There were a few events this week that got everyone pontificating about game journalism and bias. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the events because they involve harassment and violation of privacy*, but at issue is potential collusion between game journalists and developers because of personal relationships.
I mentioned on Twitter that I don’t care about relationships between journalists and developers and someone replied that if video games are ever to be taken seriously, we need to “hold journalists to the highest ethical standards”. And after much thought I decided that.. yep, still don’t really care.
I mean, yes, if you’re being paid to write a glowing review of a game I would in theory like to know that it is a paid opinion piece. But honestly what are game reviews if not a series of biases and opinions? X is too hard, Y is boring, Z is a shooter and man I do not like shooters. I may have enjoyed A in a vacuum, but I played B last year and it was a way better example of the genre.
I don’t agree with every movie critic — I either read multiple critics and see what the general consensus is, or I read enough of a critic to know how their tastes align with my own. While technically completely objective game reviews exist (note: satire!) they’re also boring as hell.
Also consider that 95% of “game journalism” is not actually journalism, which I don’t mean as an insult but just a fact. What we call journalism is often actually criticism (in the literary sense), or blogging, or reviews, or in the case of YouTubers “playing a game while screaming at a camera”.
So while I appreciate that there should be a line of distinction between article and advertisement, I also appreciate that it just doesn’t matter enough to be all hardline about biases.
A bunch of folks were worked into a real lather yesterday about protecting the sanctity of game journalism but .. it’s just a game. Does the sports Twitter community get all worked up about impropriety in sports journalism? Do movie buffs rage when they see a movie critic hobnobbing with Hollywood execs at an Oscar party? (They might, I honestly don’t know, but it seems unlikely and kind of silly.)
It’s not reporting on a war, or covering world politics, or doing a crime expose. If a game gets an extra dose of publicity because the dev has a personal relationship with a journo… so what?
Game nerds can get hung up on a pursuit of ultimate objectivity, as though without those nasty opinions and feelings we can finally all agree that our favorite game is the Best Game Ever. But it’s an impossible goal and it wouldn’t be very interesting even if it did happen.
There are roughly 18 billion professional and amateur people writing or making videos about games every day, myself included. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
* Readers, not that I think you would do such a thing, but just to be clear I am so very not interested in having a third party discussion about a young woman’s sex life.