Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Ridiculousness of Video Games Journalism


Journalists have a reputation for taking themselves too seriously, especially those in the enthusiast press. Video Games and Games Journalism are very much in their adolescent stage. We've moved on from just doing random shit to some state of controlled existence, but we still have no idea what we're doing, not by a long shot. And we're crazy awkward. And we might like Twilight.

I won't give a long history, but games journalism started with magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly, Nintendo Power and Computer Gaming World. They started and matured far after the invention of video games, but they do mark the start of our enthusiast press. Back then you had to wait month over month for any hint of news that mattered. EGM shipped in huge issues with a billion articles and that's all you got each month. But it's not like the information couldn't come quicker.

Newspapers, weekly, or daily, magazines exist, but very rarely would they contain gaming news of any kind. Generally, especially in the 90's we only heard the bad things that video games could cause. So all the EGMs and CGWs might as well have been devil worship to the mainstream. Today with blogs like Joystiq and larger outlets like 1up and IGN we get news normally the moment that it happens. When we don't get news that quickly, it's because of an embargo.

An Embargo is more or less an agreement that you won't let out information until a certain day and time. The idea is to give everyone ample time to write articles about such and such event and whatever content was seen. An embargo isn't like a contract though, anyone can pop the cap at any moment. However, not following the embargo will crush the chances of that outlet getting review copies or invitations.

When it comes to reviews, an embargo allows everyone to get a copy, write a review and post it at the same time. Something like this normally allows the whole world to see what the game has to offer at the same time and generally a few days before the game is out. Sometimes an embargo is used to give certain outlets big scoops, so there's a lot of grey area and argument over the usefulness and necessity of embargoes when it comes to just normal news.

I write this today because of a scandal that was highlighted in this Gamepro article (The link has since broken with the death of Gamepro). Really, the article is just bitching and complaining. At a Namco event, the 'special' character for Soul Calibur 4 was announced (it's Ezio from Assassin's Creed). The content of the event in question was embargoed for a later date, but one of the bloggers took a blurry picture with his phone and emailed it to a popular blog. That blog then posted the blurry picture in speculation, like a blog or news outlet should.

This managed to piss off a lot of people, but it made that news topic the most talked about thing for a day or two. The real news eventually got out through the normal channels and it was true, but this isn't always the case. The Gamepro article is just a lot of bitching and complaining. There is no games journalism to destroy. So long as there is news, there will be blogs and journalists. It's childish to think that journalism, even niche journalism like this, has to follow a strict pattern and must be disseminated in a 'correct' fashion.

Blogs aren't destroying anything, even the kamikaze blogs so thoughtfully described in that article. Blogs, until newspapers start to post stories about games press, are one of the only ways to hear about new games information. They have been and are the future. They are going no where. If anything, embargoes need to kick it. Imagine this: everyone goes to the same event gets the same embargo for a month from that day. One or two weeks later, a large outlet sponsored by the event coordinators slams out a long, beautiful story. Not only is the news not news when you can talk about it, but everyone asks where your preview or event story is. It's embarrassing and annoying, and stupid. Fuck Embargoes (that are unrelated to reviews), news should go up as it happens.

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