I’ve been part of the games media for more than half a decade, writing and talking about video games for various online outlets and platforms. The biggest lessons I’ve learned while being immersed in the gaming media have come from many insightful and popular individuals, some of which have done great things for industry and greater gaming community as a whole. But throughout my years being part of this, I’ve noticed a growing wedge that has come between the audience and the people who publish content about games online. A sort of vindictiveness between outlets and their audience. And while many are quick to blame the reactiveness and attitudes of the audience on the internet, I believe a large part of this is due to many within the gaming media forgetting something very important, a key principle that is parallel to other forms of journalism. The gaming media’s most important duty is to serve the people with its content, not itself.
No matter how you feel about the phrases “gaming journalist” or “games media”, you have to admit that they serve an important purpose within the medium. They are needed in the same way to how developers and publishers are needed for the creation of games, the only difference is games journalist are involved more with what happens after a game is shipped out.
Video games, like all other forms of entertainment and art, should be observed through a critical lens as much as a complimentary one. Professionals who look at gaming with a critical eye follow similar guidelines and blueprints to that of traditional journalism, both in and out of entertainment. Because of this, there are many parallels to how games journalism (game reviews, news reporting, op-eds, etc.) and how the traditional mass media (general news) interacts with their audience.
It’s stated in the American Press Institute that “the purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments”. The cornerstone (or prime directive as some would say in Star Trek TNG) of the profession is to make sure information gets out to the people and gives them the mental tools needed to make important choices.
This means the content the games media makes should inform consumers about what is happening within the games industry, in one way or another. Before pushing forward our own opinions about a game, a topic about games, trends rising or falling, or any of our political stances about a game; the first and most important duty of all games media professionals is to inform the audience to the best of our abilities. At the end of the day, it’s not the gaming media’s personal opinions that decide how the glacier moves, it’s the audience that follows and consumes content that does so. We’re not meant to decide anything for the audience, we have to let the audience decide things for themselves.
But here is where a lot of things get muddied up and greatly affect the on-going relationship between the games media and their audience. A lot of content that gets published isn’t made to inform or give insight, but to instead condescend or scold them for one reason or another. Over the last few years, many over social media have become aggravated with how gaming outlets appear more concerned with letting the audience know how THEY personally feel about topics, rather than trying to inform the audience and let them feel something based on what is shown.
Much of the divide gets blamed on the growing political and ethical dilenmas that get reported, but the problem doesn’t stem or linger solely from that. Instead it’s from the attitudes of those in the games media that are dedicated to having THEIR stances heard and becoming impactful. It becomes less about giving the audience information and instead tries to force how THEY MUST feel about everything. This doesn’t try to build a relationship with an audience, but gives an ultimatum that can break it down quickly.
This is a very divisive and aggressive way to be part of the industry, especially when it strays so far away from what the main objective the media is supposed to uphold. How can the audience trust an outlet to inform them when they are constantly berated for feeling different or unsure about topics? How is it ok for any outlet to reactively and selectively praise or condemn individuals they deem acceptable, rather than take a more unboas stance and focus on the facts of issues at hand? And why do those in the field feel a need to search for something wrong to garner a reaction from the audience, rather than report and focus on what is already there?
These are questions that most are aware of in the gaming media but almost refuse to address or answer whatsoever, nearly to the point of creating an adversarial relationship with the audience when it comes up. This is wrong, and shouldn’t be the basis on which the games media is judged by everyone. There are plenty out there who choose not to engage in this kind of back ‘n forth with their readers and viewers, the adversarial relationship isn’t appealing to them. It’s something I’ve come to accept as a way for outlets to get by and survive in the moment, relying on knee-jerk reactions for their traffic and relevance, rather than long-standing trust and understanding. It’s one of the many reasons some gamers hesitate to trust the biggest outlets in the industry.
Not every outlet is like this, but it’s noticeable by those who regularly follow gaming news online. We shouldn’t be motivated to forcefully push our opinions or views of things onto the people, even if we at times present them for others to observe and use to make up their minds. It’s also not our jobs to try to keep ourselves relevant or influence the political/social views of others by throwing our editorials and content in the face of the audience about the games they love. The games media is around to inform and keep the discussion about video games going between everyone who enjoys the partaking in the hobby. We’re here to serve the audience by giving them content about video games and the industry around it. We should want to serve the people who love games, not just ourselves.
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