I’ve been known, on occasion, to defend Eurogamer. Why, you may ask? Well, maybe because they have shown to be independent enough to review certain games in a less than unanimous way (“Metal Gear Solid 4’s” “outrageous” 8 in 10 comes to mind), maybe because they have good journalists who know how to write properly (unlike myself), or maybe it is just because they’re European like me, and us Europeans need to stick together, right guys? I guess it has something to do with us old-continentals having a different acception of what criticism stands for, one that is less commercially oriented and broader in terms of conceptual analysis. I guess you can call it a more serious, and heck, why not say it, pretentious way of looking upon reviews. Not that Eurogamer always shows that particular posture towards game journalism, but for some reason I seem to find it in their texts, from time to time. Like any redaction, Eurogamer has good critics and journalists and its fair share of not-so-good ones. But, like all magazines and newspapers, be they online or not, what truly defines them is their editorial criteria in terms of content. In other words, what and how they spend their hard-earned English with.
This morning I came to read this interview to Epic’s Mark Rein (“Gears of War”, “Unreal Tournament”). I don’t even know what got me into reading the interview in the first place, since I am not that big of a fan of Epic (they design good shooters, yay)… but I guess I was just bored with the absolute lack of news regarding video-games (I do have to write about something!). I recommend you read it, if only to see what passes for journalism in lala land (video-game land, that is). The gist of the interview revolved around Ellie Gibson (the “journalist” conducting the interview) having a one-on-one joke contest with the interviewee. Exaggeration? Quite frankly, no. Sure, she inquired about Epic’s plans for future games, DLC and all that silly talk gamers take for informative news, but for some unidentifiable reason, she decided to pose almost every question as a witty remark, which of course, solicited the same sort of response from Rein. The result is a funny interview that is almost completely devoid of any real information. She asks things like “You’re like a badass factory?”, “I’ve got about £3.97 on me, could I get one [Unreal Engine] for that?“, or simply states absurdities like “You sound like you’re on the shopping channel[…]. I keep expecting you go to, ‘Hurry, we’ve only got 42 Unreal Engines left!'”. When Mark actually got to explain something regarding the Unreal Engine, she edited the interview, replacing it with this: “at this point, Rein delivers a lengthy monologue about the benefits of Unreal Engine 3. For the sake of brevity, it can be summarised thus: ‘The Unreal Engine’s quite good, buy one.'”. I guess she just wanted brevity, after spending four pages with funny jokes. Or maybe his opinion just wasn’t funny enough. Well, this was just the tip of the iceberg of a really lengthy interview. It was clear the interviewer was having a laugh with this, and made sure the whole interview served to amuse herself and her readers. In the process, any informative quality that the interview might have possessed was thrown out the window.
Now, I love humor as much as the next guy, and I can even understand that the particular style of a journalist revolves around some clever remarks, but this is a whole new level. It actually reminded me of a piece done by Gametrailers where Geoff Keighley did an impromptu “interview” of Cliff Bleszinski, and the whole thing ended up with a discussion on how more “badassness” Cliff’s games could muster, and how many chainsaws and blood he could insert in one game. Perhaps Epic just likes to throw funny interviews. But perhaps this is a sign of how poorly journalists spend their time, whilst listening to what the industry has to say. Sure, you might advocate, like myself, that the only thing Mark Rein could ever say that is remotely interesting is precisely the sort of whimsical non-sense the interviewer got him to speak. But that brings up a much more prominent point – if that was indeed the case, why bother interviewing him in the first place, and not someone else?
This sad interview is symptomatic of the media we have access to. We’re in an industry of toys for kids that never takes itself too seriously, or speaks in a serious manner (lest the kids lose interest). We’re in an industry that very rarely lets the real authors speak, and when it does let someone speak, it’s usually some corporate suit that knows as much about games as a recently hired Gamestop clerk. And now the industry wastes these (so called) journalists’ time with interviews that bear little to any significance to the subject at hand: video-games. We do get to laugh at some pretty funny punch-lines, right? Meanwhile, somewhere out there, is a designer with something really interesting to talk about, and the only thing we get on the receiving end is some guy covering how badass a game can be. This is game journalism.