Yesterday, we received a fair bit of backlash for an article that highlighted some of the inanity that occurs in the local games industry. We received complaints from games distributors and publishers – and even a number of other games media, accused of “rocking the boat,” and upsetting a bit of the smiling-and-nodding harmony that exists between games media and the public relations and marketing teams that represent games publishers. The accusations probably ring true – but here’s the thing, that harmony shouldn’t really exist in the first place.
Like just about any other games media outlet, whether online or print, we exist solely because of advertising. It costs money to keep things running – to pay our staff, pay our hosts and do all that background, behind-the-scenes admin nonsense that you don’t see or care about.
So yes, we have to sell our audiences to advertisers – it’s a necessary thing, because it keeps us alive. We also have to maintain relationships with various PR and marketing departments; if they don;t remember we exist, or like us very much we don’t get much in the way of support, like hands-on previews, review code and the like. It’s necessary – but there’s a line and we’ve seen this crossed, numerous times, with numerous media outlets who’ve gotten a little too close to PR people and seem to have forgotten they’re meant to be PRESS, and have dropped the “ESS” to function as a little more than a cog in the hype machine. There’s a definite conflict of interest – if integrity’s something you value – when media’s far too friendly with PR.
And yes, as part of the enthusiast games press we’re sometimes guilty of it too – pushing our own excitement for certain games a little harder than others but it’s not because we’re trying to court distributors for support or advertising – it’s because we’re gamers, who genuinely love video games, which is the case with most (but not all!) of our local media.
You might think that this sort of buddy-buddy relationship between press and marketing is confined to South Africa, but it’s not. In a recent, rather excellent expose on Eurogamer, now ex-columnist Rab Florence highlighted just how inane, and largely hypocritical the entire sordid affair is. In the now edited Eurogamer article, the fearless Rab name called a number of UK games media people for some pretty unethical behaviour. You can read Penny Arcade’s provoking take on it all here. What has Rab got for it? He’s had to step down as a columnist for Eurogamer and had bits of his article removed because of threats of libel. Journalists attacking other journalists because they’re unhappy about things said? Utterly Pathetic.
Here’s an excerpt:
Recently, the Games Media Awards rolled around again, and games journos turned up to a thing to party with their friends in games PR. Games PR people and games journos voted for their favourite friends, and friends gave awards to friends, and everyone had a good night out. Eurogamer won an award. Kieron Gillen was named an industry legend (and if anyone is a legend in games writing, he is) but he deserves a better platform for recognition than those GMAs. The GMAs shouldn’t exist. By rights, that room should be full of people who feel uncomfortable in each other’s company. PR people should be looking at games journos and thinking, “That person makes my job very challenging.” Why are they all best buddies? What the hell is going on?
What the hell indeed. As “journalists” (a title I’ve never applied to myself) we shouldn’t be afraid to step on PR people’s toes. We shouldn’t be afraid to call a game rubbish if we believe it’s not worth your money. Ultimately, we’re responsible to you, our readers – and not some guy who gives us free games with a smile and a handshake and the hope of a good review score.
We’re not writing articles and reviews every day for some free games and exclusive swag. We do it for you guys. You loyal readers who sit down, read and add to the conversation, you’re the reason why we get up in the mornings. If we can entertain and inform you all with our blogging, then we can rest easy at night with a decent level of satisfaction
We, perhaps, have a reputation here at Lazygamer for stirring up controversy – but that’s not it, exactly. We just have a low tolerance for bullshit.