Why So Serious

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Why So Serious

If you think that industry writers aren't real journalists, then you're absolutely right.

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I myself decided I want to totally write about games before leaving High School. Yet to get to the College part, but oh well.
I guess a real job sounds like too much hard work, and real journalism sounds like too much being shot at, judging by this.

The dictionary says you're still a journalist though, I propose a new catagory: Cushy Journalism.

Does what it says on the tin.

Ya know I never really thought about video game journalism that way despite it being in my face 24/7. There really is little to hard journalism compared to those journalists who drive across three states to see a plan land from argentina or dare to be the country of Iran where protestors and police battle.

I have a friend who's dream was to be a game journalist and for a while he was able to proudly call himself that and I always wondered how a person who lived in California could sit with a group of co-workers and get their own scoops without having to drive across country.

I would still like to do those stiff lip news stories however because that is my style and way of having fun. It may be rough around the edges but it sure is great getting to know people in person than reading RSS feeds.

P.S. I think I can now relate as I am writing a guide that requires no real footwork or people I need to interview.

I object to calling gaming media writers 'journalists'. All they are is cogs in the publisher hype machines. Of course you can say this about movies and music too, or probably any type of entertainment medium.

I've always seen game journalists as not quite "journalists", but a cross between entertainment reporters and critics. However, that's no excuse to treat the medium frivolously. Film and novel critics can treat their subject seriously with a insight that goes far beyond the sheer entertainment value of a work, there's no need to focus primarily on the entertainment mandate.

I usually correct people when they call me a journalist and explain that I'm a video game critic.

There are a lot of people I would consider industry journalists, like the Gamasutra staff, which keep a grip on the business and finance aspect of video games. The staff here does a good job as well at keeping it down to actual industry developments.

Otherwise they're all just writing advertisements (previews) or criticism (reviews) for games. Sometimes you get lucky and they do something a bit more advanced, but generally that's the bulk of what you're looking at.

I like The Escapist's method of "journalism," and I'm not just saying that becalahblahbalbhalhb. The casual, short news stories get directly at the issue, tackle it, and then leave it be. I can quickly browse over the stories, open the ones that interest me in new tabs, and then read them all in less than ten minutes. It's beautiful.

Well the problems of course are manyfold. For starters game journalists work for the industry itself, even if indirectly. The people who pay them at least have a vested interest in receiving advertising revenues from gaming companies (the money from that is how they pay the journalists). There is no pure news for the sake of news when it comes to the industry and that prevents any serious journalism.

What's more the reporters breaking stories in Iran and such "risking life and limb" are at such risk because they routinely committ illegal acts for the area they are in, hence why they can be sent to prison.

To do the same a video game journalist would have to committ B&E into a game studio and publish their findings, taking extreme legal risks, and probably operating anonymously (which make syou wonder how they would be paid).

I've never thought of the people who write for The Escapist as journalists; writers yes, but journalists... yeah, those are the people out in the field. However, does it really matter? I think this article answers that question nicely.

Sean Sands:
Who really wants or needs hard-nosed, stony faced, stiff-upper-lip games journalism?

No one, but unfortunately a lot of gaming journalism is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, which is bad in a different way when you get past the hype. I wonder about things like, will Molyneux ever pay for the development of his own game and leave the publisher model so 80% of the features he blathers on about will actually be in his game?

Then again, I also understand that the video game industry is really just a bunch of big corporations who want to keep it that way. They've created a development model that makes it seem impossible for a small group of individuals to compete in. Who are the rock stars of the game industry? EA? Nintendo? There's a real lack of any human element in covering the game industry.

And maybe that's why video game journalism doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves because the industry is really devoid of human beings; it's all about the games and the companies. And faceless corporations and electronic games give really shitty interviews.

I once wanted to be a journalist. A-level english... No thanks.

This seems to be saying that games journalists are like substitute teachers ("I'm not a real teacher!"). I think you're being a bit hard on you and your kind, Sean.

Game Journalism; The Fun Version of Journalism

Game Journalist don't risk life and limb? Are you crazy? Why, I once saw a Microsoft Reporter walk into a SONY press conference, he was bloody from his beating of overpriced hardware but he got his damn story!

Anyways I agree, its the same with any form of media though luckily gamers don't take themselves too seriously so they are willing to be entertained by game journalism.

EDIT: Shouldn't the title have a question mark after it much like how I'm going to finish this sentence?
Grammar Nazi awaaaaaaaaaaay

The thing is, if what you believe to be true is true, then not just is the videogame press aren't real journalists but neither are any other form of press for the entertainment industry, as they are all orientated around the same ideas.

However, despite not risking life and limb, they are still jouralists. The world wouldn't be much different without the knowledge they bring, but it would still be different.

I hope this question isn't too off-topic. And I hope Sean reads through the comments. When you are doing a preview were you under a contract to give it a glowing preview no matter how bad the actual game is? I assume when you do a preview you get some hands on demo of the game and that it is not the full game. It just seems to me that whenever I read a preview the person writing it praises it to the high heavens. And any negative point (which is usually a technical problem like lag) is followed by "it should be fixed in the full version." Why can't I ever find a bad but honest preview of a game? Where they say you know the gameplay is broken or just not fun.

not a zaar:
I object to calling gaming media writers 'journalists'. All they are is cogs in the publisher hype machines. Of course you can say this about movies and music too, or probably any type of entertainment medium.

Thus, you contradicted your original point, and so what you are saying in the end is that you do call them journalists?

If nothing else, I can say that reading this brought me back to one time when a friend told me I could be a game journalist after I'd talked enthusiastically about my opinion of the new aspects of Shadow the Hedgehog when it was first announced.
Considering how enthusiastically I got around to writing an essay about Gears of War recently, I think I can say that being part of something you enjoy as a career is certainly something worth going for.

Just my two pennies on the matter, nothing more.

Mackinator:

not a zaar:
I object to calling gaming media writers 'journalists'. All they are is cogs in the publisher hype machines. Of course you can say this about movies and music too, or probably any type of entertainment medium.

Thus, you contradicted your original point, and so what you are saying in the end is that you do call them journalists?

No, I never said that. I was just trying to be fair to gaming, I'm making the point that almost any entertainment media writers are essentially shills.

Echolocating:
I've never thought of the people who write for The Escapist as journalists; writers yes, but journalists... yeah, those are the people out in the field. However, does it really matter? I think this article answers that question nicely.

Sean Sands:
Who really wants or needs hard-nosed, stony faced, stiff-upper-lip games journalism?

No one, but unfortunately a lot of gaming journalism is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, which is bad in a different way when you get past the hype. I wonder about things like, will Molyneux ever pay for the development of his own game and leave the publisher model so 80% of the features he blathers on about will actually be in his game?

Then again, I also understand that the video game industry is really just a bunch of big corporations who want to keep it that way. They've created a development model that makes it seem impossible for a small group of individuals to compete in. Who are the rock stars of the game industry? EA? Nintendo? There's a real lack of any human element in covering the game industry.

And maybe that's why video game journalism doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves because the industry is really devoid of human beings; it's all about the games and the companies. And faceless corporations and electronic games give really shitty interviews.

don't forget we grow with the games we've played, like wine tasting, it's important to keep the palette cleansed & remember who the games are actually for?

i feel close to yahtzee as we're of similar age & i've had more than enough opportunities to follow his line of work had i wished (in fact my brother almost got me into it before the advent of the internet & my lone discovery of alcohol)

somehow i feel that yahtzee doesn't suffer from 'EDGE' fever as much as some so i don't mind his criticisms as much as others. had i been an old school reviewer i would have succumbed to the 'dark side' long ago, but then i always wanted the same sense of realism that's been picked up by the latest batch of stand up comedians than tried & tested techniques which make people laugh (less script more environment)

one rule always remains though, trust the developer NOT the distributor & buy safe.,.. don't believe the hype!

I don't agree with the whole "journalist risk their life on the battlefield" thing, because that is a very narrow-minded definition of what it takes to be a journalist.
Journalism has to be of some interest to the general or intended audience and it has to be grounded in reality. Interviews are a very common device for obtaining information because you go directly to the source, and I've seen plenty of gaming journalists do just that. I've also read plenty of in-depth analysis' of games, plots, gaming culture, the games industry and so on so forth.
I think that there should be room for all kinds of gaming journalism, whether it is the simple entertaining review or more complicated pieces about the (un)importance of grades in said reviews.

By downgrading what game journalists do, you also limit what they can write about and thereby confirm the popular opinion that games are nothing but electronic toys for adolescents.

I'm not entirely decided on whether being a critic and a journalist are the same thing. I understand that you do go out and interview people as well so in that respect there is an element of journalism involved.

But when it comes to games critics I find it hard to take reviews without a pinch of salt. Obviously the source of the review is important, as with any review don't trust it if it came from a murdoch media source, and then almost any other newspaper, and then I can't trust gamespy or IGN and to be honest a lot of the time even though its reviewing indy games, the escapist. Even if money hasn't changed hands I think that either the person writing it or the company which it is being published for has an interest in the wellbeing of the game it is reviewing.

Obviously games reviews are opinionated but so are all reviews, thats something you can't help and you can't call something a bad review because you disagree with it, but often after playing a game and looking back at what the reviews said that made you buy the game they don't match up.

What I like the most about the escapist is not the games reviews but actually the "behind the scenes" of games interviews which give you a greater understanding of the development process.

Sean Sands:
Our job isn't life changing. It is meant to be life enhancing. It's meant to give you the same kind of distraction and bemusement that the industry we cover strives for.

pigeon_of_doom:
I've always seen game journalists as not quite "journalists", but a cross between entertainment reporters and critics. However, that's no excuse to treat the medium frivolously. Film and novel critics can treat their subject seriously with a insight that goes far beyond the sheer entertainment value of a work, there's no need to focus primarily on the entertainment mandate.

Listen to this dude up here.

To me the ideal of a Games Journalist is a gatherer and disseminator of information who sould strive for an unbiased viewpoint about their specific topic of choice, this case here being videogames.

It's not because today's games journalists are wild fans biting the carrot handed out by the industry that they should be satisfied and happy with that position.

I do believe that this can be a life changing profession if it entails thorough invesgation and analysis of games, far beyond the simple scope of how "fun" or realistic they manage to be.

Little by little the industry would realize they would be dealing with watchdogs rathers than domesticated puppys, and because of that they would have to work harder to achieve a minimum acceptable level of respectable creativity in their work, rather than the derivative drivel that has been produced.

To bemuse and distract an audience is definitely no job for a journalist, you got that right.

Ericb:

To bemuse and distract an audience is definitely no job for a journalist, you got that right.

Or for a games reporter/critic (ok, it doesn't roll of the tongue). And I hope this isn't a widespread attitude, as there are so many developers with a serious commitment to their craft as an artform that their work is deserving of better coverage. I also don't like the way Sean Sands reduces the entire game industry to the level he perpetuates in his own field of work. Sure, some is just mindless entertainment, but a rare few strive to do more than simply bemuse the player.

L.B. Jeffries:
There are a lot of people I would consider industry journalists, like the Gamasutra staff, [who] keep a grip on the business and finance aspect of video games.

I agree with this, in that journalism means reporting.

L.B. Jeffries:
I usually correct people when they call me a journalist and explain that I'm a video game critic.

But here I disagree. I think video game criticism ought to involve reporting, in contradistinction to other kinds of entertainment criticism. Video game criticism should be more like journalism than like standard criticism.

L.B. Jeffries:
Otherwise they're all just writing advertisements (previews) or criticism (reviews) for games.

Cruel, but we both know you would have been perfectly justified in being crueler.

Really, though, I don't think the fundamental problem with game journalism is simply that most of it amounts to shilling for developers, publishers, and console makers. No; it's more basic than that. Look at this passage from the piece:

"Our job isn't life changing. It is meant to be life enhancing. It's meant to give you the same kind of distraction and bemusement that the industry we cover strives for."

Sands thinks 'bemuse' is a fancy way of saying 'amuse'. So sad, so typical.

Plus, he romanticizes international reporting. We shouldn't measure the importance of journalism by the danger inherent in doing it. No journalism is more important or has more direct impact than small-town news reporting. There's little danger in covering the zoning board, but, if we consider how this work affects people, we'd have to rank it above all other forms of journalism.

I still say we have more journalistic integrity than celebrity gossip columnists.

Then again, I suppose there's a lot of similarities when you think about it.. Now I have to go console myself after this terrible revelation.

Ray Huling:

L.B. Jeffries:
I usually correct people when they call me a journalist and explain that I'm a video game critic.

But here I disagree. I think video game criticism ought to involve reporting, in contradistinction to other kinds of entertainment criticism. Video game criticism should be more like journalism than like standard criticism.

Fair enough, I remember this argument from last time. I guess I do find myself interviewing people a lot when it comes to video games just because of how important individual experiences are. I just finished interviewing a bunch of PvP Diablo 2 players to understand how they operate because it was so different from how I personally played the game.

So in that sense, journalism can certainly be incorporated into criticism. In many cases, it's arguably essential.

I hate 'reviewers' on this site who claim to be reviewing a game for the public, but who are actually just stringing together phrases like "It's really good, cos... you know... erm... it's revolutionary..." - or - "Man this totally sucks, cos it's like shit in the toilet, and it reeks of poo...". It is reviewing without quality or even substance. Not only is this unfair on the people umming and ahhing over buying a new game, but the developers suffer as their work is unfairly quantified by a acutely biased flame-war starter.

I can't believe some people get paid for this low-quality work, but they get away with it because no-one calls them up on it. No-one listens to the voices on the internet because everyone is shouting to be heard, and when people do listen to others they realise that they're shouting because they actually don't have anything to say, they just want to be heard.

Anyone who does want to review games is actually a gamer who cannot write reviews for toffee. Anyone who doesn't want to review games but has to for the sake of their career won't care what drivel they churn out, just as long as they entertain enough of the readership so they get paid.

This is not always the case, but I would love it if people could point out anyone (besides Shamus Young, Yahtzee, MovieBob, and to some extent Noah Antwiler) who is a competent reviewer AND a fellow gamer. Please.

GeeseH:
don't forget we grow with the games we've played, like wine tasting, it's important to keep the palette cleansed & remember who the games are actually for?

Huh?

Echolocating:
No one, but unfortunately a lot of gaming journalism is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, which is bad in a different way when you get past the hype. I wonder about things like, will Molyneux ever pay for the development of his own game and leave the publisher model so 80% of the features he blathers on about will actually be in his game?

I'd rather have hard-nosed, stony faced, stiff-upper-lip games journalism than the crap we have now. I agree with this though.

Then again, I also understand that the video game industry is really just a bunch of big corporations who want to keep it that way. They've created a development model that makes it seem impossible for a small group of individuals to compete in. Who are the rock stars of the game industry? EA? Nintendo? There's a real lack of any human element in covering the game industry.

And maybe that's why video game journalism doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves because the industry is really devoid of human beings; it's all about the games and the companies. And faceless corporations and electronic games give really shitty interviews.

It doesn't get any respect because it doesn't exist. There's nobody out there just giving facts.

I mean, look. Twitter is retarded. The only 'people' that really care about it are little girls, news orginizations, some celebrities, and big businesses. People our age, specifically those who play games, really don't care about Twitter. Yet, it being added on to the 360 is supposed to be the biggest announcement of E3?

Really?

REALLY?

It's all phony. It's turned in to what the music and movie industries did in the 80's. Just terrible.

Echolocating:

And maybe that's why video game journalism doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves because the industry is really devoid of human beings; it's all about the games and the companies. And faceless corporations and electronic games give really shitty interviews.

Won't anyone think of the players?!?

L.B. Jeffries:
I guess I do find myself interviewing people a lot when it comes to video games just because of how important individual experiences are. I just finished interviewing a bunch of PvP Diablo 2 players to understand how they operate because it was so different from how I personally played the game.

So in that sense, journalism can certainly be incorporated into criticism. In many cases, it's arguably essential.

Power to the people!

i will probably end up going into journalism but report on games either as a starting point or on the side hobby. i can see the great perks that come with the proffession.but hey, someones got to sit on their couch and play video games all day and then have a bit of a rant about it, otheriwse those without friends for word of mouth will be lost forever ;P

Ray Huling:

Echolocating:

And maybe that's why video game journalism doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves because the industry is really devoid of human beings; it's all about the games and the companies. And faceless corporations and electronic games give really shitty interviews.

Won't anyone think of the players?!?

What do you mean?

If games journalists should only write about things that the intended audience will eventually experience for themselves, what is the point? The consumer base and industry would be better off without games journalism as it is, most of the time it just misleads consumers and distracts developers and distributors(by consumers I mean me). Most of the games writers I know of are not only bad journalists, but bad writers, how many more signs do you need that something is wrong with games writing? Also, Unbiased reporting does not exist, the human brain can't analyze information without assigning an opinion to it.

Uh.. sure. I suppose I could do without the constant self- important declarations at least once in a while. But what people who can speak for themselves - instead of being handily spoken for by others - are complaining about is how gaming journalists are not covering things gamers want to know about, but what publishing houses insist they should be most impressed with. Because this results in "people" putting in the disc of one award- winning game after another, only to be severely disappointed.

So the criticism of game- journalists is that you are generally not gamers. You don't care about playing games. Instead you're running around and asking the sources you do have about what they like for lunch, or what sort of music they have on their iPods. In spite of the fact that whenever a developer is asked a real question, it's impossible to get them to stop talking - because they want to talk about their game. And players want to hear as well.

But no - gaming journalists are not interested in that. They are interested in the buzz and the hype in itself, along with serving their own inflated opinions. And therefore not simply being "not journalists". But very bad journalists.

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