Experience Points: Writing About Gaming Versus Being A Gaming Journalist
If you haven’t already noticed this past week has been a gratifyingly great one for games journalism, gaming journalism or whatever you deem this type of writing form to be. Well, what am I talking about you ask? In one word, “Gearbox” and insert one more word “lies”, and you have a summation of the current events revolving around the debacle that is Aliens: Colonial Marines. At eGamer we critically derided the mess of a game as an abysmal pile of Xenomorph entrails. Couple with this a huge amount of unrest and dissent circulating from a variety of online media platforms, spearheaded most notably by Destructoid overlord Jim Sterling, and you get a negatively pronounced picture of the dealings going on behind the scenes at Gearbox.
To give you a broader idea of what’s going on, you just have to read here and here to get a picture. The linked articles provide an overall view of the sad case of affairs. Essentially, Gearbox has been slated for releasing an unfinished game in Aliens: Colonial Marines that in no way resembles the demo that was used for advertising purposes. Subsequently, it has been revealed that a number of developers (from various stages in the game’s development) acknowledge that the game was released in an “incomplete” state. Barring this, Randy Pitchford has vehemently denied these accusations as preposterous and sees them as “attacks” on himself and Gearbox.
This course of events typifies what journalism is, and what people seriously consider it to be. In any media field, such as in hard news journalism, journalists are meant to be watchdogs in the industry watching out for corruption, criminal activities and serious newsworthy topics. This is not to say that soft news topics like the local beauty pageant, a write-up of a musical concert, or the review of a game, movie and album cannot be part of a journalist’s credentials.
Far from that, however, distinctively journalism involves investigating topical issues and being critical of your industry of choice. If someone is a gaming journalist and if one assumes they follow the norms of what people consider journalism, then said “journalists” should be the watchdogs of the industry. They should be critical of the gaming industry and take action in their writing when studios like Gearbox resort to dodgy tactics, and release an unfinished and sub-par game. I am glad to see this happening, as this is template of what should be happening in the industry.
Yet I notice many examples of “gaming journalists” doing the exact opposite. This is alright by my standards, but if writers seek to be labelled as journalists they should be attempting to critique the gaming industry in some way, and not pander to publishers and studios. To understand what I’m getting at, I suggest you watch Grant Hinds’s latest vlog, and article, which summarise the whole issue quite nicely. He doesn’t see himself as a gaming journalist, as they are they “watchdogs” of the industry as he sees it, and I agree. Grant positions himself as a gaming content producer of sorts.
In reality, this is what a large amount of “gaming journalists” are, and to be honest using press releases as legitimate news articles does not turn a gaming writer into a gaming journalist. Yes, these individuals may be writing about games, and may be inserting some mild opinion in the context of their articles. But labelling themselves as “gaming journalists” does not make them as such. A journalist’s choice of words speak loudest from my experience, and when they are the publisher’s (or studio’s) words you are not being journalist.
Now, I assume people are pondering whether I consider myself a gaming journalist. To be truthful, I consider the label both a blessing and a curse as some of the articles, features and exclusives I write may be considered some form of “journalism”. In actuality, I feel that I come across in some articles as a gaming journalist, but more often than that (such as in this column) I see myself as a commentator dispersing my opinion through the internet. I am still part of the press regardless, and if others want to consider me a “gaming journalist” so be it.
As with any set of expectations, being a gaming journalist comes with its fair share of problems, and requires of you endless hours of gathering viable sources for information and double checking your facts before releasing an article. But sadly not many “gaming journalists” follow these simple criteria because of the pull of publishers who are undeniably seductive to many money weary “gaming journalists”. This is why gaming journalism is conundrum in its own. It will remain a quandry to me and many others. How about you?