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Journalism, where art thou?

If you were to take a broad look at the state of gaming journalism; if even for just a moment could you say that it is in a good state? In my own personal opinion, I don't think anyone could. Except maybe the "journalists" themselves who believe they are doing a bang up job.

Gaming journalism has strayed far from the path it started out on. Where once it was a forum of passionate gamers who shared with those with like minds all the news that the majority couldn't have easy access to, has now become a state of tabloid reporting. During the days where there were only 1 or 2 gaming magazines, and maybe one tv show about gaming news (my personal fave was Electric Playground), the passion for real news and delivering that news to gamers was alive and flourishing. But, as is often the case, gaming journalism became too big. The advent of the internet made it so anyone could be a "journalist" and they could say anything they wanted and find an audience to listen and possibly believe it.

Nowadays there is no accountability, no integrity, no passion for delivering real news. It isn't about gamers informing gamers anymore; it's all about corporate sponsorships, website hits, and sensationalism. How many of you can recount, right from the top of your head, a "news" story that was in actuality an unfounded rumour, or a blatant piece of sensationalism, or an opinion made out to be fact? When is the last time any of you could honestly say you read a real, honest review about a game and not one where numbers are padded or essentially meaningless because there is no accurate scale? How many of you are tired of "journalists" covering only what they are paid to cover by corporate dollars?

A recent example of how bad gaming journalism is these days is the rumour of the cancellation of Final Fantasy Versus XIII. This rumour, perpetuated SOLELY by, is the height of sensationalism and hit mongering. In case you've been living on Mars, here is a link to the story.

Now, let's break down this piece of "news". The url and title both contain the word "rumour" in them. But upon reading the actual article, you'll see the first hint of it being an absolute truth when you see "Now Kotaku has learned that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is no more."

From this, and upon reading the rest of the article, one can clearly see that the infrequent use of the word rumour (or any variation) is designed solely for the sites own "protection" from backlash. They would be able to say "well we said it was a rumour" whenever anyone questioned it after official word was found. That is another sad example of the state of gaming journalism. Anything can be said, and then the words "it was just a rumour" or "it was just my opinion" can then be used to fall back on when what was reported turns out to be wrong or is so terrible it is called out by the masses. And in fact, this is exactly what Kotaku then did when the game was officially stated to still be in development by Yoichi Wada himself.

The following is a post from the NeoGaf forums by one Stephen Totilo of Kotaku in response to the refutation of his site's rumour.

Scroll down to see his post and you'll see a post that can be summed up by "we told you it was just a rumour." Kotaku staff believes that this gets them off the hook and removes all accountability from them. However their rumour was damaging, as it was shown to have an impact on SE's stock, which went down a little. Their rumour was run with by large and small sites all across the internet. Some even chose to post it as a fact (IGN) rather than a rumour. When reading Kotaku's article, one sees the mention of "several sources" but nowhere is it stated how these sources are related to the company or game. Only that they are sources. Is it then hard to believe that the rumour was made up? That Kotaku wanted to fabricate all of this? By their own admission, they contacted SE about FFVersus 13 before posting the rumour and received no satisfactory reply in 3 days. Could they have believed themselves to be so important, that in retaliation for a lack of cooperation from SE they created this rumour? I'll leave that for you to decide.

So why is gaming journalism like this? There is twofold answer. The first is one I mentioned earlier. Gaming journalism has become too big for its own good. It has become about business and less about passion. How many of you could swear that reviews or game coverage was bought? Especially across platforms. The second reason falls to us. We have let it become this and we let it continue as this. I stated earlier that there is an audience for every kind of news. That means that there are those that will run with rumours, believe anything and demand no accountability. There are even those that would defend what Kotaku did instead of standing up and forcing them to publicly apologize for a damaging rumour as well as making sure they never do something like this again.

We, the gamers, have been responsible for allowing shady journalism and shady business practices to become prevalent now. We hear what we want instead of what is truth, we ignore problems placed right in front of us and it needs to stop. Another recent example is CNN reporting that video games can create aggressive emotions. This was reported right on the heels of the Colorado shooting recently. We have had to fight against the idea that videogames cause violence for so long, that we don't bother paying full attention to what anyone says whenever violence and videogames are used in the same sentence anymore. The reported DID NOT say that the shooter did what he did BECAUSE of video games. The reporter said that video games can bring out aggressive emotions. THAT IS THE TRUTH! Can any of you say with absolute certainty that you NEVER experienced an adrenaline rush or heightened aggressive feelings when in a heated game? If you can, then you are either a robot or lying.

But since we have had to fight against the lies that games are the cause of violent actions so many times, we instinctively pounce on anyone who would dare to even create a small link between the two. This is with just cause, but we have to be better than this. We have allowed too many wrongs in gaming to be committed. We allow on-disc DLC, we allow buggy releases, we allow poor reviewing, we allow unfounded rumours, we allow bad journalism. We allow all of it when we don't stand up and fight it. We allow it when we focus our attention in the wrong areas.

Kotaku and sites just like them will continue to have a damaging effect on the gaming industry so long as there are apologizers that allow them to hide behind the words "rumour" and "opinion." The media has been responsible for creating the "armchair review" era in which everyone thinks they are a critic. Developers find it difficult to please ANYONE because of this and so we are forced to endure more of the same in our gaming experiences. Gaming media shouldn't have ANY influence on game development. We need to put an end to it.

Do you agree? Or am I wrong? I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

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coolbeans2095d ago (Edited 2095d ago )

1.) I think it became rather telling of how the 'review-o-sphere' in gaming became illegitimate when even Yahtzee (I think) encouraged followers of escapistmagazine (the site that employs him) to examine their reviews under a microscope for games that get beefy advertising on that site. Of course, he meant that for all other sites as well.

I know there's irony in bringing a sensationalist rumor up like this one (that I heard from a popular gaming podcast), but I feel compelled to tell that metacritic deals, such as Fallout: NV that was recently released, in certain contracts with publishers have been said to work both ways. To explain: if a publisher has a bonus deal with X developer to reach X metascore, they (the pubs) are compelled to give favors for LOWER scores from meta-approved gaming sites so no bonuses to contracted devs has to be given.

2.) I also begin to wonder how much influence journalism from older mediums has been a detriment. Even when watching/listening to certain analysts today or shows like 'The Newsroom,' I never hear any of today's elite being praised; they always mention Cronkite, those two Washington Post journalists who-rightly-took down Nixon (their names escape me), etc. etc. Just think of any fresh journalism grad wanting to write for an industry he/she has a passion for and looking at what has become the accepted in today's world:

- News outlets falsely reporting Rep. Giffords death.

- Certain sensationalist topics against Obama

- Typical TMZ "reporting"

It's sad...really, really sad.

DragonKnight2095d ago

Yahtzee is one of my favorite reviewers. He doesn't score a game, he just tells you what he personally thinks of it. He admits if it's part of a genre that he doesn't particularly like so that you know that his review is already tainted with a dislike for the genre, and you should judge the game for yourself and not take solely his word for it. He doesn't believe in numbered scores and that's really the way it should be. Numbered scores are so skewed these days that an 8 means a 5 to most people.

There needs to be some accountability. One of the mods, cgoodno I believe, was talking about how there should be a kind of rating system for developers with poor practices in dealing with fans, such as the segregation of userbases by means of exclusive DLC content on one platform. Taking that idea, I believe it can also be adapted for use against gaming "journalists."

We may not be able to make them change over night, but if there were a rating system designed by and for gamers to judge who has journalistic integrity and who doesn't, perhaps the scrutinizing eye of so many would make them change their ways and we can have the good old days of actual game related NEWS back again. But it could be wishful thinking on my part.

poolsharky272095d ago (Edited 2095d ago )

I think perhaps we should have a 'metacritic' that reviews the 'journalists'.

Then we could get a sense of whether people like the reviewer/ their credibility. People would then be able to follow journalists instead of the main websites.

It would be easier to see people being hypocritical(as opposed to the current collect sites), and it would be easier to determine inconsistencies and bias.

Basically people should follow journalists not the websites the review on; and we need a way to rate+review the journalist's consistencies.

edit: edited for clarity

edit2: Another idea would be to have users say if the review was helpful, thumbs up/down, like on amazon when it asks if this review was helpful or not.

Series_IIa2095d ago

Sorry but in general, journalism has never had integrity...

"Nowadays there is no accountability, no integrity, no passion for delivering real news."

So where you get this nowadays business from I don't know.

- Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

thorstein2095d ago (Edited 2095d ago )

"Yellow Journalism - n
the type of journalism that relies on sensationalism and lurid exaggeration to attract readers"
Yes. Journalists used to have integrity. What do you think Ray Bradbury is talking about in Fahrenheit 451? (source:

thorstein2095d ago (Edited 2095d ago )

Wonderful post. Spot on. Gaming journalism has really gone downhill. And there are varying reasons. When EGM returned, I was ecstatic and subscribed right away. It took awhile for my first issue. They did some neat stuff with electronic publishing and I loved my physical magazine as well. But then they went icrazy and everything was about maximizing the digital content for the iPad and completely ignored the many subscribers that had backed their return and weren't really interested in iversions. Sad to say, I let my subscription lapse after getting no replies to my concerns nor did they even send me an email/ snail mail wanting me to come back as a subscriber. Now I just read the mags that are based on my systems like Playstation, Nintendo Power and OXM.

I also blogged twice about how crappy reviews have become. They are the epitome of the terrible, yellow journalism that has become gaming journalism (and journalism in general).

MacDonagh2095d ago

Game journalism is an utter fraud for a number of reasons. Video game companies see critics as outlets for their marketing schemes. They refuse to ask the tough questions, get caught up in the hype and give out sweetheart reviews to whatever game is being marketed on their collective websites. I agree with the sentiments of this blog, but gamers are also very much to blame for this practice. Large groups of gamers will defend a game to the death if it's not been rated as highly as they would've liked like Uncharted 3 for example. Instead of behaving in a proper manner; they come out with illogical, reactionary opinions attacking the messenger but not the article, behaving like a proverbial 3rd Wave. The Kotaku article didn't faze me whatsoever because it was far more likely that Squeenix were probably the ones who started the rumour in the first place since it'd give their forever-delayed game some exposure and get people talking. Is that outside the realms of possibility? Judging by the questionable practices done by various other video game publishers in the past; this "rumour" about FF Versus could just be another jab at viral marketing to heighten demand and build up hype.

DragonKnight2095d ago

I don't think that SE started the rumour. They wouldn't need to to give Versus exposure. Hell, they could have released 1 new screenshot and people would be talking about it for a month. I still lean towards Kotaku for fabricating everything.

Christopher2095d ago

Modern video game journalism has moved along with the prevalence of reality TV programming and the news around such things. The focus has moved away from the truth and analysis of the news and to catering to the soap opera drama. The console wars started and will never go away. The growth of the Internet has allowed anyone and their Mom to create a rumor, a preview, or a review.

So, how do you change it?

You don't.

That's right, there's no way to change what draws people to comment on N4G and other sites, which rarely is actual video gaming news that includes in depth research or worthwhile opinion pieces that use subjective and remove unnecessary bias. These things will remain. It's the future.

But, it's not all bad. What we need to do is find and cultivate those sites/persons who do it right. We need to promote them as best as we can. We need to hold them in high regard above others and link to them for reference whenever we can. We need to remind people that these sites and people still exist and there's more to being a journalist than creating a barrier between gamers and instead create bridge that closes the gap between the fans and the people who provide games and similar media for the fans.

***One of the mods, cgoodno I believe, was talking about how there should be a kind of rating system for developers with poor practices in dealing with fans, such as the segregation of userbases by means of exclusive DLC content on one platform. Taking that idea, I believe it can also be adapted for use against gaming "journalists." ***

That problem with that is how far do you go and who do you truly recognize as a journalist? So many sites out there today, so many people who make a living off of how they present video game news. That's more complicated than the publishers and developers who deliver specific products when we're also talking about various content types on a daily basis and with multiple people per site.

Not impossible, but that's a big offering.

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