Video Games: Serious Business

In a time when video games are coming into their true form and are shattering records set by something as regal as film, it’s surprising major media outlets aren’t taking them more seriously. I’m not talking about broadcasting companies, who try to demonize video games as often as they can (by the way, nice job calling Keighley “darlin’,” Cooper). We all know opinionated television shows will use every excuse possible to blame video games for kids’ behavior. It’s an easy scapegoat for the unexplainable and dangerous. But that’s all hearsay and as we’ve seen, doesn’t matter in the long-run.

What matters to me are the major (respected) news outlets that don’t give much airtime to video games. They’re buried beneath every other morsel of news these papers and websites churn out each day. Perhaps there’s a section, nearly invisible, devoted to video games. Maybe it’s a blurb in the corner of a page or an awkward Top 10 list hidden deep in the back of a TIME magazine. There’s no denying it: video games are in major news outlets and they are severely neglected.

My question is, “why?”

I first noticed it when I was making weekly visits to the A.V. Club, a review/discussion website majoring in television/film, minoring in music, and taking a few video game classes on the side as an elective. On this site, each day of the week is dedicated to a specific medium. Tuesdays are music, Fridays are film, and so on. Unlike the other days of the week, however, the lack of effort on the day for video games is obvious. While there are special features and interviews with artists and stars from movies or music, videogame-related content is rare… or nonexistent.

Also, the reviews the site offers vary between much needed objectivity and just plain babbling. How do you put up a review for Bejeweled 3 the same day you review WoW: Cataclysm? Better question: Why are wasting your time reviewing Bejeweled 3? It makes no sense for a site that only features video games once a week to waste its time with products of such minimal consequence. It results in a negating effect that makes the reviews trivial. I mean, how serious can you take a site when it only offers a couple of reviews per week and one of them is for Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a lack of focus on these sites. Here at GamerNode, we review less-than-average games because we review a wide range of games. We have to unearth every nook and cranny out there. We’re a gaming website. But the A.V. Club isn’t and it doesn’t seem like it wants to be. So why does it feature video games?

Imagine this: There’s a website out there that only offers reviews for films approximating the caliber of True Grit and Miley Cyrus movies. The reviews come out weekly and are the only bit of insight the writers dish out about the film industry. Would people rely on it? Would people even care that they wrote the reviews? Everyone who knows film knows the Miley Cyrus movie is going to be awful, so does this site’s opinion really matter?

See, when it comes to films, the A.V. Club offers all sorts of critical, studious analysis. By doing so, they’re addressing change in the film industry and they’re caring about what they contribute to the conversation. They do it for television and music too. This isn’t the case for video games. For them, it’s either feast or famine.

And it’s not just the A.V. Club doing this. Most of the major newspapers around the country are the same way.

I also visited the three heavy hitters: the Washington Post, the LA Times, and the New York Times. At the Washington Post, I found a terribly designed videogame section with a 2006 review for the PC game, Night Watch. It’s a movie tie-in game based on a Russian film. Did you know that? No? Neither did most people because they didn’t care. Over at the LA Times, they’re a bit more productive. They had a pretty organized collection of video game-y articles. They’re mostly spliced in with articles about cell phones and other digital gadgets, but they’re trying. The only problem is the rate at which they write the articles. See, at one point the dates jump from July 8, 2010 to October 11, 2010. Guess nothing worth writing about happened in between (as per my own curiousity, I also visited my hometown’s bread and butter, the Philadelphia Inquirer, with disheartening results).

As for the NY Times, they’re actually pretty credible. They maintain their site and keep it up-to-date with reviews and news about the industry. So, kudos, NY Times for providing excellent journalistic material. Who woulda thought?

The rest of you, listen up. There are two choices: 1) Stop writing about video games or 2) Start treating them like they matter. This whole “write about it when we feel like” attitude has got to stop. I understand if you don’t think there’s much of a readership for video games within your audience. I understand why that has led you to make less of an effort. I also understand that this may be a smart move, as you may be right. However, if that is the case, why are you wasting your time and ours? Just let it go. There’s no need to provide reviews or news if they’re banal and wasted. It’s just insulting to the people who do take this industry seriously. To some of us, these games matter, and reading a well-versed review or some well-informed news will help us gain knowledge.

The worst part is you guys could write some really hard-nosed bits about the industry. You have the pull and the resources to do so. You could be great and break the testicle-arrest that has stagnated the rest of the industry; giving fair, unpredictable content. It would be delicious. Think about it. You have the ability to say things that most well-known videogame resources are too afraid to say for fear of being shut down or unsponsored.

Right now, though, you’re just muddying up the waters when you lazily throw in your crusty two cents. You’re like the friend you see a movie with who didn’t really want to go but decides to anyway and just ruins the experience for everyone else by talking through it and laughing at parts that aren’t supposed to be funny. So do us all a favor. Get out of the theater, go to the ticket booth and ask for your money back. Or just sit down and try to take something meaningful from the show. It could be glorious.


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Author: Greg Galiffa View all posts by
Greg Galiffa is an Associate Editor at GamerNode. He's also an apologist for the first TMNT film. You can follow him on Twitter @greggaliffa

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