Back in January, Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits (GJAIF) (also called GameJournos for a while) ended its run. Ben Paddon, the man behind it, called it quits after nearly two years because his “heart just isn’t in it anymore” and is moving on to other things. This is sad, because GJAIF – or something like it – is needed.
Gamers get the kind of gaming press we deserve. In an era when games have started to exit the cultural ghetto and move into the prime time, you’d hope that the enthusiast roots of the gaming press would start to grow into something more … mature. Grown up. Something that fit with more women getting into gaming and the average age of gamers creeping above the mid-thirties. But this doesn’t really seem to be happening.
The gaming press, funded by advertising paid for by game publishers, recruiting bloggers on-the-free / cheap to write about nearly anything just to fill a 24-hour news cycle, actually seems to be going backwards in some ways. Professional gaming sites all want eyeballs, so they focus on things like cosplay (especially of cosplay that shows a lot of female flesh), controversial news stories with the barest relationship to video games, presenting PR releases without any sense of critical analysis, copying what everyone else is commenting on or even just reporting on non-stories that will grab people’s attention. And then there is the game reviewing process, the exclusives handed out by publishers, the press events aimed at skewing review scores higher so that a title’s sales will (probably) increase.
GJAIF called them out on this kind of behaviour. It can be common knowledge that something is off – and even the gaming press mocks its own “gaming jurnalism” at times – but it actually requires someone (or an organisation) to come out and put it out in the open that this kind of behaviour isn’t acceptable. It also provides a channel for sourced claims to be made against gaming sites, such as claims that VGChartz told its editorial team not to make negative against games that were part of an ad deal.
Who Watches The Opinion Leaders?
It reminds me of the Australian show Media Watch. Media Watch is only 15 minutes once a week and is on Australia’s main public broadcaster. It looks at the media in Australia in all its forms – TV, print, online, from high brow articles to tabloid trash – and has covered a lot of ground in its time. Some times it is picking on the media outlets who make basic mistakes or stuff-ups in their reporting, sometimes it is pointing out the background behind a story uncritically broadcast to the public and sometimes it has even revealed public figures taking payments from advertisers to help shift public opinion.
It’s an important watchdog. Without it, there are a number of events that wouldn’t have been revealed to the Australian public. After all, even if some in the public felt that there was something wrong with a particular story (such as it being completely made up) what could they do about it? Who would they try to talk to about it? Media Watch isn’t popular in some circles – as their byline says, “everyone loves it until they’re on it” – but publicly shaming people into doing the right thing can work.
GJAIF doesn’t have the same level of resources, and was serving a different audience, so perhaps the link to Media Watch isn’t a one-to-one match. But the gaming press needs someone (or something) to look at the stories being put out and highlight where conflicts of interest arise, or explain why an article was wrong, or even just shame the press into doing a better job.
The gaming press won’t want such a person / organisation to exist. No-one likes being publicly caught in at best an innocent mistake (or at worst an intended deception for that matter). But without a watchdog of sorts, the gaming press on the whole can remain uninspired and revel in its current bad habits. After all, they are attracting eyeballs and bringing in the advertising money, which means they are doing a good job, right?
I’m not expecting GJAIF to rise again – Paddon has a full-time job now, which would eat into his arguing-with-strangers-on-the-internet time – but hopefully something else will rise up and take a similar place between the gaming press and gamers.