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Is it a good thing when videogame journalists become developers?

Yes.
34% (60 votes)
No.
21% (37 votes)
I don't know/don't care.
45% (79 votes)
Total votes: 176
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Articles: Polls  
Topic(s): Business  

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A concern of mine...

This has been a concern of mine for a while now. There is no secret that the videogame industry consists of people who have worn many different hats during their careers, and there isn't anything wrong with that. What is troubling is that two of those different hats represent conflicting jobs: game creation and game criticism/reporting.

It has been most apparent recently when there was an exodus from 1UP.com/EGM/Games for Windows staff. I don't mean to pick 1UP.com given its recent problems, but it is the best example of what is happening. Luke Smith, a news editor with a low tolerance for PR B.S. quit 1UP.com to work at Bungie for a "community" position. Jeff Green, a magazine veteran left to work on The Sims development team. Shawn Elliott also left to work at 2K Boston. After its closing, Shane Bettenhausen went work at Ignition Entertainment. Others have left 1UP prior and since the purchase by UGO, and other media outlets have lost journalists and staff to development studios. I won't even bother touching the segment of that population that gets into the PR game. (Kyle Orland wrote a nice piece on this last year)

The point is that there is a great lost here. No matter what you think of the writers/journos in this post or any that you may have read about, many were well known with distinct voices that are now silent. They no longer watching and reporting on the industry, they are the industry.

And just replacing them won't necessarily solve anything, because their replacement may just be someone with less experience, skills or whatever; and who's to say that when they do work long enough to get those attributes, they won't just leave for a development job somewhere?

The videogame media has always and I suspect will continue to fight for relevance given the symbiotic relationship between developers and their PR departments and media outlets seeking access to news and the personalities behind the games. It is a relationship unlike other medium like books, movies or music. Filmmakers, for example, seek out journalists for coverage, but journalists can easily get news about the industry without (always) having go through a movie studio's gatekeeper.

With so many journalists (professional and amateur) seeing work on the development side as the next logical step on a career path and not a career change, you have to wonder about the coverage we are seeing. Under the guise of getting insider access, are they auditioning for a job? Under the guise of getting all the information about a secret title, are they just networking or mining contacts for possible openings?

And really it isn't completely their faults either. Many of the people who leave are those who reach the top of their field or at the least the top of their particular media outlet. They are either Senior Editors or Editor-in-Chiefs who put in the work to get to where they are only to find that the financial reward is not there. Or maybe they see that the industry is still in its infancy leaving little in the way of fulfillment that an older person would be seeking. That there isn't much to really strive for... no Economist, New York Times or Rolling Stones equivalent that someone can strive to work for. Even a gaming magazine with all of the hardcore gamer cred in the world is still struggling to justify itself to its publisher and fight the manipulation of game publishers' marketing departments. It might truly be a matter of not having any other choice.

This is a complex issue when you sit down and look at it from both sides. When I first started writing this comment, I was sure I was going to vote a resounding "No", but I may have to put myself in the "I don't know" corner until I put more thought into it.

I don't see what's troubling

I don't see what's troubling about going from game criticism to game development. I worked as a journalist for 3 1/2 years before enrolling in DigiPen's 3D Animation program and getting a job as a game animator. For me, I just wasn't satisfied creatively writing about games, and I knew I had what it took to actually work in the game industry. Besides, they say the best way to criticize a movie is to make your own movie, and the same holds true for games. Also, it pays much better than a career in journalism.

Ben, part of what Dale is

Ben, part of what Dale is saying is that if the best and brightest game journalist graduate to become game developers, who will be the ones to push game journalism forward? This is not the nature of the "enemy" that Lester Bangs spoke of. This is sleeping with enemy.

Don't Care

I just wanted to say, future polls should keep "don't know" and "don't care" separate. I find those two ideas to be their own individual frame of thought. I could see how some people would say, "Well I don't know, nor do I care." But I think others might also say, "Hmm, I'm not sure, but I sure would like to contemplate it more." On the other hand, I voted for "don't care" as in, "I don't give two acorn shells if a journalist wants to become a developer." So, the options should really be two different trains of thought. But maybe I'm just splitting hairs here.

Keep up the good work.

Hey, Wassup Ben! I should

Hey, Wassup Ben!

I should have figured you'd be one of the first to respond since you are part of the problem (I kiiid, I kiiid).

To summarize: we are losing a lot of writers and journalists and more importantly, experienced writers and journalists to game development. Are these writers and journalists viewing their career simply as a stepping stone? And should they?

Do people who cover movies or music just take the next step and start writing music or singing or dancing or directing or acting? No because there is an understanding that there be a separation between the writers and the content creators.

There isn't that in the games medium.

Your point about better pay is one of the things I have to concede to anyone pursuing a career in games journalism. There is just not enough money to hold anyone once they've become established. That is probably the best argument for games journalists going into games design or development.

Something to keep in mind

Thanks for the feedback. I'll keep that in mind for future polls.

Natural

It's natural for someone who writes about games for so long to want to take the leap into the industry. People will always go after the better, more satisfying job unless they have something tying them to their current one.

And here's another question that I think is worth asking-if game journalists are making the switch to the industry, does the industry benefit from their outside perspective? In other words, is what's bad for game journalism good for the game industry as a whole in this case?

>>>>With so many journalists

>>>>With so many journalists (professional and amateur) seeing work on the development side as the next logical step on a career path and not a career change, you have to wonder about the coverage we are seeing. Under the guise of getting insider access, are they auditioning for a job? Under the guise of getting all the information about a secret title, are they just networking or mining contacts for possible openings?

I think you're making a bit of a leap here. Like Izz and Ben said, I think it's natural to assume that someone is interested enough in games to actually write about them would have enough interest to consider taking a position in another part of the industry. Personally speaking, although I have no interest in coding or doing graphics work, if someone offered me a concept development or plot writing job, I’d take it in a second.

Besides that, everything about life is networking. You get work based on who you know, and most opportunities that will be presented to a person in their lifetime are a result of meeting someone, being friends with someone, or knowing something that an outsider wouldn’t know. Considering that the for-profit media is imploding right now, it makes perfect sense that these guys who've been rubbing elbows with everybody in the games industry for the last however many years would use those contacts to get a job now that they need one. Hell, I wouldn't hesitate a second to do the exact same thing. In fact, I've done the exact same thing several times.

The question of this ‘brain trust’ leaving the games media is something I see as separate, and unavoidable. People can only be low-paid reviewers for a certain amount of time before they need to move on in their lives, so there's always going to be some turnover in that respect. The quality of new reviewers and games media people do something that's always going to be called into question due to the fact that the people who are most inclined to do something like this probably come from fanboy beginnings… it's just a matter of their individual intelligence and sophistication if they can overcome the sux/rulz level of coverage and turn out something worth reading.

>>>>Do people who cover movies or music just take the next step and start writing music or singing or dancing or directing or acting? No because there is an understanding that there be a separation between the writers and the content creators.

Totally disagree. In any field, you can find people who got their foot in the door one way or another, and worked their way up to the position that they eventually wanted… movies, music, games, books, whatever. Certain people may like to be reviewers and will keep that position because it's something they enjoy or it's a niche that they function well in, but I think it's a massive fallacy to think that there is some sort of innate ethic that prevent people who write about a topic to actually get involved in that topic. I would agree with you if the question was whether a reviewer should be reviewing something that he or she created, and that circumstance, obviously not. But, if the question is whether a person who has done reviewing/media work should never get into the fields that they are interested in, then no… I’d disagree with that.

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