Journalism, Access, and Gamergate

Journalism and Access

The business of journalism is built on access. And the prestige of journalism is related to the ease of access.

Areas that are the easiest to access allow journalists to be most prestigious. For instance, covering the Unitd States government is a prestigious assignment of a journalists. It’s always an “easy” on: there are so many agenda and centers of powers in the United States government that it is relatively easy to aquire access. Occasionally, this allows journalists to present themselves as hollywood heroes. An example of this is All the President’s Men, a book (and later movie!) which is about two journalists special access to an FBI bureaucrat.

all_the_presidents_men

Areas that are moderately difficult to access allow journalists to be moderately prestigious. For instance, the organizational behavior of large companies shares with the United States multiple centers of power and many agendas. Unlike the ggovernment almost all employees at a company share some material interest in the well-being of a company. This, journalism about organizational behavior in large companies can be most prestigious either during a scandal, or during a succession transfer. An example of this is Inside the Plex, a book that was written during current Google CEO Larry Page’s successful campaign against former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

steven levy

Areas that are the hardest to access allow journalists to be least prestigious. This is because of the monopoly power of any source that chooses to talk: they can extract concessions from the attractiveness of the reporter to a very real fear that access can be revoked if the tone of coverage becomes un-flattering. Journalists in these situations may find themselves almost indistinguishable from corporate shills

selling_journalism
Access and Gamergate

The gamergate consumer revolt against the low-prestige game journalists is in its second month. One reason  for this revolt is the disgust that journalists feel about gamers: as Vox Media’s T.C. Sottek says, that game journalists feel no obligations to look out for the interest of gamers

no obligation

But even before gamergate, the feeling was mutual: gamers do not like game journalists. The most successful game outlets, whether in terms of consumer recommendations or twitter followers, are “celebrity” gamers on youtube and twitch, and not journalists who declare their core demographic dead.

So if you are a publisher of games: who would you provide access to? Low-prestige journalists that do not like gamers, do not like games, and are unpopular with gamers? Or celebrity enthusiasts who are popular with the community and care about it?

Journalism and GamerGate

This is the context for Kotatku announcing they were deprioritizing access

The future of games coverage is in the present. For too long gaming coverage has focused on the vague future, the preview mindset of possibilities and maybes. And when it’s involved the present it has been drenched in the dreary falseness of empty interviews, bland producer-speak and executive-hype. It’s neither been real enough nor true enough to what is actually happening now. For too long games reporting has involved staring at what is opaque, maybe glimpsing something through it and reporting about that possibility, all the while ignoring so much of what is clearly visible and exciting around us. P

I believe there is a better way to cover games, one that puts future-based coverage and executive interviews in proper diminished proportion. We must focus on the games that are being played now and the human beings—the gamers, mostly—who are doing interesting things with them.

Game journalists have made their living as low-prestige journalists for decades. That’s not ending because they have a chance of being higher prestige journliasts. It’s that they’ve given up on being journalists.

This shift was made by the rise of consumer-side economies of scale which allowed self-published youtube and twitch channels to be more popular and trusted than gaming journalists.

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Conclusion

I ignored #gamergate for the first month because I recognized game journalism as a low-prestige, low steaks profession.  Only this inexplicably stupid editorial from a once-respected magazine got my attention.

But my attention is mostly on the collapse of an industry I loved growing up — game journalism — its painful death throws, and seeing what comes next.

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