Ethics in Journalism
“Extra! Extra! This game sucks!”
When I was with Twin Galaxies, I took a class that my Editor-in-Chief had put together. This proved to be one of the most important courses I have ever been part of.
What I see in the game industry as of late is unfortunate. I refuse to digest more and more content from companies that I once found reputable because the trend with these companies and many others as of late is to completely trash titles. Titles which took sometimes hundreds of people multiple years to complete. Games that people devoted their entire existence during those years to ensure that these games got out to the public, sometimes under ridiculously slim and unreasonable budgets and deadlines.
Journalists are telling people to “skip this game” or “run away from that game.” I have no idea where this game from but this idealism really needs to go away and go away fast.
I’ve been gaming since age 9 (that’s 33 years at the time of this writing) and I’ve never seen the journalism side of gaming in such disarray. When I was a child I used to read a ton of Nintendo Power, Electronic Gaming Monthly and Gamepro. I would get so excited when a title that I was looking forward to would get coverage in these publications so that I could read over every single little detail of the game I was dying for. My love for gaming information went on like that, even more-so once I was able to access the internet. Suddenly every single morsel of gaming news was at my fingertips. It was fantastic, I could interact with other gamers from all over the world and chat about games and the gaming industry.
That all changed around the year 2000. Suddenly everyone online had a voice and oh boy did they use it. Don’t get me wrong, the types of attitudes I’m condemning in this article have existed throughout the entire history of video games, but around the turn of the millennium things got worse, much worse. Suddenly everything “sucked” or was deemed “broken.” I couldn’t find a good review almost anywhere and when I did, the comment system simply gave everyone else a voice to crap on the game that was being reviewed.
This began to really hurt. I could no longer look up a game I’d been excited for for years without reading a review that said “the control system is broken.” Really? Broken? meaning that the controls absolutely don’t work whatsoever? The other thing I really couldn’t stand was that even a great review just had to include “it’s not perfect by any means.” How annoying is that? How silly is it that a game that gets a perfect score is then deemed to be “not perfect?”
This is when I decided to do something about it. I decided to get involved in the industry and not include things like “this sucks” or “that’s broken.” You’ll never read anything like that in A Pixel Bits review. Why? Because we believe that it’s unethical. It’s unethical to play a game that so many people worked so hard on for so many years and simply wipe your butt with it.
What is ethical is to play the game without having an agenda first, then simply describing the experience without crapping all over the mechanics, graphics or story, then wrapping up with either buy it or borrow/rent it first. The bottom line here is that every single game made on this planet deserves to be at least tried. Don’t ruin the excitement for people by crapping all over it before they even buy it. Be fair yes, but don’t ruin it. If I were still that 9 year old kid reading publications that wrote negativity even about the highly-rated titles, I either a) wouldn’t be reading press at all or b)not playing video games because these publications make me feel like every game, even the good ones, aren’t worth spending money on.
The best example I can come up with is reviews for The Order: 1886. I finished my review of the title and although it was a little different than I had hyped it up in my mind to be, I still loved it and will play through it again. Was it short? yes but I loved that because I could actually play all the way through it and still pay attention to my wife and kids.
After I finished my review I poked around the web to see what other sites thought, and then I came across the most ridiculously unfair review from what was once to me one of the most reputable companies in the industry. I don’t believe in naming names but this particular reviewer decided that people should skip this game completely and that the graphics were good but every single other aspect of the game was garbage. I was absolutely infuriated. Can you imagine someone following this title since it’s announcement, digesting every single piece of information about it, pre-ordering and getting all excited about it only to read this review, maybe it’s their favorite site, and see that it’s absolutely mauled in the text? That would completely deflate my excitement.
It’s ok to not enjoy a game and write about how you didn’t enjoy the game and that people should rent it first. That’s ethical. That’s responsible.
It’s completely unethical tell gamers to not play a game at all that they’ve looked forward to for possibly years. That’s irresponsible. That’s what’s wrong in gaming journalism today and hopefully more outlets will work to get away from the trend of negativity.