Is Gaming Journalism Dead?

Perhaps sawing the branch I’m sitting on isn’t the wisest idea I’ve ever had, but this has been nagging me long before I started writing about gaming. I think it’s about time we got into this.

Why Gaming is Bad for Journalism

Gaming Journalism came on to the scene with Nintendo Power. A fantastic magazine publication by Nintendo which most of us remember very fondly. To Nintendo this was just good marketing, but as gaming gained in popularity, writing about it became a natural extension of writing about other media such as music, sports and movies.

And yet, writing about gaming is much different than writing about passive entertainment. A movie critic can sit down and watch a 90 minute movie, take some notes and bang out a review. Some movies might be longer or shorter, but the range is more or less fixed.

8-23-2016 4-39-06 PM
Roger Ebert spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully trying to beat TMNT.

With games, there’s effort that needs to be put forth. Not only are most games many times longer than movies, but they often require new skills to be developed and sharpened in order to succeed.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Try to imagine making your living as a game reviewer. Play games all day and then write about them. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, now imagine that the games you’re asked to review aren’t always the ones you’re excited about. Imagine needing to cover several games every week just to make ends meet.

Well, fuck this then.

Just go ahead and try to enjoy a Fallout game if you’re required to finish it in 20 hours of your own time. You can’t, because that’s not how the game was really meant to be played. As such, game reviewers will often leave with an impression of games that is heavily influenced by it being a job.

Would you rather review a challenging 100 hour game with a ton of collectibles, unlockables and multiple endings or a five hour walking simulator with a bunch of loose plot threads you can intellectually evaluate for your audience? You get paid the same for either, so how difficult do you want to make your job?

Game is fantastic, revolutionary, smart… but why is there so damn much of it? 8/10

Reviews are Useless, but Entertaining

In the early days of game reviews, there was merit to obtaining information regarding game quality. This was before the Internet took off and if you wanted to know how good a game is you only had a few options. Read a 3rd party review or judge for yourself based on the cover art.


Today we live in a world where other people’s opinions on any given subject are easier to come by than our own. And if you’re the kind of person who likes to think for themselves, Let’s Play videos and demos are readily available. Steam will even let you return games if you dislike them, so there’s no reason you can’t try something for yourself if you want.

Like our U.S. elections, game reviews are now just relegated to entertainment. Look at Yahtzee, for example. The guy clearly loves playing games and talking about it, yet 99% of his videos are just pointing out personal gripes. He’s very entertaining, but he can’t get away from making videos just ranting about faults and grievances. It’s his schtick now and his audience expects it.

What Kind of Games do Reviewers Like?

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that our gaming scene seems so vastly different for someone looking from the outside in. Going by game reviews alone, you would think that every good game is short, overly accessible and teeming with hidden meanings and cultural life lessons.

How can I review this game? The story mode isn’t out yet! 2/10

Gaming journalism often misses the most crucial aspect of gaming. It misses the idea that learning new skills is fun and usually not a chore to fans of gaming. For gamers, facing a challenge isn’t met with sighs of “great, now I have to work late”. Instead, most of us see it as an opportunity to improve and overcome. This variance of perspective greatly diminishes the value of opinions presented by people with this job-centric mindset.

Game is gorgeous, witty, meaningful, really short and without any challenge. 11/10

We even have critics now that are so lazy as to only base their opinion on clips from YouTube instead of firsthand experience. Someone once said that “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” and I think that applies here as well.

What Do You Guys Think?

Do you still decide which games to get based on other people’s professional opinions? Do you watch/read reviews primarily for entertainment? Let me know in the comments below.

Are there some awesome reviewers out there whose opinions you will defend to the death? I’d love to know who they are. Personally, I’m a big fan of Super Bunnyhop. He does some really in depth analysis of the games he likes and generally sports the kind of attention to detail I wish other publications held themselves to.

That’s it for today. See you next time!








12 thoughts on “Is Gaming Journalism Dead?

  1. Gaming journalism began long, long before Nintendo Power!!!

    While I agree with some of the points, I disagree that reviews are useless. It depends on how they’re written and how constructive and objective they are. A good review should give the person a flavour of what it’s like to play the game and what you actually do, an idea of who it will appeal to, how well constructed and designed the narrative and gameplay elements are, and any technical and performances issues.

    But, at the end of the day, the reader still has to make their own mind up based on the information provided. That’s why it’s usually best to read a review from an author/site you trust or to check out several reviews from varied sources to get a broader picture.

    I totally agree that a reviewer needs to have put in an appropriate amount of time into a game before giving an opinion, which can be tricky with the race to publish in a timely manner in a competitive market.

    Personally, I read reviews to get an idea of whether a game might be something I want to play. I simply don’t have the time or the money to try out hundreds of games, plus it gives me an idea of whether a game is something that I’d want to buy now or pick up at later date in a sale or when the price has dropped.

    Also remember that the Steam refund policy only lets you play for less than 2 hours (which may not be enough to fully evaluate a game intended to be played for 100s of hours) and other distributors (both physical and digital) have far less generous and flexible refund policies. Just look at all the PS4 owners struggling to get refunds on No Man’s Sky.

    And yes I do write reviews🙂


      1. Curious, what publication covered gaming before Nintendo Power? Maybe it was just before my time, but did earlier consoles have similar media coverage?


  2. There was a burgeoning gaming scene in the early 80s on home computers in the UK (I can’t speak for other countries) for systems like the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, etc and there were dedicated magazines for it.

    For Spectrum you had Crash (1984 to 1991) and the C64 you had Zzap!64 (1985-1992), but you also had more general magazines that reviewed games such as Personal Computer World (first published in 1978) or Sinclair User (1982-92), Commodore User (1983-1990), Amstrad Action (1985-1995). And that’s just to name a few.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, I grew up with these computers, although I was very young! Before they started coming with free cassettes, the magazines often used to print out code that you could key into your own computer in order to play a really crap game (assuming you made no mistakes). Those were the days!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d like the article, if every “journalism” word was replaced with “reviews”.
    Seriously? I’m surprised and upset.
    Your writing is good on its own. You don’t need clickbaits. You don’t want to mislead and disappoint your readers.
    Beside that, it’s great😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an excellent point and exactly how I feel about games or most reviews, the opinions of the reviewer are fluff and flavor text and can range from entertaining, informative or rage inducing to full #GamerGate causing.

    Any game that looks interesting will have a community somewhere and will almost certainly have a lets play on youtube or similar. The lets play format is to my mind the most effective, watching another gamer play in real time lays the UI, graphics and mechanics on the table, obviously machine specs vary and such like, but none the less the game speaks for itself and a rando commentates. This is not to say that commentator or journalists if games media start using this format more in reviewing, cant be entertaining or informative many are.

    Good article +1 /hug

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I definitely agree with a lot of the points here. The problem though with any journalism isn’t just the amount of time it takes to produce something solid. The problem really is that everyone’s ideas, preferences, likes, dislikes, etc. all vary and can vary widely. When someone writes about anything, chances are their writing is going to be at least a bit biased one way or the other. I think maintaining a neutral stance on something you’re reviewing is probably the most important. Also having some sort of knowledge about the development process can help ten-fold because you’ll be able to analyze the design and the game more in-depth than you normally would be able to. This assists you in staying neutral because you can point out the pros and the cons of the game instead of approaching it from a pure biased point.


  6. It’s interesting to see the other side of the “coin” and seeing what a game reviewer goes through. One thing that stuck out to me wasn’t necessarily related to reviewing, but rather about the length of movies. The articles mentions 90 minutes for a movie. It seems most movies that I enjoy watching have all been 120+ minutes. Avengers, DC movies, etc. and that’s not even including Netflix series (which I like to think of as long movies).

    Liked by 1 person

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