I’m not normally one to put down the hard work of others, particularly in my own field of writing, but I feel compelled to say a few words about some things that have been published this week.
Now, lest I come across as some sort of joyless bastard, I am aware that both of these pieces were written in jest in an attempt to be — I assume, anyway — “satirical”, but the fact is that they both utterly fail in what they are trying to do, leaving them both looking rather foolish — particularly the deranged scribblings of the Borderlands 2 piece.
There are several things that irk me about these two pieces. Firstly is the fact that they exist at all, and on high-profile, (arguably) respectable sites that actually pay their writers. It’s hard to feel that this sort of thing is justifiable when there are plenty of people across the world writing purely for the love of writing about games. My team over at Games Are Evil is just one of many groups who don’t write about games as their main, paying job but still put in a ton of effort to produce great content and strive to improve their own work over time. The scores of community writers over at Bitmob are another great example. The countless bloggers all over the world. Those who run enthusiast sites in their own time in an attempt to get noticed. All of those produce higher quality work than the two pieces linked above — and yet these are the articles that are deemed worthy of pay. There’s no justice there.
The second thing that has vexed me somewhat regarding this matter is the amount of praise they have got — mostly from fellow professionals, it has to be said. The first piece in particular drew a frankly astonishing amount of fawning, with quotes including that it was the “most clever [review of Borderlands 2]” that one tweeter had ever read; that it was “anarchic stream-of-consciousness, like the game itself”; that it was the “most incredible piece of games journalism ever” and the “Ulysses of games journalism”.
Now, I’m all for celebrating good writing. But this was not good writing. Even from the perspective of it presumably being some sort of parody (or “anarchic stream-of-consciousness”) it just didn’t work. The number of utterly bewildered comments beneath the article is proof of that — and it’s the same for the Eurogamer piece.
The thing is, I know both writers are capable of much better — and I have nothing against either of them personally. The author of the Borderlands 2 piece is not only the editor of one of the biggest video game sites in the UK, but also a novelist. I expect considerably better from him, in short — or if he’s going to try something clever, it should be something that actually works.
Since taking a step back from mainstream games journalism (my day job focuses on mobile and social games, and Games Are Evil focuses on the “alternative” side of computer and console gaming) I have regrettably confirmed a few suspicions I had about the state of the games journalism sector in the UK. A noticeable, vocal proportion of it is made up of a very insular “old boys’ club” which appears to believe itself immune to criticism, meaning that it feels more and more liberties can be taken with what sort of work and attitude is acceptable — and anyone who steps out of line to say “hang on a minute…” gets summarily ridiculed. I found myself the recipient of such scorn last year when I pointed out my discomfort at the tone and content of the Games Media Awards Twitter feed, and consequently have shied away from publicly criticising things ever since. I was in two minds about posting this entry at all with that in mind, but in this instance I felt the need for a bit of cathartic release if nothing else.
There are plenty of fantastic games writers out there who don’t need to resort to… whatever these two pieces were resorting to. Satire? Parody? Childishness? I honestly don’t know, even after rereading them both several times.
Demand better from your articles about games. For all the pontificating about how games journalism is “broken” and how it should be “fixed”, if these pieces are anything to go by it seems to be getting worse rather than better.