Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Lows of Gaming Journalism in Mainstream Media

It can be a rough business writing about video games in mainstream journalism. Kotaku Australia spoke to a number of people regarding their perception of the world with newspapers, magazines, and television newscasts. And! how the viewpoints of others cloud their work.

Mark Serrels wrote the piece on anonymity, so a number of the sources appear as "one person said." Which makes it difficult to determine if what was posted is the truth. However, given the responses provided, it feels pretty accurate to how mainstream media views games and gamers.

The adage of "if it bleeds, it leads" is no different when it comes to gaming. If there is a story with a lifestyle hook, or angle that catches someone's attention who isn't a gamer, it's more likely to be published. Such as any claims that video games cause violence in youth, or a mass murderer was also a big fan of Call of Duty. Those stories will take precedence over a routine update to the PS4. On the same front, tech journalists are less likely to post stories about games then those in other departments. The people that we WANT to talk about games are usually the ones who don't because the resources made available to them are third party. It's an AP source or some other that gets the initial content, and the questions they ask do not contain the information that tech journalists want. So the story gets passed on to the next person, and it turns into the sensationalists content that we commonly see.

Traffic is king. Clicks are the monarchy. And ad revenue is the overlord. Whatever it takes to get people onto your website, mainstream media will do it.

Which makes journalism that much more difficult when you are being dictated what stories to follow-up on, instead of providing the news as it happens. That also means that news directors are telling reporters to follow gaming stories without having a clue what they are about.

The release of Pokémon Go is a fine example. Publications pounced on the story because the game was so popular. But if you look at the content within them, they were pretty barren. They rarely talked about the game play or the specifics to the game. It was glossary overviews of "everyone is playing it" and that it's a social phenomenon. No details. No meat. Just fluff. It's a constantly struggle with gaming journalists to provide quality content while working for a large paper.

Thankfully we have outlets like Kotaku and Gamasutra to provide gaming journalism in multiple formats that we don't have to subject ourselves to major publication outlets. However, it doesn't change the perspective of gaming to the masses. Only gamers see the real content, while the majority of the public gets the fluffy version. Will it change? Maybe. But not anytime soon. Not until editors see the value of well-written stories.


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