My Opinion – Passion in Gaming
I’ve been gaming since my father brought home a Fairchild Channel-F back around 1976-1977. My parents were divorced when I was very young, so obviously he was trying to buy my love, right? It was my father that, after we played the Channel-F to a literal and spectacular death, brought an Atari 2600 home, and a NES later on down the road. My mother didn’t allow anything like that in her house until I finally won “blackout” at Bingo one night, which gave me enough money to buy a Commodore 64 of my very own. She was smart enough though, to recognize that I had an affinity for this stuff, and she encouraged it from that point on. Over the years, I never really strayed from the hobby, but my preferences have definitely changed throughout the years. This month I’ll reach my 40th year on this Earth. Nature and circumstance have definitely made attempts to not let that happen, but hey, here I am. As I reflect on the stage of gaming right now, one that I honestly consider a renaissance of sorts, it really bothers me that the gaming press in-general is so negative about so many things.
I don't know if it's under their general consensus that their job has become that of someone whom always has to look at the darker side of things, or to completely ignore the core principle of true "journalism", and that is to remain unbiased, objective, and unprejudiced. Unfortunately in gaming, passion always has a place in the heart of the beholder, and passion gives life to bias and prejudice naturally. I'm not going to start down the path of "this guy is biased" and so on, but I see posts and tweets all of the time talking about "here's how to save PlayStation" or "Nintendo is doomed," and it makes me wonder where they're getting this information from. First, it's quite obvious that the games press bases many of their statements on what's happening in their home region. Brand X may do very well in Europe, but if the writer is in the US, that's the only basis for saying something like "Console Y is doomed (because it's not selling well in the US.)" Second, it's no secret that conflict breeds interest. Some writers out there purposely say things that they know will evoke an emotional response, and hoping that response will generate more traffic to wherever they hang their Nintendo Power hat.
You'll notice, and people that know me have known this for a while, that I rarely use the term "Journalist" when talking about someone who makes their living by writing about videogames. Unfortunately, the mere idea of what "journalism" is can rarely ever be seen from these writers. Instead, almost every piece of content posted is merely an opinion piece in some way or another. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some out there that I hold in high regard such as Chris Kohler at Wired (http://www.wired.com/gamelife/) or Phil Kollar over at Polygon (http://www.theverge.com/gaming) to name a couple. With the proliferation of the Internet over the years though, anyone who figured out how to set up a blog instantly became a games writer. Some of those people gained popularity, and either went to work for one of the larger outlets, or worked with others to build something on their own, which after 5 years doing what we do, is nothing short of amazing to me.
“Back in my day,” we relied on magazines like EGM, Gamepro, and many others. My friends and I would drive to the mall in Appleton, about 45 minutes away, to get the newest magazines and check out what had been newly released at stores like Toys R Us, Electronics Boutique, Babbages, and Software Etc. We’d go back home, play some games, and read the magazines strewn across the couch and floor while waiting for the next turn in a game. The writers in these magazines became legends for many of us, and their personalities defined what they’d convey in their articles and reviews. Even back then, certain writers had preferences and biases, but they were up-front about it. Sushi-X (our good friend Ken) had a definite hatred for the Gameboy (he still hates it today) but it wasn’t a mystery to anyone. These people, for the most part, would flat-out tell us if they had a preference, and it was something that us as readers learned and respected. Nowadays, well, some people are pretty blatant in their preferences and bias, but would never, ever admit it. Instead, everyone claims to be “unbiased”, and we’re all supposed to just accept that even under the shadow of obvious evidence to the contrary. It even gets to the point where a precedent is set at an outlet, then a review will completely contradict that precedent under the guise of “well, everyone has their own opinions.” Instances like this definitely can be perceived as a conscious action to essentially assure a review that contradicts what has been said up that point, especially when someone that has never even viewed any sport in their life is suddenly reviewing the newest Madden title. Things like this infuriate gamers that expect an honest and INFORMED opinion of the game, and this ultimately rests on the Editor’s shoulders. I understand that there’s a certain level of expectation that a writer on your staff should be able to review any genre, but that’s a ridiculous expectation when every gamer has his or her own preferences and knowledge. I’m the first person to admit that I’m just not much in to RPG’s, so I don’t feel that my reviewing an RPG would be fair to anyone. I can appreciate a good game, no matter what the genre, but I know where my skills and preferences are the strongest. You would think that people that are actually paid to do this on a full-time basis would be conscious of this concept.
The fact is, information is available instantaneously, but unfortunately there’s no way to gauge how accurate or meaningful this information is. Personally, I stick to a few certain outlets, and I also am fortunate enough to be able to go to “the source” on occasion. There’s an absolute avalanche of misinformation out there, many times being a guess that’s presented as fact. We see tweets and posts on Facebook/N4G/Forums etc constantly, and the eventual posting by the 80th site that saw just a portion of the original blurb, but now being stated as a “confirmed fact.” We’ve even heard from a few developers at how the word “confirmed” makes them laugh any time they see it, since 9 times out of 10 the information is not just wrong, but incredibly far fetched. On the Internet though, the fight to be the *first* to “break” some new tidbit to the gaming world has become cutthroat and brutal. This enormous subculture that in itself is a huge culture (yeah, confusing isn’t it) has defined what can almost be too much information. OK, I’ve written myself into a corner.
But that’s what should be expected from someone like me. I didn’t go to school for Journalism or something similar. I don’t consider myself a journalist, or a writer for that matter. I’m a computer geek that likes gaming. I’m a Systems Engineer, and have been in the IT field for over 15 years. On the subject of being a writer, well, there’s a reason that this all started as a podcast. I love being a “performer” and have for a long time. I have no problem getting up in front of 1,000+ people and making a fool of myself, I love that actually. I studied improv for a few years, and I loved being in plays in school. When the idea of doing this podcast came up, yeah, I was interested, not just because I love talking about games, but because I approached it as an opportunity to learn how to produce and edit audio. I never once thought this would last more than a few months, but it did. We don’t get the amount of downloads or notoriety of some major outlet that’s backed by corporate funding etc, but that’s great!
No one tells us what to do, who to have on the show, what to say, or anything else. We’ve always approached what we do as us sitting in the living room, gaming magazines strewn-about, talking about what we’ve played or read or seen, just like back in high school when we were playing the SNES/Turbografx/Genesis. We do this because we enjoy it, motivated by our love of all things gaming. Yeah, we identify ourselves with the PlayStation brand, but as anyone who’s ever listened to the podcast knows, we love gaming overall. Others like us at PS Nation that have made the huge commitment to doing what we love are the ones that I’ve really enjoyed paying attention to these days. Some may be motivated by kissing some butt only to get some additional access to something, others starting a podcast because they think that companies will just mindlessly start sending them games to play, which they quickly learn just won’t happen. This may be tougher work than my actual job, but it’s still not “a job.” We’ve been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities to talk to people in the gaming industry that we look up to, and to be able to attend some events that not many others can, but we’ll never have those opportunities for a *huge* exclusive or to be invited to many of the private events that happen out in California, and that’s okay. That’s not why we do this.
Don’t read that the wrong way though, if we can achieve those things it only helps us cover this stuff even better for all of you, and we get to have some fun while we do it. I spoke earlier about passion, and how it can negatively affect those that consider themselves “journalists.” Fortunately for many others though, technology has allowed those with a passion for gaming in the purest sense to make their voices heard. We may not always be right, and we may not always have the most complete, up-to-the-minute information, but we do have a genuine love for this culture, and that’s something that can never be learned in a University.
Most of all, and really the most basic formula that I feel MANY have forgotten is this:
Games are supposed to be fun, so what’s with all of the negativity?