"We want to talk about improving games journalism."


Ok sure - well what specifically do you think is the problem?

"Too much corruption, not enough transparency, media keep trying to silence our complaints."

Oof, that’s a tricky one. I mean you’re sort of suggesting a number of things there, first of all that corruption has been proven to be a major problem - which is difficult, because it hasn’t. So I mean really you’re asking me to offer up a tangible solution to a widespread problem that - as far as I’m aware - doesn’t actually exist. As you can imagine, that’s a bit of a tough one.

I mean obviously the past few weeks have highlighted certain situations in which corruption potentially could have happened, but jumping to that conclusion without explicit evidence is like suggesting that anyone who’s ever worked a cash register is a thief.

"Well you need to be more transparent, then."

I mean, do we? This comes down to two factors: How many people are actually interested in this stuff, and at what point does the line get drawn? Do I need to start keeping a little black book about everyone I’ve ever had a brief chat with? In an industry this tiny you end up bumping into everyone - and yes, that means having a drink with that developer you quite like, but it also means having to politely shake hands with a snooty exec that genuinely still wants you eviscerated for the time you gave his game a 6/10.

Watching people whip up spider diagrams that prove most people in games know each other was a genuinely insane waste of time - you could have just asked any of us whether or not that was true, and any one of us would have happily told you. Frankly I’ve been a bit unimpressed at how much detail these diagrams lack - everybody knows everybody. To suggest that means cronyism is very naive, mind - not everyone in the industry likes each other, they just hide that relatively well out of a sense of professionalism. It’s not something I’m personally very good at, because I’m a feisty prick who should really know better.

But the core of this call for transparency comes back to an absolute lack of trust. Yes, we all know each other. Yes, most of us have shared a drink with countless developers over the years. If you don’t trust us not to let that influence our work, then no form of transparency is going to change that - we’d simply be providing you with citations to help prove this invented corruption. If you don’t trust a writer or a publication, don’t waste your time reading their stuff.

All sorts of hard work goes on behind the scenes to ensure stuff remains above-board and ethical. I mean, look on Twitter or poke your head into a pub and ethics is practically the only thing that games journalists ever seem to bloody talk about, to the point where it’s almost downright tedious. 

Perhaps constantly broadcasting this group-think neurosis has been partly to blame for the current belief that ethical problem musts exist. If that’s the case it’s brutally ironic - this desire to champion squeaky-clean practices only exists because most games media desperately want to rekindle the trust that was unfairly snatched away wholesale because of the actions of an unscrupulous few. If you think you’re still furious about the Gamespot Kane and Lynch stuff, you’ve no idea how professionals feel. To see your entire profession tarred so absolutely with the same brush as a bunch of exec pricks you’ll never even meet is properly heart-rending. 

"Well if all that’s true then why are the media trying to silence our complaints?"

It’s difficult to answer this question without tweaking it a little bit, as it sort of comes packaged with the inherent suggestion that the games media is some sort of Borg-like entity that’s secretly in cahoots.

"I do think that’s true though."

Well there’s definitely a tendency for people to react in the same way when put under the same pressures, and sure - you will get a visible sense of unity when a group of people are being attacked in ways that don’t seem entirely fair. So I can see that sometimes it might appear like there’s some form of formal collaboration going on behind the scenes - with different sites from around the world working towards the same planned agendas - but obviously it’s more likely to suggest that any appearances of direct collaboration are more the result of like-minded people reacting to the same stimulus in very similar ways. 

"No I do believe that the games media are working together to silence us."

Oh, right. Well that’s tricky. You’re sort of working from a frame of reference that’s so vastly different to the reality that I know exists that I’m not really sure how we can go about having a meaningful conversation. It’s like we’re trying to work together on a map of the earth, but one of us believes the world is flat and the other one believes the world is a triangle, you know?

The only way I could talk about how to improve games journalism with you would be to force my brain to entirely reject things I know to be true in favour of things you believe to be true. And I can’t prove that what you believe isn’t true, because it’s impossible to provide evidence that disproves evidence that as far as I can tell doesn’t actually exist.

Gosh, sorry- this has become awfully complicated. I guess the short version is that there’s no point in us having this conversation - I’m unable to integrate your perspective into the version of reality I know to be true, and you seem unwilling to consider the proposition that the conspiracies you believe in might not be real. So yeah, I’m off to do something else. Sorry.

 "Typical! Completely unwilling to talk to us about fixing our legitimate complaints…"

(Hopefully this serves both as a FAQ for people genuinely asking me these questions, and also as a partial explanation - although not a justification - as to why many media have reacted to these criticisms with derision. It’s tough to remain rational when surrounded with madness.)

Edit: I understand that people remain very angry at what they see as journalists lashing out at the community in general, and whilst I won’t try and justify that (or even entirely accept that this isn’t even true) I’d like to ask you to consider this: When the community you’ve worked so hard to serve choose to stand beside a group of manipulative misogynists rather than entertain the idea that you might not actually be corrupt, how do you think this makes people feel?

So much of this argument boils down to a misunderstanding - the games media aren’t calling you misogynists. They don’t think you hate women. But you’ve decided that your distrust of the media is so strong that you’d rather side with dangerous bigots than believe that the media might not be corrupt, that’s a hell of a statement to be making.

There’s a lot of talk about gamers being disrespected right now, but honestly - take a step back and think about how that might actually feel. Here’s a clue: it feels fucking awful. I’m doing my best to continue to talk about this stuff without getting too emotional and angry, but trust me - it remains a constant struggle.

Posted on September 3, 2014 .