Press Released

Press Released
Why So Serious

Sean Sands | 28 Jun 2009 09:00
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I must admit that in a world where turmoil churns abroad in revolutionary lands where the price for a counted vote is tallied not in little red stickers but in blood or where the proliferation of undocumented nuclear weapons in little-known Balkan states is a secret fear that haunts the dreams of the overly well informed, I am largely glad that the most talented, the most determined and the most hardened journalists did not, upon graduating from college, decide "I'm totally going to write about video games."

The complaint about the state of video game journalism is a tired one, and even as a participant in the fray I remain pretty non-committal on the issue. I have read the grousing about the supposedly puerile and amateur nature of competing publications who pepper gaming stories with the kind of writing one might expect from an average episode of The Simpsons. But, as I watch video from E3 presentation in which the gaming press rise as one and cheer like the wild game fans that they truly are, I wonder how anyone could have ever been under the delusion that ours was an unbiased effort.

I myself, before deciding to fully divest myself from any appearance of impartiality, worked in the gaming news business for several sites, including being among the first on staff to report for The Escapist. I have written long form previews for print magazines, and I have written snappy posts for well trafficked news blogs, and I have conducted interviews with gaming news makers for podcasts and I have written in-depth articles with supporting facts and even the occasional footnote or citation. I am an old hand at the games writing biz, and I am ready to concede on the whole that, no - you're right. I am not a journalist.

Thank God for that!

I do not want to minimize what we games writers do. I think that is the first and fundamental mistake in most arguments made against our profession - and it is a profession. But, we are primarily entertainment providers, a vehicle for readers to swim in the gaming waters even without controller in hand, and while there is a valuable place for that, I sincerely doubt it rises to the occasion of journalism. Journalism is a profession which I hold in high regard, and frankly the ones who do it well have skillsets as alien to me as surgeons and underwater welders.

As I watch journalists risk life and limb in the streets of Tehran, I recognize that the worst thing likely happen to a games journalist would be a strongly worded cease and desist letter for breach of a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The risks associated with sitting in my comfy chair and monitoring the internet for morsels of entertainment that I can take pot-shots at are, on the whole, minimal. In games writing, the most ambitious and surreptitious actions we are likely to be charged with is getting around a PR handler.

And, when it comes right down to it, I'm pretty impressed when a games writer bothers to confirm information or seek comment from an official or unofficial source in conjunction with a story. Give that man some kind of internet common-sense medal, I say, because he's going places!


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