It seems there was a little bit of a gamer outburst last week when some criticism was levelled at popular games such as Gears of War and the forthcoming Resident Evil 5 for leaning too heavily on stereotyping black men or veering too closely to racist themes. Newsweek columnist (and one of the few genuine journalists this industry has) N’gai Croal presented his thoughts and views on RE5 in this interview.
The gaming magpies at Kotaku spotted something shiny and spluttered out a post on it with their usual sensationalist headline that was sure to attract their typical vocal audience.
Before going further I should say that I hold N’gai Croal in significantly higher regard than anyone at Kotaku and I hold Kotaku staff in marginally higher regard than their stereotypical lowest-gamer-denominator audience. I’m motivated to keep tabs on Kotaku’s output in the same way many are motivated to watch Big Brother. It’s not because I care for their way of doing things or for an appreciation of their output, it’s because it’s pure car-crash viewing inhabited and fuelled by white gamer trash. Kotaku, at best, can be compared to a popular Sunday tabloid. It is not in their interest to report news, it is in their interest to publish stories that encourage their audience to keep visiting the site and generating them advertising revenue.
So it was with a strong sense of poetic irony that I read a post called "A Call To Ban" from Kotaku editor Brian Crecente. I find that Crecente’s output tends to be more measured and far less deliberately (mis)leading than that of his staff.
The inevitable train-wreck of hostile user comments that were posted as a response to Croal’s observations on Resident Evil 5 had clearly got so bad (even by Kotaku’s standards) that Crecente felt moved to reconsider site policy about how much interaction the readers might have.
Kotaku really only has itself to blame.
It runs multiple posts every single day with leading headlines and personal bias fuelling the tone of the writing. This is inevitably picked up by their impressionable readership. Kotaku practically celebrates "ban Monday" where a cull of reader accounts is executed based on feedback given by Kotaku’s own readership. Celebrating destruction is such a familiar trait to gamers that they don’t seem to question the absurdity of banning your own readership. Nor the broken logic in it that, by doing so, you are merely taking a weak jab at the symptoms whilst still feeding the illness behind them.
Of course, Kotaku themselves are blatant hypocrites and have absolutely no qualms about applying double standards when it suits them. The moment their journalistic integrity is called in to question we’re reminded that they’re just simple bloggers, telling it like they see it. Except they get themselves into all the trade shows they like and also secure (and show off) goodies and promotional items they’ve received. Kotaku gleefully report any news leaks they get a sniff of and then roll out the predictable and tired tabloid excuse of "the people have a right to know". Yet when they ran a trivia competition and a reader posted all the answers on a forum ahead of the competition deadline Kotaku decided that leaking information ahead of it’s scheduled date was a bad thing to do and, again, pulled the morality plea about how one person is spoiling the fun for everyone else. In both instances, the readers bleated in favour of Kotaku’s stance-of-the-moment in a superb display of being manipulated.
Kotaku’s sense of morality is skewed at best. Shortly after a tragic school shooting incident in the US a tasteless videogame was produced. Kotaku, of course, reported it and took it upon themselves to stand up for morals and ethics and warn every reader about the exploitative nature of the game or the distasteful way the homepage of the game invited visitors to donate money to the author. In doing so, Kotaku made another sensationalist post which resulted in publicising the game they claimed they were attempting to snub and exposed their readers to at least half a dozen adverts that populate every page of Kotaku. It seems that if anyone was finding themselves profiting from the existence of such a terrible and morally corrupt game it was Kotaku.
Kotaku’s vocal readership is a direct reflection of the attitude the site takes. Having seen guesswork and lies presented as fact on a couple of instances where I’ve been far more familiar with the subject matter than any of the Kotaku pundits and then watched their readership swallow down the spiel and proceed to rant based on the misleading reports I have absolutely no respect for their brand of popular ‘journalism’. I also apply that simple rule that if I know for certain they’ll lie and fabricate stories on topics where I know all the facts then how do I know when they’re ever telling the honest truth? If they’ll do it once because it sells a good story and gets page hits then I’m sure they’ll do it again and again.
On websites that report game news in a straight-forward and level headed manner without deliberately attempting to lead the reader to a specific opinion or those that don’t pander to the trashier side of the culture – those websites don’t seem to have to find themselves regularly advertising "ban Mondays" or publicly ruminate on the mentality of those that comment on the stories they publish.
Perhaps if Kotaku exercised greater maturity and stronger discipline in how ran its stories or baited its readers it wouldn’t find itself asking how its kids grew up to be such poorly undisciplined tearaways.
I fully expect Kotaku knows all this but, just like any sleazy tabloid, will spin this as a crisis of someone else’s morals and shirk any responsibility for their own output or the behaviour of their readership onto another body.
Who knows? Maybe this post will get spotted and picked apart by them and I’ll be demonised by the site and its readers. Sorry guys, I’m afraid I don’t have a book on Amazon that gamer-trolls can write fake reviews on.
So, Kotaku, if you want a change in the behaviour of your readership you should start with looking at how you conduct yourselves. After all, you reap what you sow.
If you’ve read this far it should be perfectly obvious why I’ve not included any links to Kotaku articles in this post.