Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Publisher's Note: The State of Gaming

Alexander Macris | 8 Sep 2014 21:00
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Candy Crush Saga

We're beginning to see game publishers make and sell the equivalent of Volvo S60s for working parents. We're beginning to see publishers figure out how to profitably develop and sell Corvettes to Corvette enthusiasts. And we're even seeing publishers make Ferraris, price them like bicycles, and ask us to pay more for gas to make up the difference. (Those games are called free-to-play MMOs.)

So the trends are in the right direction. We'll get through the shake-ups. And gamer culture will live on. There will always be enthusiasts, and games that are conducive to enthusiastic play. Why? Because enthusiasts buy a lot of games! And those games will always be closer to World of Warcraft than Candy Crush, more Corvette than Volvo S60, because the former rewards an investment of time and energy in a way the latter simply doesn't. True, as the industry grows, some publishers or media sites that once catered to gamers may decide to aim their efforts at different segments of game consumers. But there will always be publishers, websites, and communities that cater to the needs of enthusiasts - like this one, The Escapist. Gamers are welcome here.

In the storm of this change, the beliefs that made us found The Escapist have not changed. We were right that gaming culture was an important one - and it still is. We were right that gaming was emerging into the mainstream- and it will continue to do so even more. We were right that there would be battles fought for the soul of the culture - and there are now and will be more. And we were right that those battles were worth fighting, because gaming was important - and it still is.

Part II: The Journalism

Because we think gaming is important, we think game journalism is important, too. That belief leads us to the issue at the heart of the recent controversy: standards in gaming journalism.

Let us begin by acknowledging that maintaining standards in journalism - any journalism - has become increasingly difficult on the Internet. The margins on internet content are so tiny that only a handful of publications can afford the editing and fact-checking that was once the standard for every media outlet. Heck, many can barely afford to employ full-time professional journalists, relying instead on unpaid bloggers, user-generated content, or freelance contributors to fill the gap. Moreover, most traffic to media sites now comes from sharing articles on social networks, and the emotional context of sharing means that highly opinionated pieces get shared a lot more than hard news. Economic pressures are pushing even venerable publications like The New York Times to post content faster, with less fact-checking, and more op-ed.

These are general trends. Specific to our industry is the fact that the majority of the advertisers on game media sites are game publishers. Independent professional game sites that have refused to accept advertising from game publishers have virtually always gone bankrupt for lack of other advertisers. The fact that a less-than-trivial number of game journalists aspire to (and eventually land) jobs in game development, game marketing, game community management, or game PR contributes to an atmosphere in which all sides are wary to "bite the hand which feeds".

But to explain is not to excuse. Our editor-in-chief, Greg Tito, having reviewed the facts at hand, concluded we ourselves have been imperfect in maintaining journalistic standards. A particularly problematic article, the one which generated his review, was about the alleged harassment of an indie developer by a forum community which denied the allegations but was itself victimized as a result of them. The article failed to cite the harassment as alleged, failed to give the forum community an opportunity present its point of view, and did not verify the claims or secure other sources. Mr. Tito has personally updated the article and spoken to all our editors about the importance of adhering to standards that will prevent such bad incidents from happening again. We, as a team, apologize for this error, both to our readers and to the forum community that suffered as a result. I, personally, apologize for this error, as well.

Different companies must address the challenges I have described above in different ways, depending on their business model, audience, and content. Today, we are unveiling a set of revised ethical standards for content creators on The Escapist (indeed, on all Defy Media sites), in the interests of creating transparency for our audience and the larger industry. For your convenience, I have pasted these standards on the following page. Please take a few minutes to review these policies and learn how they relate to conflicts of interest, advertiser relations, and more.

Gaming is important. Having honest and transparent game journalism is important to gaming. We hope that with your feedback we can maintain a set of practices for game journalism that is respectful of the consumer, business, and professional needs that such practices must address. Thank you for your readership, and we welcome your thoughts in the forums.

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