The New Gatekeepers? On the occupational ideology of game journalists

By David B. Neiborg and Tanja Sihvonen.

Brilliant overview, definitely need much more of this.


Focused this on journalists – not journalism, building on the game criticism panel. Focused on Europe – Dutch, Austrian, and Finland – so not those speaking English.

There are papers for the game stuff – and digital equivalents – GamePro, German, example screenshot is advert over the top of it. A BIG advertisement. Will come back to that.,, and others – emerging structure looking at all of them – all have the new Batman game out.

What are the structing elements? Newsfeeds – all have immediate news Advertisements – all have adverts. Community – all building a website community.

There is abig thing with adverts – Sony, Warner Brothers, and so forth. All around the news feeds of these website, no content.

There are a large amount of news items per day – having a look there are 30 items – 26 news items, 21 announcements. 95% of these are PR material. Additionally there are 4 trailers, 100% PR material. This was just an example of one day. THey just get things in their inbox and put it through.

“Chrunalism” – in a book by NIck Davis. Say what this kind of journalism is – chruning press releases out. Reconfigure the headline and put it online. Totally true for Dutch game sites. Famous example; 3 months ago, get a press release from THQ saying “THQ is announcing Dawn of War expansion pack” – technical, nobody cares unless you’re a fan of it. There was a really obvious grammatical mistake. This press release was all these 11 of 15 websites, copy-pasted the grammar error.

How come this happens? In the paper – political economy. Moving from a mass media system to a talking among themselves system. Everybody can become a games journalist! Share collaborate. Examples like – Obama campaign, wikipedia etc.

Now everyone with a laptop can become a game journalist – apart form argue that is absolutely not the case. Need to know the political economy of making such websites. Money. Money is set on fire – newspapers are struggling – craigslist vs. New York Times – tiny office versus 350 floors. In games journalism something different is going on – what is going on? It’s about capital – who’s making money. It’s about Game Capital.

Game Capital – it is the knowledge you have as a gamer, a bit like social capital. Who has the most game capital? Game journalists. One reaosn gamers go to these websites. How do they come up with this game capital? It is supplied by the industry – Mr. Burns 😉

PR / industry – give game capital to game journalists. Game capital means access to the industry – to do anything meaningful apart from reviews means having access. This is selling it to the audience. Audience give money to the game journalist – attention, eyeballs.

The implications – tranditional journalism is defined as being objective, verifiable, and so on. Talk to the game journalists in the Netherlands – they laugh, they say “We’re not journalists” first of all! They instead share a occupational ideology – not saying they’re all lazy, stupid – they are smart and know what they are doing. But they apply their resoures and shared set of ideology – so you get a press release and shove it on your website. You write a press event by going to a press event. You see it – 3 talking points – polygons, maps, graphics. Constant stream of press – iterating the exactly the same points to each new journalist!

So the discussion was “We know all this” at the criticism panel. Can’t be a game journalist anymore if you whistleblow.

But someone already has – Gunk writer gave 69/100 (a 7) for FEAR2 – metacritic said 81 ! editor said “That’s really bad” – Warner Brothers did a campaign of 10,000 euros – which is the money. The industry needs us, but we need them as well. The owner of the website chimed in – saying it will look bad posting it, it’s about real capital not game capital. Put an ultimatum from the owner – change it or be fired. He was fired. This is a smoking gun – and happens on a day to day basis around Europe.

With Dutch discourse you have no meaningful way to look at games. We are all typing monkeys. The journalists should save us from the ameature writers – but the game journalists in Europe are in-between – not ameatures, but not professionals either.


Q – Is there an alternative – is there another tpye of game journalist?

Yes, plenty of examples – Beatles Rock Band articles. Need some leeway with the industry to get access. They were not that happy about that particular piece, but he asked everyone.

Q asker – Time article too.

They have the money.

Q (David) – I don’t think there is anything different in America. It’s a terrible thing. About game capital – say it is more about money. There is capital of previews and “awesome” and it’s game journalists. How do you break that cycle – the fans expect the journalists to be co-opted, so how do you get out of it?

No idea about how to get out of it.

Q – You’re apologetic about saying it Europe-specific investigation – what about bringing in American journalism?

Don’t want to make broad assumptions without investigating it.

Q asker – I mean don’t you think these European sites are copying American practices?

I do think they are doing that. In the end it is a really small world.

Q – I wonder if you’re not cynical enough. If I look at American Journalism you see a litter of smoking guns – you think there is something will be done, but then people think it is going to be okay outside of those times.

Tanja – Expecting traditional journalism to save us from game journalism. For many gamers they want this game journalism, it’s perfect, want the community building.

Q – From film journalism – a lot of it is previews, but the difference there is film salaries are not tied to a metacritic score. If they run into these game designers who they gave a low score it might be violence when they meet. A hard cycle to break.

Final thought – it’s totally doable to do this institutionally, and from academia even. Can do research on what they like and publish it through major outlets. That’s my hope.

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