The Sad State of Gaming Journalism - skippyasqueeze07 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Sad State of Gaming Journalism

 

I debated about whether or not to post this article on the blog, for obvious reasons. I wrote this for my newspaper, as always, and I generally expected to keep it that way. After a while, though I realized that if I believed something, keeping silent in fear of what other's may think was the wrong approach. I love Game Informer, they are funny and have lots of spirit, and I subscribe to their magazine every year. As a journalist, though, I disagree with many of their decisions, and I hope you guys aren't offended by me voicing my perspective. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Recently with the boom of video games as a form of consumer media has caused the demand for coverage on the industry to skyrocket. This was largely due to the fact that video games were a young industry, but an expensive one from both the consumer and the developer side, costing millions of dollars to develop and a hefty sixty bucks a pop to buy. The industry needed experts that could judge without bias the quality of the investment you make with each game. The youth of the medium also adds another facet to the dynamic between journalist and developer. In order for there to be a long term gaming demographic, games will have to be taken seriously as an art-form. Journalists realize this, and do their best to champion gaming. While all of these things seem like good things on the outside, the very specific relationship between journalist, consumer, and developer has many downsides.

Currently we find ourselves with every big budget game getting between a scale of 8 to 10/10, a number that should be nigh unreachable, reserved for the best of the best, history changing games nearing perfection, is reached at least once a year. We find ourselves with journalism websites reporting on whatever they see fit, posting at least a dozen articles a day ranging from the dubiously cited to the very loosely relevant. You see articles that cite other articles that link to other articles that follow back to rumors, speculation, and lies. This piggyback reporting is rampant and promotes misinformation. Websites and magazines have huge exclusives and previews that are all advertisement and no criticism. We find ourselves dealing with exclusive review embargoes, where certain writers have their reviews publish first if their score is above a certain pre-decided amount. Ben Kuchera, writer of the Penny Arcade Report, writes about how difficult it is to cite any of his sources or get any recognition for any of his work when embargoes and exclusives favor a few multi-million dollar magazines but not any one reporter. "It gets to the point where you're not sure who is promoting who," he writes, with an air of frustration.

The big problem is that games are incredibly expensive to make, and no risk can be taken. While the concepts are usually risk free, "safe" games do not sell without a lot of advertisement. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 cost about 50 million dollars to make, yet in advertisement Activision's Bobby Kotick reports spending 200 million. The urgency of selling well is ever present in the industry, and with all the money being thrown around there is no better advertisement than a good review score. These eyebrow-raising embargoes are bad enough, and many writers are beginning to question the possibility of developers going as far as paying reviewers directly for high scores. While I wouldn't go that far, Journalism's obsession with glorifying the industry (an action both profitable in the short and long term) leads to inflated review scores and a general blind eye towards the problems in our industry today. It is difficult to know where to turn these days, from Kotaku's lack of relevancy to IGN's hyper-casualized reviewing trends to Game Informer's excessive advertisements masquerading as critical previews, there is nothing more difficult for a gaming consumer than getting their hands on truly great games without becoming jaded to the unstoppable hype train ringing the chorus of whatever next big budget title is to be released.

The best thing for consumers to do to reverse this is to become the critics that we wish reviewers would be. If a game is average, do not score it an 8 out of 10. If you see a game advertised, remember that no developer would highlight the game's flaws in a demo. Praise thoughtful, well written journalism that asks tough questions about the state of our industry and the ethics of it's practices. Check the citations to every rumor you read before spouting it off to your friends. Remember that there are so many great games out there, and only a small fraction of them are being highlighted by your friendly neighborhood video game magazine. Some of the greatest games of this generation were under the radar when released, like Minecraft, like Bioshock, even Portal was overshadowed by the other games featured in the "Orange Box." Our industry has the potential to be so much better than it is, but it isn't going to get there until the consumers start asking for the things that really matter.

 

 

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