How Broken is Game Journalism? An Analysis of Three Gaming Sites

by VGChartz Staff, posted on 02 December 2010 / 30,957 Views

Top ten lists, objectification of women, and the wholesale copying of press releases; these are some of the unfortunate trends in gaming journalism today.

Some would call game journalism a kind of enthusiast press, and on many counts I find it hard to disagree with them. Like with other forms of enthusiast press, big gaming sites rely not only on strict gaming news, but also an array of gaming-related stories to flesh out their coverage. Sometimes these related stories fall within acceptable levels. At other times some of the content posted to gaming blogs makes me feel simply terrible for the state of the field.

Jim Sterling, review editor at Destructoid, says that calling game journalism a form of journalism at all is usually incorrect.

“I think calling it ‘journalism’ is wrong most of the time,” Sterling said. “Publishers have way too much power over outlets, the review scoring system is mired in backwards thinking that says anything below a 7/10 is unacceptable, and we have some websites writing purely for Google Trends and not for their readers.”

Stating that “we’re in an industry ruled by PR bullshit,” Sterling went on to discuss how outlets are under the thumb of publishers when negative coverage comes to light.

“I’ve lost count of the amount of times I or my editor-in-chief have received a phone call over something I’ve said,” Sterling said. “Nobody really digs honesty, least of all big publishers who get any score below an eight.”

Brett Walton, founder of VGChartz.com, thinks that the world of gaming journalism needs a kick to get itself on track. Walton is on the same page as Sterling when it comes to the issue of publishers having too much power in regard to the flow of information to outlets.

“Well, personally I feel that gaming journalism needs a big shake up,” Walton said. “Much of the current ‘journalism’ consists of re-worded press releases. Essentially, the publishers have most of the power and control the flow of information to the press. Given online media's reliance on ad revenues to fund sites (VGC included), we have to be careful to build and cultivate relationships. The pattern is along the lines of - we cover their PR, they send us review copies and invite us for visits, we give positive reviews and they support with ad budgets and campaigns.”

These are serious issues, and ones that are particularly troubling to a field that depends on official sources for the kind of coverage that brings in a strong foundation of readership. It’s difficult to run a site simply on original content so the foundation of news becomes central to bringing in readers on a regular and recurring basis.

How severe and structural is the problem of reliance on official sources? Is gaming coverage professional or does coverage lean towards off topic and sexist pieces to generate hits?

Anecdotal glances through top gaming sites reveal gamers to be little more than children in men’s bodies, giggling at the sight of breasts and having pseudo-intellectual discussions about facial hair.  But is the coverage presented really as bad as it looks? To find the answers to these questions I planned a content analysis to gauge how well some gaming news outlets are performing.

I decided to visit three top gaming sites: Joystiq, Destructoid and Kotaku. Using a sampling method known as the constructed week, I assembled a total of 161 randomly selected articles from the three publications representing a week of coverage during the month of October. For each day of the constructed week, I pulled 25% of each publication’s total published articles, leading to a total of 63 articles from Kotaku, 51 from Joystiq, and 47 from Destructoid.

I wanted to find out quantitatively exactly how gaming journalism is performing when it comes to several factors: topic of coverage, number and type of sources, number of errors, aggressive and/or sexist material, and tendency to editorialize hard news.

My main interests were the measurements of sourcing and editorializing. It was my hypothesis that gaming journalism has an unhealthy alliance with official sources for information, and that many times those official sources are the only sources cited. Many fields of journalism suffer from this same type of problem, but it is beyond the scope of this study to discuss exactly why that is.

For editorializing, this is a trend I am seeing more and more on internet-based news delivery services. The trend to editorialize produces more entertaining or controversial content, generating hits and getting more people talking in the comments and becoming unique users for the purposes of calculating traffic data and advertising rates.

Unfortunately editorializing also forces the opinion of the writer into the news. While many argue that this allows the site to gain unique voices for reporting, I say that those unique voices can be heard through original pieces and not through hard news data. It is my hypothesis that gaming journalism is heavily editorialized and I feel that professional coverage suffers as a result.

The first focus of analysis was the first thing a reader sees – the headline. Headlines were graded as acceptable, misleading, wrong, or overly sensational. Out of 161 headlines, 141 were acceptable, which translates to an 87 percent acceptability rate. The remaining 14 percent was made up of four misleading headlines, one factually wrong headline, and 15 overly sensational headlines. The breakdown of misleading headlines by publication can be seen in the graph below.

For examples of misleading headlines, below are three randomly selected misleading headlines along with their publication.

  1. EA Loses Spine, Drops Taliban from Medal of Honor – Destructoid
  2. What Do Boobs And Goombas Have In Common? – Kotaku
  3. These Are Some Nice Nuts – Kotaku

Overall headlines are acceptable, but while unacceptable headlines are in a minority they unfortunately serve as stark anecdotal examples as some of the failings of game journalism. However, while 14 percent may seem like a small number, it is far too high for any field of professional reporting. Especially as a headline is the first thing a reader sees in a story, proper headline usage is critical in building positive relationships with readers, particularly that incredibly important first impression. How would you expect a reader new to gaming and gaming reporting to react if the first headline they saw on a noteworthy game blog was “These Are Some Nice Nuts?”

As both Walton and Sterling mentioned earlier, publishers have an unwieldy amount of influence over outlets and the information they can receive. Out of 161 articles, 126 of them had only a single source listed, equaling 78 percent. Only 11 articles used 2 or more sources, and 24 cited none. When it comes to the issue of citing only official sources for a story, 91 or 56 percent of articles only went to the official source, which can include press releases, quotes from developers about their upcoming game, or quotes from publishing executives. Below are two graphs detailing the breakdown of sourcing by publication.

It’s hard to single out where this problem originates from. Publishers and other officials are expected to be tight-lipped about information, but to what extent are outlets responsible for searching out more sources? Obviously a good deal of game-specific information merits only a single source, so maybe the problem of sourcing is a flaw with the makeup of game journalism itself.

In any case, the makeup of an industry is no excuse for complacent reporters and even if searching out other sources constitutes a good deal of dead ends, that’s par for the course for a journalist. Readers demand and expect journalists to go the extra mile and find not only the story that is being told, but also those stories that aren’t being told.

Jim Sterling had something to say about this topic that I wholeheartedly support. He advocates that outlets need to be more daring in their coverage, and that outlets should express solidarity in that tenacity.

“We need more outlets to have the balls to risk getting blacklisted by publishers,” Sterling said. “If enough publications did it, then publishers would be forced to re-assess how they deal with negative publicity.”

When it comes to the subject of coverage, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to guess that larger companies receive the most coverage. As more people are interested in the work of larger companies, coverage of those companies equals more relevant news for more people. Of course running the news of larger companies over smaller ones can have the effect of causing unbalanced coverage; especially when that fact is combined with the problems of sourcing discussed earlier.

Electronic Arts had the largest percentage of coverage with 12 percent of the 161 articles. Sadly, articles unrelated to gaming tied for second with Sony at 9 percent. Nintendo and Microsoft rounded out the top five covered topics at 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Of the unrelated posts analyzed, Kotaku published 73 percent of them.

The fact that topics unrelated to gaming rank above coverage for companies like Nintendo and Microsoft is absolutely terrible. While blame can be pointed at editors, writers, or readers I hold that those primarily responsible are the editors of these publications.

In an internet world, the ability to comment on stories allows readers, editors, and writers to interact on coverage in a way never before possible. The problem is that comments can be heavily moderated to reduce the appearance of dissent to these articles. You’ll discover that going through many of these unrelated stories that there is little comment about why this particular story is being placed on a gaming website. Is that because readers truly enjoy this unrelated coverage or is it because of heavy-handed moderation? As publications allow for little transparency in their moderation procedures, I place responsibility in the hands of those in charge of producing content.

The following is a randomly selected list of three unrelated gaming articles, by publication.

  1. The Sakura Wars Creator, The Young Idol and the Rumored Sleepover – Kotaku
  2. Medal of Honor: This is Beard 1 – Kotaku
  3. Treat Yourself to this Pac-Pumpkin Halloween Lawn Decoration – Joystiq

A fundamental issue to this problem is that these blogs thrive on hits and post counts. Given their immense popularity, anything that is published will generate at least some readership, so the guideline seems to be “post often, anything goes, censor dissent,” rather than simply “let’s report solid news about video games.”

These sites are some of the top gaming sites in the world yet 12% of their coverage deals with lawn decorations, facial hair, and Japanese culture. It is unfair to paint Joystiq and Destructoid equally as culpable in this respect as Kotaku is responsible for a majority of these posts, but all of these sites have a responsibility to not only responsible and professional coverage, but responsible and professional coverage relevant to gaming as a subject matter.

The world of internet news is driven by interactivity. Readers do more than simply read; they interact. Reporters and readers communicate in story comments, Twitter, and various internet forums. As a result internet reporting has a tendency to promote an editorial form that promotes people to discuss a story rather than simply digest it.

Of the articles analyzed 68% demonstrated some form of editorializing. Kotaku editorialized at 60 percent, Joystiq at 67 percent, and Destructoid at 79 percent.

While I understand the need for publications to editorialize to generate interest and controversy in news stories, there are clear problems in the levels of editorializing seen.

Writers are in a position of authority to readers pushing opinions through hard news can have detrimental effects on simply digesting the news itself. If a game release is mentioned to be garbage in the article, gamers unfamiliar with the title may not research that opinion and simply take it as fact. Couple the authority of writers with the potentiality for harsh comment moderation and you have a readership that is digesting more opinions than news.

If gaming journalism is ever to become a respected and professional field, editorializing should be left to the editorial page. Analysis and commentary can be presented separately from stories in a different section. Alternatively (and less ideal) is the application of opinions solely at the end of a news story, rather than interspersed throughout. While this still maintains the same problems as aforementioned, at least the opinions would stand out by themselves and be more easily recognizable by readers.

Grammatical and factual errors are the bane of any journalist. Details as minute as a misspelled name or improperly placed photograph can lead to libel or false light lawsuits. While gaming journalism is not quite at risk as other fields of enthusiast press to libel suits, the standard of perfection in copy should be desired and in most cases, attained.

Of the articles analyzed 30 grammatical errors were found in a total of 161 articles. There was only one factual error discovered, in the form of an incorrect headline. Below is a breakdown of total grammatical errors by publication.

Distributing out the numbers of grammatical errors with the number of published articles, Kotaku has a 36 percent chance of having a grammatical error in an article, with Joystiq at 4 percent and Destructoid at 11 percent.

As these stories are all internet-based, an accurate count of grammatical or factual errors is always in flux. Stories can be edited while they are live with no announcement to the reader of the edit. Of course this means that stories should be totally clear of grammatical errors as long as editors maintain vigilance and allow for readers to point out errors so they can be corrected.

Edits should be transparent. While striking out or changing large chunks of copy are very different kinds of edits, a note of an edit being made to a story should at the very least be included somewhere on the page to allow readers insight into the workings of the publication. Stories are always alive on the internet, able to be changed a minute or a year after publication. Some record should remain of changes made.

The final study of measurement is the inclusion of sexist and aggressive/offensive text or images in stories. Professional journalists should strive for the absolute elimination of sexist tonality in stories and aggressive/offensive tonality should be left to the editorial page.

There was a total of 27 aggressive/offensive articles for a total of 17 percent and a total of 12 sexist articles for a total of 7 percent.

Below is a randomly selected list of three sexist articles, by publication.

  1. Shop Contest: Pinkwashing – Kotaku
  2. Dream Club for Xbox 360 Destroys Subtlety with Hostess Sausage Feeding – Kotaku
  3. Here’s Where Cammie Dunaway Literally Went – Joystiq

Below is a randomly selected list of three aggressive/offensive articles, by publication.

  1. See Duke Nukem Forever’s First Person Pissing, Gameplay in Action – Kotaku
  2. Review: Medal of Honor – Destructoid
  3. Killzone 3 Beta Open to PS Plus Subscribers Only – Destructoid

For sexism to exist in game journalism it not only perpetuates a negative stereotype of gamers but it establishes that stereotype as existing even in the coverage of gaming. Gamers should not be ashamed or worried to go to their favorite gaming sites in public or at work. I had to explain the hostess sausage feeding article to a few people in the graduate lounge at my university because of its content. Gamers are not breast-obsessed adolescents with only the objectifying of women and killstreaks on our minds. We are adults – treat us as such.

As for aggressive/offensive tonality, there is a certain amount of taste that each publication must agree upon themselves. For the addition of sensationalism there does come a price however. If an outlet wants to be sensational and aggressive in its tonality, it simply gives up the illusion of being professional. Professional journalists do not pen the kind of aggressive and offensive content found not only in game journalism stories, but also some of its headlines.

So what does all of this mean for game journalism? It means that while some of the problems may not be as severe as some may think, there is still a long way to go. But first game journalism needs to decide whether it’s an enthusiast press or not; also whether it wants to maintain a colloquial tone with readers or evolve a more professional tone.

Dan Amrich, a man with years in the field working for outlets like GamePro, Official Xbox Magazine, and GamesRadar, admits that the title of “game journalist” has always given him pause.

“I was never comfortable being called a ‘games journalist,’” Amrich said. “I was an entertainment reporter and a game critic, whereas journalism implies a more noble goal and a different skillset than I employed…I am providing a service, but I am not sure if I am providing journalism.”

Amrich has a strong point, and it’s one that I wrestle with as well. But is game journalism consigned to the fate of enthusiast press or can it become more?

Pulitzer Prize winner and Indiana University professor Tom French says that journalism is a part of memorializing the times that we all share together.

“The main job is to chronicle a little bit of what life is like on this planet,” French said. “Gaming is a part of many people’s lives and becoming more so every day. It’s important that journalists covering gaming take the job seriously.”

I contend that it can become more, but it requires the effort of editors and writers around the globe. We need to show solidarity in our professionalism and our commitment to the readers rather than spewing sexist and unrelated nonsense on our front pages. We can be professional, if only we act like it.

It’s time we changed. Gamers before were ostracized because they were nerds, social outcasts incapable of gainful interaction with others. Gaming, and gamers, has grown a great deal since then.

But the coverage has not. I am not part of a group that disrespects women and has a fascination with Japan and anime simply because I play video games. Stop presenting gamers as such.

Let’s turn our strength of colloquial reporting and passion for the industry into a passion for powerful reporting. Let’s discover trends, investigate poor game development, and do a real service for our readers.

Game journalism does not have to settle for the crumbs of information thrown from the tables of publishers and public relations agencies.  Like other fields of journalism, game journalism should be expected to hold up the traditions of investigative reporting, fact-finding, and a dedication to giving the readers accurate and prompt information.

Journalism is a proud field with many powerful figures in its past. Ernie Pyle, Alice Dunnigan, the Bernstein and Woodward duo; these are names synonymous with the field of journalism. If game journalists want to share their title with some of these storied writers, they need to stop acting like contracted PR agents and start acting like journalists.

Is it foolish to compare game journalism to the likes of these storied journalists? Maybe.

Is it foolish to not aspire to give the best and most complete coverage available to readers, despite the field? Definitely.

We can do better.

 

Disclaimer: This article is the work of one writer, and does not necessarily reflect the views of gamrFeed or VGChartz.

Header photo credit: Flickr user e.phelt


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70 Comments

DitchPlaya (on 09 December 2010)

Conclusion: The gaming media hates NIntendo. =P


bratkitty (on 06 December 2010)

While I find the credibility of this article suspect on the whole, I find the the accusation that the "Here's Where Cammie Dunaway Literally Went" article was sexist to be especially baffling. As a card-carrying feminist/ female gamer who actually has dealt with sexism in regards to gaming, all I can say is "WTF?" Out of all the instances of actual sexism in gaming, you pick that? Seriously? AND don't even have the evidence readily available to back it up when called on it? For those of us who actually do deal with sexism and are looking for equal standing with the boys, please don't post accusations like this without being able to readily back it up. You only harm our cause and make the rest of us look like idiots. I, for one, do not think the Cammie Dunaway article is sexist and am questioning the author's credentials in making such a statement.


abhiram_33 (on 05 December 2010)

ign should be rated those guys suck


tingyu (on 04 December 2010)

Im O.K. with Kotaku for posting off-gaming post, please rate IGN


TheWon (on 04 December 2010)

I love how most of you are defending the sites he pointed out. Come on now do you honestly consider any of those sites. Respectable places to gather information from? Sites like IGN at least try to created separate sections where they can cover other areas. So it makes since to have one page about hot girls, and other pages about games. With out a doubt what ever it is called they are doing. Needs to be changed. I want people with some kind of degree. People who write with ethics, and fair and balanced view point. Instead it seems that every site is owned by either. A frat boy who is on the take from a big company. Or some lonely nerd who wants to feel like he is important. So instead of telling like it is. He just use the site to spread his twisted views.


evergeek (on 04 December 2010)

late to the party (just caught this from slashdot), but my two cents: read the article and all the comments and it seems neither the author nor the posters are quite sure what to make of it. i know i don't either. i think this is because the term "journalist" is ill defined, as is "the press," "enthusiast," "obligations" and so on. I very much appreciate that the Jackmovich took a crack at analyzing some heavy hitters and the trends they create or follow. But yeah, as mentioned by others, this is really a look at the internet writing in general, and perhaps our collective unrest at its utter dependency on Google trends. More leg work than i care to do, anyway... probably because it's impossible to draw a conclusion, just a lot of lip chewing and head scratching. To that end, a good article. I'm chewing my lip right now and my head is raw. Some posters are just throwing up their hands and walking away. I should probably join them. Actually just wanted to comment on the Cammie Dunaway article and the implied sexism. I remember when this news first hit the wire and i remember being excited by the KidZania idea because i pined for a pint-sized town when i was kid (i also invented Facebook like everyone else before buddy beat us to it). Now i'm a parent with a gaggle of kids myself, and the idea still seems brilliant and long overdue. Fun, educational, tropical - that's the parenting dream, isn't it? That Dunaway has signed up to run the show is all the better, as we all know her to be exceptionally competent and qualified. Just now saw the joystik coverage and i have to agree, it's disturbing. the "sexism" of the thing is buried and nebulous, but here's how i see it: joystik implies that Dunaway has degraded herself to a position that merely has her lording over half-naked boys, from a lofty position of, what? Lording over the parents of boys who bought them videogames? Whatever. But the treatment goes too far by implying that as the mayor of "children in Mexico" is step down to second class citizenry and, worse, that it would be unsurprising if she were to murder some emigrated Mexican kid with a rock. Joystik was probably just trying to be clever, but it does speak to juvenile injections by an editorial team that thinks Lord of the Flies was a great story about camping without parents. The sexism of it would be Dunaway in a position of authority over half naked boys and hints at inconsequential impropriety because they're in some lawless land called Mexico. Or that's what i'm reading into it after taking the time to read into it at all. But look, if that had been a story with a picture Reggie Fils-Aime gleefully following a bunch of prepubescents over the hills and far away, the insinuated pedophilia would be blatent and vulgar. Maybe that it's a woman looking gleeful is the sexism, like a women in that position is just good for a joke; happens all the time anyway, right? That's what happens when women are in positions of power and have no place to go after quitting Nintendo? I don't know. maybe it's not sexist, but it's undeniably offensive. just saying. My two cents ($0.0195 CDN).


Gameinatrix (on 03 December 2010)

I read this in my car and must apologize to my relatives for the constant AMENS I was shouting out while reading this article. I cannot say my own site is not guilty of trying to grab a headline or two with a sensational title, but I do push the ladies (and gents) to try to be responsible. And when reviewing we are ALWAYS honest. We are very much ostracized because of it. I won't name names here, but we've gotten those calls as well from angry companies not liking our review. We refuse to lie and we feel our responsibility is to the reader/gamer, who should be told that the game they are about to spend 60 dollars on, sucks. Our site strives to cater to women, without being completely sexist, which is a fine line to walk. We don't get a large amount of revenue from publishers, and are therefore not "owned" by them, so truth is paramount. And I wish I could say that your assessment of Kotaku was incorrect, but I've had them misquote a "transcript" of a panel I was on in 2008. Even after I asked for it to be corrected AND left a comment that it was incorrect, it remains unchanged. We love them but I suppose they do what they have to stay on top. We ain't mad at 'em. This was my long winded way of saying, EXCELLENT article and thanks to Womengamers.com for sharing it with us.


Kleeyook (on 03 December 2010)

AGre with most of it especially the author's authority to punish people who comment on their articles with harsh critics.


CALkulon (on 03 December 2010)

The aforemention Play Mag article sums up most of my feelings nicely, but I still feel compelled to write a comment for myself. As a scientist I find this "objective" analysis pretty appalling. There are too many errors to list individually, but to give an example, you list "offensive" articles without ever explaining exactly what makes them offensive to you, let alone considering that offense itself is virtually always going to be subjective. Your methodology needs a whole lot of work, frankly. As I said Play Mag covered most of what I would have said, but this line deserves another mention: "...these sites have a responsibility to not only responsible and professional coverage, but responsible and professional coverage relevant to gaming as a subject matter." No, they don't. Quite frankly they can do whatever the hell they want, just because you disagree with their method of output does not make them wrong. The reason I read (some of) those sites regularly is exactly because they're often silly/off-topic, mixed in with more serious stuff. I am more than capable of differentiating between what I do and do not want to read, if the bad vastly outweighs the good then I can always go elsewhere.


Aleph-One (on 03 December 2010)

Still waiting for the author of this article to take five minutes out of his day to explain to his readers why "Here’s Where Cammie Dunaway Literally Went" is sexist. The fact that VGChartz keeps this hit piece up, with no support, is pathetic. For a site that claims to be interested in reforming games journalism, it sure is comfortable with attacking other sites with baseless claims. It's almost like VGChartz is guilty of precisely what it's accusing others of: using poor journalistic standards to create a more sensational article to draw in hits. Even if you agree with the article's overall conclusions - heck, I agree with the article's overall conclusions - attacking specific sites for specific articles, while being completely unwilling to explain what is actually objectionable about those articles, is not journalism, it's mud-slinging. Articles like this are only useful in furthering the conversation about games journalism when they are open and honest, and this article is neither. Joseph, you're a graduate student in journalism. Is attacking someone as sexist, while being unwilling to explain why, really consistent with the highest standards of this profession? You owe your readers better. And if the author is unwilling to do better, VGChartz should take this article down. If, at some point, Joseph is able to finish this article by actually sourcing and explaining his research, then it could go back up. Until then, VGChartz is blatantly just trying to make ad revenue by libeling other sites.


FishFaceMcGee (on 03 December 2010)

I find this article (and the subsequent attempt at damage control by the author on Twitter) to be fascinating. And hilarious. And completely hypocritical. First off, it's great that Brett Walton, founder of VGChartz.com, thinks that "journalism needs a big shake up," and that, "Much of the current 'journalism' consists of re-worded press releases." However, you would think that, as founder of VGChartz, he would have some control of daughter-site gamrfeed and would ensure that his own sites don't fall under journalism that could only be referred to when in quotes. Second, I don't think it was the best idea to use a sampling method that you claim to be random. This is the internet, where anonymity is king. There is no way for us to know that you didn't selectively choose the articles to make your point. Even if you provide the list of all the articles in the sample, there will be no way to know they were truly random. You've said yourself that "...these blogs thrive on hits and post counts." Why should we assume your'e any different? Third, it's great that you're railing on editorialized articles when, until you provide your proof, this is an editorial. You've said yourself that "editorializing also forces the opinion of the writer into the news." Until you post the list of articles so that we can see whether or not you're full of shit, this is all opinion. You've provided no criteria on how you organized your data, just the categories they went into. It's great that you had four different categories of headline. However, without explaining what it takes for a headline to fit in one category over another, it's opinion. Hell, unless you're able to cite some well-known organization method for sorting headlines, it's opinion. Using the risk of libel suit is great to explain why you should avoid grammatical errors. You know what else can bring up a libel suit? Accusing another person of being sexist (or at the very least writing a sexist article) without providing proof. For someone who claims to want better things from gaming journalists, it should be shameful that you made this article without providing any evidence for any of your points. You have accused a person of being sexist and won't even provide your "evidence" until Monday. I don't understand the thought process that would lead to write such an inflammatory article and not think that you would be expected to back it up. I mean, hell, GoogleCache is not a new thing.


xupaxupa (on 03 December 2010)

" Let’s discover trends, investigate poor game development, and do a real service for our readers." So, according to this, Malstrom has been doing more journalism than most gaming sites.


spaceguy (on 03 December 2010)

DO YOU REALIZE THAT ALL THE NEGATIVE POST, INCLUDING MINE HAVE BEEN ERASED. GOOD JOB ON FREEDOM OF SPEACH. SORRY WE HATE YOUR ARTICLE BUT AS I SUSPECT THIS WILL GET ERASED AS WELL. GFURS


.jayderyu (on 03 December 2010)

Excellent insight to the Illusion of Gaming Blogs. I expressed this a number of months ago, but was like the writer insulted and complimented(less so) for being out right on the same opinion. The writers of said articles don't write bias, but there is pressure on the managers to make sure the "right" people are doing the right articles. I also thought it amusing that though this article on VGC points out companies for "A fundamental issue to this problem is that these blogs thrive on hits and post counts. Given their immense popularity, anything that is published will generate at least some readership, so the guideline seems to be “post often, anything goes, censor dissent,” rather than simply “let’s report solid news about video games.” While at the same time having http://gamrfeed.vgchartz.com/story/82888/first-uncharted-movie-details-surface-not-looking-good/ Seriously? Really? This is news??? no it's not. It's an opinion. It's universal fact that VG to movies usually suck. So why is Uncharted becoming VGC news?... look above for the reason. VGC is strife with opinions reported as news it's atrocious and one of the reasons I skip over VGC news, but I'm not ranting abotu VGC news. I'm ranting about the entire concept that these sites claim they are good sites while usually full of crap. Opinions are opinions and shouldn't be shoved as part of the review. I agree with this article very much. Well written and I hope the writer keeps it up :)


AwesomeElmo (on 02 December 2010)

I feel that the venemous replies to this article by other sites is proof of the very thing that the author is intending to highlight. Agree or disagree with the author, that's fine. But why should, supposedly professional, people spout such hatred to someone for having a different opinion? I tend to agree with most of what the author says. I am a regular reader of both vgchartz and kotaku, and I like both. However it does irk me the way Kotaku often misrepresents stories, drives opinions in a certain direction and other such psychological tactics.


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Kantor (on 02 December 2010)

@Freyt: Kotaku gets three million unique hits a month. Their readers like what they do. Kotaku isn't writing to some mysterious "gaming journalism reader" and they don't have to fit any standards of what a gaming blog should be (especially since they are NOT a gaming site, but a site that sometimes writes articles about games). If Kotaku's fanbase likes to know about Japanese culture, then Kotaku should write about it. If you don't like that sort of stuff, fine. Don't read Kotaku.


Freyt (on 02 December 2010)

I didn't even know Kotaku was a gaming website until now. I suppose if I actually browsed it, then I would have figured it out, but I have only been linked to it through other sites such as Digg. Anyways I agree with all this for the most part. Another thing I'd like to add, though, is the speed in which articles are published. It feels to me that I can find out more information by myself than if I wait for an article to be published. This was evidenced to me when I simply asked a forum board leader of Ninja Theory a few questions, and then their usage of Unreal Engine for the development of "DmC" came to light. My experience might not reflect the whole, however it is not the whole we are addressing here. I just feel that publishers are letting the stories come to them, rather than going out and getting stories to publish. Personally, I don't want news that is sold to a publisher to be handed out. I want news that is taken by the publisher and truthfully represented. Isn't that how all news outlets start? When I strike up conversation to someone, I want to trust that the information I hold is completely true. I don't want to look like a fool in the end and only be a knower of false information. Also, I don't care about Japanese culture. If I ever decide that America is hell and Japan is the only place I can live, then I'll learn Japanese and their culture at the same time and move there. Japanese culture is about as irrelevant to me as African, Norwegian, Russian, German, and all other countries culture. In fact, it's about as irrelevant to me as American culture. It's not that I don't care for the people. I just don't care how a person addresses another, or how each area "gives thanks" to some deity before they eat. What does Japanese culture matter to any basic individual who isn't a "weeabo"? If you're part of a company marketing towards Japan, then fine. Or if you understand Japanese, or interested in learning Japanese, that's fine too. But seriously, it's annoying.


ImJustBayuum (on 02 December 2010)

What kantor wrote....


Aleph-One (on 02 December 2010)

For those who don't follow him on Twitter, the author of this article is, hilariously, claiming that it will take him until next week to figure out why he described Joystiq's article as sexist. The article is here: http://www.joystiq.com/2010/10/05/heres-where-cammie-dunaway-literally-went/ It has six sentences, a picture, and a quote. It should be trivial to re-read it and figure out what, if anything, is sexist. The author claims that he has reviewed the article, and still believes it sexist, but refuses to state why until next week. It's hard to see this as anything but an attempt to avoid addressing any criticism until after any buzz surrounding the article has died off, when any response is likely to go unnoticed.


outlawauron (on 02 December 2010)

@ Hapimeses I'm not saying you don't hold them any lower standard but it's natural to blog about things Japanese producers of video games are doing or saying. I also find your comments about sexist articles very funny.


Kudistos Megistos (on 02 December 2010)

tl;dr What I *did* read was pretentious and full of politically correct moralising and hypocrisy. The author seemed very eager to present himself as enlightened" and "professional and other gaming journalists as bigoted and immature, and forgets that the journalism on VGChartz isn't immune to the problems that he blows out of proportion, especially the problem of gratuitous top-ten lists. The author needs a sense of humour transplant and some meetings to help him cut down on the srs bsns. He should also be aware that the "problems" he complains about are problems with *internet* journalism, not game journalism. Apparently, he has difficulty understanding that the tone and register required for internet articles aimed at the "gamer" demographics is very different from the tone and register needed for articles in the NYT.


silicon (on 02 December 2010)

The analysis is incomplete. You need to normalize based on the ave number of articles produced. Also you need to give a description of how far apart the articles were published, as well as the number of authors etc. I.E. number of misleading headlines. Those numbers seem really low. But they need to be normalized by the number of articles published. I.E. is it 1% , 10% , 100%? If its 1% that's not an issue at all. If it's 100% then it's a marketing strategy.


Kantor (on 02 December 2010)

You're acting as though this problem is exclusive to game journalism. Now, I appreciate that you are a Journalism student, and as such have a very rosy and positive view of journalism on the whole. Go pick up a tabloid, and read through it. Actually, I'll save you the time. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/ Look at that! That is a newspaper read by 3 million people every day. Three MILLION. It is frequently offensive, sexist (page 3) and sensationalist. Granted, publications like The Times are considerably more serious and respectable, but why should we hold ourselves to the lofty standard set by professional journalists with years if not decades of experience in commentary? A blog does not have to be of the quality of a broadsheet. We and sites like us are not relied upon for fully accurate and unbiased information on important subjects. At the end of the day, we are discussing a hobby, albeit one which grows in importance and significance each day. A blog discussing video games does not have to be the pinnacle of journalistic integrity.


Monteblanco (on 02 December 2010)

Interesting analysis. Although I agree that gaming journalism is rather weak, I don't believe your sample size is big enough (one week, three sites) to allow any generalization of the results.


Squeakthedragon (on 02 December 2010)

One of the root causes of game journalism's problems is gamers themselves and the pool of potential talent game journalism outlets have to call on: simply put, it's hard to find a modern young male gamer who does not mindlessly, even unintentionally, parrot stereotypical attitudes and myopic fixations. For example, journalistic coverage of the Wii phenomenon over the last five years has so often be horrible because "game journalists" couldn't write about the Wii without falling into the perspective of skeptical and/or butthurt "hardcore gamers" who were LOLin' at the Stupid Gamecube Turbo. No investigation of why the Wii became popular really took place. Writers just regurgitated a few stereotypical sound bytes gleaned mostly from Internet forums and flame war threads. It goes far beyond the Wii, of course. Game journalists make countless unconscious assumptions about the culture they're writing about, giving the - perhaps true - impression that they are unthinking, inexperienced, unreflective and shallow kids given a keyboard and told to write about their favorite thing in the world, video games. I suspect some self selection has gone on in the gaming press as well, because any writer or reporter who breaks the trend is often a person who is seen as uncool, stupid, or backwards, or ironically enough *nerdy* by the average member of the 18-30 year old male gamer audience. So naturally, gaming rags whether online or off, tilt towards hiring writers and staff members who "understand the audience" usually by being one of them. That Kotaku, Destructoid, and Joystick are the most popular gaming sites seems to be part of some self-fulfilling prophesy; the tonality of those sites mostly seems to back up this framework.


LivingMetal (on 02 December 2010)

I love this site. How can I be of service?


Aleph-One (on 02 December 2010)

I can't find anything sexist about the "Here’s Where Cammie Dunaway Literally Went" article from Joystiq. A charge of sexism is fairly serious, so I'd be very interested in having the author justify their claim. I also find it curious that none of the article that are given as examples are linked, and that only one example is given. It should have been trivial for the author to provide full access to the data they used, which could just be a listing of categorized links, so that we could see for ourselves if their largely-subjective evaluations seemed accurate. For an article that castigates other sites for poor sourcing, this is a significant flaw, in addition to the misleading title and heavy editorializing.


haxxiy (on 02 December 2010)

Great study! Please do more of it one day.


Shorty11857 (on 02 December 2010)

Great article, really interesting. Really does highlight a lot of the problems with the industry today. I really wonder though will it ever change, as much as a lot of us don't like it, we mightn't be the main demographic of those sites


Hapimeses (on 02 December 2010)

Gods! There is spam everywhere here today!


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mhsillen (on 02 December 2010)

Damn good study Please use your review model on NYT,Wash Post,LA Times


Perpalicious (on 02 December 2010)

@Hapimeses: So you like breasts because you're a man? That's not a good enough reason. There are women who like breasts. So you can technically say that you like breasts because you're a woman.


numonex (on 02 December 2010)

Game review scores stands out and if its a greater or equal than 90% it is a must buy game. Less than 80% it is a rental only or wait for it to fall in cheap sales bin. Between 80% to 90% well it depends if the game is a buy later when it is cheaper or rental. Reviews are just an opinion of some anonymous gamer. Rarely worth 5 minute reading the article, unless you are buying the game.


SSDNINJA (on 02 December 2010)

@zlejedi - I don't like seeing hidden edits anywhere, including here. It's just not a good practice @Hapimeses - It's okay to like different things, but that doesn't mean they have to be presented in ways that are unprofessional, sexist, or harmful. Just because it's an interest doesn't mean it's suited for print


Euphoria14 (on 02 December 2010)

Jim Sterling is the man.


bazmeistergen (on 02 December 2010)

Sadly, this 'problem' with journalism is rife in other areas as well, including the mainstream press, TV and so on. Corporations have too much influence and there is nothing with a global reach to give us balance. The state could be one way of balancing out, but it fails due to identity and competition, just like how American unions were weakened by the colour divide and the power of the bosses... sadtimes. Not sure if people in the UK saw the Huw Wheldon Lecture last night with Prof Brian Cox, but he was arguing something similar. It was excellent. UK readers can see it here for sure (not sure about anyone else): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wfnqg/Royal_Television_Society_Lecture_2010/


salaminizer (on 02 December 2010)

yep, I don't get why you picked up these three, especially Kotaku which is part of the Gawker network. surely if you went to Jalopnik or io9 you'd see some of the same trademark stuff and would write about how sci-fi journalism is broken too.


Mr Khan (on 02 December 2010)

Kotaku, Joystiq, and Destructoid (at least i'm certain on the former 2 if not on the latter) are and originally were BLOGS. They can get away with more editorializing and rumor-as-fact citing. Better examples would have been IGN, Gamespot, Gamesradar, etc.


Hapimeses (on 02 December 2010)

@Killiana1a: But, come on, you have to give a big thumbs up to the author's ability to not only insult gaming journalists, but the gamers that read them as well, which, presumably, will also include many of his own readers. Clever man. And, for the record, as I mentioned before, I like breasts. That's not because I'm a gamer, but because I'm a man. And sometimes I also like to read 'real gaming news', sometimes I like to read opinions on games, sometimes I like to read humour about games, and so on. It's not BadWrongFun, it's just what I like. Sue me.


Killiana1a (on 02 December 2010)

The only statement I take umbrage with is this: "Anecdotal glances through top gaming sites reveal gamers to be little more than children in men’s bodies, giggling at the sight of breasts and having pseudo-intellectual discussions about facial hair." If the author peruses the forums for any major sports or the comments section in sites like ESPN, then he would not have made a statement like this. "Pseudo-intellectual" discussions are non-existent in sports forums and comments. It is more a "I love my boy! You are a loser if you disagree with! I can't hear you, blah, blah, blah." Please check the sports sites before asserting gamers are pseudo-intellectual teens with raging boners. You will see it is all ad hominem interspersed with some clear commentary now and again.


spaceguy (on 02 December 2010)

Thanks for wasting my time. Wow you didn't prove a thing and on top of that you made the whole article long as sh-t. just to make me want to punch a pillow at the end of it because it sucked so bad. peace.


NYANKS (on 02 December 2010)

This analysis is kind of done according to the preference of the writer isn't it?


NYANKS (on 02 December 2010)

Wait, Kotaku isn't purely a gaming site is it? Wouldn't it be unfair to judge it as such?


Hapimeses (on 02 December 2010)

Seems to have hit a nerve: http://www.x360magazine.com/opinion/games-journalism-isn%E2%80%99t-broken/


Hapimeses (on 02 December 2010)

Seems I'm not alone: http://www.play-mag.co.uk/opinion/games-journalism-is-broken-mainly-because-its-not-all-written-by-automatons/


Hapimeses (on 02 December 2010)

Whilst some of the central thrust of the article seems correct (specifically, the influence of publishers on the gaming press), neither the choice of sites to analyse nor the analysis itself supports the arguments at all well. For example: Kotaku, the biggest criminal of the article, is a video-game focussed blog that pitches itself as exactly that: a blog. Yes, it describes its posters as 'reporters' and deals with 'news', but that's about as close to mainstream journalism as the site gets. Claiming Kotaku should be held to higher journalistic standards seems nonsense to me. It's a bit like claiming a political blog should be expected to be subject to the same rules as a major, national newspaper, a statement that is obviously ridiculous. If anything, this article needed a strong editor to stand up to the writer and say: 'nice idea, but do some better research to support it, please.' Attack proper news outlets and provide some good supporting material, perhaps. Also, I like boobs. God forbid someone write about boobs. Awful.


welshbloke (on 02 December 2010)

Is this a problem with gaming journalism or the internet in general. What about the printed gaming press? I suspect internet journalism is driven by speed which the need to grab peoples attention. You add speed into the equation and you then have poorly thought out titles, few sources and errors.


tgt_rich (on 02 December 2010)

Some really interesting thoughts here and an important addition tot he debate about games journalism but the article undermines itself so often it could almost be a parody. Jsut to take two things: You're big on headlines in the piece but your headline isn't 'is it broken?' but 'how broken is it?'. You might not be 'misleading' in the sense you're using that word but it sure undermines any idea that this is anything more than trying to find 'facts' to back up a thesis you already hold. And then the very next story I read on this site is a rewritten story from another site that's translating a magazine that has some games news in it. And we won't even get started on the idea of making generalisations based on a sample of three, one of which is a blog. Having said all that I admire the intentions - would rather read this, however flawed, than Kotaku ;)


Zlejedi (on 02 December 2010)

"Edits should be transparent." - I would love to hear then what author thinks about VGC adjustments which are usually made without single word. Also i don't see anything wrong with kotaku giving a lot of non directly gaming materials. That's precisly the reason why i read them. I don't care about their reviews but i want to see pictures of new gaming merchandise, pictures of giant gundams standing on parking in Japan etc. "EA Loses Spine, Drops Taliban from Medal of Honor – Destructoid" that isn't misleading title the title precisly shows what happened. Just because they didn't cover it with politically correct bullshit doesn't mean it's misleading.


edjevink (on 02 December 2010)

I can only blame gaming journalism for factual mistakes in articles, and there are a lot of them. The lack of creativity and good articles in gaming journalism is something i particularly blame the readers/gamers for. Great journalism and great articles (like this one) take A LOT of time, and most readers/gamers don't even read those. They seem to prefer flamebait articles, (fake) rumors and bad Top 10 lists. Besides, they don't have time (in their mind at least) or the energy to read those long and serious articles. The reason for that is a whole other discussion.


Rath (on 02 December 2010)

I disagree with this article quite a bit. Mostly because you seem to think that all gaming sites have a 'responsibility' to strive for what you want out of gaming journalism. They don't really have a responsibility to be anything, they're privately owned sites catering to what their audience is reading. You may have a point if they claimed to be a professional high quality and unbiased source of news, but I don't think they really do. They're a bunch of gaming blogs, not the BBC. There are sites who do try for a more serious view of the industry, IGN and Gamespot the two biggest. It seems odd to me that you would do this analysis on sites which aren't trying to be professional in how they report the gaming news. The only thing I really agree with is that the relationship with publishers is not at all healthy, if something is billed as being unbiased - as reviews implicitly are - then they shouldn't be paid off.


binary solo (on 02 December 2010)

@ Outlawron, I think there is a line between a blog and a news site, and from a lot of angles Kotaku looks like its a blog in name only now and has crossed the line into being a news site.


edjevink (on 02 December 2010)

@outlawauron: As far as i know the same accounts for Joystiq and Destructoid?


SSDNINJA (on 02 December 2010)

@games4fun I would love to do more of these, but time is an issue. This was a semester long project, and caused the death of a lot of trees. As long as I have the ability I'll do more, but probably only one at a time


Rainbird (on 02 December 2010)

Great article, and I very much agree about the sorry state of gaming "journalism". I would also greatly like VGC to step up and do some of this research. VGC is an excellent source for sales as it stand, but in the general news area, the content is not all that exciting and original.


Games4Fun (on 02 December 2010)

Interesting read and good job. Are you going to do 3 different each month or the same ones? Or just do one from time to time?


Killiana1a (on 02 December 2010)

I expected to read an article comparing Gamespot, IGN, and either GameSpy or G4tv. Nevertheless, quite an informative and interesting read. Out of the gaming blogs in this article, I prefer Joystiq. I started with Kotaku, but their sensationalist pieces drove me away.


outlawauron (on 02 December 2010)

Part of thing with kotaku is that they're a blog. Not a news site.


Nereid (on 02 December 2010)

kotaku remains to be the most fun to read among the three


SSDNINJA (on 02 December 2010)

@Bluyoshi I understand exactly what you mean. I find it hard to agree with myself on that point too, but I think its more possible now to have a gainful conversation with a stranger about gaming, that could just be hopeless optimism about the crowd I grew up being a part of though. :/


nandakoryaaa (on 02 December 2010)

@wyvers lol :)


Bluyoshi (on 02 December 2010)

Very nice article. I think there's..one thing I disagree with, and that is the statement that gamers as a whole have evolved. To be honest, they haven't. The old fashioned form of gamer has just, thankfully, become a minority while new audiences have been captured thanks to Nintendo, and I think there's a severe difference between the two. Until that minority is abolished, articles like you mentioned will always exist, as they are aimed at that minority who will be more likely to agree with the article, and then start a little flame war in the comments, resulting in more hits, more comments and more site traffic. One day it will disappear, and hopefully at that point, gaming will become a media.


wyvers (on 02 December 2010)

Look who's talking.


ChichiriMuyo (on 02 December 2010)

Joystick looks pretty good in this analysis


SSDNINJA (on 02 December 2010)

I plan on doing more of these in the future, so it'll be interesting to see who takes the cake


Nsanity (on 02 December 2010)

Most misleading heading publication would go to CVG not Kotaku.