The Legitimacy of Gaming Media

This may seem like an odd place to bring this up, or perhaps, kicking the hornets nest almost...but not as extreme a situation as the phrase would often imply, but anyway...

I like the gaming media. I can get a lot of info from what is printed. Previews, reviews, news and other little snippets and insights. It's enjoyable. I wouldn't frequent those sites and read those magazines if I didn't think so.

Now, my...erm, qualm could easily be applied to any field that is built partially around subjective content. This is by no means a game industry specific 'issue'.

So, to get into the meat of my point; how valid is gaming media? Or at least, how much do we misunderstand the actual stance of the media?

I think that anyone who has frequented a site of some kind, has seen a reply of some kind to a review or opinion pieces, and simply claimed it as, well...bull shit. I think this is fine. The opinion piece is just that, and it is open to be opposed, to be countered and questioned, also *gasp* agreed with at times. Now, perhaps it's the hostility of the gamer user base, but there seems to often be very blunt and sometimes aggressive counters pointed at press. And to me, it sometimes feels as though these readers feel like the authors should know better. And this is where my point really comes in;

Should the gaming media know better?

Sports journalists have had this issue for a long time, they won't ever make anyone happy. The 'armchair pundit' will claim to be the master of whatever sport it could be, and have every insight in the strategies and tactics of the game. But I think gaming is a little different. There are aspects that the media try and comment on that even sports writers may not. For example, you won't see a sports writer speak up about how a team should go about training, or how they should sell their replica shirts. You actually won't see this with a movie critic too, they don't speak about how the movie industry should start to use this specific lighting system for the set, or how the movie should be released in cinemas. But the game critic, the journalists seems to go further.

Sure there are some journalists that will look into the management speculation of a sports team, but they often relay what they find, and then ask a question. But I find that gaming press tend to have a go at answering the question. I don't mind this though, I find it interesting, I like to see what people think. But then it goes back to the legitimacy of the opinion, and what the readership may expect again.

Unlike some of the more mainstream hobbies, the gaming enthusiasts have often been routed in the, (sorry for use of this dumb phrase...) "nerd culture". Some of the gamers are viciously hungry for knowledge and information, and desire to know all the ins and outs of their favourite franchises, platforms, characters and games. And these guys are often smart too, they have been around the games, the hardware, the software for a while. You would have to say that those that grew up around the era where games came to a greater light, are the most tech savvy of all people. Those of the ages of 25-35, those who grew up with this tech and matured alongside it.

In addition to this, the freedom of information grew too. They could find the answers to their questions by going straight to the source. As soon as the internet became more widespread and accessible in the early 2000's, the info was there for those that wanted it. The playing field was level, the player had the same access to information as the media.This is quite a big change, when during the print era of the gaming publication, the writers could spoon feed you whatever (not that they did), but you never really had grounds for questioning that before.

We also find ourselves in a situation now, where every developer and publisher has their own site, their own point of contact or interaction with the player. And advertising is no longer limited to gaming publications either, I can see an ad for a game pretty much anywhere that I want to look, because the player base is now so large that there is a player looking everywhere.

I guess at this point, the question has changed a little from "should they know more" and really coming closer to the headline, and questioning the legitimacy.

What the media for gaming was used for in the past, is not really needed anymore. Something like Metacritic has become a stronger source for game reviews, and the user review section in particular. Apple and Android stores both have user reviews nailed, with quick Twitter like snippets compiling to an average score. The opinions of many combining.

With the access of knowledge not being an exception anymore, and with greater insights available from other avenues and from actual users, where does this leave the gaming press?

Like I said, I like some of the gaming media. I frequent sites for many things, I enjoy reading opinion pieces too. But this is a question that I have had on my mind for some time now. I see the media writers as my peers, rather than a higher knowledge or someone with a greater insight, and I don't see this as an insult towards the writers at all. I would also claim that there are somethings that I certainly know better as well, but I still would like to read intelligent opinions when they are there. But I also like to read the same opinions from my fellow gamers. Because you guys know as well as and sometimes better that other good folk do. The opinions of many.

Perhaps we can look at E3, and how it has started to fade. It was a industry event for sure, but a very media driven one. And it has started to decline in popularity or meaning for a lot of the more enthusiastic gamers. The news is known. Some may just stick around to hear some of the developers talk.

I'm looking forward to the completion of the Polygon site. I want to read some solid articles and opinions from those who I have respect for. But there will still be this question, and I not sure it has a real answer. I'm not sure if it's even a question, more a personal observation. My own take on things.

But perhaps it's deeper that this, perhaps it's a question of how I view others, how I believe a level playing field is there and how we are equal. Or perhaps it's arrogance, and believing that no ones opinion can be greater than another for reasons closer to personal pride. Or maybe it isn't that deep at all, maybe it's just that I have grown up, and those around me have too, and the way we discuss is now on a level of acceptance and insight, rather than simple surprise and excitement.

Hah, this wasn't supposed to ramble like this, but I found that I didn't really know how to convey the question I have. Perhaps I answered my own question already, or like I said; maybe I have no question at all.