The gaming industry has surpassed Hollywood in overall revenues, but the group of journalists who report on the industry remain an elusive group. The industry's most prominent watchdogs are an eccentric mix of enthusiasts, bloggers, and trained reporters. In a session called "Meet the Gaming Press" at GDC today, three prominent members of the gaming press were on hand to face the questions from the industry they report on. Sam Kennedy of 1up, Brian Crescente of Kotaku, and Brandon Sheffield of Game Developer Magazine and Gamasutra fielded questions from an inquisitive group of developers, PR representatives, and fellow journalists.
One of the biggest issues facing the gaming press is the distinction between hard journalism and co-operation with PR. Several PR managers in the audience were interested in how to motivate game journalists to cover their games. How can they get the attention of a busy game journalist? How can they find an appropriate story angle to get our projects covered? "There's a mentality that PR is PR. You can do it the same way for a game as you can for a candy bar or a soda," said Sheffield. "Game news outlets are run by enthusiasts. The first hint of disingenuousness will turn off a games journalist."
Crecente noted that there is an inherent fallacy in journalists and PR reps working together. "Sitting in their seats, I wouldn't gear my message to journalists," he said. "They're trying to get around journalism." To date, the biggest gaming news outlets are ones that host previews, trailers, and screenshots, while placing secondary emphasis on generating independent news stories. The gaming press has expanded on the back of its ability to leverage exclusive access to promotional material for games that aren't on the market.
"Exclusivity is a great foot in the door with us," said Kennedy. When asked about the paucity of hard journalism about larger issues in gaming, such as violence and censorship, Kennedy blamed publishers. "The industry as a whole is unwilling to go there," he said. "It's hard to get support and information from publishers to do those kinds of stories."
Crencente said part of the problem is the ugly truth that most readers aren't interested in reading that kind of content. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him read interesting news," he said.
Recent developments in the industry have seen the growth of aggregate sites that compile news stories from other sites. "I think exclusives are almost out of style," Sheffield said. "There are all these scanners now, everything gets picked up instantly. An exclusive is only exclusive for a few minutes."
Crecente spent twelve years working as a police reporter and remains dubious about securing exclusives through PR. "I don't care about exclusives," he said. "I want to work for my exclusives" Sheffield shared this sentiment. "I would rather know I had an exclusive because my story was better," he said.
As always, the ultimate question lies with the readers. What stories do you want to see?
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