Beyond the Videogame News Racket
By Alex Kierkegaard / May 27, 2009
All news coverage is a speculation on credulity and stupidity.
The media industry never does anything but reproduce its own necessity. As William Burroughs says it plainly enough: all things considered, the public could get along very well without the news.
So, the videogame news racket. What is to be done about it? First, let's try to understand why something should be done about it. Then, we'll lament the fact that nothing can be done about it. Finally, we'll come to realize and accept the fact that the only thing that really matters is what we should be doing about it.
Why something SHOULD be done about it
What is the relationship between news coverage and criticism in the videogame industry? It is a straightforward one: news coverage kills criticism -- the latter simply having no hope until the two have been somehow disentangled. This is because common sense prescribes that one should refrain from shitting where one is eating, and since criticism consists almost entirely of shitting (see Schopenhauer), the critic must somehow ensure that his food supply comes from a source other than the people on whose work his job is to be shitting. If, therefore, a publication relies to any significant extent on news coverage in order to generate traffic (as is the case with all professional gaming sites and magazines, with no exceptions), and if that news coverage is handed to them by the very people on whose work their job is to be shitting (as, again, is always the case in the games industry, again with no exceptions) -- then yeah, I think it'd be reasonable to say that there's a teeny-weeny conflict of interest issue going on there.
Fair enough, one might say, but why is this problem so acute only in the videogame industry?
Because in no other entertainment industry is the quest for news as cutthroat and all-consuming as in this one. While the equivalents to screenshots, trailers and previews exist also in the worlds of movies, books and music, most people do not give nearly as much of a fuck about them as the average videogame fan does, and thus neither do the publications that cover these industries. Bottom line is that news in the other industries is nowhere near as sought after and tightly regulated (and therefore valuable) as in this one, and that's why in those other industries the review remains the most important piece of writing -- it is the only piece of writing that matters -- while the critic is king, he is in demand, he can make some sort of a living out of his trade, and his views and opinions command some sort of respect. In videogames, meanwhile, all we have are a bunch of shitty rags and blogs staffed by uneducated, ignorant and downright dishonest simpletons and cretins, all this being a direct consequence of the conflict of interest issue. In plain terms: no self-respecting human being would deign to do the job those guys are doing, and hence only the wretches end up doing it -- or else naive college dropouts lured in by the prospect of playing games for a living, and who, once the truth has dawned on them (i.e. that they must not only play shit games, but also constantly manufacture lies in order to keep praising them), start grasping about for the first chance to get out -- which is why the quick turnover, and the fact that many of the long-timers seem to have pseudo-literary or wider journalistic aspirations of some sort -- delusions of a better future career which help them bear the wretchedness of their current ones.
And how wretched is this wretchedness! Orwell once quipped that everyone in this world has someone else whom he can look down on, and that the book reviewer is in this respect better off than the film critic -- but if only he had lived to see the game reviewer! -- He is certainly the lowest of the lot. Because whatever the downsides to their respective trades, at least book critics are not obliged to spend their days begging authors and publishers to reveal chapters or random sentences or plot details from their upcoming books, and you don't see movie critics hounding directors and film studios for promotional stills or advance trailers of their upcoming films, in order to feature them exclusively in their magazines and websites. If in fact a book or movie critic were discovered to have engaged in any such clownishness, he would immediately incur the ridicule of all his peers; he would forever forfeit any claim to respect and prestige -- or even a merely decent reputation -- he would become the laughing stock of an entire industry. In the book and movie industries a press release is a press release, a promotional trailer is simply a trailer, and all these things are more or less immediately available to anyone who cares to look for them, with no miserable backdoor exclusivity agreements or other similarly retarded shenanigans -- whose only purpose is to regulate the flow of mere promotional material. Moreover, and naturally enough, interest is focused on the present (since not much of value can be said about unfinished works), and the best of what the past had to offer, whilst the future is something towards which very little attention is paid, outside of perhaps the tabloid press, which has never had anything to do with and no substantial effect on the critics.
In the game industry, meanwhile, reviewers are expected to spend one day chasing after developers, licking their balls and sucking their cocks dry for a few miserable screens or video clips, then the next one putting on the hat of the authoritative critic and pretending to pass judgement on those people's work, and then the day after that calling them up again and begging them for advertisements! And then people wonder why professional game reviews suck! I mean Jesus Christ people, of course this approach is not going to work! -- this shit is not exactly rocket science!
So that is what those who work for professional gaming publications look like when they attempt to review games -- like clowns -- whether we are talking GameSpot, IGN or Eurogamer, Edge, Kotaku or Joystiq -- they are all clowns -- situated right at the level of paparazzi in the intellectual food chain, if not lower -- because paparazzi at least have the decency to not pretend to play the role of critics! And how ridiculous would a publication look like if it hired paparazzi to review books or movies? And why is no one laughing when the same thing happens on game sites every day? You want your little hobby to be taken seriously, little Johnny? How about you try taking yourself seriously first, before you start demanding the respect of others? Did they forget to teach you that in artfag school?
But critics -- genuine critics, eminent critics, hardcore critics -- have never had anything to do with the news rackets. The Kaels and the Orwells of this world were never expected to chase after news snippets or plagiarize press kit contents. This kind of stuff was never part of their job description -- this kind of stuff was beneath them. Their job was to shut themselves off inside their ivory towers, as far from the petty, inconsequential day-to-day goings-on of their respective industries as each of them could manage, and pass judgement on whatever works therein happened to catch their interest. The videogame writer meanwhile is supposed to be news reporter, industry hanger-on and lickspittle, paparazzi, PR and marketing scum and critic all rolled into one -- so where would honesty possibly fit into all of this? Where intelligence? I have more respect for the honesty and intelligence of the dirt-poor, illiterate immigrant lady who cleans my apartment every day than for the trailer trash who review games nowadays, with their retarded "gameplays", "RPGs" and "values for monies" and asinine "Top 100" lists, and their endless, exasperating, ludicrously misdirected demands for artfagottry and "innovation". I mean is there even a single thing these slobbering morons have managed not to bungle?
So let me state this as directly and clearly as I can: everyone who works today in a publication that provides news coverage on the world of videogames is trailer trash material. I have already explained in great detail why -- because in the age of the internet, official sites and RSS feeds, reporting on games is a scam, since there is absolutely no reason why companies cannot feed all the new information directly to their official websites as soon as they decide to make it publicly available. Any course of action other than this is a flagrant attempt at manipulation, a marketing trick and nothing more, and whoever takes part in it, for whatever reason, while at the same time pretending to play the role of critic, should be immediately blacklisted from the public's consciousness as a racketeer and a scammer. Do you see Roger Ebert running around begging directors for screenshots or trailers or exclusive news reports? Do you see him rewriting press releases? No, you don't. That's how you gain respect in this world: by first displaying some self-respect, and not acting like petulant trailer trash scum. So if you are employed as a games "journalist", I have news for you: The publication you work for is trash, your news posts are trash, your previews are trash, your reviews are trash, and consequently, yes, as far as I am concerned, you are trash.
And why stop here now that we've come this far? Might as well go a little bit further.
Many of those reading this will doubtless be passionate film fans -- but do you care at all about "movie journalism"? -- No. Does such a thing even exist? I guess so, but really now, who gives a shit. If you care about movies, the only thing you care about apart from watching them and discussing them with your friends is criticism. And it's exactly the same thing with literature. Is there such a thing as "literature journalism"? Dude, who cares! -- On the one hand, for manufactured novels, such as, say, Agatha Christie or Tom Clancy or John Grisham or whatever, criticism is beside the point, because there's no material difference between one Agatha Christie murder mystery and the next, or between one John Grisham thriller and the next -- if you've reviewed one of them you've reviewed all of them -- which is why serious critics never bother with them. For real literature, on the other hand, the Stendhals, the Hemingways, the Kafkas and their kind, the only thing that really matters is criticism -- the rest being merely noise.
So let us finally grow up a little bit and realize that there's no reason for anything other to exist besides official game sites and hard-hitting criticism (-- honest and merciless, as Lester Bangs once put it). The rest is just noise -- mere chatter produced with the sole purpose of filling up magazines and websites for the benefit of those who have nothing better to do all day than keep clicking on random links like brain-fried hyperactive monkeys hopped up on failed ADD-research drugs.
So for any decent professional criticism to emerge within the games industry, paparazzi antics and reviewing must once and for all be separated, but how to go about accomplishing this? Well, what gamers need to realize, and it is really a very simple thing, is that there is nothing urgent whatsoever about news updates on a game that will not be available to buy for months or even years. Videogames are not like politics or the stock market for christsake, where, at least in theory, people's lives and the wellbeing of nations are at stake. I mean of course we all enjoy drooling over screenshots of our most anticipated games, watching the latest trailers and daydreaming about how much fun we'll be having once we are playing the finished thing -- but if the fuckin' game is coming out in eight months, what's the difference if you watch that fucking trailer today or next week? (-- or next month, for that matter). Your insatiable, nonsensical desire to see that fucking screenshot or watch that fucking trailer THE VERY SECOND it becomes available is what feeds this mad situation and keeps it going. It is what destroys the chances of any publication that might decide to stop dancing, take a deep breath, and take its time in order to try and deliver some honest, insightful criticism. Can you imagine how much better professional reviews would become if those morons could at least be allowed to invest all their work time in playing games, instead of trying to one-up each other in the news racket? If they used the extra time to delve deeper into a game, or go back and play previous installments of a series, or its competitors, so that their reviews would end up providing, you know, actual context, instead of the usual waffling based on such ludicrously nebulous non-terms as "gameplay", "fun", "art" and "value for money"? Not to speak of the immense benefits to be gained from dissociating entirely from the news racket, and thus also from the constant pressure of PR departments to rush through and exhaustively cover whatever irrelevant piece of shit non-game comes out every week.
Yet any attempt to slow down on (let alone entirely dissociate from) the news racket will result in a website's falling behind its competitors, followed by a corresponding plummeting of traffic -- traffic which will immediately redirect itself towards the countless other websites that have no editorial or moral standards or critical ambitions whatsoever. The drop in traffic, meanwhile, will lead to a loss of advertising revenue, which will lead to less income with which to pay the reviewers, which will eventually lead to bankruptcy, in a process escalating at a rate proportional to the website's quality increase (i.e. the higher it sets its standards the more steeply its traffic will nosedive, and the faster it will go bankrupt). Hence it would be wrong to single out and blame solely the media for this state of things, since the process is ultimately fueled by the (execrable) reading habits and (practically non-existent) tastes of the readers. Of course it could be argued that the media are directly responsible for their readers' lack of taste and decent reading habits, and that would also be very true. So everyone is at fault here -- game companies, the media and the readers -- in a process so inextricably intertwined that the only option to unravel it would be... well, not available within liberal democracies, where, at least in the short- and medium-term, the tastes and habits of the lowest common denominator are always dominating.
Why NOTHING can be done about it
This, of course, is by no means a new insight; but what is new, and profound, and profoundly disturbing, is that the internet does not alleviate the situation, as the common man likes to think, but exacerbates it. And just as philosophers in earlier centuries warned about the stupefying effects of the newspapers, which, "since they print the daily smatterings of commonplace people, are especially a cunning means for robbing from the aesthetic public the time which should be devoted to the genuine productions of art for the furtherance of culture" (Schopenhauer), so contemporary philosophers warn about the brutalizing, stupor-inducing effects of the internet -- while of course no one's paying them any attention. What is at work here is the process which McLuhan analyzed (for the mass media of his day), through which the medium shapes the message, and gradually, progressively, comes to substitute itself for it; this process here finally encountered in its highest, most disconcerting form, and functioning according to the principle of operationality which Baudrillard so wittily elucidated:
"The compulsion to operationalism gives rise to an operational paradox. It is not just that the order of the day is "making something worth something": the fact is that it is better, if something is to be invested with value, for it to have no value to begin with; better to know nothing in order to have things known; better to produce nothing in order to have things produced; and better to have nothing to say if one seeks to communicate. All of which is part of the logic of things: as everyone knows, if you want to make people laugh, it is better not to be funny. The implications for communication and information networks are incontestable: in order for content to be conveyed as well and as quickly as possible, that content should come as close as possible to transparency and insignificance."
So it is extremely naive to think that it is somehow Brian Crecente's fault that his website is the way it is -- it is the dictates of the medium which prescribe that top sites must look exactly like Kotaku, and will come to look exactly like it, shaped down to their smallest details through a process whose principles of operation I will now briefly summarize: The top sites are the ones that make money (because money comes from advertising, and advertising directs itself towards sites that generate the most traffic); since they make money there will be many who will want to own those sites (because people who live in consumer societies care, first and above all -- about money); this will lead to competition, the sole measure of which will be traffic; traffic depends overwhelmingly on frequency of updating, meaning you need lots of people working on it -- people who demand payment (so we come full circle on this issue -- i.e. even technically, it's not possible to have a top site without paying money, and thus the need to make money). Increasing your traffic meanwhile means making as many tiny posts as possible, because it is the number of posts that matters, not the extent of their content (a Kotaku post which includes the word "Crysis" in its title and URL will be ranked exactly the same by Google in a search for "Crysis", regardless of whether it contains 10,000 words or twenty). This does not necessarily mean that the tiny posts cannot have quality; but when you are scrambling to beat everyone else on the updating game you are left with no time to research, no time to reflect, and thus no time to worry about quality.
So Crecente had no choice in the matter. That is not to say that he would have done anything differently had he had a choice... But that does not mean that Crecente is the problem. Crecente is but a mere product of the system -- the system manufactured him, not Crecente the system. Removing him gets you nowhere. There are a million Crecentes out there who desire nothing more from life than to be Crecente in Crecente's place, and would be the moment that Crecente stopped acting like Crecente.
The problem isn't Kotaku either. If Crecente was somehow biologically re-engineered to not be a total fuckhead (I know that science is not at that point yet, and perhaps may never get there, but bear with me for a moment), and decided to make some changes to his site so that it didn't suck so much, these changes would only end up decreasing his site's traffic, and opening up the way for some other crappy site to take the top spot. Then, in the eyes of the few (meaning us), THAT site would become the problem, and so on and so forth. The problem then is not specific sites or specific people -- but sites. And people.
Ultimately, what drives the entire situation is money. Take money out of the equation and sites like Kotaku and 1UP would cease to exist, because the greedy wretches that run them would never spend so much of their time working on them for free. If, say, a law was passed stipulating that no one was allowed to make money on the internet, all the pro blogs and sites would shut down within hours, if not minutes -- and I mean shut down, taken offline, vanish into thin air -- because no one would spend so much as a dime out of their pocket to keep all of that rubbish online. Thenceforth the only ones left online would be those driven by passion: the amateurs (con amore), the aficionados (con aficion), the dilettanti (per il loro diletto) -- people enjoying themselves writing in their spare time. This would not mean that all sites would be good -- take for instance HG101, entirely written for free and entirely retarded. But at least in this scenario the dilettanti's websites, both the good and the bad ones, would only have to compete for traffic and search engine rankings between them -- not against the greed-fueled behemoths, which have no qualms (and all the time and money in the world) about leveraging every dirty trick in the book (and in fact continually inventing new ones) in their insatiable quest for traffic and the money that goes with it. Everything would work infinitely better then, much like the future Schopenhauer envisaged for a literature purged clean of the pernicious influence of money:
"Writing for money and preservation of copyright are, at bottom, the ruin of literature. It is only the man who writes absolutely for the sake of the subject that writes anything worth writing. What an inestimable advantage it would be, if, in every branch of literature, there existed only a few but excellent books! This can never come to pass so long as money is to be made by writing. It seems as if money lay under a curse, for every author deteriorates directly he writes in any way for the sake of money. The best works of great men all come from the time when they had to write either for nothing or for very little pay. This is confirmed by the Spanish proverb: honra y provecho no caben en un saco (Honour and money are not to be found in the same purse). The deplorable condition of the literature of to-day, both in Germany and other countries, is due to the fact that books are written for the sake of earning money. Every one who is in want of money sits down and writes a book, and the public is stupid enough to buy it. The secondary effect of this is the ruin of language."
If things worked this way, instead of getting Insomnia, Postback, SegaFans, et al. articles and reviews -- the only articles and reviews that matter -- ranked on Google's 20th page, they would be on the first page, jostling for attention among much inferior ones from sites like HG101, to be sure, but all of them in the last resort worthy of attention, because of passion in them, not greed. In the words again of Schopenhauer, our articles and reviews are the end, not a means to further ends, and therefore only they have a shot at excellence, for "true excellence, no matter in what sphere, can be attained only where the work has been produced for its own sake alone, and not as a means to further ends".
But do you understand why the behemoths' content gets preferential treatment by the search engines? Because of the search engine manipulation shenanigans engaged in by the behemoths' worker drones, who are being paid to sit around all day figuring out ways to accomplish this. NOT playing games, thinking and writing about them -- NOT improving their website's quality in this way (since such improvements go unnoticed by the rabble, or, when they do get noticed, lead to a decrease in traffic -- not an increase), but engaging in contemptible manipulation shenanigans. Hence the thousands of empty pages in the databases of all the big sites, featuring nothing but game titles. Hence the other tens of thousands of pages containing no more than a few lines of text, many of which have even been copy-pasted from other sites. What is the meaning of all these empty, half-empty and duplicate pages flooding the internet and search results, if not incontestable proof that, on the internet, "in order for content to be conveyed as well and as quickly as possible, that content should come as close as possible to transparency and insignificance"?
But to get back on track with my main point -- because I do in fact have one -- it can finally be seen that, as far as the requirements of traffic are concerned, news posts reign supreme. They are far and away the premier type of content for a gaming site, first of all because (as I will be explaining) that's more or less all that anyone cares about, and then because:
1. They can be as brief as you want -- even as brief, ultimately, as a single sentence (perhaps accompanied by an image of some kind to soften -- for the feebleminded -- the shock induced from the flagrant lack of content).
2. They do not have to be original content: copy-pasting from press releases or other sites works just as well, and often better. These copy-pasting antics would theoretically free you up to devote more time to playing games and commenting on/criticizing them -- but why do that when you could be using this time more effectively by reinvesting it in more news posting (go back to point 1 and, if you work for a blog, repeat ad infinitum).
3. They ultimately require no play time and no thought -- no other form of content is more time-effective than a news post.
4. If you say something wrong you can always take it back -- preferably with yet another news post.
5. If you say something stupid you don't even have to take it back, because news posts are forgotten almost as quickly as they are written. (Zero accountability, in other words; a big difference compared to reviews, which stick in people's minds for at least a little longer.)
The clincher is that, compared to the traffic brought in by news posts, that which is generated by reviews is negligible -- which is why the behemoths would never dream of scaling back their news coverage, and why the biggest blogs (Kotaku, Joystiq, et al.), even though they have far fewer resources (budget, manpower), and even though they have dispensed with reviews almost entirely, still manage to stay competitive. And of course the reverse (i.e. dropping news coverage to concentrate on reviews) has never happened, since reviews by themselves do not generate enough traffic to start attracting advertisers. For the professionals, then, it's either news-only, or news + (news-tainted) criticism. In the world of videogames, pure criticism -- the kind which, in other critical fields, was taken up by people like Orwell and Kael -- happily remains the province of the amateurs.
What WE should be doing about it
Did you note the "happily" in the last sentence? It was meant to convey that, unlike everyone else who's tried tackling this "problem", I find nothing wrong with how things stand. And why would I? -- I am quite enjoying running the world's best gaming site. Even supposing there was indeed a problem here, and that I had its solution, why would I want to give it to anyone? It would be clearly against my interests. -- But that is all beside the point, because there's no real problem here. People who see problems everywhere, and go to great pains to "solve" them, really only care about the problem of their lack of money or reputation. The "problems" they pretend to tackle are mere fictions they themselves create -- and these are indeed the best kinds of problems for their purpose, since, because they do not exist, they can also never be solved. They therefore provide infinite opportunities for analyses and proposals and counter-proposals of "solutions", all of which, since they do not correspond to any real problem, will of course never be put into action.
To get back to the present case, and see how the above applies here, once one has grasped all the intricacies of the issue, one has also grasped the necessity of its existence; one has seen how the mass, perpetually hindered by its very size and weight, is always incapable of rising to a higher level -- for where would it then stand on? how would it support itself? -- The mass resides, by its very definition, at the bottom, and thus time and again, by means of its immense gravitational field, attempts to pull everything and everyone down to its level, including those who compliment it, who pander to it, who feed off of it -- ultimately anyone who pays the slightest attention to it and to its (literally) retarded needs and desires -- this is the reality at the heart of the process we have been examining, and which, as a process, is in the last resort neither good nor bad, it simply exists, it is the the way it is out of necessity, and so too is its counter-movement, what opposes and antagonizes it, the other half of the process, the ascending half -- meaning I and this website. And as I and this website keep improving, expanding, growing in reputation and in influence, look: isn't it therefore also necessary that our "opposites" (really, our antecedents in this ongoing process) must necessarily deteriorate, decline, diminish in reputation and in influence -- by comparison, at least, if not perhaps eventually also in absolute terms? So let all the eggheads chatter on about how "things" can get "better", and yadda, yadda, yadda -- "things" (meaning the state of the professional media) cannot get better: they can only, and will only, get worse.
The question then is not how the insoluble "problem" of the state of the media will be solved, but what we can actually do, starting right now, to shape our immediate environment (whether it be sites, communities, or even specific games) to our tastes, even more than it already is. This, after all, is how this site got started. This is how all good things get started. Not by identifying some vague universal "problem" (in reality a personal desire sifted and made abstract -- and therefore also made unreal), filling up the internet with superficial and naive elucidations of it (really nothing more than puerile whining), and expecting someone else to magically appear out of the ground and make your dreams come true. Newsflash for games journ-lol-ists: In this world, everyone either makes his own dreams come true -- or doesn't. The rest is idle chatter.
So for the remainder of this article we will be concerned with nothing other than Insomnia's news coverage -- for that, as far as I am concerned, is the only tenable "solution" to our present "problem". As for everyone else: what do I care about what anyone else does on the internet? As far as I am concerned the rest of the internet exists to serve as fodder for my lol thread, and if I sometimes, as above, devote a few pages to examining other people's faults, it is only for the benefit of myself and of my readers. "We should seek for the faults in the style of another author's works, so that we may avoid committing the same in our own", said Schopenhauer -- and that's what we've been doing. What's at stake here, what has always been at stake, is the instruction and improvement of ourselves, not of the others -- for that, ultimately, only they can do, and they must want to do it.--
The question of the value of news
Before we begin to tackle the issue of Insomnia's news coverage, however, we should make a few clarifications. One point that we must briefly touch on is the value of news. What is the value of news coverage for the purposes of criticism -- for the purposes of a website whose primary goal is to provide insightful criticism?
The answer couldn't be simpler: for the purposes of criticism news coverage is worthless. You can have a gigantic site filled with up-to-the-second detailed news updates going all the way back to Spacewar, but not a single half-decent review or article (see also: Wikipedia). You can have the world's largest database of scans, screenshots, trailers, release data, developer interviews (see Gamasutra), etc. etc., and still fail to realize that the word "gameplay" doesn't mean anything, that arcade games are meant to be played one credit at a time, that videogame sequels are not supposed to be sequels in the book or movie (i.e. narrative) sense but merely incremental rule updates, that all videogames contain "messages" by default (as does everything else in existence, and in fact an infinity of them -- see also Derrida), that CRPGs are not really RPGs at all but either pure strategy games or strategy/action hybrids, with at best a light sprinkling of adventuring for appearances' sake -- et cetera, et cetera.
Now the why and the how of our answer (of the worthlessness of news coverage for the purposes of criticism, I mean), if not immediately obvious, has been explained by Schopenhauer in a few places, and though I will eventually return to the subject to treat it at length (in ultimately much greater detail than even Schopenhauer or anyone else has so far done), for the time being his explanations should suffice:
"Students, and learned persons of all sorts and every age, aim as a rule at acquiring information rather than insight. They pique themselves upon knowing about everything -- stones, plants, battles, experiments, and all the books in existence. It never occurs to them that information is only a means of insight, and in itself of little or no value; that it is his way of thinking that makes a man a philosopher."
"And since individuals and events are without number or end, an essential imperfection attaches to history. In the study of it, all that a man learns never contributes to lessen that which he has still to learn. [...] When we gain access to the histories of China and of India, the endlessness of the subject-matter will reveal to us the defects in the study, and force our historians to see that the object of science is to recognize the many in the one, to perceive the rules in any given example, and to apply to the life of nations a knowledge of mankind; not to go on counting up facts ad infinitum."
So news, as part of the future history of videogames, is on the one hand "without number or end", on the other "in itself of little or no value". Why, then, is it far and away the most valuable kind of content on the internet? For the same reason newspapers sell in the millions every day compared to the paltry sales of philosophical books (philosophy being to newspaper content what my essays are to videogame news posts) -- because "the mass is dumb like beasts" (Baudrillard), and therefore dumb behaviour is all that can be expected of it.
But that is not to say that news posts do not have their place in the grand scheme of things -- they of course do, even though that place is nowhere near as high and mighty as the mass would like to think (-- it is in fact right at the bottom, which, not coincidentally, as I've mentioned, is also where the mass resides). And let's be honest here, the gaming press has never really bothered with anything other than news coverage. Even in the old days, no one ever bought C&VG or EGM or Famitsu for the criticism, and though people like me may on occasion wax lyrically about the quality of those bygone (or, depending on the case, profanated) videogame institutions, the fact is that their criticism -- though, granted, nowhere near as bad as what we're served today -- had always been sparse and sketchy at best. And then also consider that no one, intelligent people included, ever rushed to the "criticism" section of a games magazine on first opening it -- we all naturally first go for the news. It is, and I emphasize this, the natural reaction: if you are into videogames, regardless of how highly you may esteem analysis and criticism, the news is where the excitement is, the first whiff of new experiences, new worlds and new adventures -- hopefully more elaborate, more complex ones -- not to mention more visually and aurally arresting.
So again, even though as regards this website's first priority, news is worthless, it on the other hand remains where the excitement is, and I had always meant to make an exciting website.
And there is more that can be said on this. "Why is this problem so acute only in the videogame industry?", I asked in reference to the news racket, way up there somewhere, and gave the following answer: "Because in no other entertainment industry is the quest for news as cutthroat and all-consuming as in this one". Granted that this is so, but why? Why are game news more sought-after than book or music or film news? (And please note that I am not taking into account celebrity news here, which is an entirely different thing...)
Part of the answer is that game fans love games more than book, music and film fans love their respective objects of affection -- though I will side-step this part for now and return to it at greater length elsewhere. The other part however I will briefly deal with -- it is this: unlike books, music or films, which are mostly static, fixed media (words on a page, sound waves in the air, images on a screen) and rely only slightly on technology, videogames are inherently technological wonders, and therefore stand to gain a great deal from the advances that technological innovations regularly bring with them. While all the essentials of novel-writing have existed for many centuries, the art of novel-writing has barely advanced since The Tale of Genji, whilst the medium itself remains unaltered; and similarly for music and the movies. (Is 21st century music in any way more advanced than Beethoven? The question itself is ludicrous. Are the latest crop of movies that much more advanced, in any sense whatsoever, compared to Citizen Kane or Metropolis? Perhaps the superhero flicks may be, in a technical sense, but even then the differences are hardly revolutionary. -- Are their plotlines more advanced? More lols here: what movie flick has surpassed in depth and nuance Shakespeare or the Greek tragedians? Besides, whoever is into movies for the plot is better off reading novels instead.)
So even though the odd artistic or technical innovation may sometimes occur within the medium of the novel, the music track, or the motion picture, the medium itself never really changes. That is why a highly anticipated, ambitious videogame is, generally speaking, a much more exciting prospect than any upcoming novel, music album or movie -- because here one expects, and often gets, radical improvements in the medium itself, which transform the experience to something higher, more complex and more engrossing; a transformation which, in the best of cases, is comparable to that which poetry underwent when it became theatre, by theatre when it became film.
But let us close this small parenthesis and get back to our main point -- we will deal with the issues raised above in greater detail elsewhere.
We have seen, then, that the value of news coverage lies in the excitement it generates and the enthusiasm it feeds, and we are already aware of the value of adept criticism, so it is only natural to ultimately wish to see a publication that expertly mixes both. And yet when I look around, whether off- or online, it is plain that no one seems able to pull this off successfully, and everything ends up being tainted by this mixing. Reviews end up being barely even impressions, since everyone is too busy chasing news to have the time to really play anything (and this without taking into account the humbug of pretending to review inherently competitive games such as online FPS, RTS, fighting, MMO games and the like, within a few days of release -- if not indeed even before it!), and even the news coverage becomes tainted, since the blogoroids are not content to simply regurgitate info -- they feel compelled to also add their own comments, which, coming from people who have been speedrushing through garbage most of their lives, and have therefore had no time to think at length about anything, or follow a genre or a series attentively so as to be able to comment on it with some degree of expertise, end up being not merely worthless but positively misleading -- and not to mention obnoxious. Everything becomes tainted by this mixing, and in the end you are disgusted to even read their news coverage. The question here then is: we already have the criticism part down on Insomnia; how do we now nail the news part?
It comes down to this: neither I, nor anyone else who occasionally contributes to this site, have the time or inclination to take on Kotaku et al. in this retarded racket. We are no. 1 in criticism, and that is all we ever wanted to be -- since that is all that matters. So let them win the news game: How much satisfaction can you get by being able to say "You heard it here first"? I'd much rather earn the right to say "You heard it here best".
The funny thing however is that, when looked at carefully, it turns out that we do have a better news network on this website, in terms of, let us say, infrastructure -- even though of course in quantity and timeliness of actual news coverage we are lagging far behind (except perhaps as regards some of the more obscure games, and then only because our rivals don't really give a damn about anything not published by EA or Ubisoft). What I am trying to say is that, technically, the news section of Insomnia is far more advanced and versatile than Kotaku's or Joystiq's, and years ahead of sites like GameSpot or Eurogamer. All we really need so as to catch up with (or even overtake) the corporate drones and the blogoroids is a few people to come in and take advantage of this. So let's examine what I mean in some more detail.
Portals vs. Blogs vs. Forums
What I will endeavor to explain now, dear reader, is that portal sites (I use the term loosely to refer to sites like 1UP and GameSpot), blogs and forums are essentially almost the same thing, and that the ultimate news reporting site must of its nature employ the best aspects of all three.
First of all you must realize that a forum will always be superior to portals and blogs in terms of the speed of news reporting. Siliconera, for example, a medium-sized and quite popular weaboo blog, is mostly written by one person, with a handful of other occasional contributors. Kotaku and Joystiq are each written by half a dozen or so people. But forums are written by hundreds if not thousands of people. Whereas Siliconera's Spencer Yip has to eat and sleep at some point, in any given forum at any given time there are always at least several dozen people up and scouring the internet for news. There's no question then of which kind of site will always be quicker with the latest news. The only exceptions are "exclusives" that a site's owner has negotiated with a publisher through the manipulation scam, but the other great thing about forums is that exclusives can be almost immediately co-opted (i.e. copy-pasted), all the while the forum itself preserves its honesty and independence -- and hence its quality.
So forums are definitely superior as regards speed. On quality too, forums trump everything -- at least in theory. Let me explain.
First off, you must realize that Kotaku, Joystiq, Destructoid, Siliconera et al. are filled with shit. If you do not understand and agree to this there's no point in continuing to read. In fact, if that is so, leave now and never come back -- we don't need stupid readers. Now if you ask me why these blogs are filled with shit, I'd tell you that part of it is because the kind of person who would do the job these people do (i.e. play the manipulation game) are deadbeats with no sense of self-worth or self-respect, and partly because it is impossible to cover as many games as they try to cover, while being under as much pressure to outperform the other blogs and news sites as they are, and at the same time provide any kind of quality commentary. Because blogs live and die by the amount of traffic they generate, quality, as I have explained, is therefore something they cannot possibly provide. And in fact you find that the more traffic a blog has the worse quality of commentary it provides -- i.e. they all suck, but the more popular ones suck the most (if you looked up their traffic rankings on Alexa, and plotted a graph of traffic (y-axis) versus quality (x-axis), it'd probably end up a nearly straight line forming an isosceles triangle with the x and y axes. Kotaku would be at a point right on the y-axis (i.e. maximum traffic, minimum quality), and some unknown blog that has five or six readers and only updates twice a year would be right on the x axis (i.e. maximum quality, minimum traffic)).
In order to provide some sort of quality coverage, therefore, you have to either stop covering as many games (which equates to professional suicide for all these blogs and portals -- which is why they'd never dream of doing it), or, if you want to retain breadth of coverage and have a chance of maintaining a certain level of quality, increase the number of contributors by resorting to a user-driven system, much like all those game-specific social networking sites that have been popping up lately, which have modeled themselves after sites such as Digg.
But the point is that those user-driven sites still suck, just as much if not more than forums like, say, NeoGAF or rllmuk, because in all those sites there exist no editorial standards whatsoever. Editorial standards, after all, are what have always determined the quality of a publication, and they always will (without them, as the number of contributors rises, and their lowest common denominator necessarily falls, the overall standard of quality approaches rock-bottom, and you simply get closer and closer to the "democratic" effect of the internet, meaning white noise). And since with the arrival of the internet these standards in our industry have completely collapsed, there is no chance in hell that a decent publication will arise any time soon, regardless of how fancy the technology powering all these sites may get. At the end of the day it is thinking human beings that create comments, articles and reviews worth reading, and the quality of this content can only ever be as high as that determined by the taste of the person who selects them. Machines will never be able to do this selection job for you (at least until the invention of human-level artificial intelligence, at which point we'll have more pressing matters to think about than videogame news sites).
A forum therefore, to get back to the issue at hand, has the advantage of speed over a blog, and it also theoretically has the advantage of quality, because the people who post in forums are passionate gamers who do so in their spare time, and who do so only (again, in theory) when they feel they have something to say, and only on games for which they feel they have something to contribute -- in contrast to the blogoroids who get paid by the miserable post, and have therefore plenty of incentive to post even when they don't have anything to say. However, small- to medium-sized blogs still tend to beat out forums in terms of overall quality, even though in principle they shouldn't. The explanation for this is simple: I'd rather read the Insert Credit frontpage any day of the week, for example, even when Brandon is making a miserable one-paragraph post on Guilty Gear or Blazblue (because he is not a fan of ArcSys fighters but still feels compelled to inform his readers about these games -- or misinform them, as the case might be -- this is the "Website-owner Syndrome" which I will examine at length elsewhere) than spend hours upon hours in a place like Shoryuken digging through 60+ page threads for the couple of decent posts buried within them.
But at the end of the day the most worthwhile posts on Guilty Gear and Blazblue (and indeed on every game in every genre) are still to be found in the appropriate forum and thread, and NOT on Insert Credit's frontpage. I am not singling out IC here for any reason -- it is indeed among the best mid-sized blogs out there -- but the fact remains that when it comes to commentary on a specific genre, Brandon Sheffield is a decade behind the experts who post in the appropriate forums. The difference is that HIS posts go on a neat and tidy frontpage and remain there long enough for the whole world to see, whereas the insights of the experts are read by, at best, one or two dozen other experts, before being buried under a humongous heap of worthless nonsense, which is how unmoderated forums (i.e. all of them) work.
I mean how do you think I managed to write such insightful reviews on such technical games as Ketsui and Arcana Heart? You think I woke up one day and all that stuff suddenly flew out of my brain onto a word processor? I mean of course I've played both games a great deal, as well as many of their predecessors and competitors, but if I hadn't been reading up on the insights of the top players on Shmups.com and Shoryuken for months and years, there's no way I would ever have developed such nuanced opinions. And these experts themselves would never have become so proficient if they hadn't been able to communicate through online message boards, trading ideas and opinions back and forth over many years. If they had each remained isolated in their own little corners of the world, they would still mostly be talking about gameplay, story and graphics, and other such silly nonsense. They would hardly be any better than Frank Casssamasatina, or Hillary Goldenstein, or Greg Casavin, not to mention the New Games Journ-lol-lists: Kierron Gillen, Tim Rogers, and their kind.
But to return to the issue at hand, what I am trying to explain to you, dear reader, is that forums can be seen as blogs written by hundreds of people. Now if these people actually realized this fact, and took their posting a little bit more seriously (instead of posting like retards, all the while whining that there are no good sites to read!), and if there was a way to select these people so that only the more intelligent, knowledgeable ones were allowed to post, and if moreover they agreed to accept the impositions of an editor, who would lay down some ground rules and would have the power to edit or delete posts at will, in order to impose some minimum editorial standards, and if moreover there was a way for the most worthwhile posts to be promoted to a frontpage, which would act as a sort of showcase for the site's best content (ultimately with the goal of attracting even more knowledgeable gamers, and thus expanding the site's width and depth of coverage) -- now wouldn't that be something?
If you did all the above you would have harnessed the power of the internet to create the most advanced gaming news reporting site, both in terms of speed of updating and quality of content.
And there's more to it than that
... because forums also beat everything else in terms of functionality. They are not only faster and better, but also easier to update, and -- if the editor/admin knows what he is doing -- easier to navigate, browse and read.
Anyone who has ever messed with a blog knows what I mean when I say that forums are easier to update. Even the most streamlined blogging platform is far too unwieldy when compared to even the most basic forum software, with the entire process of logging in, typing your post, formatting it, previewing, posting and perhaps editing it taking at least four-five times longer on a blog than in a forum. If you've never ran a blog don't ask me how or why: get a Blogger or WordPress account and see for yourself. This is one of the reasons you often see people who have both blog and forum accounts hardly ever update their blogs, all the while racking up forum postcounts in the thousands (the other reason is that on their blogs they are lonely, but I will touch on that later).
And then there is the browsing and navigation issue. The way it's handled in portals and blogs is so mind-bogglingly idiotic, so astoundingly retarded, that everyone seems to have blanked it out of their consciousness so as not to suffer from it -- everyone seems to be deep in denial about it, and so of course it once again falls on me to expose it. I mean
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WITH THESE NEW PAGES ALREADY!
What do I mean by that? Here it is in (relatively) calm, measured tones:
The "new page" issue is among the main drawbacks of the blog- and portal-style websites. A new game is announced and you create a whole freaking new page to inform your readers of it. Screens hit the net a while later, and you make a whole freaking new page to post them. Then a trailer is released and you add a whole freaking new page to your site just to post a link to Youtube for fuck's sake! Every single fuckin' time the developers/PR machine let out a fart, you are either obliged to add A WHOLE FREAKING NEW PAGE to your website, or be forced to ignore it. On top of all that, the only way to remind readers that you've mentioned the game before, and make sure they are up-to-date with previous developments, is to incessantly link yourself in new updates. That's why you see blogs repeating the mantra "we've talked of this before" and constantly linking back to older updates. All this does is create a labyrinthine site structure, with info and commentary on each game randomly scattered across dozens of pages, each of which of course comes with its own comments thread. And not only does this haphazard, random approach to website-building render all these sites a pain to navigate and read -- it also has, as is to be expected, a severely negative impact on the quality of all their comments threads. Senseless repetition, unbelievable absentmindedness and stupidity, endless misunderstandings -- every mental defect and perversity: you name it, the portal- and blog-style websites engender, foster and perpetuate it.
And all the above apply of course even to the better (and necessarily smaller) blogs, such as, say, Insert Credit or Arcade Renaissance; the problems are simply less severe there because of the much lower frequency of updating and the smaller number of readers/commenters. But move away from those and oh my god does the situation get unbearable. I am not even going to go as far as Joystiq, Kotaku, Destructoid and the like, 70% of whose contributors' posts aren't even about any particular game, and who just simply trawl the gutters of "gamer culture" and post whatever leftover lulz they find there. So yeah, no need to go that far down the quality scale -- even the Japanese news sites, Game Watch, Gpara and the like, which are far more dedicated, reliable and professional than anything the Western internet has ever had to offer, suffer from this careless, scattershot approach to website-building.
So the further advantage of using a forum is that -- if the admin is not braindead -- all updates on each game, from the initial announcement, to first impressions, to even user reviews, tips and retrospectives, go on a single page (or consecutive pages, for multiple-page threads), and are thus very easy to locate, browse through and read. The "disadvantage" is that you end up with fewer pages, and thus less Google-funneled traffic; but why would a community of experts care about traffic? If you are the best, the best will eventually find you, one way or another -- who cares about the rest?
These then are the other major advantages of the (correctly set-up) forum: ease of updating, navigation, browsing and reading -- but like the previously mentioned advantages (the greater number of contributors compared to blogs and portals, and the much higher quality of their contributions) the trailer trash kids who run them do everything they can to negate them -- if not indeed to reverse their effects, turning each and every advantage into the worst kind of disadvantage. I give an example: go to Shmups.com's search page and type, say, "Under Defeat": you will get several dozen threads, most of them dedicated to the same fuckin' game. What do all these threads contain? I'll tell you what: 90% pointless or stupid or even off-topic blabbering (all of which would have been deleted by even the least capable of editors), and a handful of decent, intelligent posts scattered here and there. But the very existence of all these threads makes the search feature hard to use, which is why eventually no one bothers using it, simply starting a brand-new thread at the slightest motivation ("Have u gayz herd of R-Type? lol"). These new threads then keep multiplying, and as they do render the search feature more and more useless. Every few years the board (thankfully) crashes, everything gets wiped, and the trailer trash kids are forced to start over (having lost, of course, a great deal of knowledge in the process -- because the handful of intelligent people who contributed the handful of intelligent posts are either gone, or can't be bothered to repeat themselves). So am I wrong in calling them trailer trash, or braindead, or retards? What should I call them? What is the proper designation for the sort of person who sets up a forum for several thousand people without at any point giving the slightest thought to its running and its maintenance? And it's not as if that "thought" is supposed to be rocket science -- we are talking teenager-level common sense here! So tell me, please, what is the politically correct term for someone who can barely count to three? -- And things work exactly the same way in every other forum, the only exception I am aware of being Postback's, which was after all the site that made me realize a great many of the things I've been explaining here.
So forums are theoretically superior in terms of speed, quality and functionality -- are they in any way deficient? They are in one respect and in one respect only: in presentation. By this I don't mean the layout of each individual page, since, as long as the forum template is elegant enough, it will always outclass the aesthetic abortions that are the mainstream blogs and portals (nothing in all of, say, Kotaku or Eurogamer comes anywhere near the elegance of a plain Insomnia forum page...) -- I mean the index layout. The index of a forum is less visually attractive, less easy to take in at a glance, than a blog's or portal's frontpage, with their various screenshots, thumbnails etc. And that's pretty much it, dear reader: this little difference is what allows the top ranked blogs to have a hundred times more traffic than the top ranked forums. Though NeoGAF's thousands of contributors regularly outdo the five-six greedy wretches who slave away for Kotaku, their forum gets a hundred times less traffic partly because... its index lacks thumbnails.
So what we need here on Insomnia is a content management system that offers all the functionality of a forum, but which can be set up to output a more attractive, more customizable frontpage in the manner of a blog or portal site. Such software unfortunately does not quite yet exist, but I am aware of several groups working in this direction. When something adequate is released we'll pick it up and that will be the end of it.
What people would finally do well to realize is that there's no fundamental difference between portals, blogs and forums -- whether professional or amateur ones: A blog is a forum in which only one person (or at any rate a small number of people) can start topics; a forum is a blog written by a great number of people; a portal site (whether we are talking 1UP or The Economist) is a blog whose frontpage is more highly customizable -- and all sites now allow comments, effectively turning every page into a forum thread.
And thus we touch upon perhaps the ultimate, or at any rate the most subtle and most overlooked, advantage of the forum: all pages may nowadays be threads, but only in forums does the act of posting in them sends them to the top. That is why forum discussions can go on for years, whereas comments in a blog usually dry up within days. Take for instance Tim's stuff on Action Button: how would anyone know if someone came along and posted something interesting in one of his older reviews? The only person who can keep up with comments in a blog is the blog's author -- everyone else would be obliged to regularly check every page on the entire site, which of course no one ever does. A new comment on an old page may thus at most get a reply from the author, but everyone else will go unaware of it, and countless opportunities for follow-up discussions will be lost.
Now imagine what would happen if whenever someone posted a comment in a Kotaku or IGN page, that page was bumped straight to the top. It would be impossible for them to keep the site going without heavy moderation, since every one of their moronic readers would have the power to fuck up their frontpage layout (so carefully arranged to please their advertisers...) with a simple lolbump -- it would force them to start editing and deleting comments, and somehow put a break on the rampaging retardation of their readers. Not to mention it would make their obsession with the present and the future impossible to sustain at their usual breakneck pace, finally forcing them for once to turn around and face the past. And that would do them good! That is what they are badly in need of! -- for how else can you learn to understand the present, let alone predict and shape the future, if you are not deeply aware of, deeply concerned about the past?
To sum up, what we've dealt with in our examination of portals, blogs and forums is publishing platforms powered by slightly different content managements systems -- systems which, as time goes by, and as they are enriched with more and more features, become increasingly convergent (in pretty much the same manner, and for the same reasons, as, say, cellphones, MP3 players, cameras and PDAs). Sooner or later someone will make a single, all-powerful, perfectly customizable system, and that will be the end of it. -- By "it" I of course mean my little project to build the ultimate gaming site -- because this development will hardly affect anyone else's efforts. Cool software is the very last thing a publication needs -- the very first is a capable editor, and that is something not everyone is at liberty to acquire.
You see, and people will have trouble visualizing this, the internet itself can be ultimately viewed as one gigantic forum, with individual websites representing sub-forums edited and moderated by specific people (their owners). Attempting to effect change on the internet as a whole is therefore futile, since the essence of the internet, being an inherently democratic medium, will always be diffuse, omnidirectional, nonsensical. Only an old-style (i.e. non-democratic) government could impose standards of quality on the internet as a whole, but the time for that is now well past (as Voltaire correctly noted in his day: "When the mob joins in and adds its voice, all is lost"). Besides, the way the internet works, this would have to be done globally, and that is something not even the Romans would have been capable of, if they were still around. Global change on the internet is thus impossible: the point now is to accommodate yourself inside of it, to configure a small part of it to work the way you want, fundamentally so as to cover your own needs -- your needs and nothing more.
Epilogue... and an invitation
The fact that we must face is that the world of videogames is no longer as small and simple as it once was, and thus from now on (and this has been true for some time) any worthwhile commentary will have to come from experts. This to some extent had always been the case, but back in the '80s it was easier for non-experts to butt in and say something worthwhile, since, with only a couple dozen games around, a few weeks of gaming were enough to turn practically anyone into a kind of expert. But this luxury does not exist any more. This shit won't fly anymore, at a time when any comment made on any major site can be torn to pieces, pissed and shat on within seconds in any half-decent forum by the real experts.
What is needed therefore, I eventually realized, is a website which, outwardly, looked like a portal, but inwardly functioned partly like a blog -- though powered by forum software. A blog written by several dozen, if not several hundred people, all of them extremely knowledgeable gamers, who in their spare time report on their favorite games and exchange their laboriously acquired insights. It would be an equal exchange. I trawl the internet looking for news on any game that catches my attention, and I present it to everyone else, while adding where appropriate my own expert commentary. You do the same for another game, and someone else does the same for yet another game, and so each of us does just a little bit of "work", and in return gets to enjoy the "work" of all the others (I hope you understand the reason for the quotation marks: the sort of thing I am describing is not really work; it does not feel at all like work if you are a genuine expert -- it feels like a natural extension of play). The perfect news site then. Not just by fans for fans -- as in the last resort is every other forum -- but by intelligent, knowledgeable fans, for intelligent, knowledgeable fans. With distinct, clearly-labeled threads, and everything arranged in a format that is easy and enjoyable to navigate, with no filler about Katamari cakes or Dreamcasts turned into guitars, or the bootleg Final Fight ROM where the top-right pixel is yellow instead of green, or any other such retarded nonsense.
A community blog, in other words, where, instead of each person having his own separate blog and hardly ever updating it (and getting zero hits and feedback when they do update it, which is the surest way to discourage people from continuing to update), they all come together and pour their enthusiasm and energy into a single place. This way there is no need to be sorry for not updating (an obnoxious habit of bloggers, every other post of whose is an apology for lack of updating, as if anyone expects a personal blog to function with the regularity of Reuters or the Associated Press...), no need to be anxious or, even worse, force oneself to update, just to "keep the blog going", or for similarly retarded reasons -- since the "blog", assuming it has enough contributors, will always be getting updated by one person or another. This is the optimal publishing arrangement, the kind which Orwell would have jumped at had it been available to him (when, in his essay, Confessions of a Book Reviewer, he says "that kind of thing is very difficult to organise", the "thing" he is referring to is precisely what I've been describing here -- and guess what: it is no longer difficult to organise), and which allows everyone to get past the "updating anxiety" that infects, to a greater or lesser extent, anyone who is in any way into publishing, relax, and simply post whenever they have something to say.
Make no mistake however: this sort of thing certainly doesn't run itself. If you read these lines and think, "Hey, cool idea -- I'll keep an eye on Alex's forum", then nothing will happen. Someone has to make a start: offer up a contribution, and for this everyone else must pay him back, each of them with their own. Each person makes one contribution, and receives back hundreds -- so it is indeed a great deal, but certainly not a free ride. If people see it as a free ride nothing will happen, and we'll all be forced back to Kotaku and the usual stupid forums.
These contributions, in the end, are nothing more than things everyone already does: everyone already looks around for news; everyone already keeps an eye on how their most anticipated games are shaping up. All that is needed is to take it one step further: to log in every time you find something that's piqued your interest, and in a line or two, or even with a simple link, to tell everyone else about it. We are talking 5-10 extra minutes per week -- and in return you get the news site you've always wanted.
And need I clarify that I am NOT inviting random internet morons to come in and flood my forum with their bullshit? See, news posting consists of two parts: the first is the news item proper, be it a link, or a quote, or a scan, or screenshots or whatever, and the second is the commentary. The second part is optional, and only desirable from people who really know their shit -- but everyone else is still welcome to come in and provide as much of the first part as they want, since even the lowliest noob has what it takes to post a link to a video or a screenshot. And this helps solve another problem: We often get people signing up who, having read some of the articles and reviews on the frontpage, are eager to join us and contribute. But contribute what? Not everyone is capable of contributing. The discussions in the theory section, which attract most of the attention, while not exactly rocket science, do presuppose a certain amount of prior knowledge and expertise (not to mention, I am afraid to say -- also intelligence). So I am often forced to rebuke people who show up and start flooding serious threads with incoherent waffling, as if they are on Select Button, or NeoGAF, or some such shitty place. And of course some of them resent that, so we sometimes get a bit of drama on our hands. So if you are eager to contribute something -- by all means expend your enthusiasm in the news forum. You can spend all day posting news and never come to the end of it. And in fact I'd love to wake up one day and see all the latest news neatly posted in my forum, so if you contribute in this way you can be sure I will appreciate it. After all, there's no donation button anywhere on this site: if you feel like giving something back for everything we've given you, that would be the way to do it.
So our "community blog" is right here, I promise to check and edit it, if not every day, then at least every other day, and whoever wants to take advantage of it is free to go ahead and do so. You can see it as your personal blog, which comes with a built-in readership (only the most select group of videogame connoisseurs in the world), a number of highly esteemed co-authors, and the world's premier videogame expert as the editor. So are you really better than the Kotaku riffraff? Enough whining -- get an account and show us what you can do. Excepting the index/frontpage business, which as I explained I'll take care of as soon as someone releases an adequate CMS package, everything else is already perfectly up and running.
But that's enough of selling this idea. In the end, as we've seen, news is not really important. This article itself, its great length notwithstanding, is not very important (-- except perhaps the parts of it that deal with "online mass mechanics"). Out of all the things I set out to accomplish with this site, news reporting has always been the furthest from my mind, and I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep if I didn't meet with much success in it. Besides, as I've explained, it's not really in my hands, and I've never bothered worrying too much over things I can't control.
"So why did you write such a huge article on a subject you don't much care about?", would now be a decent question. Well I may not care very much about this subject, but I see others constantly bringing it up, and always rehashing the same tired, naive, superficial arguments, and so as with pretty much every other of these articles, I thought I'd make a gift to those who'd like to put an end to all the pointless chattering in their respective little corners of the internet. "Here, read this", perhaps some of them will say, next time the subject is brought up, and that will be the end of that.--