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Reporting vs. Blogging on Games: A Half-Assed Manifesto

i am not really sure if there’s actually a ‘war brewing’ or not. that sounds pretty dramatic tho, so, let’s call it that. there’s a war a’ brewin’!

this fake war is happening right now between game ‘journalists’ and game ‘bloggers.’ lemme explain.

i don’t really read much of gamespot, ign etc. anymore. i like reading the bloggers who write about games for a more honest, unbeholden-to-sponsors opinion. if i wanted paraphrased marketing spin, i’d just read the actual press releases.

that’s not to say those sites or magazines don’t have original content. they really do. a lot of the time, it’s even almost interesting. sort of in the only way those sites can be interesting. top 10 lists or game reviews. the narrow space where they can be critical of a game — by comparing them to other games. any mention of a company or any specific developers, tho, is always watered down. ‘this could be my opinion or that could be. objective journalism doesn’t let me pick tho. you have to guess!’

heh. even game reviews only float between 6.0 and 9.5. what’s the point of having 3’s or 4’s or 5’s if you never use them? shouldn’t 5 be average? according to a bell curve, shouldn’t the bulk of games be 5’s? personally, my rating system consists of one of three options: good games. mediocre games. and bad games. good, bad or indifferent. that’s the correct order of the universe.

but, i digress.

the problem is that traditional journalism is about unbiased facts. video game journalism is, however, subjective. therefore, not even technically journalism.

i want opinion. i want to be part of the meta-conversation about games. i don’t just want to consume industry marketing messaging. i want critical thinking done by these guys. i don’t want their half-assed attempt at portraying ‘the other side.’

i don’t think anyone like gamespot (i hate to pick on them in particular. feel free to insert your favorite ‘news’ site instead.) can really call sony out for being stupid. why would sony give them marketing co-op money in exchange for calling them dumb? what you end up with is a lot of tied-hands and flat, uninteresting ‘reporting.’

that’s where this whole ‘new games journalism’ crap comes in.

heh. in case you couldn’t tell by my tone, i don’t really buy into the pretentious nonsense that is ‘ngj.’ it’s not about who can wax most esoteric regarding the minutiae of this love we call ‘interactive entertainment.’

no. just tell us what you thought. give us an honest opinion. that’s really all we want. if a game is crap, let us know. if it is simply average — despite it’s heritage — call it out. bring pain down upon those who dare to destroy our beloved icons! be interesting, not effusive. we don’t want to read poetry about some shitty game, man.

in other words, do what bloggers do.

we’re slanted. we’re opinionated. we’re jaded. that’s the beauty of it. collectively, all of the blogging voices make up a fairly balanced opinion.

no. seriously. hear me out.

for every blogger that loves some particular game or style of game, there’s another one who despises it. both are equally loud. both froth and spit bile about the opposing side. (well. the interesting ones anyway. the passionate ones.) if you are interested in balanced opinions, as a reader, you can review both opinions and make your own decision. the difference is that instead of a single writer trying to whitewash both sides in a single article. you have two blazing icons shouting the merits of their independent, even more diametrically opposed opinions. we’re loud and proud, baby.

the best part about video game bloggers? find someone you agree with and play what he plays. if your preferred flavors of games are entirely alike, then, they’ll never steer you wrong.

traditional game journalism, however, can’t do that. somebody out there thinks metal gear solid is a good game. i sure as hell don’t. holy boring, batman. if i wanted to watch a stealth/intrigue movie, i’d rent one. last time i checked, i was trying to play a game. not trying to figure out how to skip cutscenes.

i can say mgs sucked. traditional game journos can’t. because, for some gamers who are into that, well, it was a great game.

how do you rate that?

how do you give a concrete value to a subjective medium that will be equally applied to all your readers’ varied interests? that’s why movie reviewers are individual reviewers. the review is their opinion — not the magazine’s opinion. as an organization, the magazine is responsible for assessing games for someone who likes rts and someone who hates them. me? i think they are work, not fun. if the magazine says total annihilation is a 9.0 out of 10, does that mean i’ll like it? hell no.

movies are a similar thing. find a reviewer who tends to agree with you and go with it. who the hell cares what roeper (talk about an arrogant prick…. wow.) thinks when you always agree with ebert. (he is the absolute best movie reviewer of our time.)

you can do that with bloggers. they represent no one but themselves. bloggers are beholden, not to the conflict-of-interest inspiring advertisers on their site, but to their own integrity and pride of workmanship.

what am i saying? i guess i have no idea.

something along the lines of look to traditional game journalism for regurgitation. new game journalism for pretension. independent bloggers for honest opinion.

video game journalism is about opinion dammit!

i mean, c’mon! can’t we all just get along?

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About Topher Chapman

i like to write.

well... and paint. and program video games. and model economies. and run, surf, play football, etc. basically, i'm one of those irritating polymaths. my achilles heel, however, is obviously capitalization.

this is me, hurling my writing at you.

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