Alike the video game industry these days, the video game journalism industry is a tad bit fucked up — and let’s face it, people like myself are part of the problem. I can try to differentiate myself from all of its horse shit, but at the end of the day I’m only adding to the growing mountain of feces that really needs cleaning up but is so large that nobody can really manage it.
I can point fun at last year’s big game journalism Doritosgate scandal all I like, but then here I am on Twitter cozying up to video game developers, indie game developers, PR individuals and even other game journalists. Although I’m not saying this as an excuse, that’s sort of all you can do as a small-time game journalist hoping to make this your career; it’s rather saddening to think that to make it in this industry, you absolutely have to suck-up to people, lest you won’t gain a job with a reputable game publication or have any contacts within the industry which you so desperately need.
But Doritosgate is over and anyone at all interested or involved in this line of work is already fully aware of the ethical issues encompassing it. Although they’re important issues, I don’t want to completely squeeze that ol’ thing — even if I do think that it caused a ruckus but made no significant changes anywhere.
So, instead of just repeating last year’s horse shit regarding game company’s and game journalist’s too-close-relationship and how aspiring journalists have to join in with this charade to make it, let’s address some of the other issues in the industry — and I do only mean ‘some of’, because boy is it riddled.
First off, the industry is too self-involved. One game site posts a news story that other game sites re-report that other game sites re-report that other game sites re-report and so on. Although this Chinese-whsipers-esque strategy is almost unavoidable, it’s a prominent issue in that game journalists will see a news story pop up in their RSS feeds or Twitter or what have you and re-report it without checking on its original source first. Everyone does it — no name-dropping of course, but even the big-guns do this stuff when you’d think they’d have enough staff, experience and contacts to discover the reports themselves.
The primary issue here is this: the rumour factory that is the video game journalism industry needs to stop. It seems as simple as saying you work for a company and supplying some bullshit information or pictures for it to be considered newsworthy on a game site which will then get re-posted all around the community. It’s truly alarming how often, how easily and how rapidly utterly horse shit stories race around the industry. Sure, the vast majority point out that it’s a rumour or that it’s not yet confirmed, but then why is it news? I’m not talking about artwork and the like that probably have some backbone to it — though that’s not brilliantly relevant in some cases either — but more this ‘he said, she said’ approach regarding what certain individuals have apparently said (like this crap about Activision being annoyed at Nintendo fans regarding Black Ops II) and that sort of ridiculous trollop.
And remember the golden game journalistic rule: anything any gaming analyst says about anything is somehow newsworthy. Apparently.
Just to note: unless there’s sufficient evidence behind an unconfirmed story — and I do mean sufficient evidence — I’ll never write about something that’s currently unconfirmed, hearsay, an analyst’s view or simply a rumour. It’s not the kind of thing I’d want to read and it’s not the kind of thing I want to write.
Larger, more successful game sites contribute to the way the video game industry works itself in a big way and we seem to forget this. Their views (and more importantly, their Metracritic scores) are a great way for game companies to gather feedback about what it is gamers want — or at least that’s the plan, anyway.
If journalists are snuggling in bed with the aforementioned game company, they’re likely to consciously or sub-consciously be a little softer on their game. The game gets given a good score, even if it’s average, so the game companies believe that this reception means that this is what they should be doing more of. It’s a vicious cycle of horse shit.
The really interesting thing gamers need to keep in mind is that reviews are rarely written with journalists having entirely completed the game by themselves first. Again, an unavoidable situation and one I personally partake in as journalists do not have the time to complete every game they’re handed, but people should take almost everything they read with a pinch-of-salt. High-level game journalists are the expert of games they may sometimes appear to be, it’s just their job to look like they are.
We forget the important influence journalists have not only on gamer’s choice of purchase but also what’s being developed in the first place. It’s a screwed-up kind of middle-man really and it’s important for journalists to try having some respect for the industry they’re a part of (saying that, it’s not as if one individual can change the status-quo).
This market is saturated. Everyone wants to try their hand at game journalism and there’s simply no room for it; every niche has been filled, every need is already suited for. The only way you have a chance at this isn’t to make consistently good editorials or reviews (the big game journalists have already played the games, thanks to being good ol’ buddies with the company’s PR or developers) but it’s to jump into the horse shit head-first.
Don’t worry about your legs hanging out — there’ll soon be more manure shoveled on to the pile to keep those lil’ toes of yours warm. Mmmm.