THI Classix Memoriez™ – New Games Journalism And Why It Fails

Editor’s Preface: I have always preferred taking a “hands on” approach to my game reviews, detailing my first hand experience with the game, instead of getting into technical aspects that I do not understand, or worrying about scores. I believe that a game should be considered good if the player enjoys themselves with it, and not if it has a high score. Pryopizm, a writer who had a short stint at THI, brought on board by Sock, if I remember correctly, disagrees. Although I was the Vince McMahon of the website, THI had gotten big at the time, and I never had the chance to speak to him. He’s a well educated guy, however, and I feel like I missed out on a lot of great conversation. -Jew

There’s a trend, lately, in gaming journalism that wants to turn the current trends on its ear. It’s called New Games Journalism which provides readers an interesting alternative to Old Games Journalism. In a nutshell, the two differ in very basic ways. Old Games Journalism is the current standard; a writer discusses a game’s technical aspects and remarks upon their function. In New Games Journalism, the writer takes a “in the trenches” approach and discusses in more depth his or her feelings and experiences with the game. The idea is to create a looser, but intimate atmosphere and connection with the reader.

I’m currently an OGJ reviewer at Planet GameCube and I’ve been interested in this new style of verbal diarrhea called NGJ. Now, I know there are defenders of this niche who will be happy to point out that Tim Rogers isn’t the best example; but, my opinion, after countless hours of study, holds. NGJ is a joke.

The most obvious argument against it is its seeming pretentiousness. But, that’s hardly my issue with it. After all, some people like reading the New Yorker, and certainly the New Yorker offers some fine perspective on current issues and the arts. I don’t know that I’d ever want to read about video games in the New Yorker, but that seems to be NGJ’s target audience. I have a feeling that the audience for that kind of journalism is quite small.

I’m a novice writer in this field. My experience is limited, but I’m learning quite a bit, and quickly, too. One thing, though, that has been obvious to me from the onset is that our audience doesn’t want florid writing that would rival Cooper, Shelly, or Hugo. They want to know how a game controls, looks, and plays. Certainly it’s nice to know any aesthetic appeal the game has, but only to a certain extent.

Writing in a style that only an English major could love limits your audience. The writer may believe he is challenging his audience to look deeper into the medium that they love so much, but that’s simply not the case. I happen to agree with Roger Ebert in that I do not believe that any particular video game is Art. Certainly there are artistic elements, but there are artistic elements in all entertainment. I disagree, though, that no videogame can be art. Of course it could, but it would take a great level of maturity.

I have a great respect for Kyle Orland, he’s an excellent writer and journalist. He’s exceedingly perceptive and witty and he’s also an advocate of NGJ. Kyle has stated on his site that he believes the fault of games not being perceived as art lies on the journalists for not appreciating it as art. I can see where he’s coming from. If we hold ourselves to a higher standard then games will rise with us.

I have to disagree here. I’ve thought this through quite a bit. Few games exist to impress us. They’re here to give us some jollies for a few hours and make several million bucks along the way. Some may have bizarre little tales to tell and may try to manipulate our emotions, but that doesn’t make them art nor should we review them as such. Not until a game makes a serious effort to touch our souls should we ever bother trying to review a game as other than a consumer product and entertainment. Surely there can be a compromise. How a game makes a reviewer feel can certainly be as important as any of the technical qualities. My most recent review was of True Swing Golf, and while nothing was technically wrong with the game, it was missing a certain appeal that makes me want to continue playing it. In this case the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

New Gaming Journalism is an antithesis to the thesis that is Old Gaming Journalism. There will be a movement to possibly equalize the two. As it stands, it’s apples and oranges. I don’t believe in disenfranchising part of my audience so that I can make a vain appeal to their better nature. I exist as a medium between the audience and the game. All they want to know is, “Is it good? Should I buy it?” Hell, most people don’t even bother reading past the score.