Don't Die

On games journalism

In videogames, on the media side, there is both little tradition of journalism and also little interest in picking up and studying how close we came in the past and then carrying the torch forward. The pieces I wrote this year, breaking down the problems that have persisted in the industry for decades wasn’t even the first piece this year about the same topic. (Nevermind the echoes of the same brittle defenses we also hear each year.) There is systemic turnover in the writing world. The pay does not typically reward ambition — to wit, we are both voluntarily writing this for free, as there is no budget to pay us. Even if you look at the arena of book publishing, many agents and publishers will tell you there’s almost no audience and very little money to be made in turning a decade of expertise in this field into a mass-produced book. There are no retirement jobs for us. And yet, these are the constraints within innumerable precedents have been set for where our writing can go and what sort of impact we can have. These publications that refuse to pay us would all close their doors forever if we refused to make do with their meager allowance.

Either you ascend into an existing publication, go into PR, or try to cash in on having loud and rarely interesting opinions. But the journalism done within the games ecosystem is alternately non-existent and sporadic depending on your memory and awareness of the space. At best, it is toothless — it is young, as you said. I often wonder whether a critical mass will be reached, and enough journalists are around, have done the digging, and realize that this writing is important and will flow unchallenged from all over. But seeing as how we’re on a race to the bottom, this wondering is more idle than anything else. Similar to the existing writing pleasing portions of the existing audience in the graf above: Just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s getting the best job done it possibly can.

No piece that digs into how Dark Souls is a comment on poverty will ever enable the people who make videogames to speak freely, have their lives and work be better understood, and allow them to tell you actually what that game is about. A great deal of features writing about videogames is concerned and distracted with thesis-level interpretations. But wanting to read and write about the truth is more basic, and should be more accessible. It still isn’t.

David Wolinsky, ‘From the Kill File: Who’s Killing Labor in Videogames?

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