I’ve been reading recently about the struggles of organized game media news companies, such as The Escapist (one of my favorites when they started). With the shut down of Game Trailers, it’s apparent that game news media sites are deep in the shit. Their struggles revolve around the fact that the majority of us really don’t care what they have to say anymore. I mean, yes, it’s good to get an informed opinion on a topic, but as we all know, when it comes to the “professional news media,” they often don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
This has been more true of standard News Media, such as Fox News, CNN, etc. If you’ve ever been involved in a news story or personally knew the facts about something they were reporting on, you know that they get shit wrong all the time. This isn’t too far off from what I’ve seen from Game News Media organizations that, for whatever reason, couldn’t be arsed to do the job they’re purportedly created to do. Which is give honest and accurate information about games.
So what are the major issues that these dying game media sources need to deal with in order to survive?
1. Stop fucking taking money from game companies and publishers. Just stop fucking doing it. “Oh we need advertising dollars to blah blah” shut the fuck up! If you were legit and honest, people might pay for your service. Right now, we know you’re full of shit half the time, so why would we give you money for inaccurate reporting?
2. Admit your damn biases. Everyone is biased in some way. Every person you have working on game reviews or content for your media sites has their own personal preferences and biases. Admit to them, EMBRACE THEM! Let us know that you fucking love RPGs and that you’ve never met an RPG you wouldn’t have babies with, so that we go to you for detailed information about RPGs… That’s why you’re really losing your audience… Which brings us to…
3. Youtubers, Let’s Play, and independent individuals are KICKING YOUR FUCKING ASSES. Why? Because they are open and honest. They present themselves as human beings, as biased sources, as people with preferences, and they (mostly) don’t take money from corporations to give their views. Everything worth having now is crowd sourced. Let me repeat that… Everything new and innovate that we want, comes from us giving money to support those things. If you don’t have credibility, you have nothing, and right now, I would trust Pewdiepie over GamePro or PCGamer or even The Escapist. Though that wasn’t always the case.
4. Game News Media is suffering from a severe case of corporate necrosis. I look back at things that The Escapist produced when they first started, and I’ve read a few recent articles. The difference is night and day and it happens to every company at some point: they get big, they get set in their ways, and they stop doing things out of love, and they start doing them because it makes money. Most people who work in the game industry do so out of a love for games, and what happens at larger corporations is that the process of making games gets removed from you. You have to follow all the rules and regulations set forth by management types who haven’t created anything in perhaps a decade or more. Worse, they may simply tell you exactly what to do (like put a turret here because marketing believes people like turrets and mowing down enemies every X minutes of gameplay). The end result is passionless decrepit products that eventually no one wants. Just take a look at any franchise that EA gets a hold of and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is what Game News Media is going through right now, and the first to fall are the ones who don’t have their own personalities creating content. Which brings us to…
5. You’re two steps removed from your audience. You have the outward layer of the corporate brand, then you have the inner layer of your writers and content creators. Your outer layer prevents the inner layer from connecting with people, for better and for worse. Maybe you have great writers and content creators, but because you’re representing yourselves as brands, the people beneath that layer of the brand are obscured and often interchangeable (though not always, as is the case with Zero Punctuation at The Escapist). The end result is that the people who come to your site fail to make a human connection with your content creators. They must ask, can I trust your brand as a whole? Because maybe Gershwin will write that article on that game I’m interested in… or maybe it will be Mr.Fuckrpgs who fucking hates RPGs. Do I know that Mr.Fuckrpgs hates RPGs when I read his article? Maybe I figure it out, maybe I don’t, but if Mr.Fuckrpgs shits on a game that I later try and like, guess what happens to your brand? I don’t trust it anymore.
Corporate styled branded game media outlets are on their way out in a similar way that magazines and print media are on their way out. They’ve been superseded by something that people find more trustworthy, more human, more up to date, more able to quickly respond to whatever is trending or coming out. That is to say, individuals who review games or talk about games. Pewdiepie, Angry Joe, and a litany of other youtube and on-line personalities have a much stronger connection to their audience. There’s no confusion about the sorts of things they like or dislike, because anyone who follows them will hear about their likes and dislikes 10 times per video they watch. Their biases are fully known entities the majority of the time, and their unwillingness to accept corporate money or stay on the good side of various publishers is something they tend to discuss openly and honestly with their audience.
We don’t know what sort of things Ubisoft or EA or whatever publisher has forbidden a Game News Media brand from saying, writing, or discussing openly. We do know that there are various nefarious back door dealings that go on in order to stay in their good graces and get review copies of games. We also generally know that such things don’t occur with various youtube personalities, or if they do, these personalities often discuss it openly.
When it comes to games news media, we don’t know who we can trust. Which is why youtube personalities and individual game writers who turn themselves into personalities are on the rise (or really, they’ve already won). They can be open and honest and say things that a corporate brand really can’t. Even if someone did speak for a game news media brand, they’d never be trusted in the same way that a person facing a camera and speaking their mind will be.