Ever since the 2012 Gamergate scandal, more and more Video Game journalists have taken it upon themselves to carve out their own niche and explore the different ways in which they can have their voices heard: unilaterally this endeavour has been beneficial to those who’ve dared take the plunge, reject their professional agency and develop a voice, style and platform that has seen them shed the shackles of traditional games media to become content creators.
In essence, they’ve discovered first-hand the benefits that such a separation from the ethically bound journalist to the radical viral sensation can bring. These benefits range from the freedom to promote and propagate individual biases – which extends to the endorsement of selected materials for promotional consideration – to the monetization and increased revenue streams these individuals have access to once they accrue a large enough online following or readership/ fan base. Their business model is one that has supported the new wave of game related content creators since the conception of Twitch and has since then seen others profiteer from the same platforms alongside the enabling of viewers to actively participate in the means of such content creation via community funding through various sites such as Patreon, Go Fund Me and other websites of the same ilk.
Whilst this exodus from conventional media has created a space populated by a wealth of independent, unregulated personalities who remain unchallenged by the many pitfalls and bureaucratic transactions that more often than not take place inside conventional games media and the smorgasbord of P.R pieces that are regularly touted as news by many mainstream publications, it has also aided in the creation of, ironically, a call to question the ethical principles and general validity of these individuals and groups. Quick to maintain their stance as ‘independent’ and ‘alternative’ information sources, all the while being given access to paid events, press passes (traditionally reserved for mainstream media outlets) and review copies of upcoming game releases and exclusive access to individuals responsible for the production and development of these titles, this new and emergent group populate a spectrum that upon closer inspection dismantles the initial promise and credibility of their reasoning for leaving mainstream games media in the first place.
Stop me now if I’m coming off as too cynical, or somewhat overbearing: whilst I am sceptical of these content creators’ claims of sincerity and honesty I must admit that, to a degree, I happen to find the concept of individual expression and unrestricted agency appealing: who wouldn’t? The freedom to create, package and distribute your own message to an already agreeable and accepting audience, all the while circumnavigating the otherwise tumultuous legal pitfalls that such sentiments – more often than not defamatory in nature – may incur if a large dot com were involved – is in of itself highly appealing. True freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom to denounce any corporation you care to mention (see Jim Sterling’s contemporaneous series regarding Konami for reference) seems noble, but again when these people begin to use their platform as a staging area to exhibit personal grievances, market games and projects that they themselves have invested in and furthermore begin appointing THEMSELVES as tastemakers and trendsetters, well what happens is that these individuals (or groups) form a synergistic oligopoly if you will: they all combine and collaborate to sell one another to their own respective audiences to such a degree that they become an unofficial business conglomerate all on their own. Each one pushes products, games, merchandise and in most cases websites and investment opportunities at not just their audience but every other independent’s audience as well.
What it comes down to is ethics, integrity and objectivity. There are plenty of game journalists happy to make a living writing for the major dot coms and print publications: there are many independent content creators who are happier still to branch out and explore singular avenues for unrestricted profit and freedom from restrictive traditional outlets. The real question is where do your values lie? What motivates real journalists and furthermore when do we, as gamers, make the distinction between honest and sincere journalism and opportunists looking to make bank on a new and increasingly emergent phenomenon? If your ethics, integrity and objectivity remain intact then maybe you’ve already made the distinction and if for some reason the line still remains blurred to you, then perhaps you need to step back and ask yourself: what does it mean to be a video game journalist?
The opinions in this featured editorial are that of the author and do not represent PressA2Join as a company.