The following is an opinion. I am not a journalist, nor am I a member of the gaming media. Facts that will both become painfully obvious as one reads the thoughts I have shared below.
In my piece last week about #gamergate I discussed why the whole debacle has no effect on me personally as a gamer. That said, people are still talking about it, I am still losing tumblr followers because of my opinion on the topic (which I am perfectly fine with), and the issue doesn’t seem to be going away nearly as quickly as I had hoped it would.
As a gamer, I find this all very disturbing. For me as a gamer, it isn’t all about journalistic integrity or transparency as some in #gamergate are calling for, it’s about calling yourself what you are, admitting what you do and why, and being honest about it. I don’t think that is a lot to ask for. Then again, honesty never is.
When I see media, specifically gaming media refer to what it does as journalism I always crack a little smile, followed immediately by a wincing sensation in the pit of my stomach. I find the notion both humorous and at the same time alarming. The very concept of Gaming Journalism is an oxymoron by it’s own definition.
The above comes from the online version of Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Seems there are various ways to define the word journalism, but I would like to focus on the part found in section two, subsection b, where it talks about “facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation”. This is how I’ve always personally defined journalism, and where so called gaming journalists fall flat on their proverbial faces. Interpretation should be left to the reader of the facts, not expressed by those reporting on said facts.
When I took Journalism 101 way back in my college days the first rule we learned was to report the facts, and nothing but the facts. When writing we were taught to gather and report information using what is commonly referred to as “The Five W’s”; Who, What, Where, When, and Why. This ensured that the facts, as opposed to opinions were reported as news.
If gaming journalists just reported the facts about the games they are reporting on, then all that would be required of them is to repost the press releases they receive from various game developers, along with information about certain key features of the game. For the most part these days, that doesn’t seem to be what is happening. These alleged journalist aren’t just reporting the facts, they are including subjective opinions, hyperbole, and even personal agendas into the mix. In some cases they are nothing more than blatant shills for the developers they are writing about.
To prove my point lets look past all the recent mudslinging between the “gaming press” and gamers and look at the gaming press hype machine in all it’s glory with regards to today’s release of Destiny by Bungie and Activision. It is is a classic example of how gaming media attempts to create hype as news rather than simply reporting the facts as news.
In a trailer posted on the official Destiny YouTube channel on August 15th, titled Official Destiny Gameplay Trailer: Mars you can see blurbs from various members of the gaming media talking about how fantastic a game it is, and the developer touting all the awards Destiny has garnered. My first thought was, "How can a game that isn’t even out yet be awarded anything?" Who is giving these awards and why? To me that is akin to awarding Leonardo DiCaprio a Best Actor Oscar for simply reading a script. Yes I am aware that statement was hyperbolic, it was intended to be. It still doesn’t dilute the question.
When you have well known sources for gaming news like The Escapist, Destructiod, and IGN, as well as mainstream media outlets like USA Today commenting on a game so long before it it has been released that said commentary can be included in a promotional video for the game, one has to wonder how we as consumers and gamers are supposed to take any of the gaming media seriously. In the end it comes off as hype rather than facts. Probably because that’s what it is.
Most of that same media today is reporting on the hype surrounding the release of Destiny, and how expensive Destiny was to produce in comparison to other games. It is being stated in such a way as if to imply that that information alone is enough evidence that the game must be good and we should all rush out to buy it. Clearly these same so called journalists learned nothing from what happened following the release of Disney’s John Carter and the Johnny Depp helmed The Lone Ranger, and all the media hype that surrounded those two clunkers.
While granted spending double what Disney spent for just one of its two box office stinkers (one of which I happened to enjoy), is no doubt a big financial gamble for Bungie/Activision and may be considered newsworthy in some circles, one has to ask oneself why is it newsworthy? When facts are being interlaced with personal opinion in what is no doubt an attempt to help a developer recoup the costs involved in a game that is being reported on, and thus ensure continued developer support of your media enterprise the line between actual journalist and professional pitchman becomes incredibly blurry. In some cases, very suspicious.
I won’t comment much on Destiny as a game because I haven’t and won’t be playing it. For starters it’s current release format is only available for consoles and I am a PC gamer. Secondly, based on what Destiny gameplay videos I have watched today it appears that Destiny is primarily a first person shooter interlaced with lengthy cutscenes and not the MMORPGFPS the gaming media hypes it as. That, and I am just not a FPS gamer at heart. Of course none of this means I can’t offer my opinion on how so called gaming journalists are covering it.
While I am aware that many involved in the gaming media, much like film critics, receive advance copies of a game for the purposes of informing gamers and/or writing reviews, the comments in the video linked above were made shortly after the end of the semi open Playstation beta, and nearly a month before the game was actually released. As such one has to question the validity of those statements, and why they are making them. Where are the facts? Where are any of “The 5 W’s” in those blurbs? It appears to me these so called bastions of gaming journalism are submitting opinion as fact in boldfaced print for the game developer in question to use as they like. Again it begs the question; are you a journalist or a corporate shill?
So why do I refer to Gaming Journalism as an oxymoron? Well if it isn’t already obvious to you then perhaps a definition of the word oxymoron is in order.
To me journalism, good journalism at least, is about reporting facts as a means of disseminating information to the public. Gaming on the other hand is an entertainment hobby, which at its roots is intended to be a means of escape from the facts of life. If these two institutions aren’t contradictory, then I don’t know what it.
When members of the gaming media refer to themselves as journalists as opposed to Critics, Corporate Shills, or OP-Ed writers with an agenda to push, it insults the intelligence of their intended audience. Assuming that these same individuals are doing what they do for a living as a means to provide for themselves and their families, then it would seem to most that insulting the intelligence of their target audience isn’t a very good business model. In my opinion that is just common sense. Then again, if one is staying on top of the events of #gamergate as it unfolds, it becomes readily apparent that common sense appears to be in very short supply.
Have fun :)!