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 Kotaku.com, 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.