Monday, September 26, 2016

Changing Tactics

I’m sure many of your remember a certain controversy a couple years back where many gamers discovered that the gaming press was giving positive coverage to video games made by those whom they have close relationships with. A good example of this would be Danielle Riendeau writing not only a review of Gone Home, but a separate opinion piece as well, right after going on a podcast with Steve Gaynor, the game’s creator.

The solution proposed to fix this problem was a reformation of the industry, with the replacement of corrupt writers with more honest ones. In hindsight though, it’s obvious that this was an impossible task, with how easy it is for the new blood joining the industry to become corrupt as well. It also ignores how one could simply put on a public face of renewed honesty while simply making their corruption more hidden.

Beyond that, it distracts from the core aspect of the issue while focusing on the less important parts. The problem is not simply that game devs are in bed with the press, but that their relationships allow them to sell awful games while their competitors, who are often much more skilled at game development, get ignored. No one would actually care about corruption of the gaming press if the games they were pushing were any good.

This is why it wasn’t possible to convince fans of Gone Home that the issue of corruption in the gaming press was worth caring about. They liked the game and got their money’s worth, so why would they be upset that the Polygon writer who promoted it wasn’t completely honest? The solution to this issue should not have been to convince people that ethics in video game journalism was an Important™ issue worth caring about, but that the narratives these individuals were pushing were false. Instead of documenting known instances of collusion between developers and press, it would have been much more worthwhile to show in detail how the games that they are pushing aren’t very good. The video QuQu and I made on Gone Home is actually a great example of this.

The online political sphere is actually having a field day with this process, as not a week goes by without some big narrative push which is very quickly debunked. You can see this with the story that the Charlotte riots are simply a peaceful protest, or the various cover ups surrounding Hillary Clinton’s health. So if this is such a phenomenon in politics, then why don’t gamers partake in it more often?

Sure, there are a few examples of gamers countering the hype machine, such as the backlash against Sunset or Mighty No. 9 or No Man’s Sky. But those are few and far between, in an industry with new games pushed on gamers every week. If you only focus on the high profile disappointments, then you’re ignoring the many indie releases that are pushed on the gaming community.

There’s a large audience of people who watch Let’s Play gaming videos, and many of these media personalities to influence their purchasing decisions. Most of these YouTube creators never pretended to be journalists now that it’s no longer convenient for them, so their coverage is even easier to sway than that of blog writers. This means that it’s all too easy to throw some swag their way to get them to promote a particular video game, leaving much better titles ignored and unplayed.

The vast majority of YouTube’s gaming content are advertisements much akin to the old infomercials on TV, and quality video game criticism has become somewhat rare these days. All it would take is for a few gamers to show in detail how these games aren’t particularly good, while giving examples of much better titles to contrast with. Then these criticisms could spread throughout the gaming community, while also giving much needed attention to games that are more deserving of it.

So you should be able to look forward to seeing more actual video game criticism from QuQu’s channel sometime in the coming weeks, and if all goes well, it will likely become a regular thing.

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