Press Released: Lowenstein v. Kotaku – 2008

Sean Sands | 3 Oct 2008 17:00
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Remarks this week from former ESA President Doug Lowenstein are an accurate description of a problem that doesn't exist. In a Letter to the Editor to Kotaku, Lowenstein describes disbarred attorney and anti-videogame advocate Jack Thompson as videogame news "crack." He goes on to suggest that game news sites such as Kotaku forsake at least a little of the time they are spending taunting Thompson to consider their own culpability in unduly extending the disgraced attorney's fifteen minutes of fame into years.

Kotaku editor Brian Crecente takes a reasonable and common position in response that mirrors much larger media outlets and broadcasters. Crecente defends the allegedly excessive and sensational coverage as news that his readers wanted to read. It is a microcosm case of a big question in this age of maximum reportage, with 24 hour news cycles, but it is also another in a long line of conflicts about the uncomfortable balance between gaming news as entertainment versus information.

The first question, and perhaps the most important, for our relatively small and insignificant eddy in the global information stream is simply this: Is there any such thing as important gaming news?

After all, Lowenstein is ultimately talking about the responsibility of the gaming press in the kinds of broader contexts usually reserved for traditional media and how it sets the tone for discussions of gaming news. This approach borders on its own kind of hyperbole, and makes it sound like the gaming press is handling issues of foreign affairs and fiscal policy. Ultimately, while someone like Thompson may suggest that gaming issues are matters of life and death, it's that kind of extremism that makes him comical to begin with.

But, neither can we ignore the fact that gaming is now an industry that measures its revenues in double-digit billions. It is a bastion of growth and solvency in a global economy that seems to be on a permanent vacation. Gaming news, despite the recreational nature of its topics, covers businesses that have significant resources, cultural significance and whose ups and downs affect the lives of thousands of investors and workers. Had Thompson been even slightly more successful in his crusade, the results, or rather the consequences, might have been measured in ten digits.

But, of course, Lowenstein is as concerned about tone as content, and without precisely saying so, the implication is that the level of discourse that Kotaku participates in is on par with schoolyard taunts. Kotaku defends its coverage as relevant and investigatory, which seems legitimate on the surface, but casually attempts to assume the point that even good journalism can be married to Photoshopped images and snide commentary.

Here's the thing, both of these gentlemen are simultaneously right and wrong.

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