The wonderfully cynical mind behind Game Politics has compiled a list of the major players in the video game violence debates that seem to be making news on a weekly basis these days. The list also includes thoughts on just what each person or organization has to gain by holding their respective views. Some names you know (Leland Yee, Deanna Demuzio, Charles Schumer) and others you probably do not (Adrian Fenty, Julia Boseman). The last entry on the list is what caught my attention, however.
The gaming press... are primarily enthusiasts who tend to dismiss legitimate concerns about games out of hand. There are notable exceptions, of course, but listening to hundreds of media-credentialed "reporters" cheer wildly during a Nintendo E3 press conference tells you all you need to know about the current state of video game journalism.
Journalists are supposed to issue unbiased reports, but where is it written that these journalists cannot have their own personal opinions? Nintendo has a massive fan base out there in the media, especially media members in their twenties; these are the people who grew up with Super Mario and friends. I see nothing wrong with preferring one game console over another in one's private life and I also see nothing wrong with applauding or cheering at an E3 press conference. I certainly cheered during portions of Nintendo's conference. Why shouldn't I? I'm a fan of the company's products and I'm looking forward to some of their upcoming games. On the other hand, I'm also someone who writes opinion-based articles.
I am part of what I consider to be the two most enjoyable aspects of gaming journalism: commentary and product reviews. My opinion shapes what I write in those categories, as commentary and product reviews are supposed to have an opinion and supporting evidence to back up that opinion. If I say that Microsoft is making a mistake by rushing the Xbox 360 release, then I'd better have relevant facts to support that statement. Along those same lines, I would not score a Nintendo product highly just because Mario and Luigi are on the box.
I hope that the problem Game Politics is emphasizing here is the issue of people with media badges allowing their enthusiasm to spill over into what should be an unbiased news report. It's one thing to summarize Sony's plans for the remainder of 2005, but it's not right for news reporters to add in the same article how Sony will conquer all this year and drive the Nintendo DS into dust. News reporters need to be able to separate the hype from the facts and then report those facts.
Editorials and commentaries belong in their own sections of the journalism landscape. Building an informative news article around an unsupported underlying opinion is not the way to gain acceptance in the eyes of the traditional media, nor is it the way to build trust with readers. All of the politicians on the Game Politics list seemingly have an agenda. The part of gaming journalism that reports the news should not.