Player Three – journalism's latest saviour

Is this anything more grating than a journalist who has just “discovered” something and decided they should be the first person to write Real Objective Journalism about it? Ugh.

I’ve just been reading Patrick Brosnan’s guest post on Margaret Simons’ Content Makers blog. Apparently there was never a real games journalist until Mr Brosnan came along. I hope he’s going to let the readers down gently. Or, you know, he could take some time to actually read up on games journalism.

It may be a shock to Mr Brosnan that in addition to the cheap and nasty sold-at-the-supermarket-checkout games mags that rely on teen gamers to write reviews in return for free games, there are also games sites and publications which value quality writing.

Take a look at Atomic MPC – a PC hardware and gaming magazine which was so well respected internationally that the Heseltine-owned Haymarket Media acquired its small Australian publisher, AJB Publishing, largely to get their mitts on it. I haven’t read Atomic in a while, but at the time I was working for AJB, Atomic had a fanatical audience, and a number of award winning journalists who wrote for it, myself included.

Or Mr Brosnan could take a look at Edge, a UK games publication which also had an international reputation because it did a great job of writing up not just games news, but also covering the technical innovations and business dealings of the games industry. (Let us not speak of the horrible, watered down Australian version. That was just a massive disappointment.)

These publications employed Real Writers – both journalists and reviewers. I’d be surprised if any of them weren’t also gamers. Yes, Virginia, there can be Real Journalists who also play computer games. The notion of the detached, objective journalist was always a lie. People don’t get to know an industry intimately in the way that journalists must, without forming opinions on what’s going on around them. It’s just that they’re meant to write objectively, give both sides of the story, and look cagey when you accuse them of being biased. I’m sorry, but bloggers have taught us that disclosure is a far more powerful means of earning credibility than hiding behind “objectivity”. I don’t want to read games journalism written by non gamers.

It’s not just about whether you’re a qualified journalist, either. Mr Brosnan, sadly, seems allergic to opinion. And snark. Apparently you can’t express opinions, or employ sarcasm and be a good writer, or reviewer (That’s me gone then. That’s ok, Patrick. I just want you to know that we can still be friends). He’d better not watch Zero Punctuation then. Shame, because Yahtzee raised the bar for other reviewers by presenting his reviews as hilarious, fast paced animated movies. I’ll happily watch Zero Punctuation reviews for games I’ve never heard of, because they’re entertaining in their own right. Until Yahtzee came along, I hadn’t enjoyed reviews so much since legendary British music mag Select went down the gurgler.

Mr Brosnan proposes a new journalism (sorry, Journalism!), which will be showcased on his website, Player Three. It has at its foundation, Real Journalists. “These journalists don’t necessarily need a vast general knowledge on the gaming industry”. Yes, I can see how that’s a great start for a niche journalism publication. Tell your journalists they aren’t expected to really know their beat. The truth serum will be applied by the editors, who are the games experts. Because people who play games aren’t qualified to write about them. Only Journalists can do the writing, got that?

I haven’t been a tech or games journalist for a couple of years now, which is why my examples are a few years old. There are plenty of examples of rubbish games magazines and websites, granted. And I’ve been highly critical of sycophantic games writers who are in it for the free stuff and don’t think twice about being gladhanded by PR folk in return for breathless  “10/10!…” reviews. The Pollyanna grin was wiped from my face pretty early on when it came to games journalism. PlayStation 2 was launched in 2000 when I was working on a tech news magazine in London. A game reviewer we knew was given a weekend to review 30 games. 30. How many minutes did he get to spend playing each game then, even assuming he didn’t sleep? As a punter who always consulted games reviews before dropping 90 quid on a game, I was horrified.

So no,  I don’t expect “objectivity” as Mr Brosnan describes it, because I want my games writers to *be* gamers. But I do expect knowledgeable and fair reviews, and journalism. And you can get it, when you look around. What a shame Mr Brosnan didn’t actually do that, before jumping on his white horse and riding in to save us.

4 Comments

  1. Jeff Waugh Said,

    October 8, 2009 @ 1:41 am

    Two words: “Good Game”. 🙂

    Although perhaps those guys are the Stewart and Colbert of the gaming journalism world… but I don’t think they would shirk the title of “gaming journalist” too quickly!

  2. Duncan Riley Said,

    October 8, 2009 @ 8:59 am

    How he’s going to change the world of gaming journalism with an ugly free WordPress template and an Alexa ranking of 27 million (I didn’t even know it went that low) is beyond my mere mortal comprehension.

    Trust this sort of stuff to be in Crikey though, the home of pompous self important old media hacks.

  3. Patrick Brosnan Said,

    October 8, 2009 @ 11:43 am

    Hi there Sarah, it’s good to see you took the time out to read and write about my guest post over at the Content Makers. I’m sorry you think I am so ill read on the subject of games journalism. Though you seem to state that as a fact with no proof. I’ll gladly give you a list of all the publications and articles I’ve read if it will make you happy. But I want to clarify three things:

    1. I never said I was the first person to spot poor journalism in the gaming field. In fact I said “Well I’m writing because video game journalism is crying out for help… This is not news.” “THIS IS NOT NEWS” Sarah. “Game journalism’s immaturity has been analyzed by many people in the industry.” SO I am not riding on my “white horse” to save the day Sarah. I’m merely contributing, hopefully positively, to a journalism field.

    2. Player Three hasn’t empolyed someone who doesn’t love games. Who the hell would write for a Gaming News site, without being paid, and not like games? No one. When I said “These journalists don’t necessarily need a vast general knowledge on the gaming industry” I meant they dont necessarily need to be aspiring, or qualified game designers or involved professionally in the industry somehow. The two tiers of Player Three consist of 1. The writers who aim to one day become, or are already, paid journalists. These people have training in journalistic principles and form the foundation of the articles. THEY ALSO LOVE GAMES. And 2. the avid gamers, who currently, are all studying to become Game Designers, or already have experience in the industry. Player Three’s aim is to use the journalists’ formal training combine with the incredible knowledge of our gamers to produce an anti-blog style, traditional print media style of writing.

    3. You mention reviews. Player Three doesn’t do reviews as yet (maybe you didnt actually check out our site). If we did, they would obviously be written completely different to our news articles.

    To conclude, you’ve twisted and misread my words in a typical blog-about-whateve-comes-into-my-head style.

    If any of you are interested contributing positively to games journalism please email me at editor@player-three.com. Or visit the site at http://www.player-three.com/

    Thank you for your time!

  4. Stephen Keane Said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    All I can say is Sarah; I can’t believe you wrote such an extensive article just so you could criticize an amateur gaming website.

    Sounds like you’re the one who is “jumping on his white horse”

    Way to Go