There is no doubt Robert Florence opened a can of worms with his Table of Doritos article over at Eurogamer. Most of us know about the article. It was about the relationship between the games press and PR. I won’t go into the contents in detail as you can read it here.
Now I’d rather be here writing about how awesome Persona 3 is or what I think the direction horror games should go in, but considering what has gone on this week in regards to the gaming press I feel I have to address it.
It has been a disappointing week for someone on the outside, as a reader of the games press; as a member of the audience. I feel let down. I feel that in certain sections of the press there is a lack of respect for its readers. So a number of those readers don’t deserve that respect with them being the types of people quick to insult a reviewer if you don’t hit the right score, but many, many others silently take on board what has been said in your work. You are trusted. “I’ll wait for the reviews” is something we all hear and read, time and time again.
So when one games journalist practically advertises a game on a personal account to win a PS3 and follows it up with a tweet genuinely not seeing a problem with the practice then we clearly have a trust problem. I’m amazed that this journalist couldn’t see a problem. Even if you plan to donate this PS3 to someone else so you don’t really get any gain, you still advertised something; not a personal endorsement of something you love, even if it is, as doing so through this kind of stunt looks dishonest. It shows a complete lack of respect to those who follow you on Twitter through liking your work.
This lack of respect also reared its head over at Kotaku where Stephen Totilo rather shamefully talked down to a concerned gamer; the whole situation bringing back memories of when certain newspapers and proper journalists weren’t acknowledging the corruption the rest of the population could see during the Leveson enquiry and continued to peddle long lens shots of Suri Cruise or whatever. And here, showing all the bits in a limited edition Xbox 360 was more important than something many readers are currently quite concerned about.
Looking at what I’ve already written I can see that I may be preaching from a high horse, sneering down like a king at a pauper but I do understand how the lines can become blurred in an entertainment press and PR relationship. We’re hits on some counter, we’re Likes on Facebook, and we’re bullies with bad grammar on Twitter. We’re statistics.
We are not the personalities you have to deal with day to day and we’re not the people you generally have to maintain some kind of relationship with. And games PR are probably as passionate a gamer than anyone, I mean who else wants to work in the games industry at that level other than a gamer, so having something you both care about in common will likely end up in friendship. This is a persistent relationship that you just won’t have the majority of your readers, so I can see how a relationship with PR can become quite strong, and I totally believe it to be unintentional; people with the same interests connect.
I know this comes across as a buzz kill as some may say it’s only video games, we shouldn’t be taking them so seriously, but some of us do really care about them. Some of us may look up to some of you as thinkers. The ones whose career it is to think about games and pass those thoughts to the rest of us who perhaps don’t have the time to analyse for ourselves due to pesky day-jobs but one of those thoughts may strike us and makes us realise something we never noticed before in a particular game. Then we apply this theory, whatever it is, to other games and start to demand better.
It’s through good criticism you can potentially help make better games, but your readers need to trust you or it’s all for nothing.
From the outside it looks like there is a lack of self-awareness in the gaming press with their relationship with industry PR and all I'm asking is to just take a step back every-now and then and consider if you're closer to the industry than you are your readers.