X-Surface and the Mess That is Online Journalism

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Today, an anonymous guy “leaked” information about Microsoft’s expected upcoming new Xbox console. He did this by writing a long, involved email, in which he made up a lot of information — namely specs and other details that would make the leak seem legitimate. It’s obvious the guy did a lot of research.

Then he sent the email to several websites, posing as an anonymous guy from Microsoft. Some sites picked up the information, and then the information began to circulate as it often does with tech and gaming news. It got picked up a fair amount (here it is on Yahoo! News), although many big gaming sites — VG247, Kotaku and (humbly included) Game Front — didn’t publish it.

You can read the full account of what the guy did and what he thinks of this industry here. He takes it as proof of a failure of games/tech journalism. In a very big way, it is that.

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Guns, Health, Politics, Media, Violence — Us

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I try not to be the kind of person who stumbles stupidly into a discussion without thinking it through, coming prepared, having done the research, or feeling that I have something to add. So when it comes to Newtown, Sandy Hook, tragedy and the like, I don’t always feel as though scribbling down some thoughts about doing this or doing that or who’s to blame — especially in this space, where I talk about movies, writing, dreams I had and video games — is prudent. Discussions are better when needless noise is kept to a minimum, and I prefer not to spout static. At least not right now.

But I have been reading what other people have said, and I think I can contribute to that discussion by pointing out a few of the more notable things I’ve come across. They, at the very least, are worth being added to the discussion. So here we go:

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On Bias: Games Journalism Work Speaks For Itself

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The relevant portions of the Internet blew up a little bit today over an article that pointed to noted games journalist Geoff Keighley, using an out-of-context photo of him speaking next to a big ad for Halo 4 on one side, a pile of Mountain Dew and Doritos on the other.

The purpose of Rab Florence’s article in Eurogamer, which can be read here, was to point out the troubling relationship much of the gaming press has with the gaming industry. Journalists and PR folks are friends, he notes, and there are plenty in our industry that look like shills for their’s. And this is fundamentally at odds with what your job is supposed to be whenever you practice journalism. It’s akin to fraternizing with the enemy.

I can’t say Florence is wrong, and there was a time when I would have argued just as vehemently the points that he presents in his article. Having worked in this industry for a while, however, I’ve come to be a little more lax in my position on the matter. Much of what makes up the “games journalism industry” isn’t journalism, and to treat it as such, to judge it as such, and to wring your hands over it as such, is a waste of time.

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Why Players Go So Nuts Over Choice

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I know, kind of a lot of video game blogs lately. I’m knee-deep in one of the busiest months of freelancing of the year for the medium, so it’s about all I have to talk about right now. That should be changing pretty soon as I start to do some more fiction work and other things. In the meantime, this is going to have to be about video games again.

And yeah, Dishonored is still on my mind. First, the game started out with a bit of a lovefest. Day One reviews for the game were glowing — it is, after all, a game about a supernatural assassin who has a vast many choices about how to approach those assassinations. And the majority of the praise for the game is for its freedom: You can decide to do a lot of stuff, or not do it. You can pick and choose your way forward, you can avoid things, you can strive for other things. You are the decider, or at least you feel like it, because even if your destination is mandated, your journey to that location is not.

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5 Truths About Games Journalism

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It’s not as much fun as you think.

Inevitably, readers on the Internet always seem to subscribe some incredible attributes to games journalists. Usually these have to do with the exorbitant checks we must be receiving from publishers and developers to sway public opinion. I figured today I’d take a minute and clear up a few misconceptions about the glamorous life of playing games for a living, for your edification.

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A Panel All to Ourselves at Stan Lee’s Comikaze

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Sometimes, if you just ask for things, you get them.

That’s the case with Stan Lee’s Comikaze, a Los Angeles-based comic convention taking place this weekend. I’m pleased to announce that Nick and I will be taking part in a So You Created a Wormhole panel at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16.

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5 Tips: Breaking Into Freelance Games Journalism

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I’ve been working steady as a games journalist for better than two years now, and occasionally I’m asked about how to get into the industry. There are no hard and fast rules, unfortunately — nor is breaking into the industry at all easy for anyone. I wound up here by a confluence of lucky circumstances and persistence.

However, it’s definitely possible to get work as a freelancer, in any segment of journalism. But freelance work is as much about playing salesperson as it is writing, and you have to be able to handle both in most circumstances. The bad news is that being your own salesman as well as writer kind of sucks. The good news is, you can distinguish yourself if you’re a little bit savvy and willing to work for it.

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A return to journalism could save journalism

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Occasionally I like to throw down a diatribe about the state of journalism, something of which I’m more spectator than participant. But seriously, it’s impossible to study journalism, to give a crap about it, and not see the state of Journalism The Institution and not freak the hell out. I’ll try to keep the freak-outs to a minimum.

My most recent cold sweat at the thought of what our jackass country is doing to the gathering and dissemination of information came from this Poynter article, which discusses the fact that news magazines like “Newsweek” and “Time” don’t employ fact-checkers. This was important because the cover story of the latest “Newsweek,” which happens to attack President Barack Obama’s track record as president, also happens to get, like, a lot of things incorrect.

But hell, why bother to get things right when you can just be loud? That seems to be the prevailing wisdom in media for the last decade.

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How I wound up a video game industry journalist

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Occasionally I get asked about how I wound up doing what I primarily do for a living, which is working as a freelance games journalist at GameFront.com, as well as how others might make their way into the industry. I know quite a few people who’d like to find a way to do what I do, so I figured a series of posts to that end would be useful. Here’s the first.

Mine’s not a particularly inspiring story, except perhaps for how mundane it is — it carries an air of “I’m a games journalist, and so can you!” So I mean to impart the tale and a few tips along the way maybe, though it’s probably not an experiment that can be replicated.

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Looking to the Gaming Community for New Stories

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Something you learn quickly when working at a small video gaming website like the one for which I work, GameFront.com, is that access of any kind is really hard to come by.

Quickly, it becomes really difficult to execute what you might call “journalism” in other circles. Doing research and getting interviews with the people who actually make the games you’re writing about is notoriously difficult, and the entire industry is under tight controls by public relations companies. The game-making industry controls the message as best as it can, whenever it can, regardless of what the message is. Innocuous questions go unanswered all the time because information control is power in this industry, and publishers wield it. It’s hard to blame them, really.

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