It’s games journalism, but not as we know it

Alex Calvin
It’s games journalism, but not as we know it

The games media is in the middle of a considerable change.

With Wikias, forums and YouTube personalities, there are more places to get information about the latest releases than ever before. So in this new age, journalists are having to change up the way they cover games.

The influence of YouTube personalities can certainly be felt with a move towards more personality-driven content on some sites. Videogamer, for example, has doubled down on its character-focused videos since the start of the year. It's turned video chief Simon Miller into a boisterous, ignorant, wrestling-loving anti-hero in The Miller Report. And it's turned the rest of the team into a range of characters, too.

If you're on YouTube and aren't looking at YouTube personalities, you're mad,” Miller says. They are a new form of games media. Somewhere along the line, even if it wasn't necessarily said, when we sat down to discuss what we wanted to do, those stars had to tie in to that somewhere. Videogamer half lives in the ‘traditional' games journalism space – we do reviews and news – but the other half is this very personality, very YouTube-driven stuff. Though it was something that didn't come up in conversation, I'd imagine that somewhere in our minds that was a factor.”

The influence of YouTube personalities can also be felt in the iconoclastic and irreverent persona of journalist Jim Sterling, who left The Escapist last year to go it alone at The Jimquisition.

Folks like PewDiePie have drawn a huge audience based purely on their persona,” Sterling says. Whether you like that persona or not, it's resonated with millions. The games media is very competitive. People are always trying to break news stories or get world exclusive reviews. A lot of sites can't compete with that. Not everyone has Kotaku's resources, not everyone has Polygon's relationship with developers.”

"If you're on YouTube and aren't
looking at the hugely successful
YouTube personalities, you're mad."

Simon Miller, Videogamer

With his ballsy persona, Sterling has made his fair share of enemies. He has even been blacklisted by some publishers. But most of the industry is okay with his brutal honesty.

Most publishers don't care,” he says. There are some companies who value someone who will call it like it is. Some don't. Konami has blacklisted me. I also seem to have been sidelined by Square Enix. But most of the industry has been very supportive. And there are a few who aren't and that's fine because I can always buy their game.”

Sterling is funded by his audience through Patreon, so he can afford to be brutally honest. But for an ad-fundedsite like Videogamer, there's a risk of isolating itself from potential advertisers.

There's always an underlying thought that may be the case,” Miller says. But everything we do is very tongue in cheek and silly. If we played a game and thought it was crap, we'd approach that by putting our serious hats on as we don't want entertainment to get wrapped up in critical analysis.

If someone doesn't get it and they're watching a ‘7 Reasons' video – the last one was done by a fake Scottish policeman [Jim Trinca's Tam McGleish persona] and was called ‘7 Reasons Why Call of Duty: Black Ops III Can Lick My Hoop' – I'd like to think that publishers do a bit of research and know it's not real. It's all nonsense. If someone doesn't get the joke, then there's nothing we can do about that.

It is that South Park kind of thing where everything is okay or nothing is okay. If people go to the website or watch the videos where we actually pass criticism, they'll see that when we do put our serious hats on, it's very clear that we're not doing it to annoy anyone. Publishers are going to get annoyed when someone gives their game a three out of ten. There's always a way you can annoy them.”

"The news-preview-review cycle
is a hangover from print media
that's lasted a very long time."

Keza MacDonald, Kotaku UK

But this isn't the only way that YouTube stars have influenced the games media. Kotaku has stopped covering the publisher-led news-preview-review cycle to focus on covering games post-release. The likes of PewDiePie covering games such as Skate 3 years after launch has proven that there's a demand for post-release content.

It's actually a movement that's been happening across the entire games media and YouTubers have been a big part of that,” Kotaku UK editor Keza MacDonald says.

People want to engage with games in a different way and engage with how we talk about them in a different way. The news-preview-review cycle is a hangover from print that's lasted a very long time. Magazines were the gatekeepers to information. People wanted to know about games, they had to read what you wrote about them. It stopped being the case that the games media was the only place you could get information.

You could get news from a growing number of places, including directly from publishers, which is becoming more common. As a response to that, people have been doing different things with covering games. There aren't many outlets now that just do news-reviews-previews. People have diversified into post-release coverage and cultural coverage.”

She continues: The stories you get about a game after it's out are much more interesting to write about and hopefully to read than the stories you are given before a game comes out. Instead of doing what we've always done, which is: a game gets announced, you follow it to release, you review it and then you leave it alone, we're pretty much covering a game sparingly before it's out, and covering it quite a lot once it's released. You have to play a lot more games. You have to play games more like a normal person. It's been really good, I've enjoyed it.

An interesting example of that is Rocket League, which has been really successful for us. We fell in love with that title when it came out and we found that we covered it a lot despite the fact that no-one said anything about it before. It's been one of the most fun games for us to cover and articles about it are among the most popular on Kotaku.

This direction also gives us an opportunity to see what people are playing rather than what is being marketed the most.”

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