The Writing Game

GameDaily has a feature ranting about how video game journalism sucks. This is far from the first time this particular gripe has been made in the past six months and it won’t be the last. Disregard the irony of a gaming journalist writing (relatively poorly) about how poor the writing is in games journalism for a moment and instead let’s consider whether that makes gaming journalists special.

Chris Buffa’s arguments are that game writers don’t write particularly well, they don’t find a unqiue voice, they rely too much on PR and display a lack of maturity. Hm. Have you picked up a copy of Entertainment Weekly recently? PR machine? Check. Interchageable voices? Check. Mediocre writing? Check? Lack of maturity? Double-check. So far, not seeing much difference here.

So maybe Buffa wants to be more like Newsweek. That’s a semi-respected journalism rag, right? Okay, so it’s a journalism rag. Whatever. A quick jaunt through their site reveals nothing even remotely like a distinguishable literary voice in the writing, most of which is rather drab and lifeless. The PR facet is less noticeable in a publication that ostensibly focuses on current events, but they have certainly covered the recent Wii showing at E3 in typically breathlessly admiring fashion and they fawn all over “hip” culture trends like the iPod whenever global politics slows down enough to allow them to ignore it for a week. Don’t think you’d ever see a “Why We Hate the iPod” article on NW’s cover the same week Apple announces a new model. And maturity? Uh-huh. Sure.

I’m not sure at this point what Buffa wants. Videogames are a fairly immature pastime. Journalism of the type found in The Economist or Forbes or even The New York Times would be received like, well, stuffy ol’ drivel by the industry’s primary audience. If he’s looking to elevate the standard to the level of Maxim or whatever, he’s clearly reading the wrong websites or magazines. There are people who speak semi-intelligently about videogames, just as there are people who speak intelligently about film and music. Most people who talk about these kinds of topics are of the hyperbolic mouth-breathing all-caps-typing variety and the ones who rise above make a mark. Survival of the fittest, you know?

He cites Roger Ebert as an example (I guess) of what he wishes would happen in the videogame world. If that’s what he wants then we have to either wait until that person comes along or we need to start making games that attract that kind of writer/thinker to the hobby. Honestly I don’t know that Ebert is really that great of a writer: He’s certainly passable but I think his popularity lies more in his accessibility (a nationally syndicated television show doesn’t hurt one bit). If movie reviewers are the standard to which videogame writers should aspire to, we’re off to a bad start already. Read a Peter Travers review lately?

Here’s my take on the whole thing: At this point it has more to do with the industry/product than the writing. The writing is a by product of the industry itself because it isn’t taken seriously by anyone except those few social-skill-imparied buffoons that spent most of their community college days drinking Colt 45 behind the student commons building between classes and took courseloads consisting primarily of Human Sexuality 101 and Intro to Macrame so they could focus their off hours traipsing around the Mushroom Kingdom or whatever. And as long as Madden (now with more licensed radio-friendly pop-rock!) is the top selling game and designers like Hideo “I Wrote This Coming Down Off Mescaline” Hojima are heralded as the real masters of their craft there isn’t much respect to be had.

Primarily the problem—if one actually exists—is that the lack of maturity Buffa bemoans is evident even in his rant. As a person working full-time in game writing, what possible good is griping about it going to do? He says copy editing is woeful; Here’s a thought, then: Copy edit your site to death. Copy editors are paid based on their abilities, not whether they care for the material or not. Go hire a team of top-notch copy editors and prove your point. Ranting about things you have no control over is one thing, but ranting about something you could actually influence makes less than no sense to me.

Other Gaming Stuff

If you haven’t seen the Team Fortress 2 preview yet, you need to. I fully confess to being a total cel-shaded sucker. I don’t know, I just love cartoon-y graphics. They tend to look so much better than realistic graphics because even when done wrong they still look pretty cool. Poorly done realistic visuals look… poor.

Also, has an article describing what changes were made to Doki Doki Panic in order to release it as Super Mario Bros. 2. Pretty interesting.

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