I Am An Imagined Journalist

I Am An Imagined Journalist

It arrived on my desk almost three years ago. Sealed in shrink-wrap, protected by packing peanuts, boxed in brown cardboard, it was never meant to be played. No writer in the building wanted to go near it, no reviewer wanted to play it. As I was about to put it in the communal freebie box, the figurative fly swat of the universe came down on my brain to stop me. I put the game in my bag and took it home.

The general consensus among those who know quite a few things and those who know absolutely nothing is Imagine Journalist (or Imagine Reporter as it is known in the US) is an objectively bad game. It has been described as vapid, dull, and repetitive. In his review of the game back in 2009, Gizmodo AU’s current editor, Alex Kidman, called the game “rubbish” and “shoddily put together”. When he let his seven year old daughter try it, she politely gave it back after 20 minutes before curling up like a small cat to nap away the sadness.

As sloppy as the game looked before I’d even played it, I took it home, put it in my DS, and gave it a chance.

Why I Played It

The Imagine series is what it is. Name a profession, a pseudo-profession, or a flavour of Gummi Bear and there is probably an Imagine game for it. That the series decided to make a game about journalism shouldn’t mean anything, but for this journalist, it means something. It means so much that three years on, I still have the game and I still think about it.

I think about it because I am critical, and I am critical because I care. As someone with few interests, my work is the centre of my universe and Imagine Journalist strikes where I am weakest – that squishy part of me that cares about journalism (no chubby jokes please). While playing the game I am unsure whether to laugh or cry. The game’s depiction of journalism is about as accurate as a drawing of the human body done by a child who barely passed the safety scissor test – it’s inaccurate, but there’s enough there that you wouldn’t mistake it for a walrus.

I am sure that if Imagine Orthoptist came out there would be a legion of eyeball doctors playing the game against their better judgment and finding themselves in my position: this game is so bad, it’s so wrong, but it’s about something that matters so much to me that I can’t help but pick it up and be critical of it. I want to ignore it, but I can’t help but be critical of it because I care. I should let it go — it is driving me a bit mad.

Where It Goes Wrong

The game tells me it will teach me how to get a scoop.

“A scoop!” I think to myself excitedly. “Tell me more about how one gets a scoop in a video game!”

The resulting task requires me to ride my in-game push-bike around town to collect stars on the road, with each star representing a “scoop”.

The game then tries to teach me how to interview someone.

“Interviewing!” I exclaim to no one in particular. “Interviewing is a thing I often do!” I am curious to see how it works in a video game.

A woman appears on the screen and speech bubbles fade in and out. Tapping on a speech bubble before it fades out is how one “captures the words”. This is how we interview.

The game teaches me to take notes. A dialogue box appears and I have to write down all text coloured in red. Once the dialogue box disappears, I need to rely on my notes to answer a short multiple choice quiz. Subjects covered include famous people, store openings, and famous people attending store openings. True facts.

At some point I am assigned an “investigation”. This job requires me to use my stylus to dust away a white screen to reveal where the interviewee is standing. It’s a bit like a Where’s Wally scratchy, but not interesting.

At the end of each task, I am told that “I did it!”

I Can Only Conclude That I Have A Problem

This is a game that was never intended for me. I am far outside the target demographic: too old, too much of a sociopath and, arguably, too clever. But even if I was within that demographic like Alex’s daughter, I wonder if it would be any better. My guess is no. At its core Imagine Journalist is the most unimaginative of games. It’s lazy, it’s poorly-designed, and it looks and sounds dull. It’s the kind of game you hope to fail so that others like it never get made. I really want it to fail. But I’m the chump who played it, photographed it, and I’ve now written about it… so I guess it wins this time.


  • *Insert chubby joke here*

    Sorry, Bubble-T, it had to be done.

    And I enjoy playing games that are train-wrecks. If they ever released “Imagine: Unemployed Bum” I’d probably pick it up.

  • At least it gets one thing right. If you’re young. pretty and female, you’ve got a career in journalism.
    /end cynicism

  • Nice article. Very funny, I could feel your wincing through your writing.

    I wish there was an ‘Imagine TAY’ game though.

  • I’m sorry, this article is pretty badly written. I think you need to play the game a few more times to learn how to be a real journalist. (I am, of course, making ze funny. I loved the article.)

    Does anyone else find it creepy how the guy in the suit draws out Tracey’s name like that. Hellloooo Traceeey.

      • Apologetic, I humbly apologise. Explanatory, the written medium is very tricky to convey tonality in. Chastised, I think I should take a leaf from the Elcor book and describe the tone before speaking.

        • Observation: These beings, the “Elcor” as you call them, seem to have played too much KOTOR and fallen in love with the character HK-47.
          Possible Alternative: Perhaps it was the writers at BioWare that are obsessed with him.

  • Oh my god, you poor, poor woman. I think these games should be completely abolished.
    It’s not only demeaning to the profession, it’s demeaning to the girls playing it. =(
    Nice write up Tracey. I hope you’re not too traumatised.

    • Will it be traumatic if I nit pick and point out he didn’t point out the joke until his third sentence?

      Oh noes! It’s okay Tracey. Your articles are made of awesome… even if you haven’t collected stars off the street for a scoop.

  • Those Imagine games probably paid for the last 3 Assassins Creed games, so I ain’t complaining that they exist. Ubisoft cop so much flak for their ‘casual’ games, but at least they still make games for the enthusiast as well. Good balance, Ubi. I <3 U Frenchies

    • Have you ever played one of the imagine games? Half of them are broken. Most girls won’t get into games because the imagine ones may be their first experience. And actually, I think Just Dance may have paid for the assassins creed games.

      • Yeah, I played the interior designer one I think (ARGH ME HEARTIES) and I thought it was serviceable. It was a game for young girls to make cute stuff or whatever. It wasn’t terribly engaging but I could see my sister getting into it or whatever. As much awesome as it would be to get young girls to REALLY be into Bangai-Oh Spirits or something equally niche, I get the appeal, and those games probably make girls happy, and plus we get more money pumped into high-risk GAME games. I’m wondering if Ubi would have bothered doing Rayman Origins or I Am Alive if they didn’t have a big pile of Imagine/Just Dance money to fall back on.

        • Just so you know I am female and I like Bangai-O spirits. =D
          Just dance is a competent game but I heard that imagine Babies was pretty much unplayable.
          You’re better off giving a girl a variety of games and seeing which ones she likes.
          I would probably suggest harvest moon as it’s well made

          • ‘Just so you know I am female and I like Bangai-O spirits. =D’
            Oh, Well, in that case, Marry Me Plz.

            And I would totally give my hypothetical daughter Harvest Moon. Or Animal Crossing. They seem a hell of a lot better put together than Imagine games.

          • Sorry, I can’t have a husband, you’d cut into my game time. XD
            Yeah, they are much better made then the Imagine games and they’re also quite addictive/

  • “It’s lazy, it’s poorly-designed, and it looks and sounds dull.”

    So it’s a typical Kotaku US article, then? *boom tish*

  • whenever that guy says your name, it sorta looks like he is saying it like he’s the fonz and hitting on you…

    “good job TRACEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY!!!!!!!!” then he winks and gives you the thumbs up

  • Alright then, Tracey. As a journalist and wanna-be game developer, here’s your chance to show off your skills. How would you do a video game about journalism?

    • I am not a wannabe game developer! I am only painting the backgrounds for a game for the experience. So I can’t answer how I would do a game about journalism because I do not have the mind of a game designer!

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