Game Journalism 2009: The Continuing Plunge

Just came across this wonderful piece of writing from IGN:

Wait, what? Aren’t barbiturates depressants? Ugh.

Alternatively, you could look up grammatical cases in any English grammar textbook of your choice. :)

Yup. You could argue that he was using it in a generic “drug” context, but then he went and described the effects of a stimulant.

Blah. Ok ok ok, I was wrong. I write with my ear, not with a big ass book in my lap.

Man, I always hit two keys at least when I write with my ear. Try fingers, that’s my advice.

Dude, you have some seriously dextrous lobes.

(and that is not a pick up line.)

[RIGHT]Mr. Alex Handy’s Boss
Oakland, California
February 24, 2009[/RIGHT]

To Whom It May Concern,

Is that job open? Because I write with a big ass book in my lap. I find that sometimes the pressure on my penis and testicles makes for erotic dreams when I fall asleep whilst writing, usually after a big lunch.



[RIGHT]Enclosure. If you know what I mean.[/RIGHT]

I found more than one:

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1921 to Italian immigrant parents, he experienced the economic crisis head-on.

At Christmas, he would tell my brother and me how his parents, unable to afford new toys, had wrapped the same toy steam shovel, year after year, and placed it for him under the tree.

I love commas.

And that’s easier than my method in what way? :)

Figured the folks here might be interested: the rant session at the GDC this year was about game journalism. It was journalists ranting, and ranged from Totilo talking about writing quality to Heather Chaplin talking about neoteny, as you may have heard. I was the guest developer ranter, and gave this rant, directed at journalists, based on my experience last fall: Do Your Job Well, Please


Oh, none of you have lived until you’ve seen your company’s name accidentally misspelled repeatedly in the same article into a swear word. I thought Starduck was bad. But there are indeed far worse misspellings for Stardock than Starduck.

Troy also just linked to this GamesIndustry newsletter about the gaming press treating GDC as a mini-E3.

The reason for this constant cycle of rumour, expectation and disappointment - whose ultimate result is to create a large population of embittered, annoyed consumers, something which isn’t good for anyone in the business - lies in the continuing debasement of the games media itself. Blogs, podcasts and news sites can huff and puff as much as they want about GDC (or any other show) being “disappointing” - the reality is that it’s the writers themselves, through their credulity and unprofessionalism, who have created the false expectations which lead to such disappointment.

The advent of the Internet has done some wonderful things for the games media, but news journalism - both in games and in every other sector in the world - has suffered terribly. No longer are news stories researched, backed up and given a context before being published. Instead, a culture where being first is vastly more important than being accurate has flourished, with writers desperate for “exclusives” converting wild rumours and speculations from forums like NeoGAF or GameFAQs into news stories in a matter of minutes.

With pitched battles being fought between rival blog sites to be first with the “news”, what that news actually contains becomes far less important than being the first site to have the headline. Worst of all, the relentless drive for more exclusives means that stories are thrown out to the public and rarely returned to - instead, they flourish on networks of smaller blogs and websites, fermenting in the public consciousness until they become “fact”, utterly divorced from their worthless beginnings as rumours anonymously posted on an ill-moderated comments board.

Even the bigger and supposedly better games websites are pulled into this cycle, at great detriment to the quality of their own reporting. Previously, professional writers on these sites would have taken the same rumours and spent a few hours researching them, calling the parties involved for comment, and getting in touch with sources who might have been able to confirm their veracity. Now, after years of doing the proper legwork only to publish a few hours after the blogs’ unresearched headlines went live - thus losing much of the traffic for the story - this practice is dying out, as journalists who ought to know better join in the race to the bottom instead, egged on by publishers and managers who also ought to know better.…

Finally, however, there’s the impact on journalism itself. In the sea of rumours, speculation and nonsense which has become our news cycle, the sad reality is that any real investigative, well-researched work is lost. When baseless rumours are presented as fact day after day, readers find it impossible to separate them from genuinely good, well-researched work - thus, ironically, making the games media into a powerless beast. The power to break real exclusives or investigate matters of genuine import to consumers is rendered meaningless if it will be lost in the flood of half-truths and inaccuracies. Instead of journalism, games news, even on some of the most reputable sites, has become filled with sound and fury - signifying, ultimately, nothing.

I find it particularly ironic that claims such a high moral ground, when they are very far from a sterling news operation.

Ha Ha!


Looks like that company found a novel way to introduce Brad’s Space Meat.

This thread makes me nostalgic for some of the great editors who, over the years, made some of my writing so much better in the published form than it was in the submitted form.

There were a lot of them, but a few that immediately come to mind:

Steve Bauman: just frikkin’ awesome. Very concise in his critiques and suggestions, sometimes subtle in his edits, yet I’d read the article in the magazine and think “Wow, that is better than I remember when I wrote it” and then read again and notice the little changes. Also backed his writers 100%, even when he disagreed with the opinion in the review, if the opinion was articulated well.

Denny Atikin: My own personal Elements of Style. ;) Great writer who could edit and improve your writing but didn’t try to make you copy his style. In addition, he was the CGW Sims editor when I first wrote for him, and he had the same history and passion for sims I did, so it was pure pleasure writing for him.

Jeff Green: He was the Sports editor when I first wrote for him. Denny warned me that he was horrible at answering his emails, goofy, but a great writer. I didn’t know what to make of him at first - it would take 3 or 4 emails before I would get a reply that would be something like “Ugh. I suck. I am so far behind on my emails, but to answer your question…” But then I would see his edits and suggestions, and realize “this guy is a pro, and he can WRITE!” A true pleasure and privilege to have him edit my stuff, plus he was just pure fun to work with.

Robert Coffey: Robert used to kind of tick me off at first - brusque, sometimes a bit brutal. But I also realized he was making the articles much better. In addition, I was going through a time with some serious issues, personally, that were affecting my writing when I was writing for him, and honestly sent him a few articles that were pure crap, and he somehow made them worthy of publishing.

Scott Udell: anyone here remember him? He’s the guy who got me writing for CGS+. Sims, strategy, wargaming. Patient, as much a mentor as an editor. Wonderful editor and superb person.

I’m leaving out a lot of people, no offense, those are just the ones that immediately jump to my mind when I think back over the “glory” days when the mags were filled with professional editors.

And this is a big problem with the situation. I don’t find anything wrong with what was said in that quoted piece of the article, but there are plenty of articles I could point to and find fault with as a way to say, “Who the hell is this person to sound the call to action.” I could do the same thing for just about any site you can name, no matter how trade-focused or generally respectable on message boards.

Then again, I write news for GameSpot, and I’m sure plenty of people (myself included) can point to and find fault with a good number of GameSpot articles in order to undermine whatever we might say about the sad state of gaming journalism. So it’s not like I have room to paint everyone else in the industry with the same crappy brush.

So for someone within the gaming journalism field to write about this is really a no-win situation. What I (and I imagine other gaming journos who aspire to good work) would love to see is people outside the field insist on and call attention to the good stuff when it actually happens.

I completely recognize that’s a cop-out that shifts all the responsibility on people other than me, but it helps make the tilting at windmills a bit easier and more comforting when I sense that there’s some kind of cosmic justice that will reward good work and punish the bad. So now I’m realizing that my faith in game journalism is just another religious belief with no tangible evidence to support it.


Journalism has always been more about headlines and first publish over substance. This isn’t new or because of the Internet. I think he’s a bit mistaken about the ‘good ol days’.

Is there any site that could be considered as the most reliable, professional source for news?

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more discussion here about the Game Critics Rant session. I thought it raised a lot of interesting questions, like:

Chris, are you eligible for the Duct Tape Award? 'Cause if so, I think you’re more likely to get it than Heather Chaplin. I mean, even the stuffed shirts at Forbes liked you!