Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Game Journalism

Game journalism is a sensitive topic for many people, with rumours of forcing high review scores to keep publishers happy, people being fired due to bad reviews, attempts to selectively distribute early reviewer releases, or even misrepresenting review sites, it's no wonder that gamers get disillusioned.

I've complained about IGN on numerous occasions previously for many separate flaws and shortcomings, because they consistently prove a lack of knowledge and integrity. Inaccuracies and deliberate misrepresentation in their comparison of console versions of Mass Effect 2, or issues where they have ignored key points of a game, such as not reviewing the multiplayer component of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, when multiplayer has pretty much always been the strength of the Battlefield series. This isn't to say that IGN is universally bad, or that their reviews are wholly inaccurate, but more that it's impossible to rely on them because of the many articles that do fit those criteria. Some of their reviews/articles are good, but some of them are utter rubbish, and thus they're simply not a reliable source of information.

Then we have another one of my hated game related video series: the Jimquisition on the Escapist, which features some of the worst argued and illogical statements I've encountered in years. Rather than construct a reasoned argument by providing evidence to prove his statements, Jim Sterling instead attempts to undermine the most radical of opposing viewpoints to his own, and even frequently fails at doing that convincingly. For example, he recently did a three part series on "why used games aren't evil". To put my cards on the table here, I completely agree. It's true that video game developers and publishers don't make any money off used game sales, but this doesn't mean that they're bad for the game industry as a whole. However, in a little under 20 mins of video, Jim Sterling managed one or maybe two points that were actually reasonable and well argued. The rest was little more than whining or inaccurate hyperbole, and even demonstrated a gross misunderstanding that video games are "licensed" not "sold for gamers to do whatever they want with them". This is someone who is paid by several gaming sites, and he doesn't even understand one of the most rudimentary concepts about what he is purchasing with his money. The fact that he has also attacked IGN and GameSpot for their own poor knowledge or lack of research is utterly laughable.

Of course, it's not all bad, and there are a few good examples I'd like to mention here:

While not strictly "game journalism", per se, Extra Credits is one of the more interesting series on video game development and design kicking around. I don't agree with everything they say on the show, but they offer some really good viewpoints and insights into gaming, game design, and the potential for gaming to become more than it currently is.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - A great site with good writers and intelligent articles. More surprising is that occasionally even the comments from other readers don't immediate delve into trolling or mindless bickering as normally occurs on equivalent sites, but that's still a rarity. It's definitely a site that's worth checking out if you don't already.

 I'd like a colour map of good game related sites please

I have also found Kotaku to be one of the more reliable sources for information, particularly from the Australian writing contingent. As an Australian, I'll concede that I am probably biased here, but they've proven themselves reliable in my opinion. For example, their reporting on the R18+ classification issue in Australia has proven almost universally interesting, informative and accurate as the saga has played out. Admittedly, it typically doesn't provide reviews in the "classic" form with an (artificial) number tacked onto the end of the review, but their commentary and appraisals are well-thought out more often than not. It's always fun to see people writing about games with a bit of wit. I'm going to give particular kudos to Tracey Lien here, who injects a good sense of humour into her writing as well as being interesting. Maybe she could do an article on Aussie game modders? :)

As an aside, I'd like to say that there appears to be an inherent sexism present in game journalism (and potentially the game industry at large) which is unnecessary and stupid. Isn't it a bit ridiculous that Jessica Chobot's (who works for IGN but provides better content than others there) breakthrough came as a result of her licking a PSP? I'm sorry, but it's pathetic that her popularity came as a result of her looks rather than her talent or knowledge. While I'm on this subject, I should also mention Meghann O'Neill (aka Firky on BioWare's Social Network), who writes for Aus PC Powerplay, who in additional to reviewing games, was also kind enough to champion DAO mods, including my very own Alley of Murders. So there are three talented females who do video game journalism who deserve respect for their talent, and I'm sure there are plenty more. Gender doesn't make someone less or more competent as a game reviewer; the days of "girls don't play video games" have well and truly passed, so let's grow up and get with the times.

No, there's no picture here. That's deliberate.

Game journalism isn't lacking in integrity as some nay-sayers would have you believe, and there are some excellent writers out there if you go looking for them. Not everyone is as ill informed and biased as Fox News. Of course, dear readers, this is a matter of opinion, and it's possible that you might vastly disagree with my comments here. If that's the case, or you feel I've missed any examples of gaming related websites that you feel should be promoted (or shamed), feel free to drop a comment and let me know.

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