What Even Is Games Journalism?

I don’t like writing about individuals when it comes to politics in video games, I did that in my last article when a reviewer could not even get basic core mechanics of a game right. I questioned, when is a review not a review? Seeing as I have always viewed reviews as a major part of games journalism, this question bothers me as one that should even be asked. It should be straightforward and simple, yet when we are opposed to honest journalism and discussion about video games backed by facts and honest opinion, we have a political mess.

Let me ask a couple of quick questions going into this. If a publication refused to give coverage to a video game because they have a personal beef with the development studio, how would you know? If a Publisher or development team refused to give a review copy to a publication because they have a personal beef with that publication, how would you know? If a reviewer has a personal beef with the development team and gave it a deliberately bad and unfair review, how would you know? If a reviewer personally likes the development team of the game they are reviewing and gives it an undeserved good score, how would you know?

Anita Encouraging Game Reviewers to Deliberately Mislead Gamers For Attention

One of the most heavily talked about figures in gaming by games journalists by far is Anita Sarkeesian. Love her or hate her, one can not deny that the things she says are controversial. And yet, many people that claim they would be critical of her work say they refuse to be because she is harassed. In this article she discusses among other things, a want to push an agenda through bad reviews, to talk about the damsel in distress in gaming and the availability of feminist theory in gaming. As well as naming gaming culture for her harassment. That being said, how many games journalists have taken her words to heart and will deliberately lie about video games and the quality of their content? How many will lie about gaming and gaming culture, either positively or negatively in order to push an agenda? Again, how would you know?

Ed Smith, Games Journalist

Sometimes we don’t have to look very far to see how low games journalism has fallen, and see how much of Anita’s words they have taken to heart. The above journalist wrote this article lecturing gamers about how video games struggle to change because gamers want to keep things the same. This, however, is contradictory to the success and near universal praise of games like “The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series”. How much damage are they willing to cause the industry we have all grown up to know and love, at the cost of throwing innocent people under the bus for not being able to understand their grand vision? We have come to a point where people are taking Anita Sarkeesian’s statement of “Everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out. To everyone all the time,” As a means to attack gaming, and gamers under the guise of games journalists.

This is of course to the detriment of gaming and gamers. Over half of the US population consists of people who are described as gamers by the ESA. Nearly half of the US play video games for 3 hours or more per week, specifically sitting at 42%. 62% of those video games are made E or E10. Not only do we have gaming journalists and critics complaining about a non-existent issue with how games are made exclusively for men seeing as a majority of their complaints do not focus on games rated E for everyone, even though that is a majority of the games made.

It’s Almost Like Most Games Are For Everyone Source: ESA 2015 Report

Of course gaming journalism pushing agenda over reality isn’t exactly a new thing, it has gotten much more attention as of recently. This article from 2012 is an excellent example of just how long games journalists have disliked being held under scrutiny for less than accurate reporting on video games and the industry that surrounds them, it is a tale telling of a culture among games journalist who like to hold a level of control over the industry through means of saying nothing, or simply spreading examples that are not even true.

It’s so easy in the online community to create a controversy under anonymity, report on it, and reap the benefits, all the while having a convenient scapegoat that you can blame for everything, and never having a name to hold to account. An anonymous threat to a semi-famous critic can be blamed as an example of how toxic the gaming community is. A person who threatened can disappear into the night, never to be found, and yet a constant finger can be pointed at the gaming community as a whole. Sounds like a great episode for some TV series based on fantasy, but this is just some of the examples of gaming journalism today.

Never mind that games journalists can be fired from their positions for giving a review score that does not fit in with the current agenda. I have every reason to believe that the reviewer who was fired for giving a poor score to “Kane and Lynch” was being honest with his opinion on the game. You can not help but wonder how different a situation this would have been if the same review was done today, with some slight alterations to point out the toxic masculinity of the game encouraging male gamers to be violent and aggressive? Square Enix might have still threatened to pull advertising, but would it have been meeting the right agenda? Would the reviewer still have been fired? It leaves you wondering, especially with how some game reviewers have been treating their reviews these last five years alone. Then when you are dealing with former or current critics admitting that they were told to give poor reviews to drive attention to their employer’s websites and with all the evidence and current political climate to make such claims even remotely believable, people are left to wonder.

There Is Always A Light At the End Of the Tunnel. Screenshot Courtesy of ThatGameCompany

So there you have it right? We have a political climate in games journalism, where video game developers and publishers can retaliate against reviewers and reviewers that can retaliate against video game developers and publishers. Both sides can use whatever set of politics they like to try and hurt the other. Either can be blacklisted, and we wouldn’t even know that it happened as gamers. All because the people in charge of informing us, can choose not to inform us for the very same reason the blacklists exist in the first place. This does not mean there is not yet hope. There are many video games websites out there, up and coming video games journalists wanting to deliver something better to you. There are also many games journalists out there who are starting to wake up to just how toxic this kind of environment is, and how terrible it is for the gaming community as a whole.

What even is video games journalism? What it currently is is a mess, too much of it has been caught up in opposing politics where honesty and truth need to be. Too much of it mired in a lack of transparency and accusations not based in reality to leave gamers with something worth reading in gaming journalism. A review is an opinion, but that is not an excuse to get things wrong about the game, nor is it an excuse to be dishonest in your opinion, either positively or negatively. Games journalism needs to be better. Everything in it that is wrong, we need to point it all out. It’s up to us, to make gaming great again.

Joshua Wiitala


Just a man who has been playing video games against doctors orders for nearly 30 years. The 80's was filled with idiots. Want to reach me? @JoshuaWiitala on Twitter.