Videogame journalism has been in a decline for the last two decades now. In the early 90s magazines were giving average games a 7 out of 10 score instead of the more obvious 5, purely to appease developers and publishers, and to ensure they continued to get review copies of the latest games. Incredulous and deceitful, but at least it served a purpose.
Now, in the 21st century, we’re getting all kinds of articles popping up on gaming blogs that, in all honestly, really shouldn’t be there.
When Juno came out in 2007, a rep at Fox came out in early 2008 and said something to the effect of her job being finding ways of expanding brands, for example by developing videogames based upon them, and she cited Juno as an example of a successful film that could go down that path. Every gaming blog I subscribed to lept upon this as clear evidence that a Juno videogame was in the works! Perhaps the worst offender out there was Gawker-owned gaming blog Kotaku, who a few days later posted an article stating the bloody obvious – the game wasn’t really under development, and an innocent comment had been taken out of context.
Don’t go looking for the article where Kotaku excitedly and terrifyingly reveal that Juno: The Game is under development. You won’t find it – they’ve long since deleted it. However a quick Google for “juno video game” reveals that there are plenty of articles on the subject written by other gaming blogs and news sites just as trigger-happy as, but perhaps a little more honest than, Kotaku are.
This morning Kotaku are once again guilty of getting all in a panic over something stupid. A recent post on the gaming blog put forth the question: With Halo Reach coming out this year and the game planning to offer a new multiplayer experience, will the Halo 3 servers be shutting down? The conclusion that they came to: No. Of course the answer is no. That’s not a question that requires you to get any clock cycles going in the brain. But for some reason the writer felt it necessary to contact someone at Bungie to find out.
That may be the single most retarded question I’ve ever seen posed on a gaming website. Halo is a huge franchise. There are people who are still playing the first one, for Glod’s sake. The Halo 2 servers are due to be closed this month but only because Xbox Live support for original Xbox games is being shut down. Hell, even smaller franchises like Worms have kept their servers up and running for older titles – the Worms 2 server has been going since 1997 and it’s still up and running, as are all the servers for every Worms game released since. Asking if the servers for an insanely popular game are going to be shut down two and a half years after the game was first released (and six months after a standalone expansion for the game was released) just because a new entry in the series is coming out is bloody stupid, and I can’t help but wonder exactly what was going through the mind of Brian Crecente, the writer of the entry, when he felt the need to not only pose the question but to research something with such a mind-meltingly obvious answer.
(It should be pointed out that Gawker Media’s blogs aren’t exactly beacons of fact. Last year io9 reported that Neil Gaiman was definitely writing an episode of Doctor Who for the show’s fifth series, and what’s more they knew the title and plot as well. That entry can be found here, although they removed the reference to the title and story in the wake of the denial Neil Gaiman issued shortly after io9 posted the news.)
Why is videogame journalism in such a turgid state? Why are the so-called journalists who write about the industry wasting so much time and energy asking questions that don’t need to be asked, and reporting news that isn’t really news? One could argue that this is the state of journalism as a whole, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Despite how seriously magazines like EDGE and websites like GamesIndustry.biz try to make themselves appear to be, the truth is that videogame journalism never broke out of its infancy. It’s filled with people writing what they think they know instead of actually doing the research. It’s filled with people raising concerns and asking questions about things that everybody already knows the answers to. It’s filled with people getting excited about a game one moment and then forgetting about it in the next. Gaming journalism has a lot of things, but an interest in games and a passion for the medium isn’t one of them.
And that’s a real shame.