As a site that regularly posts review roundups on Fallout and other titles, we occasionally cover just how bad the journalism in this industry is, for example with this article and link round-up from 5 years ago. Things have not gotten better in those five years.
A couple of days ago Eurogamer published this critical editorial from Robert "Rab" Florence on the problems game journalists have with keeping a professional distance from PR people and dealing with freebies and other attempts to influence their impartiality.
Just today, as I sat down to write this piece, I saw that there were games journalists winning PS3s on Twitter. There was a competition at those GMAs - tweet about our game and win a PS3. One of those stupid, crass things. And some games journos took part. All piling in, opening a sharing bag of Doritos, tweeting the hashtag as instructed. And today the winners were announced. Then a whole big argument happened, and other people who claim to be journalists claimed to see nothing wrong with what those so-called journalists had done. I think the winners are now giving away their PS3s, but it's too late. It's too late.It's a good piece, but should be nothing new. John Walker wrote on the same issue more expansively, also worth a read. Of course, revealing the openly corrupt nature of videogame journalism is not appreciated, and both Walker and Florence were lambasted for it by their colleagues, who do not comprehend the issue with game journalists winning free PS3s at an even set up by videogame PR people.
I want to make a confession. I stalk games journalists. It's something I've always done. I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won't name them here, because it's a horrible thing to do, but I'm sure some of you will know who they are. I'm fascinated by these creatures because they are living one of the most strange existences - they are playing at being a thing that they don't understand. And if they don't understand it, how can they love it? And if they don't love it, why are they playing at being it?
Even better, Eurogamer received a complaint or possibly legal threat (differing claims exist on this) to redact their article. They did so, and Robert Florence quit the website, as any good journalist would.
John Walker covered this, as did WorthPlaying and no doubt others. Both point out the journalist Robert mentioned pre-redaction, Lauren Wainwright, publicly listed Square Enix as her employer (now edited to hide this fact) and quite clearly shills for the company and Tomb Raider on her twitter page. She works as a journalist and for a video game publisher. This is common and ignored, and for his efforts in pointing out this is a huge problem, Florence lost part of his regular income.
Now, there are several issues at here which are somewhat separate. First is the structural problem of the game industry Walker and Florence described, a culture of pressure, shilling and being buddy-buddy with people who should not by rights be your friends. Second is UK libel laws, which put the burden of evidence on the accused, made Eurogamer nervous enough to pull the plug (and I can't blame em, nor does Florence). Third is the fact that Lauren Wainwright should be fired from her game journalism job and never be allowed to sniff any form of journalism again until she takes expansive ethics classes. But she is only a symptom of a wider problem, which should not be forgotten.
Geoff Keighley and his bag of doritos should stand for the lowest point game journalism has ever gotten to. Not that I'm particularly hopeful but you never know, they might take the opportunity to finally shape up.
Lost Humanity 18: A Table of Doritos mirrored on NMA, with the redacted segment put back in.
On topic, in my five years now as a freelance, paid "game journalist" I've had the good fortune to work for a site in GameBanshee that uses press review copies where available, but cares about review integrity a lot more than about losing said access, and has been blacklisted by some publishers simply for being too honest about their mediocre or bad games.
Bethesda is not such a publisher, and has remained courteous and professional despite GB's critical attitude towards many of their games. Not that they're inviting any of us to big press events, but we're pretty small fry and don't really do press events. Bethesda does happen to be the source of the only free gaming goodie I ever got, a Fallout 3 T-Shirt I picked up when previewing the game for NMA, but if that was meant to color my perspective, then I don't think it worked. Bethesda is very effective at PR but they do not - from my own experience - resort to pressuring journalists in any way. Which - on the scale of awful that is the PR/game journalism - makes them relatively good guys. I thought that worth noting.