Actually, it’s about Ethics in Shilling Videogames

The following is a reprint from Unwinnable Weekly Issue Forty-Three. If you enjoy what you read, please consider purchasing the issue or subscribing


UW43-smallWe are all in marketing.

That might sound cynical, but it is a basic fact you will embrace as you get older. Give it time. If you’re online, using social media or commenting on things on the Internet, you’re cherry picking and curating who you are, what you put forth, and what image you want to present to others. You’re a marketer for who you are and what you’re about and what you stand against.

And nowhere do I see a greater reluctance to face this than in videogame circles online, where it is especially true. It is a space where most public conversations typically devolve into discussions of “ingroups” and “outgroups.”

It doesn’t make one “right” or the other “wrong.” It’s just a byproduct of the Internet and the hummingbird mentality it can foster when frantically navigating it. It’s human nature, confused. We are primal hunters with devices, bottomless information stones, gathering others we can hang with online and sometimes hunting for those we cannot. It’s an Internet binary and it presupposes that there are only two ways of looking at things. We need buckets and we need to put everything around us in them.

I’d like to posit there might actually at least be a third way of looking at things. This extends to videogames as well – again, especially.

By way of example, there are other types of people besides the ones who either care or don’t care about videogames. There are plenty of people who care, don’t think about them that much and just go about their days without feeling the need to discuss them. And lots of other gradations therein.

Whether we play videogames or not, we are simply individuals trying to make sense of this world and our place in it. But I see a lot of this fussing happening in videogames over buckets. People want labels for other people and their roles. The labels must be right or else chaos. It is masturbation.

And so, in that spirit, indulge me. I want to zoom in on one label I’ve been struggling with lately, and seeing others struggle with as well – whether they know it or not.

There’s been a sharp uptick in my brain in recent months since launching my counterculture game-industry interview repository, don’t die, of trying to unpack and unravel the label “videogame journalist.” It’s not at all the focus of the site, but a byproduct of deeply pondering the stuff around videogames that consciously or otherwise has been swept to the side the last few decades.

Why are some people considered “true gamers” and others will preface things they say by copping to that? Why do games want to be so narrow? When was the last time a big studio opened, and why are the ones that are open today remaking the same games over and over?

Stuff like that. That’s what my site is about.

But when it comes to “videogame journalism,” I realize that, really, I’ve been struggling with this since I started writing about games professionally in 2007 as an editor at The A.V. Club.

I remember people in gaming circles being legitimately bewildered, though enthusiastic, at my wanting to be a part of their world. I remember hearing “you do real writing, so why would you want to waste your time here?”

Back then, the answer was simpler: It was fun and it was a change of pace from my other duties. Normally I wouldn’t rattle off what I had to do, but would like to use this opportunity to illuminate because it’s germane here. In addition to constantly being pitched “funny” headlines by people outside the office, I managed the local section online and in print. One time I interviewed Gallagher. I was hired specifically to help bring the now-defunct local sections online and set the tone, template and voice for the whole thing while running my own doomed section for Chicago in print and on the new (also doomed) website.

But covering games for the national-facing side of the publication enabled me to flex and strengthen different writing muscles as a burgeoning critic and in time build a Rolodex of colleagues from all facets of the games industry.

I also remember this question coming not just from other writers, but PR people as well: “Are you a games journalist?” I didn’t understand. This is not meant to be arrogance but just a reflection of how my brain worked from the outset with this stuff: I never considered games writing “journalism” because there are no Pulitzers for covering marketing.

These days I don’t think I’d say it takes a third party to crystallize the respectability of any endeavor, but that’s what I used to think. And really, who cares, anyway? Sure, call it journalism, if that means something to you.

To be fair, I’m not sure I considered what I did at The A.V. Club journalism either. I called it entertainment writing. But I think for my friends at all those (also doomed) game publications that are now gone, they were speaking of their self-conscious desire for legitimacy in the eyes of others, which no reasonable person can honestly fault. They wanted it to mean something to them and the people around them. The people they didn’t even know or had just met.

There have always been many stigmas around videogames. Who would want to be associated with them?

But a lot has changed since 2007. There are many new, more toxic stigmas now plaguing videogames. If I am again being honest, usually what I see online when people discuss “videogame journalism” is people self-consciously fancying themselves as philosophy majors or intellectuals out of some sort of desire to justify that their time spent playing and writing about games was not in vain. That it meant something. To anyone.

I’m not sure I can blame them there, but I’m also not sure that it does mean much. Yet. I think what we are seeing play out in videogames right now is an industry attempting to grow up and struggling. Hard. The writers have a hand in this, but it is not entirely their fault. But I think that unless the mentality of this group of writers shifts, they too are as doomed as The A.V. Club’s local section and the many games outlets my colleagues used to manage and write for. You can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results.

* * *

It’s time we retire the term “videogame journalist.”

Most writers in the field need to accept that they, too, are marketers unless their approach or something else in the landscape shifts and changes.

One approach I usually see as people attempt to intellectualize games is to compare them to other mediums – music, books, etc. But something I haven’t seen much of is people contrasting those who write about videogames as part of the equation also holding back the medium from meaningful progress and evolution.

You know, comparing the people who write about games to the people who write about music, books, etc.

In 2006, pop-culture essayist and author Chuck Klosterman wrote a piece for Esquire wondering why there isn’t a Lester Bangs of videogames. It’s an interesting point to read again in 2015, but I think the reason we can still wonder this sincerely is because most people in 2006 who actively played videogames weren’t reading Esquire.

I remember tweeting that piece out last year and sending it to some colleagues. The general response? Games have a few people who are “pretty close.” We need more: more than a few people, and to be more than “pretty close.”

I am not saying there aren’t talented people who write about videogames. Far from it. I’m just saying it’s time we consider different approaches to covering the medium, and not allow PR companies or marketing firms dictate the tone or gatekeep too aggressively the sorts of stories we can or cannot go after.

I think we’re making tiny inroads here and there, but “pretty close” isn’t nearly enough. It’s a phrase that passes the responsibility to someone else and seeks to take refuge in the fact that there are not many outlets doing more than talking about games solely in the context of being products.

My mind also turns to another music writer, Richard Goldstein, who in the ‘60s was considered to be one of the first rock critics. A recent LA Times profile on Goldstein describes him as:

…one of the earliest practitioners in the burgeoning field that would come to be known as rock criticism, writing about music was a lifeline. Fresh out of Columbia University’s journalism school in 1966, the utopian energies of rock provided a window through which he could glimpse a very different kind of future being born. And he recognized instinctively that this new music required a new kind of writing to comprehend it. So he invented it.

It, of course, isn’t that simple. As Goldstein says, he did not set out to “invent” anything, he was just pulling a thread. As he tells his interviewer:

There has to be an experiential connection to the music that’s manifest in a strong style. It’s a very personal kind of writing, even when it involves expertise. That was the basic element in my work, and I think it still distinguishes the genre. Rock writing is a holdout against the idea that the author is dead.

To be clear: I am not planting a flag and calling myself something so self-important as “one of the first videogame journalists” or anything so trivial. I, too, feel I am pulling a thread with my don’t die project, and found it surprising that an “experiential connection” that exists in games is simply reaching out to the people who buy and play games and talking to them for their stories.

If the videogame industry wants to better understand itself it should ditch its cliquishness and be better about reaching across the aisle far more – to anyone and everyone.

And so, for this, I again reached out to the audience.

In preparation for this story, I circulated an online survey. I asked a couple of questions about game journalism. What is it? What is it not? What is the harm in blurring the lines? Who does it hurt or help if the audience isn’t clear about what it is or its role?

Most of the people who responded are consumers. You know, the folks all this fuss about videogames is ostensibly to benefit.

Chief among the reasons we should retire the term “videogame journalism” is that 50 random different people across the globe cannot agree on a single definition of the phrase. Not even a single part of the definition. And it isn’t just these folks I heard from who I talked about this with in the last month. There are plenty of people who work in games PR and at publishers I talked to last week alone who are equally confused and concerned not so much about the term or what it means, but the fuzziness and the relative damage being done with this needless confusion.

In answering my question on game journalism, and how it differs from music or sports journalism, one person wrote: “Neither music journalism or sports journalism is quite as concerned with evaluating the consumerist worth of products. Both tend to focus more on the human stories which emerge from their respective industries, whereas modern games journalism is more concerned with product reviews.”

I know some people who have been upset over some of my Kill Screen reviews because they “more resemble film criticism” and I have been publicly prickly over review scores and how they can oversimplify or dumb down conversation around games. Really, some people just want to know whether they should buy a thing. And I can’t blame them.

I use Metacritic as a consumer. I bet you do, too. It’s a useful tool. But is it the only tool we can or should have at our disposal in sifting through games to spend our time on? Absolutely not. It devalues the medium. Imagine if you heard classical music or fast food only discussed like this: “Yeah, I mean, that Whopper was pretty good. I’d give it a 78. But that Rigoletto is a slouch, barely better at 79.”

You wouldn’t. It tells you nothing at all about anything, other than the fact that your friend may be, well, slightly off.

But a few weeks ago when a dev colleague of mine was expressing surprise on Twitter over the lack of mixed or negative reviews Bloodborne on the review-score aggregator Metacritic, I hopped in and said this is yet another example of how numbers being considered so important in the industry is dumb. A colleague of mine who works in PR dismissed my opinion, saying actually Metacritic is very popular.

Of course Metacritic is popular. I just said I use it myself. But if we want to act like the game industry is doing well and creatively growing, we should re-examine the fundamental parts of it and not just keep going with what has worked before – because what has worked before is not only breaking, but it is changing whether we embrace it or not. It’s best to at least understand and label what’s going on here and, you know, put it in a bucket so we can move on.

* * *

We cannot talk about videogame journalism and what it is or isn’t without talking about the Internet. And we can’t talk about game coverage on the Internet without discussing YouTube and Twitch. There’s a generational divide here, a growing schism between those of us who grew up when the biggest debate in videogames was Nintendo or Sega and those of us when the biggest debate in videogames is…well, actually, I don’t know what kids these days think about videogames.

I just know that my friends in their twenties and students I’ve had in the past in game design programs say things like they want to make games to prove themselves as artists and yet will outright dismiss people whose opinions don’t instantly mesh with their own. The challenges they prefer to take on come exclusively from games, not discourse.

It is the march of progress and technology. Why would anyone want to read a wandering column when you could watch a to-the-point video that tells you in an entertaining way what a personality thinks and, hey, you get to see the game too – all inside two minutes?

Again, I don’t blame anyone for favoring that. But I do think when, as The Observer reported in January that “Minecraft is more popular on YouTube than Frozen, Drake and Beyonce,” it’s worth hitting pause and reflecting on what’s going on here.

From The Observer:

One bleak doomsday projection about the Internet Age is a future world where instead of living our own lives, we simply watch other people living theirs. Finally, it looks like we’re approaching that dystopia…

The number one personality behind the trend of people watching other people play games is the notorious Pewdiepie, a Swedish YouTube star and multimillionaire who records himself playing video games. Basically, he sits in his home screaming “Nooooo” and “Fuck you!” at a screen for about ten minutes at a time.

Obviously, not all videos or streamers covering videogames online are like this. And I am certainly not saying written outlets are inherently “better” than this not just emerging, but already dominating space. The audience has spoken, and they are watching while they are also listening. This stuff is popular. As it should be: The Food Network is also hugely popular, and it’s the same basic concept.

I have no issue with this, even though this same technological march has gutted or killed – or at least lobotomized – many of the publications I used to write for in this space. It’s just how things go. Streamers didn’t kill The A.V. Club local sections, the Internet’s disdain for print and physical objects did. It’s just how things went. But I don’t think this is the way things always need to go.

It’s worth noting a few things here. Pewdiepie, 25, is one of many, many streamers who have devoted followings. He tends to be the common example here because, well, buckets. His YouTube channel currently has more than 36 million subscribers. The excerpt above just casually mentions he is a multimillionaire. But really, think about it in more digestible terms.

With 36 million subscribers, every video he releases – and he creates steadily, and not just stuff about games, which of course helps sustain and grow his popularity – he gets more potential exposure shortly after clicking on his mouse to upload than many of the best-selling albums have over the course of their being on shelves or available online for decades. Thirty-six million subscribers means roughly anything he puts online is more popular than Nirvana’s Nevermind (somewhere around 30 million sales) or Michael Jackson’s Bad (also around 30 million).

Think about it. An audience that size, bigger than the population of Canada (a country), and they are all paying attention to one person’s opinions about videogames. That is staggering on a basic human level. As a species with technology, we are passing the torch and the megaphone to a group whose biggest personalities can’t yet buy beer.

That’s fine. Really. I’m not shaking my fist at a cloud or telling these kids to get off my lawn. Plenty of room.

The objective truth of the situation is that many streamers who gain access to developers are being favored over traditional writers. There are plenty of personalities in their own right in the writing landscape, but not likely to be more new ones anytime soon. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a case of good vs. bad. Many of these streamers have great big audiences – from another objective standpoint, it makes sense for games PR companies to start favoring them over us. They have bigger reach, as the kids like to say.

The new normal for games PR in this landscape is get these people talking about your game and evangelizing for it. In many ways, it is no different from the old landscape. It’s just that the old landscape had built-in filters. Workflows. Processes. Editors. People who will send stuff back and ask, “Are you sure you want to say that?” or “Where did you get that information?”

The trade-off is we all – viewers, PR, writers – have to spend so much more time understanding streamers and YouTubers to get a feel for them and their political slants or the other various lines we as a society have decided you should not be crossing. It’s the trade-off in favoring individuals over publications. Whereas the latter have established voices and tones – the individual, who knows? Maybe you watched the 40 hours that person seemed totally fine and relatable, and then you flip away and then they go on a racist tirade or who knows what.

And we’re not necessarily talking about adults with lengthy careers behind them. We’re talking about teens or people in their twenties finding audiences and making decisions along the way you may or may not agree with that they may not even find objectionable themselves. When you’re making $8,000 or $200,000 a month playing videogames via partnership programs and you’re effectively living out a childhood wet dream, are you really going to pump the brakes and worry yourself over editorial control and things like native advertising? Do you want to risk your reputation and audience by hating on the “wrong” game?

So, in a general sense (for PR people) it isn’t about who is or isn’t a journalist, it’s simply about that reach. And the truth is we’ve all been marketers all along.

Let’s not fool ourselves: Writing about games on a professional level has roots back to Nintendo Power and EGM. Back when there was no industry and the media around them needed to be propped up exclusively on information coming from game companies. They were enthusiasts, much like how we were enthusiasts, much like how streamers carry on in that fashion.

We all love games. This desire to make covering it something more than it isn’t makes it something else altogether. Can you write artfully about games? Of course. If you have talent, are insightful and have a broad frame of reference, you can entertain your audience in any medium. But gaming’s inferiority complex manifests itself in so many strange ways: Are videogames art? Are videogames a sport? All these things are self-conscious distractions that ultimately only serve to do the audience a disservice.

Before I elaborate further – the next example requires quotes from a variety of anonymous sources – I’m just going to dive in with an anecdote from my own career to substantiate these following claims. (I just checked with me; I’m fine with me going on the record.)

As I got a year or two into my games writing at The Onion, I started to notice it getting increasingly difficult to get review copies in time for my deadlines as I explored the full spectrum of grades and opinions you can have on a chosen game. I noticed I had to handhold a lot of games PR people a tad more aggressively in a way that I never had to when, say, arranging interviews with Robert Smigel or all the members of The Kids in the Hall or getting albums to review from publicists.

I had to remind people in games PR they owed me games so I could do my job. I had to ask for tracking numbers to assure it was put in the mail. I cannot tell you the number of times I ended up having to buy a game off the shelves, get reimbursed by The Onion, and have a review run later after a game came out rather than coincide with its release, just because PR was reluctant to prioritize a more mainstream outlet that felt just as comfortable running positive reviews as it did negative ones. Along the way, I simply lost count.

If you’re PR, of course you will send out review copies to writers who tend to be more favorable. Again, I don’t blame them for that. They’re just trying to do their jobs, much like I was mine.

It’s a silly thing to be self-righteous about, but I remember a friend not in the industry at the time advising me to “just start writing positive reviews” to make this stuff less of a time suck. But for some reason, I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t – I was putting my name on it. What I wrote had to be what I felt. Honestly, the reviews that are always the hardest to write are the ones where you are left feeling indifferent. Writing “positive” reviews is not any easier than writing “bad” reviews, and I never took pleasure in slamming titles.

I had to write my truth. Even if it’s just what I thought about some videogame. I took it seriously. It was my name. It was my job.

But the game industry is not one that welcomes and encourages healthy criticism on the whole. It wants to keep things narrow. The human stories that survey respondent was referring to earlier are, honestly, difficult to do in the current media landscape.

* * *

As games have gotten increasingly more expensive to make and the industry as a whole, as it likes to brag, is becoming “bigger than Hollywood,” access to developers with stories that stray from what PR would prefer to focus on are getting tougher and tougher to pull off. They are not impossible, but as one anonymous dev told me for don’t die:

…there needs to be this steady information drip to all the websites, and it’s kept on a very tight schedule. They want it all feeding into their grand marketing plan. And so when you’re talking about something that they don’t want you talking about, that throws off and endangers their schedule.

This is not unique to games. That’s just PR. That’s their job.

But oddly, I heard about a strange surge of this around the marketing for the new Mortal Kombat game, Mortal Kombat X. I say “oddly” because it’s a series that is hugely popular and should have no problem garnering attention and sales. It has a proven track record, its fair share of nostalgia among people who played games for a long time and people know what it is and what to expect. It’s like Madden: there’s a new one, so people will buy it.

The surge I am speaking of here comes via my email inbox from a few writers who prefer to also remain anonymous.
They were frustrated over the preferential treatment they perceived YouTube personalities were getting over them at a studio visit to NetherRealm Studios in Chicago. The reason? YouTube personalities stick to the script.

As one of these writers told me, “YouTubers don’t ask hard questions, they ask about fact sheet features list bullet-point shit. Because that’s what their audiences want…they just want to know how long the campaign is, who’s on the roster, DLC, and whatnot. They wanna know how good the graphics are, not the context for all this stuff. And fine, that’s totally okay, it’s just not what I want to write about.”

And the thing about covering games that aren’t yet out, interviewing developers, requires going through PR to gain access. They are the gatekeepers and the devs have a script of their own they need to be sticking with. It’s a tricky balancing act for PR. I do not write this at all saying their jobs are easy or that they are single-handedly responsible for warping the conversation around games. Their side just have a hand in it like everyone else.

Both these writers wanted to cover Mortal Kombat’s violence conceptually, and were met with resistance in a variety of ways. The same writer from before told me, “I went to the studio day because [a PR rep] told me the team would be stupid-busy with crunch and I couldn’t visit solo or at any other time. Then, at the event, some tall English guy…was talking with one of the devs and asked if they were still on for solo time the next day. So there’s that.”

Another writer, also via email, preferring to be called a “veteran news journalist” said they were not allowed to bring their photographer “despite the fact that half the people that come are YouTubers and streamers…just filming themselves playing the game.”

They both told me about PR “hostage holding” with members of the dev team – basically, because PR didn’t feel comfortable with the angles for these stories, these writers were kept from spending time talking to certain members on the dev team. One of them told me they were “told I don’t get any other interviews because ‘I wouldn’t get any different kinds of comments.’”

These writers felt as I did: Their names were on these pieces and they wanted to do the pieces they wanted to do. Not only that, but they were the pieces they already got greenlit by their editors to do. It was the work they were expected to do. It was their job.

And just as I rarely ran into resistance on, say, my unusual interview angles with Jeff Tweedy or Lewis Black – I continue to find it so odd that there is so much reluctance for transparency and cooperation in videogames on stuff like this.

This story about a PR event with writers being jerked around is the same at any game event you can imagine or have heard about. Regardless of who is seeming to be “favored” in this hierarchy of influencers, if you’re at E3, GDC, or a pre-arranged studio visit, there is a script that must be stuck to. I know because I’ve done my fair share of these and they are not fun if you want to do something different or more ambitious than play a game while people narrate the game at you while you play the game and then listen to people, also gated by PR, discussing at length the things they’re supposed to be talking about in the game you just played and nothing further.

Again, this is not unique to games. I’ve just never seen it so severely practiced anywhere else.

I reached out to a number of streamers as well as people involved with PR on Mortal Kombat for comment on this story and received no response. I have no judgment on this at all, just letting you know: I did reach out, and I did try.
And so, we have an industry here with roles that cannot function as they are traditionally defined. “Games journalist” or not, we have people doing marketing – trying to write something inventive and a little creative but being told “no”.

Please don’t confuse my name-dropping of comedians and rockstars I spoke with as intended to impress. They are conversations I will always treasure having had and appreciate that I got paid to have them: But I know they were only talking to me to sell tickets or shift units off shelves.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be creativity at play here and that if we work together we can’t entertain the audience a bit more together, though. But videogames by and large will have none of that: Just tell people why they should buy stuff, or give preferential treatment to those with a bigger reach who can just show them why they should buy it.

It is very odd that there was pushback on Mortal Kombat X and discussing its violence on Conan O’Brien’s “Clueless Gamer” that featured the title back in January and they, of course, discussed its violence. In the hierarchy of videogames and games publicity, though, PR bows to mainstream media expressing an interest in your title. It is a big boon: remember the incredulousness I was met with I started covering games? And like videogames themselves, believe me: The Onion is nowhere near as mainstream as you might think they are. Conan is a household name pretty much no matter where you live.

But this sort of stuff didn’t start with Mortal Kombat and I know it also didn’t start just as I was coming of age in this landscape. I’ve spoken with people who wrote about games since the late ‘80s who for a variety of reasons fizzled and moved on from that pursuit. Part of it’s just that writing for the Internet is a grind and burnout is a thing, and part of it is that being an intelligent and curious individual doesn’t vibe well with trying to write about games on an ongoing basis if you want to support yourself and keep feeding your brain.

In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, the rates at most places are what most people who don’t write perceive them to be – which, without naming outlets or their rates, I’ll just tell you this: think of your typical games outlet today, and most pay freelance writers, if they have a budget for such things at all, one-fifth of what you think they’re getting. Wouldn’t you want to move on, too?

And so, I know I am nowhere near the first person to try to articulate this strain of symptoms and the condition they add up to comprise. It’s just that most people who write about games move on or they’re so grateful they get to live out that aforementioned wet dream they choose not to rock the boat. But that harms the consumer in the end.

A colleague of mine who used to be my reviews editor at a magazine that’s now gone – and how sad is that my stating this conjures up multiple possible places this could be – told me the other night he never explicitly heard marching orders to only give positive reviews. But there’s an unspoken, apprehensive fear of crossing game publishers or game PR people: If you give negative press, they’ll delay you in getting stuff to write about.

And in those days, good luck finding games to write about if you aren’t being given the competitive edge of advance copies and access to developers for features and comments. But those days are long gone. Today, everyone is a journalist. Everyone is a writer. Everyone has an opinion, and so we are all equally drowning each other out. Very few are saying anything new.

And so, forgive me for again dipping a few decades back again, but this talk of the early days of rock criticism and Lester Bangs offset by exploring the thriving streaming scene makes me think of another comparison I haven’t heard others levy: payola.

If you have streamers encouraged to stick to the script who are making cash hand over first, don’t you sort of wonder where all that money comes from? And doesn’t this term, really, sort of apply to before the rise of streaming, anyway? Where’s that article or mindset of recognizing that in games? Calling it what it is?

I’m not at all accusing anyone of anything and I don’t know who that would really harm, but if individuals can be made irrelevant or at least late to the party for expressing less than glowing opinions at times, and we’ve seen publications fall in favor of individuals – isn’t it at least worth pondering the possibilities therein? And isn’t it worth pondering the fact that with all these dollars behind games, a responsible press would be sniffing around on such things?

And isn’t it reasonable to also wonder whether the audience for games might want something more and something different from the bigger companies who could reasonable afford to? Doesn’t the potential audience for games get a voice in this, too?

It might not be on your script, but shouldn’t it be?

* * *

So, I don’t know. As is my wont, and why I started don’t die: I don’t have many answers myself. Given the above, how could I possibly? How could any writer in this field?

I have worked in and around this industry for a long time and honestly just found it embarrassing that there are so few answers. I just have questions and recognize patterns of behavior. That’s hardly a poignant note to go out on here, though.

So, instead, I will turn, again, to one of my survey responders:

The vast majority of writing about games would be more accurately identified as criticism, opinion writing, bland news-cycle churnalism which involves no reporting work, or ideologically-based cultural commentary. On the rare occasions that an act of journalism is performed by a member of the games media, the reporters doing the work (original, objective reporting telling a story using multiple sources) are almost never working under an editor that has produced original reporting in a non-videogame context…

Slapping the ‘journalism’ label on everything a ‘games journalist’ produces also results in irrational expectations from readers: ‘aren’t these game reviews supposed to be objective, since you’re a journalist, and journalists are supposed to strive for objectivity?’ No, they’re not, because reviews aren’t journalism. There you go, all of #gamergate solved in one Q&A.

All I can add to this is that I don’t ever remember people talking about pinball journalists.

Maybe some of what us marketers do can be occasionally considered journalism, but are we journalists? Hardly?
Does it matter? No.

Should we be focusing instead on games and how they can continue to grow and shift? Yes. Eventually. But we need to reframe the conversations that feel so omnipresent elsewhere if we want to move on.

Until then, we are all only in marketing.


David Wolinsky has opinions about videogames. He’s the creator of don’t die, a videogame-industry confessional forum and the co-producer of The Electric Cybercast II: Online, the world’s only podcast about videogames. Support his Patreon and follow him on Twitter @davidwolinsky.

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