July 14th, 2009
A few months ago I received an email from someone at the ABC (that’s the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to help them with their research for an upcoming to be feature for TV show Good Game. They wanted to discuss games blogging in Australia and somehow discovered me. Surprised, I know. I would have figured they’d have wanted to quiz people like Jason Hill or those Hyper washouts not me. But anyways, I was already an avid viewer of the show, so with such a great opportunity I naturally I offered my services, firing back an email as soon as I could. In the following weeks though I never received a reply, but never chased it up either as I was caught in the usual end of semester crunch at uni. Upon making it through the clear, I sought to re-send my email or give them a call, but considering that by then they’d probably completed the piece, I decided to let it slide*. After all, given this prior information, it was inevitable that I’d eventually write a piece like this, so my thoughts would come out in the end anyways.
That segment went to air last night, and I subsequently have quite a few opinions on it. Actually its timing works out perfectly as I’m falling behind in the next article in my mini-series evaluation of various professional and enthusiast publications. I’ll be covering gamesTM next, you can read about Official Nintendo Magazine and Hyper here and here.
Good Game (ABC) Show Overview
As mentioned, Good Game is a television program on the ABC, it’s a half hour show which runs weekly and has been active for an endearing three years – rather successful for a show of its nature. As recently announced on the community forums, Good Game was the most downloaded show off the ABC last month, another testament to the production. Good Game’s success – and the key reason why I continue to watch – lies in two parts. The first being the two presenters, referred to as their screen names; Bajo and Junglist. The duo are characterized as typical gamers and their performances thrive off the subculture to colour their on-screen personas. Yet unlike other productions this is never done in a way that’s degrading or diminutive towards the medium. Also the two – players themselves – comfortably fit their roles and use the available thematic to create a fun on-screen dynamic which is warmly enjoyed by both players and non-players. The two present what is rather constructive and well researched material. The producers clearly care about the quality of the show’s content. The historical feature ‘Backwards Compatible’ is mostly well researched, interviews flesh out the features, while a myriad of neat ideas are incorporated into the reviews such as the two presenters reflecting opposing sides, using the video medium to highlight obscurities within appointed games and using gags to highlight opinions and more personal responses to games. This is all kept rather diverse most of the time. Sure, the odd feature may be a little textbook-y at times, but the crew generally cover fairly appropriate topics as well as hand-picking a good variety of games for review, including downloadable, niche, indie and casual titles.
These two elements ensure Good Game maintains a respectable quality, far away from the demeaning overkill of similarly-minded, video game-themed productions. Additionally, everything is kept jargon-free which low barriers to entry.
Rei: The Blogosphere – Good Game Segment
Rei is Good Game’s semi-regular investigative feature segment by Tracey “Rei” Lien of Hyper Magazine fame. Tracy is a new recruit for the latest season. To date she’s covered topics such as the Australian internet filter, casual and flash games, and cosplaying, while doing a pretty admirable job at it too. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of her work and was naturally anticipating the blogging feature. I guess part of my anticipation was waiting for them to make a mess of it. I could just see it coming…sorry.
The key problem with Tracey’s feature was that its predominate angle (online bloggers vs print media journalists) pigeonholed the blogging and print media mediums espectively. Basically the angle typecasts each medium as a single, polarized writing style (objective and subjective news writing) and then compares the two on these grounds, with journalistic qualities being the point of contention. The two key players; Daniel Staines and Ben Mansill play out their respective roles, but their argument doesn’t actually make sense.
The irksome “video games journalism” phrase is the root cause and carelessly used throughout. Journalism is the word for collective print media, as well as the profession of reporting news stories. Video game enthusiasts and writers tend to ignore “journalism”’s connotation towards professional news reporting (and associated ideals), instead using the term “video games journalism” as a blanket statement for “video games writing”. Good Game and the participants fall into this trap, and what inevitably ensues is a bit of a mess. This is to be expected when you question a print media journalist and a games blogger who over what is naturally an often misconstrued topic; games journalism. The journalist gives the clichéd objectivity talk, while the games blogger talks about opinion writing as if it were (news) journalism. This makes for a very confusing segment.
The feature ignores this issue – seemingly a part of the problem – and puts the irrelevant opinions together to form some sort of incohesive argument which never makes little sense. Fortunately the feature digresses near the end where the other participants discuss games blogging beyond the generalized perception of opinionated-news, effectively putting the original angle of the piece out of its misery. Considering that we now that we know what the key issues, let’s look at the segment specifically as it’ll flesh out my assertions, while drawing attention to some other issues.
Tracey’s introduction sets the precedence of this battle between print and web fighting for precious real estate, with readers migrating to websites and blogs.
Dan Staines of Eegra (yes, I’ve never heard of it either) begins with the introductory spiel on blogging which is geared as a contrast to print, not specially journalism, he’s just talking about the assets of the medium which is good. Ben Mansill, who we find out founded some pretty terrible magazines, follows by taking the opposing side, trumpeting the qualities of print media as well as some behaviorial flaws of web writers. The pair are discussing general print vs. web differences, which is suitable.
In fact, if the feature stayed on course like this I think it would have been rather good. The wider angle would have allowed them to explain how the qualities of self authorship, url, images, video and networking features affect the type of writing that bloggers produce. It’s the same reason why we abbreviate when we text; forces of the communicative medium. This approach would have allowed them to clearly explain why a great deal of games blogging is rather subjective in the first place.
Dan returns and uses the point of how blogging is independent as a strength. It would have been nice to know exactly how the medium is “independant”, but sure. Ben cuts back, shaking his head, rebutting to Dan’s comment and repeating the journalistic flim-flam. It’s at this stage that the feature derails. Good Game have in this instance pitted the a quality of the blogging medium (independence) against news reporting which Dan and Ben unknowingly playing out their roles. The independence of bloggers is unrelated to journalism practices of objectivity. Yet the way they’ve been piece together implies a rebutall, an argument. Ben’s comments also generalize games blogging, thanks for that.
Surprise, surprise, John Keefer from Crispy Gamer arrives, I never expected the show to feature him, nor was I familiar that such an old codger actually worked at Crispy Gamer. He points out the difference between enthusiast press and journalists. Even now I’m a little confused with the different entities floating around. There’s print journalism (seemingly, entirely objective “journalism”), print journalism-esque, wannabe blogger (enthusiast media, which by Ben’s account seems to be too subjective and totally opinion) and then another entity which may or may not include what Dan was talking about, ummm…criticizing PR and games, maybe opinion too, hard to separate the differences. Each participant is talking about unrelated matters yet the piece is put together as though they are talking about the same thing, in turn confusing viewers.
Tracey then asks Dan directly about objectivity, which he provides the most dubious answer that journalism isn’t about reporting facts. He highlights the misunderstandings that I discussed before.
Of course, he isn’t actually talking about journalism. He’s talking about games writing on the whole, most likely criticism and opinion pieces; the sort of writing he does, in which his comments are valid. The show is comparing journalists to opinion writers and having them square off on objectivity, this is irrelevant to blogging which can swing either way.
Tracey’s next segue is baffling. She starts with “while..” but never enters the second clause. Oh well, it’s about niche, opinion sites. Finally, acknowledgement that we do cover more than news articles slimed with opinion, yay! Oh look it’s Ben Abraham, ringleader of blogging boy’s club Critical-Distance and that Graffiti Gamer dude Daniel Purvis, another pair of Dans and Bens. The duo cover their bases pretty well, highlighting the individuality created by self authorship. Still, it’s unknown how their ideas are related to the journalism argument. In anycase, Ben and Daniel’s comments finally steer the show back on track, emphasizing the strengths and weaknesses of either medium, rather then causing headaches with an over-generalized, nonsensical argument. Their digression put the show back on track somewhat, the ending comments are in the same vein, ditching the ill thought out comparison.
That’s basically all that needs to be said, the the concluding comments are fine, irrelevant to the bulk of the segment.
I can’t help myself but mention John’s particularly hypocritical and rather amusing comment that he has “a very, very hard time with information put out there for the sake of hits”. Obviously he’s referring to news piece, but it’s a rather bizarre comment from a writer who works for a site brimming with tasteful, attention-grabbing editorials such as STFU 2009: The 10 People We Hope Will Shut the F*** Up at This Year’s E3.
*I think it’s probably a mistake on my behalf as at the time Gmail was failing to receive and send a number of emails. I think I have the problem sorted now, in any case I’ve updated my about page with instant messaging and Skype details, so feel free to use those instead if you’re ever feeling lonely.
Good Game Interview – PALGN