Recently, I wrote a piece about the possible future of the gaming industry, going into details such as the proliferation of virtual reality technology and whether or not innovations like it will survive in the rapidly-changing video game space. However, one point I didn’t touch on was the future of how video games will be covered. Over the years, games media has expanded into a large swathe of different interconnected branches, from sites purely dedicated to video games news to ‘social media influencers,’ YouTube Let’s Players, and everything in between. But it’s hard to predict the future of games media when the current state of it appears to be in flux.
As the games industry is at a pivotal growth point in change, so is the culture and social sphere surrounding it. Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention recent things in history like the ever-confusing Gamergate period. But in truth, that represented only the extremes of the culture, from the incredibly sensitive to the incredibly insensitive. What’s happening right now is the far more pressing issue. The aforementioned sides of the industry’s media—traditional news/review sites and gaming commentators—have started to clash heads.
It’s the constant battle of new versus old. With historiy in mind, new has always prevailed over old, as progression can be halted for only so long. However, in this fight specifically, both sides have equally right points to their arguments. The problem is though, that neither side has been necessarily correct in their approaches to winning over the gaming public.
When YouTube’s biggest creator, PewDiePie, said that publications like the Wall Street Journal were out to get him, it was indeed justified. They wrote an article that unfairly labelled him an anti-Semite over a piece of subjective humour. The response to this was an overwhelming ‘screw you’ to the WSJ and other sites like it. But since then, the message has kind of been lost in the midst of so many voices. The argument now comes across as a sort of whiney generational war. The baby has veritably been thrown out with the bathwater, as all of online journalism is painted in bad colours.
Despite what video commenters and forum posts will tell you, traditional games media still has a lot to offer. Not long ago, there was a pseudo-scandal about multiple YouTube creators inadequately expressing disclosure on sponsored videos. This would not happen with proper games journalists. Almost any organisation with an actual reputation would never do this, in or outside of gaming. Ethics and integrity are still things that a lot of journalists take into account, which can be lost in the medium of videos and Let’s Play content, where the main draw is a sense of amateurishness. Furthermore, it is often the traditional games media that breaks news and keeps the gaming industry on its toes. Without them, publishers would be free to control their messages without much interference at all, which is bad for gamers in the end, as it means there is no filter for possible lies.
So then why do so many people seem to hold a disdain for the traditional gaming press? Well, it doesn’t exactly help that some websites and writers have made themselves out to be increasingly harebrained. The previously mentioned PewDiePie controversy was likened to incidents with President Donald Trump, thanks to The Verge; Polygon presented an opinion piece where a completely unjustified takedown of an industry veteran was performed by making them out to be an opportunistic sexist. In no way am I generalising here, but it is quite evident nowadays that a lot of popular gaming and technology sites have been enveloped by politics and social issues. The gaming culture is meant to be about escapism, but more and more, these publications are tarnishing that aspect by politicising this form of entertainment.
Traditional games media and the new version of it, both have their fair share of merits and demerits, but in order for us not to stray too far into either side’s problems, we must be able to cultivate a healthy space where old and new can meet in the middle.