It has been about a week and a half since the pathetic example of humanity that was the Marcus Beer (Game Trailer’s “Annoyed Gamer”) attacking Phil Fish (Fez) and Jonathan Blow (Braid, The Witness) on one of his episodes. Well he actually says a lot more than a casual dig, as you can see here if you are so inclined. Fish responded on Twitter and the two had it out for a few hours before Fish ups and cancels Fez 2, which was later confirmed by his development studio Polytron (and all wrapped up in a hilariously titled article “Beer Battered Fish“). That’s not what this editorial is about, though, because these couple of links and a Google search will demonstrate that this particular situation has been beaten to death. Nope, this is about the response and the much scarier reality that of the major press sites that came out about what happened, many were quick to suggest a symbiotic relationship between so-called video game “journalists” and developers (somewhat specifically indie developers). This assumption is wrong, should be inaccurate (note I said “should be”), and completely demonstrates many of the things wrong with contemporary games press. Furthermore I’m also going to take it upon myself as a voice of nothing in particular to take a huge steaming shit all over Beer and any other “games journalist” that exists purely to profit on hate, something I feel the core gamer majority is hoping to thwart.
Let’s begin with the more important issue: games press should not be in a symbiotic relationship with developers. It sounds counter to the concept, right? Wrong. True journalists have no commitment to cover any story any more than the subject of a story has to agree to speak with them. This is because the press should exist merely to tell the stories that it deems are worthy through facts and, preferably, personal accounts. Now I’m not an idiot, I am fully aware that coverage of games is a bit different and is basically part of the public relations (PR from here on out) cycle. Additionally developers will turn to the companies they trust with the largest audience, so it’s logical that Bungie may give an exclusive view into Destiny to IGN over GameSpot due to audience or even review score, and they are free to do so. This does not mean that any venue should kiss that developer’s ass though, it’s not beneficial to the reader, which should be the central focus. In that same regard, Bungie doesn’t have to cater to Game Informer because Andy McNamara calls them up and tells them how influential he is and that the benefits are mutual. For the record, I don’t see any of the media outlets in these examples ever doing any of this – they have proven that they are above this – but I’m just stressing a point. You can try to coax coverage through various business deals, exclusivity, and PR campaigns, but in the end no media entity should threaten or even suggest that any sort of personal retort on either end could compromise coverage. We all know Axel Rose is an asshole, but it’s not publicly featured in Rolling Stone, that would be frowned upon. In the same regard we all know Phil Fish is an asshole (yes, I said it, he is a fucking asshole), but that’s no reason to bash on the guy’s work.
These media companies have only one purpose, and all of our eyes, ears, and impression-based ad revenue depend on that purpose: to cover games. Each venue should attempt to be as thorough as possible within the coverage they can generate. I do not want to have to worry about not getting the press releases from Joystiq because of a grudge with Eidos, it’s too complicated for what it is. So the next time Phil Fish tells you that you don’t know shit about games and that his masterpiece couldn’t possibly be appreciated by a stupid Call of Duty playing fuck such as yourself, suck it up and try to fairly cover the project or review the game. I also feel that it’s wrong that publishers and developers threaten to or actually pull your ability to cover its games because of a poor review score. As a business that company is fully in its rights to do so, but if you think that a public slam campaign to combat this response is going to help your case then your outlet won’t last long. Sadly in this business an outlet needs the audience to justify a review copy and in the rare instance where a publisher refuses to submit future review copies to a venue then perhaps it’s appropriate to issue a brief press release that respectfully explains why and be done with it. Given the potentially small cost of a retail game versus the profit margin on coverage that the average big media site gains, the cost of a retail copy of the game and a post-release review doesn’t seem to be that much of a hardship. In the end these problems lie solely on the outlet, which is the name of the game in this business. The very suggestion by Beer, whom I personally dug when he actually put some effort into his criticisms, and his peers that also work in the paid games coverage business that not helping them results in no coverage should be met with immediate termination. If you do not cover games unless there is some sort of trade-off, you aren’t really covering games for your audience anymore.
This brings me to my second point. What the fuck is the point of Beer? He seems to be an “entertainer” much like the Angry Video Game Nerd that has made a schtick on trawling everything gaming. We can all destroy or praise any well made game on the market due to the flexibility of opinion and the massive amount of perfect storms required of a game for a dozen or more hours of play. It won’t happen. Bugs, glitches, breakdowns, poor design choices, and many more are all par for the course on even some of the best games, but critics gauge how lenient a they can be with these flaws in return for an overall experience. These commentors bypass that and in return profit on shitting all over a game, whether it was beloved or not. That’s just fucking stupid if you ask me. But many of you out there like it, find it entertaining, and hey, what is a talentless shmuck like me going to say about those that have a knack for amusingly berating a video game? Whether it’s porn, these guys, or My Little Pony, it’s your business what you find entertaining. Furthermore I hate the concept of “shock jock” for these guys. The term comes from radio because there are DJs out there that aggressively skate around the most specific of FCC guidelines to be both massively popular and still deemed publicly appropriate. There isn’t a mainstream video game podcast out there that doesn’t say “fuck” (IGN even lifted this a couple of years ago) and thus have already crossed a line no “shock jock” can. At that point, you can’t really be labeled as “shock” anything, you’re just crude. Don’t get me wrong, I dig it, but you’re hardly controversial in comparison.
Despite my establishment that I find these guys pointless, my issue is in the unique case of Beer and a few like him, not with these other personalities that have lived solely on YouTube or their own personal web sites. Beer works for Game Trailers. Game Trailers is a venue that publicly covers games (I’m pretty sure they covered E3 on Spike this year), has a show on showing off and reviewing games, and are acutely tapped into the games press. This seems like a blurring of church and state to me. I’m not free to just attack him because I don’t like him, another personality like this is Jeff Cannata on the Weekend Confirmed podcast, and I downright love him. At the same time he’s an entertainer, not a critic, and thus has no place discussing games on a regular basis with a show that at least attempts to criticize games as a media outlet and business model. I’m tired of amusing guys, entertaining guys, trolls, and everything in between being the new way to embrace video games. Most of these guys are former games press or (like Beer) PR reps from companies that have been so disenchanted by the industry and video games as a hobby, but they have no other marketable talents in the professional world that they can’t go anywhere else. As a result we get this shit. If you feel proud telling me you haven’t touched a new title in months (or even years), haven’t liked anything you touched anyway, and can’t stand the way game design operates nowadays had fucking better not be a paid member of an editorial staff at a major media venue. Fuck that, you are not part of the solution, you are aiding in the big problem. We have enough shit to deal with when tolerating these amateurs pretending to be reviewers today and we don’t the mainstream getting in there to clutter up a hobby that, I would hope, we are all involved in to have fun in our free time. If you aren’t happy and trying to make a career on hate, then as Fish said (quoting Futurama), “Compare your lives to mine and then kill yourselves.” Crass and harsh, definitely, but certainly gets the point across.
And as for Phil Fish: the internet is a tough place my friend, learn to suck it up because hatred is the greatest form of flattery. If you cannot, then perhaps your decision was best, even if we never see Fez 2.
The opinions stated here are that of the author, Fred Rojas, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the B-Team Podcast or its other co-hosts. In fact, most of the time the guys think I’m bat shit crazy.