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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Does Game Journalism Suck?



If you happen to work for the gaming press or did at one point, please forgive the rather rude title of this editorial. I really couldn't think of a better way to put it. Maybe I was living under a rock or just wasn't paying enough mind, but it's become increasingly apparent that a plethora of gamers believe that video game journalism is an joke and has been that way for quite some time. Why is that? By no means am I an expert or some industry professional. I'm just a someone who loves to game and write about games. What I can do is present some reasons as to why many believe video game journalism is in the crapper.

Decline of Print Media and the Rise of the Digital Age

Nintendo Power, GamePro, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Game Informer. One of my favorite pass times growing up was picking up a video game magazine and reading through it from start to finish. I would even read about games I had no interest in just to stay informed. The aforementioned gaming mags were some of the ones I loved reading the most. I'm aware that more than a few think GamePro isn't fit to wipe their anus and that Game Informer is a major GameStop plug. Lots of gamers have praised GameFan as the greatest game mag on the planet. I never believed that for a second, but that's just me. My point is, for a long time, game mags were our primary source for game info and month after month we would gobble up every thing we could. 

But then came the explosion of digital age. The internet makes getting news, shopping and staying in touch with old friends super simple. Lots of newspapers are still around but every single published paper has it's own website for up-to-the-minute news. What was once something we had access to every thirty days is now something we can easily get a hold of at any given time. If there's a news story breaks about a new game or a closing development studio, expect the story to be spread all around the net without hours. Lots of game mags have bitten the dust thanks to digital media. While I'm very grateful to get gaming news every day, there's nothing quite like having a well-made game magazine in your hands, complete with in depth articles on interesting topics that most websites don't even touch upon. For many, the "true spirit" of game journalism fizzled out as digital media blew up.

Ads, Ads and More Ads

Ads are everywhere. In magazines, newspapers, TVs, and billboards. You cannot escape the all mighty ad. For all the good digital media has given us, it's also responsible for the onslaught of ever increasing ads, something that greatly hinds your web surfing experience. What should be a relaxing experience for us turns into aggravation because we have to sit through so many ads or have the page's scrolling speed bogged down by an over abundance of ads on the top, bottom, left and ride side of the page. Needless to say ad assault is at it's worst in digital form. Ad blocking software was invented for the sole purpose of making our web surfing experiences less frustrating. But game sites need those ads to get money so they are a necessary evil. When said ads are game-related, they may even have some sway on reviews and scores. "What?! That's impossible!" If mainstream  news media can be convinced to have a different opinion based on the all mighty dollar, what makes you think video game journalism is an exception? When game journalists lose their jobs for giving their honest opinion and a game that was originally given a mediocre rating is given a great rating, it doesn't take the world's greatest detective to know that things aren't kosher. 

Big Name Games/Stories

Which of these do you think will get the most attention, a review on the latest Call of Duty or a review on one of Cave's shooters that's actually getting an English release? The former, of course. Hating on the Call of Duty series is a popular pass time for the hardcore gamer, it's an enormous franchise that makes truckloads of cash and grabs gamer's attention. It isn't uncommon to see a Call of Duty title get multiple page reviews in magazines or webites while lesser known titles will be fortunate enough to get a single page review and if it's in a magazine, sometimes they only get a small space. Demand for a game dictates how much attention it will receive. Lots of haters may not want to believe it, but TONS of people play Activision's first person shooter and that's why it gets all the attention shined on it that it does. So gamers themselves have an tremendous effect on how much or how little focus a game gets in the press. Most of the time. 2011's Rayman Origins was given glowing reviews but it was released around the holiday season and was up against some pretty stiff competition Despite the rave reviews, it still didn't sell nearly as many copies as it should have. 

Then you have huge headline stories. When Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto expressed his desire to retire from his current position in a Wired interview in 2011, many just saw the single word "retire" and thought he was leaving the game making business. Because many people didn't read the article carefully, Nintendo had to make clarifications the very next day that the interview went up that Miyamoto wasn't going anywhere. Big name stories goes along with my next point.

Article Views

It's all about hits, or page and article views. Many websites live and die by this. Make no mistake, ads help a lot but page views are of equal importance. Games with big names attached or stories with headlines sure to grab attention usually get lots of views. Even in the digital age, there's still a rush to get stories out before rival websites. This can lead to stories that contain gross inaccuracies because the writers didn't bother to check their facts. The biggest example I can offer on this is an incident with fake PS Vita games. A little over a year ago, a forumite on 4chan did some Play.com retail forgeries for upcoming Vita games. Among the titles were Grand Theft Auto, Tales of Innocence R and an English version of Final Fantasy Type-0. And wouldn't you know it, GameSpot, Kotaku, and IGN among others, jumped on the chance to print the story. But hey, as long as they get the story up first, who cares? When a site article is sitting on over a million views, who cares if the writer made him/herself and by extension, the whole site look like complete morons? 

For the record, I don't think every game journalist professional is a tool. Retro Gamer is one of the finest gaming magazines on the face of the Earth and a shining example of what great game journalism can be. I've also been fortunate enough to talk via e-mail to some industry professional. Joe Fielder, former EIC of GameSpot was a great help to me when I wanted to break into the professional game journalism when I was in my late teens and Jeff Grestman is one of the coolest guys around. So while I personally don't think all of game journalism is facade, I can see why lots of gamers think it is. 

1 comment:

cheat-master30 said...

Ah gaming journalism. Oh how easy it is to get those gaming news site journalists to print just about anything by pretending you're some mysterious industry insider with knowledge of an upcoming game or ten.

Like that time some random person posted a fake picture of GAME's website with Majora's Mask 3D box shown on it, which ended up as front page news across half the internet. Because as we all know, a completely random forum post is now a credible news source.

Or how many hilariously ridiculous things get posted because some writer was browsing 4chan one night and ended up thinking he'd found a reliable news source. That Sonic Excursion rumour is a good example of this.

But yeah, gaming journalism does kind of suck at the moment. But hey, what can you do? The same sort of issue is becoming common in non gaming journalism now too...