Game Journalism 2009: The Continuing Plunge

Now, I’m hardly the Grand Old Man of game journalism–that honor goes to Jeff Green, who will soon be celebrating his 87th birthday. But having written about games longer than Demon G Sides has been alive, a lot of what I see on today’s game sites just makes me sad.

Ran across this this morning:
Ensemble’s Bruce Kelley? Okay, now, the author was 7 when Civilization was released. And while they do teach you about basic fact checking in Journalism 101 class, few of today’s professional writers have any training or journalism education. But this is just sloppy. Particularly since one mention in the article actually does say Shelley. Even when Hearst was the bastion of yellow journalism, they understood the need for copy editors.

Obviously just one example. But I see this lack of care and professionalism too frequently nowadays.

Meanwhile, Dana Jongewaard has a good article on some of my frustarations with game reviews:

Game journalism hasn’t fallen from a height of perfection. (Fogeys pine for the days of CGW’s 7-page reviews, but in reality, those could have benefited greatly from a serious swipe of the editorial hatchet.) But I do think there’s a lack of care and quality control on many sites that was not nearly as prevalent in years past.

UGO laid off all of 1up’s copy editors. You’re seeing 20-somethings proofread by other 20-somethings who have their own wordcounts to fill.

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Jesus H Face-Palm!

The overwork is an excuse, but not the “20-somethings.” I’ve known lots of 20-somethings who do thorough, enthusiastic, professional jobs. Sometimes even more so than the more experienced folks, since the 20-somethings aren’t jaded, frustrated, disenchanted, or broken yet.

I always liked your work in CGW, Benny.

(And I chuckled – sadly – when I saw the “Bruce Kelley” article on the GameTab page this morning. Where does “Kelley” even come from? It’s obviously not a typo.)

It could have been an accidental replacement in Word, if Kelley is in their dictionary and Shelley isn’t. It seems unlikely that it was a fact-checking error, since the writer got it correct elsewhere in the piece. It’s also not a very likely typo. Regardless (or irregardless, if you prefer), it’s something that should have been caught by a copy editor.

…which is why the layoff of all the copy editors was the most telling cock-up of the whole UGO/1up buyout.

I mention the 20-something more because the error wouldn’t jump right out at them the way it would to a Certified Old Fuck who came up on PC games and considers Bruce Shelley a household name like Sid Meier or Trip Hawkins.

It’s Sid Meyer.

blue pencil me, Denny!

Getting people’s names right in an article shouldn’t be dependent on how old you are. And I’m not coming down on the writer for it, per se—every writer needs an editor and fact-checker. So does every professional website.

It’s Gamespot so I shouldn’t be surprised, but this one made me shake my head.,57106.0.html

It’s been removed now, however in a preview of the upcoming Mount & Blade expansion:

In terms of gameplay, there’ll now be mounted archery for the first time, which looked intuitive from the video we were shown.

Also, particularly annoying to me, but less egregious I suppose:

Perhaps most surprisingly, the developer is going to consciously defy some of the criticism it has faced from fans…

How dare they defy the internets!

Of course, editors aren’t everything: every writer needs to be as certain as possible about their facts and figures before sending things off to the red-pens.

Point in case: I’m a weekly humor columnist for my school paper, the Daily Free Press. I had a write-up about (fictional) things various colleges within the University could do to save money, riffing off the Communication school’s decision to eliminate all paper by end-of-semester. One of those included having the Business school kids stop using paper money and switch entirely to credit cards.

My (fake) reasoning? All that paper money was printed on cotton, and without their insulating coats, all the sheep that provided the cotton to money-printers would expel their voluminous body-heat into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and killing us all.

The whole sheep’s wool = cotton mistake made it past the section editor, two copy editors, and the EiC before hitting print.

At least it was a humor column; most people assumed I was being an idiot and forgetting about, say, the cotton gin, on purpose :(

Good copyeditors are a priceless resource, and far too rare in all fields of journalism these days. I used to write for a couple papers, and to this day, I have no idea how they caught some of my blunders. Hooray for people who save me from myself!

What about good writers? What’s the price of that resource?

I wish I could give Kotaku the gift of copy editing.

Especially this one.

You’d be surprised what a mediocre writer can do with a good editor and copydesk to support him. But given the state of games journalism today, maybe it would be best to focus on finding the people who have less need for a top-notch support staff.

Perhaps the person who wrote the copy knows someone whose name is Kelley. I often see people suggest that certain misspellings aren’t likely to be typos because the wrong/right letters aren’t close to each other on a keyboard, but the vast majority of my own typos aren’t due to ‘fat fingers’ miskeying, but due to improper activation of muscle memory… I’ll be typing something close to something else I type a lot more often and I’ll just bang out the wrong sequence even if some of the letters are nowhere near the ones for what I really mean to type.

Anyway… IMO, typoing someone’s name is like by far the least of “game journalism’s” problems these days.