Journalism Fail

By Shamus
on Jan 14, 2010
Filed under:
Video Games

The story so far:

On Dec 31 of 2009, developer Brian Green announced the closing of Near Death Studios. NDS is the company behind the venerable Meridian 59, the first graphical MMO. (Although M59 will continue to run for the foreseeable future.) The story was picked up by Joystiq, although some of the reported facts were wrong. This led Green to post a sharp critique of gaming journalism. It’s an interesting read, and one of the guys from Joystiq jumps in to the comments at the end of that post. You don’t need to read it all to follow what I’m about to talk about, but it’s still interesting and worth a look.

Part of the problem with the lack of journalism in gaming journalism is that a lot of gaming sites – mine included – mix commentary and humor with news. People seem to have this impression that it’s okay to joke around on your blog, but once you’re a “real” site you need to straighten up and start behaving like a J-school professional.

It’s not clear where the line should be drawn, and ignores the fact that many sites grow gradually into larger ones, and that they often get big because of their lack of professionalism. There’s often this disconnect with blogs: The writer sees it as a conversation with friends, and the readers think of it as a hobby news site. The writer is wanting to comment and gossip, but once a site gets so big the readers start expecting journalism. I think this is a cultural problem, mostly. We haven’t had something like blogs before, and so in many cases people are still working out what to expect from them.

(This is even more true in the political arena. Web surfers will think nothing of stumbling onto some random small-fry political wonk and demanding that the author familiarize themselves with Dr. Humphrey J. Poncebottom’s 700 page tome, “A Treatise on Regionalism and Steel Tariffs in 16th Century France” before they have the audacity to complain about the cost of canned soda.)

But this serves as a good launching point for something I’ve wanted to say for a while now…

I divide the gaming press into three broad groups. Starting from the bottom:

1. Blogs

The bottom-feeders are blogs like this one. No real journalism, and no pretense of being such. It’s all reviews, commentary, op-ed, and webcomics down here at this end of the food chain. I’ve said before that people like me are information parasites. We ingest gaming news and excrete a waste product known as opinion editorials. Blogs are, essentially, entertainment. Once in a while a blogger gets a scoop, scores some insider info, or gets an interview, but for the most part we’re just making observations and repeating stuff we read elsewhere.

Anway, I sometimes get proud of the community we have here. Hey, this site scores over a million pageviews a month. I must be doing pretty well, right?

But if I ever want a dose of humility, I need only look up at…

2. News Sites

The next tier are the mid-range sites. There’s at least an order of magnitude difference in reach between a large blog like mine and one of these news sites. Places like Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, Destructoid, and the above-mentioned Joystiq, as well as my fellow crimefighters at The Escapist.

(It confuses things somewhat that many of them use a blog format, and so defining them becomes a bit tautological: They’re second-tier news sites because they’re in the second tier!)

These sites do a mixture of news and entertainment. This is where I get my gaming news and this is where all of the interesting discussions happen. These sites tower over blogs, although they are nothing compared to…

3. The Whores

Sites like IGN and Gamespot are the 800 pound gorillas of gaming journalism. The gap between the News Sites and the Whores is another order of magnitude. It really is interesting how neatly the sites break into discernible bands like this when you graph them. IGN and Gamespot are neck-and-neck, and they tower above the news sites who are all basically clustered together.

<a href="http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/gamespot.com?p=tgraph&r=home_home">Alexa</a> only lets you graph five sites at a time, but if I added Rock Paper Shotgun, The Escapist, Destructoid, and Blue’s News, they would all end up more or less overlapping the lines at the bottom.
Alexa only lets you graph five sites at a time, but if I added Rock Paper Shotgun, The Escapist, Destructoid, and Blue’s News, they would all end up more or less overlapping the lines at the bottom.

I realize it probably sounds like sour grapes to refer to these big sites as “Whores”. But then, I’m a bottom feeder and I can get away with that sort of obvious unprofessionalism. But I really do think these sites are worse than useless. I’m thinking back to The Gerstmann Thing. That was a bad thing that happened, and nothing has changed since then.

The way it looks to me: A publisher can use their advertising money to leverage a better review for a game. That game will sell more copies as a result. While the system isn’t completely zero-sum, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that this will cost other titles some sales. Bad games are lifted up at the expense of good ones. Money flows not to the best developers, but to developers working under publishers with the most advertising muscle. You know. Money.

If this is at all accurate, then the Whores are actually poisoning the well of videogaming in order to cash a paycheck.

If you had described this state of affairs to me in 2001, I probably would have predicted that the system would self-correct through traffic. Gamers would lose confidence in the Whores and would seek their gaming news elsewhere. But this hasn’t happened. IGN and Gamespot are bigger than ever. They have remained big even though they feature the very worst sort of annoying full-page advertisements, the signal-to-noise on their front page was usually abominable, and their reviews are suspect. (Both have fixed their front pages this year though. They’re pretty much par for the course now.) They are doing everything “wrong” from a traffic standpoint, but they’re still winning. As it stands, the two of them have more traffic than all other gaming news sites combined.

My guess is that these bigger sites are being propped up by the network effect. I think you can look at anything they have on one of the Big Two and find the same thing elsewhere, only better. But people go to Gamespot because other people go to Gamespot.

What’s the solution? I actually don’t think there is one. I think the damage done by the review score mills is a lot worse than the damage done by lack of fact-checking. But the point is arguable, and of course there’s never any reason not to strive to do better.

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20208Feeling chatty? There are 48 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. ehlijen says:

    I think there’s also the ‘sharing pain’ effect. I just made up that name but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who came up with the idea before me (and probably gave it a better name). But I don’t know that.

    Whether it’s operating systems, games or websites or whatever (curiously, many of these are computer related but other service industries have their fair share of it too), people will, at the very beginning, make a choice on which to try. Through a combination of intimidation, uncertainty and lazyness this choice will often be made uninformed. And then the train of thought goes something like “I don’t know which I’ll like, so I’ll pick the one that many people I know use. Worst comes to worst, we can engage in collevtive complaining over drinks”.
    And even in the cases where they can later change their mind, not all do, once again for reasons such as intimidation, uncertainty and lazyness.

    Ok, it’s a subset of the networking effect. I’ve mostly witnessed it in regards to microsoft and games workshop.

  2. Axle says:

    The big advantage of the whores, is that they get to play the games before release and publish reviews a short time after release. The whores are also the first ones to get the latest videos, screenshots and exclusive interviews.

    News sites can only publish the review at least a few days after release or even a couple of weeks after if the game is massive (like GTA).

    Blogers, usually, don’t have time to play the games to the end so they can publish their opinion on the game.

    So, because of that, most people usualy go first to IGN or Gamespot for their gaming news and miscellaneous stuff and only later, to the sites that give them better and more accurate reviews.

    The scoring system is also something that makes peoples life easier – you can tell if the game is good or not just by its score without reading the actual review (which at many cases I didn’t see much connection between the score and the reviewers opinion. It is not rare to see games with mediocre review and big score or vice verse).

  3. Joshua says:

    I have the same rough division, but I call it “Blogs I read” (20 Sided), “Sites I visit if linked to by the blog” (Escapist), “Sites I don’t visit even if linked to” (Gamespy, IGN). Membership in the categories is pretty much identical to dividing them by traffic, but the implications about the value to advertisers is reversed.

    • Shamus says:

      Gamespy!

      I knew there was another site, but I just couldn’t think of it.

      Although Alexa says Gamespy = Kotaku. I never would have guessed that. In fact, I always confuse Gamespot and Gamespy. Doesn’t help that they both spent years with green branding.

  4. Flammarion says:

    The way to tell the difference between to two is to check which one smells of sulpher, and causes a distinct ‘soul-being-stolen’ sensation.

  5. Jazmeister says:

    Don’t forget print journalism! With just a fraction of the readers we can make much bigger profits, and with a month to get everything perfect and the assumed standard of Stuff In Print, there’s much more time and pressure to make it good. Plus, page layouts! Captions! Ads you can just rip out!

  6. SWCrusader says:

    Pah, what is this alleged ‘print journalism’ of which you speak?

  7. Ëaren says:

    IGN is a kind of catch-all of the entertainment industry. They review movies, series, games… and I think gamespy is controlled by the same group.

  8. Axle says:

    @7

    Its like internet, But on paper!
    And and you can’t comment publicly.

    The future is NOW!

    (My previous comment was written hastily so there was no time to edit it after posting. And only now I see that was not so well written with some missing sentences… ).

  9. Gavin says:

    Poncebottom’s a quack; I can’t believe you’re recommending him.

  10. Brother Pain says:

    One good reason that you forgot Gamespy is that they merged with IGN in 2004.

  11. RichVR says:

    [threadjack]

    Shamus, get a beta code for Star Trek Online. You’ll see that Cryptic isn’t all bad jokes and crappy storytelling.

    [/threadjack]

  12. Turbosloth says:

    I get my gaming news exclusively from The Escapist, and have so far found them to be paragons of factual accuracy when that is clearly what they are going for, and not half bad at humour when that is what they are going for, with clearly apparent lines between the two.

    Of course, I’m not discounting the possibility that they will one day fail me, but I’ll be sad to move on when they do, and i’ve no idea where I’d move on too.

  13. Robyrt says:

    I think a lot of people are being confused by this whole blog/news stratification because in print journalism, you actually WANT to read the biggest names. Outfits like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times have better writing, better research, more famous guests, and fewer ads per square inch than the local paper.

    Most people figure out that IGN and Gamestop are not peerless sources of unbiased information through trial and error – reading their review and saying, This doesn’t sound like the game I played. People who aren’t serious gamers – i.e. virtually everyone – don’t have that option because everybody praises the top 5 or 6 games the casual player owns.

  14. Jeysie says:

    Gah, you’ve reminded me of how much I miss Computer Games Magazine. One of the few gamer mags that had real, in-depth, non-inflated reviews with real scores, that reviewed more than just the big name titles, as well as interesting editorials about various aspects of the gaming scene. (I also recall being impressed that they made sure that adventure games were reviewed by people who actually understand adventure games.) Sigh. :/

  15. WILL says:

    Meh, I go to Kotaku for the news and Gametrailers for everything else. Works out great.

  16. lebkin says:

    I think another reason for the lower numbers of the second-tier versus the first-tier has to do with how those website work. I never visit Joystiq. Ever. Every single one of their articles comes into my RSS feed and I read it there. Kotoku, Destructoid, and most other gaming blogs are the same. They don’t get page views from me, even if I am consuming all of their media.

    Also, I do not have an allegiance to a single site. And even if I do read a site, I can just as easily abandon it for another if it bothers me. For example, I recently dumped Kotaku from my RSS reader because of their sexism. There are too many options not to be happy with what you have. I would guess, since I was this way when I was younger, that IGN and Gamespot viewers only go to their site and no others.

    Big sites like IGN and Gamespot have no easy way to digest their media in this way. You have to go to the site, and slog through all their hoops to get to what you want. This increases traffic through inconvenience.

    Also, as someone mentioned, IGN is a “one-stop-shop” for media. You can get online, find out all the news and reviews you want, and then get off and go about your business. It is a site for people who simply want to know something, right now.

    The second tier sites and below require a greater commitment of time to get the information you need. Information is not always instantaneous. There is greater ebb and flow to “core” articles like reviews. This turns off the casuals, and with them all their traffic.

  17. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I remember the little scandal about one of those whore’s reviewer giving a bad grade to a big game, and that whore lost her adversiting contract.

    The reviewer ended up being fired, the review remade for a more positive grade.

    Now, I remember no names of the parties: Nor the game, nor the whore, nor the game company, nor the reviewer. I told myself I will never trust a gaming website again, as they completely lack one element that should be true to all reviewer: no conflict of interest.

  18. Shamus says:

    “Poncebottom’s a quack; I can’t believe you’re recommending him.”

    Ha! The only people who make that claim are the ones who take the lazy way out and read the translated version. It all makes sense if you read him in the original British!

  19. NotYetMeasured says:

    It’s all reviews, commentary, op-ed, and webcomics down here at this end of the food chain. I’ve said before that people like me are information parasites. We ingest gaming news and excrete a waste product known as opinion editorials.

    To me, this *is* the value I look for, though. The only stuff I ever read from the big sites was stuff from Dave “Fargo” Kosak. Even for readers that do care about the game reviews, I wonder if they read more for information than for input to their decision-making process. Even for those that are setting out to make such a purchasing decision, the Whores must be just one data point in the whole hierarchy you’ve just laid out, right?

  20. lebkin says:

    Shamus: Some of it is a general feeling, an attitude of gaming being a “boys only” sort of place. That since it was all guys, there is nothing wrong with dismissing or objectifying women. The breaking point was this article, entitled “Comparing The Boobs and Butts of Bayonetta”:

    http://kotaku.com/5420193/comparing-the-boobs-and-butts-of-bayonetta

    What a pointless, degrading post. Made me swear off them all together. Makes me sad because I liked some of their writers, especially Stephen Totilo.

    I know this is not unique at Kotaku. You’ll find your fair share of sexist posts on most video game sites. I just felt it was worse there. And the only way I can make a difference is not visit anymore, put the value of my eyes on sites more worthy.

  21. elias says:

    The News Sites like The Escapist still fill their articles with commentary and opinions. For the most part, that’s not what I go there for. Sure, it’s fine for them to express their opinions but I would appreciate if they would clearly separate them from the facts (as newspapers did with articles vs. editorials; at least have two sections to the same article, clearly labeled: Facts and Commentary).

  22. Rosseloh says:

    I stay away from the pretty much every gaming “news” site (this goes from the “news” category all the way up to your “whores” category). The only one I ever go to is the Escapist, and then only to read SP and EP (and the Let’s Play once it starts).

    SP….EP….LP….old fashioned! OK back on topic;

    I only have two gaming sites I visit regularly: Gamefaqs, since if a game has cheat codes they nearly always have them despite being a Gamespot sponsored site, and here (which isn’t necessarily a gaming site but it works). I’m usually behind the times on game releases anyway, and end up buying them once they’re down to $30 or so, so it works pretty well. God knows if I saw the new release news stories all the time I’d be spending a lot more than I should.

  23. UtopiaV1 says:

    I sent this block of horrific-looking text in an open topic at the Escapist to a reviewer, Susan Arendt, and immediately regretted it (but not enough to remove it). I’d love to hear what anyone thinks, was I too harsh? After reading what Shamus has written here, i think i may have been asking for some pretty unreasonable stuff from her…

    “Dear Susan,

    I’ve have been reading your reviews for quite some time, and I wanted to build up a little bit of reference material and evidence before I put forward the following statement: As a reviewer, you suck.

    I will now go through a list of reasons why you are a particularly bad reviewer, evidence to support this, and then suggest ways to improve your reviewing style. I do not want to invite a flame war, or simply throw baseless accusations around, but I want to improve the way you review the games, so that you can advise gamers more helpfully on what particular games are worth playing.

    Point 1: My biggest complaint is that you simply don’t do a thorough analysis on the games good and bad points, and lack evidence to back up any criticisms you do make. All you do is simply say what you, in your own opinion, find entertaining and what you find annoying, and then maybe throw in a one-liner joke. Opinionated journalism may bring in a larger audience, but as a consumer, this gives me no actual insight into the games good and bad points, from a technical AND a gameplay standpoint. If you gave your reviews a more objective spin, saying what the game’s strengths and weaknesses are according to a wider audience, then it would be much more helpful to people deciding whether to buy the game or not. Every time you write a criticism or comment about a game, think to yourself ‘Is this what gamers in general will think, or is this what I think?’.
    Evidence for this – In your most recent review (Chronicles of Riddick – Assault on Dark Athena), instead of explaining that there is a mech-driving section, outlining how it is or isn’t fun, and how it does or doesn’t fit in with the storyline/gameplay, your only comment was “…but in some areas you simply have no option but to shoot your way out, like in the mech sequence. (Apparently, every new game this year needs a mech sequence, whether it makes sense or not.)” Bearing in mind this is just one example, there were a few other moments where I felt your commitment to giving the game a complete and thorough review was somewhat diminished. (I won’t list them all, just simply look at the end of some of the paragraphs, you’ll spot what I’m talking about)

    Point 2: I know it’s only a supplement, but in your video reviews you don’t say nearly enough about what is happening onscreen, or the game in general. Most of the time, it’s an off-handed comment on how ‘this sucks’ or ‘this is fun’, without a shred of personal or technical evidence to back it up, despite the huge gaps of silence where you’re not talking, which gives you plenty of opportunity to back up these claims. Please, I’m not asking you to do a Yahtzee and talk non-stop at high speeds throughout the review, but as any good video review will tell you, long silences are something to be avoided! All you need to do is describe the value of an asset or style of approach within a game, and then evaluate it’s pros and cons. This is reviewing 101, and although it’s an oldie, it’s a tried and tested method that gets key information across quickly and accessibly, and it even gives you a chance to throw in a joke or two. In summary, no more long pauses after an unsupported comment, please!

    I’m sorry if I seem mean or unfair, but I offer you a chance to give your own counter argument to my claims, and I hope you don’t ignore my pleas for a better standard of reviewing. It just really gets me when someone doesn’t review a game properly, not that they don’t give it a fair chance (which is also annoying, but I’m definitely not saying you do it), but that they give no information to the receiver about the good and bad points of a game, and instead resort to calling something ‘crap’ without evidence, or even admitting it’s a gut instinct. Please tell me if I’m wrong, or if you plan to change the style that you (and also John Funk, this is also directed at him) review games, because it’s not only unfair to the developers, but deeply unfair to the readers and customers who leave the review as ill-informed as when they went in.

    Thank you for your time.”

    Basically, i think i was asking her to do an essay (500 words, cite references, i will be grading this!) on games instead of reviewing them.

    It’s all theory, she never replied. Still, do you guys think I was wrong?

    • Shamus says:

      UtopiaV1: Your first two paragraphs were probably why you didn’t get a response.

      “You suck”

      vs.

      “Your reviews suck” or simply “I don’t enjoy your reviews”.

      That starts it off as overly combative and personal. First impressions are important. I know when I get mail that starts off with “You’re an idiot” or “You suck” then I don’t bother reading to the end. Maybe they have useful feedback for me, but it’s no good plowing through all your hate mail seeing if any of them have constructive criticism three paragraphs in.

      I will observe that pretty much everyone there follows the same basic format. Reviews weigh in at ~1,000 words, supplements are just a couple of minutes and don’t stand on their own. I have no idea how much of this is just individual reviewers doing their own thing and how much is editorial standards. I’d love if the supplements were longer and had more depth, but I have no idea who makes these decisions and what thinking goes into them.

      Susan is my main contact over there. She is, in fact, a great wit and has interesting things to say. She’s on my short list of people I’d like to meet if I ever left the house.

      You could try again and simply make your case for what you’d like to see in a review without trying to convince her she’s bad at her job. Even if it was true, it’s a very inefficient way of getting what you want. :)

  24. Robyrt says:

    @lebkin (17): Actually, that depends on your RSS reader. iTunes will generate one page view every hour, while I think Firefox only checks when you boot it up. This is why many page view counters will filter out these requests – tough to tell whether somebody is actually reading your stuff or not.

  25. Patrick says:

    Shamus – If one wanted to shift their reading habits away from the “Whores” and more towards the blogs do you have any particular recommendations?

  26. Vladius says:

    In my opinion, being funny in gaming journalism IS professionalism.

  27. rofltehcat says:

    @22:
    I personally don’t like the article, either but because of other reasons.
    Instead of talking about how it is interesting that not every character in the game looks the same they are trying to make it look like a joke. Basically it is just a link (and some copy-pasta) to that blog entry.

    They could have written a few lines that this is interesting and why it is interesting but they failed at it :/

    Why do most characters in a game look exactly the same, no matter how old they are?

  28. Mike Lemmer says:

    How do you think a site like Penny Arcade fits in? I’m sure they get as much traffic as the Whores, but they seem to be unswayed by big money. (Probably because most of their traffic comes from ripping deserving targets a new one.) I believe they still follow their principle of “we choose good games to advertise”. They also espouse a lot of smaller games; I remember picking up Knights in the Nightmare and Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes based primarily on their recommendations.

    On a related note, what do you think of the gaming site Giant Bomb? I think Jeff Gerstmann & co. have a good idea going on there in their Quick Looks; listening to their chatter while they do a half-hour playthrough gives you a better feel for the game than the usual 5-minute video review.

  29. Nefrai says:

    Good stuff, loved reading this one. Honestly, I do go to Gamespot for quick-hits…I always feel bad for going there, but I can’t help it. Used to like avault.com, but seemed to go downhill too the last few years.

    I originally started going there because I’d read about something, then download thier PC game demos. While I don’t really trust their reviews (Or IGN’s), and ignore their number system, occasionally I get good info from the review write-up. I love Yahtzee, but I know I will generally only see the worst points of a game from him… but then he /is/ humor based, so it’s expected.

    Most games I already know if I’m going to buy it or not. The only time I really find any review useful, is on games like “Too Human”. If it’s broken that badly, NO site will endorse it. A good game forum is my favorite, as then I’m just talking to peers.

  30. Amichai says:

    I think part of the problem is that people expect gaming sites devoted to gaming “journalism” to be something to take seriously. And to be frank, it really isn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m what I guess people would call a casual gamer, though I’ve always hated that phrase. Am I also a causal book reader because I read books for pleasure, or a causal TV watcher because I watch television, but don’t obsess about them during the other aspects of my life? How did recreational activities regarding one’s entertainment become such a defining aspect of one’s life?

    But I digress. What I meant when I said it isn’t (or shouldn’t) be taken too seriously, is that when you compare gaming “news” outlets, to other entertainment media outlets, it’s about par with everything else. I have to read Variety and The Hollywood reporter regularly for my job, as well as Entertainment Weekly, and other hollywood news resources, and let me tell you, they are inane and mostly pandering to the media that they cover. There is no such thing as hard hitting entertainment journalism. It’s mostly just gossip, rumor, press releases disguised as articles, and box office recipts. Since they’ve been around for a while and their industry is so big, they can write a bit harsher critiques of movies or tv on their shows, but they aren’t nearly as thorough, or good as the reviews you get in standard papers, and other journals/magazines, not devoted to the industry. And gaming really isn’t any different, and why should it be? And when we say journalism, are we really just talking about reviews? Because reviews aren’t journalism, that’s just more op-ed. Because most of the complaints I read about the big “whores” as you’ve called them (and quotes just because you said it, not because I disagree) are in regards to their reviews, and that’s more op-ed.

    Which is why when I really want to see ratings and reviews for a game/movie, I got to review compilers like Rotten Tomatoes, or Metacritic. Then I get to see what a wide range of reviewers say, and from that I’ve found reviewers with whom I generally agree, and make my decisions from there.

    to complain about the lack of real video game journalism is to complain that ben and jerry’s chocolate ice cream is too sweet. It’s Ice cream, it’s supposed to be sweet, and if you really don’t like it, don’t eat it.

  31. ccesarano says:

    There’s a few problems with “games journalism” as it is today. The first is that the same people getting the news are also writing the reviews. Just because you love games doesn’t mean you’re good at critiquing them, which is one of the main causes of all the poor reviews out there.

    There needs to be a separation between journalists, people whose passion is in digging for new information on games, and game critics, who love to analyze a game for its qualities and faults. It is rare when these two are one and the same. As it is, gaming journalism is a ton of hype and then high review scores where 8+ means buy it and 7 or less means don’t even bother.

    It’s also incredibly inconsistent. Shadow Complex is praised greatly despite pulling major elements and inspiration from Super Metroid. Meanwhile, Darksiders pulls major influence out of Legend of Zelda and it’s called derivative. It’s inconsistent and in both cases ignores one simple fact: does it work?

    I want to do games writing for a living, but not in the industry as it is. I would love to get a bunch of excellent authors together to build a gaming site that is primarily there for the critique of games, not the hyping of them. Where GTA doesn’t get away with a perfect 10 but is castrated for all of its flaws (seriously, never played a GTA until last Spring. Never cursed at a game so frequently as I did with those first three or four hours of GTA 4, and I’ve never looked back).

    Then again, I tend to dream big. I’d love to make a television show about video games that has more in common with Top Gear than with anything on G4; something that could appeal to a wider audience instead of just 13-21 year old gamers of a particular niche. I’d like to build a website or publication on games that covers the complete range of gamer culture in a fashion more similar to Heavy Metal or Fangoria, where it’s not just discussing the films but everything the fans are into. Or even like Outside magazine, which has a lot of excellent writing on a variety of topics (and where the original Into Thin Air was written).

    I think The Escapist is a great first step into providing better writing in the games space, but overall I mostly go there for the columns (all of them), Zero Punctuation, Stolen Pixels and MovieBob. I barely touch the weekly articles anymore as, well, while it may be odd for an amateur to be saying this, they just read too much like amateur work.

    Still, it’s a great first step. I just hope something grows from it.

    Oh, also, the 0-10 scale of game quality needs to die. I prefer my system of Excellent, Good, Rental, Poor and Atrocious. It’s simple, gets the point across and acknowledges the fact that the majority of the games out aren’t actually bad, just not worth the $60 most of the time.

  32. Miral says:

    And it looks like someone just killed the Escapist (all I get is a database error). :(

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m what I guess people would call a casual gamer, though I’ve always hated that phrase. Am I also a causal book reader because I read books for pleasure, or a causal TV watcher because I watch television, but don’t obsess about them during the other aspects of my life? How did recreational activities regarding one’s entertainment become such a defining aspect of one’s life?

    Yes. But they’re not a defining aspect of your life — they’re just a characteristic. You might also be an “avid golfer” or a “casual soccer player” or a “hardcore bowls player”; they’re just characteristics. Individually they only describe one aspect; only collectively can they describe you.

  33. Neil Polenske says:

    OPINION: THE PERFECT REVIEW

    PART 1: Reviewer establishes and explains game’s style, mechanics and narrative (if applicable). No personal opinions.

    PART II: Reviewer confirms competency in stated areas. No personal PREFERENCES.

    PART TRES: Reviewer gives personal viewpoint regarding game outside the realm of objectivism. Be as personal and preferential as they please.

    4th PART: Score it with a bottom line. Get pissed all ya want, the numbers are here to stay as they’ve ALWAYS been and getting whiny clearly didn’t change anything.

    ****

    I’ve ignored ALL game journalism since it’s never at any point in all my life come close the genuine honest-to-god journalism I saw in my old issues of Next Generation from the mid nineties. That was a magazine that took gaming seriously like literally no other gaming mag I’m aware of and certainly no gaming site. God I miss that mag…

  34. UtopiaV1 says:

    @Shamus – Yea, i really wish I hadn’t opened with that, it was an amazingly effectual way to get her to stop reading. That, and the scary-looking wall of words that looks like it should be surrounded by monkeys at the dawn of time to some bombastic orchestral score. Not that i’m defending it, but i was trying to use a shock tactic to grab her attention.
    I actually watched a few of her reviews recently (like, a couple months ago) and I have to say they have improved immensely! Maybe she was never really that bad at all, maybe she just had a bad week or two at some point and i picked on it. Either way, i hope she didn’t take it personally.

    @Neil Polenske – THAT is exactly what good reviewing is. I shouldda posted that on the Escapist. Do you have a degree in modern journalism, or do are you just naturally a genius? :D

  35. Daemian Lucifer says:

    How dare you insult the whores?!!How dare you compare anyone with IGN?!You shall burn for this!!

  36. I don’t see the “problem” here; it’s the same with any other mass-market ANYTHING. High quality products and services take more effort to seek out. They come with a higher “cost” of some kind, whether it be time, money, or whatever.

    When people start complaining about the “damage” that these huge mass-market “whores” do, the problem is that they’re forgetting the *opportunity costs* involved for all the people who just go with Windows or Gamespot or Wal-Mart *because it is easier*. Yes, you MAY incur another cost (i.e. not getting the 100% most efficient use out of your money), but EVERYTHING in life is a trade-off of one kind or another. I have several friends who have messed around with one Linux distro or another for their PC. Result? They had extensive downtime when this or that wasn’t working. My PC may not be as efficient as a fully-functioning Linux box (and I did have to pay about a hundred bucks for Windows), but it works ALL THE TIME.

    If anyone is at fault for good games not getting the attention they deserve, it’s the people who *produce* them and then don’t do the job of getting the word out there. Word-of-mouth is STILL the most effective marketing strategy EVER. The small-time developers ought to be focusing their efforts on the tier 2 and 3 sites–that’s the most efficient use of THEIR capital, and it has the effect of correcting the situation, because the “whores” wind up looking like what they are–a clearinghouse for low-quality big-budget dreck.

  37. Visi says:

    To be honest, all I read is this and RockPaperShotgun. Sometimes I end up on Eurogamer if they link there. If I want to get a game, I either impulse-buy or I look up “[ Game ] Review” on Google and see what comes up.

    I do buy the PCGamer (UK version) mag if I see it in the shops, though.

    I guess part of it is RPS/EuroGamer/PCGamer share a core group of journalists whom I generally trust.

  38. Daimbert says:

    @Amichi

    I’ve always thought of casual gamer as being more of it being the case that you play games but that generally it isn’t your primary source of education or whatever; you don’t spend or have a lot of time to spend just gaming. So it isn’t, to me, really about how much it bleeds into other aspects of life, but where it fits amongst all things in its niche.

    @Neil Polenske

    I’m not sure if that’s possible, or if that isn’t possible with them all mixed, and I’m not even sure that that’s a good idea.

    I don’t really care if a reviewer puts their personal preferences into a review, as long as they describe the game in a way that I can see what it’s doing and make it clear what about it bothers or attracts them. With games, that’s actually easier since almost any discussion about gameplay or story aspects is going to in some way describe what it actually does. And if they do that, then I can glean from that if I will like it or not, even if I disagree with them.

    For example, if a reviewer says that they don’t like a game because the combat is too light and there’s too much of a focus on secondary characterizations (think a complaint that might be made about Persona 3, and may well have been), my attention perks up, because it sounds like what I want from a game. You can’t really get that from a description, and even though it’s subjective and so I can’t be sure that I’ll like it, it plays a large role in my determinations.

    The biggest concern I have about your perfect review is that I have no clue what “confirms competency” is, and thus worry that either that’s boring or at worst boring and uninformative, and something that I don’t really care if the reviewer knows about or perhaps has …?

    @Jennifer Snow

    Um, if the big sites don’t cover it, how do simple casual gamers find them?

    I use Gamefaqs for a lot of reviews, but they aren’t as good. I liked Gamespot a few years ago but when they went pay only I dropped out. I’m trying to remember where I heard about really good games and I’m thinking it’s only here or Gamefaqs. How do I know what Tier 2 or Tier 3 sites are worth reading?

    Take Escapist, for example. What is it? I glance at it because Shamus links to it, but it’s too big for me to generally and quickly read; there’s just way too much going on for me to simply stick with it. Well, maybe if I decided to deliberately stick it out and try it, it could work, but so far I have no reason to bother.

    And that’s the problem: if a Tier 2 or 3 is too big, then it’s usually less accessible than the Tier 1s (who put more money into presentation, because they make more money. Or at least that’s the hope). And if it’s too small, why would I pay attention to it, unless I get attached to it for other reasons?

  39. Magnus says:

    I tend to go with Kotaku for general news, RPS for PC (and UK) specific news (perfect for an English games playing gentleman like myself), and 20sided for entertainment and opinion (although the first two contain plenty of opinion pieces also).

    After that, I occasionally check in at the Escapist. I quite like the “magazine” part, as well as the usual yahtzee, XP points, Stolen Pixels etc..

  40. Jimmie says:

    The real difference between blogs and news sites is money. More than a few bloggers would do “real journalism”, but have to work a day job and can’t afford the travel and costs of face-to-face networking. Still, there are some who manage it.

  41. silver Harloe says:

    @Utopia V1
    If I were to try to change someone’s review tactics, I would probably leave off ALL the critique of their reviews in your letter and focus on the concrete example you posed in the middle, except in the form of a question.

    “You say this mech sequence seems obligatory. In what way did it not make sense to the story? Was it fun?”

    Might not get an answer, but if someone gets enough questions, they eventually start trying to “preemptively answer” them to cut off the stream… :)

  42. Elethiomel says:

    It’s worth it to note that,
    “The traffic data are based on the set of toolbars that use Alexa data, which may not be a representative sample of the global Internet population.” ( http://www.alexa.com/help/traffic_learn_more )
    In other words, the data only cover people who install toolbars on their comptuers. I have never seen a toolbar that will give me a significantly easier daily browsing life, and I suspect there are many with me. I think there is a bias inherent in collecting only from people who install a toolbar, and I think it has something to do with what types of sites that person visits. I have no data to back it up, though – it just seems like a bias that could be anywhere from very small to very large.

    In addition, I never ever visit the whores of video game news “reporting”. Yes, as I am a sample size of 1 this is anecdotal, and people tend to think of themselves as more significant than others, but I still think it’s worthy to bring it up as a possible connection.

  43. SH says:

    I think another reason they get such large amounts of traffic is due to people knowing them and only them. I for one went to gamespot all the time and didnt know any of the other sites even existed until a few months ago. now i never go there at all. (well not true but its only for trailers i swear!)

  44. Neil Polenske says:

    “The biggest concern I have about your perfect review is that I have no clue what “confirms competency” is, and thus worry that either that’s boring or at worst boring and uninformative, and something that I don’t really care if the reviewer knows about or perhaps has …?”

    ‘confirms competency’ means that the reviewer critiques the game and it’s game play from a purely technical standpoint with no bias or preference included. If that’s ‘boring’ to you, then you’re reading reviews for completely different reasons than me, but the nature of it means that’s if it’s ‘uninformative’, it’s not confirming competency.

  45. wererogue says:

    I think the big difference for me is that the “second tier” present themselves as news sites, but a lot of them are just reactionary drivel.

    I’d separate The Escapist from Kotaku and Joystiq – it’s like the difference between a politics magazine and a tabloid. I very rarely see actual news at the Escapist, but the quality of their articles is usually excellent, and they have entertainment features.

    I never started reading Kotaku or Joystiq, both because of the sheer quantity of speculation and because of the above-mentioned misogyny. I read Destructoid for a while – at least they have the idea that they’re a community site, not a news blog, to support them posting gossip. However, I was driven away once again by the vaginaphobia.

    I love Rock, Paper, Shotgun – the journalism is excellent, they are very inclusive to all comers, they focus on games news that actually interests me, and they are very clear about when they’re disseminating an opinion rather than actual news.

    More recently I also enjoy the Border House, although I feel they could broaden their appeal a lot by posting about other news than only that which is relevant to their commendable agenda.

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