Wave Foam – “I love Eurogamer”

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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.

reinsak

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.

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  • Comments (9)
    • mors
    • July 23rd, 2009

    And just let me pose one question … if there is/could be a market for “real” journalism in the game medium, why does it not surface? If there is enough space for real interviews alongside (I won’t even ask a replacement) the shity ones, why aren’t they on display, why aren’t those really interesting designers also being interviewed.

    And if there is not … well … why should they care? And if that’s the case, maybe you have a market niche opened up just for you!

  1. The reason real journalism doesn’t surface isn’t because it’s not there, it is simply because the real journalists do it because they enjoy it, not because they make tons of money and they can’t go to all these trade shows and things unless they go on their own dime.

    This leads to an oversaturation of this jokester journalism. It’s not always that bad, but it sure could be a lot better. Journalism in the game industry is so far behind national news media outlets in terms of professionalism, it’s not even funny (punny, eh?).

  2. I can’t claim that EG is a negative influence on videogame players. The truth is that thousands visit the page everyday and it seems to be working out well for them. The same goes for IGN, Gamespot, Destructoid and Kotaku. Every now and then we find good articles in any of these websites – well, perhaps not in IGN.

    The sort of content you look for, however, is not to be found in websites that depend so largely on number of visitors – EG surely does, as seen by the number of pop up and background adverts up in the front page. And while there is a niche out there waiting to be occupied, its hard to create something and make it known to the intereste parties. Because it’s no longer about converting the casual players to experts on the videogame field – that’s a pipe dream, it doesn’t happen like that. My experience taught me that it’s about settling for the audience you have, as small as that might be.

    As an independent researcher running a small independent network of sites and blogs that deal with alternative games, artists and perspectives, I have to say that it’s a tough job. All the headaches, the money and time spent… and the results are far from spectacular, much to my shame.

  3. “the only thing we get on the receiving end is some guy covering how badass a game can be.”

    I hate to break bubbles but I think thats how it has been for many many years.
    We are barely even realizing that games involve something else, call them art if you like, but we have barely started to notice it. I certainly was unprepared to appreciate any kind of game under any artistic values on my NES (kiddie) days.

  4. Just to quote Anthony Burch from destructoid: “If you want to know why you look around and you see a wasteland of gaming that is so lacking of imagination, or chance or risk-taking or anything like that… if you wonder why that is: its our fault, its all our fault…”

    Did you notice the comments on that “interview”? Sorry to dissapoint you, but it seems like the focus of that “interview” (can’t stop using quotes on that word there) is exactly what the audience (even a more serious and pretentious) wants…

    And, just for the record, although I don’t agree with the format and editing of the interview, I know it sure is aiming to the target audience. I am a technician, and I love to know the knots and bolts of how the stuff is done. I like to read an interview about how game designers worked around some limitations; but I know I am not among the majority. And, to be honest, it is understandable if you listen to most designers talk…

    • ruicraveirinha
    • July 24th, 2009

    @Dieubussy

    “The sort of content you look for, however, is not to be found in websites that depend so largely on number of visitors – EG surely does, as seen by the number of pop up and background adverts up in the front page.”

    Any publication needs publicity to survive financially. The type of publicity can be debated, but to conceive any sort of journalistic publication without publicity these days, that’s a pipe dream. More so, it is not the existence of advertisements that ruins content (or else there would be no journalism to speak of, anywhere in the world), as much as it is the relationship between sponsors and the actual journalism that may be prejudicial to publications. One would do well not mixing the two things.

    “As an independent researcher running a small independent network of sites and blogs that deal with alternative games, artists and perspectives, I have to say that it’s a tough job. All the headaches, the money and time spent… and the results are far from spectacular, much to my shame.”

    You know I am a huge admirer of your work, but I am still not convinced that your experience as a freelance journalist is “proof” (so to speak) that game journalism can’t work. At least not yet. I mean, you’re a lone gunmen, and despite your excellent field training, there’s a limit to the number of bullets you can fire in seven seconds. Oswald needed a conspiracy, so do you. A big one, at that.

    Point being: for the type of Utopian publication we’re talking of, you’d need a lot of people to help you, people who shared your editorial view on journalism and had a proper background, i.e. comprehensive knowledge of the field and good writing skills. You’d need a business model – a way to make money from that activity; as you yourself say, running a day job leaves little time and mind availability to maintain a fully fledged site. You’d probably need previous knowledge of the industry side, contacts that could help you establish sponsoring, credibility, funding and publicity. And living in Portugal doesn’t help one bit.

    I think, in many ways, your initial idea for Coregamers was rather promising, and it would be interesting to see you try it again, with the knowledge and connections you established in this period. Why not get some of those people who you’ve interviewed before, and that (as far as I could tell) respect you, to write something about games. Develop synergies with people you know from all the websites you’ve worked on before, I doubt there isn’t anyone in HG101 or Adventure Gaming, or some Ueda fan like yourself that wouldn’t write with you. Hell, I’m shooting blanks randomly, but I’m sure you could try something different than your own network of blogs.

    I’ve said it once in person, and I’ll say it again: I think you’re the only person I know that can do it. I just think you need to change tactics 😉 Yes, you can!

    @Coyote

    “Just to quote Anthony Burch from destructoid: “If you want to know why you look around and you see a wasteland of gaming that is so lacking of imagination, or chance or risk-taking or anything like that… if you wonder why that is: its our fault, its all our fault…””

    Burch might talk the talk, but he needs to walk the walk. Honestly, I don’t think he’s that much better than your average website/magazine’s best journalists. He sponsors indie ventures, which is great, but I’ve seen his opinions go down the predictable road we’ve become accustomed to, more times than I care to count. Besides, it’s great to be pro-indie, but that’s the same as being pro-mainstream; there’s just no clear-cut relationship between the quality of a work and its market segment.

    Cheers guys!

  5. I understand what you mean, although Burch has stated in previous posts things like “indie games should be measured by their own merits and defects, if its good, good, if it sucks, it sucks; but there should not be some sort of double standard and protectionism about it just for being indie…”, which is a pretty bold stand for a pro-indie. I am not going to say “he is so great”, “he is so wise”, etc… as there are other game journalists that I respect more and that I agree more with. I also know that despite all its rampaging about it, by the time Assasins Creed 2 is released he is more likely going to roll on the floor talking about how great and revolutionary it is that the character can swim (!?!?).

    Maybe it was not the most appropiate post to include that quote, but it was so recent and so to the point of tendencies you have discussed a little while ago that I though you may be interested in it. Also, if that and the comments in the “interview” show you something is that gaming audience is pretty varied: you will found people in “commercial” sites that notice that uneasy status quo we are in, and people in the audience of more “serious” sites that get really excited about Cliff B speaking of bigger guns with larger chainsaws, that shoot lasers out of their teeth…

    • ruicraveirinha
    • July 24th, 2009

    So true… so true…

    • ruicraveirinha
    • August 20th, 2009

    Another “briliant” interview here:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/sonys-andrew-house-interview

    Ah… game journalism, so witty and informative.

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