Information Access and Gaming Journalism

A recent "feature" article of dubious quality on SWTOR's new business model has prompted Scott Jennings to critique the state of gaming journalism.  The situation has not changed much since his comments from four years ago regarding coverage of Tabula Rasa's collapse.  I remember that post because I had planned to comment on it at the time but never got around to it.  Apparently this is a week for dredging up years-old relics, so here are my thoughts.

When it comes to publicly available information and analysis, the professional gaming press sites are always at a disadvantage compared to the crowdsourced masses due to sheer force of manpower.  The place where the media outlets have an advantage is in information provided directly from game developers/publishers.  This serves a valuable function for the gaming public, but it also puts the gaming press in a very different position from those who cover politics or finance.  When all the real information is coming from the people you are covering that - not the product placements or full-screen ads - inevitably affects the tone of the coverage.

It's not impossible to do real investigative journalism when it comes to online gaming - Unsubject's work to back up what many of us are thinking about Kickstarter with real numbers comes to mind.  It's also unavoidably subjective because the information you'd really need to make a correct call is not public and will never become public.  More often than not, you end up with something that looks more like my recent post about Turbine - the best speculation that can be cobbled together using old, vague, and limited data.

You could argue that gaming isn't actually important enough to deserve real journalism, but there is a real demand.  Whether a company is actually going to deliver what they're telling the press they plan to deliver matters, because it affects purchasing decisions.  When we get to the point where - even as my income has gone up to the point where I can reasonably afford as many games as I feel like playing - the default purchasing decision is "wait and see" for lack of information, it's the folks who made the product that doesn't get the sales or subscriptions it merited who are going to suffer.