A bit back there was a Zero punctuation review of Halo 3 in which the guy with the crazy accent admitted that he hadn't played any of the other Halo games but that he was now going to review this one. I realize that his reviews are more of a funny joke but it speaks to a greater problem within the world of gaming journalism and the attitude people take towards it. There seems to be a prevailing idea that gaming journalists need not be educated in their field, its history, and the influences that games have.
How could you possible review any game, let alone Halo 3, if you didn't know the background and experience the history of one of the most influential games in gaming history? Far too often you see the caveat at the beginning of the review that a reviewer hasn't played the first game or a writer will clearly miss the influences of one game on another simply because he hasn't played it. As a gaming journalist shouldn't you know where games came from not just where they are going?
It is absolutely ridiculous that any gaming writer wouldn't play a game that is highly influential to the medium. ďIt's not my type of gameĒ is not an excuse if it is your job to be able to critique and comment on a game. A writer should know all styles of games and have played the ones that really matter. I am not saying that a gaming critic needs to play every game ever released but there are certain games that anyone who is seriously in this business must play no matter what. It is in fact their job to play these games and be able to apply their ideas and influences to current games.
I'm a film critic. If I told you I hadn't seen "Citizen Kane" and didn't understand the major impact it had on filmmaking you'd laugh me to the next block and disregard my opinion. Or lets say I am reviewing a zombie movie but I've never seen "Night of the Living Dead" (I have). I would argue that that pretty much invalidates or at least weakens any opinion I have on any zombie movie. It should be the same for games. These are extreme examples but stuff like this happens all the time in game reviews all over the place, even at the big boys like IGN, where it is nothing but they're job to be educated in gaming. If someone reviews Metroid Corruption and they have never played Super Metroid they don't know exactly where the game is coming from. Not having played any of the Primes would be even more of a crime and yet Iíve read reviews at legitimate websites where the critic hadnít played the either of them.
I understand that games take time to play through, and much like a film or art you can't see all the movies or all the paintings, but a journalist needs to make sure they have the classics played and that they know their shit. If you're playing a sequel it is your job to play the original, to have played at least a few games that may have influenced it. To know where that game is coming from is just as important as knowing how it plays now.
The point is that gaming journalism is a job, it is a profession and yet the overwhelming feeling from many sites is that itís OK to treat it like something you can kick off on the side, that an education in games isn't as important as being able to make a witty joke and discuss how pretty the graphics are. Then the industry turns around and screams about not being respected as legitimate journalist or artists. The onus isn't just on the rest of the world to accept gaming as a serious business, itís on the people who write about it to treat it that way too. I am not saying gaming journalism and critique needs to be high and mighty and lack fun but we must respect the history, the business and the art all at once when discussing games not just think that we as a community can go about treating gaming like it is still in its infancy.