MMO “Journalism” Middle-Ground

Syp writes a pretty good bit on the similarities and differences on bloggers and journalists. This comes in the wake of Massively’s death and the phoenix rise of Massively OP (Kickstarter 100%+ funded!) when many are asking do we even need MMO journalists? Syp writes:

So I see press as being more focused on delivering news and opinion content and being as inclusive as possible with the genre, while also having a higher standard of quality and editorial oversight.  However, there is one even greater reason why press is important, which is that it aids in giving the MMO industry/games industry legitimacy.

I think this is pretty correct on average. Bloggers are often times just musing. They often shoot from the hip (‘cus cowboys). But then, I’ve seen blog posts that are so hyperfocused that an MMO professional journalist simply wouldn’t have the time or knowledge for. Syp himself plays a half-dozen MMOs at a time.

As far as “challenging the studios” and being “useful intermediaries”, I feel that MMO journalists are getting better. There’s still an awful lot of softballs and lack of follow-ups when a canned answer gets used. I want to point to one recent interview at MMORPG where after the Guild Wars 2 expansion announcement the interviewer really seemed to keep ArenaNet on their feet. (Also high praise to MMORPG for not making this a video!)

I want more of this feeling that MMO journalists are needed by MMO studios instead of just wanted as another line of communication.

This is where I’m going to get ugly. I’ve been offered to write at some MMO sites. I’ve turned them all down because I simply cannot destroy my love for blogging and “shooting from the hip” by turning this into a job. But, assume I had. I think I am a half-decent writer, insightful-ish, and into a few MMOs enough that I understand “things”. However, I have no training at all as a journalist. How professional would you say I would be?

I am not for an instant putting a black mark on any MMO journalist. I believe that every part of this press can be professional. I believe even MMO bloggers can be as “journalist” as they want to be. But, all of this has an effect on the interface that press usually provides. I think things are getting bettter. MMO press seems to be getting a very stable “old guard”, which is fantastic in my opinion. Hopefully it gets even better when Massively OP steps away from AOL’s … girth.

–Ravious

9 thoughts on “MMO “Journalism” Middle-Ground”

  1. I have a rather… jaundiced view of journalists in the first place. GamerGate and Brian Williams are just the most recent examples. I think your point about MMOs needing the press is crucial; it’s a marketing outlet, not journalism.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but there are a lot of conflicts of interest that enter the mix, and too many writers and editors don’t navigate them with honesty and ethics. Cowboy bloggers may certainly have axes to grind, but they are almost always more obvious about it, and sometimes even honest.

    I’m happy to stick with bloggers. WoWPedia is a nice resource, too.

  2. Actually I’ve yet to see the press in the gaming industry actually have the vaunted ethics that Syd is mentioning and it’s clear why. When was the last time you actually read an article about an MMO that’s the newest AAA title on the block that’s just about the be launched and actually read something scathing about it? Every article on every beta that’s final beta or that’s about to get launched is filled with 100% sunshine and rainbows. Not a single concern is mentioned that might affect the genre or the players negatively.

    It’s almost like they are forced to be the kindest most excited fanboys on the planet when looking at these new games coming out. It always always happens with AAA titles from large companies like Trion, Blizzard, Arenanet, Cryptic, NCsoft etc we never ever hear of anything negative.

    This has led to several websites losing readers because as gamers we can no longer believe the press about important issues. They make it seem like all is dandy and full of wonderment in everything that’s coming out until it’s too late and these companies have our money as players. Take GW2 for example. Here’s a game developer who’s had almost 3 years of not being able to be honest with it’s playerbase. They constantly make promises they can’t keep on the simplest of things, They made a 180 on their design philosophy just after launch but then have the audacity to stand up in front of everyone during their press release of the new expansion they are working on and make grandiose claims that they delivered the game they promised they would. Not a single press website batted an eyelash at these bald faced lies on that product.

    Similarly, no one and I mean not a single press site out there is covering the horrid changes to the STO economy and progression model! Not a single one has even mentioned that Cryptic is now following a very Chinese model of progression where you pay to progress similar to a mobile app. It’s like the entire press industry for gaming is asleep!

    1. Well, that brings us back to the whole problem with games journalism in particular, and entertainment journalism in general, which is that the content providers play favorites and punish those who say bad things by denying access. The game companies don’t need ALL of those gaming journalists, so they are eager enough to cull the list of those who get special, pre-launch access by cutting out those who are not compliant or who won’t adhere to the 7 to 10 range of game ratings. Want to have a day one review and all the traffic that entails? Better play nice! Otherwise you can have your review out a week later after most of the box sales have been rung up and the interest has died down because people who own the game aren’t all that interested in reviews after the fact.

      But if you want your critical review of a triple-A-ish MMORPG, go find the 1Up review of Vanguard on the Internet Archive (or the score on Metacritic). They gave it 3 out of 10, for which they were heavily criticized because they were being… unfair. The FFXIV original launch also had its share of bad reviews, so it does happen, but it is rare.

  3. To add to what Tesh said, journalism as it was once known is mostly dead. Look at the front page of CNN. Am I looking at a news outlet or a trash site like Buzzfeed? Is ESPN a sports news outlet, or sports highlight videos between league infomercials? Twitter is where all news breaks now, but for every legit break we have a few (million) fakes or mistakes. Plus lets not even get into wiki info validity.

    So while I appreciate the organized news feed that was Massively, and will hopefully be MOP, I think we should pump the breaks on the journalistic integrity aspect. Even that linked GW2 interview was softballs around bullet-points from a press release.

  4. I don’t think “gaming” journalism has much of a connection with, or stands much of a comparison to, straight “news” journalism, regardless of the platform. This is specialist journalism, an entirely different field. Are the professional ethics of those writing about gaming significantly worse than the people who write about caravanning or classic cars? Is the reviewing less knowledgeable or informed than reviews of movies, albums or the stage?

    How many hard-hitting, advertiser-frightening, no-holds-barred interviews or well-researched investigative exposes do you read in the Travel or Fashion section of your Sunday newspaper? That’s the equivalent, not the political or economic pages.

    I want accurate and timely news – precised Press Releases with links but out without commentary would be more than adequate – and I want entertaining, amusing, witty and well-written reviews and features. I’m not looking for Woodward and Bernstein – more like Lester Bangs and Pauline Kael.

  5. About reviews: It’s easy to say you don’t just do fluff reviews by pointing to a clearly bad game (Vanguard, FFXIV 1.0) and saying “see, we do tough reviews too!” Where is the review that points out what GW2 delivered vs what was written in the manifesto? Not on a major site that needs clicks to survive, but again, that’s why blogs have review value, and news site are nice locations of press releases and hand-held ‘previews’.

  6. I get better value out of a Syncaine-style blog site than I ever did out of a Massively, WoWInsider, or a TTH. When a mainstream MMO “news and review” site basically becomes a mouthpiece for a corporate PR rep and fawns over the latest crappy MMO then I am not going to waste my time reading it.

    I am hoping now that some of these sites are becoming independently financed they can move to more objective reporting. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for this to occur.

  7. I used to read blogs about upcoming games and all that jazz and I really enjoyed it. I would be inspired enough by what others wrote sometimes to write something myself. I find it very easy for me to blame the direction the genre has headed as reason for my decline in posts. One of the big things for me is there isn’t any mystery anymore. When the game launches everyone already knows exactly what the best ways to do everything are because they’ve been watching some guy play it on Twitch for the past 3 months. Plus the moment I realized that Massively had become its own world with its own population of comment on every post people who are apparently popular/known there. I imagine it is a lot like when a farmer finds out about what the internet is capable of and the world feels smaller and less special kind of.

    I guess the best thing I could use to describe it is that Simpsons picture where Homer’s dad says he used to be with “it” and then it all changed etc etc… and it’ll happen to you! I haven’t had a game I’ve stuck with for more than a month in a while and if I do and start writing about it that means I’m taking time out of playing, why the hell would I want to do that when I finally have something I’m into?

    As for Massively dying and the talk about the line between journalism and blogging, I can’t say I’m really surprised. As others have said you either get early access and write a good review or you don’t get early access and write what you truly believe, but since you work for a big company that needs that fucking day 1 traffic to justify its existence, what are you going to do? It seems like an uphill battle that can’t be won, the wild west is dead and the McDonalds’ are king.

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