5 mins read

I don’t actually think Sony sucks at all. I actually rather like Sony. But that headline may well generate for me more traffic than anything else this month.

Over at N4G today the #1 story is “I hope Sony goes away so people won’t have anything to cry about.” The first sentence is a failure of grammar (“I just got done reading an article…”) and the rest of the article doesn’t really pick up from there.

Now, I’m certainly not criticising N4G, which fulfils a very valuable role in the games industry, and I’m certainly not criticising the ideas of this author, either. I’ve had cause to disagree with Ben Kuchera too in the past, so I can certainly understand why someone would be inspired to write a response to something he has penned.

But it’s not good journalism. And this is not an isolated example of poor journalism gaining a lot of traction on N4G. And when a story gets a lot of traction on N4G it tends to be fairly influential. There are a lot of examples of poor journalism gaining a lot of influence.

The games industry suffers a great deal from a lack of properly qualified writers and editors covering it. Even the biggest websites hire young students or unqualified enthusiasts to help cover the massive amount of news and information that flows through the industry. The editors and publishers of games publications also tend to be younger than their counterparts in, say, political news or the specialist trade press.

It’s understandable that these are the people that are recruited, of course. Games journalists do not get paid that much money, and it’s rarely a career that can properly support a family. For most journalists, games press is a stepping stone into better paying roles. But in the games press itself this ‘training ground’ creates a couple of problems. Games journalists often have not completed formal training in journalism. Without that their understanding of ethics and the journalistic process is incomplete. With equally inexperienced editors and subeditors (if there are even subeditors), there is a lot of content that gets passed through that in any other form of journalism would see the article returned to the writer covered in red ink.

And on top of that, it’s relatively easy for someone to set up their own website and publish articles, without any kind of accountability whatsoever. This is a can of worms just waiting to be torn open – no accountability means no quality control.

Of course, citizen journalists are nothing to be feared, and are themselves a way of forcing accountability on the professionals. The problem with games journalism is there are very little to separate a professional publication from a citizen journalist blog. A newspaper like the New York Times produces content of a highly controlled nature that a political blogger can’t, and so the New York Times is the more visible source of information. In the games press space, those lines are far more blurred and what wins the battle for visibility tends to be other intangible factors – headlines, for instance.

Is there a solution to this? Probably not. There’s no formal body that encourages self-regulation within the industry, and even if there was there would be very little reason for many games publications to adhere to those standards. It would be nice for some form of encouragement to emerge that rewards those publications that work hard to bring a higher level of journalistic standards to the industry, however.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on the state of games press – does it need to be fixed? How could it be? Sound out in the comments below!

This is the bio under which all legacy articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

  • I must say I'm cranky and am just writing as it comes to me, so forgive me if I go off the cuff. None of this is directed at you in a negative way.

    I enjoy when I'm sassed for not being a journalist and writing only opinion pieces.

    1) I never claimed to be a journalist — I don't want to BE one, especially a member of the games press, some fat neckbeard who panders to gaming companies and their fanboy-infested user base. It's funny because the same people who say things like "you suck, Phil, you're not a journalist. How dare you call yourself one" go on to use the words of some IGN or Gamespot writer who also doesn't even have a degree in journalism to try to prove some fanboy-riddled like-minded opinion.

    2) Any idiot can steal news from Reddit and NeoFAQs and put their own spin on it. Thousands of sites and blogs do that. The way I see it if people want news, they can go to one of the thousands of sites/blogs that already do that. But my opinions are exclusive to my site. That is generally what gets me the most hits. And I don't even have to resort to "Nintendo Wii U is going to fail. Here's 9 reasons why they suck" headlines.

    3) Both sites you recommended me to join just show how ugly the gaming press really is. It seems every popular Zergnet articles is "Top 8", "Seven Reasons", "Five Ways", or some other numbered article. And N4G's community is just god awful. Fanboys infest every comment section (that Sony article's second comment is basically some guy who I hope to god is PR posting how PlayStation is the bestest and everyone agrees, showing they are zealots as well), and sometimes they infest your own site. The popular opinion pieces generally have a negative slant. It's absolutely disgusting. But these sites are just pandering to their audience. They want crappy console and fanboy wars, and they give it to them.

    4) For every well written article on a site, there's several incidents like some fat guy spinning around in love with his review copy of Skyrim or some dude making an article justifying the embarrassing reaction to Bayonetta 2's Wii U exclusivity. Seriously? Gaming "journalism" is a joke, and there are a select few who do their jobs well. I don't pretend to be one of them as I don't want to be a journalist. But what I do write I try and tend to have sources to back what I say up and do a little research. When I am wrong, I admit it (and make fun of myself for doing so endearingly).

    Regardless, just like gamers are mostly fanboys, so are members of the press. They have biases and they are suddenly and more consistently not caring about not showing them. But it's a young industry, so perhaps that's why it's so pathetic right now. Perhaps I could do better myself. But then again I'm not being paid to kiss company butt, appease my fan base, and get free swag from companies in the form of systems and games. I don't live that manchild gamer fantasy.

    I think that's all I can stomach typing. It's late and this will just keep me up being annoyed at the current state of gaming "journalism." You keep up the good work, everyone at Digitally Downloaded. Though, Matt, you can stop with the Apple is going to rule the world stuff that I feel is a theme on this site. Then again, I have a theme on my site which is "gamers suck, gaming journalism sucks, the gaming culture sucks, and leave Nintendo alone as their eyes are black enough as it is."

  • A guide to spot signs of radical Playstationg fanboism as a person or a site :

    1. Listing both current and upcoming games that only matter to him/her/it, only to give an illusion of megaton list. Tend to hype $ony as the winner of all time, self-proclaim winner to be exact. Using the 'We' word as if he/she/it represents the world.

    2. NPD or Narcisstic Personality Disorder, a self-glorious stranger who thinks he/she/it's the most important jackass on the net. Telling a personal opinion as an absolute gospel or fact.

    3. Sales-induced comments/articles, spamming readers like selling snake oils. (eg: 10 earth-shattering ps3 games you must own, my vita can heal my backpains, i'm getting a second vita so it's well worth your money too, etc.)

    4. Anger or Mad Disorder sign shows up in comments that lead to cursing at others. Some will cover it using smiley happy symbols or Lol stuffs, but in reality they're suffering from insomnia scratching butts like crazy, waiting desperately to see miracles on playstationg sales and to twist bad news in forums/articles. Even Kevin Butler is paid to cheer up for $ony.

    5. Using 'trolling!' or 'shut up!' or 'fan haters!' or insulting terms as final defense when the fanboy cannot openly accept real facts crushing his fanboyish opinions and mental issues.

    6. Spewing hatred at any other brand that's more succesful in terms of innovation, reviews, and sales. It screams anti-competition or monopolistic mentality. Sadly, they've been brainwashed and outsmarted by their own puppeteer – $ony.

    7. Can't stand constructive critics anymore. To them, $ony can't commit sins or wrong decisions. Everything made by $ony is so f*ng holy. Speaking of super taboo "sheeps" or "tools" with just one-dimensional way of thinking.

    8. Exclusive Attention Deprived Disorder. Almost the same like #2, but they need exclusive treatments in the form of exclusive 1st party games because they feel 3rd parties supports aren't as good. Pretty much like drug dealer and drug abuser relationship. They're more than happy to lose dimes for the master just for the exclusive fix.

    9. Judging others of being 'jealous' because they don't have as many exclusives, yet those exclusive games cannot bring their beloved console up to the #1 sales spot globally.

    10. The worst $ony fankids' site like is epidemic. The kids seem to have no games worth of playing, so all the time they just end up watching on the site, bubbling-up $ony kids comments and bubbling-down non-$ony gamers. When the playstationg is getting bad news, they always argue that $ony has more than just a gaming division. But when $ony is getting bad news, they always argue that the playstationg has nothing to do with it. Talk about a pesky group of desperate kids looking for exclusive attention.

    11. Double-standard or Bi-Polar Disorder. They will blame MS or Nintendo for propriety HD, but suddenly support Sony for Vita's propriety flash memory. Milking Grand Turismo franchise is totally fine, but milking Halo franchise is a huge No. It's OK for Sony to trick sales (newer SKUs every x year), but not so for Activision (newer CODs every y year).

    12. Playstationg – It Only Does Spamming non-$ony Gamers!

  • For you to say Sony sucks, just shows us all you are not a professional. You are not trying to be. You need to delete this post and write an apology letter to every single Sony fan, starting with me.

    *that is what you call a skimming comment. I saw the first two words, didn't bother to read anything else, but my DEFENSE SHIELD went up. Anything else said, after those insulting words…completely IRRELEVANT.

    Sony does suck! Microsoft sucks. Nintendo sucks! Apple sucks. Steam sucks!! You know who has been sucking the most though? The Humble Indie Bundle!
    They are professionals at sucking money out of bank accounts, repeatedly.

    Is there a solution? I don't think so. It's a race to the bottom with websites. Which is why a few "journalist" jumped ship from the largest online site there is, before a big layoff hit it a few years back.

    The best thing to do is lead by example with what you're expecting from other sites, and to "hold their feet to the fire" on issues if possible. The problem is, there isn't anything you can really do, when the majority of sites don't care about quality, they just want quantity.

    I do agree with @superphillip32:disqus though, in that I don't consider myself a "journalist" as I don't have a journalism degree. That being said though, as he mentioned as well, everything I write (especially opinion, which is rare by itself) I try to back up with facts/history of events. Just because some run around the industry writing trash and then saying, "Well, I'm not a journalist." doesn't mean they shouldn't try to be professional.

    BUT, if this is really only about poor journalism in that article, and perhaps others, make sure to send this to the other site if you haven't already, and at the very least point out the other issues you have with it. If they don't correct it after it's brought to their attention, then that would be a real issue. Making a mistake in passing though, happens quite often on sites. It's what they do about the mistakes when they are brought to their attention…perhaps then this piece would make more sense in context if the piece you first referenced had the mistake, but doesn't correct it after they recognized it?

    So, maybe one solution for just poor grammar is going to the source of the problem first, and seeing if they correct it? Heck, I did that a few weeks back on a particular issue (not grammar), even have a post (like this sort of) in draft form with full contact images and messages, showing how something was posted incorrectly, addressed a number of times, and it was never fixed.

    Sleep time!

  • Hey Phil,

    It's all good. We all get cranky at times ^_^

    Just in case I didn't make it clear enough in my article – I am not criticising "citizen journalism" here – in fact, I think it's absolutely crucial.

    What I'm driving at here is that there needs to be both, but the line between them needs to be clear – we need to have professional journalists that don't behave like amateurs (so journalists with qualifications and experience), and we need to have citizen journalists that don't think they are journalists.

    That's how it exists in other journalism fields, and it's important that that line exists if games journalism is going to elevate to the same standards.

  • Nah, I'm not criticising the other website here – that would be unfair of me since it does seem like an earnest, albeit unprofessional site. As I've said, I'll defend citizen journalism to my grave, as it's an important medium for democracy to exist.

    This is a very broad issue and I've been meaning to address it for a while, it's just that this article is the example of the day, so to speak.

  • I thought the collective hive-mind of journalists considered N4G to be one of the few scum-of-the-earth places on the internet. True, N4G has an interesting idea at play, but when almost all of its content is run by individuals who have succumbed to the IFT (Can't exactly spell that out, I wanna keep some form of class. =P), you just end up with a mess. Yes, there can be some moments of genuine kindness and intellectual thought, but those are too few and too sparse compared to the mountains of idiocy.

    For those unaware, the IFT;

  • This is an issue that I have with the industry as well. I don't particularly have an issue with gaming press that don't have a degree, as they aren't (yet) paid enough to warrant one, but it's when articles — much like the one you're speaking about — are the top news stories of the day, over and again and they've got no sense of professionalism to them at all.

    Any site that takes itself seriously and wants to make big press headlines needs a proper editor, in my opinion. I agree with you, there does need to be a strong transition line, a standard for others to live up to. That's good for the industry, but there are many out there that do write to those standards, but sadly, many of them seem to be moving on to better paying jobs — leaving the industry entirely.

  • You definitely don't have to have a degree to be a great journalist. Heck, the majority of the ones that I hold the most respect for, don't have degrees, yet they are incredible writers.

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a (real) gaming press, that didn't stoop down to formulating asinine interpretations from a single word in a PR document to obtain a surge of hits, regardless of the reaction that's created from it. Instead, they just let the PR do the talking instead, properly informing (you) the readers what it is they want you to know.

    "Citizen journalism" is great for the industry as well, and I'm not going to criticise it either, but when that's what makes the daily headlines, it eschews the minds of the masses on a daily basis. It's so simple to write (what I call "slam journalism") titles that pull in readers by the hordes, but standing on the other side of the fence and striving to be the better man takes dedication. It isn't always easy to do so, as I could easily write an article to pull in thousands of hits in the next few hours, but I don't want that kind of writing published under my name — ever!

  • It's a start. That's the kind of thing we need to see more of!

    It's not that there isn't professional games journalism out there. The for-industry publications, Gamasutra, Game Industry, and even Edge, these are all high-quality productions. These publications are the ones that should see 800 degrees on N4G.

  • I understand and I agree completely. I hope I didn't offend anyone, as I could have been more tactful in my approach.

  • ""Well, I'm not a journalist." doesn't mean they shouldn't try to be professional."

    Exactly. I try to be professional in my writing (obviously not last night's cranky rant), and usually I do well. Other times I fail and I know I fail. You live and learn and try to become better. 🙂

  • This does raise an interesting point – it's a good thing that enthusiasts can contribute to "professional" publications. But, the thing is, these publications need to be properly edited.

    The story I linked to above I would never run, for instance, though I'm more than happy to publish writing from, say, you (well, assuming I never see you write "done do" again :P). I probably didn't emphasise that enough in my piece – there are a lot of gaming publications out there in dire need of trained editors, too.

  • Hey Matt,
    If you have any pointers on how to better edit the article I wrote I'm all ears. I really appreciate you taking the time to critique my article and I'm definitely open to your advice and improving my writing.

    Like the guys below said I'm definitely not trying to pretend to be a games journalist, however I feel as though the major sites like you mentioned have a glass is half full perspective. And I will admit that the title is a bit inflammatory, but it was how I felt at the time. For those that read the article they would know that I'm tired of all the negativity I see in gaming journalism.

    I can be reached at looking forward to becoming friends with you. Hope to hear from you soon

  • Hi Shamarri,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    As one of the editors here at Digitally Downloaded and having read your piece, one simple thing that I'll recommend to you and anyone else that reads this, is to (slowly!) read your work out loud during your edits. This is a simple, yet effective trick that many of us editors use for our own work, as well as when editing others.

    You're a passionate gamer and there's technically nothing wrong with what you've written. The fact that you've taken the time to sit down and write what you feel is great and is needed in our industry. While this kind of piece is better suited on a personal blog in my opinion, instead of a gaming website, your passion is prevalent throughout the piece and it doesn't read like the title infers. (Again, my opinion here) But, the problem isn't with you, or what you've written, it's that a piece that's written such as yours takes prevalence at N4G on a daily basis, while the actual journalistic pieces are shovelled to the wayside. This is something that I've spoken with Matt before many times and this was a day that it finally got under his skin (trust me, it wasn't just you work on this day either).

    Keep writing my friend and know that passionate gamers can indeed make fine journalist. You've got to put your feelings aside and see the industry as a whole to do it, which isn't always easy, but it can be done. Strive to write better and keep writing each day. You'll see your skills improving little by little and the end result is most certainly worth it.

    Keep on gaming!


  • Yes, what Chris said. I really apologise if you felt I am singling you out here – most definitely not my intention. It was simply that your piece ended up at #1 on N4G that, to me, displays a very serious problem with games journalism.

    Whatever you do, don't give up on the writing though! It's a skill learned through practice and feedback, and I think it's great that you've had the initiative to do it.

    And I do agree with you, by the by. Games journalism – as in the paid professional stuff – is absolutely packed with negativity. Negativity drives traffic easier that positivity, and traffic keeps those sites running. Another reason that we need citizen journalism like yours to balance things out.

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