Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Importance of Gaming Journalism

Recently, a French gaming blog called was blacklisted by Activision after reporting on Amazon's leak of the possible next Call of Duty game: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Gamesblog broke no non-disclosure agreements, nor did they break any embargos or laws. They simply reported on a fact: Amazon put up a listing for Black Ops 2.

I'm really disappointed in Activision, and I feel that they blew this completely out of proportion. Punishing someone for reporting on something that will hardly harm your franchise, if at all, is ridiculous in my mind.

However, what I find even more disheartening are some of the comments on Kotaku's article. Not only are some people defending Activision, saying that Gamesblog should have been gentlemen and taken down the article when asked--which would violate journalistic integrity--and, even worse, people claiming that gaming journalism should never be considered as serious journalism because it's all about "toys". I find it quite odd that these commenters say things like this on a site that bills itself as a legitimate news website.
Call of Duty: Black Ops cover. Picture from Wikipedia.

I'll be kind and not directly quote or screenshot the comments I've seen, but looking at the Kotaku coverage of this incident, I personally find it hard to do so.

I recognize that not all gaming writers are part of the Society of Professional Journalists. I'd even go so far to say that most of them aren't; I know I'm certainly not.

But many organizations still strive for integrity and want to be taken seriously. Gamesblog did just that, and I've seen people say they shouldn't have bothered, that they should have caved into Activision, because gaming journalism isn't worth it because they're solely entertainment.

Video games may be entertainment, but that does not mean that they're not legitimate things to study or write about. The industry is huge, and many people care about it; I've seen forum posts about multiple games talking about how some of them made players cry, how they moved them, how they affected their lives. Whether it's something as cerebral as Silent Hill or as straightforward as Persona 4, games indeed affect people, and they merit journalism because of it.

Entire websites, such as The Escapist, pride themselves on insightful commentary about gamer culture, and do more than simply advertise the newest products, though they do touch upon those. According to the aforementioned mindset, though, sites like those aren't legitimate because they cover "toys".

Insisting gaming journalism should never be legitimatized ignores all the aspects of gaming besides just the fact that they are made for entertainment. That train of thought ignores the fact that games have affected people, myself included. It disrespects the effort that people put into each game, all the music and art and programming. Taking that kind of attitude even sets back gaming journalism, whether it comes from a reader or writer.

Video games are more than just the cost of purchasing them. They're more than just "toys" to many people, and they're more than just strings of code created to amuse players. Video games are a medium through which developers tell stories, whether they're well-done or not.

Gaming journalism covers this medium. It can be as simple as reporting on an announcement made by Square-Enix, or as complex as a metaphor of music and lyrics as gameplay and story, or as critical as analyzing male privilege in games, or even as deep as analyzing human nature in horror games.

Let's strive to allow gaming journalism to become legitimate. Hold gaming sites to a high standard, and praise those organizations that stick to their guns even in the face of developer anger.

Let's not belittle it.


  1. kotaku/gawker is a cesspit. I'm not surprised at all the sheep there would defend activision's actions.