Posted by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

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#1 Posted by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

When it isn't being wholly exploitative and tabloidian, it speaks with the egocentric voice of the adolescent writer. Its skills haven't reached maturity and it doesn't have much of importance to say, but it is so convinced of the reverse that it seizes upon whatever is easily at hand to broadly decry some part of the games industry as woefully inadequate, giving itself an excuse to be a grandiose call to action. In an unpleasantly ironic twist, the writer who bemoans the state of games journalism ends up sounding like a 15 year old writing about politics or government.

I don't blame anyone for trying to find a more ennobled voice for this avenue of journalism; as a writer myself, I empathize with their desire to truly say something. But I am a reader, not a recreational empathizer, and this self-important grandstanding is as grating as the click-mongers. I have floated around gaming news sites, but I cannot find anywhere that does not do at least one of the two. 1UP, Kotaku, Joystiq, The Penny Arcade Report, IGN, GameSpot, any site I can think of does one of these two things. Of the two, there is, of course, a clear choice.

Kotaku's lack of ethics and integrity coupled with their zealous quest for The Headlines People Will Click On made me uneasy, but they were a fast news aggregator, so I tried to ignore the former to just get the actual gaming news, which is all I ever really want. But then they spent a month constantly reporting on -- complete with large pictures of -- the shitbag Arizona shooter from last year. They exploited a tragic event for ad dollars, and at the price of contributing to a murderer's immortality. I haven't been back.

But just because I prefer one site over another doesn't mean I'm satisfied. Joystiq is about the best site I can find right now, but they still suffer from an underdeveloped and shallow voice. This story is the latest in a long line of this entire field's penchant for trying to spin legitimate facts into a piece purporting to shine a light on the immaturity and need for some aspect of growth (conveniently these writers always have advice for the industry as a whole). That piece is well-intentioned and is clearly written by someone looking to contribute positive things to gaming. The problem is that it is poorly considered and sells the medium as a whole short, both seemingly prompted by an overwhelming desire to hurry up and get to the part where the writer gets to chastise an industry for its failings and give advice. This is one piece, but I feel like it is incredibly typical. I almost wrote this same blog post about some other piece a week ago, and I said "fuck it".

The piece ends with:

Music, movies, book, and film based on history have helped paint this picture of the world we've lived through. They help celebrate what our planet has accomplished and the good that men and women throughout history have fought for.

Like the real men and women from war, Harriet Tubman is a true hero. But unlike many war heroes, our industry doesn't even attempt to relay her story.

I don't want to look at video games for the rest of my life in terms of a history in technology. I don't want to be pulled through a war zone every time I want to look at our world's past. It's time video games put itself on equal footing with other mediums.

It's time to tell new, old stories.

I am an avid fan of history. The audiobook for stupendous The Civil War: A Narrative is 150 hours long. I've listened to it three times. Maybe four. I lost count. History books, history podcasts, history everything smeared all over my face. I don't like historical fiction because it's too much fiction and not enough history. This is not to say that I know everything, but that I like knowing something, and I like learning new things, too. Part of what stoked that love for history and learning about it is the video game series Civilization.

I played Civilization II (rather poorly, I might add) in elementary and middle school. It taught me more than history and it was more than just a fun game. Through the unique opportunities of the medium, it did much more than either. It gave me a perspective of the history of civilization, which had before been just a morass of numbers and impenetrable vastness. It gave me a sense of Mankind, instead of a nation or people. Here were so many different peoples who, despite their differences and (seemingly inevitable) bitter enmity for each other, could achieve great and wondrous things. It introduced me to concepts and philosophies of government, methods and technologies of warfare, and human achievements, and their general timeline relative to one another. It gave me a simple but important sense of the eternal trials that all humans have constantly faced.

But none of this was done by dictating history to me. Sure, I was always free to peruse the Civilopedia, but that is bolted on ancillary information, not the game itself. That was good, but not the true potential of the medium. Gaming is, in fact, not suited to facts. Its freeform, immersive nature discourages the use of hard facts. Gaming does not focus on historical figures because depicting historical figures has a responsibility of accuracy, or else you are conveying falsehoods, which is worse than not conveying facts at all. Facts are best presented in a concrete, linear form, which is best suited for books and movies. Civilization, by incorporating historical elements into an interactive fiction, did what no other art had done, and hasn't done since: it gave me a historical texture to feel with my own hands.

Games that immerse you in a historical texture and let you feel history without really teaching you any history at all are, in my opinion, far more proportionally common than other mediums. Total War, Oregon Trail, Assassin's Creed, the loads of WW2 games, Rise of Nations, Age of Empires, many Paradox games, and on and on. All of these games, and every somewhat historical game, gives you a feeling, a sense of history. Why it's important, what it means, what it looks like. By being a fake thing that lets you fuck everything up, it gives you a little glimpse into what these historical elements that are incorporated into the gameplay really mean, not just what they are. These are stories not about specific historical figures, but our story. History itself, not just the facts.

Games are doing more than what that Joystiq writer was asking for: it didn't just paint a picture, it puts you in the picture. Depicting the literal picture itself is already done; the best way to learn about the linear progression of history is not, and never will be, games. It's silly to try to equal or replace the ability of books to convey a series of facts with gaming. That is not the maturation of gaming, but the adolescent aspirations of maturation based on previous example.

And this, at the heart, is the problem with games journalism. In a clamour to be a voice of progress, we not only ignore a unique and unprecedented ability of the gaming medium, we bemoan our nonconformity with other mediums. While the games industry has discovered an entirely new way of making people interested in learning about and experiencing history, games journalism is too busy trying to shit on the industry and decry its immaturity to notice. Our journalism has seized on this behavior not intentionally or maliciously, but simply because it lacks a voice. It doesn't know what to say, but it wants to say something.

What is probably the saddest and most depressing thing to me is that the writers with the most integrity and desire to really improve the voice of games journalism are the ones who cannot find any voice at all. Kotaku and IGN have very clear and distinct voices. They know what they are, what they will do, and what will come of it. They execute on their purpose with resounding success and are the face of a maturing games journalism. They more closely resemble the mainstream media, with their loaded headlines and inflammatory topics. The more ad dollars there are to be made, the more it will look like them.

Those of you who are trying to find the higher voice of a journalist with integrity and insight are our journalists. You represent us. We want you to succeed, to bring us very voice you're trying to find. But you are letting us down, and you're in danger of being left behind. Drop the incessant negative and condescending tone that you only ever adopted because of your fear of unimportance. Become the objective free-thinker who can speak to us about us in a way we never considered, not the excitable, well-intentioned child who wants to make a difference and writes before he thinks.

#2 Posted by mosespippy (4052 posts) -

I feel like I need to comment because it is clear that much thought was put into this piece and yet no one has responded. Also because I knew from the title that I would have thoughts on the subject but it took me three days of it sitting in an open tab unread due to the length of the piece. Perhaps I am having trouble responding because there are two topics; the role of games journalists and the way that games represent history.

I'll start with the history topic since I recently played L.A. Noire and the representation of history is fresh in my thoughts. I can agree that other mediums can do a better job of teaching history through dates and names. It seemed to me in high school history classes that the only part of history that people studied was politics and war. That's probably because that kind of thing plays to the strengths of text books and tests. L.A. Noire doesn't depict any historical events. It depicts what the culture 1940's post war Los Angeles was like. That is the strength of video games; depicting a time and place, setting and culture. Put a player in a setting and they can be immersed. Dictate names, places and dates and they will switch off.

Much of the enthusiast press fall prey to your criticisms of egocentricity and immature voice, not just the games press. The music press, tech press, sports press, political press, etc all can fall prey to this. There are examples in all fields of those that do it well and those that do not. The article in question is not a good example of this though. It is one of the principles of journalism that, through editorials, journalists create a forum for criticism and compromise. This article is specifically criticizing the industry as a whole for not trying to depict events of great importance that are not just wars.

Personally I get all the gaming news I need from twitter chatter. It's editorials and features that I want to read, as the news at this point is identical no matter which news source (which makes it easy to ignore the kotakus of the world). Some places that I find have well written, thought provoking pieces are Kill Screen, Psychology of Gaming, Polygon and independent writers that come up in Patrick's Worth Reading posts or from twitter chatter.

#3 Edited by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

@mosespippy: Oh yeah, I hadn't even thought of LA Noire. There are so many places in video games to find some historical nut to chew on.

Indeed much enthusiast press does. I think what plagues the games press is a natural phase. It's just disappointing to me to see games move on as much as they have and games journalism to still be floundering around, lost and amateurish.

I think the Joystiq piece is a great example. The overall point of the piece is indeed that there should be more depictions of war rather than piece, and I don't disagree with that in itself. As I said, this pervasive attitude gaming journalism has prompts people to take legitimate facts (like a penchant for depicting historical war) and seize on it as an industry-wide example of immaturity.

I think there's a ton of ignored facts about video games that prompts somebody to make the conclusion that it is because of immaturity that video games aren't about specific, peaceful events in history, and I only mentioned one because it would have doubled the length of the blog. Such as: video games tend toward violence as a whole, not just related to history, and this is because of the nature of the medium coupled with the natural tendencies of storytelling.

Violence is dramatic and flashy and is common throughout all mediums. How many movies about Harriet Tubman are there? A quick look at Wikipedia shows that, despite the vastness of both the history and wealth of the movie industry, there is one miniseries and one movie, the former made in 1978 and the latter doesn't even have its own Wiki page. And yet how much does the film industry like to make stories about Spartacus, the slave who made war? And how successful are those? People are spellbound by war, and this has always been the case. Video games will get to the peaceful heroes eventually, like all mediums, but after we have given it time.

And I think violence lends itself to the interactivity of video games. Fighting dudes is a ready-made gameplay concept that works both in terms of fun and storytelling. There are so many naturally appealing aspects and potential uses for fighting man, it is hard to do anything else with a similar degree of success. Think about Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. How dramatic was it, in a moment of panic, to pull the right trigger and quickly cut the throat of a guy about to discover you? Even just the act of killing lends to tension, drama, excitement. Why do you think so many of our film spies are so fond of killing people, too?

All that aside, there is even the simple fact that war is a broad act that is associated with men as a whole, rather than specific men, so it is easy to drop in fictional characters. Whether it is the private or the nameless general, it is easy to put the player in control of a fictional viewpoint without ruining the historical nature of the setting. And video games need fictional viewpoints, because depicting historical people with historical accuracy is counterproductive in the medium.

The point of my contention with the Joystiq piece wasn't that it didn't spot a truth about video games, but that it abused that truth to serve a preconceived conclusion that it didn't support. I am not saying the games industry isn't immature or couldn't be handling history better. These things may be true. But the reasoning they made isn't sound, which is not what we need, regardless of the maturity of the game industry. The way you discover if a thing is true is by examining the subject thoroughly, and ignoring all of these points about video games and history seems to belie a lack of thoughtful examination. We all can see a basic fact about the industry and can arbitrarily believe the industry is immature. But the thoughtful examination is where the journalist comes in.

Using the observation of a fact about the industry, that writer could have written about the role of history in video games and examined all the unique challenges, obstacles, and advantages of video games as a medium that would have easily provided an interesting and sound reasoning for why video games pick the parts of history that they do. That is what presents itself to me when I look at the question of "why is there so much war in video games?" objectively. But they didn't. Instead the piece just shunted off to the same message: "you are immature, video games! Grow up! Be like movies and books! Only then will you be art!"

Maybe such a conclusion is inflammatory and will increase ad revenue. I don't know. Maybe the ad-driven editorial is already a reality throughout the gaming press. But I thought that Joystiq piece was ostensibly a prime example of a good writer thinking about good topics squandering good opportunities for discussion with a tired and insubstantial conclusion. That writer, more than many writers, had the opportunity, point of view, good intentions, and accurate observation to write an insightful piece about the video game industry. But they ignored so much to do so little.

@mosespippy said:

It is one of the principles of journalism that, through editorials, journalists create a forum for criticism and compromise. This article is specifically criticizing the industry as a whole for not trying to depict events of great importance that are not just wars.

I think that actually cuts straight to it. Absolutely, you are right about that. And maybe that's why this culture of "grow up, developers!" sprung up. It seems to me that gaming journalists, keeping that principle in mind, are trying to mature the gaming press by being critical of the industry as a whole. But I think it is reactionary. Journalists look at how much parroting of press releases, snarky commentary on news aggregation, or generally fanboyish writing that all make up the gaming press and they take up the message of immaturity -- the opposite of the aforementioned things -- to try to counteract the overly positive message.

Yes, we need criticism. But we don't need criticism for criticism's sake. It is easy to have a problem with something. But that isn't the elevated commentary, the reasoned and insightful thinking that would actually mature both gaming journalism and the games industry.

#4 Posted by Sploder (917 posts) -

Y'know, this is a fantastic piece of writing that has given me a lot to think about. I don't really have much to say on it right now but I just wanted you to know that. As an aspiring journalist who is likely to end up working in the gaming media this has given me a lot of food for thought on how to tackle writing about the industry, but without the "oh god you're all so immature" attitude, which has been giving me pause whenever I pick up a pen and start to think about writing something remotely worthwhile. Bookmarked.

#5 Posted by crusader8463 (14415 posts) -

The problem I have with journalism in gaming is that the people doing the writing are cuffed and held hostage by the publishers. If they did real journalism and tried to leak stuff early then the publishers would just say fuck you and never give them early code for games or not allow them to post videos or trailers about their games. At the end of the day however, we are talking about video games and we play video games to have fun. Even if a place said fuck the publishers and went out of their way to get every early game footage or leaks that they could find all that would do is simply end up ruining peoples enjoyment of the final product by knowing how it ends, major plot points, or having neat late game gameplay twists revealed.

Personalty all I can ever see gaming media being is the middle man to promote new games and to call out BS that the publishers are trying to hide when promoting the game. What makes them more important to the end user than just subscribing to a youtube channel is them being able to call bullshit on bad games or to point out that this is the publishers/developers just doing the same shit again. The problem is that they are only allowed to really point out and talk bad about a game after it's released out of fear of the publishers just refusing to work with them should they dare badmouth a game before it comes out. Giantbomb isn't so bad at doing that with a lot of games, but when a big AAA game is coming out even have from time to time appeared to pussy foot around the topic of bad design that they have seen or worrisome trends a series might be going down a lot of the time until after it releases.

Ideally I think there should be one completely independent entity that all of the gaming industry must submit their trailers, early game code, screen shots and all marketing information to and then anyone and everyone that wants to get their hands on that information can simply go to the site and get it. No restrictions and no limits on what website or magazine gets access to what. That way it frees up sites like giant bomb to say what they feel like without fear of having a publisher or developer saying fuck those guys and refusing to work with them in the future.

#6 Posted by algertman (852 posts) -

Polygon

#7 Posted by FourWude (2261 posts) -

Videogame journalists are just as trashy and pathetic as their mainstream news media counterparts. They're just as likely to partake in sensationalism for clicks. Just as likely to have conflict of interests with corporations that wield an unhealthy amount of leverage over them. They're just as likely to spew propaganda, (ask yourselves why games journalists don't call out and critique the blatant and idiotic propaganda and messages in modern war shooters as an example). And they're just as likely to write poorly, misrepresent from uninformed stances. But then I realized they're all whiteys, so what do you expect. This is what whitey does, and has been doing for hundreds of years.

#8 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -

I don't see how it's particularly immature for that Joystiq writer to want to have more mature experiences through games, no matter how foolish the concept of something like a Harriet Tubman game may be. I know that a game attempting to depict a modicum of peace and non-violence goes against what video-games are generally suited for, and that such a game would have a hard time being actually fun. That doesn't change the fact that I wish more mature experiences could happen in games. I mean, films that depict that sort of thing aren't necessarily fun, but they're intellectually stimulating. Why can't we have games that aim for the same thing? What I'm saying is, there is room for games that err to the side of telling a very specific and meaningful story, like a movie or book, while still wielding the merits it gets from being a game.

I.E., Heavy Rain. Now, that game has a lot of problems that prevent it from being what it should be, but you tidy your virtual characters' goddamn house in that game and feed your son dinner, and it's awesome because it offers a true feeling of humanity. There's no dissonance, because the game shows you (and doesn't just tell you) that this dad is a normal dad. You're not playing as Master Sergeant Major Minor, you're playing a fucking dude. Executed more effectively then in this particular instance, that's a very powerful thing to instill.

Not to mention, games are only now getting away from the idea that they're totally immature to the public eye. Now, you and I both know that there's something far more mature beyond a lot of these games that have you stabbing, shooting, and mutilating people. Dishonoured has you cutting throats every minute, but there's a fantastic and beautiful universe beneath it. I'm not saying that games should change in order to appease the naysayers, but there is room for games that are mature and complex through and through. I agree that one of games' greatest strengths in story telling is the chance to be truly immersive, but that fact certainly shouldn't prevent it from trying to immerse you in certain more mundane experiences. Chastising those who want something a little more from games achieves nothing in the end except closing your mind to games tackling certain subjects.

#9 Posted by Gaff (1669 posts) -

The audience gets what writing they deserve.

Sure, an in-depth look at the historical context of a game would make for a great read, but will it draw in the hits?

#10 Posted by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

What is Journalism in video games anyway?

#11 Posted by iAmJohn (6110 posts) -

@crusader8463 said:

The problem I have with journalism in gaming is that the people doing the writing are cuffed and held hostage by the publishers. If they did real journalism and tried to leak stuff early then the publishers would just say fuck you and never give them early code for games or not allow them to post videos or trailers about their games. At the end of the day however, we are talking about video games and we play video games to have fun. Even if a place said fuck the publishers and went out of their way to get every early game footage or leaks that they could find all that would do is simply end up ruining peoples enjoyment of the final product by knowing how it ends, major plot points, or having neat late game gameplay twists revealed.

I know this doesn't really have anything to do with the thread, but I've never understood this line of thinking. They're dudes writing about video games, not fucking Woodward and Bernstein; what is this deep investigative journalism you're expecting from them? If you're saying "let's leak game footage and announcements and things like that," then you run into the problem you've already outlined, and I mean really who are you benefiting by doing that? Did Kotaku leaking Sony's announcement of Home a week before it was officially announced back in 2007 affect or matter to anyone until Sony juvenilely blackballed them for a couple days? If you're arguing that they should probe more into the affairs of the publishers and developers and report on the issues and inner-workings and controversies contained within... well you might be onto something there, but that a) requires them to happen with some regularity (and the big ones, like the Infinity Ward scandal in 2009 and 38's closure months ago, do get pretty significant coverage when they do happen), and b) requires them to have sources inside these companies willing to talk to them about what's going on.

I mean hell, AV Club is oft considered one of the best websites for intelligent writing about pop culture and they almost never do that kind of investigative journalism. Except in rare instances, that's not the place of the enthusiast press, nor should it really be. I think the issue is more in line with what was getting at: the general quality of most games writing befits the level of intelligence and maturity the majority of fans approach the hobby with. Which is to say, acting like a bunch of hollering fanboy dickholes.

#12 Posted by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

@Sploder said:

Y'know, this is a fantastic piece of writing that has given me a lot to think about. I don't really have much to say on it right now but I just wanted you to know that. As an aspiring journalist who is likely to end up working in the gaming media this has given me a lot of food for thought on how to tackle writing about the industry, but without the "oh god you're all so immature" attitude, which has been giving me pause whenever I pick up a pen and start to think about writing something remotely worthwhile. Bookmarked.

Thanks!

@crusader8463 said:

The problem I have with journalism in gaming is that the people doing the writing are cuffed and held hostage by the publishers. If they did real journalism and tried to leak stuff early then the publishers would just say fuck you and never give them early code for games or not allow them to post videos or trailers about their games. At the end of the day however, we are talking about video games and we play video games to have fun. Even if a place said fuck the publishers and went out of their way to get every early game footage or leaks that they could find all that would do is simply end up ruining peoples enjoyment of the final product by knowing how it ends, major plot points, or having neat late game gameplay twists revealed.

I think the solution to some of that is just to cover games later. Giant Bomb does a great job of this, I feel like, by treating games as experiences and as part of an industry lineage worth knowing, rather than a series of zeitgeists like the rest of the press.

@FourWude said:

Videogame journalists are just as trashy and pathetic as their mainstream news media counterparts. They're just as likely to partake in sensationalism for clicks. Just as likely to have conflict of interests with corporations that wield an unhealthy amount of leverage over them. They're just as likely to spew propaganda, (ask yourselves why games journalists don't call out and critique the blatant and idiotic propaganda and messages in modern war shooters as an example). And they're just as likely to write poorly, misrepresent from uninformed stances. But then I realized they're all whiteys, so what do you expect. This is what whitey does, and has been doing for hundreds of years.

All true. I guess I think that this sort of time where we are transitioning from underground and niche to mainstream we have an opportunity to shape our dialog for the better. That may be naïve, but I figure it doesn't hurt to say something a bit witlessly hopeful.

@Akrid said:

I don't see how it's particularly immature for that Joystiq writer to want to have more mature experiences through games, no matter how foolish the concept of something like a Harriet Tubman game may be. I know that a game attempting to depict a modicum of peace and non-violence goes against what video-games are generally suited for, and that such a game would have a hard time being actually fun. That doesn't change the fact that I wish more mature experiences could happen in games. I mean, films that depict that sort of thing aren't necessarily fun, but they're intellectually stimulating. Why can't we have games that aim for the same thing? What I'm saying is, there is room for games that err to the side of telling a very specific and meaningful story, like a movie or book, while still wielding the merits it gets from being a game.

I.E., Heavy Rain. Now, that game has a lot of problems that prevent it from being what it should be, but you tidy your virtual characters' goddamn house in that game and feed your son dinner, and it's awesome because it offers a true feeling of humanity. There's no dissonance, because the game shows you (and doesn't just tell you) that this dad is a normal dad. You're not playing as Master Sergeant Major Minor, you're playing a fucking dude. Executed more effectively then in this particular instance, that's a very powerful thing to instill.

Not to mention, games are only now getting away from the idea that they're totally immature to the public eye. Now, you and I both know that there's something far more mature beyond a lot of these games that have you stabbing, shooting, and mutilating people. Dishonoured has you cutting throats every minute, but there's a fantastic and beautiful universe beneath it. I'm not saying that games should change in order to appease the naysayers, but there is room for games that are mature and complex through and through. I agree that one of games' greatest strengths in story telling is the chance to be truly immersive, but that fact certainly shouldn't prevent it from trying to immerse you in certain more mundane experiences. Chastising those who want something a little more from games achieves nothing in the end except closing your mind to games tackling certain subjects.

I don't think it's immature for that Joystiq writer to want more mature experiences! And I think they're right that there could be more in video games. But writing a piece that examines the video game industry is made up of why that is, what the good and bad existing parts of the industry are, and what we could do better or differently. In that aspect, I think that writer had a less than well developed tone, so to speak.

I am not chastising someone for wanting more out of video games at all. My point is that there was so much more that could have been said about that subject that would have made us think and could have contributed to pushing the industry in a more thoughtful direction.

It is easy to say, "Do better!" That requires nothing and no one listens. But if you say, "Here is what you have done right, here as what you have done wrong, here is why those things are what they are, and here is where we can go from here" and someone can see for themselves that you are right, that is writing skillfully. That is what people will listen to.

Most of the importance of what you say is why you say it. It's like politics: if I say I am voting for Obama because I think he has good policies and I like his track record, that is a sound reasoning, even if someone disagrees with it; but if I say I am voting for Obama because I think he is a harbinger of spindly bug-eyed monsters who will descend from space and harvest our organs, the validity of what I've said is zero. Same conclusion, but the substance is what counts.

@Gaff said:

The audience gets what writing they deserve. Sure, an in-depth look at the historical context of a game would make for a great read, but will it draw in the hits?

Or maybe the writer gets the audience they deserve. But, as I said, I felt like that Joystiq writer was close to what I wanted, so close, and that's what really let me down.

@iAmJohn said:

I know this doesn't really have anything to do with the thread, but I've never understood this line of thinking. They're dudes writing about video games, not fucking Woodward and Bernstein; what is this deep investigative journalism you're expecting from them? If you're saying "let's leak game footage and announcements and things like that," then you run into the problem you've already outlined, and I mean really who are you benefiting by doing that? Did Kotaku leaking Sony's announcement of Home a week before it was officially announced back in 2007 affect or matter to anyone until Sony juvenilely blackballed them for a couple days? If you're arguing that they should probe more into the affairs of the publishers and developers and report on the issues and inner-workings and controversies contained within... well you might be onto something there, but that a) requires them to happen with some regularity (and the big ones, like the Infinity Ward scandal in 2009 and 38's closure months ago, do get pretty significant coverage when they do happen), and b) requires them to have sources inside these companies willing to talk to them about what's going on.

I mean hell, AV Club is oft considered one of the best websites for intelligent writing about pop culture and they almost never do that kind of investigative journalism. Except in rare instances, that's not the place of the enthusiast press, nor should it really be. I think the issue is more in line with what was getting at: the general quality of most games writing befits the level of intelligence and maturity the majority of fans approach the hobby with. Which is to say, acting like a bunch of hollering fanboy dickholes.

I think that is very relevant to the thread. I was thinking about that exact same stuff and didn't mention it on account of already being an endless accordion of words. The reality is gaming journalism doesn't deal with topics as serious or important as conventional journalism, and I think that contributes to this adopted disapproving tone. People, especially people who write, want to say something of importance, want to be noticed and prompt good, productive actions from the power of word. And I think it's critical for games journalists to assimilate that reality before they can truly mature and find their place in our world.

#13 Posted by EpicSteve (6479 posts) -

Dude, it's videogames. You are thinking way too much and overusing a lot of big words.

#14 Posted by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

Well this is sort of what I do with my time. I also play video games. Generally overwhelmingly productive.

Videogames are important to me and have been a tremendous part of my experience and view of life. I think it warrants this sort of thought.

#15 Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx (2605 posts) -

Sometimes I read the thesaurus and make notes of cool words I'd love to use on the internet too.

#16 Posted by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

Jesus you guys, I just sat down and wrote that. This is how I talk.

#17 Posted by Hailinel (23990 posts) -
@EpicSteve

Dude, it's videogames. You are thinking way too much and overusing a lot of big words.

That's exactly the sort if thinking that will prevent games journalism from ever truly improving and that discourages intellectual discourse.
#18 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4611 posts) -

Read the piece, loved it, and couldn't agree more.

I don't have anything to add other than that.

#19 Posted by JackOhara (227 posts) -

@Cretaceous_Bob said:

Jesus you guys, I just sat down and wrote that. This is how I talk.

That's fine and dandy, but it makes for more difficult reading when you use a lot of long adjectives. The 'writing like talking' fad will hopefully end soon, it's not so much real writing as a stream of consciousness. Not to diminish the message of your essay (it is a very correct one), but once you finish writing something like this you should read over it a few times and try to simplify your statements into something that flows.

#20 Edited by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -

@JackOhara said:

That's fine and dandy, but it makes for more difficult reading when you use a lot of long adjectives. The 'writing like talking' fad will hopefully end soon, it's not so much real writing as a stream of consciousness. Not to diminish the message of your essay (it is a very correct one), but once you finish writing something like this you should read over it a few times and try to simplify your statements into something that flows.

To me it absolutely does flow. I also do things like read Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, which is essentially written in 18th century English, and I think that's the best writing I've ever read. All of this sounds natural to me, and it's impossible for me to know what sounds natural to you.

I'm not telling you you're wrong; you're absolutely right. If you have trouble reading it, that's a fact. Maybe I have made my own speech too inaccessible. All I am saying is I am not trying to deliberately make it difficult to read.

@Oldirtybearon said:

Read the piece, loved it, and couldn't agree more.

I don't have anything to add other than that.

Thanks!

#21 Posted by Gaff (1669 posts) -
The fact is, writing about games is depressing in all new ways. And guess whose fault it is? It’s mine. It’s my fault. Ours, really. That sounds self deprecating, but it’s actually kind of arrogant, and it’s not even totally untrue. Games writing is now way too personal. It’s too casual. Too many writers inserting too much of themselves in ways that nobody in their right minds cares about. Too many armchair journalists speaking as though their word is gospel. Really, think about that. Armchair journalism has become the standard. Kids on forums actually now truly believe that their opinions are hyper-relevant, because after all, they can write just as convincingly as your average blogger. They’re not really wrong!

From insertcredit's new manifesto on video game journalism, which is in itself a redux of a by now ancient (2003!) manifesto on video game journalism. Oddly enough, I found this quite appropriate for this thread.

#22 Posted by Cretaceous_Bob (505 posts) -
#23 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1543 posts) -

@Cretaceous_Bob said:

@crusader8463 said:

The problem I have with journalism in gaming is that the people doing the writing are cuffed and held hostage by the publishers. If they did real journalism and tried to leak stuff early then the publishers would just say fuck you and never give them early code for games or not allow them to post videos or trailers about their games. At the end of the day however, we are talking about video games and we play video games to have fun. Even if a place said fuck the publishers and went out of their way to get every early game footage or leaks that they could find all that would do is simply end up ruining peoples enjoyment of the final product by knowing how it ends, major plot points, or having neat late game gameplay twists revealed.

I think the solution to some of that is just to cover games later. Giant Bomb does a great job of this, I feel like, by treating games as experiences and as part of an industry lineage worth knowing, rather than a series of zeitgeists like the rest of the press.

I like this idea a lot. One thing that drives me kind of nuts about games journalism (or more broadly, the gaming community as a whole) is the boosterism and hyperbole that accompany high-profile new releases, especially those that promise to be cinematic/artistic. Everyone is so busy falling over one another to describe the game as a transcendent experience that valuable criticism and discussion falls by the wayside. I'm sure it happened, but how easy was it to have a balanced discussion about the good and bad parts of BioShock's storytelling when everyone was too busy pantomiming astonishment at "would you kindly" and pseudo-deep first-year undergrad philosophy? Whenever someone (perhaps unfairly) claims games aren't art, instead of addressing the often valid points they make, we all attack the messenger and the jingoism drowns out a potentially interesting discussion.

I have a particular bone to pick about the (usually) juvenile, shallow stuff we so readily accept (and often breathlessly praise) in game storytelling. I've been meaning to write up something about this, and probably will after I finish replaying Mass Effect 2 and have something to contextualize it with.

Also, I'm very happy to see an intelligent discussion that hasn't been derailed. I'm glad saved this.

#24 Posted by EpicSteve (6479 posts) -

@Hailinel said:

@EpicSteve

Dude, it's videogames. You are thinking way too much and overusing a lot of big words.

That's exactly the sort if thinking that will prevent games journalism from ever truly improving and that discourages intellectual discourse.

I just don't need a lot of over-thinking in my life to convey information.

#25 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

I think one of the most glaring issues is that these reviewers all get their games for free.

It's not like reviewing technology where you can easily call something overpriced against the competition and measure its value against similarly priced products.

Edit: I don't really call it journalism anyway since all it is to me is reviews and "This game got delayed" or "X company has been shut down" because that's all I really care about. It's not a very interesting industry [to me] otherwise.

#26 Edited by ProfessorEss (7285 posts) -

@Cretaceous_Bob: Well said. I agree entirely that this is one (of the many) problems with gaming journalism.

@Gaff: Excellent link. I read it directly after reading the original post and it was a perfect piece to follow Cretaceous Bob's.

Every time I read a video game article I get the sense that the writer is more concerned about "the piece" and their "image" and that the game/topic being discussed is strictly a means to an ends. They seem far too willing to sacrifice information for the sake of being funny, appearing intellectual, or having refined tastes.

We use the excuse that video game journalism is "still in it's infancy" but I feel with each passing year it grows less and less mature as opposed to more, and sadly I'm not convinced it's planning on changing direction any time soon, if ever.

#27 Posted by devilzrule27 (1239 posts) -

@Sooty said:

I think one of the most glaring issues is that these reviewers all get their games for free.

It's not like reviewing technology where you can easily call something overpriced against the competition and measure its value against similarly priced products.

Edit: I don't really call it journalism anyway since all it is to me is reviews and "This game got delayed" or "X company has been shut down" because that's all I really care about. It's not a very interesting industry [to me] otherwise.

While I can't say I agree with your first two sentences your last point is spot on with my thoughts about "gaming journalism".

#28 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1543 posts) -

@Sooty said:

I think one of the most glaring issues is that these reviewers all get their games for free.

It's not like reviewing technology where you can easily call something overpriced against the competition and measure its value against similarly priced products.

I don't think it's that big of a deal. Most critics, if they weren't being sent games for free, would be expensing them anyway. Is an intern going to Best Buy and dropping the game on the reviewers' desk really any different from it just showing up in the mail? And when you consider that many review copies are sent out before release, how would they buy them?

This line of reasoning makes it sound like you think most game critics can't be trusted to begin with. If you think their integrity is worth $60, then what difference does it make if they're actually forced to spend it?

That said, there may be a case to be made that the whole practice of sending out review copies encourages outlets to not be too harsh and risk ending up on a publisher's shit list. It's something the tech industry you reference is rife with -- my understanding is that Apple has a very limited set of outlets that get new devices weeks before release, and except for the handful of David Pogues of the world who can't be ignored, most probably haven't rocked the boat at all.

#29 Posted by cmblasko (1138 posts) -

Good post. I think that the problem with game journalism is that outside of review and news, there isn't much interesting to write about that doesn't delve too deeply into actual game design and theory, and once that point is reached a huge portion of the audience becomes alienated. So journalists reach for topics to write about to fill space and, unfortunately, seem to constantly reach for low-hanging fruit.

@JackOhara said:

@Cretaceous_Bob said:

Jesus you guys, I just sat down and wrote that. This is how I talk.

That's fine and dandy, but it makes for more difficult reading when you use a lot of long adjectives. The 'writing like talking' fad will hopefully end soon, it's not so much real writing as a stream of consciousness. Not to diminish the message of your essay (it is a very correct one), but once you finish writing something like this you should read over it a few times and try to simplify your statements into something that flows.

A critique of a critique of an industry comprised of critics. More meta, please.

#30 Posted by Gaff (1669 posts) -

@Sooty said:

I think one of the most glaring issues is that these reviewers all get their games for free.

It's not like reviewing technology where you can easily call something overpriced against the competition and measure its value against similarly priced products.

Edit: I don't really call it journalism anyway since all it is to me is reviews and "This game got delayed" or "X company has been shut down" because that's all I really care about. It's not a very interesting industry [to me] otherwise.

On the other hand, at some point the game itself should be rated, separate from issues like price, publisher practices, DLC and such. A terrible game someone got for free doesn't make it a better game than say the latest Metacritic 90+ blockbuster. Of course, when we start measuring the value you start blurring the line between honest to goodness video game criticism and consumer reporting. And that's a whole other quagmire.

#31 Posted by JackOhara (227 posts) -

@cmblasko said:

A critique of a critique of an industry comprised of critics. More meta, please.

A critique of a critique of a critique of a critics industry

#32 Posted by Hailinel (23990 posts) -
@EpicSteve

@Hailinel said:

@EpicSteve

Dude, it's videogames. You are thinking way too much and overusing a lot of big words.

That's exactly the sort if thinking that will prevent games journalism from ever truly improving and that discourages intellectual discourse.

I just don't need a lot of over-thinking in my life to convey information.

It's not over-thinking to convey issues one has with this subject. There's a difference between actually overthinking something versus refusing to do any thinking at all.
#33 Posted by Gold_Skulltulla (209 posts) -

@iAmJohn: Ditto this. Great writing doesn't need to try so hard to tell people it's important either. Game journalism often gets intertwined with game criticism, despite that these are two different skill sets. Yes, sometimes individuals can do both (Patrick and Alex both do a nice job of this), but it's an important distinction to make when discussing the boundaries of game journalism.