Posted in Blogging, Gaming

Gaming Blogging Vs. Gaming Journalism

With the folding of Massively and the rise of Massively Overpowered, I’ve seen some interesting conversations focusing on whether the community really needs another Massively, or if hobby bloggers could jump in and do the same job. Scree discusses the viewpoint where bloggers have the same strengths and skills as the paid writers, and could produce the same quality of work. While Kunzay argues that it just wouldn’t work.

My thoughts on it… game hobby blogging ≠ game journalism.

Let me explain why I feel this way.

It’s because I’ve done both! 😀

I’m a professional technical writer by trade. That is my full-time paying job. I’m a hobby blogger on the side, mostly because I love games, I love to write, and writing about games keeps me from getting too rusty due to a job that focuses on a more technical, dry writing style.

Before working where I do now, I spent years as a freelance writer that created content for various online website. Let me tell you, it’s a tough job. Lots of freedom, but your pay is always in your hands, based on your ambitions and work drive.

The best part was... my character was always featured in the article screenshots! :D
The best part was… my character was always featured in the article screenshots! 😀

Part of what got me my freelance gig was a series of articles that I wrote for MMORPG.com many years ago. At the time, I was into Istaria, and I wanted to support the game more. I saw that MMORPG.com had an Istaria section, but the news was fairly negative and pretty outdated (the game has a rough history, but it has survived!).

So on a whim, I sent in an article (you could do that back then), which they accepted, paid me for (not much), and requested more. I was given an Istaria Correspondent title, which I still have today. The dev team at Istaria took notice quickly, because it was good exposure that the game needed. It was exciting to be that writer, to see my published work, and be acknowledged by the community manager.

This opened the way for communication between me and their community manager. I got to do fun things like walk with the dev team behind the scenes through their newest end-game dungeon. I got to discuss what providing a free to play option meant to the game, and reported on the major revamps to the game’s early content. Riding on the coattails of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movie release, I discussed Istaria’s most original claim to fame, their Dragon race.

Now the point of this wasn’t to give my old articles at MMORPG.com a bunch of link love. I wanted to give some background that shows I’m not just spouting a bunch of fluff without any experience.

Blogging vs. Journalism

vennFirst up, I want to say that I feel there are many skills that overlap between bloggers and journalists. Do I think a hobby blogger can write just as well as a journalist – absolutely!

But I also feel there’s a lot of differences, especially taking in an individual writer’s personality. Funny enough, I find many of us bloggers are on the shy side. We write because this is a “safe” way of expressing to the world what’s in our hearts. We want to open discussion and meet like-minded people, but we’re introverted, and it makes this difficult. Writing works to reach out and build bridges to other people.

Journalism shares writing and reporting skills, but also requires a lot more social skills. It’s about making strong, lasting connections with the “source” – be that a community manager or wherever the news comes from- as well as the audience. It takes a lot of courage for a shy person to, for example, work up interviews and to have that connection that makes the interview possible to start with!

It also takes a huge amount of organization and filtering information. New stuff comes riding in in waves, and you’re rushing to get out good quality work in a timely way. There are deadlines to contend with that hobby blogging just doesn’t have.

Another quick story about my adventures in blogging/semi-journalism.

I got really, really into breedable pets in Second Life a few years back. So, I created a news blog dedicated to my love of Second Life pets. I had no idea how much work this would eventually become.

What started as a hobby quickly turned into following over a dozen RSS feeds, joining twenty-something in-world groups, juggling dev submissions and media releases – all just to stay on top of the newest releases from all the various breedable pet developers in game. I was also interviewed by CNN iReport, and sent a cease and desist warning. Not because I did anything wrong, but because a breedable I reported on was using a copyrighted name… and the ones taking legal action couldn’t tell a blog apart from the actual developer site. Even though I had a disclaimer. Go figure. XD

While I still do keep up with breedable pet news, I had to cut it back once I launched this blog. It got to be very, very stressful trying to keep all the information and newest releases organized. And this was just for a group of developers that numbered less than 20 – not a huge gaming world like journalists at Massively had to cover.

Then you had to cover things without bias. For example, maybe you really didn’t personally support something about developer XYZ. But to be fair and report honestly, you can’t make that known. There were some developers I didn’t want to cover and offer exposure. It would have been pretty obvious if I’d just left them out, though, that I was shunning a certain breedable and talking up another.

There’s just not the same freedom in writing unbiased news as there is flopping your opinions out there as a blogger.

And the Final Big Questions

What happens when your hobby becomes your work?

What happens when you’re not writing because you like to, but because it pays the bills?

It’s not always a terrible thing (I love my job), but you can’t shrug off writing on days when you “don’t feel like it” when it keeps the lights on.

My Final Take

So, to sum it up, do I think a hobby blogger can attempt to take on the job of a game journalist? Sure, have at it.

Do I think hobby bloggers should have ambitions to overtake the spot of a large game journalism site? Well…

Would we want to…? That might be the better question.

Though we write to the same community, I think both serves a slightly different purpose. One purpose is not more important than another, just like one writer isn’t better than another due to the site they post on.

Author:

I'm a technical writer by day, gaming gal by night. I have a wide array of gaming interests, though I most often blog about MMOs, RPGs, and Nintendo fanstuffs. Like what you just read? Check out my Webcomic and Fantasy Fiction projects! https://aywren.com/fantasy-fiction-webcomics/

14 thoughts on “Gaming Blogging Vs. Gaming Journalism

  1. Interesting, I didn’t know you wrote for MMORPG about Istaria. 🙂 Must have been in later years once I had finally left (~2008).

    Unfortunately, given the current state of game journalism regarding #GamerGate, I think that there is a huge void to fill that both new sites (with real journalistic ethics policies) and amateurs (bloggers, et al) can fill.

    As a gamer, I really haven’t visited the “big sites” in years, precisely because I have known that they are, for most part, useless for real game reviews and journalism on the industry. So, while I understand and accept the caveats of small-time hobby bloggers, I still find them more informative and objective (some of them, not all) than the larger, more “professional” sites.

    I mean, when you have a senior editor of one of the largest games media sites say things like “objectivity is a silly thing to strive for”, it is kinda disheartening to hear, as both a gamer, and as a developer.

    Another point is that “text” gaming journalism is giving way to video journalism. YouTube is becoming the “go to” platform for gamers to get their news and information about their hobby, and “text-only” is on the decline. So, for any new professional sites that crop up, they are going to have to put more resources towards the video medium to be able to stay relevant going forward.

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    1. My writing for MMORPG.com was purely volunteer, so I was never on the staff, so to speak. It was at the end of 2009 and on through 2010.

      I agree that I’ll go to blogs and player reviews to get the real information on whether or not I’ll like a game. I think bloggers fill a vital role. It’s just sometimes hard for a little blogger to understand that. When it’s about numbers, hits, audience, and comments, it’s easy to feel like your writing is going unnoticed.

      That’s where the lure of wanting to write for the “big sites” comes in. That means automatic readership, money and fame, right?

      Excuse me while I go to the corner and laugh. XD

      I think bloggers should aspire to follow the path that’s right for them. If that’s to move into journalism, and they can handle it, that’s cool. But to think that the blogging community should just swoop in and try to take up the reigns of a fallen professional site…

      Nah. I think that if it ever got off the ground, some of them would learn it’s not their kind of writing gig. You have to have some pretty tough skin.

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  2. Great take on the subject! It opened up a new perspective by someone who isn’t just speculating. I agree that the will wouldn’t be there to take on such a massive job- especially not unpaid, as it would have to be in the first time/years/forevers, even if the ability is there.
    Well said!

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  3. “flopping your opinions out there”

    Best phrase of the post. 😛

    Ahem. Anyway, I think certain very influential and popular bloggers may have the impression that they are the equal of journalists. They have the pressure of deadlines, of getting content out constantly, of engaging with developers and their reader community. The difference is, that pressure is purely of their own making, their desire to be popular, not external. The line does get blurred a little for those who have gone the whole nine yards to monetise their work, however.

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  4. Bias and objectivity are a big thing in journalism, unlike hobby blogging. I don’t really agree with your phrase “But to be fair and report honestly, you can’t make that known,” though perhaps it is just a poor choice of words.

    I think it’s better to bring a bias into the open, rather than try to hide it, much like how a scientist has to declare any conflicts of interest when publishing a study. It is important to separate facts from personal opinions as much as possible, but it is also important to acknowledge that those personal opinions exist and influence what and how a journalist writes.

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    1. In the case of what I was doing, there was no need for me to start fires that didn’t need to exist over my personal thoughts. There was enough drama in the breedable community without me adding to it. The community is very tight-knit and it is quite easy to find yourself on the outside of it if you offended the wrong people. Second Life is full of drama… you just don’t know.

      If I got branded as a “hater” or someone that played favorites, that would just close doors to me in the community. That would have just made my job harder and less enjoyable. It would have also driven away readers, rather than garner new readers.

      I was also selling advertisement spots on my blog to the breedable devs at the time for Second Life currency, which supported my own breedable pet hobby in the world. Should I have alienated a particular breedable due to my bias, that would also have been dumb income-wise. :p

      Nothing that these breedables were doing were against my ethics, I just didn’t always agree with everything they chose to do. So I’d say, keeping things bottled up really depends on the social aspect of what you’re writing about.

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      1. Well, I obviously don’t know specifics in your case, but as an example, if you were financially backing one of the breedable devs, or were somehow personally involved with one (like family member, lover, partner, etc), then it would have been a critical error from a journalistic standpoint to not disclose those relationships.

        If it were later discovered and you had not done so, the repercussions would be far worse. That’s the exact problem the big games media sites are in right now. However, for some of them, the “proper” response is to just double down, ignore the furor, and/or claim objectivity is overrated/unnecessary.

        As a blogger, that need for accountable objectivity isn’t as much a big deal, but up-front honesty and openness always scores more points in the long run.

        All that said, I get the impression that you are more talking about withholding opinions on subjects, rather than actually having a conflict of interest with any one of them.

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        1. I was never directly involved with the development of any breedables and never financially backed them (aside from purchasing things like a normal customer). I only accepted SL currency (Linden Dollars) from them to advertise on my blog if they approached me to do so. Other breedable blogs did the same, so it’s not unusual. Nothing shady was going on.

          All I was doing was withholding my personal opinion on choices some of the devs made. My opinions had nothing to do with reporting the straight up news, and I didn’t see the point of starting drama where it didn’t need to be. That’s all. 🙂

          I’m a bit more opinionated with this blog because, unlike reporting on breedables, I am not personally connected to any team developing the games I play. I feel more free to discuss where games disappoint me because of that.

          The point I was trying to make was that because I don’t have to worry about maintaining a good connection with gaming developers (like I had to with breedable developers), I feel more free to share opinions on this blog, even if they are negative.

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        2. Aye, that’s one of the big issues in journalism for big media in vertical industries: the fine line journalists have to walk with their editorial opinions (especially in reviews) because they risk upsetting their primary source of revenue: their advertisers, who are often also the ones they are being critical about.

          However, they also have a duty to their readers to minimize this “advertiser bias”, because it leads to low-value “fluff” reviews and reporting.

          It is precisely what has become the biggest issue with corporate media in general, and is why I don’t even bother with it much anymore. If they can’t be atsed to give me the facts and information I need to make informed decisions in my life, then I will find it elsewhere.

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