Why Games Journalists May Not Reflect the Ideas of the Gaming Public

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Why Games Journalists May Not Reflect the Ideas of the Gaming Public

Why do journalists so often fail to reflect the ideas and preferences of the gaming public? Shamus tackles the question.

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The only major objection I have to this article (and maybe I'm reading too much into this, but, hey, this is how I interpreted it) is the implied statement that someone who doesn't like Gone Home is somehow opposed to the idea novelty and automatically a slave to the 'mainstream'. While I haven't played it and thus won't comment on the game itself, there are numerous people in my circle of friends who both strongly disliked Gone Home and the current bland repetition that dominates the AAA market

Shamus Young:
Why Games Journalists May Not Reflect the Ideas of the Gaming Public

Why do journalists so often fail to reflect the ideas and preferences of the gaming public? Shamus tackles the question.

Read Full Article

This is a great piece Shamus, thank you for writing it. It's a very neat and concise summary of how opinions can be shaped by exposure, and it's something a lot of people need to keep in mind. It's something I've definitely felt the gaming audience as a whole has a really poor understanding and appreciation for, and the reaction to "excessively high" or "unfairly low" scores as a result is more than a little obscene. I appreciate the attempt to clarify and simplify some of why that might be for a lot of people.

That said, (and I really hope this just my own biases coloring my perspective) I can't shake the feeling that you wrote/were asked to write this in response to the various ongoing shenanigans involving criticism of games journalism over the last couple of weeks, and, assuming that's true, it's missing the point of the kerfluffle by a substantial margin. I dunno. Like I said, maybe I'm just seeing things that aren't there because I've been keeping half an ear to the rumbling, but this article definitely feels like a gentle undercurrent of "Hey guys, there's reasons why you don't agree with what the press has to say" and yet another attempt to deflect the discussion from the primary topic(s) of collusion, censorship, and corruption.

Solution?
There is one.
It is fairly simple too.
Take a break.
For how long?
Week, month, year, however it takes till you can start System Shock 2 and enjoy a crap out of it.
2 months worked for me.

Interesting piece. Answers some questions I had.

I appreciate your calm take on this, but you've missed the point slightly. Were not angry that youre older than us and have different views on games, were angry that when we feel that your views have been influenced, and you havent disclosed it, i.e deliberately mislead us, you end up attacking and insulting us. Gamers are a family, TFYC, Boogie, even miss Quinn are our family, and like any family we dont like them being personally attacked. Just be honest, and well all get along, excpet of course for the extremists, like those attacking Anita, but screw them sir, theyre ruining it for us all, and people are letting them.

I am genuinely shocked that you are older than me. (42 if you're wondering).

For some reason I had it in my head that Shamus was somewhere in his early 30s. Clearly I've confused him with someone else? Maybe?

Either way, this was a good read. Thanks. :)

I have that same burnout that only got worse after 30. Clearly 30 is an evil number, steer clear of it! That said, I liked Gone Home but at the same time, I couldn't stand games like Dear Esther and a bunch of other 'arty' games. I like the games I like. Either it works for me, or it doesn't. This goes for all games, not just arty ones.

That said, I definitely got mega burned out on shooters a long time ago. Now if I want a shooter, I tend to just go back and play a new wad for Doom 2.

I agree with your piece to an extent though the more things go one the more I am forced to wonder if more mature and disciplined really applies. There has been a real show of bad character going on recently and in some cases this behavior seems to show that these divergent scores are a result of trying to look moral and intellectual without really bothering to understand what these higher concepts are about. For the record I really like Gone Home. I thought it was a good if a little overplayed (in other media I mean) story that was helped to become more engaging through the simple game mechanics involved. See here's the thing I also liked games journalism and the discussions it sometimes sparked. I was a fan of some of these people and even defended people like moviebob to voice there opinions. What got me off the bandwagon was not a score I disagreed with; it had nothing to do with Zoey Quinn, either. It was the behavior of many journalists after the fact that made me realize these are people I can not support. The whole mess not only makes it impossible to support them now but makes me look back and wonder if I was just seeing something better in these people then was really there in the first place. The behavior of these people is not that of a moral progressive intellectual but that of something that knows it's good to be moral and progressive and intellectual but really don't understand what those concepts are. It's like watching a robot try to be human - sometimes they get it right but rarely for the right reasons. Basically, games journalism has become the uncanny valley of humanism and it's creeping me the heck out.

Agayek:
assuming that's true, it's missing the point of the kerfluffle by a substantial margin. I dunno. Like I said, maybe I'm just seeing things that aren't there because I've been keeping half an ear to the rumbling, but this article definitely feels like a gentle undercurrent of "Hey guys, there's reasons why you don't agree with what the press has to say" and yet another attempt to deflect the discussion from the primary topic(s) of collusion, censorship, and corruption.

Look, this is something I've been seeing a lot on these forums lately. And I feel I have to say:

Nobody. Not two people seem to agree on what "the point" of this whole thing is. There are a fuckton of different intersecting debates (I use that term lightly) constantly getting tangled up in each other, confusing one another for each-other and generally screaming at a brick wall.

Is it about feminism? Is it about devs influencing journalists and critics through personal relationships? Is it about forum moderators abusing their power? Is it about the press alienating themselves from their main audience? Is it about the declining quality of internet journalism? Is it about how quick people on the internet are to take sides without any evidence? Is it about narrative control? Is it about all of these? None of them? Some of them? Does it even have a point, or is it just an excuse for people on the internet to get into arguments?

I'm not trying to argue it's any of these things. I just want us all to agree on something. Anything.

DaWaffledude:

Agayek:
assuming that's true, it's missing the point of the kerfluffle by a substantial margin. I dunno. Like I said, maybe I'm just seeing things that aren't there because I've been keeping half an ear to the rumbling, but this article definitely feels like a gentle undercurrent of "Hey guys, there's reasons why you don't agree with what the press has to say" and yet another attempt to deflect the discussion from the primary topic(s) of collusion, censorship, and corruption.

Look, this is something I've been seeing a lot on these forums lately. And I feel I have to say:

Nobody. Not two people seem to agree on what "the point" of this whole thing is. There are a fuckton of different intersecting debates (I use that term lightly) constantly getting tangled up in each other, confusing one another for each-other and generally screaming at a brick wall.

Is it about feminism? Is it about devs influencing journalists and critics through personal relationships? Is it about forum moderators abusing their power? Is it about the press alienating themselves from their main audience? Is it about the declining quality of internet journalism? Is it about how quick people on the internet are to take sides without any evidence? Is it about narrative control? Is it about all of these? None of them? Some of them? Does it even have a point, or is it just an excuse for people on the internet to get into arguments?

I'm not trying to argue it's any of these things. I just want us all to agree on something. Anything.

The main point we all agree on is nothing about journalism, its people part of the gamer family, TFYC, Boogie and soo on being attacked and systematically picked on and trampled on. We arent happy that for simply bringing up the reasonable question of the ethics of being soo close to the people you review, and the alegations of trading things for positive press that shoudnt be traded, the gaming family got attacked. That sint right

DaWaffledude:
Look, this is something I've been seeing a lot on these forums lately. And I feel I have to say:

Nobody. Not two people seem to agree on what "the point" of this whole thing is. There are a fuckton of different intersecting debates (I use that term lightly) constantly getting tangled up in each other, confusing one another for each-other and generally screaming at a brick wall.

Is it about feminism? Is it about devs influencing journalists and critics through personal relationships? Is it about forum moderators abusing their power? Is it about the press alienating themselves from their main audience? Is it about the declining quality of internet journalism? Is it about how quick people on the internet are to take sides without any evidence? Is it about narrative control? Is it about all of these? None of them? Some of them? Does it even have a point, or is it just an excuse for people on the internet to get into arguments?

I'm not trying to argue it's any of these things. I just want us all to agree on something. Anything.

Oh the various shitflingers on Twitter definitely have a bunch of different agendas and debates and are trying to make it about various different things, there's no question of that. It's not helped any by the media's handling of the whole affair.

By and large, the rational, reasonable people involved have come to a fairly widely-agreed-upon point as of a week ago: The elimination of corruption and collusion that exists among a small clique of influential media personalities/pundits and independent developers.

Most of the people involved just want to be able to trust the places they get their news from, and the last couple weeks have been one thing after another that each on their own proved to many people that they can't trust previously trusted sources. From the complete media blackout on TFYC's original campaign and the closing thereof, to the extremely hostile reaction of professional media pundits, to the signs of collusion and narrative-spinning on the parts of many major game sites, such as the recent rash of "Gamers are evil and dead!" articles on like a dozen different sites that all sprouted up within a few hours of each other and the fact that every site involved used the same PR company (Silverstring Media, where, incidentally, one of the higher-ups in the company has had close personal and sexual ties to Zoe Quinn), among other things I don't remember well enough to feel comfortable bringing up here. There's a great deal of shenaniganery going on in gaming media over all, and people are more than a little sick of it all.

That was surprisingly tame compared to what has been written on other "Gaming websites"

My and many other peoples problem with all this thought is this:

This whole thing comes down to trust issues.

How am i to trust a person telling me whats going on when said person has... lets say rather shady motives? From being in a relationship, to living under the same roof with people they report on to directly financially backing the persons they report on and give positive publicity to just take peoples word as fact despite that these people have been cought lying through their teeth time after time again.

How am i suposed to trust a crowd like that telling me whats up in gaming?

I cant.. thats what. I cannot trust these people anymore, i cant trust them to have gamings best interest in mind when they solemly act in their own interest and in the interest of their Dev friends.

Instead of engaging their critics and face the accusations pointed at them we get told such braindead things as "gamers are dead" "gamers are terrorists" and the best part "i have more respect for ISIS then gamers"

Yeah because rapacious mass murderers are to be more respected then gamers who are pissed off that the big gaming websites are way to close to certain developers and both parties taking advantage of these circumstances to push each other or exchange favours.

This isnt about age or being burned out on the same ol same ol shooter games. This is all about "Journalists" having clear PERSONAL bias to push their friends work no matter how shoddy it is, forcing down a narrative of people who play games are mysoginistic, homophobic and racist even thought gaming is the most open minded and inclusive hobby in the entire world.

We are sick and tired of being made into a scapegoat to make some easy clickbait on websites, we are sick of tired of corruption in the gaming internet media, just because some asshats on the internet are asshats.

These "journalists" have to realize that they constantly shit onto their readers heads while the real douchebags of the net laugh their asses off because they dont care. Meanwhile the game journalists spew forth this bitter toxic narrative send a meassage to the outside world that we are all hatefull monsters, when the opposite is the truth, and people like Zoe and Anita building their entire career out of being professional victims (i got threatened! Please send me MONEYZ!)

How is your average gamer suposed to feel like when hes constantly being exploited and thrown under the buss by the people who CLAIM to enjoy the same hobby they do?

Well apparantly game journalists nowadays arent really game journalists anymore and more or less agenda activists that want to see their own ideas forced onto the industry.

The gaming world has spoken and it has spoken against these reporters who dont represent us any longer, but represent tumblr activists instead.

Oh and shamus.. for what its worth:

No one called you name out or demanded your head, as far as i know youre pretty much still considered cool to read XD

Can we please just stick to the topic of the article? I found it rational and informative and I don't want to see discussions of it devolve into the same mudslinging that has infected other threads. I've been formulating my own responses to this article and it's disheartening to see it get off-topic.

A well spoken piece Shamus, as most of yours are. And thank you for being one of the few grown ups in the room in all of this. SOmething you long have been. Please do not discount yourself as merely an Op Ed writer. You sway a lot more opinions with good analysis of the mechanics and history of all of this than you think.

One area however where I think you may be off in your perceptions. The relative age of your audience. Just from watching threads and discussions around here, I suspect that your audiences age spread may be far wider than you think. And you would be surprised at how much of it you are NOT older than. Please do not segregate or mentally partition this whole kerfluffle between gamers and journalists as an age related thing. If anything the issue becomes the lack of age and immaturity of the journalists.(Seriously I have not seen one picture of any writer or participant in any of this that leaves the impression that they could buy a beer anyplace in North America without 3 forms of photo ID and a note from their mother. Any Editor looking at Nathan Grayson as a potential hire should simply mark the resume "check back with him in 10 year".)

As far as tastes in games? Yeah they do change as we get older. (Laugh kiddies but the day will come when you crave Turn Based gameplay) And yeah we do get sick of mindless brown shooters, especially as we age. But oddly we still want our games to be actual you know, games. We don't expect them to be books or a take out meal or a cat. We expect something in there to actually involve gameplay. And that is kind of my issue with games like Gone Home. Yes the message is powerful for some, but the actual game? Have you ever seen those Halmark.com flash browser christmas cards that your mother and her friends e-mail around every year. You know, click here to build the snowman, click here to turn on the lights. etc. Yeah that's all Gone Home is. It's an extra special Birthday card, click click click done! I realize you are looking for a different experience, but at the point where Gone Home starts becoming it, its time to walk away from the computer and go fishing or change the oil in the car or bathe the cat. Quite frankly there is more actual gameplay and interactivity in bathing the cat.

So is "Gone home" really that polarizing of a title? I've never personally played it but I've heard of it. however it seems like it's being used as a litmus test for where people stand on the current controversy. I may have to actually go buy and play this game now just to see what the big deal is that makes it love it or hate it.

not a bad article overall, I agree that first person shooters are rather bland nowadays no matter which gravely voiced white dude your playing as, but i'm almost 30 and I still get some fun from certain ones and distain others. I actually still play horde mode in gears of war 3 from time to time because it's just fun to kick back and shoot stuff in the face. I play a crapload of borderlands and look forward to the new one although I think they actually got some good innovation in that series. but meanwhile wolfenstien: he new order, has been getting high praise from a lot of people but when I played it it seemed to me like just another dull grey shooter with nothing new to offer other than a main character reading his voice over in the creepiest way imaginable.

For what its worth Go Home didnt have a great deal of impact on me. The main problem was that an interactive story called "To the Moon" by Kan Gao had come out and I had played that. Nothing had ever moved me in such a wonderful way before. Go home therefore just couldnt repeat the trick, I ended up hoping for a dark ending for something that would affect me the way to the moon did.

That being said, did anyone else have the same experience with to the moon?

I understand the difference being a game journalist/critic/reviewer/etc is compared to the average gamer, the formulaic design of games can get pretty dull, boring, and too trope/clique. Which is understandable when a reviewer that liked something akin to the CoD games for a few years but then the last year says that it's too boring/bland/dull.

But then what about those article writers who attack their audience, calling them names, saying all of them are horrible and such? That's my issue with the latest "Gamers are dead" bullshit.

I'm a gamer. I play games. But I see that men are too prominent in the protagonist/antagonist/minion area of games. I see that mostly the white guy is a bit too much played out in the main pro/antagonist. Men and women are portrayed in not so good light in games. All the stuff most of the "anti-gamer" crowd says is wrong with the gaming audience. And yet I'm called a misogynistic pig when the writers use Gamers? And then when called out on it, I'm the one that's at fault for all the problems?

What a critic/reviewer/etc views in games will change, and most of the audience will either be okay with it or shrug and stop going to the person. But what is the audience to do when the critic/reviewer/etc starts attacking them for problems they are not endorsing and actively trying to stop?

Well said. I think the only real thing I have to add is that the "Gaming Public" is very much a fairly well defined section of the public but it most certainly does not include all gamers. I consider myself a gamer as well as a member of the public (ie not a journalist or developer) and yet I find myself most often agreeing with critical opinion. I loved Gone Home. I am getting bored of "white hetero dude" being the hero of every game I play. Etc.

I am not happy with this article, not one bit. I understand that as a reviewer mainstream media of any kind can get boring and repetitive: I've heard from movie bob before I and I still agree with it. I'm actually an avid indie gamer and indie film watcher for the exact same reason.

But to put it in this young vs old framework is a disservice to all parties involved. I am not some young pup that thinks all of you old geezers need to get out the pool. And there is a difference between not seeing eye to eye and actively shaming, censoring, and outright attacking the audience.

This article may be dressed in good writing and solid points, but it is still rife with the same us vs them mentality and misrepresentation of issues that has pervaded all of the more aggressive articles on other websites. It's hard not to think of a conspiracy or agenda when all of the sites are saying the exact same things at the exact same time while stifling all dissent.

MoltenSilver:
The only major objection I have to this article (and maybe I'm reading too much into this, but, hey, this is how I interpreted it) is the implied statement that someone who doesn't like Gone Home is somehow opposed to the idea novelty and automatically a slave to the 'mainstream'. While I haven't played it and thus won't comment on the game itself, there are numerous people in my circle of friends who both strongly disliked Gone Home and the current bland repetition that dominates the AAA market

I'll second this in that I didn't like Gone Home but also don't like the constant repetition. Though, I don't think he meant to imply what you're suggesting. At least... I hope not.

OT: Definitely an insightful article. A lot of this stuff SHOULD be common sense. Sadly, for many people, it's not. Who'd have thought that people from a different generation/career-path might have reasonable explanations for why they have differing opinion?!

Decent article. Only critique is you aren't part of the problem (which in this case is a compliment).

You haven't censored anything, changed your entire ethical view because of the situation, or supported radical ideology. Hell, if more people were like you on this (wearing biases on their sleeve) there would be no issue. I honestly kinda wasn't expecting you to touch on this, but I am very glad you did even though I disagree with your conclusion.

Thank you for not name calling and going the hyperbolic click-bait route. As extremely anti-quinn as I am I feel this is the best mainstream gaming coverage piece I've read on the subject.

nightmare_gorilla:
So is "Gone home" really that polarizing of a title?

By itself? Not at all. I mean, it touches upon a few things that I guess some people might not want to see in a game, but by itself it's pretty much harmless.

I think what's causing some of the backlash actually directed at the game itself is that it doesn't meet some peoples' definition of "game" (there's no conflict, no direct interaction with other characters) and so therefore those people don't want it placed under that umbrella term. And of course there's those people who think that anyone who makes games they don't like is somehow preventing games they do like from being made, so they feel the need to attack what they hate in the hopes of driving it away.

I feel that gaming journalists don't reflect the ideas of the gaming public because they're out of touch with regular people. To be more specific, the critics don't know or can't seem to understand that a gamer is someone who purchases and plays video games for fun and sport. There's also a matter of trust issues, the public just doesn't trust the journalists now because of how critics treat their audiences like crap and demand respect. A recent example of this is the whole Zoe Quinn, Gamer Gate, where some journalists like Devin Faraci are making terrors tic threats to gamers over something that most gamers don't give a crap, or don't know about.

But Shamus, this doesn't explain why Gaming "Journalists" hate gamers to the point that they say gamers should die, are worse than ISIS, and are all misogynists including women gamers.

I'm waiting for the article over why Gaming Journalists hate Gamers.

Liking the stuff on the artsy side of gaming doesn't make people pretentious, but looking down on people who don't like the artsy stuff does.

(Not saying Mr Young does look down on anyone)

nightmare_gorilla:
So is "Gone home" really that polarizing of a title? I've never personally played it but I've heard of it. however it seems like it's being used as a litmus test for where people stand on the current controversy. I may have to actually go buy and play this game now just to see what the big deal is that makes it love it or hate it.

Eh, I liked Gone Home quite a bit actually. Though I'm someone who really likes visual novels and grew up in North America in the 90s so a lot of the title was geared towards me. I also played it not knowing there was a preexisting conflict surrounding it so my opinion was entirely my own.

I guess that's one of the inherent issues about this industry. Journalists have (relatively) refined tastes and mature outlooks. You can't generally say the same for the fanbase (not saying that all gamers are immature twats... but you're delusional if you're saying that there isn't a sizable part of the gaming population that aren't immature twats), therefore there will always be an audience for that brainless shooter or that bland, cut-and-paste sandbox RPG.

Hopefully, unique things like Papers Please or at least some relatively fun things like the upcoming Hyrule Warriors manage to still find an audience and a reason to exist.

blackrave:
Solution?
There is one.
It is fairly simple too.
Take a break.
For how long?
Week, month, year, however it takes till you can start System Shock 2 and enjoy a crap out of it.
2 months worked for me.

That's reasonable, but not possible when your job is video games. I've also heard you don't get much in the way of vacation time

There's certainly advantages to be had to experience, history, a sense of depth, and an ability to write clearly. (I'm 38, incidentally, and I played Catacombs 3D. Also The Eidolon....) And I appreciate it when critics are aware of, and own up to, their own personal foibles and prejudices.

But I think many people have been exposed to reviews wherein critics' history and fatigue ended up being a factor in their viewers being misled. Roger Ebert really liked The Muse, for example, but in retrospect it was a movie aimed at critics- full of in-jokes about the movie industry that no one who wasn't a full-time movie geek would appreciate. Meanwhile the movie itself missed as often as it hit, and ended on notes that made no logical sense with what had come before.

I can't help but feel a bit concerned that we might end up with two tiers and games, like films, that are aimed only at critics. I like to think that the medium hasn't gotten to that point yet for the most part; that most people who play games appreciate offerings that invested in superior planning and writing, while spectacle alone fails to impress.

But then, I'm not really in the blockbuster, Call of Duty crowd, so I may be deluding myself.

I'm only 24 and I feel pretty burnt out on the bland monotony in the release schedule. See people crapping themselves over Destiny get all hyped as balls, even after playing it in the most optimal setting (online with good mates) I didn't find it very enthralling, if I didn't have the grindfest Warframe to play then my PS4 wouldn't get any love. That's not to say I hated Destiny, or that people had nothing to get excited about, but to me it's something I've experienced far too often to have the same impact.

Great article. I think a good comparison is something that probably most of us have felt at one point or another. You've got a new game, you've played a handful of hours of it, and you're having a blast. Do you think that somebody who has played five hundred hours will get the same kick out of it? Not likely. Games get stale the more you've played them, and although there are ways to mitigate that, it becomes unexciting, grindy. As much as I love the game, I've played enough of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and if I ever get the urge to play it again, it'll probably be more than a year from now. The same goes for any of the other games I've dumped over a hundred hours into. Now just extrapolate that into an entire genre. Thats what is happening here.

And if you suck at extrapolating, try marathoning the Call of Duty franchise. Ever if you only count the main installments, it'll get old quite quickly.

I think a good way of dealing with the review process, as a gamer, is not to take the review as some sort of mandate from the gaming gods. Its an opinion. Understand the opinions of players. Understand what they like, and what they don't like. I love strategy games, RPGs, a lot of games leaning into simulator territory. I don't like racing, I don't fighting, I don't like platforming, I don't like beat 'em ups, I don't like shoot 'em ups, I don't like twitch shooters, etc. You know what I'm not going to do? Dissuade somebody from getting a game from any of those genres, unless the game was universally reviled. I've watched Angry Joe for about six years, and as such, I have a pretty good idea of what he does and doesn't like. Because of that, I understand how he comes to his conclusions. Becoming familiar with the tastes of a reviewer, and actually appreciating why they feel as strongly as they do is far more important than any number score.

Actually, Catacomb 3D was the second id FPS. The first was Hovertank 3D, way back in April of 1991.

VVThoughtBox:
I feel that gaming journalists don't reflect the ideas of the gaming public because they're out of touch with regular people. To be more specific, the critics don't know or can't seem to understand that a gamer is someone who purchases and plays video games for fun and sport. There's also a matter of trust issues, the public just doesn't trust the journalists now because of how critics treat their audiences like crap and demand respect. A recent example of this is the whole Zoe Quinn, Gamer Gate, where some journalists like Devin Faraci are making terrors tic threats to gamers over something that most gamers don't give a crap, or don't know about.

I'd just like to point out that trying to say what the nebulous "gamer" wants is futile. There is no such homegenous crowd. You have your definition of a gamer is, but someone else who self-identifies as "gamer" may not share preferences. However, you're already dismissing them as "non-gamers" simply because they don't cover all the checkpoints you yourself defined beforehand, and therefore is supposedly not allowed to use identify themselves as "gamers". It's the whole "no true Scotsman" thing.

On the whole Quinn thing, I had absolutely no fucking idea who these people were before the whole shitstorm started being talked about, and still have no idea why I should care who they are and what they say. Am I not a gamer because I don't check certain news outlets or following someone on twitter? Am I gamer because a play games and enjoy critique of them, even if I don't agree with a bunch of stuff? Am I supposed to seek validation by the violent screaming sectors so that I can call myself a "gamer", even though I don't agree with a lot of their opinions?

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