One thing that I hear a lot is this vitriol towards these game journalists for having an opinion. This isn’t some new case of people being angry over some major event, this is just general malice of the public towards those who professionally write about video games - all for the wrong reasons. I’d like to debunk a few things real quick about games journalism.
First, there are no handouts. If I review a game good, bad, or indifferent there is nothing in it for me one way or another. If I say for instance that WoW is garbage or that it’s great, Blizzard isn’t going to do much about it. They’re not going to get me up on the phone and say hey Xerin, great job not reviewing our game as we told you to, that fat check we were going to send your way is canceled. No, let me tell you what a review is.
A review is simply a judiciary proceeding with either one person or a group who come to the conclusion of a score. When the debating body is finished, an opinion is drafted and it’s presented to you guys, the readers. If a developer doesn’t like the review, they will either just go “well Xerin is stupid lol what’s he know about our (not) awesome game” or they’ll reach out and go into sort of an appeals process.
Which is where I might get an email and in it will be counter points to my review, cited references where I’m wrong, and an appeal to change to the score. If it’s all on the up and up, I’ll write a re-review or a new op/ed piece. If it’s not, I’ll gladly engage a developer in an interview or dialog about it, but at the end of the day my opinion is mine, and that’s going to be reflected in what I write.
Now, that is me, that is the process I adhere to. I’ve never gotten a single hand out from a developer and the very, very limited pieces of swag I’ve ever gotten were for giveaways or review copies. The only fun swag I've ever gotten was at events and it ain't much let me tell you. Much of which I don’t even utilize because a game is out of the scope of what we talk about or the game just isn’t “good enough” (as judged by me) that no one is going to care if it’s good bad or indifferent (hint it’s probably the last).
So yeah, there are no awesome checks that come my way. No mountains of swag. Even at events, I get the same swag as everyone else. No one is like “Oh, that’s Xerin! Better bribe his hand.” No. This isn’t even something ANYONE has ever suggested to me. So the idea that ALL media journalists are in the pocket of someone is just wrong, because I know for a fact me and the staff here at TTH have never gotten a check from a developer company with a review score desired written in the memo section.
Next, comes the hard fact of opinion and this is something a lot of journalists are just nailed to the wall over. I have an opinion. It’s tough I know. That opinion could be aligned to yours or not, I don’t know. I’m not thinking that when I’m writing what my opinion is. I’m thinking about what my opinion is, and opinion has bias. I like games that tickle my tastes. Games with a heavy emphasis on PvP, with a very generous leveling curve that doesn’t punish you, games that have RPG elements, and games that just work with me.
So, I’m going to not like something like Star Citizen and think the entire thing is stupid - while at the same time I’m going to love a game like Wildstar. Who knows, you could be different, but should you come to my house and burn it down over it? No - games journalists are people too and unless their opinion sounds like robot speak from a PR company, you shouldn’t grab a torch.
I’ve seen some articles over the past few years talk a good bit about how you have to play softball with the developers in order to cover their game. Well, that’s not true. I don’t have to play softball with any game that I don’t like. If a game sucks, and let me tell you there are a lot of games that suck, I don’t care about the developer. The developer at that point is pointless. They could come to me with a song and dance and invite me to come eat Christmas dinner with them, but why would I care? If the game sucks, I don’t need to talk to them. I don’t need anything from them. I just need to present my opinion on why it sucks and that’s that.
There are games that I like and I do, I guess, figuratively play “softball” by writing nice things about their game and not going out of my way to tick them off, but if I like a game why would I? I’m going to be honest, and if something is wrong with the game I’m going to say it, and I’m going to talk about ways to fix it and how it’s affecting the community. Which I’ve found more developers are all on-board with, because anything that highlights failings in a game to the point a games journalist is picking up on it needs to be addressed.
If a game is bad though I’m not going to want access to the developer and I’m not going to pander for it. If that developer makes other games that are good, then well uh there is a huge issue, why is this game so bad that the only thing I can write is about how bad it is? There aren’t many developers that have really good and horribly bad games, so bad that I have to be disrespectful and just outright give their game a beating. If that’s the case then, well, I’m not going to be the only outlet saying their game is horrible and they will not fault someone for saying it.
What I’m trying to highlight here is that just because access to a game and it’s developers lets us cover it more in-depth, doesn’t mean that we want it, and that it’s going to pepper an opinion. If something is bad, there are very respectful ways to say “this is wrong, this is how you fix it.” If something is so bad that civility is out the window, then you’re pretty much at a point where you and the developer mutually part ways because I know for a fact you guys, the readers, don’t want to hear much about something that unanimously sucks.
I can go on and on about this subject and I probably will in the future. We’re drawing to the point that my long winded rant is growing tiring and I’m repeating myself. So let me summarize - game’s journalists should be treated on a case by case basis. There are times, honestly, where the entire world can look at something and see money has changed hands and this is just wrong. However, for the most part, games journalists are just fans who are trying to expose bad things in games and share awesome things in games. With that, consider, not using a blanket to decide what is what, but use your judgment on a case by case basis. That’s all!