I haven’t disappeared. Really. In fact, I just wrote a piece on Dragon Age for PopMatters (“The New Age: Reflections on the Dragon Age series.” Oct 30 2012). In the article I take a brief retrospective of the first two games in the series. Details of Dragon Age: Inquisition are still pretty sparse so there isn’t really much to base any speculation on. Therefore I thought it’d be a nice opportunity to look back at the merits of the series thus far.
Now, on a more personal note, there are certain patterns that crop up in my writing and playing habits that I’m aware of and probably more that I’m not. For instance, I love plot, I celebrate strong characters and interesting worlds and I’m all about metaphors ‘n’ shit. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I love Dragon Age. In fact, the very first gaming article I ever published was all about the Dragon Age games (“Choice, Apathy, and Evil in Dragon Age II.” PopMatters. Jul 18 2011.). It wouldn’t be unfair to say that my latest article is something of a love letter to a series I thoroughly enjoy. I think I’m fairy specific in pointing out why I enjoy each game, but I wear the bias on my sleeve nonetheless.
That made me start to wonder whether or not writing that sort of piece was appropriate in light of the incident between Rab Florence and Eurogamer. For the uninitiated, Florence wrote a piece decrying the corporate influence on games journalism (“Lost Humanity 18: A Table of Doritos.” Eurogamer. Oct 24 2012.), specifically in how certain companies offered PS3s to journalists if they promoted their upcoming games on twitter during the Games Media Awards. Among the journalists that won the contest was Lauren Wainwright, who allegedly threatened legal action to have her name removed from the initial article. And thus began another battle in the war of trolls.
This problem is one that comes up every once in a while in gaming culture. The problem being that game writers of every stripe fail to distance themselves from an individual work or from a company or even from the medium itself. Whenever a hot new release is given a bad review or when a well known gaming personality criticizes a developer people react as though they’ve been personally attacked. Wainwright probably should not have advertised on behalf of a game company for a free Playstation 3, but it wasn’t exactly professional of Florence to condemn her by name for cheapening the sanctity of games journalism. Especially given geekdom’s well documented propensity to harass women.
Maybe Wainwright was legitimately excited about Tomb Raider when she was offered the chance to win a PS3 for tweeting about it and she was just saying something she was already going to say anyway. Maybe she’s just not be a very good journalist. In any case, if she had written a commercial or a web banner advertising Tomb Raider for $300, I imagine there would have been no issue. But because she was burdened with the title of journalist, she has cheapened us all. Florence’s initial article raises a number of good points and argues them well, but something stuck out in it, “[I’ve made] it clear that I’m not a games journalist. I’m a writer who regularly writes about games, that’s all.” If Wainwright didn’t have “Freelance journalist” in her bio would she be off the hook? Would a writer by any other name smell as corrupt?
There are peer reviewed journals dedicated to games and there are business and social issue magazines devoted to “the industry.” There are publications for academics, quasi-academics, casual players, newcomers, oldtimers, excited fans seeking validation and people just looking for a laugh. A journalist or not, Wainwright is just another writer that writes about games. For the most part I agree that game criticism, coverage, commentary and analysis might be too shallow on average, but right now it’s deeper than it’s ever been. If Wainwright or anybody else that took home a GMA on Spike TV doesn’t want to be a part of that, they don’t have to. It’s worth noting that the only magazines that still manage to get printed anymore are celebrity gossip rags and porn, and both are just previews for websites. Journalism is deplorable at least as often as it is commendable.
Further reading: Totilo, Stephen. “The Contemptible Games Journalist: Why So Many People Don’t Trust the Gaming Press (And Why They’re Sometimes Wrong).” Kotaku. Nov 5 2012
Kaiser, Rowan. “What Games Journalism Needs: More Honesty, Fewer Standards.” Gamerranx. Nov 16 2012.
Polansky, Lana. “I’d Give it a 7: Reviewing the weight of reviews.” Bit Creature. Oct 31 2012.