In a recent post, Chris Bateman reflected upon the rise and demise of the game blogging scene. I myself wrote about the same history once, when I sadly thought it was gone for good.
I don’t want to dwell too much on the reasons why game blogging flourished and wilted so quickly (the halcyon days occurred over a 3-5 year period), but rather reflect upon the state of game writing right now, and put up a few red flags. I honestly think that we are far worse off today than we were five years ago, and I’ll do my best to explain why.
What were the original game blogs supposed to do anyway? Blogs were a strange combination of the 1990s web page (where you would present yourself as a certain persona on the ‘net), and the 2000s web journal (where you would expose your thoughts and opinions to others in a short form suitable for mass consumption). Part of the reason that blogs lent themselves to game writing was because there was a growing audience of gamers who were getting a little older and starting to ask questions like: what do games mean? how are they connected to other media like movies and literature? do games have artistic qualities? who plays games anyway – are they just for kids, or can they offer deeper experiences? Other bloggers focused on the games themselves, and tried to articulate their experiences for others – a pseudo-review that got away from the horrible Graphics-Sound-Gameplay review systems of yore. And yet other bloggers were trying to make sense of their personal lives and gaming, tying together family issues and identity crises into the huge matrix of material culture. The point is that the game blogging scene was composed of a rich heterogeneity of voices, and that rumbling chorus was quickly replaced by the transient cacophony of social networks like twitter.
I’m not blaming twitter for the disappearance of game blogging (that would be like blaming The Simpsons for the end of the puritanical American family) – what I’m worried about is the increasingly totalizing and disproportionate roles that certain faces and names take up in game writing culture. Twitter has enabled game writers to become pseudocelebrities, the kind that only matter within their own limited circles. The problem with this situation is that there is a very tiny group of writers connected to each other through publications like Gamasutra, Polygon, and Kotaku. These people all drink together, gossip together, trade press information, and promote one another’s products and writing. Friendship and collegiality is not a crime. But what we should be fucking pissed about is that these same people set the standard for what is newsworthy, which scandal-of-the-week matters, and decide what topics gamers should be discussing.
The disappearance of the game blog meant that independent voices were choked out by behemoth institutions that themselves have no special insight into gaming. What we lost was the ability to choose which topics mattered to us, and then start the conversation there. Writers have been reduced to commentators, only capable of filling out a reply form on an article at best, or farting out a 140 character reply on twitter.
Does anyone really give a shit what David Cage thinks about the PS4? Or about Peter Molyneux’s latest outrageous project? These are all fake stories that only matter to news corporations whose only goal is to bloat readership for profit.
So that’s where you come in, all ye readers. There needs to be a resurgence of interdependent game writing – the kinds that Chris Bateman is rallycrying us for – where independent thinkers have a chance to discuss and fight and think together over things that they themselves care about. Imagine something like an 18th century Salon, without all the pretension and pseudointellectualism – just some serious chat with nice folks.
Let’s take back the word from those who only wish to sell it.
Ps: If you write up a reply to this, just post a comment and I’ll make sure that I update my post to include yours.