This year’s Games Media Awards on October 15th will see the games media vote on the night for their ‘Journalists’ Journalist’, from a shortlist of six industry standouts.
Ahead of the big night, MCV talks to nominee Simon Parkin about what the award would mean and the difficulties faced by writers looking to break into the industry
For the unaware, who are you and what do you do?
I’m a freelance writer and journalist. I primarily write about video games, the people who make them and the weird stories that happen in and around them for a variety of specialist and mainstream outlets.
What does it mean to be nominated for the Journalists’ Journalist prize at this year’s GMAs?
What does it mean to be nominated? Consumers’ distrust of people who cover the video game industry (either in print, online or on YouTube) is seemingly at an all time low. For them, perhaps a ‘journalists’ journalist’ award represents the height of cronyism, a smug badge awarded by a self-congratulatory clique of writers. But I don’t think that’s true. A couple of my very best friends write about video games professionally, but the nearest video game journalist lives many miles away from my bed. I’m also a freelancer so, alas, don’t have much to offer my peers.
‘Journalists’ Journalist’ also carries with it the idea that maybe your work is only read or appreciated by other writers. That’s a sad thought! I believe that good work stands with or without an audience, but truthfully, I’m hopeful there are readers somewhere in the equation. So I’m going to take the nomination straightforwardly: a nod of approval from my peers. I’m sure there many journalists who think I’m a terrible bore but, until someone creates an award to honour that, I’ll use this nomination to act as inspiration to keep improving.
What is the importance of recognising the achievements of the games media?
I’m not sure it is that important. Awards are troublesome things that typically bring out the worst in people. They can also act as a terrible distraction. That said: writing about video games is often viewed by outsiders as a kind of dream job; it carries with it the notion that being paid to play video games should be reward in and of itself. This discounts the fact that the pay is terrible, the audience often hostile, the job description socially frowned-upon and the prospects slim. With that in mind, any recognition for the hard and honest work most people put in is welcome.
"Writing about video games is often viewed by outsiders as a kind of dream job; it carries with it the notion that being paid to play video games should be reward in and of itself. This discounts the fact that the pay is terrible, the audience often hostile, the job description socially frowned-upon and the prospects slim."
Which parts of the industry are you most interested in covering and why?
I’m interested in the stories behind individual developers and studios (which so often go untold). I’m interested in when things went wrong during a game’s development, and when they went right. I’m interested in the places where video games affect humans in unexpected ways. I’m interested in acts of obsession and extremism that occur within games, and the reasons behind them. Mostly, I’m interested in people.
What games are you looking forward to this Winter?
Alien: Isolation, Defense Grid 2, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and the new Call of Duty – all for quite different reasons.
What are the biggest changes currently affecting the face of games media?
The ongoing undervaluing of the act of writing and journalism. This derives from the managerial understanding that there will always be another 20-something willing to do the writer’s job for less pay. There is truth in the sentiment, but it also discounts the value of experience and mentorship. Writers are thereby encouraged to move on from writing jobs to roles in PR or publishing. The system fails to nurture talent. With the shift to web, audiences no longer pay directly for content; there is less money to fund journalism. At every stage the ecosystem grows more impoverished.