Indies Will Be Saviors of the Game Review

Indies Will Be Saviors of the Game Review

The video game media has come a long way since the first installment of Garwulf's Corner appeared on Diabloii.net on Halloween, 2000.

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This is a piece that definitely would have benefited from a second page; The history lesson was a good start, but it seems to rush over the actual meat of the article. The argument that indie games would save game media is given all of 150 words that do little beyond stating the basic premise.

One obvious question is whether indies courting the games journalists will result in any significant shift in power. The big articles that drive views (and thus profit) are not about the thousands of indie titles being cranked out constantly, it's the AAA tentpoles. At the time of writing, the Binging Indie series, which has been running weekly since late August, has garnered exactly 19 comments. Meanwhile, a quick look at the Fallout 4 tag shows many articles with scores or hundreds of comments, all for a game that isn't even out yet. Assuming some correlation between comments and views, it's clear the the profit still lies in telling people about the things they want to hear, what they want to hear is news, previews, reviews, and commentary on AAA games, and thus the big studios still have the upper hand in negotiations with the press.

I can appreciate that indie devs need the media in order to gain notoriety, and that occasionally a breakout hit will bring rewards to whatever outlets covered the game first/thoroughly, but I don't see how the media can leverage that relationship into stable revenue. By the nature of indie developers, you'd need a lot of writers poking around in a lot of odd corners to occasionally find something of value, which can't support a business the way a series of articles on Halo can. The best you might argue is that this need for grassroots investigation, combined with the distributed network of the internet, might lead to an entirely different form of journalism different from what existed in the 90's or now.

I deeply disagree with the sentiment that indie will bring about some ethical Renaissance. If anything, the close financial/social/romantic/ideological relationships of indie devs with members of the games media has been one of the biggest blows to us having an ethical games journalism. They're increasingly close to each other, providing coverage, financial support, etc, and not disclosing that information. They're willing to provide positive coverage for free because, after all, its a friend. This, in turn, snubs indie developers who may be creating a better product because they don't have the right relationship or have the "right" ideology to "merit" promotion by the gaming media. We saw this with Sunset so recently. Gaming sites were slobbering all over it cause had the right kind of politics behind it, even so far as the developer hiring a fairly prominent(read: infamous) gaming personality to do the PR for their game. The game failed, majestically, which lead to the people who were promoting the game and the developer itself shitting all over the consumer base for not getting the brilliance of their work. This industry incest problem is compounded as being "friends" is not beholden to FTC regulations where being paid for a review, native advertising, and the like actually are. So with only their own personal morality and ethical integrity, or lack there-of, to compel them to offer fair, balanced, and transparent coverage, many aren't. Hell some have even come out saying the idea of being an ethical games journalist is laughable because games journalism in itself is a joke, a sentiment I can't argue with any more. Personally, I don't trust "professional" reviewing and coverage at all anymore.

 

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