Dtoid Community Discusses pt 3: Gaming Journalism
Another week, another discussion! In case this is the first time you are reading one of these, Dtoid Community Discusses is a weekly c-blog which brings together members of the Destructoid Community to talk about topics that pertain (of course) to gaming and gaming culture. Now on our third iteration, if you want to check out any of the previous installments, please check out the links on the side bar!
Anyway, in light of the fall of EGM (*pause while I pour one out for my homies*), I decided to ask this week’s panel about the state of gaming journalism. The panel this week consists of NihonTiger90, Coonskin05, Blehman and ScottyG! As always here is the question I posed to them:
Gaming Journalism: In light of the recent 1UP ordeal that recently happened, I began to think about the state of 'gaming journalism'. It's really sad that a company that appeared to be doing it right got in such a mess. Which got me to thinking about the state of gaming journalism in general. Back in the day, gaming magazines were how things were done, and Gamepro, EGM, Nintendo Power were all the rage. Now, it’s hard for print magazines to continue strong, I believe due to the strength of the internet and the ability to find out things instantly.
HOWEVER, alot of gaming news sites can hardly be considered "journalism". It seems that most sites out there are basically rehashed PR statements, places to break NDA's or copypasta of other blogs that worked hard for their writing but just can't make it big.
I ask you guys. What exactly is gaming journalism/does it exist? Why did print magazines fail? Will videogames gain that level of professional reporting that other media seem to have? What do you think the future of gaming journalism holds?
The discussion basically covered two topics, so I've given each of them their own section. Read on to find out what they thought!
First: Concerning Gaming magazines
Print magazines failed because their readership changed. Most people who play games already used the Internet, and while a laptop doesn't really work well on the crapper, their audience began to turn towards the "free" content instead of paying monthly for pretty much the same thing. It's the same pickle so many other print publications are facing right now. That's really about all there is to it.
I think there has to be more to print magazines "failing" than just the internet....On Podtoid today, Jim mentioned that gaming mags are alive and well in England, and I feel Famitsu is doing fine. Talking with some other Dtoiders at some point we came up with the idea that maybe gaming magazines should change their format a bit, like make them smaller and come out more often. What do you guys think of this idea?
I still love my print media. There’s just something about having a tangible copy that I can keep and go back to that’ll always be better, in my opinion, than the cold, constantly updating void that is the internet. I’m willing to pay the small amount needed to keep up with previews and features that come with most magazines over free, quick, and bare-bones approach the internet has become, at least for reporting every little thing as soon as it happens. I do think that changing from a monthly “everything that we can fit in and it’s still outdated” approach to something like a bi-monthly “here’s what just happened” approach would be keen, but I don’t think it’ll change anyone’s mind.
As far as print magazines go, I agree heartily on the fact that the reason they have failed is because of instant access to information from the internet. But another thing that I think might play into it is they seem to have a corporate feel. When I was 9 and 10 and read Game Informer, I knew each of the editors' writing voice, and it always seemed like they had an extreme passion for their jobs. Nowadays Game Informer is just something else Game Stop tries to push on me, along with reserves and Edge cards.
I still disagree with everyone that gaming magazines are failing, and if the only reason you feel it's a corporate push to get you to read them read them outside of the context of things like Gamestop and see how good they still are.
EGM's first issue.....PEW PEW PEW
Next, (a slightly more passionate topic), gaming journalism:
The biggest problem gaming journalism really faces, is that everyone thinks they can do it. They think all you do is play games all day and party all night, but really, that's a pipe dream. Sure, there's parties and game playing to be had, but you have to bust your ass at the same time. At PAX, I was one of the three people from Blogcritics providing coverage and by Sunday night, I was at the point of physical breakdown from the amount of walking and other work I had done. Just because you're at a convention or something else doesn't mean you get to relax a whole lot. There are still deadlines to be made and the competition will still be fighting you to break news first, so you're pretty much busy all the time. Not to mention that reviewing a game means playing through it and then sitting down and critically analyzing the whole thing. You get used to doing it, but it's not as easy at it seems at first.
The other problem, really, is that for the most part, you're not going to have the time necessary to sit down and crank stuff out some days because you'll be working your real-life job to pay the bills. I think Dtoid has like, what, 5 full-time paid employees, and everyone else writes when they can. For example, Anthony's in college, I believe, and Chad, Hamza and most of the other editors have full-time jobs they work at, so for the most part, the full-timers like Brad, Jim, Nick and Colette are the ones you'll see doing most of the work on any given day. Not everyone gets to be a Crecente, Totillo, Croal, Gerstmann or Casamassina that gets to do this full-time, all the time. On top of that, a lot of sites don't pay enough, or in my case, don't pay at all. You're doing this because you want to take on the work, even though you already have a full-time job.
I think it’s a fine line to be walking right now. Game journalists cannot, and will not, be taken seriously by most people outside of the industry until the industry as a whole is taken seriously. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. It really is an “anyone can do it” job, as long as they’re dedicated enough to take it seriously without going overboard. This is not a job where you have to go to school for several years and gain the finer points of anything. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know personally how much work and dedication most game bloggers put in, but I can bet it’s a lot for the ones I read consistently. But constant PR rehashing, three sentence “look at this and tell me what you think” posts, and the general clusterfuck of the internet are getting in the way of what I turn to game magazines for, which is large impression posts and editorials. I don’t want Nintendo Power or OXM system circle jerks, but I don’t want to have to read other uninformed peoples comments based off of a picture and two sentence summary.
"Anyone can do it"....Could this Crowhawk douche be the next N'gai Croal?
First I want to clarify if we're considering videogame blogging sites like Destructoid, Journalism. We all know they don't consider themselves journalists, but they do report the news and do reviews, interviews, and original articles so at the very least I will be including them. :)
I think moving to the internet has both helped and hurt videogame journalism. On one side. You can get stories out to your readers much more quickly and can build a better community than you really could with a magazine. Destructoid's community for example, is something you could never get in a print magazine.
However, the constant race to be first on a news story or a review forces writers to take shortcuts and rely more on short, straightforward stories that aside from a little personal spin don't really differ from any other site out there. Original interviews and articles just don't happen, and quite often when they do they're just lists. For the most part long, multipart features previewing a game or interviewing a developer just doesn't happen. The only site I can think of that really does that sort of thing is Gametrailers, with excellent pieces like their retrospective series and Bonus Round.
The biggest problem with everyone being able to do gaming journalism is the same problem that plagues the rest of the media: ethics and morals. While trained journalists have a certain code that they work by, not all bloggers do. Some will post whatever they can get as soon as they can get it without bothering to verify their sources, just to get all the traffic and the glory. But if you're wrong, you can screw up a lot of people's lives. I know that sounds silly, but posting a serious story based on rumors can cause any number of negative reactions, especially if that company is traded on the stock market (see: the many Apple and Steve Jobs dying stories that have been posted, even though he's now stepping down for a while). Even Kotaku got bit by this earlier in the year when they posted that Xbox 360 rumor that turned out to be something the Cheap Ass Gamer forums made up. Beating everyone else to the punch doesn't matter if you're dead wrong. It just makes you look like an incredible jackass.
Like Mike said, the constant rehasing of press releases and three paragraph sentences isn't really gaming journalism. That requires a lot more of an investment. It doesn't mean you have to go to journalism school to work in the industry, but honestly, it might not hurt if we got more actual reporting on the games industry. And yes, there's plenty that could be reported on if sites had more resources.
Concerning gaming journalism, I think part of the beauty is that anyone can break into it. An easier point of access means that those who deserve to be at the top will be at the top. And excuse me if I come off as a little brutish here, but I've never understood the whole "Why doesn't anyone take game journalism seriously?" complaint. Why do we care so much about the "rest of the media's" approval. When the traditional media tries to cover videogames (like the New York Times making a "Best Of" list), it's fucking laughable, so I have never really seen why we have always craved that approval. We know who the top videogame journalists are and they get their credit, and we know that the videogame industry makes more than the music and movie industry, so we should be happy with that.
Coon hit the nail on the head. Why do we care what the "mainstream" media cares about game journalism? It's a relatively new field compared to movies and music, so of course everyone who's not in the know is skeptical, and frankly, out of touch with it. Like I said, until the game industry breaks through a few more walls and gains more mainstream acceptance, why not say damn the torpedoes? As far as I can see, it's still full speed ahead. As long as game journalists keep their priorities in mind and keep on doing what they feel is right, we've got things pretty much covered. Though it's sad to see the fall of such longstanding institutions as EGM, it's an unfortunate side effect of people not understanding where the future is heading, and I think in the future it will just band together gamers to keep these things running, whether it's "underground" blogs like dtoid and kotaku, which are, needless to say, not to terribly well known outside of gaming circles, or more mainstream media like newspapers and magazines gaining legitimate gaming writers from the destruction of these sites due to "financial outlooks."
That's all for this week! As always, if interested in being in a panel send me a PM with your email! Tune in next week for a new discussion topic! Same Dtoid Time, Same Dtoid C-blog!