Games Journalism: More of an oxymoron than an actual profession.
So, I was directed to a Tumblr blog that my friend Blaze mentioned in one of his tweets a few months back. The blog was called “Game Journalists are Incompetent Fuckwits.” Game Journalists are Incompetent Fuckwits, GJAIF for short, consisted of Ben Paddon pointing out the crappy fact-checking, misspellings, and non-news reporting of various game sites and blogs. He did this regularly for about three months.
Unfortunately, he recently left a blog entry saying that it was draining him and decided to stop. I was saddened, as I felt it was the end of an era. (EDIT: He decided to go back to writing GJAIF, but has more guest editors on the blog now.) This entire blog is something I loved and appreciated, because let’s face it: modern games journalism sucks and has been sucking for years now.
A common target on GJAIF was Gawker Media site Kotaku, dubbed “The Gamer’s Guide.” I really don’t like Kotaku, mostly because of their constant failure to fact-check; but I also don’t like them because they would post dumb images or videos of items BARELY related to video games, like some sort of piece that has to do with physics. But Paddon showed me something I had not noticed of Kotaku, especially of long-standing writer Brian Ashcraft: He’s a goddamn pervert. A good chunk of his blogs have him posting scantily clad Asian women that barely apply to his article for the sake of getting page views. This is not hyperbole: Look at his articles and count how many articles you see with random girls (usually Asian ones) that have little to do with the article’s subject matter. It kind of sickens me.
Even with Ashcraft and Brian Crecente’s seniority of making piss-poor writing, the current staff isn’t better; especially when they post articles of things that only remotely resemble video games. They also have Tim Rogers writing articles for the site, a writer I hate. I seriously believe Rogers thinks his novella-length articles are worth reading, because all his articles are nothing but babbling on about something he was doing on a Japanese train before he picked up the newest Final Fantasy game or something. (On a side note, I can understand that those type of articles COULD work as an interesting piece, but it would have to be from an outsider’s perspective, or an unusual occurrence. Virtually all of Rogers’s articles are almost like daily musings of what he does or thinks about, something that’s more suitable for a personal blog than for Kotaku.)
I used to have a MS Word file on my computer a chronicling of dumb Kotaku articles from around 2006-2007 called “Kotaku is Full of Shit” (or KiFoS), a reference to an old game show community I used to frequent who used a similar acronym for one of its members. Some of the articles were by Ashcraft as well as former Kotaku writer, John “Florian Eckhardt” Brownlee. What really pissed me off about Brownlee (or Eckhardt or whatever the hell he goes by) is this article from 2006 where he said the following:
If she was a real girl gamer, she’d have a 36 inch plasma screen balanced on the top of her head, thus allowing me to fulfill both of my life’s primary functions simultaneously.
What floored me is not only how sexist that particular comment is, that HE STILL HAD HIS JOB THERE AFTER THAT ARTICLE. If I was Brian Crecente, I would’ve kicked his ass to the curb faster than you could say uncle. Even though I’m a guy, I find objectifying women even in jest absolutely disgusting.
My dislike for modern games journalism doesn’t end at Kotaku. Destructoid, a site I browse daily to get away from the mediocrity of Kotaku, also has its fair share of bad writers. A good example is Jim Sterling. His reviews on games are something I don’t care about (though him giving Deadly Premonition a 10 was kind of funny in a “take THAT, games writers!” sort of way), but rather when he thinks it’s funny to write “joke articles” like these. “HERP DERP”? How does shit like this be deemed worthy to be posted on the site?! I don’t even care if it’s meant to be a joke, this is crap that lazy editors do when they are trying to get fired! And he makes a living out of making crappy articles like these!
Seeing articles like these on Kotaku and Destructoid, from the “HERP DERP” sense of humor, to the constant ignorance and laziness, makes me want to stand up and do this (Complete with crappy Ed Asner impression):
I’m not saying games writing has to be all serious all the time, I’ve seen professional news and blog websites have their occasional fun articles. But in this day and age, because of these “junk articles” being the norm over something interesting and substantial, most gamers tend to ignore game sites because of the overall quality of the writing. To put into the words of an average forum user: “lol games journalism.” Sites like Kotaku and Destructoid exacerbate the problem more than help it. For a while, I’ve been thinking of a guideline for games journalism, some of these I took from my second Destructoid community blog. I’m not saying that these should be followed to the letter, but a good 60% of the articles posted on game blogs today would be outright eliminated or truncated if they followed at least one or two of these guidelines:
- Found a rumor about some game or development? Don’t post it. Most idiot kids from a fan message board make up dumb rumors all the time and it spreads all over the web like a virus. Some rumors can become true, but this is almost as bad as posting that some actor will be playing Spider-Man in the new Spider-Man movie. It’s almost gossip fodder.
- Found a post about some developer saying how awesome their stuff is, in a way that resembles corporate dick-waving? Definitely don’t post it! Leave it to NeoGAF posters so they can have a 50 page console wars thread that leads to massive user bans, not something you slap on your blog site to get hits. (This also applies to game developers trash-talking business executives, like Robert “fourzerotwo” Bowling calling Activision executive Noah Heller a “Super-Senior Douche” back in 2008; or in more recent news, Tim Schafer of Double Fine insulting Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.)
- Want to post updates on a game, such as a patch? Don’t post it. Unless it fixes a severe bug that was causing game problems for many, it’s easier for people to just read the patch notes on the game’s website.
- Thinking of posting that report that some publisher will announce some game some time in the near future? Don’t post it! It’s a waste of your time and precious resources!
- Thinking of posting a game announcement with barely three sentences of text and reposting the entire press release as a literal copy-and-paste? Don’t post it unless normal people can’t read the press release from the company’s site! Paddon particularly derided people for doing this, and I agree with him on how he thought it was useless fluff.
- Found some stupid thing off the internet that shows something in real life that resembles something from a video game, like tiles shaped like Tetris blocks? Don’t fucking post it! Leave it to 4chan’s /v/ for silly troll posts. The only exception is when some artist does something in the vein of I am 8-bit, and even that’s barely blog-worthy.
- Think you’re funny by poking fun at console wars or a similar subject? You’re not. Leave the snark at home. This irritates me the most about games writers, they think “being funny” is that sarcastic wisecracking jerk at a party that people tend to ignore after a short while. It’s not funny, and it makes you look like a pompous jackass. Quit it.
- Found something interesting tech and science-wise, and you are part of a blog network with specific blogs catered to certain subject matter? Post it on those respective blog sites, not a site you call “the gamer’s guide.” Funny, Paddon had questioned whether or not Kotaku was even “the gamer’s guide” anymore after posting many blogs about scientific things that had nothing to do with games, in which one of Kotaku’s writers said that it isn’t a guideline for everything to be gaming-related. Personally, I don’t care much for science-related articles that much, and I’d rather have somebody post a twitter link about that stuff than waste time writing a summary of an article that has nothing to do with my site’s overall goal.
Now you’re probably asking: “Is there good games journalism?” Well, yes. Gamasutra and Game Set Watch are sites I totally recommend if you want smart, interesting writing on video games. Granted, I tend to gloss over the articles when they’re on my RSS feed; but sometimes there’s that one article I really get interested in, and I cannot help but read it.
Maybe I’m just a jaded, bitter, cynical writer who bemoans at the current state of games writing. I get worried every day that the quality of games writing will dip, and “good games journalism” will be an oxymoron. People are looking more towards the TMZ and E! style of games journalism, instead of looking for a pseudo-intellectual New York Times style of games journalism. Granted, both are two different styles of writing, and they can co-exist; but you need more of the latter style of writing than you do of the former. Otherwise games writing is about as credible as the Weekly World News. You know something is wrong when Something Awful mocks Kotaku for all the right reasons.
(EDIT 7/25: Did some considerable editing to the blog for grammar check and clarification.)