Want to take Games Journalism seriously? Don’t bother.
Yesterday, a man by the name of Robert Florence dared question the ethics of game journalists buddying up with PR at the annual GMA’s. He dared to question to the ethics of journalists tweeting a hashtag for a game to win a PS3. Most damaging however, he dared question the integrity of someone using actual public tweets. I won’t mention a name, I’d rather not have Nukezilla accused of “libel”. What happens when someone raises these valid and important questions? You get called out, called a liar and if they person has the right boss, you could lose a job.
Video games have, in the past five or so years, come on leaps and bounds. They’ve become much more mainstream, the audience is growing and the image is changing for the better. This is all fantastic news. However, when one of the most prominent and public faces of the video games industry sits surrounded by Mountain Dew and Dorito’s, what does that really show? Halo is arguably one of the most popular and well respected video games series of the decade. It’s spawned some incredibly effective advertising, most recently, the excellent Forward unto Dawn. That is what should be showcased, not just the advertising that uses Mountain Dew and Dorito’s. Is that what we want broadcast? Some may argue that Geoff Keighly didn’t have a choice in what he was sitting by, but we have a choice whether we call it out or just let it slide. Alas, when someone does have the guts to call it out they get shot down, mocked and the cracks are hidden.
It’s also this immersion of journalists and advertising/PR that is a sore point for some, and one that is widely ignored as it burns a few too many bridges for some. The GMA’s are seemingly entirely sponsored by games publishers. Game publishers sponsoring an awards event that rewards people who write about the products they release seems kind of backwards. It may not have been at the event, but free swag is often showered upon journalists. How is this acceptable? It should be the consumer you’re trying to convince to purchase your product, not a journalist. You may argue that it happens in all forms of journalism, and you’re probably correct. It doesn’t stop the need for a debate.
However, the biggest point of controversy about the article is the case of libel. In the original article Robert Florence pointed out a few journalists and questioned their integrity. Without evidence this would be a problem, the thing is, he used publicly available tweets to back-up his argument.
To take a cliché and turn it 2.0 on your ass, twitter is an incredibly powerful tool for both good and bad. Most of the time it’s incredibly handy to just tweet the latest news, or for gathering immediate thoughts. It saved me money on Resident Evil 6, for example. However, the problem is, people can act incredibly stupid, mainly when drunk, sometimes when sober. Florence pointed out that a number of journalists had entered a competition to win a PS3. How exactly did you enter? You tweeted a hashtag designed to promote a game. It boggles my mind how a journalist could do that and then claim they felt it was all ok. How can you take posts by someone seriously when they are so willing to gobble up and spew out promotional activity for a free PS3. How many journalists already have a PS3?! Admittedly, the PS3′s were given away by many who won, but this was down when the backlash began, and to be honest, it was pretty fucking gross to enter it in the first place.
Twitter is also a wonderful place for people to spew out opinions on topics and for other people to decide if they are interesting enough to make them want more of it. I use twitter a lot, I’ve said plenty of dumb shit on there. You know why, because I have 70 followers, 65 of which are inspirational quote bots. I’m not in the public eye. People don’t give a shit if I say Resident Evil 6 sucks, or Medal of Honor is the greatest game of all time. When you are in the public eye however, things change. People look at your page as a reflection on you and this has to be considered, when your opinion is vital to what you do.
Florence pointed out that a journalists had publicly tweeted about her obsession with Tomb Raider, he then stated that he would question anything she wrote about Tomb Raider, due to how big of a fan she was. I feel that is an absolutely correct point. Even if it wasn’t he at no point accused of her corruption, he simply mused about his thoughts of reading future articles. He also had the image she had tweeted, which was her twitter page, pretty much covered in Tomb Raider images. What was her reaction? An obviously mature and appropriate response: threaten Eurogamer and Florence with libel if this wasn’t taken down.
This response is an incredibly immature and childish one to someone who actively reads a lot of articles. I can’t imagine how people on the outside would view it. Accusing a publication of libel because tweets you posted publicly is absolutely ludicrous and pathetic. Frankly, it kind of proves his point if anything.
How can games journalism by taken seriously when anyone who raises a valid point, and dares question “the system” gets accused of libel. When someone takes publicly available tweets, quotes them in context, and then makes a serious point about integrity gets shut down. This has been a childish and immature reaction to an article that takes video games journalism as seriously as I’ve seen it.
This whole disgraceful debacle isn’t the only thing that has me wondering how games journalists can ask to be taken seriously. Whenever I watch an E3 stream I always hear “whooping” and “cheering” from the crowd. To me, that’s just inane bullshit. You’re there to report. You’re there as a journalist and not a fan. I feel grossed out when I see that. I don’t feel passion from the audience, I don’t see it as them loving games. I see it as someone who managed to knock a few articles together not because they feel passionate about writing about video games, but because they want to attend events, bag free stuff and cheer like a performing seal when the newest Zelda is announced.
If people want “the outside” to take game journalism seriously, then game journalists have to stop pretending like everything is fine. It’s not. Things in the system are fucked, and accusing people of libel, of making publications edit articles when they point this out, and generally acting childish is a fucking disgraceful way of handling it.