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

  • Subscribe with iTunes
  • Subscribe with RSS
  • Subscribe with Yahoo!
Download the official apps
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android

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

I make the comparison, because as I see the population of one fall I see the other rise proportionally. Now, I'm speaking less of something on which I have hard numbers (aside from what Alexa tells me about Kotaku) but an impression I have. It _feels_ like people are replacing the professional print outlets (which do seem to have improved in my mind) with online resources for their information. I'd love Jeff or CGMSteve to correct me on that.

Unfortunately, in the heading of game journalism, I think they do get lumped together because they share an audience looking for the same things.

I agree that they are replacing the majority of the higher brow publications - on and offline... but this is because there was a disproportionate number of quality high to low brow publications in the first place.

As the gaming segment becomes more mainstream i think we'll see a continuing trend of dumbing down the info that gets disseminated to the media surrounding the games industry - just like every other mainstream entertainment medium.

It's an unfortunate and regrettable fact of life that 90% of humans are morons in a topic - or do not want to think past a certain point for a topic. I'm not trying to put myself outside of this 90% because there are things in life that i don't have opinions on or am not interested in (cars for example )

You guys always make me laugh. Thanks For another great show and I'll be sure to send my super studly Braehole e-mail this week.

All this talk about dumbing down... and I finally cancelled my PCG subscription the other day, after what? 10 years?

PS: Angry Jim's Blog of Invective is a worthless rag.

My impression is that because we're in the pre-salad days of video game journalism, sites like Kotaku and Joystiq are lumped in with sites like 1up, Gamers with Jobs, and Gamasutra because the market is still maturing. I suspect that as more "gamers" mature you'll see an increased demand for less fluff and more news.

Dan Hsu and Luke Smith have been big proponents for bringing more journalistic integrity to the medium. On the last GFW podcast they talked about how they wished they could publish a magazine without a single video game advertisement, so they could have an even more impartial appearance.

This podcast too has shown that not only are people caring about maturing the medium, but that it's the right people who care. People who are in the position to make changes. Just look at how many staff writers from GWJ have landed jobs, paying jobs no less, for nothing else but to write mature, thought provoking, well researched articles about video games and video game culture.

Right now it just sucks because we're on the cusp of change. We can see the medium evolving into what it should be, but it's just not quite there yet. It's kinda like a road trip. The first 7 hours fly by, but it's that last hour drive away from home that seems to take the longest.

wordsmythe wrote:

All this talk about dumbing down... and I finally cancelled my PCG subscription the other day, after what? 10 years?

Oh god, PC Gamer. I loved that magazine, and it's in shambles now.

Me too, Mex - i remember when it was a tome of content every month, that sucker was HUGE. Now, it makes me cringe a little.

jonnypolite wrote:

Now, it makes me cringe a little.

A little? They gave Medieval II a 90% review before it even came out! That sort of "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" journalism should turn everyone's stomach.

Hi guys and girls. The conference call has indeed spawned a few replies at No Mutants Allowed.

I disagree with many things said in the conference, but I just wanted to point out two things:

- There is some confusion on the "innovation" thing, it's actually misquoted during the discussion. The point was that sometimes what is taken as innovation many times is a simple rehash of old ideas or simple compromises in gaming design, made out of market analysis and not the real drive to innovate; while in fact they aren't real innovations they are presented as such, in an attempt to generate hype and to create a good spin to please the market, something that I would say that it works given the depence of large parts of the gaming media to perks and publicity revenues from the main publishers.

This doesn't happen always, and this place is quite a good example of a more critical and independent stance on the gaming world, but you guys aren't the rule.

He doesn't say "just do the game with the old engine", that's not what is written or what was meant, therefore it's a factual mistake.

- Calling Kharn, a mild spoken dutch sociology student that sometimes leave the community to do volunteer work with orphans and depressed small communities in the interior of Russia a psyco was hilarious

Just talk to him, and maybe you'll get another perspective of what he tried to say in those articles.

All the best, don't forget to check my new blog on Fallout3

KaterinLHC wrote:

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.

Thank you. I'm not the only one. No worries, though. I've got it figured out now. You just have to envision Muppets.

Certis: Miss Piggy
Elysium: Muppet Baby Gonzo
Rabbit: Beaker
Gaald: Kermit

No comment on what them as Muppets says about their enjoyment of having hands shoved ... nevermind.

Certis: Miss Piggy
Elysium: Muppet Baby Gonzo
Rabbit: Beaker
Gaald: Fozzie Bear

Fixed.

(cross-posting from the Confessions of a Pessimist thread, I don't want to derail the discussion there)

Gaald wrote:

Man Kharn, when I read that comment on the NMA site I laughed so hard. It was great. It's always nice seeing people outside your neighborhood taking notice of what you have to say, even if they don't always agree with you. Thanks for listening.

Oh, the same is true for us. I've been tracking postings and repostings of the articles, and often it started some debate, even in unexpected places (like the Elder Scrolls forum, where a lot of users agreed with it), I've got some good, valid feedback (especially on the RPGCodex, where Bioware's Dave Gaider commented), but I've also seen places that hardly bothered to read it and think about it, instead opting to just flame it and laugh at it.

I'm sure I could stand on my head feeling offended by being called a psychopath and obviously I'm not 100% in agreement with GWJ's readings, but the fact that they read it and thought about it in the first place already makes the reaction a whole lot better than some of the reactions I got. So, y'know, good job, in the end the article's purpose was to raise awareness as much as it was to convince people.

I've appreciated your measured responce to our own comments. Had I sat down to write an article to discuss your Gems of Hatred series, I think I would have been a little more detailed and a little less bombastic with the word choices we tend to use in conversation ment to be entertaining. I really do understand the perspective, but only looking back at my own past thoughts and actions. These days, I don't find being deeply devoted to any one game or series nets me any extra enjoyment with my hobby. If anything, it seems to sour it because ultimately, you're putting all your eggs in a basket you're not carrying, the outcome is so utterly out of your control. The odds of finding the kind of elation you might attain having all your greatest expectations realized are slim to none.

Best of luck with it though, I think we can all agree that an awesome Fallout 3 is in everyone's best interest

Yeah, the WoW forums are pretty bad. I avoided them even while I was playing the game.

The NMA forums I've read some, not a lot. I'm a big Fallout fan. I've been adapting the setting to Cinematic Unisystem (a pen-n-paper RPG system used in the Buffy and Angel RPGs) and running it for my Wednesday gaming group. (There's already an existing PnP system someone did, though I regard it as too crunchy for easy play. There's also a d20 version in the works.) And I'm of the opinion that you're stupid to pay to develop under a name without trying to appeal to the people who recognize and admire that name. Still, it strikes me how much traffic NMA can get based on games made that long ago. At this point, I don't see the point in so much discussion over Fallout 3. Oblivion has decided to starve fans for information. Whether or not they consider the Fallout fanbase to be vital to the success of Fallout 3 has surely already been decided. After all, it's been in development for years now. So I imagine that it's too late to change their minds. Whatever their path is, we'll find out when the game ships.

Certis wrote:

These days, I don't find being deeply devoted to any one game or series nets me any extra enjoyment with my hobby. If anything, it seems to sour it because ultimately, you're putting all your eggs in a basket you're not carrying, the outcome is so utterly out of your control. The odds of finding the kind of elation you might attain having all your greatest expectations realized are slim to none.

Oh, I get that. The thing is, I'm not completely putting my eggs into one basket. I'm not one of the biggest gamers out there, I haven't touched a console since the Sega 16-Bit, the "newest" game I played (not counting a few testdrives with Oblivion) is Avernum 4. Or maybe BookWorm Adventures (which was robbed, should've been Game of the Year 2006), not sure which one is newer. That said, I play a lot of games, don't demand the same from each.

Is there a chance I'll enjoy Fallout less because of my history with it over the last 8 years? Sure. But it doesn't affect my overal attitude as a gamer.

Which leaves the question of "is it useful"? Maybe, maybe not. The internet is all about wasting your time on fruitless efforts, and I don't feel like I should feel any more ashamed for writing glittering gems than a Youtuber should be for keeping a video blog.

I "believe" the gaming industry is immature and heading for some serious conceptional and economic problems. I feel the industry nature is unfair to both developers and gamers, leaving little room for exploration for both. And I do feel it is a good use of the sparse free time I have (Briosa just called me a sociology student, but in reality I'm a Russian studies and History student. Between that, my social life, my job and voluntary work, my free time *is* sparse). I could waste it browsing news sites like Gamespy, or playing Newsgrounds flicks, or posting Something Awful.

Considering the alternatives, can you really say I should feel ashamed?

Not that everyone should do the same. I'm just sayin'. Hate the game, not the playa.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

(There's already an existing PnP system someone did, though I regard it as too crunchy for easy play. There's also a d20 version in the works.)

The d20 system I'm not sure about, some of the guys working on it are alright, but they have some weird ideas, and d20 is an odd system to put Fallout into anyway.

That said, lack of a good PnP system sucks. Have you looked into JE Sawyer's Fallout PnP? Incomplete, but good.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Still, it strikes me how much traffic NMA can get based on games made that long ago.

Yeah, it surprised me too, especially that we got the most hits ever last month, more than during Van Buren (BIS Fallout 3), more than during Tactics. It's odd, if you ask me, but so it is...

I know it sounds a bit chauvanistic, because the Fallout games are awesome on themselves, but I think that without the constant work of both NMA and DaC, the modding, the fanfics, etc. etc., the franchise would have long since been considered dead, and there's no way Bethesda would've paid 1.175 million for it.

The fact that in lieu of a pat on the back and a "good job", we get a "f*ck you, bunch of fanatics" from certain corners is iresome, but we got used to it.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

At this point, I don't see the point in so much discussion over Fallout 3. Oblivion has decided to starve fans for information.

That's why there isn't much discussion, and we try to keep it toned down because, quite frankly, drawing big conclusions on the game now makes us sound like a bunch of rabid fanatics. We're a freedom of speech place, though, especially now that Rosh is gone and people aren't banned for dissenting...

That freedom of speech does mean that we become a brooding place for a lot of guys that just enjoy flaming Bethesda, which can leave a bad impression of people. They have a right to their opinion, though, all I can do is discourage it, not ban it.

Besides, you'll have to admit that while there's little reason for big conclusions, there's plenty of reason to be worried.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Whether or not they consider the Fallout fanbase to be vital to the success of Fallout 3 has surely already been decided. After all, it's been in development for years now. So I imagine that it's too late to change their minds. Whatever their path is, we'll find out when the game ships.

True. But then again, the descent of Spain did not keep Don Quixote from fighting the windmills.

You'll not be surprised that Don Quixote is one of my rolemodels.

It might be just pissing in the wind, but consider that the Fallout fanbase had a definite effect on the design cycle of Tactics, and there are other games who have adapted late in the development cycle. There is no question right now that Bethesda *is* paying attention to what we're doing, I've got too many signs from different angles that they are paying us mind. What they do with it is indeed their choice...

And we always have to be careful because fan input can be harmful. I agreed with J.E. Sawyer when he explained to us that there is no "fan opinion", that he'd get 100 opinions from "true fans" and picking one would insult the 99 others. He understood that the value of fan feedback was there as long as you could handle it properly yourself.

I kinda miss Sawyer.

We'll see what Bethesda does.

Got turned on by your podcast from Jeff Green being on. Being from Detroit, all the Canadian can get a little disconcerting. But it is a good show, shame you have that console bias

Kharn wrote:

The d20 system I'm not sure about, some of the guys working on it are alright, but they have some weird ideas, and d20 is an odd system to put Fallout into anyway.

Yeah, I hear they changed their cover art after an outcry from the fanbase. These guys a complete unknown in the RPG world and everyone I've seen was pretty surprised they got the license.

Kharn wrote:

That said, lack of a good PnP system sucks. Have you looked into JE Sawyer's Fallout PnP? Incomplete, but good.

No, just the one by Jason Mical. Got a link?

I didn't feel like reinventing the wheel, so I'm doing a conversion rather than starting from scratch.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

No, just the one by Jason Mical. Got a link?

It used to be here, looks broken to me, though

Yeah, it surprised me too, especially that we got the most hits ever last month, more than during Van Buren (BIS Fallout 3), more than during Tactics. It's odd, if you ask me, but so it is...

I know it sounds a bit chauvanistic, because the Fallout games are awesome on themselves, but I think that without the constant work of both NMA and DaC, the modding, the fanfics, etc. etc., the franchise would have long since been considered dead, and there's no way Bethesda would've paid 1.175 million for it.

What's interesting is that while you say you think NMA and Fallout fans can make or break this game, and are responsible for maintaining its value, the most traffic you've had is when Bethesda picked up the license and started to develop it. The most traffic you've had is when Bethesda stepped in. One of our most popular articles of all time was an Oblivion hands-on preview, come to think of it.

It kind of flies in the face of asserting that it's the hardcore fans that make the game popular and valuable. Obviously Bethesda has raised interest significantly by taking the game in, much more so than a relatively small group of dedicated hundreds (or thousands) signing petitions and writing fan fiction has done. When the success of a AAA game requires sales of 500,000 units and up before they recoup anything, it's hard to imagine a bunch of die-hards hunkered down in their bunkers and grousing in forums are going to dictate the success of much anything.

On a personal level, you're obviously intelligent and self-aware, I think Bethesda is lucky to have guys like you doing their best to keep them honest. I applaud your efforts, even while I disagree with your assertions

Certis wrote:

The most traffic you've had is when Bethesda stepped in.

It's reciprocal, not one way, but obviously that's true.

Certis wrote:

It kind of flies in the face of asserting that it's the hardcore fans that make the game popular and valuable. Obviously Bethesda has raised interest significantly by taking the game in, much more so than a relatively small group of dedicated hundreds (or thousands) signing petitions and writing fan fiction has done. When the success of a AAA game requires sales of 500,000 units and up before they recoup anything, it's hard to imagine a bunch of die-hards hunkered down in their bunkers and grousing in forums are going to dictate the success of much anything.

I think you misread, which is the only thing that really bugged me in your reading. I never asserted that NMA's userbase constitutes the entire sale-base of Bethesda, I'm not trying to be self-important for the sake of being self-important.

The motivation to write glittering gems of hatred didn't come from the fact that we all really enjoy sitting around in our forums and discussing the game like a bunch of geeks (though we do, really), but because more and more, as I was browsing different forums, I noticed that forums like QTT, who were accepting the concept of Bethesda's Fallout 3 blindly and already deemed it king, the *exception* rather than the rule. Even the tone on the Elder Scrolls forum was a bit bleak, and those guys are there because they like Bethesda.

No, I'm not saying those guys are the entire player-base either. The thing is, Bethesda sold Oblivion to casual gamers through casual sales. That means they depend on word-of-mouth and hype. I'm not sure if they're going to be able to get that same vibe going with Fallout 3, since the word-of-mouth it has generated so far has mostly been one of worry. The hype...depends on the media. But while I know that Pete knows his game, the primary worry of the media is not Pete, but the readers, and if the readers don't like hearing Fallout 3 praised to high heaven, the media won't do it.

Silly, isn't it? I think Gaider said it best, when it comes to word of mouth, in his comments on glittering gems, part 2 (comments that were kept in mind for the writing of part 3); "I know that the industry considers even small fan-bases valuable as potential evangelilsts".

The value they have as potential evangelists is obviously greater than the threat they form as potential nay-sayers, but that doesn't mean neither is there. Remember, I'm not saying anything that's not true in the final paragraph of glittering gems (which was quoted in the conference call), the road of using Fallout fans as evangelists has led to success, the road of having them turned against you has led to failure. Saying the two share a kind of mutually exclusive relationship would be crazy, but saying the relationship doesn't exist would be at least as equally crazy.

That's what BethSoft producer Ashley Cheng is talking about here. And BethSoft knows this is so, we've noticed in how they treat us. What that will mean for us and for the game in the end I can't say.

I'm late to the party but I just got around to listening to last week's podcast. I have this week's queued up already though, so I'm catching up.

re: Journalism
With a degree in writing I often get blank stares or people wondering why I'm not writing a book, screenplay, or working for a newspaper. I try the (print) journalism angle for a while, taking a few courses and interning for the Baltimore Sun (as a phone-and-stats monkey, but it was the start of the road). I decided not to pursue it for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that I didn't read the paper myself. I tried, I felt obligated before I started to familiarize myself with the paper, but I didn't keep it up. That was late 2003-2004. I had already been getting the majority of my news online.
My parents didn't get it at all - they have read the paper all their lives and their educated peers do too. But I had already ditched print journalism - or maybe it never really got its hooks into me to begin with.

As for game journalism, I'm still learning the scene. I can't remember who said it (but I'm sure it was said here) but the gist was that more and more big publications have a gaming department, even if it's just for lip service. I think there will be more demand for higher brow content, but right now I think the games journalism sector is just absorbing and learning how to address increased demand period. It could be a while (years?) before things stratify cleanly.
Momgamer's first piece here was a good indicator of the need for more specialized news - parents looking for games for their kids. I like the Escapist for it's great layout (but small font) and what I think is a more measured, less rumor-mongering style. I also like it a lot around here, and though know of Gamepolitics and Gamasutra, I never made it a point to frequent those sites. Your recommendations will push me to check them out. So part of it is pure ignorance.
Many of you have beed doing this for years and are fcompletely involved, and it the changes may feel slow in coming. And they are, but they are happening. I really liked Nintendo Power when I was a kid - but I moved on, to nothing for a while. Sometimes people have to graduate from their earlier tastes - just like I used to love Pixie Sticks when I was a child. Even (especially) those huge ones in the plastic straws that were a foot long. It's been a long time since I've liked either, and if you guys have been doing this for a while it just takes the rest of us a bit longer to catch up.