Think where we would be without entertainment journalism. Over the years since the invention of the printing press, reporting on and reviewing the output of the theatre, broadcasting and film industries has been a vital part of the craft. It has given us some of the best writers and broadcasters in our trade and some of the most successful businesses. Think TV Week, Entertainment Tonight and the Movie Show. It has also acted as a chronicle of our culture and our times.
Now, there is a new kind of entertainment more complex and arguably more absorbing than television ever managed to be yet largely ignored by professional journalists. It is gaming. The gamers of my acquaintance are well ahead of the curve on new media and its implications. Games like Second Life (now distinctly old hat, by the way) have their own publications “in game”. The communities that gather around mega-games like World of Warcraft have their own news sites, and there are very efficient online social networks that swap news and views on even the most obscure games. Gaming is the exemplar of interactive, participatory media. Journalists should be learning from it, because it has a great deal to teach about how media can work in the internet age.
Non-gamers won’t realise just how social gaming can be. Players are usually engaged in a constant online conversation while they play. Gaming can be like a cards night might have been for our grandparents – an excuse for low-pressure socialising and bonding. Gaming is a newly possible mix between sport, social networking and entertainment.
Advertising within games is well established. I was experimenting with a car race and smash-em-up a few months ago, and the advertising bill boards I bashed into (reader, I confess I was no good at it) were for real products and services. But what about the journalism? That has yet to come of age, and growing up is beginning to be overdue.
Price Waterhouse Cioopers has estimated that the worldwide game market will grown at an average of 11.4 per cent over the next few years – twice the rate of film and television.
So that’s why today I am running the following guest post from Patrick Brosnan, who is trying to pioneer a worthwhile gaming journalism. The audience is there – international, engaged and affluent. The business model can be developed. Who will step up?
The Nature of Game Journalism
I’m not sure if you have ever witnessed what has passed for journalism within the gaming industry, or even if you would call it journalism at all. Due to the online nature of gaming culture it has become the norm for gaming news stories to be written in a blog style, infected with sarcasm and bias. The focus of video game journalism has been to entertain first, whilst informing second. Journalists within this industry have sub-consciously thought their audience comprises solely of thirteen year old boys with short attention spans so they write short, “fun” and bias articles to please them. Now days, this could not be further from the truth. The average age of a gamer is now 33 years old (as is shown here). It is because of this the game journalism industry must mature as well.
Gamers love games. To an extent I’ve never seen with any other area of interest. They hold them close to the very centre of their being. So much so, that an attack on a beloved game or on games themselves is a personal attack. This could be for many reasons. One could be that when we play a game we are almost always having a different experience to someone else who has played the same game. This is never the case with any other form of entertainment (or art). Although movies, literature and music can be interpreted in many ways the consumer is always having exactly the same experience as the next person. Not so for video games. This personalizes games for the player in a unique way. What do we do with uniquely enjoyable experiences? We cherish them.
What then, is the above paragraph doing on a blog concerned with journalism? Well I’m writing because video game journalism is crying out for help. It’s a poor little baby left in the supermarket, a lost dog, a grandparent collapsed on the bathroom floor. This is not news. Game journalism’s immaturity has been analyzed by many people in the industry. Chris Buffa’s first attempt to determine what is wrong with game journalism was titled simply “Why Videogame Journalism sucks” . The crux of his problem with game journalism was that it doesn’t attract the best writers. Why would a talented up and coming journalist write for IGN when he/she could write for The Times, Sports Illustrated or Variety? A good point, but would like to determine what it is exactly that makes the current batch of video game news publications and “journalists” so biased and opinionated.
Gaming culture is full of opinion, which is fantastic. Nothing is better for a gamer than arguing their point of view on a particular game or industry development. It is the reason for the popularity of the blog format. However it is for this reason that game journalists are so biased. Their passionate opinions seep through the cracks and into their writing. It is our very love for video games that is damaging the way in which they are reported. Yet the readers love it, they feed off the sarcasm, the wit. It’s entertaining, yet misleading. Do we see The Times forcing their point of view on the reader? No, they respect their readership, allowing them to make up their own mind. I’ve been an avid gamer for most of my life and I have rarely seen this type of reporting in the game media.” Opinion pieces” also known as “feature articles” are passing for news reporting. Game journalism needs to evolve.
What is the solution? We need writers who want to become journalists. Not gamers who want to become journalists. I am the editor of a site called Player Three . Though the site is in its infancy, we aim to report on gaming news in a clear objective way. We also hope to place every news story in a wider context, providing the reader with a “bigger picture” by demonstrating how the story fits within the gaming industry and gaming culture. Structurally, Player Three will one day operate on two tiers, the foundation being the journalists. These journalists don’t necessarily need a vast general knowledge on the gaming industry, yet they will provide the journalistic foundation of every story. The second tier comprises the gamers, those with in depth knowledge of the nature of video games who can therefore edit the original story and place it within the wider context. Through this combination of both journalists and game enthusiasts Player Three will one day become a respectable gaming news site worthy of the title “Video Game Journalists”.
If you are interested in joining this project, please send an email to [email protected].