game journalism - does it even exist?


The global impact of digital technology has changed the way people live and function. Communication, business, and even language would be alien, unknowable to even the most forward thinkers of the 20th century. Words, ideas, and concepts founded in the societies of the past still guide and influence us today, however their relevance so often remains unchecked. Does journalism still exist as an institution to serve the spread of information, or has the advent of the internet and its instantaneous flow of data changed the fundamental way in which readers obtain news? Is the argument on the existence “Game Journalism” one of function or one of semantics?

Going by standard and time-held definitions, I would theorize that “Game Journalism” does not exist. A journalist and by extension journalism is to quote Merriam’s “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation”. To some extent this applies to the current climate of game journalism: Writer X for Website Y attends Event Z and relays the information about his/her experience. These are facts, they are indisputable.

However, what about the other writer’s and outlets that simply parrot Writer X’s information, framed entirely outside the context of Website Y? With the on-demand nature of the internet, “journalism” exists for the micro-second new information resides on a single node; awaiting regurgitation across the many channels of the web. This kind of rapid proliferation diffuses the information, and with every step from a factual recounting of a real event, more opinion and bias is injected into the story. Each retelling will hinge on what the poster feels is most important about the information. This is assuming that Writer X had enough sense to write his/her piece with as little personal interpretation as possible; an opinion of an opinion of an opinion on what may or not be factual information. This is not journalism.

Writing about events and cataloging specific bullet-points about a game are typically not the majority of output for a “Game Journalist”. The game industry has long been one centered on advancement of the technologies that support it, and the integration of that technology into other sectors of our world (ex: mobile communications, social networking, digital distribution). As such, the gaming press has become arguably the most “web-centric” of all media outlets, growing nearly in tandem with the internet, and in large part a driving force behind its ubiquity.

What then do “game journalists” have to write about if not factual information? In the digital ‘print’ market, where the exclusive exists for a nanosecond what can gaming media outlets do to survive?

Most “Game Journalists” are a cogs in a machine. They do not report insomuch as they (re)tell. There is no journalistic imperative, no investigation, and above all no fact-checking. Information is input into the machine of the internet, and in an hour, the site is registering a fresh batch of clicks from redirected links. The majority of output for gaming enthusiast publications then is editorials; opinions.

They share opinions, give editorialized views on particular happenings and doings in the industry, analyze and reflect on the medium and its history and in general spread their personality around the internet. Journalism as a method of “direct presentation of facts” cannot exist where there no longer exists a need for such a conduit. The internet itself is the one “Game Journalist” that ever need exist; its Users each creating their own Evening News of gaming as they Google videos, read reviews, and look at screenshots. The presentation has been removed entirely from the hands of reporter and placed into the control of the reader.

What then? Should journalism, like gaming, adapt itself to a less rigid system of rules and standards and reach out to include opinions and general case studies of a particular subject? Is this article itself any kind of journalism? This particularly is an argument of semantics, and one that will likely never be settled. However, the issues with “Game Journalism” do not stem from the mere words being placed together, but moreover with what “Game Journalists” as a whole do with their position.

Finger-pointing aside, there seems to exist a mystique around the career-path of a “Game Journalist”. As though attaining this moniker required some ancient and treacherous incantation of black magic. This expectation has largely been fed by the rabid gaming community, and many journalists in the industry have struggled to shed themselves of this glorification. However, most do not help themselves by refusing to understand that they as individuals are merely one voice among millions. Rather than rely on content to “sell”, there needs to be an enlightenment that “personality” is what will drive gaming media in the coming decade. Interesting, reflective content that resonates with a particular demographic will drive the gaming press economy. Hopefully those without anything pertinent (or interesting, or intelligent) to say will retreat and let those with genuine insight step forward. Perhaps this is inevitable, the advent of the Web 2.0 phenomenon taken to its logical, noisy end.

This isn't to say that these “Enthusiasts” do not fill a role that is needed; but until we face the fact that the only thing dividing a “gamer” from a “Game Journalist” is a paycheck, we'll never move beyond the icon worship pathology the gaming community so obviously suffers from. I am not attempting to build the notion that ‘anyone’ can be a ‘Game Journalist’; that all it requires is enough fingers to operate a keyboard and the ability to differentiate an Xbox from a Saturn. I suppose I do not have a particular solution myself, but I do not find the ever rising cacophony of information being repeated across the net, each iteration louder than the previous, to be the right path for the industry.