After thirteen years, the internet’s oldest and longest running video-focused video game news site has come to a close. On Monday, GameTrailers announced via its Facebook page that it would be closing up shop with immediate effect.
Last week was a busy week for employees of the gaming arm of Viacom Media. On Monday, right as E3 was getting started with the E3 media briefings, Defy Media bought Viacom’s gaming-focused websites, including GameTrailers. Defy ended the week by laying off a number of GameTrailers staff one day after E3 came to a close.
I’ve talked about the bought and paid for reputation of games news reporting before on the blog. However, not everyone in the industry has gotten the growing message that readers and viewers are increasingly concerned about the ethics of games reporting.
The latest example is from a recent press event held by Ubisoft in Paris for Watch Dogs. At the event, the attending invited press members were given free Google Nexus 7 tablets.
What sounds like a headline that’s likely to get more attention and make a news organization more money: “Father Fails to Secure Firearms, Leaves Them for 9-Year-Old to Play With” or “Video Game to Blame for Boy Bringing Gun to School?” Clearly, it’s the latter. The former would be more accurate if all you were interested in was reporting the facts and just the facts but facts don’t make money.
And that’s the problem with coverage of recent news coverage of anything that’s even tangentially related to video games. Whether it’s a kid bringing a gun to school, a mugging in Britain or a mass shooting at a military installation, the media isn’t interested in reporting the news but in creating a story that’s much more exciting than just the facts.
On one side was Marcus Beer, GameTrailer’s Annoyed Gamer, who criticized prominent indie developers Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow for not commenting on Microsoft allowing indie game self-publishing on the Xbox One. On the other side was the aforementioned Phil Fish who didn’t take kindly to Beer lobbing personal insults at him on video.
However, I don’t think that the takeaway from this feud should be anything about either Beer or Fish. I think how this feud started says more about how this gaming journalism works and why it might be irreparably broken.