I wrote an opinion piece regarding my thoughts on the current state of gaming journalism. Back when I wrote the piece, I was being too mean-spirited towards my fellow colleagues in journalism across multiple outlets. However, considering that the question about “Should Gaming Journalists be good at Videogames?” still lingers. It’s about time I cleared out a few points once and for all.
I have the feeling this won’t be the last time I talk about a subject like this publicly. I had to wait until the release of Cuphead in order to make some of my points. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect Cuphead to be a bad game because Dean Takahashi was bad at it. I was rather thinking about clearing out some suspicions. Like whether or not the parrying system was well implemented to how accurate and responsive the controls were.
There is one big reason why gaming journalists are expected to be good at video games. Because we are people who the gamers entrust their judgment on in order to decide whether or not a game is good. And many times before, being bad at games can cloud someone’s judgment about the experience as a whole.
Overhype and Frustration lead to Misconception
The gaming community is a great example of this sort of stigma. See, when people aren’t good at the game, they get frustrated. And in their frustration, they tend to write a negative review about it. I remember talking to a Twitter user who didn’t find Cuphead as entertaining or great as me or everyone else found it to be. When I asked why they told me that they didn’t have fun and the game was too frustrating.
As valid as his opinion is, would it be a good idea to say that a game that had a lot of heart and soul put into it is bad because of the frustration? I have talked to other users who said that Cuphead was overhyped in regards to its difficulty.
Nah, I'd say its more akin to Metal Slug, people think that's difficult but it's not.
— Ule || TSR (@ulemanpwnsuall) October 1, 2017
So, who is right in this regard? The person who says the game was too hard for their liking? Or the person who said that the game was easier than expected? The problem arises when you take the experience the two users have into account.
For example, who is to say that people like me or Isaiah are veteran gamers who have known what they were doing for years? Or people like the Twitter user I talked about wasn’t a more casual gamer than anything else? The difference is, when Youtubers, Gaming Journalists or another sort of participants in modern media overstate a feature in a game. They often give a rather larger expectation of the game as a whole. Which can often lead to disappointment or frustration once these large expectations aren’t met. What’s the golden rule for a journalist?
A Gaming Journalist Must Not Create Misconceptions.
Remember that article I wrote about being too hyped over announcements? There were moments during E3 where gaming press and media praised anti-consumer practices. This is one of the reasons why people had such had expectations for games like No Man’s Sky. We all saw the interviews, the exclusive press releases, and trailers. People got hyped to the point of threatening others who saw a small fault on their precious game they didn’t have yet.
What does this have to do with Games Journalism? Well, to give you an example. Let me take you back to the time where the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was released. A GamesRadar writer decided to write a review about it based on her experiences at the game. Do you remember the headline for which the article became infamous for?
And this is where the beginning of the issues comes around when it comes to Gaming Journalists and whether or not they are good at games. See, this journalist decided that the game was too hard for them and went for a miserable 7/10 (3.5/5) on her final judgment. It’s still on the “Good” category, but would it really be a deserving note for a game with the amount of polish and care it had? I mean, even with its questionable jump hitboxes, I would’ve given it an 8.
This is a shared issue, not exclusive to Game Journalists.
It’s not like Youtube influences haven’t done a few questionable things either. Nobody really talks about how there are oh-so-many Youtubers defending the horribly cumbersome Storage Capacity problem the Nintendo Switch has. While most people with common sense will agree that this is a big problem for a console with extensive 3rd Party Support. The people in the videos talk about this as “You need to buy an SD, deal with it.” or “The reason people complain is that they don’t have money.”
There are people on Youtube and Journalism alike that defend things such as Microtransactions, DLC or even Broken games. There was one example where a Youtuber named ReviewtechUSA had to talk some sense into a gamer that defended the broken and incomplete release of Street Fighter V. And it wasn’t a pretty argument to watch either.
I mention this problem with Youtubers because some people believe that YouTube users are free of the problems in Games Journalism. This should be enough proof that even that place isn’t free of dumb people who make mistakes every once in a while. However, I think there needs to be a point that Journalists need to understand.
The Gamers Expect Competent Journalists, not eSports players.
Gaming journalists think they aren’t allowed to have fun while playing the games they review. That’s far from the truth in all of the cases. We’re allowed to show how much fun we had playing/failing at the game. However, gamers expect nothing but expertise from us. We’re supposed to be qualified Professionals who know about the games we’re playing.
Yes, I mentioned before that a gaming journalist should also represent the subset audience that plays games casually. However, I think the point should be that Gaming Journalist is expected to be a bit above average at the bare minimum when they play games. How else would gamers be able to entrust their confidence unto them?
I asked for feedback to some of my readers. And they told me that they would trust a person who shows how they play the game more than a person who doesn’t. This is one of the reasons why I started to include gameplay footage on the games I review. With the exception of Jettomero because my graphics card is glitchy.
It’s also one of the reasons why I started the “Gaming Journalist Plays” series. To show that #NotAll journalists are completely helpless at games. You can take a look at it right below.
Conclusion: Gaming Journalists need a Renaissance.
Yes, the people at the top are starting to cloud everything for the up and coming next generation of journalists. I have seen enough of my peers agreeing with me on this message more than anything. This whole scandal took a really big toll on me because I had headaches and was forced into taking a small break because I didn’t want to play games anymore.
Gaming Journalism isn’t supposed to be a profession readily available to everyone who knows how to write. This should be a profession that only people who are above average in regards to gaming knowledge can be. Can there be journalists who play badly? In my opinion, no.
I don’t know if I am “Capable” enough for the people who read my articles. I don’t even know if this article is actually correct on the philosophy I believe in. However, I think I can say I’m open on feedback from my fellow readers and fans on Twitter. I’d like to continue this conversation and see how we can make Gaming Journalism evolve like it should.