Why can’t a secondary form of gaming journalism, if you would call it that, ever take hold with audiences?
I have written quite extensively on gaming journalism, its failures, and how promise lies ahead as online journalism grows. But one side of the debate not concerning most outlets is the topic of “alternative” gaming journalism–or, using personal game experience with, let’s say, a review or in essay form. How a game feels rather than breaking it down into components.
When I interviewed Mattie Brice for her then-upcoming magazine re/Action (which has since shut down), she described alternative gaming journalism as “writing that isn’t centered around informing people as consumers.” That is what most of gaming journalism is these days: publishers send outlets press releases, and they rewrite them. A review comes here and there, but most stories are fed directly to these sites.
“Alternative” gaming journalism, then, would cover any subjects unrelated to informing consumers. That means no news to those looking to purchase a game. But where does that leave people who want to read about a game thoroughly? To see how others interpreted a pivotal moment in a game’s plot, or how they survived an epic firefight? A readership does exist for encyclopedic game coverage, but most well-read gaming media refuse to publish that sort of content.
This collides with “New Games Journalism”, a movement that briefly took hold in 2004, after Kieron Gillen published this piece back in 2004. Yes, almost ten years. A decade ago, this piece stirred the journalism pot after it was republished in PC Gamer, even before Kotaku, Joystiq and Destructoid formed.
It was a fearless piece of journalism because it dared challenge the norm. How games are as much about the experience as when broken down into parts. Music, plot, characters, like a film, all swirled together into one profound twenty-hour adventure. But the movement never progressed.
The re/Action folks sought to change that outlook, with a staff of committed writers who got involved to entertain, not necessarily to get paid. Sadly, their Indiegogo fund didn’t receive the funds. A magazine marketed for “alternative” gaming journalism had failed. Thus, a different form of gaming coverage couldn’t function because there’s no audience demand, or their fund wasn’t publicized. Which was it is hard to say, but the effect remains: It wasn’t meant to be.
I wonder, then, if a market does voraciously desire that grade of content but has yet to receive it. We all think in that way; seeing an awesome moment in a Halo multiplayer game, I imagine what the person sitting next to me is thinking. (I never play Halo anymore without someone else present. It’s embarrassing.) Or, if someone had the same emotional response as I did when following Lee and Clementine in The Walking Dead: The Video Game. Was he or she as scared or jubilant as I was to survive?
Videogames have a residual effect. A powerful ending like BioShock deserves to be, and has been, talked about for ages. The fear when Wander observes the first colossi is an undeniable emotion, fit for some lengthy piece about scariness transcending the medium. We have a propensity to talk about our exposure in games (“Oh man, you gotta see this!”); however most media feel differently.
Could console sharing change the attitude? As an awareness of awesome moments grows, especially in the console space (where IGN and other news sites focus a lot of their attention), our appreciation for those isolated experiences shines through. Because games are just that–isolated experiences–and perceptible only by the people in the room; but sharing may change that.
I hope there’s a future. Games can get away with it too, as spoilers are rarely a concern. Other media don’t suffer from the same hindrance, and in fact that’s something that should be celebrated. Looking at games from an alternative perspective might very well be the best approach.
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