Game Journalism – Am I Really a Journalist?
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist...?
Recently, I came across a dream job. I logged on to the forum of my favorite website and noticed that the Editor-in-Chief was looking for new writers to help fill his team. I didn't care if I would be paid or not. I just wanted in. I love writing about games, telling people about them and how amazing they are. I advocate guilds for a better gaming experience like a politician would advocate green energy for a better environment. I love games and the chance to write about them was not something I could pass up.
So I applied and was given a trial article. I had a bunch of questions, which I asked, and I was nervous. I've been giving my opinion about games for so long, but this was “official”. It would be published on a website that was visited by hundreds of thousands of people and would, if I was lucky, be read by a few thousand people. It was a big deal to me.
I finished the article relatively fast. I kept it for a couple of days and read it and re-read it and edited it so many times that I was worried that I would begin fixing things that didn't need fixed. I showed it to friends and asked them for their opinions. Eventually, I worked up the courage to turn it in.
Well, here I am, a few months after I've started writing for OnRPG.com and I'm feeling pretty good about myself. I get paid a reasonable sum of money to sit on my butt and play video games and then type out my thoughts and opinions on it. It's a bit more than that, but to be completely honest, that's the gist of it. Recently, though, I've began to worry.
A while back, I came across an article by Jeff Labine that discussed how “Game Journalist” are not really journalist at all. They are commentators, reviewers, and entertainers, he says. And as much as I would like not to, I cannot agree with him more. I am not a journalist. I have no formal training in journalism, no experience with it. If I were to give myself a title, it would be Game Commentator or something of that kind.
I'm not a big name in game journalism. Heck, I'm barely known on OnRPG. So all the game journalism controversy that are plaguing the industry lately seem far away from me. However, I have a feeling that someday they may reach me and it has got me thinking and noticing more things about the industry.
Popular industry figure heads are demanding change. It feels like the whole industry is about to explode and demand a change to how game journalism works. They will no longer be satisfied with people like me just giving their opinions on games. They want hard-hitting journalist that will do actual journalism. Investigate issues within the industry and demand developers and publishers to be held accountable for the lazy practices that have strangled innovation. They want bad games to be called out on their shit, rather than be praised for simply being a game.
And failure to practice proper journalism affects all sides. Games that do not deserve praise get it, games that deserve praise fail to receive it because they aren't as popular as other games. Sometimes, writers fail to show all sides of a story and unintentionally present a biased opinion. I came across something like this today, actually.
I present the article I came across on another forum. The thread I found it in had a lot of comments about how wrong it was. I originally thought the comments were just a case of fanboyism, as the forum I found it on was the Mortal Online forum. I wanted to see if what they were saying was true, so I went ahead and read it.
Honestly, I've got to agree that the writer has forgotten to include a lot of key facts about the donation goals. Such as the interview being only one of many rewards the guy got for his $1,000 donation, a rare collector’s edition of the game signed by the developers, life time subscription, some in-game titles and cosmetic rewards. He even got to name an NPC in the game. Some people were in the thought process that lawyers should be involved because of the article.
On the Mortal forums, another donor who had won the right to an interview prior to the interview mentioned in the article said, “This is media at its absolute worst. Whoever wrote this article should lose his job. He apparently did little to no research, or he is incredibly biased with an agenda. I was the first person to receive an interview, and I will flat out say that this writer is making things up, and trying to misconstrue facts. The interview is a minor bonus to being a top donor. The biggest satisfaction from donating is knowing that this game is very much alive, and moving forward in a good direction.”
Another user says that donations were something that the community asked for, and thinks the writer of the Massively article should have included that information.
Of course, if we take a look at the other side, such as the comments made on the Massively article itself, people are praising the writer for calling out SV on this. Others are saying they will never trust Star Vault because they believe that they ask for money just to talk to the developers. Is this the hard-hitting journalism that people want?
Personally, I've had a similar occurrence when the anti-SV posters at MMORPG.com wanted to have me fired because they felt I had one too many nice things about Mortal Online. Was I in the wrong with my review of the game? Was the Massively writer wrong with their article?
Stuff like this, it all makes me wonder. Will I be needed as a writer anymore when this change in what people want from game journalist occurs? If it occurs? Perhaps it will all blow over and will be forgotten. When I write an article, I sign it: Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist. But I can't stop thinking that perhaps I shouldn't be. Perhaps we all shouldn't be using that term so lightly without accepting the responsibilities that come with it.
-Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), Game Commentator, Reviewer, maybe even Journalist, and perhaps even Entertainer