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We're Buddies, You And Me, Right?

My Pal MarioGame journalism is growing up.  From the growth of websites such as the old n64.com into IGN to the rise of the weblog, more and more organizations and people are making a go of reviewing the newest titles and providing game news and editorials to the masses as a part-time or even full-time career.  And why shouldn't they?  For those of us raised on Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy it's truly the dream job; who wouldn't want to have a career playing, reporting, and commenting professionally on video games for a living?

Yet as the little guy grows up into the profitable online entertainment news destination, something still annoys me: for as large and professional as these organizations aim to become, and for as much as they want to play on the same field as the "big boys" of journalism, there continues to be such a glut of unprofessionalism when it comes to the written word.  Rants about punctuation, spelling, and grammar can wait for another day, for what's really bugging me today is the implied familiarity and friendship between news outlet and game publisher.

You've probably seen it a thousand times by now and never thought much of it.  ShiggyNintyM$.  These are just three of the many little nicknames for people and companies that are a nudge at the reader that the author behind the article is so close to Nintendo/Sony/Microsoft/etc. and such good friends with them that they have these pet names for one another or that the company/person behind the nickname is so despised that it's fine to take a potshot at it.  I cringe whenever I read an article that refers to Nintendo director and producer Shigeru Miyamoto as "Shiggy", more so when I see Nintendo referred to as "Ninty", and don't even get me started on the backhanded slap that is "M$".  Any company or person that aspires to become a leader in the gaming journalism industry must put these nicknames aside, as they are a terribly transparent forced attempt at familiarity where none exists and, moreover, a glaring example of bias in a field where being unbiased is supposed to be important.

These nicknames extend far outside of the gaming world, of course.  Consider for a moment how much you would trust a NBC News report that referred to President Bush as "Shrub" or a New York Times article that used the term "House of Mouse" instead of Disney.  Personally, I would not take such a news piece very seriously and, most likely, I wouldn't look to that news source again when I wanted to be informed.

If gaming journalism is going to be taken seriously by the larger reputable field of journalism in general (the CNNs, the NBCs, and the NPRs of the world) then the use of these nicknames in articles has to come to an end.  There's a reason that many mainstream television and print journalists look down their noses at game journalism, and some of that contempt stems from the unprofessionalism that these nicknames breed.  This is not the sole reason, of course, but I do believe that it is a symptom of the underlying problem.

I urge all of us out there attempting to make the leap from rabid fan to respected journalist to stop using these nicknames.  Unless it says "Microsoft", "Sony", or "Nintendo" on your business card then you probably aren't so buddy-buddy with the major players in the industry as you'd like to think.  If you are to remain unbiased in your reports and reviews then that is the way it should be.