Review of video game journalism

Video game journalism is typically based on a reveal/preview/review cycle. The first Video game magazine to be printed commercially dates back to 1992 and went on to be a successful market for many years. However there has been a recent growth in online publications and blogs leaving the printed journalism out of readers and going bust. The computer and video game media industry is criticised for holding lax journalistic standards. Reviews are the most controversial area. As Kieron Gillen said “Reviews that don’t serve their basic consumer-informing purpose are worse than useless” Games journalists suffer because they don’t have time to think. Incompetent or rushed decisions when viewed from the outside can appear to be entirely identical to corrupt ones. The second a magazine is finished, the next demands your attention. It’s only got worse over the years, as publishers trim staff and budgets. Many franchises of the magazines do not appreciate the quality of writing and reporting needed, and take the view that the quality of writers simply doesn’t affect a games magazine sales. So they might as well turn to recruiting armies of kids who don’t know better straight from college, burning them out in a year, and then getting another set. There’s been companies who have worked on this assumption ever since the dawn of video game journalism, and it’s an attitude that appears to be spreading.It’s a war between money-men who want to keep profits by reducing costs and the editorial who want to keep profits by being better. 

A publication reviewing a game when it has received advertising revenue from the game's publishers is often held in suspicion. Reviews by 'official' console magazines such as, Official PlayStation Magazine or the Official Xbox Magazine, all of which have direct financial ties to their respective platform holders, usually find themselves in similar positions. Publishers have been known to withhold material and/or advertising money from publications that do not adhere to their wishes.

Unlike conventional media, getting a complete sense of a game can require far longer than the time it takes to play it from start to end. Further to this, games such as role play games can last for hundreds of hours. Computer and video game reviewers therefore tread a fine line between producing timely copy and playing enough of a game to be able to reliably critique it. A famous example of underplaying was published in September 2006 a dissected review of Enchanted Arms among other findings concluded that the reviewer had barely played three hours of the game's fifty before forming his opinion.

The difference between these two important ideas is the difference between fact and opinion. Facts are objective and provably true; however, if no clear facts exist about a topic, then a series of balanced opinions needs to be produced to allow the reader to make up his or her mind; opinions are subjective ideas held by individuals and so are always biased.

The traditional video games press has suffered the most at the hands of new media. Those interested enough to consider purchasing printed gaming publications, can use the internet for finding relevant information. This, coupled with the fast pace of the games industry, has eroded the influence of print in computer game journalism. In contrast a typical print magazine is published monthly and will have on average a three month lead time between when any given article or review is written to when it is finally delivered into the readers hands. This creates a situation where print media is always a couple of months behind their on-line counterparts in covering news. The move is away from mass media outlets and towards niche experts to create a growing market for bespoke games writing. This gaming coverage, rather than trying to be objective, acknowledges that it is written from a certain perspective. Some outlets, Game People's social media for example, even use this bias as a unique selling point of their content.

While self-made print magazines about games have been around since the advent of the first home consoles, it was the inclusion of the internet in the lives of most gamers that gave independent writers a real voice in video game journalism. At first ignored by most major game publishers, it was not until the communities developed an influential and dedicated readership, and increasingly produced professional (or near-professional) writing that the sites gained the attention of these larger companies. Independent video game websites are generally non-profit, with any revenue going back towards hosting costs and, occasionally, paying its writers. New Games Journalism is a video game journalism term, coined in 2004 by journalist Kieron Gillen, in which personal anecdotes and creative analyses are used to explore game design, play, and culture. Gillen's NGJ manifesto was first published to a community of video game players often engaged in discussion and analysis of their hobby. Gillen cites the work as a major inspiration for and example of what NGJ should achieve and the piece was later republished in the UK edition of PC Gamer, a magazine with which Gillen has close professional ties. Most New Games Journalism articles are not reviews of games in the traditional sense. They can instead be understood as being analogous to travel journalism, where the writer responds to subjective experiences presented to them by the game world and other personal experiences and anecdotes which create a unique story. The story is not necessarily indicative of the experience any other player will have with the game and will be unlikely to offer any objective value-judgements regarding the game's merits or failings. Instead attention is focused on the subjective experience of the person playing the game.