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.
Too right. I hate Kotaku and all it stands for. You really have no right to bleat out the “freedom of information” and then come down on people that are doing the exact same thing you are. Kotaku are symptomatic of the wider ills in the gaming community – ignorance, immaturity and the belief that because you like/buy a product, you have rights or powers over its creators. Bizarre.
I think the best example of how utterly worthless Kotaku is came last year, IIRC, when they did a story about the fact there was porn of Tifa from FF7 available in Japan. Even their readers called them out on it, with “This is news?” and other references to the fact Kotaku were the better part of a decade behind the curve. I mean seriously, that wouldn’t even be a story if it weren’t so hilariously out of date as to make Kotaku look like it’s run by 60-year-old men who just discovered these new-fangled vidya games.
“Vidya games”, lol. I’m going to steal that…
I wrote the following after coming to the realization I was being played by Kotaku’s writers. The suspicion was there (such as referring to themselves as game journalists only to fall back on the “we’re just bloggers” safety net anytime they make a mistake), but I honestly couldn’t except it until I began seeing constant patterns in the writing. Suddenly it was obvious that it became less about providing interesting gaming news than news that had the potential to enrage or impassion the readers.
You’re living the fan boy dream: most of your work is done from home, you’re paid to interview celebrities, and you attend spectacular events, all of which revolve around the gaming industry. Some might call you a sellout and cry that you’re somehow ruining the very spirit of gaming but you stand firm, nose turned skyward, because deep in your soul you know that you and you alone are keeping fandom alive.
To be a video game blogger you have to abandon your morals, opinions, and integrity. Let’s say you’ve received a press release announcing a sequel to an extremely popular game franchise. A journalist would separate themselves from the feelings inspired by the press release which is not only boring but doesn’t really allow for much discussion. For example:
“Bungie has announced that they are working on Halo 4 and it is suggested to ship 4th quarter 2009.”
The best you could hope for is maybe a couple of dozen “hell yeah” posts countered with a handful of “Halo sucks.” This article has done nothing to inspire the community.
“Halo fan boys rejoice! Bungie announced today that they’re busy working on a proper sequel to Halo 3 instead of some sure-to-fail RTS game. I’m sure this’ll excite quite a few people, but honestly I never got into Halo. I found it too simple and the heroic majesty of Master Chief bloated and sensationalized.
Though it wasn’t specified, I’d expect a 360 release as Bungie games have always been Microsoft exclusives.”
This is far more thought provoking. Right from the beginning we’ve insulted the fan base with the always hip, self-depreciating “fan boy.” That alone acts as a catalyst to conversation. Many posts will be written along the lines of “I’m no Halo fan boy, but…” and so on.
Next we call Halo 4 a “proper” sequel and jab the RTS game (and possibly the entire genre). Both of these quips will force readers to respond violently with their opinions on how right or wrong we are. Adding in the “personal opinion” makes the article feel more human and because it’s contrary to popular opinion we’re bound to incite some sort of riot.
The most beautiful, even subtle, conversational catalyst is the last sentence. Aside from opening up the possibility of the game appearing on multiple systems, we also make a glaring error. Readers love errors. Pointing out errors allows them to feel better about themselves, as if all of their years of playing video games and retaining libraries of useless trivia has suddenly paid off.
Playing the internet can be tricky. You don’t always want to go against popular opinion because then gamers won’t be able to relate to you. Erroneous tangents about how much you dislike Halo only really works if you counter with nothing but praise for anything by Valve. Whatever your opinions are you need to stick with them as it guarantees you a small entourage of readers who will constantly post in your articles in order to convince you that your opinion is wrong.
The thing to remember is that this isn’t your opinion, it’s the bloggers opinion. You and your writing must exist as two separate entities. Your feelings and opinions have no merit on a blog and are really no better than those of the peanut gallery that post messages on your page. It is your duty as a blogger to encourage discussion. The fact that your misleading and controversial entries result in extra visits to the site is purely an unintended side effect. Yes, you’ll be paid more if your entry is viewed by more people, but that shouldn’t ever be your motivation.
Just keep telling yourself that and it’ll be all better.
Thanks for your comment Lou Don, that’s a far more eloquent way of expressing things than I managed. Better use of english too. 😉
Yes, Kotaku is the worst, but let’s not forget that there are several other blog sites that do that same thing because they have also reached a critical mass of readership. The solution is of course to not referee to any of these blog sites at all, expect twice a year to lambaste them from afar.
The internet is about linking and places like Kotaku know that not only does being sensational grab readers; it also grabs the ire of mainstream media who in an act of sheer stupidity then link to Kotaku thus throwing gas on a fire. The solution of course is to never to refer to these blogs, and to never ever provide links. Isolation will kill Kotaku and these other fake news blogs faster then confrontation.
Not at all, Koffdrop. Your comments were frighteningly accurate and well thought out. I’ve seen a fair amount of Kotaku criticism, but it usually boils down to words like “cesspool” and “crap” without actually backing anything up.
In an ideal world we would have gamers reporting gaming news for the love of, well, gaming. Kotaku presents itself as such but they’re also a business which becomes more and more apparent with each poorly researched article and sensational headline. I could also due without the masturbatory pats on the back but that’s more of a personal peeve.
I think someone calling himself “one better than you” has little right to criticize the opinions of others as “self-righteous”. Koffdrop is absolutely on the money with his assessment of Kotaku and its readership.