“Professional” Video Game “Journalism”


Let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert on the subject. I can and am wrong sometimes and, if you believe my wife, I am pretty much always wrong. That being said this is the business as I understand it and if I am wrong, let me know. Just make sure you provide some kind of proof, either an article or interview with someone knowledgeable on the subject, or be yourself someone in the industry.

I don’t agree with the term Video Game News. At least not on any professional level. I think that using words like news and  journalism in regards to video games is misleading. To me these words imply a neutral and relatively unbiased point of view. Sadly that is simply not something you can find in this industry and there are some very simple reasons why not.

The first and biggest reason is that video game sites are completely beholden to the publishers and developers for their content. Sure they could give a AAA game a terrible score, and on the rare occasion they do, but they need to be careful and toe the line. If they piss off a developer or publisher they may not be sent early review copies of future games, which means everyone will go to their competitors sites to get reviews.

Add onto that developer interviews, gameplay clips, invites to press events and other exclusive content, or at least content that will keep them on par with all the other sites. Piss off the developers or publishers and you could find your site no better off than your average blogger, playing video games after they come out and re-bloging information from other sites.

Don’t believe anything like that could happen? It’s happening all the time. Remember the big stink when Jeff Gerstmann was fired from GameSpot? GameSpot never officially cited any reason for the termination but it came just after Gerstmann gave Kane & Lynch: Dead Men a fair rating. Eidos Interactive, the publisher of Kane & Lynch, is rumored to have put pressure on the site until Gerstmann was fired, a rumor that seems reinforced by the fact that the entire GameSpot site had a Kane & Lynch theme at the time, and Eidos Interactive was advertising the game heavily on the site.

For other examples do you think you can trust reviews in publications such as Official Xbox Magazine or Nintendo Power? We’ve all seen those periods in gaming where nothing really good is coming out. Do you think you could open those magazines and see the truth? That all of the games that came out for that system in a given month were bad? Of course not. It’s just not in their financial interest.

To me a real news source should be able to tell the truth, even if it destroys the subject they are covering. It’s the entire reason we have Freedom of Speech, so news agencies can report about what they have discovered, even if the government or other sources don’t like it. In games “journalism” there is no real “news”. Almost all information is hand fed from publishers to the “press” and it is only what the publishers want you to know.

Even the “editorials” in game journalism can’t be unbiased. They still have to be on their toes so they don’t piss off the hand that feeds them. To me this completely removes them from the pool of News media.

Does all of this mean that I don’t like gaming “news” sites? Of course not. I still enjoy editorials on Kotaku, MMORPG.com and others. I will always enjoy videos such as Sessler’s Soapbox on G4tv.com and video reviews from gametrailers.com. I even enjoy written reviews and they can be unbiased to a degree. You just need to ignore the “numbered” review and read the actual article. Often times a reviewer will slam a game in the written article and still give the game an 8 or above.

In short: If your “news” is handed to you by those you report on, you are an unpaid publicist, not a news source.

Good God I am never going to get a job in the gaming industry now.