If you listened to the recently released VS Node 28, you heard me wax poetic a bit about social media and its possible impact on video game journalism. If you didn’t, here ya go:
Back in journalism school, if one thing was repeatedly shoved into our heads, it was to be fair, unbiased, and objective in our approach. Even if what we reported on makes our skin crawl, we have to dive in headfirst in order to do our job properly. Journalistic integrity was the message, and most got it loud and clear. However, this was before Facebook and Twitter really took off, before social media ingrained itself into our culture. Now, we can say anything we want, in any manner we want, about anything we want without giving it a second thought.
So what does this have to do with video game journalism? Well, simple: these social outlets give game journalists more exposure than ever. With that exposure comes the added difficulty of maintaining that objectivity. Sure, most of those accounts have some kind of disclaimer saying “the thoughts and ideas written here are that of the individual and not of any media outlet he or she may work for,” but what does that really accomplish? Did the musician who got a little carried away after a recent hockey game have that disclaimer in his information? If he did, it didn’t matter, because his band kicked him out right after it. Disclaimer or not, he was now associated with what he Tweeted, and his credibility and image were tarnished.
That’s the major obstacle for the games journalists: maintaining objectivity and credibility not only in their work but on their social media pages. I can’t tell you how many leading faces in games journalism I’ve unfollowed recently because they’re A) insulting, B) miserable, or C) outspoken to the point of nausea. Granted, they are all entitled to their opinion, this is ‘MURICA and we can say what we want, but when the Tweets begin to color my perception of their work, work that I enjoy reading, it’s best to just tune them out. An example would be a particular writer who was incredibly outspoken about a certain game, then reviewed it without putting the thoughts he Tweeted into the review. To paraphrase the cliche, he told me how he really felt, yet I didn’t see it in the article he was paid to write. The whole thing seemed backwards.
If you need a recent event to make the case for you, look no further than the Xbox One reveal two weeks ago. As the event progressed, my Twitter feed (myself included, admittedly) became a snark war; a footrace to see who could throw the first jab at what was being shown. Sure, it was good for laughs, but eventually I wondered just what the hell the point was. Why was I so hellbent on getting my licks in? If I’m supposed to be a journalist, like the piece of paper I spent four years working to obtain says I am, doesn’t this fly in the face of the integrity and objectivity I was taught in the first place?
I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’ve come to a decision: with E3 2013 a week away, I’m going to take a whole new approach to my use of Twitter during my coverage. Any Tweets you see from me will either be straight-up facts or objective praise/criticism. No snark, no digs, no malice; just the events of E3, as they’re happening, as fast as I can. I may allow myself to get excited a few times (if you think I’ll remain reserved when Smash is revealed, you’re friggin’ crazy), but the majority of my social media presence concering E3 will be, to the best of my ability, objective and fair. It’s what I went to school for, after all, I may as well practice it too.
Basically, there’s a difference between “here’s the info, I do/don’t like it and here’s why” and “holy shit this games sucks and looks bad lololol omgwtfbbq.” I’m trying to be the former. There’ll be plenty of snark and negativity; I just want to cover the show and enjoy it while I do.
It’ll be hard to avoid E3 next week, but if you’re looking for just the facts (m’am) with a little bit of objective opining, @BigManFanelli on the Twitters will be a good place to get it.
Regardless, enjoy E3, and I look forward to having a shit-ton more to talk about once the smoke clears.