Writing About Games is Really Hard

I’ve been wanting to write a new article for the site for awhile now. We had a nice little run where we were writing a lot of opinion pieces, and getting a lot of new traffic, but as of late, we’ve gotten lazy. Maybe not lazy, but writing compelling articles that aren’t just rehashes of other peoples’ articles is rather difficult. Lazy would indicate we have the means to do so but not the will. It’s the other way around.

“Journalistic Integrity” and “Plagiarism” are concepts that have lost there gravitas in the digital age. What were once major issues/points of discussion in the writing community seem to be ignored in an age where everyone has an opinion and the ability to share it (ourselves included).

Nowadays, most gaming journalists have little qualms publishing nearly the same exact content as one another, essentially re-hashing press releases. I have both Joystiq and Kotaku as part of my Facebook news feed, in addition to some sites that cover games in periphery to their main mission, like Gizmodo and Ars Technica. More often than not, when an article pops up from one sites, I will see a post with near identical content from another source within four or five posts posts. It’s almost as if they all got the same press release at the same time and ran to see who could post it faster. Calling theses entries articles is a bit of a stretch, since most of the content is copy and pasted from a press release, with a pretty image up top, a comments section at the bottom, and some snark sprinkled in for the “blogosphere.” Occasionally the site will frame it as an opinion piece or fish for responses by then ending the entry with a question.

“Developer X is releasing this game for $19.99. Do you think that price is too high?”

Then the content section ignites into a flame war. I’m not oblivious, I realize that if something is newsworthy everyone is going to cover it. The challenge is making it your own, or unique. Thus the aforementioned snark. That’s the primary reason we don’t really cover the news, even on the show. If you want gaming news you probably already have five outlets for that, you dont need our take on the announcement of the latest Call of Duty DLC. If we ever break a story that no one else has, we will post it, but we can’t bank on that for site content.

Additionally, we don’t typically run reviews. We talk about games on the show and “review” older games in game club, but rarely are we pouring over the latest hot shit item, since we want game club to be as accessible as possible. If a game really grabs us we will talk about some of its finer points that made it a big deal (see Jon’s constant gushing for Spec Ops), but we do not give numerical scores, grades, or have any sort of ranking system.

We do this for a few reasons.

One is because we don’t consider ourselves a review site, nor do we want to be. The show is purely an opinion based show with some comedy splattered about. Another reason is that the show is our hobby (and we love doing it), but not our job. We do not have the time to play every or even most new releases, then write a review, and we definitely don’t get advance copies of games. Podcasts and blogs are essentially the fan ‘zines of this era, and both of us have full-time careers. Successful ones, at that.

But the biggest reason we don’t write reviews is because it is extremely difficult to write a good one. To write a review that does not read like every other review out there, it would need to have it’s own voice and to not come off as derivative of other reviews, yet still be something that people are compelled to read. And people are hard as shit to please. Most people do not give a fuck about what I think about a game. Who the hell am I? Very often I find myself not even liking a lot of games that receive critical acclaim, and people typically do not want to hear about the games they want to be good not being good. I did not like the Halo series and I think that Diablo 3 at release deserved like a 3 out of 5 at best.

So we don’t write reviews and we don’t write news articles. Instead we try to focus on industry and culture, anything that is ripe to be lampooned. And if you think that makes writing about the game industry any easier you are gravely mistaken. Gamers can be insular, spiteful beings, who sometimes just don’t get the joke when it’s got its clown-colored dick out. One of our most popular articles on the site was an article on Halo 4 reinstating tea bagging. And when I say popular, try and guess on this chart where that article lands:

The article was written as satire with the underlying intent of showing how irrelevant and silly it is to even talk about teabagging as a feature, as opposed to talking about gameplay, or hell – I don’t know – maybe talking about why the fuck anyone would demand the ability to simulate rape over the body of a fallen opponent. It is an article pointing out the tragedy of our chosen sub-culture in a comedic way. If you look at the comments we got both on the site and on N4G, where the bulk of the traffic came from, it’s evident that the irony was lost in the sauce. In its stead, we’ve got the irony of people not understanding it was a satire and/or defending tea bagging, reinforcing the tragedy that the article was not-so-subtly gunning for in the first place.

So the point is, it is really hard to pick something to write about, have the ability to write about, and that will resonate with the audience (you guys!). Some ideas I wanted to cover before I started to write this article include a post-mortem on Gencon 2012, games that need to come back, or the over-saturation of kickstarter with the same cookie-cutter game-trope bullshit like Solforge, Relic Knights, and Kanzume Goddess.

So because I cannot figure out how to write anything that I will be satisfied with that will also satisfy the majority of my desired audience, I have decided to write an introspective rant that takes a meta approach to looking at games journalism and writing. And I’ll try not to care who reads it.

Maybe this is met with a chorus of “TL;DR.” But that’s okay, because I know that if you made it to this point in the article you are who I want reading our stuff and engaging with us. So the only way I know how to create content, gaming focused or not, is to make something I’d like and hope that it’s good enough for everyone else.

If you want to hear more content that Fred was happy with, check out our latest episode which contains some of our best segments to date: Episode 27

Linguist, Archeologist, Musical Savant, Robot, Asshat. Only one of these apply to this guy. The host of the show, who also sometimes writes and makes videos!