Games media's confidence crisis

Matthew Jarvis
Games media's confidence crisis

It seems like the dust is finally settling on the recent #gamergate scandal, but what longer-term effects could accusations of corruption have on games journalism as a whole?

MCV asks Simon Parkin, Matt Lees and Keith Stuart...

Will the recent events deter people from joining the industry?

Matt Lees: It’s already caused people to loudly leave, and we’ll see plenty more quietly shuffle off because of this in the next few months. Multiple events across a number of years have made one simple fact clear: success as a woman in the games industry will likely lead to severe harassment at some point. We’ve seen the media and a few studios stand up against this awful trend, but publishers need to have a stance on the matter – it’s an environment where vocal women can never feel safe. Who wouldn’t feel deterred by that?

Simon Parkin: There are already many deterrents for would-be journalists in 2014; there’s the decline of print media, the economic impossibility of static freelance rates, the erosion of salaried positions and the resultant increase in competition for those that remain. Then there’s the on-going struggle for many online publications to make the kind of money necessary to support interesting and rigorous journalism, and the fact that writing about games is still culturally stigmatised. By this point, any prospective writer who still wants to enter the profession won’t be deterred by a hostile, yet ultimately niche, element of the prospective audience. 

"As a media professional in the digital era, you are going
to attract criticism, and some of it will hurt. It is fine for the
media to be under constant scrutiny - but unfortunately that
can become invasive. Journalists, like developers, have to
be able to cope. We also have to maintain perspective.
Whatever the motivations of the Gamergate movement,
it represents a minority of gamers. It’s bloody hard to
retain perspective, but it’s vital."

Keith Stuart


Keith Stuart:
I really hope not - but if it does, maybe they were not cut out for this in the first place. 
As a media professional in the digital era, you are going to attract criticism, and some of it will hurt. It is fine for the media to be under constant scrutiny - but unfortunately that can become invasive. Journalists, like developers, have to be able to cope. We also have to maintain perspective. Whatever the motivations of the Gamergate movement, it represents a minority of gamers. It’s bloody hard to retain perspective, but it’s vital.

 

 

Have the events affected the ways you address your audience?

ML: So much of the ire aimed at the media boils down to a complete disdain for games journalists and a complete lack of any kind of trust. I don’t see any point in negotiating – anyone who thinks we’re scumbags and liars will never be convinced of anything otherwise. When dealing with people who have irrational beliefs about widespread conspiracies and corruption, you’ve got to be pragmatic about what you’re likely to gain from any conversation. 

KS: Will Gamergate make us re-assess who we use as freelance writers and columnists? No. If you employ columnists who don’t challenge and even sometimes upset people, you are employing the wrong columnists. 

What other long-term effects could the events have?

ML: This movement has actually exacerbated a very real and present problem; too much games media is solely supported by advertisements from video game publishers. The advertising issue is also being hurt by the swarming nature of angry hate-mobs. People don’t want to advertise on websites filled with comments by scumbags, which is rough – because these people aren’t indicative of the actual audience, and often aren’t even a part of the audience at all. Unless something changes, the future of games journalism will either mean arriving with a thick suit of armour or explicitly avoiding all contentious topics.

"So much of the ire aimed at the media boils down to a
complete disdain for games journalists and a complete
lack of any kind of trust. 
I don’t see any point in
negotiating – anyone who thinks we’re scumbags and
liars will never be convinced of anything otherwise.
When dealing with people who have irrational beliefs
about widespread conspiracies and corruption,
you’ve got to be pragmatic about what you’re likely
to gain from any conversation."

Matt Lees


SP:
Sadly, this will not affect relationships between journalists and powerful companies so much as it will affect relationships between journalists and independent creators. It will, perhaps, cause some writers to think more carefully about potential conflicts of interest between a subject and coverage but, alas, the focus of the ethical debate, such that it is, has been mainly focused in the wrong places.

KS: Anything that makes journalists assess how they operate is probably a good thing - even if there are utterly horrible aspects to the events of the last few months. Most major sites are doing okay - they understand their reader bases; they understand that alienating them will directly affect revenue eventually, and they behave accordingly. I honestly don’t understand the endgame of some of those in the Gamergate movement. If you don’t like sites, don’t read them - set up alternatives. Maybe that - a lot more game sites - will be the outcome. I hope so, because that would be something positive, and lord knows we need some positivity right now.

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Tags: Media , #gamergate

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