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Games Journalists vs. The Society of Professional Journalists

I watched an interesting video on youtube that linked to a tweet made by Polygon's Brian Crecente, which you can read here.

So, like the video that showed me this tweet, I decided to take my own stab at this topic and rate how much games journalism follows this code, if at all.

The code can be found here.

Let's begin.

Seek Truth and Report It
-Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Well right away we know that this is false. The current state of gaming journalism is to seek sensationalism and show extreme bias, hence why rumour stories and "insider" stories vastly outnumber legitimate, truthful news. Sensationalist headlines are the rule of thumb, as is the latest social justice craze and we all know that any social justice story is never filled with facts, instead it's filled with emotion.

Journalists should: —Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

Again false. Games journalists prefer to post from anonymous sources so that they don't have to worry about being accurate. Insiders are also preferred so the onus can be passed on to them if the information is wrong.

-Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

When has there ever been follow up stories from gaming journalism at all? The incidents are few and far between, so the opportunity for subjects to respond to any allegations of wrongdoing are usually left up to the subject, and then only if they feel a need to respond which they normal don't.

—Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.

This only occurs when there is no way to hide the sources, such as public event interviews. Gaming journalists will hide any sources they have all the time, and the sad part is that they have no reason to except the possible threat of being blacklisted, which isn't really a threat at all. In the real world of journalism, protecting a source can be necessary to protect that person's life, in gaming journalism no one's life is at stake.

—Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

Never happens. Sites like Kotaku or Polygon would rather just report the information as is than question it. It's more important that they be the first to get the story out rather than care about the authenticity or motivation behind it.

-Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

Is this a joke? I'm seriously laughing at this because gaming journalism is NOTORIOUS for its use of tabloid style reporting. Sensationalism and hyperbole are kind of like the law in gaming journalism. Hell, just look at what happened to Nintendo with Tomodachi Life. How many of the sites actually looked into the situation before calling Nintendo homophobic?

—Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.

Remember how many game trailers and in-game footage were represented as being, say, Xbox 360 footage of a game when in fact they were PS3 footage but doctored to look like they were 360 footage? Sounds like distortion to me, how about you?

-Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.

This doesn't really apply except in cases where games are shown behind closed doors and we have to take the word of the press about what happened. We have no way of proving or disproving it, and it's already been established that the gaming press have no ethics so far.

-Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.

Insiders. 'nuff said.

-Never plagiarize.

Although he's not really a gaming journalist, HipHopGamer was guilty of this and he definitely isn't the only one. The problem is that gaming journalism is very closed to new journalists. The established sites always get first crack and all the perks so sometimes plagiarism happens.

-Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.

This is a tricky one. I don't think that this is saying "report social justice issues even if people don't want to hear about it." I think it's saying be sure to tell every side of the story, which also doesn't happen in gaming journalism.

-Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

Tomodachi Life and Anita Sarkeesian. 'nuff said once again.

-Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.

Well, Polygon recently had Jonathan McIntosh post a story about white male privilege while gaming so...

-Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

How far do you think I'd go if I tried to post an "All girls should look like Ivy from Soul Calibur" story on IGN?

-Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.

Gaming journalism actually trumpets the loudest voices only. The voiceless are hardly ever heard, and when they want to be heard they are either ignored or attacked. Case in point, indie games coverage is severely lacking, and male gamers who don't like being called monsters are attacked for voicing such displeasure.

-Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

Given how many sites, especially IGN, overhype things; I think it's safe to say that they are incapable of distinguishing the two.

-Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Most gaming journalism is a hybrid that blurs the line between the two. It's why so many consider the big journalism sites to be bought and paid for by advertisers or game publishers.

Minimize Harm
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

Did anyone see the twitter battle between IGN's Editor-In-Chief and Angry Joe? So much respect in that one.

Journalists should: —Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.

Is that what they did to the developer of Dragon's Crown?

-Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.

This should be hammered into the foreheads of SO MANY gaming journalists that it's not even funny. They should be forced to see this in the mirror every single day because this doesn't happen at all. The smug indignation that comes from some games journalists is sickening sometimes.

-Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

I feel like I could have just consistently written "HA" after a lot of these and save some time.

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

This entire section is a complete write off. I'm not even going to elaborate because we all know where this one would head.

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

And this one is probably the biggest write off of the whole piece. Absolutely no gaming journalist ever takes accountability for the B.S. they report. They hardly interact with anyone who calls them out, and when they do, they do so with more smugness and this idea that they are right and you are wrong.

Gaming journalism is a complete joke and fails all applicable aspects of this code of ethics. That Brian Crecente actually believes what his tweet says is merely proof that he is divorced from reality, but then you'd have to be to write for Polygon and think anyone takes you seriously.

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HonestDragon1447d ago

"Sites like Kotaku or Polygon would rather just report the information as is than question it. It's more important that they be the first to get the story out rather than care about the authenticity or motivation behind it."

They are the internet equivalent of TMZ. They bank on sensationalism and barely give a shred of original content that can be described as thoughtful or insightful. No one should take either site seriously.

"Hell, just look at what happened to Nintendo with Tomodachi Life. How many of the sites actually looked into the situation before calling Nintendo homophobic?"

Simply put, it's mob-like mentality orchestrated by one's misunderstanding, hate, or agenda. Get the pitch forks and torches ready because they are on a witch hunt! Shoot first, ask questions later! Nintendo didn't deserve the kind of backlash they got. Any media outlet that cried "Nintendo is homophobic" is looking for hits.

"Tomodachi Life and Anita Sarkeesian. 'nuff said once again."

Very true.

"How far do you think I'd go if I tried to post an "All girls should look like Ivy from Soul Calibur" story on IGN?"

Not far. Even if you managed to get passed the administrators, you would face an immediate media blitz of journalists calling for your head. Could be worse though. You can always add "#dealwithit" after posting the article on Twitter.

"Did anyone see the twitter battle between IGN's Editor-In-Chief and Angry Joe? So much respect in that one."

Dude, that was all kinds of ridiculousness. That IGN joke of a journalist attacks AJ on Twitter of all places and has the gall to insult him. Twitter is pretty much the same as arguing with someone on national television. That guy made a jackass of himself.

"Gaming journalism is a complete joke and fails all applicable aspects of this code of ethics. That Brian Crecente actually believes what his tweet says is merely proof that he is divorced from reality, but then you'd have to be to write for Polygon and think anyone takes you seriously."

I think this link will provide an appropriate joke for that last paragraph.

NewMonday1446d ago

most games news sites and especially the big ones like IGN,GS, Polygon and GT are 2nd party marketing outlets, they just post some game related stuff to get your clicks.

Septic1445d ago (Edited 1445d ago )

Hey guys...don't worry. There's only one website you guys need to visit if you want journalistic integrity and that's *takes sunglasses off*


Anyway, having started the site, one thing I've always said to the team is that we do not compromise on honesty as well as transparency. Mind you, sometimes you have to dramatise the headlines a bit but that practice is normal in other industries as well.

I mean, take your commentary on 'social justice warriors'. I would gladly publish some of the stuff you have posted regarding that on my site.

Tbh I don't give a s*** about walking on egg-shells with my site. I mean come on, look at our videos:

I guess we aren't the 'big boys' like IGN and Gamespot but to be honest, a lot of the time I wonder why people (including myself) take their views seriously or over those of smaller sites. We really are gamers first, that's what the focus always has been. We have had loads of arguments and debates in the team about the vision and future roadmap for Gameondaily but I always make one thing clear; be honest.

We had a big debate over the review score for Mario Kart 8 which one of my writers scored a 10. Now I'm quite a harsh critic and I wouldn't give it that and others kind of agreed. I want our site's review scores to have value but I don't want to be harsh just for the sake of it.

At the end of the day, I thought it would be disingenuous to 'force' my writer James to tone down the score so we published it. I wonder if the big guys have that kind of honest discussion like we did a few days ago.

I did an interview with Guerilla Games but it was so harsh that I can't even publish it lol. I was being a bit over-bearing in my criticisms I think so I let go at the end.

I'm gonna stay quiet now before someone reads this and warns devs about us at Gamescom and E3 next year.

Good blog though. It made me think about what I'm doing with Gameondaily. Thumbs up.

Ravenor1445d ago

Patrick can be a bit of a Social Justice Warrior, but I enjoy his articles and interviews. Jeff is always insightful (Not in a prediction sense) and I find Vinny, Alex and Brad to be one of the most fair and balanced groups out there. None of them enjoy the idea of being a mouth piece or anything like an IGN or Polygon, Brad visibly shudders.

The biggest issue is that game news, and the kind of stuff we see in "games journalism" isn't real journalism. It's enthusiast press, it's covering the stories of games for enthusiasts of this hobby. It's the exact same as the writers who work for something like a Paintball magazine, or motorsport. They cover the spats, the drama and when things burn to the ground in almost the exact same way as games journalism. They don't rely on insiders and rumours quite so much though.

I agree things can change and be improved, I do feel the mouthpiece factor of games journo's could be turned down. I just think it's difficult for people on the outside looking in, to really know what that person truly thinks. Do they really think the E3 build of whatever game is AMAZING, or is it some mysterious evil corporate overlord yanking on the chain? I don't know, how can I know?

As I've grown over these years, I've evolved how I interpret and internalize preview material and pre release content. The game Homefront was originally pitched as was PRETTY flipping different from what I got in the end. You learn from things like Soldner and Homefront

SO here is my crappy, band-aid solution: Look at the preview content, understand that what they are playing or doing could in fact just be a demo created for that preview event, featuring encounters, content and gameplay that isn't even present in the final game, INTERNALIZE AND WAIT understand what the developers are going for, watch finished final code and decide if the preview content was an accurate representation of the final product.

-If yes and you still like what you see?
Go buy that game, what are you doing waiting? Idiot!

-If no, decide whether you think the final game still looks like it's worth your time.

I'm pretty rarely disappointed by games that look good in previews nowadays. Unlike the 90's/Early 2000's where it was constant.

DragonKnight1445d ago

@Septic: Have you considered publishing those debates on your site so that people can see that one reviewer with one opinion doesn't speak for everyone? I mean, you can maintain the score if you wish so that the site isn't overcrowded with the same game having multiple scores, but have an article or a podcast/video about the debate.

I think that would be different. I'm not aware of any site that does anything like that myself.

Septic1445d ago


Mate that's exactly what we proposed. We were very close to publishing a disclaimer or our views on that but in the end, some felt that it undermined the reviewer's opinion.

What we are thinking of doing is now exactly what you suggest, a video discussion for everyone to see.

Actually, this was inspired by Tommy Tallarico's duel reviews that you showed me. That was such a breath of fresh air that I shared the video at our conference meeting we had (the baseball game review one-brilliant stuff).

For example, my mate Ilyas and I are always at loggerheads with each other. He's very knowledgeable all things Sony and is a self-confessed Sony fanboy (although he hates the term fanboy) and therefore we get into quite a few arguments.

You can see some of that in our video debate regarding Game of the Generation (7:48 onwards):

But that's just a mild taste of how heated it gets lol. At our E3 coverage I think s*** will hit the fan lmao

Even you DK, I've had loads of spats with you but after a while I sometimes regret it after having massive e-battles with you lol because I know exactly where you're coming from. You're sincere. That's why I like what you post.

With all due respect to the big guys, IGN, Gamespot etc, I don't see that conviction or passion in what they do. I don't see those heated discussions that I expect gamers to have. I just don't see it at all. I don't see it when they interview industry vets or when they review games.

Angry Joe on the other hand, that guy I can relate to. I take his views more seriously than what IGN say. He's not even a journalist. Says it all really.

DragonKnight1445d ago

@Septic: I'm going to have to visit your site more often I think. I'm glad I was able to help you in some small way, and I really respect that you want to be a site that shows diversity of opinion and that discussion is really important.

Too many sites nowadays just post their stuff on the site and leave it at that, as though there's is the last word on the subject. It's pretty terrible actually.

Anyone that can take on the style of people like Tommy and Angry Joe are already leagues ahead of the game in my opinion. For what it's worth, you have my sincerest respect.

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mydyingparadiselost1446d ago

Yep, that's pretty much a fair analysis of game journalism today. The worst part is that code goes ignored by most professionals as well and they report on things far more important. I guess the only thing left to do is find a way to fix game journalism.

SeraphimBlade1446d ago

I just want to point out there's a difference between being a jounalist and being a critic. You mention Sarkeesian, she's the latter. She doesn't report things. She just says what she thinks. Journalism is "Tomodachi life won't have an option for same-sex relationships. Here's why." Criticism is "Tomodachi life won't have an option for same-sex relationships. Here's why I think that's wrong." And somewhere along the line, expressing any opinions that dissent from the status quo became "forcing your views" on the internet.

Though I agree, it's unfortunate there isn't a place for dry, transparent news in gaming. And sites like ours are probably exactly why. I think growing up alongside the internet was the worst thing to happen to the gaming community, personally.

DragonKnight1446d ago

I mention Sarkeesian not for her work, but for how gaming journalism and even developers report on her work and award her for it.

And when the bulk of the stuff popping up on game journalism sites is what you described as criticism, then that's the point where people like Brian Crecente should stop trying to call themselves gaming journalists and start calling themselves critics. His tweet says "Game journalists are still journalists", but going by your comment that couldn't be further from the truth.

NYC_Gamer1446d ago

It's rare to find real journalist in this age of fighting over clicks/web traffic

DefenderOfDoom21446d ago

Well the people i follow TOTALBISCUIT -, JEFF GERTZMANN and GIANT BOMB - SUPER BUNNYHOP (George Weidman) heck even ADAM SESSLER - Do not consider themselves video game journalistist! N4G ,IGN , GAMESPOT NEO-GAF ect........ are just advertising for the video game studios ! Video games are entertainment not politics!!!!

cl19831445d ago

You realize that N4G only congregates news stories, and doesn't create write any of the stories.

DefenderOfDoom21443d ago

tocl11983 / So this story by DRAGOKNIGHT came from another website ? Listen i work 3 jobs . I do love N4G and its community ! Only gaming sites that i go to are N4G and GIANT BOMB ! Every thing else i watch about gaming, i just go to YOUTUBE - I love to watch 3 hour speeches by game developers on YOUTUBE ! To both DRAGONKNIGHT and SEPTIC here is a little advice from someone who has attracted over millions of hits on the website i used to work on ! Be an expert on video games period ! Rememeber you are a provider of info, about the video game industry, to give to more people ! Also be real honest and do not worry about hurting other peoples feeling . If you tell the truth, people will respect you!!! Thanks to N4G COMMUNITY !!!! CHEERS !!!

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