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Accountability in Game Journalism
by Kheper Crow on 04/24/13 12:47:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

[ originally posted on my website www.khepercrowbird.com/blog ]

 

There is an interesting conflict happening in the world of game journalism. On one hand you have journalist tired of corporate mouthpieces craving real people who say real things; a larger degree of honesty and transparency. Then on the other hand you have these same journalist using even the slightest mis-wording to elicit a fake controversy. These are conflicts of interests, well, maybe not for the journalist, but certainly for the developer.

 Take for example this article where Richard Garriott rips into fellow game designers, only if you actually read the whole of the original article he actually isn't doing that at all. Or take this recent debacle with Vanillaware's upcoming game Dragon's Crown. The original article from Kotaku was highlighting this immature, "14-year old boy", sexist art, slandering the company and directly causing lost sales. The only problem, it was NOT sexist or even immature  at least not from what I can gather from a game with a distinct art style that hasn't even been released. Then to make matters worse, the Vanillaware president, George Kamitani, tries to stand up for his company only to come across as homophobic(Note: I reread the original Kotaku article and while it did not directly state the artist was sexist, I felt it highly implied, at least as much as the response was implied homophobic.)

This is the crux of the problem and the reality. We, as game developers, cannot win. We need journalist to give us favorable press to rise above the masses. We become the whipping boys for whatever whimsy catches the journalist. There is no defense, you just smile and take it, maybe play along with the malice because it at least shows you're a good sport. You could of course say only the barest amount needed to convey your game and your passion and try your absolute best to not release any press material that may be in the slightest way offensive. But this is exactly what many journalist and readers are tired of.

If journalist wish to develop a higher degree of openness from developers they need to foster trust by holding each other accountable for the pieces they print. Before you publish an article, think about the implications. There are actual real people who can be hurt by your words. Does the writing cast any individual or company in a negative light? Is that really what you were intending with the article? If you are taking clips from an interview and piecing them together, is that really what the speaker was trying to say? Maybe you should consider running it by them first? And especially if you are going to outright slander a person or company you damn well better do some actual research first. Has the internet completely destroyed journalistic integrity?

This is NOT a problem with all game journalist. There are many who are considerate, do appropriate research, and are thoughtful of how their actions will affect those they are writing about. But everyone, even the best journalist, can make mistakes. Which is why it is so important for peers to look at each others work and to point out potential abusive and damaging remarks. This makes the journalist look good and it helps the developer feel safe to talk openly about themselves and their project. And THIS is what makes for good stories that your readers want to hear and that developers want to say.

One last thing, journalist play an incredibly important role in the development and the diversity of our medium. Aside from the games themselves, what a journalist says and writes about indicates how others perceive our medium. While choosing to target controversial stories may make for more heated discussion, it does very little to paint our industry in a good light. A vital part of diversity is showing that the game industry is a happy and safe environment to work in. It's good to call people and products out when needed, but please do so in a positive, constructive manner.


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