Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How much do game reviews influence you?

"They don't influence me at all. The entire games journalism industry is a complete joke and worthless. You don't get review copies unless you're a gutless asskisser."
"Reviews? From magazines? With scores that go to metacritic? Not at all."
"In the sense of gaming journalism, not much. I barely read those sites/magazines anymore, and haven't in years."

This question, and these answers, came from an Internet message board that I frequent. I have chosen to kick off my blog by sharing these quotes because they embody exactly my goal within the game journalism industry. When people think of "videogame journalism," these are the impressions that they have. People who write about videogames for a living are inherently distrusted, sometimes even despised. Why? Well, to be quite honest, there are some legitimate reasons to feel this way -- reasons I hope to cover in future posts. But moreover, it begs the question as to why you don't see the same amount of vitriol hurled at mainstream film and music critics. This blog, among other things, will attempt to explore and answer this question.

So, what is this blog about? In essence, it's about trying to take these same sentiments and turn them 180 degrees. It's about trying to bring mainstream legitimacy to an emerging underground field of artistic criticism. (The fact that I have to do this in blog format to accomplish this pretty much makes my point for me.) My goal, not just of this blog but of my professional life, is to prove that there's more to writing about videogames than pumping out positive reviews on command and reprinting press releases as breaking news.

What sort of things can you expect to see on this blog? I'm going to focus a lot of my energy on criticism of videogame journalism itself, pointing out where I think writers are inconsistent, lazy or just plain wrong. I'm also going to put forth examples of the type of writing that I'd like to see more of in the videogame field. Over time, I hope to show that a publication about games can have every bit as much legitimacy as Rolling Stone or even The New Yorker. Ambitious? Sure. Impossible? Surely not.

I'm also going to talk about games themselves, not just whether I think they're bad or good, but on how they further the artform. I want to move beyond the impression that games are "children's toys" or meant for mere amusement and distraction. I hope to show that videogames can carry important messages, can change the way you view the world, and yes, even be considered works of art. If just one person comes away from this blog and realizes that videogames are not just those things that kids play when they should be doing their homework, I'll consider my goal accomplished.

It cannot be denied that games are an intricate part of our modern culture. We live in an age where Newsweek has a videogame blog and the biggest games of the year can earn comparable amounts to Hollywood blockbusters. But it also cannot be denied that videogames (and gaming culture) still have a lot of growing up to do. Consider this observation: what parent wouldn't be proud if their child enrolled in USC film school? Now, how about if that same child went to Collins College of Videogame Design instead? There's a huge gap between the two schools, not just in terms of tuition, but in how their graduates are seen in their respective industries. Not to pick on Collins College in particular, but I'd just like to point out that there is no such thing as a "prestigious" school for videogames in the way there is for film.

This disconnect is by no means exclusive to higher education. Newseek and The New Yorker enjoy an air of legitimacy that cannot even be approached by the likes of EGM and GameInformer. The industry is making babysteps, though, and overall I see things headed in the right direction. I want this blog to be my way to encourage those baby steps to turn into sprinting leaps. It'll be a long, slow process, but it's a process that I absolutely want to be a part of.

But I don't want this blog to be just about me. I highly encourage anyone reading this to contribute as well. Leave a comment, e-mail me at or take up these same issues in your own blog. I can get on my soapbox and rant all I want, but it will all be for naught without honest, open interaction with others. So I ask you, are my goals crazy? Idealistic? Just what this damn industry needs? Please let me know. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some games to play.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I don't know how often I read game reviews, but I rely heavily on the press release aspect of games journalism. Does a website that chronicles release dates count as journalism? I don't know, but I would certainly make use of it.

    Nevertheless, what's certainly lacking from the mainstream is criticism. You can find some fairly in depth thoughts on the ring of Game Industry Bloggers (Man Bytes Blog, The Brainy Gamer, Rock Garden, Only a Game, etc.), but relatively few people who aren't in the industry know about these things.