What Was I Thinking?

Archive for May 2011

Am I Destroying Games Journalism?

with 16 comments

I was propping up the bar tonight after a games event, as I am wont to do. Got chatting with a few freelance journalists in games and other industries when the conversation came around to how bloggers are now being invited to PR events, writing about games for free and thereby destroying the career option for freelancers.

I am paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the gist of it. So, always one to gather opinions from my personally-curated echo chamber, I put the question out to Twitter:

Quick question: Are blogs destroying games journalism?
@weefz

Perhaps I am na├»ve – I was honestly expecting this to float away into the ether like most of my off-the-cuff questions. It’s hardly an original debate but responses came back thick and fast from gamers, consultants, bloggers, freelancers and non-games copywriters. I got several flat-out “No”s and a few more nuanced opinions.

No. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the cream always rises. Bad games journalism is the only thing bad for games journalism. Everyone has the right to express their opinion, be it in blog form or otherwise. The good stuff gets spread by word of mouth… the bad stuff fades into the eternal din of the Internet. I can’t see any link to a degradation of games journalism. The notion that it does smacks of elitism if you ask me. Some of the most well rounded opinions come from amateur bloggers & podcasters IMHO :)
@TheSonicMole, 2, 3, 4

I’d say bad game sites are destroying games journalism, and bad game blogs are destroying good ones.
@NintendoTheory

There are too many of all of them. Neither are destroying each other, but the numbers of them might.
@angryjedi

You could ask the same of all sorts of journalism. Surely the two should exist side by side in holistic bliss.
@whatjosaid

Depends on the blog me thinks. One or two of the big ones have gotten awful of late but there are still some good ones.
@JosephBarron

I don’t think so, I usually read mainstream gaming sites first over blogs.
@Boogalord

Is FOX News destroying mainstream journalism?
@distraet

Blogs is a loose term. Major newspapers, magazines & corporations all have blogs. Quality ranges as wildly as their respective topic
@crazycraven

Only the bland ones rehashing press releases, but the same is true of the big sites
@MealtimeStrateG

They have been for years! Thankfully sites like AVGamer & various others are pushing on with a quality threshold. That’s all that’s been missing. A blog has no editor, no one to moderate, fact check or verify content for accuracy etc.
@origamikid, 2

All very interesting and valuable information. On the topic of blog vs mainstream, I think Jo’s and Si’s opinions (@whatjosaid and @TheSonicMole) are probably closest to mine – we can coexist perfectly well as entities and quality work will shine. That’s not quite what I meant though – the issue lies on the business side. Is the plethora of coverage garnered from unpaid games bloggers ruining careers for full-time freelancers and journalists by providing an alternative, potentially cheaper venue for PR teams to flog their wares?

I rephrased my question but here’s a bit of background info. I’ve been told that over the past few years, RyanAir has introduced a practice where new pilots have to do 500 hours of unpaid flight time for the company before they will be offered a permanent contract. This takes about 9 months of real time. At the end of that service, the pilot might be offered a permanent role, or s/he could be turfed out to make way for the next poor sap willing to work 9 months for free. Other airlines have seen this practice work and followed suit. Glad I never wanted to be a commercial pilot.

Question 2:

Different take: are blogs destroying games journalism as a viable career option, the way RyanAir has broken aviation? – @weefz

Here are some of the responses:

Blogs aren’t, crap games & over zealous PR firms/ marketing departments are.
@leongreen

They just need to buck their ideas up. Because there’ll always be someone on their tail. Just like any business…
@CamGuin

I have to say yes :). It’s sad really but when it is so easy to do as it is now it is inevitable that it would happen.
@Fusion_Gamer

Only for those who think ‘games journalism’ is rewriting press release emails and ‘sourcing’ news from other blogs. It’s a filter.
@MealtimeStrateG

No. Manipulative PR people strategically granting access only to outlets likely to praise their game, is ruining games journalism.
@chrisvandergaag

No. Games journalism only has itself to blame.
@mr_elmore

Lots of disdain for a certain type of PR attitude here, even as we all depend upon PRs for our content. And that’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it? As I understand it, most games websites depend upon advertising for revenue. Some also get money from syndicating their content to other media sites who, in turn, generate money from advertising. Who advertises on games websites? Games companies. Who provides the content? Games companies. Everybody knows this.

So ultimately, we’re either in the pay of games companies or we’re not being paid at all. Yes, some of us bloggers and independent sites are lucky enough to be invited to events. That’s content-side. It’s not the same as diverting revenue. Freelance journalists may be getting paid less than they were 5 years ago but that money certainly isn’t going to the bloggers. We write because we want to. We write because we don’t feel represented by the work published on established games websites. Hell, I started The Average Gamer in 2005 just to share my thoughts and only this year have started working with PRs and turning it into a profitable source of income.

Independent blogging isn’t destroying games journalism as a career. We’re just shifting the focus.

Is everyone being overly dramatic or are we all on the threshold of mutually assured destruction? I’d love to see your opinion in the comments section below..

Written by Weefz

23 May, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Posted in games

Tagged with , , , ,