GWJ Conference Call Episode Twenty

Conference Call

Crackdown, Supreme Commander, The Aftermath of Vanguard: A Discussion of Game Fans, The State of Games Journalism, Your Emails and more!

Following the aftermath of the Vanguard anti-review, the guys delve into what it means to be a game fan and share their own experiences with insane fanboyism. Also this week, Shawn squares off against those who dare challenge his opinions on game journalism. Shawn wins the argument in a landslide! Cancer is cured and women are spontaneously pregnant!

Want to support the show? Hit the Digg link just above (it's fast and easy to register) or review us on iTunes! Read on for show notes.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

The Links
Crackdown
Supreme Commander
The Anti-Review of Vanguard

Thread of the Week: No Such Thing As 'Game Journalism' - souldaddy

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"Small Comfort" - Apoplexia (Benoit Casey) - 0:9:55
"Terra" - Chico Correa & Electronic Band - 0:31:35
"Impeller" Ian Dorsch - 0:54:37

Comments

Great episode guys!

If you want to outsource reviews i guess there's plenty of people willing to be paid what you guys get paid to write a top-notch review for the site

I'll write for free - just send the review copy in the mail

Solid show, kids !

I still say Journalism is not doing so great lately. Sure, there's more of it, but it's mostly some dude and his blog.

Right now we have people who still come from the "old media" and are trying to do Journalism the way it was intended, but as we move to the internet as the center of everything news, it's all too easy to get the impression that people just want tits and scandals, not op-ed old NYTimes style stuff.

Just how long will media survive without this inclination to shock content to get more eyeballs(to sell more advertising)? Specially when some other dude is doing it out of his basement without any real ethics or training and getting paid the same or more?

Witness Fox News, which as I've read has become the top rated news channel. Who would seriously watch it for a day and not admit it has a bias towards shocking content that is not really "news"?

And then you have the issue of people doing it for free, but with a definite agenda. Search around a bit and you'll find there's sites with news for KKK members, and forums for people with nazi inclinations that have millions of members. And that's where these people get their news from.

Then you have sites like Digg, that are really just a congregation of moronic stuff that is supposed to be "news chosen by the people".

Check out their World & Business section. http://digg.com/view/world_business

And see what passes for news for the majority of people there. There's some legit stuff, but there's a lot of crap that gets taken seriously.

Digg, btw, is supposedly much more popular than the NYtimes in terms of traffic ranking.

I'm being pessimistic, of course. I'm looking at a worst case scenario, but you have to admit the picture is not rosy. And I don't mean to disrespect the people who are doing a good job, because there's still a lot of great journalists out there. My suspicion is that in the future, as the power shifts to the viewers, their voice will be drowned out by the blogs and the more scandalous news sources, because that's sort of human nature.

Good podcast, again. Touched on a lot of subjects near and dear to my heart. Can't say I entirely agree with any of you on the state of investigative games journalism, but I don't entirely disagree either. Maybe I'm just too close to the action for an unbiased opinion.

Interesting you bring up console MMOs. I just did a feature on this, and looking at the bulk of my research, I agree that the biggest problem will be one of interface. After all, the two biggest obstacles have already been surmounted: Xbox Live has proven that people want to play together online on their consoles, and more and more, typical "PC" genres like FPSes have ported over to the console successfully.

What I think will be the real kicker is the lack of mouse and keyboard. As you said, how will the game handle everyone chatting at once? Say you rely on voice chat; okay, but how will you handle conversations in or between large groups? Also, how will you manage without (or with drastically fewer) hotkeys (since all you have is six buttons and two joysticks to work with)? And when a platform dies, like the Gamecube or the Dreamcast, what happens to the players using it for an MMO? What happens if a new console model comes out that's incompatible with older hardware like hard drives? etc.

Not easy questions to answer. But until these concerns do get addressed, I don't think we'll see a successful console MMO (although with the success of the 360, more studios are trying).

Certis's comment about involvement with Half Life fandom before the game came out struck a chord with my experience as well. Some time (~6 mos.) before X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter hit shelves I stumbled upon a clan site for the game. I was stunned with its rigid structure of membership. If you were one of the first few people to join, you'd get a higher starting rank within the clan than later members. There was an elaborate system of rank promotion based on how many and what types of kills you scored in different categories of games like "official", "clan-sanctioned" and "clan-rivalry". You were also required to choose a specific ship in which to specialize, and if you flew missions in a different ship, you'd get only a third of the points toward promotion. And since no one wanted to fly a Y-Wing, they offered bonus points to people willing to pilot one. There were also biweekly ceremonies scheduled on IRC when promotions would be granted. Did I mention that this was all determined well before the game was released?

Whoever created this had an unnatural affinity for rules. It was a baroque house of cards with a foundation based on poorly informed speculations about a game that the site owner wanted to be true. When people didn't flock to the game the way they did with TIE Fighter, its collapse was glorious.

Also, how will you manage without (or with drastically fewer) hotkeys (since all you have is six buttons and two joysticks to work with)?

Actually, this particular point may not be as big an issue as you think. There is also the d-pad that can be used for hot keys, and these days you actually have eight buttons (four face buttons and four shoulder buttons), and the shoulder buttons are quite conveniently situated to function as shift/modifier keys on the other buttons and the d-pad.

Still, all the other issues you bring up are perfectly valid.

I just realized something, Certis.

Back when SiN and Half-Life were coming out, I was a SiN fan. One day, I saw a poll on a SiN page: which is better, SiN or Half-Life? I hadn't really heard of Half-Life, so I looked it up, and I read about it. I remember reading that bestiary you were talking about! It was you that showed me the light, Certis. You made me a Half-Life fan!

*breaks down crying* Thank you so much, man! I love you!

KaterinLHC wrote:

What I think will be the real kicker is the lack of mouse and keyboard. As you said, how will the game handle everyone chatting at once?

Microsoft had a good idea with a universal on-screen keyboard that would work with any game on the 360. Unfortunately, the one they went with is not good. I'd love to see a replacement for that. The in-game keyboard in Beyond Good and Evil was both intuitive and relatively fast. It had an iPod-like wheel motion that navigated an endless repeating helix of characters.

Also this device's method would work on any dual-stick controller, but it looks like a steep learning curve.

Do you have a link to the Fallout article you discussed?

zeroKFE wrote:
Also, how will you manage without (or with drastically fewer) hotkeys (since all you have is six buttons and two joysticks to work with)?

Actually, this particular point may not be as big an issue as you think. There is also the d-pad that can be used for hot keys, and these days you actually have eight buttons (four face buttons and four shoulder buttons), and the shoulder buttons are quite conveniently situated to function as shift/modifier keys on the other buttons and the d-pad.

Still, all the other issues you bring up are perfectly valid. ;)

Perhaps you're right. But there's still a limit to the number of button combinations you can remember off the top of your head. Will you remember that R1+L d-pad + A button brings up your second weapon slot? Or will you remember F2? That's definitely an exaggeration, but you see where I'm going with this, right? I think we won't know for sure until we see it in action, though.

Crouton wrote:

Also this device's method would work on any dual-stick controller, but it looks like a steep learning curve.

A very steep learning curve, I'd wager. How many people will be willing to dedicate the necessary time for the dials to become intuitive? It's a neat idea, but I think it may be too exotic for most players, especially casual players or one-trick ponies (like people who only play WoW, or EQ2, etc and nothing else).

And while I haven't played Beyond Good and Evil yet, I do think the on-screen 360 keyboard is clunky, awkward and slow. But not through any fault of its own - mostly just that on-screen keyboards, even since the days of the NES password system, have been clunky, awkward and slow.

KaterinLHC wrote:

A very steep learning curve, I'd wager. How many people will be willing to dedicate the necessary time for the dials to become intuitive? It's a neat idea, but I think it may be too exotic for most players, especially casual players or one-trick ponies (like people who only play WoW, or EQ2, etc and nothing else).

I agree that it's probably too steep, but it's funny because it was precisely MMOers that I had in mind. If anyone has the level of dedication (and amount of time) required to overcome a steep learning curve, it's them.

KaterinLHC wrote:

And while I haven't played Beyond Good and Evil yet...

Shame, shame, I know your name.

zeroKFE wrote:

Do you have a link to the Fallout article you discussed?

Sorry, I knew I forgot something. Link get!

Thanks!

Edit: Those people scare me.

I don't think the game journalism industry is ever going to reach the level of scrutiny and depth that conventional news reporting will get to. Can you honestly imagine the following?

IMAGE(http://img226.imageshack.us/img226/3218/shawnandjay4yv.jpg)

"This is Shawn Andrich of GWJTV, live outside the headquarters of Bioware here in Canada with the breaking news that Dragon Age is still in development!"

Yeah, thought not.

Crouton wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

And while I haven't played Beyond Good and Evil yet...

Shame, shame, I know your name.

I know, I know. At least I have a copy now, so there goes my only excuse. Now the only defense I have left is my utter laziness.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Now the only defense I have left is my utter laziness.

Is that like eye laziness?

Anyway, the version of BG&E that I was referring to specifically was the XBox one. I'd assume that the other console versions have a similar scheme.

Rat Boy wrote:

"This is Shawn Andrich of GWJTV, live outside the headquarters of Bioware here in Canada with the breaking news that Dragon Age has been cancelled again!"

Fixed.

Mex wrote:

Right now we have people who still come from the "old media" and are trying to do Journalism the way it was intended, but as we move to the internet as the center of everything news, it's all too easy to get the impression that people just want tits and scandals, not op-ed old NYTimes style stuff.

I wouldn't say that the NYT is a shining example of old school journalism. I was on a journalism track back in college until I came to the realization that nobody investigates and reports news with anything more than lip service to objectivity anymore.

The worst part of the blog culture, though, I think the podcast and you both hit on it. The filtering function of blogs can be a very dangerous thing sometimes.

And for the "buttons on a controller" question: Don't forget you can click in the sticks. That's 10.

Great call, this time. Definitely a good listen, though I've been playing Dwarf Fortress while I listened, which makes everything a little more awesome.

Regarding fandom, I've been pretty steeply delved into some titles, although the age difference between me and "the original crew" would have me riot about much newer titles. In fact, I suspect my optimism for a title which hasn't even come out yet may be unfounded, but that probably doesn't make any sense to anyone but me.
I played Morrowind for an entire year - I spent a months gaming time on trying to find a ship burial somewhere east of Vivec and it turned out the one i had bought in a store was better - so I was pretty esteemed all the way through Oblivions development. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to find alot of sympathizers at GWJ but, for me, Oblivion was an epic let-down. It did what it had promised, yes. It was open-ended, it was huge, it was deep, yes, but Morrowind is still better in my book.
In Morrowind, walking down the street - the street of any city - you'd hear racist and hostile comments being flung at you from the other people in the street. In Morrowind, you were an utterly insignificant prisoner. In Oblivion, Orcs give elves a cheery hello as i walk by and within minutes of gameplay, I've been entrusted the safety of the kingdom by a king who knew his time had come. in Morrowind, you waded around in gritt - drug-smugglers and slaves hideouts where sewn across the land - while in Oblivion, I get a welcoming hello from the good-natured blacksmith. When it all comes down to it, Oblivion just doesn't have the roles to play which I had hoped it would.

I don't really care for gaming news, but I'll gladly read about games. When I want to read about games, it'll be stuff like the articles on this site, or The Escapist - I might read that 3DO kicked the bucket and subsequently spend 20 minutes reminicing HOMM3, but that's it.

I think one of the major problems with MMOs and consoles, is that so far they've all been ports. I might be wrong - only owing a ps2 limits my knowledge about many things within gaming.
I think that, if anyone is willing to make a console only MMOG which is interesting, innovative and has a budget to match, it will succeed and then the race is on.

I started to think that you were saying I was right, but then you turned that into saying that Joystiq is right. This upset me.

Shawn wins the argument in a landslide!

You spelled my name wrong.

It's Sean. You can fix it at your convenience.

Great Minds Think Alike Farther Up the Thread: Beyond Good and Evil's keyboard idea is a good design that takes into account the actual functionality of a controller rather than trying to force it into a keyboard mentality; it's particularly great for number entry.

Casio Sunpowered Computer: Yours has solar power! KEWWLLLL! Mine has to be cranked.

You guys have got a new whipping boy here when it comes to lame hardware. You cannot express the suckitude of all three of my systems in a human tongue. They do my work swimmingly, but they would implode if I even set the FSX box on top of the desk next to them. That's why I'm a console girl.

Please Please Pleese Get A Life Foundation: Marginalizing is the tactic of choice. Heaven forfend we have a real debate with real, confirmable facts and figures; read our PS3 Haterade thread. I'm staying out of that whole topic. I've already bit a wooden leg this week, and my teeth hurt.

And you're right. I'm sure those guys I got into it with are certain I want to salt the ground the PS3 has been shipped over. But I don't. I will be buying one. I started planning on it at the announcement of it's development. It's just as unreasonable a purchase as the guys who stood in the rain for four days at launch. It's just not happening that particular day. And it damned skippy sure has nothing to do with the Region 2 launch list.

That said, the fact that I even went there is a pretty good indication that I'm as much of a rivetcounter with an axe to grind myself. Just not the same one. I really despise marketing cruft with the deep inner fire that only comes from being a programmer who has worked in a marketing group. They exceeded my US RDA of hyperbole in the thread and I waded in and had to get rapped on my noggin again to remember that they really don't want debate. I wanted to volley numbers and mix it up; all they want is validation. Facts and figures are infuriating under those circumstances; it feels like someone's rubbing your nose in it. Then I got mad because I wasn't getting anyone to pop anything back over the net to me and I said something I shouldn't have and they happily marginalized their toys and take them home.

It's probably for the best anyways. I do need to get some actual work done this week. So I've checked myself into the Foundation. We'll see how long it takes me to relapse.

Gears Headshot: What happens ingame, stays in the game, guys!

Thread of the week: Game "journalism".

Just a nitpick: There are real papers for the entertainment industry, like Variety (gratuitous Animaniacs link*). We don't have anything like that. Gamasutra is probably the closest I know of. (after writing this note you guys brought this up, but it didn't get the clear coverage on the point).

It's not that it's accellerated, per se. It's that we all see it now. This crap has been going on since the Yellow Scare. But until the internet showed up, no one got to see this dirty underbelly. All we saw was Walter Cronkite sitting there in his cloak of journalistic probity. And that's the mental symbol of journalism most people are working off of. The Drudges and that Library Porn asshat and all that was under the hood or contained locally.

And yes, a lot of people are bragging about what should be basic Best Practices. But I see that in just about every industry. I had a luzzo bragging on a tech board yesterday that they have "full Hungarian compliance" on his project. Well, okay. So he's bragging that he has a standard naming convention for variables so you can tell what they are when you're reading the code. I should frickin' hope so! Or someone who brags in a tone of "going the extra mile" about commenting and indenting. Cue the slot-machine eyeroll and flip the mentalMidget bit.

As far as the "deep pockets" part, what you're saying is we need an AP or Reuters for games journalism? BluesNews does it to some degree. But they're just the aggregation and dissemination piece; they don't do the actual investigation. I guess the question is who do we have with the sort of resources to pull something together like the Wall Street Journal for gaming.

But I don't see that sort of thing coming about until gaming as a whole is allowed to "mature". Part of the reason there is none of the journalistic trappings is the percieved audience. Who the heck would put together the Wall Street Journal type publication for a bunch of 17-year-old punks?

You want to know this stuff and I do too. To us this would make a lot of sense and yes, we'd pay for it gladly. But the perception is you guys are just overgrown kids/GenX slackers and I flat do not exist according to both the gaming press and the mainstream press.

As a result, the only "press" the game industry has is not actual news. Outside of stuff like that Valve code-theft it's all marketing or opinions about marketing/product. If you're lucky you'll get into the business development side like that section in the newspaper where everyone sends out mug-shots of their new employees to drum up column inches. Even most facts and figures are at the whim of whatever marketing wants to dribble out through the wrinkles in the NDA clutched tightly in their fist.

So, what do we do? I don't know. This is pretty new ground here and we really don't have a direction.

* While searching for the Please Please Please Get a Life one, I not only found that Variety one, I found the Who's on Stage one. I am completely happy.

momgamer wrote:

There are real papers for the entertainment industry, like Variety (gratuitous Animaniacs link*). We don't have anything like that. Gamasutra is probably the closest I know of. (after writing this note you guys brought this up, but it didn't get the clear coverage on the point).
...
As a result, the only "press" the game industry has is not actual news. Outside of stuff like that Valve code-theft it's all marketing or opinions about marketing/product. If you're lucky you'll get into the business development side like that section in the newspaper where everyone sends out mug-shots of their new employees to drum up column inches. Even most facts and figures are at the whim of whatever marketing wants to dribble out through the wrinkles in the NDA clutched tightly in their fist.

I'm going to pick on you here, because you're the closest target - but also because your points were brought up in the podcast. I think you're being a little unfair.

What irks me about this whole debate is that there are people out there writing truly hard-hitting, investigative stories. At the risk of sounding like a plant, thumb through a CGM sometime: they've printed everything from an analysis of viral marketing to an expose on drug-fueled competitive gaming. The magazine is good, and for my part, I'm proud of the investigative work I've done for them. Or take Rabbit's EVE article for MASSIVE last issue (?). That's top-notch quality investigative journalism right there. And Shawn (I think) brought up Game Politics, which I absolutely adore.

But somehow, when it comes time to make sweeping generalizations about the "state of the gaming press", these journalists and their work are completely forgotten. It's like we don't even exist.

Maybe it's that readers don't know about our work. Sheer ignorance - yes, that's possible. But what I fear may be more probable is the fact that readers just don't notice us. Meaning, for all this big talk about "where are the Lester Bangs of Journalism?" (sorry, Fletch), some readers really just don't care. It's all, "Show me the previews," and "Gimme more lists of the top ten hottest babes in videogames," etc.

Sure, the investigative articles in the gaming press aren't about life-changing, important issues like Trade Relations with China or Watergate 2.0, but that's the nature of entertainment journalism. I mean, it's entertainment press for a reason, right? Surely there's middle ground between Trade Relations With China and Lara Croft's Boobies: Part Ten of the Ongoing Series.

Anyway, I fully admit that I could be too close to the action, and usually I stay silent in these debates because they'll just frustrate me. Besides, as you can clearly see, you won't even find a consensus among games journalists about all this. Still, take my two cents for what you will (it might buy you some Amazon stock).

I claim ignorance.

From the NMA link, this is the blurb that gets me the most:

"For that, I'll drop my guise as a writer and put on the power armor of fandom instead:

I'll throw down the gauntlet before your feet, Bethesda. Simply choose. Either communicate with the fans who kept this show on the road for so long and constitute the strength of the franchise. Or risk it all in a desperate gamble to make a game for a new fanbase who haven't even heard of Fallout before you purchased it. Both roads have been tried before. The former road has led to success, the latter road has led only to total failure."

This 'Communicate with us or know failure' really gets to heart of why I, as a pretty big fallout fan who has played both games a number of times, can't visit NMA without cringing. Honestly, I feel dirty after I spend time there.

I also don't understand the ego behind that line, which also translates as 'if you don't talk with us about fallout, we won't play your game and you'll have to rely on getting new fans, which will result in failure'.

I'm a fan, and I'll give the game a good fair look, regardless of whether they ask my opinion or not.

*EDIT* that's what you get for not listening to the podcast BEFORE you post. Sorry for the almost verbatim "me too"

KaterinLHC wrote:

But what I fear may be more probable is the fact that readers just don't notice us. Meaning, for all this big talk about "where are the Lester Bangs of Journalism?" (sorry, Fletch), some readers really just don't care. It's all, "Show me the previews," and "Gimme more lists of the top ten hottest babes in videogames," etc.

That's one of the points I said... Seriously, check out Digg and their various sections. One person posting can be intelligent, smart. A mob of people choosing news is dumb, apparently.

http://digg.com/view/gaming

We are moving fast to a tidbit-driven news feed loving online culture.

As I said, there's some legit stuff, but it's buried beneath. I mean, just check out how many diggs our beloved podcast here has.

I'm with GWJ till the end, but it's like some sort of underground resistance of brainy articles on gaming or something.

edit: Ha ha! That fallout post is so ridiculous.

Meaning, for all this big talk about "where are the Lester Bangs of Journalism?" (sorry, Fletch), some readers really just don't care. It's all, "Show me the previews," and "Gimme more lists of the top ten hottest babes in videogames," etc.

That is the conclusion I was ultimately trying to make. I think you could even say that most readers (edit: not just some readers) don't care. And in a gaming news cycle fueled by link driving headlines, whored out screenshots, and incestuous cross linking of the latest snippet from a press release, you guys really do get drowned out by the noise. The bad news is that quality places like GamePolitics, Gamasutra and CGM get lumped in with Kotaku, or Evil Avatar or Angry Jim's Blog of Invective which drives traffic as more on their ability to manipulate the link-get structure of the system as providing anything like journalism. When people think game news they don't really think about the magazines first anymore, which is a shame because it's the magazines which have been getting much better lately about taking their responsibility in the industry more seriously. I won't go so far to say they are reacting out of necessity to maintain their audience against the endless noise of online instant gaming news, but the thought has crossed my mind.

I'm increasingly pessimistic about the decisions of consumers in the industry, and you can read more about that tomorrow, but I do believe there is finite news to be reported, and that's mitigated by the amount of that news that you can actually get anyone to care about. So, the good stuff, the things that Kat and Rabbit and others are producing that's thought provoking and challenging gets marginalized by, well hang on let me look at Kotaku quick and see their stories:

Top Story - a trailer is live on Live, so marketing fueled news there
Story 2 - Denver group to try and ban mature game ads - fuel the fire of game violence by exaggerating a regional issue (fine for reference in a larger story but hardly news)
Story 3 - Reebok goes Tron with its shoes - marketing
Story 4 - Reference to an interview on another site from someone at Sony who says virtually nothing except that Phil Harrison will say something at GDC. Not news. Barely even marketing. It's like publishing "Regional Manager of Company X says 'No Comment', Film at 11"
Story 5 - Alien Hominid available on Live! - Marketing
Story 6 - Vote on the Kotaku Shirt - No comment
Story 7 - "Rumor: PS3 Background Loading Sucks" - I have no idea how to classify this.

But, my general point is this. This is where people are going for news, and this seems to be what they want, to be spoonfed non-announcements and marketing. Most of this stuff isn't news, but like the 24 hour channels they have to fill the day with "something" and avoid dead-air, so this is what you get. When I'm railing against the usefulness of gaming journalism, please understand that this is the sort of thing I'm complaining about.

I have no idea if I made my point here, or even really responded to Kat or just expounded on my thoughts on the show.

Elysium says it prettier than I do. Oh, you beardy bastard! <3

A side note. I'm not trying to slam Kotaku here. There's clearly a market for what they do, and their success indicates that they are meeting a need. If anything I'm criticizing game news consumers for not demanding more.

I agree with most, if not all, of what you said. I now realize that you and I are on the same page; it's hard to tell who's saying what on the podcast, since you all sound almost exactly alike. So feel free to take my comments in a more general sense, then: not necessarily directed at you, but at the anonymous Lester Bangers at large.

I don't see how *you can compare feature and article sites like Gamasutra and a blog like Kotaku - sure Kotaku are trying to become more "feature dependent" but i don't see the audience or content being in the same area...

For example, the only gaming magazine i buy nowdays is EDGE (all caps ) because it's more like the Gamasutra's of the internet and people are actually paid to write good english and rational (generally) discourse on subjects. I read these articles out of genuine interest on the subjects surrounding our hobby and i want to learn. I go to kotaku for my daily fix of gossip (same reason i go to the inq).

There's space enough in every medium's segment for soap operas and documentaries.

Seriously Elysium, you can't expect the majority of consumers to read the high brow stuff because history will show you that they don't. I'll bet my last penny (which i need to be able to buy some soup next week) that the numebrs will point to more sales of low brow mags like Stuff outselling high brow like the financial times.... with 'inbetweens' lying somewhere in between.

It is the nature of things to be this way and isn't depressing.
*Read: 'people'