Ice is a dish - best served cold


CRank: 7Score: 0

Read before you write - an essential practice

I'll touch on the ice cream sandwich soon enough.

Most of us would probably agree that game journalism in general is not quite where it should be. Some might even say it's mostly bad. I know I would. But if we more or less agree on the problem, could we come together on a solution?

If I were to abridge my suggestion to improve the culture surrounding video game writing as much as possible, it would sound something like this: "Read before you write".

Too many times I've seen articles go completely unchallenged or ignored altogether. If a person replies, that person will quite often reply to elements of the text, or maybe just the title or the first paragraph, and care very little about examining or trying to understand the arguments of the text.

In no instance is this more apparent than when you encounter a title phrased as a question on N4G. To make use of a rather dull example, say you decided to browse the comments section of an article titled "Do videogames make us violent?". I'd be willing to be the first comments are something like:

"No." (which of course, earns the author of the comment a "well said")

"Most boring question ever. Move on already."

"I play video games and I turned out just fine."

Granted, it is a tired old question, but let's do a thought experiment. Say that this article was based on some breakthrough research showing a distinct link between violent behaviour and violent video games. Wouldn't that at least be worth discussing in greater detail?

I really think critical enquiries and well-researched opinion pieces would be more common in game journalism if writers and readers alike spent less time writing/commenting and more time reading. In many cases, the article will make the person who comments's point for him/her, and in other cases the article will tackle that exact point.

However, if the article really is just the same tired old story, or if it can be proven false, then no comment carries greater weight than the one that deals with the article on factual basis.

Imagine a world in which you wrote a piece called "How game X copied game Y", and you weren't just met with angry comments and arguments that you've already tackled in your article, but actual responses that prove your arguments and reasoning to be flawed. You look at them, politely phrased as they are, and have to admit that this time around you really should have done your research better.

Ignorant and angry comments, on the other hand, are likely to make you feel like you have a point. Sure, you'll be annoyed, but that's because you feel like you're not getting your message through to the public. Further down the page there's a completely valid criticism of your article, but who reads through 23 comments of hatred and stupidity to get to that one? No, you go on to writing another article like you wrote the first one.

I think, and I don't have much more than personal experience to back this up with, that polite, precise and well-informed feedback is the best antidote to bad writing. A collective display of hate might upset the writer, it MIGHT even scare the writer away, but most likely it'll only harden him/her, and make him/her care less about feedback in the future.

Qualitative reading furthers qualitative writing. Not just in the case of well-informed feedback repelling ill-informed writing, but in the case of a well-read writer being a writer with more to write about.

So why don't we read? Are we all uneducated barbarians?

Well, no. Not entirely.

The Internet as a format carries quite a lot of the blame. If you have everything competing for your attention at the click of a button, surely there are better things to do than read an article about video games?

Also, anyone can be a writer on the Internet. And with the power of N4G they can even be given a fairly loud voice. Some of the articles racking up 100s or 1000s of degrees on this site are written by people who apparently do not have any knowledge of what it means to be a journalist. They give (false) information without sources, or even worse, provide no information to back up their claims at all. Also, the grammar and spelling is often anything but inviting (This is a blog, so that's my excuse for not proofreading).

I won't encourage you to criticise the crap out of these people. Some of them don't have english as their native language, some are twelve-year-olds aspiring to be writers. Let's not scare these people away from writing for eternity, but: In business, there's this thing called a "compliment sandwich" (illustrated well by Family Guy: it's a little sleazy and obnoxious, but I find it often gets the job done. I suggest we make more of these sandwiches.

Here's the recipe:
Read the article. Acknowledge what's wrong and what's good (in some cases I'll even resort to "I appreciate the article"), pack it in nicely, and you've got a piece of delicious constructive criticism ready to post.

As a writer, and a human being in general, I find it much more easy to take criticism from someone who adresses you in a nice way and who can prove that they've at least read the article. Being wrong can be painful, and many (completely grown-up people, as well) will find it extremely difficult to admit that they're wrong to someone with no tact or no. It is, however, not as painful to be wrong if you also did something right. Yeah, you thought Sonic Heroes came out in 2012, but a least your language was good. So you keep the good and trash the bad.

The problem with my proposal: It's a bottom-up plan. It demands that people read this, which in itself is quite ironic, and that they absorb the message - agree to it, and decide to spread the word. What are the odds that this sparks any real change? Slim. But I thought it was a message worth putting on paper.

Be patient - read carefully, and if you don't have the time to read - don't take the time to comment.

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Blacklash931311d ago (Edited 1311d ago )

It's no secret that the best way to agrees and bubbles is to post the first or one of the first comments, keep it as short and undetailed as possible so everyone will read it, and align with the likely opinion of the vast majority. The article in question being an easy target helps a lot.

But if you post first and the comment is controversial, or you write more text to detail your point, the less likely you are to get anything out of it.

I assume that accounts for a lot of what you're describing. The whole system is unconstructive and cowardly. It's less about how constructive your contributions are, and more about how much you can pander to tl;dr on a one-sided issue.

KingKevo1308d ago (Edited 1308d ago )

I am usually a person that likes to write more detailed comments as well if I'm interested in the story and totally agree with you and the author. The entire bubble system is bs and the guys that run N4G are not better. Recently I got a bubble taken away for pointing out how stupid the comment by someone else was, but the mod did not get it and even game me a restriction. Ridiculous.

Just imagine how this site would be if you had to at least post 160 characters... I'd be dead I guess. Most guys here with many bubbles are just these guys that go with the general opinion and do what you just said. It's such a shame really. Well, guess that's how everything works today, no one has time and everything has to be short and fast. N4G is just a sh**y product of that world. It's a good concept in gerneral, but the way it works is just broken.

However, I appreciate the likes I get even more, even if they are just a few. And if someone takes the time to criticize or reinforce what is said with their thoughts I can truly respect and appreciate that person. But there are just not enough people here willing to do that. Imho the only place where something like this can happen is on NeoGAF, even though I don't really like forums that much and therefor do not really post there a lot.

And I just realized, it is so ridiculous that even the author of this blogpost can only post as many comments as he has bubbles..

Blacklash931308d ago

I've honestly had people basically say 'I have agrees and you have disagrees, so I don't have to listen to you.'

That's why I don't like these systems. If someone wants to agree or disagree, they can post and tell me why. A number below my comment doesn't help anything.

Dark_king1311d ago (Edited 1311d ago )

I doubt there will be any changes, the community loves to fight and argue.They don't need to read to do that.I think articles should have a user rating are something though, something to allow N4G users to let others know if a article is good are not.There is no way to tell if a article is good are not before you read it are the comments(comments if your lucky anymore).I agree people need to read before they comment but they should also know if what there going to read is quality are not.

Edit:An no more 5 pages with one paragraph per page that annoys me and is just for hits.

admiralvic1311d ago

"something to allow N4G users to let others know if a article is good are not."

Well, if N4G worked the way it was "suppose" to, then all articles would be worth reading. However, that is not the case for two reasons.

1) Contributors are forced to approve things.
2) It's hard to win a case of "lame"

The biggest reason for all these "lame" articles, is that people have to approve something. If my site has 11 articles I need to network today, then I will need to approve 8 articles regardless of quality. A good portion of people will just approve the first 4 things they see and then go back to submitting articles. Because of this, a lot of articles that break the rules get approved without ever getting reported.

In addition to forced approves, you can very rarely win a case of lame. While any article on N4G can be called out as being lame, provided there is a legitimate reason, you will often see people defend pointless articles. A while back I reported an article that reported Namco Bandai claimed getting 20+ licenses was hard. I stated it was lame because it was pretty pointless and got 0 agrees and 7 disagrees.

In either case, if N4G worked like it was suppose to, then more articles would get thrown out for being lame and less would get approved simply because people had to. This would logically cause most of them to be "good", though this might just be wishful thinking.

maniacmayhem1311d ago

So many times I go in to articles with sensational headlines and then I actually read the article. It gives me a better understanding of what the title is talking about. But then I read the comments and it just baffles the hell out of me that others didn't take the time to do the same as they leave the wrong comments throughout the page.

I came across this twice just last week:

what-respawn-and-titanfall-ca n-teach-the-industry-about-next -gen-development


major-nelson-it-took-years-fo r-360-to-mature-same-long-game- planned-for-xbox-one

Both times the first poster made a wrong comment based on the title alone. I think the problem are people racing to be the first to comment and leaving posts that will get the most attention and therefore a "well said" and an extra bubble. Another problem with this site are posters playing to the majority of the communities views and leaving comments that are guaranteed to get them an extra bubble.

In my honest opinion the admins should flag this as an off topic immediately. I understand that they are volunteers and they have a life outside too, but if you want to take on that responsibility of an admin/mod then you have to do more than just look for the obvious N4G perps and keywords used to break the rules.

360ICE1310d ago

Agree. Admins or moderators could and should be a lot more involved. Not that I imagine most users will welcome that suggestion.

KingKevo1308d ago (Edited 1308d ago )

My guess is that those guys don't even bother to read the article. The just read the headline and then take a shot.

I'd guess that of the people who post comments about 80% click on the article, 30% actually read it partly and 10% read it all (depending on the article. Most articles are getting to that 'twitter level'. Really short, not telling much (even one vague quote makes a story nowadays) and also just repetition all over the place and tons of pics and/or vids. I'm talking about 'normal' length articles though).

Also, N4G should make me a mod. I'd clean this place up and flag the s*** out of some people. My goal is (most of the time) to post something more reflected with an actual meaning, rather than repeating the common opinion in a one-liner. But I guess they don't care about quality as long as there is quantity and they get a lot of hits and therefore cash through the commercials. Makes me glad to block ads on here btw.

thorstein1311d ago (Edited 1311d ago )

Sensationalist headlines are a problem. If you entitle an article "Why The Last of Us is Overrated" you should expect some angry reaction. But within the article the author never really meant that, then what is the purpose of the flaming title?

I wish you would have picked something better than "Video Games are Violent" because that was my graduate thesis. Violent Media does not cause violent individuals. This has been proven through peer reviewed, refereed research (that was alliterative). I am, quite honestly, done with the intellectual dishonesty of these articles, so when the first poster writes "No" that is an automatic bubble from me.

Good, thought provoking blog! Keep it up. One day gaming journalism just might get better.

360ICE1311d ago (Edited 1311d ago )

Thank you!

I think that since people don't take time to consider what an article is about, that also reinforces the point of having a provokative attention-grabber as a headline. Although, certainly journalists should avoid using sensationalist headlines.

On a sidenote though, how is "Why The Last of Us is Overrated" sensationalist? Sounds like a legitimate opinion, and something that could reflect the author's point, not that I agree with it.

Additionally, the reason I picked "Video games are violent" is because it's a topic everyone here considers a done deal. I wanted to due a hypothetical in which

Who cares about a "no"? Why should we care about what someone on the Internet thinks, instead of what reasons they give to think as they do?

"I think cats are from space"

Don't care. Nor should I.

"I think cats are from space because they're cuter than everything on earth."

Now you're giving me some good arguments. Not that I agree with them, but at least that's actually an assessment. I'd strongly encourage anyone to vote down people who only provide opinions, unless it's a completely trivial opinion like "Uncharted is fun".

admiralvic1311d ago

"On a sidenote though, how is "Why The Last of Us is Overrated" sensationalist? Sounds like a legitimate opinion, and something that could reflect the author's point, not that I agree with it. "

I would say "Why The Last of Us is Overrated" is indeed sensationalism, since these topics are usually "Why I didn't like The Last of Us". The difference is that you're making a broad reaching topic, which typically has a very narrow view.

thorstein1311d ago

There was a "TLOU is Overrated" article posted. That is why I referenced it. And in the article the author really wasn't claiming it was overrated, just the headline. That is unacceptable and used to be called Yellow Journalism.

"Additionally, the reason I picked "Video games are violent" is because it's a topic everyone here considers a done deal. I wanted to due a hypothetical in which "

Your thought is cut off here and then gets weird... when did I mention cats? But back to that, it's a topic everyone here considers a done deal, because it is a done deal.

The peer reviewed science shows us it is a done deal. Violent media does not make violent individuals. This has been studied for decades and the conclusions are exactly what the gaming community at large understands it to be.

360ICE1311d ago

Why I didn't like the Last of Us =/= Why The Last of Us is Overrated.

You can like something that's overrated. If you think Last of Us is overrated then that's a good title to use.


Well, of course then it's sensationalist, or just a bad use of a title in general. Wouldn't say there's anything inherent about that title bein sensationalist, though.

And oops. I must have deleted the wrong sentece. It was supposed to say "It was supposed to be a hypothetical in which something unlikely, but possible, is discovered about a topic. I don't believe the video game community would be able to tackle such an outcome, because so few people would actually consider what is discovered in the article. Also, completely "done deals" are quite rare in science.

Violent video games have actually been linked to many negative behaviorial patterns:


Regarding the cats, that's just a silly example set to illustrate that there's no point in plain opinions. Kind of redundant, really, but why not.

Blacklash931309d ago (Edited 1309d ago )

I agree that violent videogames will negatively affect children. But I rarely see much in-depth legitimacy behind the methodology in the studies provided, though.

It's the old problem that goes like "Data shows that people who eat lots of Onions are healthier." being phrased as "Data shows that people become healthier because they eat onions."

Context is lacking. What were the appetite habits of the children before the study? When was the last time they ate a meal? If they were more hungry, they would have more chocolate. What was their prior behavior and upbrining? What kind of parents did they have that let them play M-rated games? What implications might the cultural context have on their lives? How representative would a study with a controlled environment be to real life experiences? Those are question that HAVE to be considered beforehand and answered.

LogicStomper1308d ago

"Who cares about a "no"? Why should we care about what someone on the Internet thinks, instead of what reasons they give to think as they do? ...Now you're giving me some good arguments. Not that I agree with them, but at least that's actually an assessment."

Regarding the 'empty claims', I completely agree. It happens a lot, and when those empty claims are questioned, the usual response is something off-topic or contradictory with their original comment.(That is, of course, if they even have reasoning at all)

This is going a bit off-topic now and far-fetched but... Maybe it would be good to have no agree/disagree system. To me, it seems that it doesn't do enough what it's intended. You see opinions and facts commented, only to be raided with a swarm of disagrees. In a way, it gives the person commenting a false sense of being 'incorrect' from the community without the need for justification or reasoning. Maybe the removal of the agree/disagree system would force people to say *why* they disagree. Wouldn't this encourage a more logical approach when you disagree with someone? One hundred people could disagree and give a sense that you are wrong, but does this provide any reasoning/evidence that you are wrong? It doesn't. So do I (personally) think this agree/disagree system is doing any justice or better, anything useful? I don't think so.

The previous paragraph was just what popped into my head when I read your comment. I feel like I've digressed too much so back on-topic... I definitely agree with you.

+ Show (2) more repliesLast reply 1308d ago
360ICE1307d ago (Edited 1307d ago )

Agree with the onion-analogy. I actually made the same point in an article on video game volence. But again, this wasn't about what actually is, it was a thought-experiment.

But yeah, I agree with Blacklash that the conversation is going starting to go a little bit off-rails.

memots1310d ago

'People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.'