Guest Post: When Games Journalism Doesn't Blow Your Face Off

[What better way to celebrate a site launch than with a guest post? Well, with a beer, obviously. Since that’s the way I have chosen to celebrate I’m clearly in no position to write anything coherent. Luckily Kayamana was on hand to provide me with that guest post after all… -Phil]

If there’s one thing that really annoys me it’s the mindless side of journalism, specifically journalists in the entertainment world who do not respect, or maybe even understand, the essential gap between journalism and advertising. I’ll cut to the chase: I’m referring to game journalists bent on turning every review into a competition to produce the most unnecessarily wild and irrationally extreme statement that can be contained in one phrase. Note: this does not mean the phrases say anything about the actual games in question. They rarely do.

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there sick to death of quotes like:

“So hardcore it’ll tear your face off.”

“The second level of the demo is when my entire face was blown off by maximum awesome.”

“This game will get you drunk and get you laid. Trust us.”

Er… seriously? Wii Game Party is going to get me drunk and laid? Whats with the assumption I wouldn’t get drunk and laid anyway? And “trust us”… Is that a genuine promise or just another sign we should never take anything you say about games even slightly seriously? And in that latter case, does that not undermine your whole purpose?

OK, let me just try to work this thing out. Your job is to review games: so that we, the consumers have a vague idea about what’s out there, how much of it is good, what’s worth our money, and the state of the market generally. Yet the reviewer seems more interested in trying to boost his ego by showing off how amazingly funny he failed to be. That’s not to say reviewers should not try to be funny, just that the fact you review games does NOT make you immune to effort, you know?

No doubt part of this frustration comes from being a consumer who has to scan for some intelligent genuine comment, but it’s also partly because I took a degree in it. I was just looking for some kind of 3D Animation degree, saw a game design course, went for it, and enjoyed every minute of it. Some of our work was genuinely challenging and utilised a lot of skills and yet when people asked what i did at uni, I’m almost embarrassed and usually resort to just saying, ‘Oh… 3D animation.’

Not because I’m embarrassed about the course. As I said, it was awesome, I met amazing people and, if I had to go back to uni, without a doubt I’d do it again. It’s because I know people instantly think of socially defective 15 year olds spewing brainless humour on the Internet from their stuffy bedrooms. That’s OK, because it does happen. But the childish journalism surrounding the industry, where ‘BEST EVER’ and ‘IT’S AWESOME!’ are slapped onto every other game cover, is really not helping the stigma the industry’s been laden with. I don’t think film or music students had that problem. Also, when you’ve spent a year or two on level design you start to appreciate just how much effort goes into these games and just how insulting it can be that some reviewers clearly haven’t bothered to take 5 minutes to actually check it out.

I’ve probably got this all wrong but from what I’ve said to people, it doesn’t seem like it is just me. Game reviews do not have to have this approach. There are plenty of interesting and intelligent things to say about games. In the case of my last paragraph, i was concerned that maybe games shouldn’t be taken seriously, but as a friend pointed out: ‘if my job is reviewing toasters, it doesn’t matter if toasters are important, i should actually review them instead of turning it into a showcase of comedy talents.’ I pretty much agree with this, only, in the case of some, i’d have put ‘talents’ in inverted commas.

[Kayamana can be found posting on her own electronic word house here]


1 Response to “Guest Post: When Games Journalism Doesn't Blow Your Face Off”

  1. 1 Izzi
    15/10/2009 at 21:45

    this post kinda shows up how low games ‘journalism’ can go: http://www.onelastcontinue.com/12237/dont-ask-about-rock-band-on-igns-music-hub/ a response from IGN claimed it was just a badly labeled fansite, but the author’s point still remains that it can damage the respect readers have for game journalism, which is bad for everyone.

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