You Say You Want A Revolution
I hear a lot of people say that they want a change, a new direction, a revolution.Ã‚Â They want it not only in video games, but in the very media that covers gaming.Ã‚Â They say all the good sources have sold out, that the major outlets are bought and paid for by game publishers, and that the prÃƒÂªt-a-porte media is rife with corporate tit for tat.Ã‚Â To hear the average gamer speak, most of the coverage today, be it print, televised, or online is a tattered weave of journalistically legitimized hype and clichÃƒÂ©d platitudes.Ã‚Â Essentially, it is said that gaming journalism needs a serious change.Ã‚Â This is, of course, all well and good, but lacking a bit in the specificity department.Ã‚Â In short, gamers say they want something different, but arenÃ‚'t widely forthcoming with a consensus for what that change should be or even what the problem is to begin with.
Now, IÃ‚'m well aware that IÃ‚'veÃ‚Â invoked taboo terminology there, or at least a practically speaking ambiguous one: journalism.Ã‚Â When I, as a web writer,Ã‚Â blaspheme the name of journalism by associating it with theÃ‚Â internetÃ‚Â I risk suffering the wrath of those who seek, with some credible complaint, to sanctify the profession and to distance it from the vast majority of independent online media.Ã‚Â And yet, those who would be quick to judge the online journalist as being a virtual oxymoron, are often in the same breath criticizing, for lack of a better term, legitimate gaming journalists.Ã‚Â Those with the access, the contacts, the resources, and ultimately the advertising dollars to legitimize their journalistic claims are slammed for being beholden to the companies and products they cover, while the independent online writers are discounted as lacking professionalism, research, and credentials.Ã‚Â It seems no one is getting it right.
But, since the problem seems to pervade both professional and amateur outlets, and complaints are being levied by the same sets of readers, then letÃ‚'s not split hairs as to the issue of journalistic legitimacy.Ã‚Â When I say journalist and media, IÃ‚'m obviously not talking about the kind of site that canÃ‚'t manage any sort of grammatical competency or original thought.Ã‚Â IÃ‚'m speaking only of relevant sites that can contribute some degree of literate discourse, be it flawed or otherwise.Ã‚Â But for those sites, and it could be seen as self serving, IÃ‚'m sticking with my WebsterÃ‚'s New Universal Unabridged definition of journalism: Ã‚"the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting newsÃ‚"…Ã‚"Ã‚Â So when I talk about the desire for change in gaming journalism, I speak all at once of print, online, high profile, advertising based, enthusiast, and the myriad of other media permutations.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Like I said, to hear most people talk, it seems no one is getting it right.
When it comes right down to it, what it seems readers want is the resource and access of a professional outlet with the balls-to-the-wall individuality of an enthusiast source.Ã‚Â They want a group of Ã‚"˜regular gamersÃ‚' to be given the same access as a PC Gamer, or Gamespot.Ã‚Â They want an objective outlet that shares its readerÃ‚'s sensibilities; one that can walk out of a behind closed doors showing of Ultra MegaHype Seven and objectively state, in no uncertain terms, that itÃ‚'s shaping up to be total crap.Ã‚Â And when, instead, the Ã‚"˜legitimateÃ‚' news comes from behind those closed doors with a preview that reads like the gameÃ‚'s advertisement, already resting conspicuously on the very next page, readers instantly wonder what became of the precious legitimacy.Ã‚Â They realize that they practically never read an objectively negative preview, nor even one that seems to address legitimate concerns that, on looking back from the review, should have been absolutely obvious.Ã‚Â Simply, readers want to believe in what they are reading.
The average age of a gamer is pushing thirty these days, and on top of questions of validity are issues of maturity and sophistication.Ã‚Â Too often the gaming media is far more interested in the stereotype of what a gamer is supposed to be than what a gamer actually is.Ã‚Â ItÃ‚'s as though gaming media (and, in this case, particularly online outlets) has never quite escaped its pubescent years, splaying bawdy polygon curves across every screenshot, and titillating itself with new, rarely clever, forms of vulgarities.Ã‚Â And, without question, when done smartly there is a time and place for such, but for the most part gaming journalism is sophomoric at best, and too often embarrassing.Ã‚Â Gamers are not what they appear to be, they are married, they are varied in their professions, they participate in society, are outgoing, employed, and far smarter than most of the gaming press treats them.
ThatÃ‚'s not to say that we donÃ‚'t like an occasional dose of sophomoric humor, but what seems to have been lost of late is the creativity and genuine humor in that venue.Ã‚Â A site like Penny-Arcade which explores entirely new realms of creative vulgarity is successful because it is at the same time smart, creative, and matched to the sensibilities of its readers.Ã‚Â Unfortunately, they are unusual in that respect.
So within these two levied complaints, I think we have a shared thread that can be applied to all of gaming media, and I think itÃ‚'s what gamers most want to see changed.Ã‚Â The one basic issue, it seems, that gamers take with their press is that gaming journalism vastly underestimates its audience.Ã‚Â They underestimate our maturity, our sophistication, our engagement in society, and our savvy.Ã‚Â We are treated to clichÃƒÂ©s, platitudes, and a demographic focused style that takes the gamer clichÃƒÂ© for granted.Ã‚Â We rarely are treated to thoughtful commentary or meaningful discussions, instead swamped under corporate sanctioned previews, inane literature, irresponsible hyperbole, and provocative images.Ã‚Â It is more a sideshow than anything else, all flashing neon and rambling barkers hiding a perverse lack of depth.Ã‚Â
Naturally, IÃ‚'m not suggesting that every outlet is guilty Ã‚– there are obvious sources both reputable and intelligent - though I would contend that the plurality of gaming focused markets at the very least trend this direction.Ã‚Â And, I think the reason for this is that the gaming press has not kept up with the changing face of gaming itself.Ã‚Â As gamers have matured the media has failed to keep up, not apparently realizing that the average gamer has a career, a mortgage, and often a family.Ã‚Â This doesnÃ‚'t mean that gaming media needs to evolve into a bland boring equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, but that its audience is certainly more discerning and conscious than they seem to realize.
Gaming media, and then video games themselves, need a revolution, and that revolution is the discovery of the adult gamer.Ã‚Â The gaming industry needs to realize their core audience is not in the vocal minority of immaturity that pervades too many internet message boards, and that such a resulting attitude is as much a function of how gamers are treated as who we really are.Ã‚Â Maturity does not mean getting rid of being light, funny, and irreverent, but raising the bar on that irreverence and demanding creativity.Ã‚Â It means giving gamers more options for media that steps outside the parroting of corporate feature sheets, and demanding smarter writing, discussion, and themes.Ã‚Â It doesnÃ‚'t mean getting rid of what works now, but what doesnÃ‚'t and replacing it with something far better.