Playing Professionally

I am going to preface what I am saying with a brief re-counting of the years I spent reviewing games. When I started over at Dignews, I got big flat boxes from Dan every couple of weeks with a big stack of games I had to review. There was a lot of crap in there, though that was always an opportunity to get creative in how I wrote up the review. Writing for Macgasm the last few years, I have moved outside of the model of review copies. I occasionally can ask for a code here or there, but it isn't the norm. Nothing really changed other than I directed my own interests to which new games I paid attention to.

Which brings me to this madness. Kotaku is saying that they've been blacklisted for reporting on upcoming announcements from Bethesda and Ubisoft. Considering that PR in Video Games gives literally zero fucks what Kotaku or any other writer thinks, I'm not going to doubt the veracity of the claims. That said, when you literally blow months of planning for E3 with an ill timed leak, PR people are going to feel you're screwing with their livelihood. This is one of the most orchestrated industry events outside of an Apple keynote and you're ensuring that your scoop gets a lot of the attention, not the controlled information coming out of the event.

I'm torn on this one. When I was covering PAX and E3 every year, I saw a lot of people get treated like crap and like it because they were now "in the industry." On the other hand, I don't like the people act like leaking product releases should be treated as sacrosanct as exposing government corruption. It's just not. This is also an area that could start to use a healthy dose of editorial independence. When you're depending on the people you write about for your advertising, things can start to get a little weird. Add in the access journalism aspect, and you've got a recipe for schlock.

Penny Arcade calls out that games sites have long been trading in rumors and speculation and passing it off for news. On the Apple side of things, three quarters of what passes for news is just Photoshop fever dreams. This is sports writing, not White House coverage. I don't agree that most of the gaming press wants to trade in rumors and speculation about un-released games, Dignews had an editorial policy about giving previews the benefit of the doubt. Looking around at most sites I see that. Polygon and US Gamer are both doing really great work in writing about games, almost all of which is about the quality of games and their cultural significance. Hell, even Kotaku, at this point, is mostly cosplay and weird shit from Japan.

There's a lot of weirdness in this industry. Games and tech sites are populated with people who really love what they're writing about, and getting a chance to be "an insider" is seductive. On the other hand having an antagonistic attitude and being self-righteous about a product release isn't much better. I also think getting blacklisted means that Kotaku has to make better content than regurgitating press releases, and spending your own 60 bucks makes you think a lot harder about how good a game is. The relationship between the press and the industry it covers should always be "it's complicated." Anything else and you're not doing it right.

Mike M

Mike M

I have written various kind of reviews for years. I currently write for Make Use Of. I used to write for Digital Entertainment News, Macgasm, and the Examiner. My day job is as an IT monkey. Follow me on Twitter.