As the industry picks up the pieces from a recent tornado of controversy, the infant gaming industry hit another major speed bump on November 19th. Stephen Totilo of Kotaku dropped an article called A Price of Games Journalism, detailing a blacklisting by Bethesda and Ubisoft. Basically, Ubisoft and Bethesda halted communication and stopped sending review copies to Kotaku staff after they reported leaked information on Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Fallout 4 many months before said games were public knowledge.
Like clockwork, people started taking sides: Other journalists, fans, consumers, self proclaimed writers-but-not-journalists and YouTubers. Key to much of this is… you often don’t know who’s who at this point. The internet and social mediums give everyone a voice, and with that, “journalism” now has a muddled definition. Totilo saw this coming and one specific quote from the article about those that inevitably came to the defense of the developers sums up a huge issue:
“They will claim we are ‘hurting video games’ and, as so many do, mistake the job of entertainment reporting for the mandate to hype entertainment products.”
Too many focused on the aspect of losing review copies and how that is a fitting “punishment”, completely ignoring the fact that Kotaku continued their coverage in lieu of that. That mindset is a byproduct of excited consumers having a platform that nearly trumps legitimate journalism.
The critical analysis and news reporting aspect of the gaming industry is a mess. Though there’s a power struggle between press and PR, that’s not important. Of course there’s turbulence between marketing and news reporting, that’s not a gaming exclusive issue. What is important is that everyone understand that both have a job to do. Take the film industry for instance; early screenings of films are part of the process, not a reward. Leaked scripts, set photos and shooting locations are reported, but people certainly aren’t blacklisted for that.
Know your role. Gaming is so often pegged as an immature medium, speaking on those that consume, write for and create games. The disregard of a journalist’s job is immature, but there’s an opportunity for understanding and growth. Forbes writer Erik Kain chimed in, and lead with the perfect quote from influential American newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst: “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising”.