modern culture on his "Wings Over Sealand" blog, where he described himself as a "semi-obsolete neo-culture journalist".[20] The name of the site was a homage to the Principality of Sealand,[21] an offshore Maunsell Fort proclaimed an independent state by its owner Paddy Roy Bates in 1967.[22]

Campbell's writing has influenced some current video games writers, including journalist and Marvel Comics writer Kieron Gillen.[23] John Walker also cites Campbell as an influence,[17] calling him a "constant conscience and inspiration".[23] Gillen said Campbell was "the world's sharpest critic of arcade games",[24] the long-running newsletter Need To Know said he was "Britain's Best Games Journalist",[25] and Wired described Campbell as "the UK's foremost authority on computer and video games".[26] Also characterised by Wired as "the country's top authority on computer and videogames", Campbell has stated that he owns "close to 40,000" games in total.[27] In 2007, Rock, Paper, Shotgun also remarked, "He remains the most controversial journalist the UK has ever produced. That is, a lot of people hate him, which is always a sign you're doing something right."[28] His forthright and often critical views on the gaming industry have provoked strong reactions from within the community. Jez San of Argonaut Software once commented that Campbell is: "Despicable [and] universally hated by the games industry."

Games industry[edit]

Campbell left Amiga Power to work at Sensible Software and during 1994 and 1995 he oversaw the development of the Amiga and PC games Cannon Fodder 2—for which he designed all but around 10 of its 72 levels—and Sensible World of Soccer. Campbell peppered his contributions with references to popular culture, particularly the Scottish indie rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain. He later remarked that he was especially pleased when players had: "worked out solutions that I hadn't even thought of. I love games where you can outsmart the designer and get away with it."[28] During this time, Campbell designed original games for various other formats, including the ZX Spectrum and PC, one of which is a freeware pinball game themed around the Sex Pistols film/album The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle.

In 2007, Campbell was interviewed by UK-based PC gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun. He discussed his transition from journalist to game designer, and the difference he saw between the two professions:

"The pace took some getting used to – compared to working on a magazine, development goes at a crawl... Otherwise, it's pretty similar. In both cases you're a group of young men doing a fun creative job in a fairly small and close-knit team, and then going to the pub quite a lot. You do get a much broader perspective from working on mags, though, because you see so many games – as a developer you're naturally quite narrowly focused. You have to make a conscious effort to stay aware of the outside world, which is probably why [Cannon Fodder 2] is so full of cross-cultural references from music, movies, comics and the like."[28]

He has also developed and released numerous freeware pinball and fruit machine games.[29] Campbell was director of developer Herosoft, which in November 2010 launched "Free-App Hero", an aggregator application created to help consumers find the best free games available for iOS.[30] Described by Pocket Gamer as a "very useful tool",[31] the project was not a success and has now been removed from the App Store.

Wings Over Scotland[edit]

Campbell launched Wings Over Scotland in 2011 with the stated aim of providing a "fair and honest perspective on Scottish politics" with a pro-independence slant,[32] after he "got fed up of just shouting at the TV when Newsnight Scotland was on".[33]

The blog has been noted for its challenge to traditional media and successful use of crowd funding, while others have criticised its style of political journalism, described as "somewhere between Gonzo and WWE" by Stephen Daisley, for being overly personalised and pugnacious.[4][34]

Comments made by Campbell relating to the Hillsborough disaster led the Yes campaign to not officially endorse his website. On the day that an independent panel exonerated Liverpool fans of blame, Campbell stated: "the fans were to blame because they, alone, were the ones who pushed and thereby caused the crush". Later Campbell said: "Some people are upset at some of my personal views. I struggle to see what conceivable relevance they [his views] are. I stand absolutely by the stuff that I've written about Hillsborough."[1]

During the latter stages of the Scottish independence referendum, 2014 the Yes campaign further distanced itself from the blog following a description of Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone as a liar and "fat troughing scum". Blair Jenkins, the chief executive of Yes Scotland, wrote: "If describing an MSP as a 'fat, troughing scum' is your idea of a well-made argument or a clever way to debunk myths, then the standard of our national debate really has fallen into disrepair."[35]

Despite the yes movement distancing itself from Campbell he stated that: "I have spoken to Blair [the chief executive of Yes Scotland] on a number of occasions."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Paul Hutcheon (2014-07-20). "'The bottom line is I don't particularly care if people don't want to be associated with us'". Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  2. ^ a b Staff (November 1988). "The National Computer Games Championships". Crash: 14. 
  3. ^ Grant, Graham (25 January 2014). "Cybernats unmasked: Meet the footsoldiers of pro-Scottish independence 'army' whose online poison shames the Nationalists". The Daily Mail. 
  4. ^ a b Stephen Daisley. "Analysis: Wings over Scotland and changing face of Scottish media | Politics". Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Champ-iooons". Computer and Video Games. December 1989. 
  7. ^ Campbell, Stuart. "World of Between Planets". World of Stuart. p. 1. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Campbell, Stuart. "World of Between Planets". World of Stuart. p. 2. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Campbell, Stu (1993). "International Rugby Challenge Review". Amiga Power (26): 32. 
  10. ^ Campbell, Stu (1993). "International Rugby Challenge Review". Amiga Power (26): 30. 
  11. ^ Nash, Jonathan. "The Stuart Campbell Era: "You useless cretinous morons"". AP2. Retrieved 2015-04-15. }
  12. ^ Nash, Jonathan. "AP39". AP2. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  13. ^ Nash, Jonathan. "Jonathan Davies Era". AP2. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  14. ^ Chris McCashin, Daily Star, 23 Nov 1993
  15. ^ "Dissent: Purple Reputation Eater". AP2. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  16. ^ Nash, Jonathan. "Credits: Dim the lights and chill the ham". AP2. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  17. ^ a b Walker, John (31 July 2009). "An Intermission: The Adventures Of Sexton Blake". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  18. ^ Gillen, Kieron (8 January 2010). "Player Verses Player: Coin Opera". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  19. ^ Lake, Matt, ed. (2007). Weird England. Sterling Publishing. ISBN 978-1402742293. 
  20. ^ Campbell, Stuart. "Wings Over Sealand". Retrieved 2015-04-15. }
  21. ^ Campbell, Stuart. "A day of mourning". Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  22. ^ Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. Lonely Planet Publications. 2006. pp. 9–12. ISBN 1741047307. 
  23. ^ a b Gillen, Kieron (17 December 2009). "Barnett: 'Gary Penn was my Lester Bangs'". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  24. ^ Gillen, Kieron (18 December 2008). "Wot I Think: Space Giraffe". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  25. ^ Staff (2 April 1999). "Need To Know 2 April 1999". Need To Know. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  26. ^ Staff (February 1996). "Untitled". Wired: 91. 
  27. ^ "I am him". World of Stuart. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  28. ^ a b c "The Making of Cannon Fodder 2". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. 
  29. ^ "A Scot's Miscellany". World of Stuart. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  30. ^ Campbell, Stuart (6 May 2013). "Monetising Apps: Lessons Learned In The iOS Wilderness". Lifehacker. 
  31. ^ Usher, Anthony. "Free-App Hero sweeps in to save you... money". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  32. ^ Campbell, Stuart. "One Pound For WingsLand". indiegogo. 
  33. ^ Greenwell, Michael (2013). "ScotIndyPod 20: Rev. Stuart Campbell". Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  34. ^ "Pat Kane: Shock of the new for news". 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  35. ^ "Yes campaign distances itself from controversial website". 2014-06-19. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 

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