Since the beginning of the decade there has been an online revolution, it’s called the blog. It’s given a voice to the voiceless. It has provided the opportunities that for most people would have been impossible before it’s inception. What started as something personal, became professional. Guys that liked talking about gadgets would eventually become Gizmodo, Engadget and LifeHacker. Guys the liked talking about games would become Kotaku, Joystiq, and Destructiod. Sites are popping up all the time now, and the bigger sites are scared. IGN is a perfect example of this. They went so far as to transform into blog style to reconnect with their readers who are slowly but surely looking at different avenues for their news, mostly sites like the one you’re currently reading. Times are changing, and you may hate it or love it but one thing is for sure, gaming blogs are taking over.
A couple of weeks ago, I appeared on an online talk show by the name of Counterpoint. It was basically an online debate that focused on and discussed recent gaming stories that were making headlines that week. I was on hand to represent my site (DualShockers), and after five rounds I ended up coming out with the win.
One topic that ruffled a few feathers was a segment devoted to N4G. For those of you unfamiliar with the site it is a social news aggregate similar to Digg.com in many respects, where it’s users dictate what’s deemed news worthy and/or interesting and vote it up by comments and views.
It wasn’t that our segment bashed N4G, but it raised a good question; and that was whether N4G is good or bad for gaming journalism? It seemed like a great topic (and title for the piece) at the time. Yet that one question opened up a whole new can of worms, as users of the news site took it upon themselves to not only defend N4G as if they owned it but also discredit gaming bloggers as not being journalists. After reading many of those comments, I figured it would be right to set the record straight for those that feel the same way and think that gaming “journalism” isn’t journalism at all.
1. the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing or broadcasting news or of conducting any news
That is the way journalism is described according to dictionary.com, and if there are gaming blogs out there who do not fall under this category by the definition of the word, I’ve never seen one. Readers on sites like Digg, N4G, and to a lesser extent Gamekicker have this notion that bloggers are miserable overweight men living in their parent’s basements full of rants and sensationalist headlines and arguments. They think that many of these blogs require no skill or knowledge of the industry and are run by bias opinionated heathens, and to an extent they may be right, as there are both good ones and bad ones out there. However there are certain blogs (this one being one of them) that each and every day, provide readers with as much of the latest gaming news as they possibly can. We may be few and far between, but we do in fact exist.
Another argument, and it’s what probably separates most writers, journalists, bloggers, or whatever you want to call us, is our integrity pertaining to reviewing games. Recently, I had an in depth conversation about this with one of the Public Relations people I collaborate with for review products. He’ll remain anonymous for now but what I will say is that he works for one of the big 3. We were going back and forth about blog and site integrity and he brought up many great points, which should provide some insight. It isn’t just readers that are uncomfortable with certain sites reviewing games as game publishers have similar reservations as well, and it’s all with good reason.
Not to go back to my episode taping on Counterpoint, but one thing that was brought up during a behind the scenes segment was talk about IGN and the whole Gamespot firing Jeff Gerstmann (over the low review score on Kane and Lynch) debacle. It was the notion of once your getting paid, your essentially getting paid to keep your mouth shut. And while I agreed with that idea at the time, my Public Relations buddy clarified that a bit further. He said “larger sites have to maintain some decorum because their jobs depend on it, they’re less likely to fly off the handle about something related to a game…you can call it journalistic integrity” and now come to think of it he couldn’t be anymore right. He also goes on to say, “if they hate a game, they can hate it, but it’s their job (key word here) that they also try to find at least one good thing about the game they hate, a blogger on the other hand, has no obligations to anyone. He could theoretically have a bad day and go off on a game, trashing it like crazy and not have to fear about losing their job.” And while I do agree with him that there has to be a sense of accountability, with that said it isn’t hard to see that if you want a genuine review, you’re going to find it on the blogs before you find it on the bigger sites out there.
You may not always agree with the score your favorite game receives online, but that doesn’t mean the person is assigning it that score without reason. A recent one that comes to mind is Desctructoid’s Jim Sterling take on Assassin’s Creed 2. People (mostly miserable internet trolls) write him off as being sensationalist with his headlines, stories, and reviews, but if you take the time to actually read the writing before jumping down his throat in the comments section, he might just turn you into a believer. One of our writers gave AC2 five stars with plenty of reasons why, where Jim Sterling gave it less than 5 out of 10 but he explained in detail as to why he did so. Jim Sterling is not the only one as there are others like him who aren’t scared to say how it really is, yet as soon as they do, if the masses do not agree then they are no longer considered “journalists.”
If your favorite game receiving an unfavorable review bothers you that much, than maybe you should hear that a recent study shows that game sales are actually more dependent on word of mouth more so than advertisements and review scores. So when you do find a game you really like, make sure to tell everyone you know about it, instead of cursing out a reviewer you don’t agree with.
Every real gamer has that one game store they frequent. Not because it’s the closest or because they save a few bucks by going there. It’s usually because everyone knows their name, and they can go in there and shoot the shit with the clerk, as well as get some insight from other patrons. Well, us blogs are just like that game store, except for the fact that we don’t sell anything. We’re jam packed with real gamers, with real news, real editorials, and most importantly real reviews. If you want online propaganda and advertisements that determine how games get reviewed head over to the big sites.