Is gaming journalism dead? Is journalism dead in general? Am I not a journalist? These are all rather silly questions, but we see them being asked all across journalism. Not just in video game forums, but in all sorts of areas, whether it's sports journalism, political journalism, or games journalism, it's always the same fear: are we dying? Or, perhaps... are we already dead?
Well, the simple answer is no, journalism isn't dead. By extension, games journalism is also not dead. It is changing, however, and not for the better.
A few months ago I wrote a column titled "It’s Time to Stop the Hype Train (and Stop Preordering Games!)", and in the article I wrote that video game hype and culture is a bit of a problem when it comes to one of the core tenants of what journalism should (at least traditionally) be. That tenant is that journalism should hold the governments, the organizations, the public figures it reports upon to account. The hype train keeps derailing, and as I pointed out in that column, you need look no further than Cyberpunk 2077 to see evidence of that.
My role as a game's journalist here at EarlyGame is not to froth over my favorite games all the time. It's not to go "hey, this is a cool Rocket League skin, I'm gonna buy this", it's to do two things: report on and present you with important information, and to hold the developers to account. Rocket League Season 3 sucked, so I'm not going to hype it. Black Ops Cold War was an awful game, and had a seriously racist campaign, so I shouldn't be showering it in praise, and only praise.
It's okay to be positive, and balanced, and fair, and to get excited. The problem, though, is all too often gaming journalists – from any outlet – get overly excited, and yet again, shower games with praise when those games have not even been released yet. Now, that's why you shouldn't preorder games, but it also speaks to a deeper problem with games journalism, and why it is changing for the worse. There are two key problems.
1. Gaming journalists focus too much on leaks and rumors.
Leaks, leaks, leaks, leaks, leaks. It seems like sometimes it's the only thing that gets talked about – "this game's release date has been leaked", "this new map for game x has been leaked", could "x person be the voice actor for x character". This hinders our ability to keep that hype train on its tracks. We don't know if these facts are true, sometimes they have been presented by a single Twitter Leaker, a source that is unknown even to the journalist.
It's an indictment on our times that the modern day Twitter Leaker is a completely unknown entity, whom may or may not be presenting us with information that is valid, verifiable or... just anything – yet we still publish it. If you went to an editor at a major publication like the New York Times, and said "Hey I have this scoop about this politician, it's completely unverified, unverifiable, and could be completely falsified", then the editor would say "hell no". You'd probably also be in quite a bit of trouble.
The problem is: everyone does it, so everyone has to do it. That means that this is not going away anytime soon.
2. Gaming Journalism is becoming less relevant, as influencers take the lead.
Influencers are become – sadly, I might add – the Kings and Queens of modern-day Games Journalism. Just as Joe Rogan has become a leading example of a new form of interview-journalism, influencers are now the leading way that people are receiving their gaming news. It might be more entertaining, but it's hardly a good way to get information across in an effective way.
Game journalism is not dead, it will not be dead for a long time to come either, but it is in decline. The fact is that it is something that will always exist, and where there should always be a space for in the world of video games. We do need to continue to be careful on whom we get our information from, though, and as journalists we need to be careful of how we present information, and whether the sources we use are legit, or simply full of... sorry, I'm not allowed to use that word!
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