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"Writers who play games" vs "Gamers who happen to write"

(Let's make this second chance a little less insulting and prove that with the right subject I CAN do the research.)

With the recent story about whether game bloggers are "credible game journalists" made me think about game journalism as a whole. Actually, I prefer to call it "games writing," as there are few journalists in the gaming industry. The closest I can think of are the likes of Stephen Totilo and Geoff Keighley, and maybe N'Gai Croal despite the fact that he left Newsweek. You could probably stretch it if you go for people like Matt Casamassina, Jeff Gerstmann or Sam Kennedy.

But when it comes to game bloggers like some of the staff at Dtoid, Joystiq or even Kotaku, I have a slight dislike for them. I don't hate them, but there's a certain attitude in the air with these people, and it brings up issues about games writing in general.

With the advent of the internet, blogging has become widespread. The result is more people can try to make their own offshoot games writing blog that could get them hits if they get something that's "hot scoops" worthy (with apologies to Idle Thumbs). But the main problem of this can be summed up in one word: "Credibility."

I once wrote a blog a few months back in a different place about my disdain for game blogs. They do so many things wrong, and I'll restate them in a short list: They will post rumors without evidence, they will have this air of smugness in their written entries, they will post the obvious after the entire internet has known about it for years, and the most problematic of the bunch: It's for hits, not for credibility.

Really, game bloggers would be more credible if they didn't jump on constant rumors, tried to keep the smarmy attitudes to themselves, and show to themselves that they're competent writers. Basically, "writers who play games," rather than "Gamers who happen to write."

There is a difference. Most "writers who play games" are of the types I've covered earlier: Totilo, Keighley, Croal. Usually writers who play games are types who have degrees in editorial or english, and act more like how a journalist would. Most game bloggers, on the other hand, are "Gamers who happen to write." I haven't read a written Kotaku entry by Michael McWhertor (or others) where there wasn't one spelling or grammatical error. Sometimes facts will get mangled and screwed up even if it's a familiar game franchise. Maybe the one thing these game bloggers need is a copy editor.

I find it funny that Jim Sterling wrote that and said he APPROVES of people getting free swag for top-notch reviews. Hell, even Roger Ebert, a film critic, says never to take freebies unless you're a starving critic who doesn't get paid often. Really, I liked the way it was done back at the good old days of GameSpot, back when Greg Kasavin was Editor-in-Chief: You got swag? Hand it to us. You want it back? Finish the review first. Or shove it into the huge swag pile, we can always give it away during On The Spot or something. Hell, I loved it when Dean Takahashi declined his Halo 3 swag bag and sent it back to Microsoft. Either way, freebies should NEVER be an incentive to give good reviews of something.

The reasons I gave are usually my issues with games writing in general, and there's a distinct reason why many message board posters usually say "lol games journalism." (Maybe that's just NeoGAF who does it.) But either way, there are ways we can learn from this and start making bloggers more credible. Here's a small list I came up with:

1. Rumors should not be covered at all. If you must cover rumors, do it in one encompassing post with a brief vignette about the rumor, and the origin of the rumor.
2. Proofreading. Do more of it. Copy Editors. Hire one or two. It's better to have writing that doesn't look like it came from a school newspaper.
3. Keep the snark at home. Be civil in your writing. After all, you might not have your job in six months, and all it takes is an employer to pop your name into a Google Search, find your snarky material and get you rejected from your next writing job.
4. Always ask questions. Don't sit there and do nothing as a company announces a product you're not too sure about. Even if it's of developers you trust.
5. Only accept the freebies if you're a fledgling blog site. Otherwise decline them, put them up for auction or something else.
6. If you're ever reviewing games: FINISH THEM. Play 'til the credits roll. Dabble in New Game+ if you can. Don't do what Jim Sterling did and do a terrible Zero Punctuation parody and a review of Halo Wars that only covered up to chapter 3 in the campaign. (Of course, this applies to ALL reviews, not just ones from blogs.)

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About TonicBHone of us since 2:09 PM on 07.13.2009

I am a 34-year-old... person (it's complicated.) who plays video games on occasion. I tend to own a bunch of superfluous junk most people don't care about.

When not lurking and contributing opinions to Destructoid's community blogs every five years, I write about gaming obscurities and oddities at You Found a Secret Area. That's usually where I post these days.

I don't visit Destructoid all that much these days, but I do have some vague memories of visiting this site.

I'm also on Twitter if that's more your speed.
Xbox LIVE:TonicBH
Steam ID:TonicBH


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