Sunday, 2 December 2012

New Gaming Journalism

So for this blog entry I have been tasked with evaluating new gaming journalism.

I genuinely didn’t realise how much stress it is for a magazine journalist. I mean I’ve seen ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Ugly Betty’, they are always stressed and running about, but I thought it was a dramatisation to make good television. After reading Kieron Gillen's manifestos I see that the programmes are not so farfetched.
Good o'l ugly betty
Kieron Gillen states that within the workplace an average magazine is written within 20 or so days. This doesn’t offer a lot of time for the reviewers to coherently write reviews. He also states that “We’re not perfect, because we haven’t time to be perfect.” I think that’s rubbish. Less time to write a game review would surely mean that what is written doesn’t make sense. But it does, the copy make sense, however the reviews seem to follow a pattern. Big up the games that invest a lot of money into marketing, mediocre review everything else.

Gillen used to work for pc gamer, its still a cool magazine and starcraft 2 is an epic game.
Granted there isn’t some formula you can apply to all reviews that show this pattern and there are always exceptions to the rule. But generally from my personal perspective that’s how reviews are going. For example the classic big up is Call of Duty (Sorryyy I know I know I’ll leave it alone. Eventually) that game hasn’t changed much since Call of Duty modern warfare. Granted they changed the packaging and made it a bit shinier but the core of the game is the same. Yet every single gaming review gives it a high rating. Why? Because that bad boy pumps so much money into marketing. Think about it. They had the biggest entertainment launch in history with modern warfare 2. They have actual actors for voices in game and fully fledged over the top action adverts on television. Halo 4 is  a magnificent game which I love dearly but that game doesn’t get off scot free either, there marketing budget alone was an estimated $30 million. That’s a lot of money man.
We're at war but i gott'a look cool. You gott'a look cool.

 Now I don’t know how much Brink’s marketing budget was but contrast that games success with the previous two and I bet it wasn’t as much. The game didn’t sell all that well and It got mediocre reviews. I think the game was an interesting idea and actual fun to play.But in its infancy it had flaws.What killed it is that too many people were sceptical about it and couldn’t adapt to game play that wasn’t call of duty based. That plus when a game gets a review of 5 or 6, it means gamers on the fence lose interest. Despite 5 being a halfway point of 10. People just don’t look for ok. One of the concept artist’s that came in to talk to us said “people have become hooked on hyper reality, HDTV’s and lens flares” and that sums up what I’m saying really. Once the audience has been exposed to ‘awesome’ they don’t really care for anything else.

This is reflected in how reviewers review games. At the end of the day the boss is paying the reviewers wage. To pay wages you need money. To get money you need to results. In order to get results you need to know what’s selling. And what’s selling are the games everyone is talking about. Online magazines also cover everything that printed magazines cover without things like cost of print. That cost is money, the boss needs to justify that spend otherwise they’ll start cutting jobs to save costs. If we chuck that back into the cycle you can see where I’m going with it.
Edge magazine is a fairly regular purchase of mine.

This is why I think new game journalism is a little biased. Ultimately editors will be looking to keep their jobs. To do that they need to have their magazines sell and make the boss happy. To do that, they need to encourage people with reasons to buy the magazine like exclusive content. That cycle probably, adjusts; reviews to entice games to allow the exclusive accessibility. I could be completely wrong; I have no actual experience inside a publishing organisation so my opinion is from the outside looking in as opposed to inside speaking out. Maybe it’s easier to speak about something being biased when you have no idea what it’s like?


To be honest I don’t really want to know what it’s like. I’m not a huge fan of writing. I prefer the language of tone and form.  And I think it’s difficult to be objective about something that is subjective. A review is a personal experience. When I play Halo 4 the experience is different, my Spartan is different. But there are certain key elements of wow or disappointment that resonate with other players. Finding those details must be hard as u become drawn between fact and opinion. The number 9.8 out of 10 is a fact yet the reasoning behind it is effectively an opinion. If in my opinion Halo is rubbish and I rate it a 4 it can’t just so happen that all other game reviewers rate it low, or can it? I mean game reviewers must look at each other’s reviews and think hmm, should we change ours a little. Or if an editor thinks a game is brilliant, he’ll tell all his other editor buddies at different magazines. Thus fudging the figures slightly.


So that concludes my thought on new games journalism.


Thanks for reading my rambling.