By BurningStickMan 86 Comments
This is a piece of GamerGate I've yet to understand. What journalistic integrity to you actually expect to see from your video game news sites? The concept seems flawed and foreign to me. I'm not at all looking to argue the point (and really am just throwing this out there for you guys to discuss), but if someone can explain it to me, I'd love to hear it.
Gamasutra is the best example that I know of a site that offers solid articles on game development, interviews, critical analysis, and retrospectives. It is what I would consider to be some active, intellectual journalism. But I don't think that's what we're talking here - those seem to be the kind of "Patrick articles" (sorry, Patrick) that appeal to a smaller group.
If I had any criticism of the site or others like it, it's that any deep articles into the decisions that shaped the final game are about games that are often decades old. For example, I would have loved to have read a complete "tell-all" on what happened to Colonial Marines (back when it was relevant) but I understand that's never going to happen anytime soon due to NDAs. Those emails, meetings, and even the final decisions are protected company property. To get any kind of current expose on any game, you're asking someone to break the law and/or ruin their career. Do you really expect to ask someone to do that? Would you really support a whistleblower's GoFundMe to make it worth sacrificing their job (if not future in the industry)? Most rational people, especially with families or other responsibilities, are going to just move on to their next game.
Same applies to any concept of investigative journalism regarding upcoming games. Do you expect Jeff to throw on a ski mask, break into a popular game developer, steal the latest build, and throw down a 2 hour QLEX? Okay, you might want that, but again, this is a company's protected intellectual property. We're all at the mercy of that company's information release schedule. Remember Gizmodo and the iPhone 4 found on that barstool? Apple took them to court over the article and lost, but the guys that found the phone still got charged with possession and "misappropriation" of stolen property. Since the code of Uncharted 4 isn't gonna show up on a barstool anytime soon, assume it was the games industry and an inside job - think those guys would ever work in games again?
Simply put, I see no way that you are ever going to see a hard-hitting exclusive reveal over a piece of software without that company's express involvement. The nature of the industry and the law makes it so impractical as to be impossible.
Ok, what else does journalism do? Report on the lives and habits of star players in that field? Do you honestly care? Do you want the TMZ of the games industry? Would you even bother clicking on the Steve Ballmer "Where Are They Now?" report?
So what does that leave? News reporting? Again, that's down to the information released at the sole discretion of the PR department of that publisher or developer. This is a company's property and product, and they're completely in the right to control information, restrict it as they see fit, or even "play favorites" among media outlets. You know what's absolute bullshit? Embargoes. You know what can be done about it? Dick. The first embargo a rogue game site breaks is the last early release copy they'll get. That's not journalism's fault, that's a company using the protections the law rightfully affords it.
That just leaves the big one - reviews. To which I ask, don't you already, as in right now, have enough options to render any claims of "payola" moot? Aren't there other sites to go to if one starts to seem shady? User reviews to trust? Metacritic to get an average? Some friends to ask? YouTube video to watch and form your own opinion? Even if somehow every. single. professional reviewer is on the take, isn't the information that Game A is boring or Game B has broken mechanics going to get out somehow? Why is that particular issue worth death threats?
I do believe that journalistic integrity in games is legitimately important to some people, and I'm not going to criticize them for that. All I can say is that I don't understand it - I mean the practical, real world shape that integrity would take in games journalism, and why it matters. How is complete integrity and transparency going to make all of game journalism noticeably different than it is today?