Game journalist, or game journalism, is a loaded phrase. It carries with it a number of preconceptions--and misconceptions, for that matter--and implications. Truth is, game journalism is about as far from the journalism you are taught in college as Alaska is from New York. Some of it has to do with the fact that the nature of the industry requires writers to engage in what's called product journalism, and some of it has to do with the fact that information isn't really reported on, it's mimicked and regurgitated bits of information that were compiled by Publicity Joe or Marketing Mitch for the sole purpose of expediting the process of dissemination and generating hype.
There are, however, some people who are operating outside the parameters and context I described above. These are the people who think there's something wrong with game journalism; perhaps not something wrong, but that there are areas in which those who call themselves "game journalists" could do better, be better. Our very own Jim Sterling (thank God for him) has dedicated a couple of his Jimquisition videos to the topic of game press, and others such as Roberto Florence have written on the topic with ethics as the focal point.
The thing is, I'm not sure anyone really knows what game journalism is. As far as I can tell, the portion of the industry that writes about the games we love and the ones we love to hate, has never really had a conversation or discussion about what it is
, what constitutes itself. And that's a problem; for me, at least.
Here's what I'm not saying: I'm not saying everyone and their mother currently writing about videogames doesn't know what the hell they're doing. Shit, I'm not really sure that I know what I'm doing. I'm also not saying that all these different labels--"game journalist", "game critic", "someone who writes and talks about games"--aren't viable descriptions. I'm not saying that "game journalism" as we know it needs to be tore down and rebuilt in a journalist's Utopian vision. What I am saying is that the foundations of game journalism need to be shaken, someone needs to rattle a cage.
To an extent, that's what sites like Destructoid allow for, and I think it's great that Destructoid exists and gives gamers a respectable and comfortable place to have conversations, share stories, and bond over the mutual love or hate of such-and-such a videogame. But, game journalism--game criticism--needs something else, too. It needs a media desk.
I'm shocked, frankly, that the game journalism corps hasn't had any meaningful discourse about the State of Game Journalism. Tech journalism and game journalism have gone through a greater number of changes in a shorter period of time than any other form of journalism, particularly traditional print journalism, which is where most of my writing background is. And yet there hasn't been a lengthy, intelligent, and public discussion about anything. There's too much happening too fast for us not to have media desk, a small group (or large group) of writers who dedicate themselves to tracking the metamorphosis of game journalism.
And it needs to be entirely public. Everyone and everything is fair game. It's the nature of journalism. There's too much of a "we look out for our own" attitude among game journalists these days, and it stands in the way--with many, many other things--of those of who write about videogames for a living having salient, transparent discussions for all to see. Everyone, from those of us who blog here on Destructoid to the news team at IGN, to the features writers at Kotaku, to the reviewers at Polygon, to those who simply play games and nothing more, need to have a seat at the table.
We need a David Carr. We need a New York Times Media Desk. YouTube is changing how and why we write about videogames, and sites like Destructoid also throw a wrench (a good one) into the system. The relationship between review teams and PR and marketing departments, and the ethical boundaries we, as people who write about games, should observe... all of these are things that we should be talking about.
In the past, when the writing portion of the game industry has broached these topics a good portion of people end up butt-hurt, pointing out imagined hypocrisies while ignoring the very real ways in which they are implicated by merely being someone who writes and talks about games. There also have been, however, meaningful discourse by involved participants, as evidenced by what happened not too long ago with Robert Florence at Eurogamer.
If you ask me, it's time to start throwing some stones in our Glass House of Game Journalism.