"Everybody loves to hate the gaming press..."

Just read this one from grumpy gamer: http://grumpygamer.com/8707523

I’d have to say I agree with a lot of that, especially Part Two.

I think a fair amount of points don’t apply to CGM, but a lot of them in the third part do. CGM is the only mag I subscribe to read (I get demos from the official xbox mag) and it’s pretty good most of the time. But I would LOVE to see more articles about the gaming industry, how it really works, etc. Almost all those points in the third part.

But I would LOVE to see more articles about the gaming industry, how it really works, etc. Almost all those points in the third part.

Magazines have limited space and I think it’s been proven over time that readers prefer to read previews and reviews. Give a reader a choice between an industry piece and a preview, and the preview wins.

Agree completely. I wrote a three-part piece on producers for Daily Radar, with each part leading the PC section on three consecutive days. It had pretty good participation from a wise spectrum of producers across the PC games industry and explained a lot about a position that was very mysterious to me at the time. The click-through on all three days was horrible. Nobody, and I mean nobody seemed to care because it was a rather standard industry story explaining a certain role. It was not tied to a game and didn’t involve any melodrama about infighting or discord. We never led with an industry piece again and kept developer interviews strictly tied to a game, because there just didn’t seem at the time enough of our audience could care one bit about the workings of the industry.

Is a website the same as a print mag? Is the age of the readership the same?

Think of it compared to Wired. Wired has their fluff, their coverage of hardware, etc, etc. They also have their in depth articles about things maybe you didn’t know you wanted to know about. Their coverage of people that make science tick, why they are cool, what they bring the industry, etc.

The target demographic of gaming mags is in the 20s, probably later 20s. At least some of us are old enough to be interested in more than the stars you give games. :D

Computer Games Magazine has been doing articles like the ones you want for the last two years. There’s been a column written by a game maker in every issue for more years than that even.

Do people actually read the magazines or just talk about them to look cool?

–Dave

Well, maybe nobody was interested in that particular piece, but it doesn’t mean a different piece wouldn’t have fared better. I would have a hard time getting excited about an article as (apparently) long as that explaining a generic role. I also don’t think people not being interested in such a dry subject has anything to do with the computer gaming industry itself. It’s more likely indicitive of what a hard sell it is to get folks to read long articles with no focus on a particular game, no melodrama or discord. I remember Bruce or someone did a really good industry piece on why LongBow3 was never made (or maybe it was the A-10 sim that got canned). It was an industry piece, but it had all the elements you mention that make an article popular (focus on a specific title, melodrama, discord). If you really want to do an article on production role, it probably needs to be much shorter.

But to get the information you’re looking for, the articles must have rather large amounts of content and hence words so they can’t be shorter. It follows from there that you just can’t do these kinds of things without blowing a lot of space that people would rather see filled with previews and reviews.

I mean, as I said, this stuff is IN CGM. Every month there’s something even if it’s just Ken Levine and before that Phil Steinmeyer filling you in on some small part of the behind the scenes. And yet we constantly have articles written like this condemning everyone with a broad stroke for being too shallow, etc.

–Dave

But to get the information you’re looking for, the articles must have rather large amounts of content and hence words so they can’t be shorter.[/quote]

Dave, what does this mean? I can’t make any sense of this.

You’re saying you think a production article should be shorter, but to talk about production in a way that allows you to actually get something from the text, it has to be longer. I’m saying you just can’t write a “short” production article.

Even the columns I’m pointing out to you in CGM are a full page of text. You want articles on the inner workings of the industry but typically these must be longer and hence take up more space. Space that is wasted because most readers simply don’t care.

Steve from CGM has made this point on here at least once or twice in the past and I totally agree with the idea. I write a column at GamerDad that sometimes goes into things like this and it’s very hard to keep them short so people’s eyes don’t glaze over before the end of the piece.

–Dave

I’m curious as to whether any of the magazines or websites has actually done any market research on what their readers want. I keep hearing arguments being made that “No one is interested in that” or “We tried that and no one noticed.”

Lack of reader feedback is not the same as reader apathy. It’s the nature of readers to complain more than say “Wow, great job” unless the article either reinforces their opinion or is something truly original and flashy.

I know that this kind of market research takes money, but I’m curious as to if anyone has actually done it.

Troy

Do people actually listen to what other people post, or do they just jump off the handle…?

One column written by one game developer each month does not make for in depth coverage.

I read CGM front to back every time I get it and often pick it up again. I like it AND I said it was the best of the bunch.

I still think it could be better… Read the articles posted, a fair amount of those could improve CGM too. Other mags need to pay attention to just about every single one of them.

So don’t do it in generic terms. Take NWN one and tell us every step it took, from design to development to shipping to packaging, etc. I know lots of people would be interested in it in context. How does game made, how does it differ from development house to development house.

There are a lot of interesting things that could be covered in the industry in context that would make them VERY readable.

Go back to Wired, or Scientific America, or Popular Science even… They all manage to make interesting articles about things that may not be so interesting if not covered correctly.[/i]

Yeah, that’s my concern too. It’s easy to spend a lot of time working on an article that you like and then when nobody likes it, you just think: it’s them; I’m writing for ungrateful dolts or whatever. Mabye the article failed becasue it was just not that interesting to very many people. Maybe you need to look at how you’re presenting the material and adapt.

No, I’m saying the article may have failed for reasons you haven’t considered. Maybe it just wasn’t a very interesting article, was too long, or didn’t include some important elements? Maybe it managed to hit all three or completely different problems. My feeling is that drawing conjecture about why an article fails is only good if you then use your conjectures to write successful articles. Drawing conjecture to just give up is kind of a cop out, right.

Or, that people liked it but didn’t care enough to write in. It’s one thing to do a one-off story on game development or inside baseball on the business or serious game criticism, but in order to really tell if people appreciate it you may need to invest time and money writing this kind of stuff repeatedly. Change in “gaming journalism” isn’t going to happen because readers demand it; it’s going to happen because an editor or publisher is willing to try something different for a year or two and see if the readers respond.

The problem, naturally, is that doing this over and over again will take a consistent outpouring of money with no way to tell whether it is worth doing, at least in the short term. We know (or think we know) that readers like previews and screenshots. We also know (or think we know) that readers think previews are fluff pieces. Both contradictory, of course, but that’s conventional wisdom for you. Publishing margins are thin everywhere, and the gaming press relies heavily on the work of freelancers who have no reason to invest their own money and time on this type of reporting.

Troy

C’mon… there have been numerous articles about the industry written in the pages of CGM and before that Next Generation magazine among others. Some of them were very in depth and looked at very interesting stuff. I know because I read just about every one of them I could get my hands on so that when I talk about games, it comes from some kind of researched background.

The problem is that Steve has said those articles don’t get any response from readers in CGM. Next Generation magazine could never really build a big audience of readers with those articles. They just aren’t that interesting to the majority of magazine buyers and/or website readers.

Also, did you know that Ron Gilbert, who wrote this particular linked screed also appears in CGM?! He’s in the December issue doing a fluffy piece on the 2004 Classic Gaming Expo. That bit is written well-enough but there he had a chance to give us some unique insight into SOMETHING and yet there’s not a whole lot there that’s “in depth” in any way.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re certainly preaching to the choir with a guy like me. I try to do more than just run down the bulletpoints in a preview/review. I’m working on something right now in fact that’s more than that and I try to do that every week in my column at GamerDad.

The problem is I just don’t think people care too much about that kind of thing. There are a few of us that do and we all probably read Qt3 and then bitch at the guys that do it about how lousy they are at it. Either that or someone from PC Gamer tells us we’re all a bunch of bozos that generate anti-anti-anti-hype or something. Blah!

–Dave

Well, I can’t speak to magazines, but to the extent that a website has experimented and ran a piece of content, it’s relatively easy to tell if its readers like it. Just look at the number of page views, particularly the number who clicked on the first page and then how much of a dropoff there is on the second and subsequent pages.

Excellent points, and I think they apply more generally to other types of magazines as well

With all the recent bitching about various game mags, or at least an increased intensity in the bitching, I am curious if there has ever been a serious effort at publishing a periodical which is focused on commentary rather than reporting. Something which doesn’t spend most of its time reviewing the latest games and previewing the upcoming ones, but instead runs actual, I dunno, articles. Even some tiny black and white venture on cheap newsprint, or anything? I can’t imagine that it has NEVER been tried?

I wish more people would try it, and see that it’s sorta… hard to do. And incredibly expensive.

There are some websites that try this approach, and more often than not, some of the game gamers that bitch about magazines ridicule them.