The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story
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Russ Pitts | 14 Nov 2006 07:01
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"The point is, gaming culture is on fire right now, for God's sake!" wrote Wired's Clive Thompson. "It's just not happening in print media or on TV; it's online, the natural environment for gaming criticism, because gamers are total internet freaks. Klosterman can't find a Lester Bangs because he's looking for a glossy-mag-anointed critic. There's no there there."

Thompson suggested that there was actually not one Lester Bangs of videogaming, but several, perhaps hundreds, and that they were all active on the internet, out of the sight of the old guard and out of the mind of the mainstream.

"You see so many stories about how bad game journalism is," says Bill Kunkel, also known as "The Game Doctor," co-founder of Electronic Games in 1981, author of the book Confessions of the Game Doctor and now Editor-in-Chief of Tips & Tricks magazine. "There are more great game journalists now than there were 10 years ago. They're just spread out over a broader terrain."

Since Klosterman's assault, the gaming press has been subjected to one bombardment after another, all from supposed experts claiming to know just what the industry needs and how to go about creating it. The latest, a step-by-step examination of how one should go about becoming a game writer, published by CMP Media's Game Career Guide, would seem to have struck such a sore nerve among game writers that nearly everyone who's ever played a game has felt the need to respond in some way or another, most offering their own opinion on the subject. Most of these responses, taken as advice from a stranger, are perfectly harmless but use too many words to say basically the same thing: Be lucky, be good.

"I don't want any credit for [this] at all," says Dan Hsu, referring to the recent wave of "how-to" editorials. "There's no way I would tell you that I'm the best videogame journalist around. ... I'm sure when I'm 45 or 50 if I'm still in this business that I'll be a very different journalist and editor. I have a lot of things to learn yet."

"Want to get into game journalism?" says Bill Kunkel. "Learn journalism. If you're a journalist, you can cover anything. ... [There are] so many places [on the internet] for [young game writers] to write and share their opinion. Magazines are in trouble because you can get virtually any kind of material online, instantaneously. I think [in the future] you're going to see a combination of print and online journalism."

Let It Blurt
Jim DeRogatis: If anybody can play rock 'n' roll, anybody can write about it?
Lester Bangs: Fuck yes!

- "A Final Chat with Lester Bangs"

Setting aside for the moment the inherent differences between videogames and rock songs, there's just no way the culture of videogames will ever produce the kind of journalism championed by Mr. Bangs.

Game developers don't go on tour, nor do they perform in front of an audience. They sit at computers and type - not a sexy cover shot. When a writer interviews a band, they are interviewing the people making the product - the musicians themselves. When a writer interviews a game company, more often than not they're interviewing people like Peter Moore; the person hired to talk to writers. The rock writing analogue would be like reading a Lester Bangs interview with The Who's tour manager, conducted in his Ohio apartment, on the subject of what Pete Townshend had for breakfast. If punk rock was an existential "F--- you" to the entertainment mainstream, videogames are more akin to the publication of a quarterly journal, complete with footnotes.

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