JOELL-IRELAND.CO.UK | Ramblings and Life Blogging of James Joell-Ireland

Posts Tagged ‘ video game journalism ’

As I face my own battle to become an established voice in video game critique I face a crossroad, one personal and one in the professional stance. As ‘bloggers’ get treated as second class citizens by video game publishers and PR groups (with the exception of the few) our role is every bit as important as it is for mainstream media. Whether it be the case example of a former editor of Gamespot getting fired for poor scores on Kane & Lynch or Sony’s blackballing of Kotaku, there is no denying that there is a seedy underbelly to the world of videogames journalism. It is something that the average reader may not notice but for myself it is something I notice with extreme regularity throughout my time trying to run and rise the relevance of my own video game review site that I am editor of.

The case of Gerstmann and the blackballing of the Gawker Network before it rose to popularity are just two well known examples of how both publishers and PR companies put pressure on websites to lick the boot or be dropped. On a personal level I’ve already experienced issues ascertaining relationships with both Sony and Capcom both on a level of viewer readership and a nervousness that my ‘anything goes’ attitude to reviewing video games may come across on their product. Surely giving free license to talk exactly what you think about a product is something that should be embraced as a whole? A lesson I learned was to ensure that you give certain games to certain staff members that have an interest in the genre - to do otherwise can be reputation suicide and I’ll be honest I’ve had a couple of skims myself, but such is the risks of hiring new blood without nothing more than a fresh piece of gaming code as bait to hire them. There will always be an element of risk when you cannot pay your writers.

Is alternative media starting to make grounds on the mainstream folk that toe the line? I’d like to think so, but there are many alternative outlets that are too happy to toe the line in fear they’ll lose support should they totally pan a release. This partiallly explains why there are so many game scores floating between 70-80% when looking at them with a clear mind they probably deserve a lower score. Scoring a release between 70-80% is often a safety barrier to ensure no potential conflict. I now try and ensure that I tailor review code to those that are interested in the genre but sometimes you get PR companies kicking a stink over the most trivial things. Since David McMurdo moved on to write independently I’ve never had a member of staff on board that really have sunk their teeth into the rather unique and specialist strategy genre that Paradox Interactive cater for - so when we gave Victoria II a mediocre score the PR team handling the release spat their toys out of the pram almost finding it utterly audacious that we’d let a member of staff who’s never experienced Paradox’s work before review a title. I found this quite laughable really because you are basically catering the review towards fans of the developer as opposed to those that may pick the game up from the shops on an inpulse buy.

Now to address those publishers and PR companies that refuse to deal with websites that garner a smaller audience. Are you completely bat shit crazy? There is a percentage of gamers that have totally lost faith in the mainstream press - these people seldom rely on print publications and big corps to tilt them over the edge to purchase. These consumers tend to listen to gamers in their purest form, those untainted by advertising deals and unchained by overly aggresive editorial control. Whilst the last two years Konami haven’t supported us with their annual PES release, I can guarantee you a dime a dozen that our reviews have influenced many to buy this years release. I constantly see comments on both our social media extentions and website stating that they’ve bought said release because of our opinions and down to earth footage. So if you’ve stumbled across this and wondered why coverage for Capcom inparticular is extremely weak it’s because they see any website that garners less than 250,000 hits a month as worthless dealing with - unless of course they are trying to captivate a niche market.

I think we’ll see in the future a bigger influence of alternative media when approaching video games journalism - the more and more people I personally speak to are phased by dubious review scores and corporate ass licking that not only becomes so blatent to see on the road at events but also on the social media streams of both corporate entities and the toe-the-line blogs out there. Mainstream media is dying when it comes to geo-political news, maybe the same thing will happen in the entertainment industry, who knows. Oh just for the record - I spend upwards of £500.00 a year on running WDG whether it be travelling to events, sending review code or paying for hosting. Granted there are some nice perks for running the website, but nothing to outweigh the money I pay each year, so I really keep running the site for the love of it. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say on this right now. I’m sure there are many points I haven’t brushed upon but I am feeling particularly tired.

Peace, Love & Happiness x