Murf wrote a post this week about the big game journalism sites and why he’s kinda giving up on them. I certainly can’t blame him — I came to the same decision myself a while back. If they’re not just frequently stupid (Kotaku), they’re dripping with privilege and industry connections. (Fun fact: the only active word filter I use on Twitter is “Ben Kuchera“.)
I actually had a draft from back in April with a rant on why I like amateur game writers so much better than (most) professionals, and I still feel that way today. A lot of it is the rotten 24-hour newscycle, which demands that articles with click-happy headlines be churned out on a regular basis whether there is anything to actually be said or not.
Certainly another problem is the close relationship between big game press and big game publishers. I’m not going to dwell on this because it’s been done to death in other places, but suffice to say I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Doritos-scented “journalism”.
I realized while responding to Murf’s post that the problem may start right back with the name: games journalism. Why journalism? I mean, yes, in a very technical sense writing stuff about games for a paper or online magazine is journalism, but that word implies a certain amount of objectivity and an eye for public service. I’d argue neither of those exist with any regularity in games journalism.
People who write about movies (a similar leisure genre), on the other hand, are critics. Film criticism can encompass a number of different types of media, from basic reviews of new releases to discussions of film theory for an academic audience. They are all, though, collectively known as film critics.
If controlled the world, I would replace the label “game journalism” with “game criticism”. So what is the difference? Well first, it’s that “critic” in criticism. Gaming types are notoriously terrible at accepting anything less than a perfect reception for their favorite game. Of course not every review has to be a hatchet job (although for movies anyway that seems to be what we enjoy the most), but I feel like we would all benefit from being remided that real examination includes a critical eye.
Also, I think games coverage would benefit from the academic theory approach that seems implicit in the term “film criticism”. We often hear that game journalism shouldn’t ever discuss any real world context for games, but film theory has been doing this successfully forever! Feminist film theory, psychoanalytic film theory, even Marxist film theory are all valid and established areas of criticism. Even if we ignore those in particular, it would be nice to see gaming also develop some academic structure for interpretation and criticism.
Games are not politics. There are few causes for “reporters” to write exposes that they painstakingly untangled (although when those occur they’re great!), and regurgitating press releases or writing about your favorite gamer snack* is hardly journalism. At the moment I’d rather hear what Syl or Syncaine or Angry Joe says about a game than any traditional outlet!
What games need is critcism, just like film, from simple reviews to details analyses. “Game Journalism” may look good on a piece of piece of paper and imply a certain amount of authority, but it seems to me that it’s neither what readers want nor what is actually delivered.
* The gamer snack thing, by the way, is great blog material! Blogs are for informal, personal communication by people who do not claim to be any great authority and mostly just like talking about their hobby. In my opinion.
And we’re back! Liore has unpacked, Elly has returned from his trip, and we’re joined by guest Ryven to talk about the Steam announcements and Final Fantasy XIV!
Steam has made an Operating System! And some hardware! And we bicker about it! We’re not entirely sure who the market is for this or what the machine will actually do, but Elly is pretty sure it’s going to be stupid. Liore is more hopeful although hesitant about the Linux bit. Most importantly, everyone agrees that the new controller looks like a happy robot.
Ryven has been playing Final Fantasy XIV, and he talks about why we should be playing it too, including the rad outfits and raid content. Ryven has also been playing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and describes why the game is fun but so hard to play. (We also take a moment to acknowledge that The Lost Vikings is still one of the best games ever.)
Also, Elly has been playing Magic (again)! Liore has been playing WoW (again)! All three of us do a little reminiscing about old school WoW raids and the people who just could not ever not stand in stuff arrrrrrrgh whyyyy.
Like to watch? This podcast was also a Hangout on Air:
It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)
October is Newbie Blogger Initiative month! For the second year in a row the established MMO blogging community is encouraging new folks to join in the fun. I’m already excited to read the fresh voices, and I’ll try to contribute what advice I can occasionally.
So you’ve got a website set up and something to say about video games. Congratulations on your new hobby! MMO blogging is creative, social, and a great excuse to think more in-depth about games.
Much of the satisfaction of having a blog is personal — the joys of expression and ownership — but honestly there’s a reason we’re writing on the internet and not just in a spiral-bound notebook. We all want to actually be read. Below are some ideas for getting visitors to your new blog.
1) Write good stuff.
#1 by far! Yes, it’s obvious, but the best way to earn readers is to write good content. It can be long or short, funny or serious, opinion or theorycrafting. Make it interesting, and people will generally read it.
2) Write on a regular basis.
It definitely doesn’t have to be every day, but figure out how often you want to blog and stick to it. Try to be pretty vigilant about keeping to your schedule for the first six months or so, if not longer. (I am really bad at this part.)
3) Get on the Twitters.
I resisted Twitter for a long time, but I was wrong! Twitter is a great way to meet fellow enthusiasts and find inspiration for posts. Even more importantly, a lot of people use Twitter now instead of classic feed readers to be notified when their favorite blogs update. If you’re not sure where to start, check out some of the folks that follow or are followed by the MMOBlogs account. Retweet interesting things said by your fellow bloggers, as well as posting your own stuff.
4) Leave comments.
For a lot of people blogging is all about the community, which is part of the reason why we love comments. They’re a great way to introduce yourself to other bloggers, and contribute to the conversation. Also a lot of blogs use the CommentLuv system, which lets you leave a link to your blog with a comment — use it! Personally if I were to start a new blog today I would try and find one interesting post to comment on a day for the first couple of weeks.
5) Create eye-catching and accurate headlines.
The title of your post will probably be used in Twitter notifications and in many of the blogrolls of people who link to you. Fun or fancy titles are great, but make sure it also actually tells someone what to expect when they click that link. Readers appreciate clarity.
6) Clearly indicate how a reader can get to your RSS feed.
Sadly in the post-Google Reader era this is not as important as it once was, but it’s probably the thing that new bloggers miss the most. If I like a blog, one of the first things I’ll do is look for the RSS feed so I can add them to my Feedly folders. If it’s not obvious how I can do that, I will make a little sad face and likely forget to visit your site again. (It’s not personal, I just suck at remembering to check blogs outside of Feedly.)
7) Know that it’s okay to self-promote.
I think often we amateur blogger types feel weird about self-promotion. It’s supposed to be about the art, man! And the community! And the internet is always accusing people of being desperate for attention, and you don’t want to be one of those people, right? Wrong. There is nothing wrong with telling people about your awesome new creative hobby.
Tell your real life friends! Post it on your Facebook, tell your guild, mention it in your comments on Massively or where ever (if it’s applicable to the topic). There’s no need to be shy — you’ve got a blog, and it’s pretty dang cool.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to get my hands on The Elder Scrolls Online. On the downside, I only had about five minutes to play. On the upside, there was no NDA for those five minutes!
My sense is that the answer to almost any question about TESO is “Skyrim”. What is the character creator like? Skyrim. How does the UI work? Like Skyrim. How does the game look and feel? Tooootally Skyrim. You even have that little compass at the top of your screen that tells you which direction to go for quests.
TESO handles class specs slightly differently, and there is no giant skill wheel in the sky like Skyrim. Players still gain skill points through action, like earning Light Armor by being hit, but they can also purchase specific skills at certain levels. This is where you can start to steer your character towards magic or physical damage. The skills you buy are placed on your hotbar, and otherwise you have two attacks bound to each mouse button.
So what of the multiplayer part of this MMO? First, the other players are displayed in a way that blends into the environment well and doesn’t mess with immersion. (In fact, I spent a good half of my battle time fruitlessly hitting my fellow players, thinking they were enemies.) That was all well and good when you had another one or two people running around, but once you had a lot of players on your screen it genuinely started to feel a bit silly.
Although I personally never really enjoyed Skyrim, my understanding from others is that a large part of its appeal was the immersion. It was having random encounters happen, it was getting lost in the giant world, it was overhearing bits of gossip as you walked by someone in town. (There’s a reason first person view is so popular with players!)
Having played TESO I feel like ZeniMax Online got the mechanics of that same Skyrim immersion correct, but it quickly becomes trampled by the old MMO structure. It’s just hard to feel like a part of a virtual world when PlayerX zips in front of you and steals your quest mob, or when there are 15 people all running around the same area trying to find the same plant.
I admit that from the outset I knew that TESO was not a title that interested me, but I left their booth feeling that while the game played well and had that old Skyrim spirit the title would still have been much better served as a game you play with a couple of friends and not the whole world.
September 6: This giveaway is now closed and codes have been sent out! Thanks for entering. :)
You (probably) want swag! I want to feel more ephemerally loved on social media! LET’S WORK TOGETHER.
I have the following goodies:
- A PAX-exclusive Kali skin for Smite
- League of Legends code for Arcade Hecarim skin
- League of Legends code for Riot Blitzcrank skin
- 5 invites to the Dawngate closed beta (a new MOBA)
- A code for 50% off the awesome indie game Beatbuddy on Steam
- A full copy of Escape Goat 2 once it releases later this month
- 2 invites to the Card Hunter closed beta (PS: this game is super fun!)
- A code for a Crystalline Chaos Dragon in Dragon’s Prophet
(Sorry to be all shill-y, but apparently that is how the magic happens.)
Hey, did you hear about EverQuest Next?
The public finally got a look at the hush-hush title on Friday, and there was a flurry of positive response from both amateur game enthusiasts and the pros. Syp and j3w3l posted very thorough round-ups of blogging responses, so if you want an in-depth look at what we know about the game I’d suggest starting there.
As for me.. it’s pretty much the same response I have to every big new title: “hey that sounds neat, don’t screw up the implementation.” So let’s just skip that and mention a few things you may not read yet about EverQuest Next .
The armor looks a lot like WoW.
Look at that image. See the giant shoulders? The diamond-shaped studs? The little dwarf cap? Remind you of anything? (For further proof, check out the armor on the lion dude from the in-game preview and tell me that doesn’t scream “Alliance guard”.)
Hey, there is nothing wrong with borrowing a little art direction from WoW and heaven knows Blizzard lifted a lot from EverQuest classic, but it’s still a striking similarity.
The technology has a good pedigree.
A lot of people have expressed skepticism about whether SOE can technically accomplish what they promised, and I share the concern. One fact that boosts my confidence is that two of the game’s more unique concepts come from good indie “labour of love” sources.
Of course this doesn’t ensure that it will all work, but my personal feeling is the strong “outsider” influence on the technology might just mean we’re going to see something actually different from other MMOs.
Be gone, question marks.
Voxels? VOXELS. I don’t actually know what “voxels” means but it’s damned fun to say. I have $5 on this becoming the newest MMO industry buzzword.
Does that have any effect on the potential success of Everquest Next? Not really.. I just wanted to say “voxels” some more.