Mainstream video game media; for better or for worse

We often criticize mainstream media in the general news as playing sides and being backed by big business to influence the news. Better yet, an even more recurring theme for mainstream media is the attempt to stay on the top with poor attempts of fear-mongering and with exaggerated stories. We’ve all seen this at play: “Massacre at gas station robbery!” The news goes on then to report three people were killed in said robbery. It’s done to garner the attention of the viewer and to ensure that you stay on the station as much as possible. Instead of news reporting it’s simply Entertainment Tonight. At least ET doesn’t even try to dress up the fact that they’re simply in it for the ratings, however.

But we like to think video gaming media is different, yeah? I mean, we are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry that employs hundreds of thousands across the globe. Except our deal with the news in video games has to go beyond the simple reporting of what’s coming out next month or new trailers being released. We’ve moved on from the simple reporting to going on with feature stories and interviews. For good measure you throw in some reviews as well (it’s only fair; newspapers throw in movie reviews all the time). And yet even our mainstream media has evolved into a hive mind of likely tactics.

Consider the number of publications you can name off the top of your head. Game Informer, Nintendo Power, OXM, PC Gamer…maybe you’re still wondering what happened to EGM as well. But we all know that we have far gone past the era of printed paper and know that most gamers get their news primarily from the online market. And here you can probably list off a slew of sites, like Kotaku, Gamasutra, Joystiq, 1UP, etc. How about Bluesnews? VE3D? Destructoid? Giantbomb? Now we’re getting somewhere. And let us not forget our niche market as well, like Massively and TenTonHammer. Even before the major networks like ABC and NBC were even wetting their feet in the online news market, we had already dived in head-first.

But now the general question is: who to go to? Because now that there’s such a huge market for it all, the typical journalistic low-brow mannerisms of trying to rake in the views still persists even for video game journalists. Consider, for example, Kotaku, probably the best and well-known simply because it often plays the regular tactics of scandal, sex, and controversy. Or maybe even Destructoid with the rude and crude editorials that pretty much attempt to melt the faces of fans of large franchises. Either way, it garners attention.

They call it the evolution of journalism. Rather it is more like the devolution of the written word on a whole. There was a time when you had to go to college and get one of those things called an education to even write for a publication—now anyone with a grasp of the language, lingo, and lacquered topics of the day can be paid to report the news. At first this transition was praised—in truth, it meant that a varying degree of opinions could now be shared by one and all to gauge the true public’s opinion instead of relying on polling 2,000 people and saying this is what 300 million people think. But instead of this fantasied adaptation of expecting to see people drinking tea with their pinkies extended and sitting down for masterpiece theater, we just now have our clubs in hand and our rudimentary sign language to communicate opinions and thoughts.

This is certainly no different from our big dog publications like Kotaku, whose contributing writer for Japan, Brian Ashcraft, has been defending rape and pedophilia in Japan lately as a “culture difference.” Ashcraft would further go on to argue philosophy with a Wikipedia education (my apologies…a Bachelors in Art History) by saying that since the East views these acts differently than the West, then the West should respect their culture. I was never quite aware rape or pedophilia could be the highlight of a country’s culture; colored me educated in the happenings of Japan.

As you can imagine, the articles blew up in comments and hits. Even worse in Kotaku’s loose play with the journalistic code of ethics is their lack for subjectivity and their push forward with elitism. Comments on articles are now only seen by “star commenters,” or, essentially, people the writers of Kotaku feel whose comments should be seen above all else. Often they are removed when anything critical is said against Kotaku, an article, a writer, or a hit franchise.

Subjectivity is obviously a farce even in our own media world. We’ve heard a number of stories how writers and reviewers often “leave voluntarily” after writing an unfavorable review for a publication. We even now resort to low blows when it comes to community-led initiatives that attempt to voice their dissent for various things, such as the L4D2 boycott, the MW2 boycott, the call for Starcraft II LAN. Rather than simply following ethics to reporting on such forwards in public speech, publications instead went full out and insulted the lot of them. Now if you write something negative you’re either saying it to yourself or writing it on your blog (though I guess both go hand-in-hand).

Yes, perhaps Bluesnews is the exception to the fact. Their short news bits of reports of what’s coming out and what’s going on is purely as objective as it can get. And Gamasutra follows in a close second for the most part. But also consider the nature of both sites. Notice how both have a much more professional tone and a much more serious approach to stories. There’s your long lost art of journalism, my friends. It’s straight to the point, it conveys the things the reporter only knows, and there’s no plug, opinion, or play of words to be found. In other words, it’s not entertaining. And what is entertaining? Sex, scandal, rumors, pretty color schemes, pictures, zing words; basically exactly what Kotaku and Destructoid are—the leaders of the regression of the written word.

News is not supposed to be entertaining. Originally it was simply factual reporting. It was the only way people learned about new things in the world—hence the root word of it all. Regurgitating the same thing over and over again is not new, nor is it news, and yet it’s what’s guaranteed to sell a story and to gain attention to your platform. And so we, the video gamers who stand on our soapboxes often proclaiming how liberal, imaginative, and unique we all are, and yet here we are, falling victim to the very thing we all attest to detest. But does anyone care? Well, some of us do. Why else would we blog if we didn’t? And yet, as is no different from mainstream television media, the differentiating opinions are often silenced and ignored.

Can you, then, truly call this an evolution in the media? Or an evolution in communication? Or did you take a look at this blog and notice that I have gone way over than 140 characters and immediately scrolled to the bottom to see what I was talking about? Well, sorry Twitterati browsers. If you want to know what this was all about, then you’d first have to access the thin space between your ears and have to sit down for more than ten seconds to read something. We can’t read books through osmosis, after all. Well, not yet at least.

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About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

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