In defence of Games Journalism

A response to this petition

Games journalism, and forgive the irony of this metaphor, seems to have received a lot of bad press lately. If you know why then that’s fine, we don’t need to mention it. If you don’t know why, I’m not going to gratify the situation by embellishing it further. Just read this piece from Forbes writer Paul Tassi.

There appears to be in America some kind of positive assertion of the public versus the oppressive and corrupt video games journalists and that the media has to be held to account. This coming from the home of Fox News means that apparently the perceived corruption of video games reporting is the biggest journalistic crime (not hating on America, just Fox news). Ethical standards are apparently in question, which is a nice idea given the hilarious bias of the American press (and most political press in general).

Far be it for me to point out that there are several more important issues in the country in question going on this very second as well as our own, let alone the rest of the world being slowly drawn in to what looks like an inevitable escalation of conflict in the middle east, that there is enough time to not only protest against games journalism but also specifically targeting Kotaku. And whilst I have been following this story there comes a point where you just need to back out of it because it isn’t your business and the rhetoric has become mind numbingly vindictive and malicious.

The following is a comedic sarcastic retort, it is meant as humour in a poor situation and should be taken as such.

Firstly, let me have my slightly sarcastic and comedic approach to this. The suggested protest appears to be late on Friday and at noon for the rest of the weekend during PAX in Seattle. This is mentioned so that it does not spoil your enjoyment of the convention, where people really care about games. Although the timing seems more focused around when people are going to eat rather than enjoy PAX.

You will also find that “yellow journalism,” which I’m assuming to be a move to call the particular parties cowardly, seems to be the most awkwardly arranged Pac Man cosplay flash mob ever. Using the aforementioned phrase as an ice breaker… Well I’m not sure what ice you are breaking but if you’re going to go up to someone dressed in yellow and are trying to spread awareness with a half concocted pick up line, then you might want to think about yellow. Seeing as the amount of Pikachu cosplay with young children, or their parents, who neither know nor care about these things probably want strangers coming up to them barking random phrases at them.

The comedic retort has ended now. I feel sad that the situation needs me to clarify such a section of this post.

Here’s the truth, speaking purely for the UK and the games journalism press here which, in my own way, I am immensely proud to be a part of and I love and enjoy every day I’m a part of it. As a job to have it is an incredible realisation of something I’ve loved for a large part of my life and of the skills I possess marrying together.

So it is hard for me to accept that this incredible industry and section of the media is being attacked so virulently due to recent events. Far be it for me to point out the past six years worth of independent reviews and court cases revolving around journalism and the UK press being a far more important and horrifying problem than the actions of a few people.

I have been a video games journalist for around four years. I have written for two very different and very excellent websites, as well as produced video, conducted interviews, performed voiceovers and hosted podcasts. I have networked my way around events that are put on by games publishers to promote their products in order to progress my career, as well as report on the showcases presented for us. Networking or “mingling closely” as it has been inferred, is essential in getting anywhere in any media career. Games, television, radio, print, publishing, marketing, PR… If people don’t know who you are then you will have a practically impossible task getting in to the industries I’ve mentioned. That is the reality of the modern world of job acquisition.

Speaking of jobs, it has been recently reported that there are only 40 full time jobs in UK games journalism. Now I’m sure you’ve seen how many different blogs, sites, articles, YouTube videos, etc, that are around the internet. I am part of one of those. I am not part of the magic 40, to coin a phrase. So yes that means that for the past four years I have earned a grand total of £0 by doing this job. If you’re having trouble with currency conversion that is $0. I do this job because I love games. We all do. We are all gamers, we always have been and we’ve worked tirelessly to try and get a foot in a door of a small industry that has close personal relations because we are all like a gaming clan where everyone looks after each other and has each others backs. It is like any small workforce in the same industry. You make friends, you make enemies, you make an impression and you network and make relationships. It is the nature of the metaphorical beast.

Do I do this for money? Well no, obviously not. My recent trip to Cologne to report on GamesCom was completely paid for by me. I was not subsidised or paid in any way to report on games by a site, by games publishers or by media outlets. Do I want to do it for money? Of course I do. I love the games industry because first and foremost I am a gamer and I want to share my experiences and I feel I can write well enough to cover the new games that you want to see as well as giving my opinion on games from my past, the industry or games criticism.

So let me be totally clear about my relationships. I have none other than professional interests in the industry. Yes we become friendly like in any industry and yes this familiarity helps us to get a look in behind the scenes. Without that, you wouldn’t have games journalism or anything other than reviews so if you have a problem with this then you have a problem with the system of journalism and media in general. There are outlets that are sponsored by consoles to be specific to their market and therefore get those scoops. There are news sites that get the interviews that you want to hear. There are YouTubers who get access to these games and help show these to you because YOU want them. That is all down to the relationships that everyone has worked hard to build.

As far as a ‘code of conduct’ goes, we have one. Everyone who is a journalist has one. The NUJ will no doubt be able to furnish you with them but thankfully our work as games journalists or staff writers does not require us to be as worried to the finer points of this code as we rarely would ever have a situation that say a political correspondent would where the particulars of it apply. By the way if you want relationships disclosed, you should ask the political correspondents what their relationships are and how they got them. They certainly didn’t get them being fresh faced out of college with an internship at their local paper giving them weight.

What I’m trying to say, whilst fully exposing myself and I’m sure many others who are in similar situations in the industry, is that this situation is getting really out of hand and being overblown due to the personal action of one aggrieved person really destroying the trust of privacy. This isn’t corruption or games journalism vs. the public, it’s just the actions of a vengeful individual who felt wronged. So please think of this if you are mounting a protest or if you feel personally let down by the games reporting media, remember that it is made up of people who love video games just the same as you. We encourage feedback and participation because we love to talk about games. We love to be honest with you about our adventures in this crazy industry and we love to share them with you.

If you get the impression that we are anything but that then I’m saddened that something that so many of us dedicate our own unpaid time to, and even those who are paid who work and have worked so hard to get where they are, has become jaded for you over something that isn’t even any of our business. I hope some common sense appears in this and we can get back to doing what we do best, talking about video games.

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