Whatever your opinion of the events and controversy in gaming has been over the last three years, it’s hard to deny that the mainstream gaming press (and some non-gaming press) has come out of it looking worse for wear. Gawker, infamous for printing vapid articles and putting up a sex video from Hulk Hogan, lost 7 figures in advertising when a staff member thought he was being funny saying nerds deserve to be bullied. Then Hogan came along and now Gawker, as well as all of their subsidiary media, is being auctioned off to pay for the lawsuit. More readers are becoming disillusioned with the sites they read, whether it’s a site claiming PCs cannot record games, or how apparent it’s becoming that many people who write about games just aren’t that good at them, or don’t play them at all. Should a reviewer have a passable skill at playing video games? Well, authors are expected to have a pretty good understanding of literature to write, mechanics should be able to drive a car, and we do hope that someone telling us how to spend our money is at least competent in the related field. Even Wikipedia has become questionable with its practice of determining reliable sites.
Probably one of the biggest indicators that the big games media has lost touch is with their reviews: how many times have you seen a game rated a 9 or a 10 only to play it and find that it’s garbage? Or a game the critics pan for one reason or another, only to discover a gem? The latter isn’t as common, but take a look at the recent release, No Man’s Sky. On Metacritic it’s holding a decent score from the media of 71 for PS4, while users are giving it a 4.9 failing score. On Steam, as of this writing, it’s sitting at about 40% negative reviews out of almost 38,000 since its release just a few days ago and some of the positive reviews include food recipes and a thumbs up for the refund button working. To make matters worse, it looks like Metacritic is getting flooded with fake perfect reviews of the game.
Even the new-wave of YouTube ‘journalism’ isn’t immune to the problems we’ve been seeing. A big case recently was against Warner Brothers paying YouTubers to give positive reviews. While Pewdiepie was named in the press release from the FTC, he was not actually one of the offenders though a lot of our high profile media outlets reported it that way. EA has also been accused of paying for good reviews, and until recently guidelines haven’t been very clear. With more focus on ethics, and the FTC taking a more solid stance on ads and disclosure, it’s now becoming a little more important that reviewers let us know when money or gifts are involved in the process. In the case of Ubisoft giving reviewers free tablets, some refused, some disclosed, but some did not. It has gotten better over the last couple of years, but it will be a long time before these outlets earn that trust back.
The Warner Bros case above brings to light another issue with our games media, and that’s in how they report the news. It seems that many of these sites would rather be the first to print a mistake than be the second to print the facts. Whether it’s laziness, an agenda, or simply incompetence is often impossible to tell. With Pewdiepie, they simply ran with the fact he was mentioned in the FTC release, but failed to verify if he did a review, or if he disclosed the fact it was a sponsored video. A few minutes of searching, and maybe an email to the target of their articles could have saved them, and Pewdiepie, a lot of grief. Worse can be when they print accusations that are unproven, and turn out to be untrue. These accusations can often ruin a person’s career, or seriously impact them negatively. Max Temkin, co-creator of Cards Against Humanity is one such case, falsely accused of rape, but our games media is quick to point out how he was wrong in defending himself the way he did. Falsely accused… and he is in the wrong for how he responds. Another case involved Brad Wardell of Stardock Games, again falsely accused of sexual harassment. The law suit was eventually dropped, and the accuser apologized, but that didn’t stop the media from writing up so many articles that to this day people still think it was true.
Also, how often do we hear how awful gamers, and the gaming community are? From our own media! I know I’ve talked about this here, and elsewhere, many times so I won’t beat this horse too much. This is just a huge pet peeve of mine and it needs to stop. Yes, absolutely there is a small group of morons that say stupid things, usually directed at women. They are not even close to being a big enough number to represent the gaming community. Our games media is doing a wonderful job of building a false perception of gamers, just like the regular media, and religious nuts did back in the 80s and 90s. I know, I was there. Go to a convention, look around, do you see any haters? I was at GenCon just a couple weeks ago and there were over 60k people there. I didn’t once see anyone yelling about there being too many women, or minorities. I didn’t see anyone being told they don’t belong, or forced out. 60k people! If the gaming community was so full of hateful, neckbeard, shitlord misogynists you’d think I’d have seen at least one person acting that way. You know what I saw? I saw a beautiful group of geeks, from all walks of life, all genders, ages, colors and creeds sharing in what they love.
Our community is awesome! The games media would have you believe there’s some majority movement to keep women from gaming, and whether they like it or not it’s simply not true. I know too many women gamers to even remotely believe they’re being kept away. If anything is keeping women from getting into gaming it’s the constant barrage of negative articles telling them how scary it is and how mean everyone is. You know what’s making men more bitter than anything else? The media telling everyone how awful we are. Of course, geek guys are going to be a little weird around girls. Most of us are introverts, and the rest are scared we’re going to be accused of something just for saying hi. Look at the articles that spew just that sort of crap. A guy said hi, wanted to talk about a game they were both playing, but “Stop hitting on me…”
Bottom line, the games media needs to be watched with both eyes open, and everything they print measured against several sources. Even me, in all the places I write, don’t take for granted that I’m calling out fellow journalists for bad behavior. Don’t take my word for anything, read as much as you can and make sure you get all the information. I would never intentionally write something that’s false, and I do strive for ethical and unbiased reviews, but I might make a mistake, and I hope you’ll call me on it when I do. Take those opinion articles with a grain of salt, and the news articles too. Talk to your fellow gamers before listening to the media telling you what our community is like. They’re doing a great job of dividing us, don’t let them. We made this community great before we even had a games media, and we can keep making it better without them. Let them know that we don’t need them and maybe, possibly, they’ll get the hint and start actually doing their jobs.