Video game journalism

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Video game journalism

Post  Admin on Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:38 pm

Video game journalism is a branch of journalism concerned with the reporting and discussion of video games. It is typically based on a core reveal/preview/review cycle. There has been a recent growth in online publications and blogs, and stylistic revolts in games journalism including New Games Journalism.

History of print based video gaming magazines

The credit for first magazine to cover the video game industry which is still in continuous publication has to go to the subscription only, trade periodical Play Meter magazine which began publication in 1974 and covered the entire coin-operated entertainment industry.

The first consumer oriented print magazine dedicated solely to video gaming was Computer and Video Games which premiered in the U.K. in November of 1981, two weeks ahead of the U.S. launch of the next oldest video gaming publication Electronic Games magazine.

The oldest video game publication still in continuous circulation (as of 2005) was Computer Gaming World, or CGW (now known as Games For Windows), which also debuted in 1981 but does not get credit for being first all around as it began publication as a bi-weekly newsletter before becoming a full scale magazine.

History of web based video gaming magazines

There are conflicting claims regarding which of the first two electronic video game magazines was "first to be published regularly" online. Originally starting as a print fanzine, Game Zero magazine, claims to have launched a web page in November of 1994,[1] with the earliest formal announcement of the page occurring in April of 1995. Game Zero's web site was based upon a printed bi-monthly magazine based in Central Ohio with a circulation of 1500 that developed into a CD-ROM based magazine with a circulation of 150,000 at it's peak. The website was updated weekly during it's active period from 1994-1996.

Another publication, Intelligent Gamer Online ("IG Online") debuted a complete web site in April of 1995, commencing regular updates to the site on a daily basis despite its "bi-weekly" name.[2] Intelligent Gamer had been publishing online for years prior to the popularization of the web, originally having been based upon a downloadable "Intelligent Gamer" publication developed by Joe Barlow and Jeremy Horwitz in 1993.[3] This evolved further under Horwitz and Usenet-based publisher Anthony Shubert[4] into "Intelligent Gamer Online" interactive online mini-sites for America Online (AOL) and the Los Angeles Times' TimesLink/Prodigy online services in late 1994 and early 1995. At the time, it was called "the first national videogame magazine found only online."[5]

Game Zero Magazine ceased active publication at the end of 1996 and is maintained as an archive site. Efforts by Horwitz and Shubert, backed by a strong library of built up web content eventually allowed IG Online to be acquired by Sendai Publishing and Ziff Davis Media, the publishers of then-leading United States print publication Electronic Gaming Monthly who transformed the publication into a separate print property in February of 1996.[6][7][8]

New Media and games journalism

The traditional video games press has suffered the most at the hands of New Media. Gaming is a technological past-time, thus many gamers, defined here as those interested enough to consider purchasing printed gaming publications, can use the Internet for finding relevant information. This, coupled with the fast pace of the games industry, has eroded the influence of print in computer game journalism, which with its typically monthly release cycle cannot match the instant updates of its online competition.[citation needed]

Future Publishing exemplifies the old media's decline in the games sector. In 2003 the group saw multi-million GBP profits and strong growth,[9] but by early 2006 were issuing profit warnings[10] and closing unprofitable magazines (none related to gaming).[11] Then, in late November 2006, the once-great publisher reported both a pre-tax loss of 49 million ($96 million USD) and the sale - in order to reduce its level of bank debt - of Italian subsidiary Future Media Italy.[12]

In mid-2006 Eurogamer's business development manager Pat Garratt wrote a criticism of those in print games journalism who had not adapted to the web, drawing on his own prior experience in print to offer an explanation of both the challenges facing companies like Future Publishing and why he believed they had not overcome them.[13]

Independent games journalism

While self-made print fanzines about games have been around since the advent of the first home consoles, it was the inclusion of the internet in the lives of most gamers that gave independent writers a real voice in video game journalism. At first ignored by most major game publishers, it was not until the communities developed an influential and dedicated readership, and increasingly produced professional (or near-professional) writing that the sites gained the attention of these larger companies.

Independent video game websites are generally non-profit, with any revenue going back towards hosting costs and, occasionally, paying its writers. As their name suggests, they are not affiliated with any companies or studios, though bias is inherent in the unregulated model to which the subscribe. While many independent sites take the form of blogs (the vast majority in fact, depending on how low down the ladder you look), the 'user-submitted' model, where readers write stories that are moderated by an editorial team, is also popular.

In recent times some of the larger independent sites have begun to be bought up by larger media companies, most often Ziff Davis Media, who now own a string of independent sites.

Ethics


Main article: Journalism ethics and standards

The computer and video game media industry is criticised for holding lax journalistic standards.[14] Reviews are the most controversial area, with issues in the following areas:

Conflicts of interest
A publication reviewing a game when it has received advertising revenue from the game's publishers or has been invited to lavish 'press day' parties is often held in suspicion.[15] Reviews by 'official' console magazines such as Nintendo Power, Official Playstation Magazine or the Official Xbox Magazine, all of which have direct financial ties to their respective platform holders, usually find themselves in similar positions. Publishers have been known to withhold material and/or advertising money from publications that do not adhere to their wishes (e.g. making the game in question the cover story) or do not show the game in a positive light.

Time spent on the game
Unlike linear media, getting a complete sense of a game can require far longer than the time it takes to play it from start to end. Further to this, games such as RPGs can last for hundreds of hours. Computer and video game reviewers therefore tread a fine line between producing timely copy and playing enough of a game to be able to reliably critique it.
A famous expose of underplaying was published by Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik in September 2006: he dissected a review of Enchanted Arms and among other findings concluded that the reviewer had barely played three hours of the game's fifty before forming his opinion.[16]

GameDaily's Chris Buffa produced a series of widely-read articles in July and August 2006 that criticize computer and video game journalism's standards and practices and made suggestions for improvement:

* Why Videogame Journalism Sucks (12 July 2006).
* How to Fix Videogame Journalism (20 July 2006).
* How to Become a Better Videogame Journalist (28 July 2006).
* The Videogame Review: Problems and Solutions (2 August 2006).

New Games Journalism

New Games Journalism (NGJ) is a video game journalism term, coined in 2004 by journalist Kieron Gillen, in which personal anecdotes, references to other media, and creative analyses are used to explore game design, play, and culture.[17] It is a model of New Journalism applied to video game journalism. Gillen's NGJ manifesto was first published on the now defunct state forum/website, a community of videogame players often engaged in discussion and analysis of their hobby, from which an anecdotal piece, Bow Nigger, had appeared. Gillen cites the work as a major inspiration for and example of what NGJ should achieve and the piece was later republished in the UK edition of PC Gamer, a magazine with which Gillen has close professional ties.

Most New Games Journalism articles are not reviews of games in the traditional sense. They can instead be understood as being analogous to travel journalism, where the writer responds to subjective experiences presented to them by the game world, as well as interactions with other players online, real-world events surrounding gameplay, and other personal experiences and anecdotes which create a unique story. The story is not necessarily indicative of the experience any other player will have with the game and will be unlikely to offer any objective value-judgements regarding the game's merits or failings[citation needed]. Instead attention is focused on the subjective experience of the person[18] playing the game.

Critics say that New Games Journalism is pretentious[citation needed] whilst telling potential buyers almost nothing useful about the game in question[citation needed] (most critics consider NGJ pieces reviews despite the authors' claims to the contrary[citation needed]).

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