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Posted by liquiddragon (3283 posts) 1 year, 6 months ago

Poll: Do you still see the Bomb crew as critics or are they more personalities akin to "influencers" now? (510 votes)

Still more as critics 19%
Right down the middle 45%
More personalities now 36%

I first started paying attention to the industry and became an enthusiast in the process near the turn of the century when I discovered Gamespot. I played just as much games before then but wasn't so interesting in the happenings outside of the screen. Moving from Japan to the States, my thought was that the press mainly acted as shills. However, when I saw my first video review, which was the GTA3 review by Jeff, I totally got a different impression. Him, along with Greg and everyone working there at the time, went about their business in a somewhat dry, authoritative manner that I felt very comfortable trusting.

Fast forward 16 years and we are in a different landscape, not just where they're at as a site but the whole industry. Of course, you don't need to be reviewers to be critics but it certainly helped when they were in the trenches, evaluating game after game. For me, that's how the trust was built, and that's where the trust kind of lies.

I love the guys but for different reasons now and it's something I've had to come to terms with. They're not about what they were anymore, they're not about what I first knew them as, they're more about fun, laughs and having a good time and they want us to come hang out.

How do you see the veterans of gaming press that is the Bomb crew?

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#1 Posted by Humanity (18581 posts) -

I think the moment they left GameSpot where they HAD to be critics I've stopped seeing them as such. Now they're just some fun guys that talk about video games. They don't follow the industry as closely and it's much more about just doing whatever they feel like.

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#2 Posted by DanishingAct (408 posts) -

A little bit of both for me.

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#3 Posted by Relkin (1128 posts) -

I think West is down the middle, I think East is pretty firmly in Personalities territory at this point.

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#4 Posted by GERALTITUDE (5988 posts) -

I've never really seen games media as critics.

They were just "reviewers" in my head and now they are "duders".

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#5 Edited by Lazyimperial (486 posts) -

I've been reading, and eventually watching, game coverage from Jeff for twenty years now (I still remember when there were two websites: GameSpot for pc games and VideoGameSpot for consoles), which is two thirds of my entire life (so far).

I can see how people could perceive him and the rest of The Crew as more "personalities" now, but in my mind he (and by extension his cohorts) are industry journalists with critical eyes and a sharp attention to detail who just so happen to also be funny and good on-camera. So, choice 1 for me. :-P

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#6 Edited by Ares42 (4265 posts) -

I see them the way I've always seen them, as third-party game "presenters". Might be because I don't follow (or have any interest) in the premium stuff though, but this site has always been about curating games rather than critiquing games.

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#7 Posted by Fredchuckdave (10824 posts) -

When developers and game reviewers work so closely together and often interchange jobs it's impossible to have critics.

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#8 Edited by dagas (3659 posts) -

Influenser sounds like Youtubers who are being paid to influense people. I trust that the GB much more than the avarage Youtuber but the reason I watch them is mostly the same. I don't pay much attention to their reviews anymore.

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#9 Posted by Anund (1258 posts) -

It's kind of funny how they often make fun of "influencers" without realizing that basically that is exactly what they are themselves. The only difference is, they have an office and a steady paycheck.

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#10 Posted by chuck_schwarz (117 posts) -

I don't really think about it much. I'm not here to be 'influenced' I suppose - I've always just been along for the laughs!

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#11 Edited by TwoLines (3653 posts) -

I value their opinions, but I'm here mainly to be entertained. So more on the "personalities" side. 70/30 split I guess.

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#12 Posted by KingBonesaw (1357 posts) -

I think of them more as critics since they appear to still maintain their integrity in ways that influencers sometimes do not eg. not promoting video games on the Bombcast/only having the podcasts be sponsored content.

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#13 Posted by notnert427 (2158 posts) -

"Influencers" implies a degree of corruption as if the GB staff is trying to convince us to buy certain products at some company's behest, and there is no evidence to support such an idea. In fact, a large reason GB exists is because Jeff flat-out refused to be a shill under significant pressure to do so. While GB is definitely more of a personality-driven site now than some other traditional "review sites", I have never gotten the sense that they're offering anything other than their legitimate opinions on things, and even in interactions with some industry titans at E3s and the like, they sure don't lob softballs, either.

Let's also consider that they were pretty well out in front of the "let's plays" and "streamer" stuff that is now ubiquitous on Youtube, Twitch, etc. If anything, much of that is a copy of what GB has been doing for some time, so implying that GB changed to be more like Youtubers seems backwards. I don't see any reason why they should be trusted any less because they moved away from the dying "review site" model. They were ahead of the curve in several respects, and it kinda sounds like you're trying to ding them retroactively for what less scrupulous others have done since.

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#14 Posted by fatalbanana (1106 posts) -

@anund: The term "influencer" comes with the connotation of the person being outside of the games industry. They aren't seen as 'professional" outlets that have a direct relationship to devs and studios. They come with the perception of someone from the outside looking in rather than someone working directly within the industry.

There's a fundamental and important difference from a business perspective but I guess to the general audience those lines may be a bit blurry especially to those that might not know how their job actually works.

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#15 Posted by Notkcots (113 posts) -

I think they're still pretty clearly critics, it's just that they do fewer full-length, formal reviews and more Quick Looks. During the podcasts, the crew more often than not analyzes a game's strengths and weaknesses, successes and failings, more than they do just gush about how cool it is. The biggest problem with "influencers" is that they lack this critical faculty, and their uncritical enthusiasm for games makes them very susceptible to being manipulated (or bribed) by publishers. While the GB crew does wacky stuff, they maintain a pretty damned hard-line code of professional ethics. Jeff and Brad, in particular, have a very long history in games journalism and while they're often friendly with developers, they seem to be very careful to not allow that to affect their conduct as journalists and reviewers.

When dealing with non-videogame stuff, on the other hand, I do think the crew acts much more like "influencers." When Dan talks about Taco Bell or wrestling, for example, he doesn't maintain the same professional demeanor he has when dealing with the games industry. I doubt you'd ever catch him gushing about a game in the same absolute, non-critical manner he raves about a great wrestling match or a Crunchwrap Supreme; he's too much of a professional, and that's what separates GB from the new media "influencers."

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#16 Edited by Anund (1258 posts) -

@fatalbanana said:

@anund: The term "influencer" comes with the connotation of the person being outside of the games industry. They aren't seen as 'professional" outlets that have a direct relationship to devs and studios. They come with the perception of someone from the outside looking in rather than someone working directly within the industry.

There's a fundamental and important difference from a business perspective but I guess to the general audience those lines may be a bit blurry especially to those that might not know how their job actually works.

Yeah. But they do the same thing. They stream various games for an audience that comes mainly to be entertained. I also disagree that the games press is part of the games industry, they are supposed to report on the industry, not be a part of it. Finally, there are several youtubers and twitch personalities who have direct relationships with developers as well, so that distinction does not hold up. Maybe not on the friendly level the giant bomb guys have, but that really shouldn't matter.

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#17 Posted by TrulyAlive (1178 posts) -

I'll echo what everyone else has said and note that the term 'influencer' carries a lot of negative connotation.

I certainly think of them more as personalities than critics though. Most of my favourite moments from this site had almost nothing to do with video games. i think they're a crew of interesting and/or funny people who have a really good rapport and I feel entertained when they get in front of a camera.
I think the most honest (and depressing) example I can think of is comparing the death of Ryan Davis to that of Roger Ebert. I admired both of their critical opinions immensely and I knew a fair bit about each of them as individuals and how they expressed themselves outside of their criticism but whilst I thought the world of criticism was a lesser place when Ebert died, I felt weirdly heartbroken when Ryan passed. At first I felt like I should deny myself that grief but it just speaks to how much of an impact he had on me as a personality (which I can still speak to thanks to a few adopted affectations that I didn't notice until years after the fact)

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#18 Posted by AlisterCat (8053 posts) -

I value their critical opinions less and less, but that's a shift across most sites.

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#19 Posted by huntad (2407 posts) -

I think entertainer is the right word. I don't view them as critics because they don't reach the same level of critique as someone like Jim Sterling, who seems to have a critical eye. I don't think it's a review/no review thing.

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#20 Edited by Castiel (3468 posts) -

I would never compare the bomb duders to something as vile as influencers. They are better than that.

But I get what you are saying. On the other hand I don't know if I have ever really thought of GB as a review site first and foremost. For me it was always a personality driven site. That being said they have definitely leaned in to doing video way more instead of written content. That's okay with me. GB is first and foremost a video driven site for me.

I actually rarely watch their QLs anymore and if I do it's mostly on in the background while I do other stuff. Most of what I watch is the premium stuff now. Guess I'm more interested in just watching content where I "hang out" with the crew rather than watching videos of the newest games.

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#21 Posted by JosephKnows (470 posts) -

Vinny, Dan, Abby, Ben, and Jason are firmly in the personality side of the spectrum. Jeff, Brad, and Alex straddle the line, with Jeff leaning more into the personality side.

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#22 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1237 posts) -

@anund: The term "influencer" is just terrible, especially when people use it to refer to themselves. But yeah. I've felt this away about Giant Bomb for a long time now. It's not that they don't care for the personalities of YouTubers, it's that they seem to criticize the very nature of YouTube Let's Play videos. I remember some of the conversations they've had about how some game companies want revenue from Let's Players, and the lack of self-awareness that the GB crew had regarding this was just astounding to me.

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#23 Posted by alwaysbebombing (2691 posts) -

Were they never not internet personalities?

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#24 Posted by OpusOfTheMagnum (647 posts) -

Both. I don’t like the idea that critics need to be ultra-academic, ultra-liberal individuals. Those guys have fascinating insights but the Bombadeers have a more down to earth perspective with a great deal of experience that lets them touch more on the surface level of experiences.

They are also goofballs.

Hence my vote for “in the middle” or what have you.

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#25 Edited by jimothyjim (50 posts) -

Down the middle. I expect them to play new games, and I expect them to have opinions that are worth taking into account when I buy a game. I also expect them to have insider info, and industry connections etc. But at the same time, a lot of their features aren't for critiquing/showcasing/reviewing. I'm not watching Steal My Sunshine because I'm deliberating on that purchase. Context counts for a lot as well, for example Jeff who calls for the death of Yoshi on an E3 panel is a different Jeff to the one sitting on a quicklook of Yoshi. Don't get me wrong, both of them hate Yoshi, but quicklook Jeff is going to be a lot more traditionally critical of the game mechanics. In one moment he's closer to a normal critic, at one point he's closer to a personality.

Mostly though, I just see them as very one sided "friends" who happen to know a lot about videogames. Sometimes they entertain me, sometimes they inform me, sometimes they do both.

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#26 Posted by ajamafalous (13812 posts) -

I think of them more as critics since they appear to still maintain their integrity in ways that influencers sometimes do not eg. not promoting video games on the Bombcast/only having the podcasts be sponsored content.

This is basically how I feel too.

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#27 Edited by Redhotchilimist (2946 posts) -

I've always viewed them as personalities, but I feel like they've always viewed themselves as critics/reviwers/game journalists first and foremost.

In practice they're definitely in the middle. They do a ton of the youtube style content, sure. But they also care about written reviews, have a ton of connections to the industry instead of being independent, and have hangups about stuff that people outside of games journalism do not. They still have a foot in the old world despite kickstarting the new landscape in a way.

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#28 Edited by deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1 (1777 posts) -

They are definitely personality's now then the Gamespot days people make more threads about the Giantbomb staff then they do about games here.

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#29 Posted by spacebutler (72 posts) -

They are critics because they offer meaningful commentary about the content and structure of video games. They show strong personalities in their work, but I think they would argue that with a taste-based medium like video games, talking about their preferences and experiences actually helps to inform the reader or listener about their criticism. All critics are "influencers" but not all "influencers" are critics.

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#30 Edited by OurSin_360 (6117 posts) -

They are both, once they stopped doing regular reviews they started leaning more into the personality side though but they still do real critique and people seem to still value their opinion in the industry more than the average youtuber IMO.

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#31 Edited by ArbitraryWater (15666 posts) -

On paper, they definitely straddle the line somewhere in the middle. As far as personal application goes, I still love this dumb website but I haven't really relied on it for any hot critical opinions in years. At this point my taste in games is pretty divergent from most of the GB staff, who tend to talk about a lot of the games I like as mysterious and/or impenetrable, if they talk about them at all.

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#32 Posted by Luchalma (537 posts) -

I think the site started with, and was what attracted me to Giant Bomb compared to something like what Achievement Hunter is doing, an irreverent look at video games filtered through the eye of industry veterans. Jeff and Ryan were liable to get up to some very goofy shit. But at the same time, those cats could talk video games in a thoughtful, intelligent manner. And that unique combination became the soul of the site. Along the way, traditional gaming coverage sort of fell by the wayside, and personalities became more important. Giant Bomb was there at the very beginning. And they had a legitimacy and professionalism that the streamers and Youtubers could only dream of.

Well. That was then, this is now.

The many staff changes have had an effect on the overall culture of Giant Bomb. For better or worse depending on your preferences. The West is still mostly rooted in that same dynamic, largely anchored by Jeff, who I think is the most knowledgeable man in the industry. Brad is a critic in that old school fashion. Ben is a a young guy brought up in the industry while all of this transition was taking place. But I think he embodies that mixture that GB started with. Which makes sense considering he was around when it was still pretty new. Jason is a producer.

The East has spun off into its own thing, which I think can definitely be argued is a good thing. A different team trying to be a carbon copy of the other serves no purpose. But it's definitely a personality based outfit. The games are almost an afterthought most of the time. Vinny is a personality, Dan is a critic/personality heavily skewed to the latter, Abby is pure personality, Alex is a critic.

I enjoy everything Giant Bomb does, for the most part. But from the comments/forum posts/subreddits/Facebook pages/etc., it seems like a lot of the audience is starting to really prefer the totally personality based stuff. And that's fine. People like what they like. But I feel a little lonely in wanting to hear obscure history and stories about video game development and journalism.

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#33 Edited by liquiddragon (3283 posts) -

I think most people got it but for the record, I use the term "influencer" in the most general sense as in "folks with a sizable dedicated audience". I put it in quotes because I can't say the word with a straight face and it shouldn't be written without them cause it's so dumb.

If you read the op then you know I got much love for GB and in no way implying they are endorsing and promoting products in exchange for that sweet sweet zenny. When I say trust I just mean I can't trust their opinions on most games when all they've played is enough to push out a QL.

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#34 Posted by Mike (17982 posts) -

I actually have never even thought about this before reading this poll. After giving it some consideration, at least for me personally, everyone is an individual doing their jobs and I don't really need to label anyone as one thing or another because it just doesn't matter.

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#35 Edited by FacelessVixen (2527 posts) -

Critics with personality, but I'm here more for their personas. I've been playing games long enough to know if I'll like a game by looking at it, not by what a critic or an "influencer" would say about it outside of possible technical issues.

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#36 Posted by Notkcots (113 posts) -

I've already weighed in, but I want to step back in to say that I think modern GB's criticism is underappreciated and is a nice little counterpoint to the trend of "games criticism as think-pieces." Websites like KillScreen, Waypoint, and Polygon seem to share a very self-consciously academic sensibility, where they draw in lots of post-structuralist and capital-C Critical influences and apply them to what are, frankly, pretty shallow forms of entertainment. In trying to analyze, say, Lode Runner in relation to Marxist labor theories, they tend to overlook the actual mechanics of the game and what makes them unique.

I think that a lot of folks discount Giant Bomb's criticism because they haven't hopped on this bandwagon. I think that Jeff's damn near encyclopedic knowledge of obscure old games and his ability to trace modern design back to them is just as impressive a critical feat as relating some indie game to Queer Theory, just less trendy. Giant Bomb (especially West) really does provide a ton of insightful criticism about game mechanics and history, but I think that a lot of people have come to think of criticism in the KillScreen sense. It's a real shame, because there's room for both kinds out there.

I actually really miss Austin Walker being on the GB staff because it was the best of both worlds; he was a really insightful and eloquent academic critic, and the down-to-earth nature of the rest of the crew helped ground his points in the actual content of the games themselves.

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#37 Posted by damnboyadvance (4197 posts) -

"Influencers" implies a degree of corruption as if the GB staff is trying to convince us to buy certain products at some company's behest, and there is no evidence to support such an idea. In fact, a large reason GB exists is because Jeff flat-out refused to be a shill under significant pressure to do so. While GB is definitely more of a personality-driven site now than some other traditional "review sites", I have never gotten the sense that they're offering anything other than their legitimate opinions on things, and even in interactions with some industry titans at E3s and the like, they sure don't lob softballs, either.

Let's also consider that they were pretty well out in front of the "let's plays" and "streamer" stuff that is now ubiquitous on Youtube, Twitch, etc. If anything, much of that is a copy of what GB has been doing for some time, so implying that GB changed to be more like Youtubers seems backwards. I don't see any reason why they should be trusted any less because they moved away from the dying "review site" model. They were ahead of the curve in several respects, and it kinda sounds like you're trying to ding them retroactively for what less scrupulous others have done since.

I don't think corruption is the right word. I would wager there are plenty of influencers who legitimately enjoy the games they are playing; they just happen to be getting paid to promote the game.

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#38 Posted by BladedEdge (1312 posts) -

I know I am certainly not subscribed to GB to hear their thoughts on video games. I would be, if there was someone on staff who still in any way shared my personal tastes in games (RPGS, grand strategy, anime and etc) I would totally respect and look into anything they reviewed and suggested. But they lost Patrick and Austin so...no. No one on GB currently is going to produce a review of a game I trust to acurately represent my own personal taste.

And that's fine? Like, it doesn't mean they can't be reviewers for others, but they are purely personalities I enjoy watching to me. If we get another new hire at some point and we get more geeky attempts to bring Paradox and DnD stuff to the site, great I might once more have someone who's 5 word twitter review of a game I've never heard gets me to go check it out.

But until then, personalities.

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#39 Edited by Darkaileron (177 posts) -

The format of the shows (quick looks especially) help me make more informed decisions on my purchases... maybe? But I don't take in any content on GB as a review, it's purely entertainment.

That being said keep up the great work fellas.

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#40 Posted by BabyChooChoo (7089 posts) -

Giant Bomb in it's current state strikes me as what it would be "if Youtube grew up." And that's a great thing. To me, they're personalities/entertainers without all the outrage. Not trying to shit all over Youtube, but it's like...let's just take EA for example. If they do anything "wrong," a Youtuber will run with that shit for weeks or months. Sometimes even years. they'll be talking about one thing and then suddenly "BUT REMEMBER FUCK THIS COMPANY BECAUSE I SAID SO."

Now, compare that to GB where they too will have a discussion about the same thing...and then move on with their lives. I feel like I'm watching a group of people who I would still label as critics, but are also largely entertainers who can treat their audience like adults for lack of a better way to put it. That's why I wouldn't fully put them in the whole "influencer" category.

That said, I do still consider them critics largely because of their podcasts and sometimes quick looks where they more often than not have some sort of unique and interesting take or discussion. Collectively, they have a metric fuck ton of experience in this industry and usually provide a perspective that not many, if any people have.

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#41 Posted by Dixavd (2888 posts) -

I don't see these two ideas as mutually exclusive. There was a time I'd put more importance on their criticism, but that was because I didn't follow a wide range of voices. I now pay attention to a larger breadth of people in the industry which means I can have a more reasonable expectation on the crew only speaking from their opinions.

Lots of "influencers" have very well-argued thoughts on games and the industry. Being entertaining or personality-driven does not preclude them (Or Giant Bomb) from also having a smart critical eye. Even being paid to talk about something isn't a justifiable retort to the views expressed. You should be sceptical of sources regardless of how they are funded.

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#42 Posted by forteexe21 (2019 posts) -

They barely do any reviews anymore so.....

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#43 Edited by The_Nubster (3993 posts) -

"Influencers" are paid by the dozen to hang out at press conferences and play games with laughably over-done reactions to silly situations. While I'm not sure that Giant Bomb are critics in the traditional sense, "influencers" are much more, well, influenced than Giant Bomb is. GB comes from a place of being free from corporate shackles. Do you think anyone could pay Brad or Jeff to sit in a circle of computers and play Competitive Shooter: Future Vietnam and scream at their consoles? Absolutely not.

But they're not critics, either. They're not taking a hard stance on the meaning and theory of a video game beyond casual discussions on a Bombcast and when forced to for funsies during Game of the Year. They live and die by their very real, very modest take on video games.

To say Giant Bomb are "influencers" is like saying an indie dev touring their game is a PR rep. At a glance, their duties are very similar, making a game look attractive while trying to engage an audience. But one comes from a place of necessity and passion while the other has that responsibility baked into their job description. Sure, people might even confuse the two, but they're not quite the same. And like you wouldn't want an indie dev repping the new Call of Duty, you don't want Giant Bomb to play for the Battlefront 2 stream. The goals are just different.

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#44 Posted by Captain_Insano (3477 posts) -

They're personalities but not in the Youtube influencer sense in that they are 'professionals' who are pretty well established in the industry and have the criticism history that, I think, gives them the significant edge over a lot of others.

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#45 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7472 posts) -

We are easily 12-14 years into many of the top level game reviewer and critics being influencers. The very second video and podcast appeared on websites you were seeing the start of influencers. Even before Youtube was a thing, the use of video at gaming websites was creating what later would be defined as influencers.

The very fact you can say , "1Up.com" and gamers over 30 will grunt, even years after that website was relevant, tells you something about influencers.

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#46 Posted by konig_kei (1025 posts) -

I don't see any difference in the content GB produces compared to any other gaming youtuber at this point. There's a podcast, quick looks, and let's plays. They're influencers but instead of being in contact with marketing they're in contact and in some cases friends with PR.

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#47 Posted by bryson_shaw (38 posts) -

Vinny was interviewed by The Ringer's Achievement Oriented where he talked about the site transitioning to video. He basically stated they understood that the talent had to become personalities to make themselves different than other sites. He quote was pretty close to, everyone is covering assassins creed but only Giant Bomb has Jeff.

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#48 Posted by csl316 (14946 posts) -

Well, it's a personality-driven website. But I'm also here for their experienced takes on the industry. So both?

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#49 Posted by SmileBomb (7 posts) -

The use of the term influencer is jarring, to say the least given that it is more or less a marketing term. Yes, Giant Bomb are influencers in that they are targetted by companies and individuals to review games due to their reach and influence as game critics. But this is no different from any game reviewer, or even critics outside of our sphere such as Roger Ebert. It's pretty obvious that when the team use the term, they're often talking about how Youtube, Twitch, and the like have made it more possible for anyone to become an influencer and the ethical problems that can and have arisen from the fact. You're not going to see Giant Bomb put up a video series because they were paid by developers to do so, but because a quick look or a review is how they get their opinion out there.

Anyway, to me, they're both critics and personalities (although some, namely the ones outside the editorial team, are more on the personality side). And once again, I feel that this is no different from the most revered critics like Ebert.

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#50 Posted by fatalbanana (1106 posts) -

@anund: What I mean by the relationship is with a traditional games press outlet devs/PR teams/studios reach out to them directly and give them the material they need to report. Interviews, trailers, screenshots, and other information with an understanding that it will be used in whatever way the outlet sees fit but with a few guide lines the devs lay out (embargos, limits on what you can say etc.) it's a sort of symbiotic relationship where it's good for the devs to get information out about their game while at the same time the outlet gets to present it however they want. Which means being critical when they feel it's serving their audience. The press acts like a sort of middle man between the devs and their audience.

With influencers, it's less of a mutual understanding and more of "We'll give you special access if you play our game" or "If you advertise our game we'll pay you" and that's about it. Of course, they can present it how they want to but they don't have that security blanket of the press machine so the dev can back out whenever they want if the person doesn't present the information they way they want them to. This means the influencer is more likely to act as marketing for the people giving them the access. Youtubers do not have access to the same information the press has at the same time. A lot of the time they are reporting third-hand information. There's nothing wrong with that if they do it in a way that's not gross but it's all about the level of access and the level of security.

Again, these lines are more blurry than ever but there's still a line there. The way an audience gets information doesn't matter much to them as long as they get it but to the people dealing it out, it means more than talking over gameplay footage. A site like Gamespot can't do what they do without the press machine behind them and GB even though they lean closer to the YouTuber/personality driven direction it's very much the same for them.