I suppose that when you get down to it, since I started contributing here at Gamehounds I’ve become a games journalist. Just because it’s a part-time unpaid gig I do out of love for my favorite hobby does not mean I don’t take it seriously. I mean, I write because I hope someone out there finds what I have to say useful, or at least entertaining. I also want to respect the integrity of what I do, as well as the intelligence of my audience, by being honest about what I am doing, and why I am doing it.
If I am to be honest, I can’t just go into the tank for anything or anyone. Even if I feel passionately excited about a game, or the Xbox 720, I can’t just turn around and howl at the moon when games or hardware get announced. So, needless to say I was heartened to read the latest from AJ Glasser, former Kotaku correspondent and current news editor for Gamepro. Glasser was disheartened by many of her fellow games journalists at E3 this past June who willingly became stage props to no particular purpose (at the pre-E3 Microsoft Natal event) or who acted like trained seals at the subsequent press conferences. As as she put it:
Video game press events are turning into a circus and that’s bad news for the industry. Not only am I stuck waiting for my fellow journos to sit down and shut up so the next “act” can come on, but developers are getting warped feedback on their games from the one source in the world they should be able to trust — the journalists.
Glasser draws upon lessons she learned through a sports journalism class at Stanford (which included the pertinent rule: “No cheering in the press box”) and goes on to explain in more detail why the current relationship between games journalists and the people they cover is unhealthy and downright dishonest. In print and in podcasts, I have heard over and over from games journalists that the games industry is relatively small and well-connected, so that the person or company you roast today might be the coveted source for inside information or a cover story tomorrow or might be your next prospective employer if you wish to trade your journalist hat for a developer hat, a public relations hat, or a community manager hat. This creates enough of a potential for ethical landmines, so why should games journalists invite disrespect by being seen to turn into slobbering fanboys on command, or cheering at being told they are each getting a free Xbox?
I was only a passionately interested fan as I monitored the announcements and press conferences during E3 2010, and even I cringed when I heard the announcement from Microsoft that their attendees were each getting a new sleek and sexy Xbox. I don’t begrudge Microsoft wanting to make a splash and put hundreds of new consoles into the happy hands of games journalists, but I’d have been mortified to be in that crowd. It felt to me like a public bribe, a bold move to make the audience complicit in a betrayal of their role as game journalists — and they gave it a standing ovation.
I’d say that Glasser is right, and that games journalists have a lot of work to do. My only complaint with Glasser’s article is that she never gets around to talking about some of the other rules for games journalists. It’s a great start, though, so please, AJ: What are your other rules? I think we need to hear them.