Critiquing the News Readers As Requested by You

May 28th, 2008

von drake disney

Two weeks ago I posed the question to you readers: where should I be getting my gaming news and reviews from? Most of the responses that I received were quite good so I want to talk about some of those and share my thoughts on how I feel about the sites that I looked at.

Kombo –

kombo logoI’ve had a bit of a history with the sites that preceded Kombo, going all the way back to Gamecube Advanced, 5 years ago. I was a fan of the old Advanced Media Network that they had going until I eventually grew dissatisfied with the lack of evolution and like a lot of people I packed up and went else where.

Returning to this site, I came in with a fresh mindset. When this site was re-launched (from the Advanced Media Network to Kombo) one of the most significant changes was meant to be the new editorial stance that everyone was undertaking with their writing. Fair enough I say, we need more editorial based content. 🙂 Unfortunately I guess my take on editorial and Kombo’s must be very different. Focusing on the news, it appears as though the site has adopted this new and very popular “lets be like Destructoid” model which I think is a very glitz and glam approach to gaming news . This style of writing is meant to be highly reflective of the writer’s personality (you know, “blog-like”) which usually means that it’s quite polarizing and often a little over the top. These people are meant to be telling me the news so I can’t see the justification for them to attempt to force an overly strong personality into their articles.

When I read over Kombo’s news articles it felt as though this streak of personality that they’re trying to adopt feels unusually forced into each article. This greatly affected my enjoyment and understanding of their articles. In many cases I found myself reading over what I the author had written several times because I did not pick up on their writing nuances.

I guess their editorial spin comes into play in other areas as well. The team still writes some quite good features, one of which I personally would like to share my thoughts on next time. Writers and editors now have their own blogs which are easily accessible from the main page, unfortunately I didn’t get to take a look at those. The community is more integrated and generally the site looks a bit more fresh (despite the design being derived from a 6 year old web template).

Being an old forum veteran and previous fan of these sites I guess I had hoped more from these guys. Unfortunately from what I can gauge from the style of writing it really does they they have fallen victim to being another Kotaku derivative which is most unfortunate, even the modified site design reflects this. It represents that much to my past proclaim that this site has indeed not evolved like it should have and as such has had to latch onto this growing fad.

1UP –

1up logoWhats to say about 1UP? They have awesome podcasts and I can never figure out how to use their damn forum system. It’s the podcasts that everyone loves, me included. I’m not really a regular listener to any of their podcasts but my brother is absolutely fanatical about the Games For Windows podcast. I occasionally listen to 1UP Yours and EGM Live which are pretty good, perhaps a bit too excessive on the information front though. Despite their high calibur of conversation (which is truly admirable) I couldn’t possibly keep up with them every week. I do listen to Retronauts which is once again very factual and an information overload.

It was these thing which first attracted me to the site. Their news was a little different though, it isn’t bad by any means it just wasn’t really what I was after. Firstly, I think that Kombo should be looking here for inspiration on a stronger editorial approach as these guys do a great job in that department. There are consistent features and editorials which is very please, unfortunately most don’t particularly pique my interest but it still good to see none the less. The site itself also looks fine as well, no gripes there.

What gets me though is the lack of news and just how cluttered their RSS feeds are. The news is by no means infrequent but I found that for me personally it was a little lacking. When I was subscribed to the site I received roughly 10 news articles in about 3 or 4 days per console. This is fine for each console. The problem I found though was that too many of these articles were shared over all feed streams. That is, one article would get posted under all console categories and I would consistently receive the same articles in each feed. Sure this is fine when you are talking general industry news that is significant for all consoles but most of it wasn’t. Even some Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 orientated news was being shared across the board. It seemed that within the week or so that I was subscribed that there was very little to individualize each feed.

Eventually I got fed about over being confused about this and just moved on. I guess this would be fine if I subscribed to an all in one feed but I’m not interested in going down that route. I’m a little disappointed that this was the case as I was quite optimistic about this site. Still though I can see the appeal.

EuroGamer –

euro gamer logoWhen it comes to UK gaming websites and magazines there are the positives such as the localized PAL content and then there are the negatives like jokes about pants. Fortunately I haven’t heard anything of pants since I started reading the site. Phew!

I have decided to make EuroGamer my destination for news and reviews and here’s why. Firstly design wise this site is fantastic, I love it. As someone whom does a bit of design (I mean c’mon how good is this site design? [/sarcasm]) I have an appreciation for sites that utilize effective design principles. EuroGamer does this not just with a bunch of spiffy graphics but also with the a strong, modern layout which is a real breath of fresh air. I find that the more I study design the more I fall in love with beautiful layout and this is a fine example of that.

Content wise, the site also has its own media which is great, there is easy access to video and screenshots from each page. News, reviews and preview are in good supply and are also notably relevant. I compared the front page news on all of these sites that I surveyed and EuroGamer had the most useful and relevant news out of the bunch.

What really has me floored though is the professionalism in the writing which is simply superb. In contrast to Kombo’s writing style (and many other sites, keep in mind people they aren’t alone here!) which reads like the author is desperately screaming personality at you, EuroGamer’s news and reviews have a fantastic sense of character which doesn’t feel the least bit forced. Their writing has a strong sense of character that is expressed through subtle justification relevant to the text. For example they can use their own critique of an element in a game to trigger persona. This is how it should be.

And they do this so well, the authors wrap their own character in logical and clean language which just feels so much easier to read while still being wholly entertaining and amusing. The reviews are great too, I like them because they contain more critique while still sticking to a review frame work.

I’m also pleased that their content does not have a strong UK flavour to it. Jokes about pants, references to Yorkshire pudding, nods to pounchy “football” players and love letters about Robbie Wiliams being the world’s greatest male act have all (fortunately) been kept to a minimum. The content though is relevant to Europe which means that it is in principle the same as Australian news and releases. All good things. You know I am genuinely surprised that I managed to find a new outlet for online gaming news and reviews which I feel so passionately about. I’m so happy.

And the Rest…

As for the other suggestions lets see, Crispy Gamer seemed to be a nifty little site but it isn’t a significant enough player yet to have an adequate news and reviews stream. I couldn’t find GameSeekr even when I stuck it into Google, not sure about that one. Lastly All Game seemed great but it wasn’t really what I was after. So thank you everyone for your contributions, I guess this means that I should change the site poll now eh? Hmmmm….

  • Yeah, the only thing I enjoy of all the things you’ve mentioned in Retronauts.

    I even stopped reading Joystiq, Kotaku, and Destructoid. I enjoy the blog format more, but its just too much stuff that I don’t care about coming at me too fast.

    I’ve been much happier with the combination of Digg’s gaming section filtering the best stuff out for me. I’ll even peek into the “Upcoming” section to see what may be either up and coming or interesting, but not yet reaching the front page. That pretty much covers my mainsteam stuff.

    On top of that, I just subscribe to a number of quality indie blogs like this one that cater to the type of gaming that I enjoy.

  • I removed the reference of Kotaku and slapped Destructoid in there which I feel is more appropriate.

    I felt the same way about IGN in terms of shoving uneccessary information into my face. I’m not interested in press releases or suspect coverage on sponsered games. 🙂

  • I wouldn’t really say that the 1up podcasts are information heavy, they are relatively laid back in thier shows and it makes for good podcasting. I really do love GFW Radio though, there is lot’s of good comedy and at the same time a lot of deeper thinking. Seriously man, listen to it for a month and you’ll be hooked. 😉

    I also like the design of Eurogamer as well. Very elegant.

  • Glad you like Eurogamer Daniel, been reading it for a few years and always found the content to be decent, although the forums can get a bit fanboy-ish at times (I suppose that’s the case with most forums tho).

    I find that Eurogamer and Kotaku provide me with enough interesting content to read that I don’t tend to visit other major sites. Apart from that I generally like the 1up video podcast, although that seems to have gone downhill a bit lately.

  • Yeah I have noticed that the podcasters never seem enthusiastic about doing the podcasts. With little news and features on their site I wonder what they do with their time.

  • Dan

    Kotaku seems to get quite a lot of exclusive content. I know when my company announces a game (or the publishers marketing department do) the link we always seem to get back is Kotaku.

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