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SteveSawyer

On the subject of Journalism... Pt. II

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So my post about journalism last week seemed to have hit a nerve with gamers. So much so, that I felt I needed to write a quick follow up to my own editorial. Last week I touched on a lot of issues within the gaming journalism universe, but because of my love of keeping things brief, I didn't really deal with any one thing as deeply as I may have needed to. So what follows is my pithy attempt to explain myself a bit more clearly, and to try and bring some reason to the insanity I have created.

But basically this one is a “it's all your fault America” sort of thing.

One of the most entertaining responses to my own editorial that I read was something along the lines of (and I am paraphrasing to an untold extent here) “well that's just how journalism is, even in TV, newspapers, everything” The problem that I have with that, is that it stinks of complacency. Either on your part as a viewer or an active participant in a system that's admittedly broken, or on the part of the people responsible for presenting you with that information. Have we really have reached an all time high in cynicism, to the point where nothing can be taken seriously, and no outlet of presenting any kind of information can be regarded as having any definable ounce of credibility? And if so, why is that alright by you, or them? Complacency kills, it's the death knell for anything in life, with video games, and the people that cover them being no exception to that rule. The less that you demand out of the people that you support, the less those people have to be concerned with accountability. Though it may be naive to think this way, I would like to believe that the news I take in everyday is brought to me by people that actually give a damn about their job.

Secondly the seemingly popular consensus is that no form of journalism exists as it pertains to games, and that those who claim to be actual investigative reporters, or editors within that bubble are almost immediately guilty by association. If you think that games are a joke, and you think that the coverage of games is a joke, then you can do one of two things. You can either change, or get out of my way. As someone who has an opportunity to actually do something to impact the industry from within, I can't sit idly by and just be another lazy observer to a situation that demands action. And as an addendum to that statement, if you take issue with any of the ways that I take that action, or present my opinions then I invite you to join GameGavel.com and become an active participant yourself. Help me shape the direction of the future, don't just piss and moan about it. And as an immediate knee jerk response to those saying that I'm either contributing to the problem, or doing little to correct it, I will challenge you to your own statements in a year when I have let my guys change the landscape of how this business is run.

The third comments all seemed to stem from the issues of transparency that I brought up, and the fact that I picked on Destructoid, and Kotaku. Let me be perfectly clear about something right now. I don't care about most opinions of review scores. If you have ever read anything I've written about a game, I avoid using scores. They are an arbitrary thing that does nothing but create controversy based on the public perception of how a game should be reviewed. I also want to point out that most reviews are pretty stupid, and don't even come close to hitting any issues of consequence. I don't want to say that I'm already superior to everyone else that has ever written a game review, but the way I write them is definitely evolving to accommodate my own crazy ideas about how it should be done. But even with all of my own steps in place there will always be someone that thinks I'm a moron, and I'm alright with that because at the end of the day, I'm a moron with a platform that I've earned through hard work, and dedication to voice my moronic opinions. You are making the choice to take what I say as advice, or dismiss it as the ravings of a lunatic. But what would be unfair to you, is if my opinion was anything but just my opinion. If my opinion was laced with influence, or if my opinion was somehow funded by a third party with their own agenda. It's not. While I encourage my writers to avoid spiraling into fits of anger when they review bad games, I have never, and will never encourage a writer to write a gleaming review of a piss poor game, simply because the publisher or developer was super, super nice to us.

As far as kickbacks, and swag goes. I like free stuff, but free stuff is abundant at any corporately funded event in any business, and that's the way it has been since I can remember being able to remember. But I think every journalist going into any type of reporting, be it, film, TV, web, etc is aware of that, and if they are worth their weight in donuts, will have developed an impregnable objective armor impervious to all forms of bribery. And at the risk of repeating myself here, if they haven't done that much, they should find a new profession. I can tell you right now, that if my objectivity it would be a price much higher than a few free games, t-shirts, game merchandise, and consoles. It would honestly take the kind of money that would set me and my family up for the rest of my life without and obligation to work for it, and I don't think that's happening anytime ever, for something as trivial as my jackass opinion on a game. And honestly folks, if you can be bought off with something as goofy as a prop from a game, then I don't know what to do for you as a human being. First, there are so many better things to be bought off with, and second, seriously?

As far as picking on people is concerned. I used Destructoid and Kotaku as illustrations because I felt like it. There was no modus operandi in place, they were just on my mind, but in the interest of fairness, I think almost every site that covers games is guilty of some degree of the crap I've mentioned. The fact of the matter is that most sites now that publish “news” have become more like moving billboards, constantly updated with the latest, greatest product that you should be consuming. In the case of some of the sites out there, they salt and pepper that with zany pictures of cosplayers, and other nonsense that only reinforces public perceptions of gamers. It's such an intellectual wasteland, that it truly amazes me that, amongst all that chaos, there is room for any serious discussions to take place. It's the difference between a newspaper, and a supermarket tabloid. Sure there's some information in there that could be interpreted as useful, but how much raw sewage did you have to swim through to digest something palatable?

If you are one of these people that read that last paragraph and said “so what?” then I want you to know that you are selling out your own demographic to the wolves. You are telling most news sites, and by extension America at large, that you aren't interested in serious discussions as they pertain to games, and that all gamers are socially awkward dweebs that have never so much as touched a naked woman outside of a pixelated environment. By not demanding that these sites provide more hard hitting content, and less fluff, you are creating a juxtaposition between substance and nonsense, and the end result is the lackluster state of things today, where only the reader or the viewer suffers. Besides, I can't imagine that anyone who would want to go toe to toe with Roger Ebert, or any other established legitimate critic, and wax philosophically about why games should be considered art, would seriously defend any of that garbage.

I've already said enough that I'm dying to hear the responses, so do me a huge favor. If you are reading this on a site other than GameGavel.com please post some comments on the original article at GameGavel.com and tell me how wrong I am.

Or try to at least.


Steve Sawyer
Editor in Chief
SteveS@GameGavel.com

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Comments

  1. j-cart's Avatar
    Seeking information is a pursuit of self education. In this world of information overload (newspaper, radio, television, internet, cellphone) we are given the opportunity to seek information that as an individual can believe and in turn state it as fact. Educating is a self commitment. There is no doubt it requires mental focus and the urge to further expand the thinking capacity of the brain, though how much effort given is directly influenced by the individual.

    In the case of seeking information through journalism, it comes under the thought of how involved would a person want to be? If current political events are the expressed interest, it requires constant information intake and the educating of political history/theory. This section of information is governed by major bias news conglomerates (CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and CSPAN). However this does not mean there are no other places to seek information. The best form of self educating requires a person to seek all forms of information. Only when a person has consumed all knowledge, is when they can effectively create the strongest fact.

    Video game journalism shares its essence in the ability to spread information and debate the emerging topics. There are differences and similarities. Video games just only require the consumption of the experience. Some people will let the game consume them, while others only dabble in its offerings. In the case of seeking news and reviews is the result of corporation control. There are major new conglomerates that spread video game information and in some cases can also control/influence the spread of information. Major video game titles are just too big of an investment to be brought down by a bad review.

    I do not have the education/full knowledge to understand the complete behind the scenes of video game journalism, with their corporate media gatherings or (pre)review embargos. However I do have an idea as to why there are problems that exist for journalism, for both the author and the reader. Self educating in general comes down to a question only an individual can ask: How much do I really care?

    Give a damn and it can change. But how many out there really care?

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