Games Coverage is Terrible — Here’s How I’d Fix it
Video games excite me: It's an ever-growing entertainment industry that, year-on-year, pushes the envelope as far as experiences go. It's almost always at the forefront of technology and — saying this as a fiction writer — provides compelling experiences in certain genres that action films, thriller novels, and TV shows could only dream of.
Titles such as Bioshock make us think about gameplay in narrative terms, while games such as Heavy Rain and Mass Effect turn players — previously the active spectator — into the puppet master in ways that other forms of entertainment can't emulate.
While I recognized the other very cool things happening in the industry, such as the innovative and imaginative implementation of gameplay in indie titles such as Braid, World of Goo, and Aquaria (to name just a few), what really excites me in this industry — as a fiction writer — is the advancement of storytelling and quality writing.
So, why is it that as gaming has become more imaginative, its stories more compelling, and the experience as a whole more engrossing, reporting news in this industry has descended to the levels of tabloid rags such as The Sun and the Daily Mail?
When I was a kid, I got all my games news from Teletext or my favorite gaming magazines: PC Zone, PC Gamer, CVG, and Edge. Teletext provided the rushed, tabloid-esque news complete with sensational and snarky remarks, while the magazines reported and discussed intelligently — and without going over the top — a monthly digest of the biggest stories.
These days, if I want sensible, up-to-the-minute reporting that I can trust, I have to turn to NeoGAF, a presentation format not exactly conductive to reporting news professionally. The blogs that many gamers rely on are notorious for misrepresenting clear facts so as to create clicks, blowing small issues out of proportion, and filling in the gaps on a slow news day with photos of underage schoolgirls holding games consoles, New Super Mario Bros. shampoo, or other nonsense only loosely based on gaming (or not at all) that happens to enter the blogger's mind. All of this is done under the pretence that "readers will find it interesting."
Well, not all of us do; Ben Paddon, author of the Games Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits has proven with his ever-increasing audience of gamers and industry insiders who are sick and tired of the poor-quality reporting that plagues the industry. He's proven that those unhappy with games journalism may be a minority, but a sizable one.
In fact, about the only intelligent discourse the tabloid blogs have is when they republish articles from elsewhere, which is a horrible sign of the state of games journalism these days; those articles have nowhere else to go in order to reach a large audience.
What this industry needs — and deserves — is a more up-market blog that values high-quality reporting, fact checking, and staying on topic with sensible, well-balanced opinions. Sites such as 1UP and The Escapist can't fill this role so well, as their focus is on being online magazines about gaming lifestyle, previews, and reviews, while their news coverage takes somewhat of a back seat.
This hypothetical new games blog would foster outside opinion more by featuring opinions and articles from unknown writers and small-time bloggers who find their way onto the front page and into recognition. The site would also be more transparent and allow — even encourage — critique of the quality of their reporting — an activity the tabloid blogs quickly extinguish.
We do have a few sites that come close: Bitmob has nailed the community blogging aspect perfectly by allowing unestablished writers like myself the freedom to express our views, polish our writing, and engage in mature discussion with a like-minded audience. Rock, Paper, Shotgun is also a blog to admire for its four writers' ability to report the news in a timely, balanced, and entertaining manner. They prove that a more mature or up-market blog doesn't have to be dry or completely serious — just not utterly brain dead. But it's unfortunately PC only.
When the reporting on games sites catches up with the intelligence of their readers and the quality of the games, I won't have to resort to browsing NeoGAF threads for reliable news. It's something I hope happens sooner rather than later.