Which Feature Stories Do You Want to See?

If a little fairy (or a big fat fairy with 5 o’clock shadow and a cigar, if you prefer) came along one night and said any “Gaming Feature Story” you wanted written “she” would make happen, what would you pick?

Personally, I would like to see something written about HYPE in general with Sony’s proclivity for hyperbole as the primary case example (see disclaimer below).

I was one of the many who was initially blown away by Sony’s E3 presentation, especially that Killzone Demo. I remember thinking that the next-gen wars were over before they even began. Sony had just landed the knockout blow.

I suppose that’s what I was supposed to think. But soon wiser men then me began to ask: “Was that really real-time?”

Well, there’s not a person on this board who doesn’t know that:

a) no it wasn’t
b) it took quite some tooth pulling to get Sony to admit as much

Following that, I assumed there would be some journalistic knuckle-rapping, maybe some tsk-tsking. And while there was some, for the most part there really wasn’t a journalistic outcry (in fact, and I hate to point this out because I think they do GREAT stuff, Gamespot posted the footage on their website with a cry along the lines of “Who cares if this isn’t real?”).

All that got me thinking: hype is just a given in the gaming industry. And while that’s not particular to gaming (there’s some in oh say, politics), I think there’s a healthier dose of skepticism by other reporters (i.e. the jaded White House press corps) and certainly more accountability (be you Democrat or Republican, the press does cover the foibles of both parties and typically with zeal. The analog of the Killzone footage would have been “major” news in the political world).

And the piece would go on from there, etc, etc.

disclaimer: I think Sony is an incredible company and has done a lot to advance gaming. And while yes some of their claims have been grandiose over the years, they wouldn’t be successful in this business if they were all hype. That said, I picked Sony because I think they’re the best case example (remember the initial hype around the cell, anyone?).

Who is your daddy and what does he do?

This is like if Koontz became a viral marketer.

So, what you’re asking is: “Why doesn’t the gaming press, which depends in large part on access to coming products to fill its pages (paper and web), kick the shit out of Sony more often?”

The answer, if it’s not intuitively obvious to you, is: they like being in business and don’t want to lose their business to competitors.

And in case your question is serious, I prefer features that explore the history of gaming and the influences the game designers bring to the table. XBN used to have a marvelous feature where they’d show 5 or 6 games (sometimes their own, sometimes not) to game designers and have them discuss the influence (or lack of) they had on their work.

RickH, the answer has nothing to do with the gaming press not wanting to lose business by being critical of Sony. That canard gets kicked around all the time on message boards, but it simply isn’t a factor. I’ve been poo-pooing the Xbox 360 right and left and Microsoft’s PR company is as helpful as ever to me.

The answer is that we’re an enthusiast press, not an investigative one, and arguably not much of a press at all. Next Generation used to do stuff like this, and I’ve really liked some of the follow-up I see in Gamespot’s recent news stories, but by and large, that’s not our bag because it’s not what you guys want.

We review games (often quite poorly) and tell you what games are about to come out (often quite lazily). If you guys want something different, support the magazines and websites that do something different, and send feedback to the editors of said magazines and websites.

Oops, I seem to be standing on a soap box. Getting down now.

But, yeah, the influence thing is good. I usually like hearing game developers talk about games other than their own.

-Tom

Id like this fairy to do a story on the integrity of the gaming press and the influence publishers have with them. Id like to find out how prevlent it is where advertisers put pressure and then the game magazine/web site, either puts pressure on the reviewer or editor to change things more favorably.

Id like a story on the actual working conditions of game developers and measures of payscale compared to non game related jobs using the same skills.

Id like a regular forum discussing game design issues. Not “one guys opinion” but a debate with point / counter-point discussions.

Id like interviews that are not fluff, but ask some deep questions of why game developers did certain things. For example, why does blizzard refuse to allow quest based loot on par with random/farmed loot (weather its a random drop or farming faction to allow you to buy something such as ZG).

Game Developer magazine.

Id like a regular forum discussing game design issues. Not “one guys opinion” but a debate with point / counter-point discussions.

Also Game Developer magazine.

Id like interviews that are not fluff, but ask some deep questions of why game developers did certain things. For example, why does blizzard refuse to allow quest based loot on par with random/farmed loot (weather its a random drop or farming faction to allow you to buy something such as ZG).

That would be pretty cool. Follow up interviews on online games IMO are something that need to be done more often.

I’ll have to defer to someone in the industry, but I still have a hard time thinking that the “expose” mentality (i.e., the Nvidia viral marketing hoohah) is one that would be helpful to the gaming press. PR is PR, but I would think that access is a variable thing. Meaning everyone will get the press kits and the demos, but fewer will tour the studios and speak to the devs for exclusive interviews. Maybe it’s my own perspective, but knowing someone was after his next “Gotcha” moment would dampen my entusiasm for dealing with them beyond the standard PR materials.

Every time a company tries something like that, it explodes in their face. I can remember a few times (though I can’t name them) where some company emailed a site threatening to pull support because of a bad review, only to be publically mocked by the site, and get a load of bad vibes aimed their way.

Read enthusiast magazines in virtually any area.

Computers, scrapbooking, comic books, airplanes, you name it.

The emphasis is on what’s good, and what looks like it’s going to be cool. Not on exposing the issues, underhandedness, overhyping, etc. in whatever industry the magazines are covering.

Why? Because they’re enthusiast magazines, not the Washington Post. And like it or not, the majority of the readers of enthusiast publications don’t want to pay $4 to $8 an issue to read biting exposes about what’s wrong with their hobby.

Hell, at least game magazines run negative reviews. When was the last time Wizard said any comic book less than five years old sucked?

True, but I really wasn’t thinking about overt bullying, but rather the call not made or the opportunity lost to a competitor.

Actually, leave ps3 aside, I’d like one on the ps2 and THAT hype, since that can have hard questions asked about it. ps3 stuff, sony can say ‘YES IT CAN DO THAT - you don’t know!’

I’m not sure why I’d want to read an article about how a company hypes its products unless they’re doing it in some novel way. I don’t think press events and press releases full of hyperbole are particulary worthy of investigative reporting.

All I really want from the gaming press is concise previews and reviews. I really don’t care what the developers think. For previews I just want to know the name of the game, see the feature list, and perhaps a bit of commentary from the writer. For reviews, just give me a well-written review no more than 700 words long. Heck, I like the CGM one sentence reviews. Some of those sum up a game nicely.

It’d be nice to read an article on the greatest mistatements, over-hype, etc. over the last decade or two. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be able to cover very recent stuff (PS3/XB360), 'cause it’s premature to say what’s hype and what isn’t. (Sure, most of what Sony says sounds like hype, but maybe they’ll surprise us).

The problem with this though, is that it’s hard for Magazine A to call out Magazine B for having over-hyped something a year or two ago. Sounds snarky. And if you don’t get specific (“Everybody said X, but they were wrong”), it sounds over-general and meaningless.

So all you’ve got left is a magazine doing a self-critique of things THEY have overhyped. Occasionally you see this (CGW and PC Gamer have both occasionally re-visited games they’d overhyped in the past and or issued mea-culpas), but in general, the magazines that overhype the worst are also the magazines least likely to do self-examinations, as it’s just not their style.

I suppose you could have the equivalent of “Brill’s Content” - a publication that just critiques the other publications, but mostly only industry-types and journalists would care. You couldn’t run a business off it - you could only post biting articles, maybe on a web forum, anytime somebody seriously over-hyped.

Too bad there isn’t a web forum filled with industry-types and journalists who consistently spotlight and complain about over-hyped game industry press…