Understanding Game Journalism


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I was invited to speak about this and four other topics at the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences in Finland. This lecture explains how you should understand game journalists as people and treat the importance having the game press write about their products. The topics covered in part 1 are:

1.45 Quick recap: How press Works
2.30 Who are these people?
3.30 Similarities between press
6.40 Brand Boyer's GDC 2010 rant
7.45 When things go wrong in game journalism
9.45 The unwritten rule of game journalism
10.30 Why you should know this stuff
12.00 Know your real enemy, the big publishers
14.30 Don't use their tricks
15.45 What happens behind closed doors
17.00 Wake up and smell the coffee

The topics covered in part 2 are:

0.00 New Game Journalism
2.15 Dealing with the game press
3.00 Step 1: Find your champions!
9.00 Step 2: Don't exaggerate
10.00 Step 3: Choose the right people
11.30 Summary
15.20 Further reading

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  • Don’t expect stuff back from them. It makes you a dick.
  • Understanding Game Journalism

    1. 1. #gamejournalism Understanding Game Journalism aka. “It’s better to have other people say how awesome your game is then having to do it yourself.”
    2. 2. #starttalkingalready Table of contents • Who am I • Understanding the game press • Dealing with the game press • Handy tips & tricks • Summary • Questions?
    3. 3. #thatguy Who am I? This is a lecture by Vlad Micu Did freelance journalism, consulting, event management and research under own company VGVisionary.com Used to be the European editor of Gamesauce Magazine Wrote for many other international outlets including GMR magazine, Control Magazine, Bashers.nl, Gamert.nl, CriticalGamer.co.uk, XBLAFans.com, Game Mode Magazine And now went Indie since April 3rd to work on Snobli Run This slide’s design is inspired by Brandon Boyer @brandonnn
    4. 4. #inversefunnel #davidvsgoliath Recap: Understand how press works
    5. 5. #struggleforrecognition Who are they? Professional press & Professional game press Enthusiast game press & Wannabe game press/communities VS They get paid They get free games & goodies Understand their differences
    6. 6. #thefunnelisnotalie Similarities • Both of them deal with a bombardment of PR & Marketing • Both are fighting for attention and traffic • Largely dependant on what publishers offer them • Very little (or no) attention/time for indies and small companies (because it doesn’t generate traffic). Love them both, but…
    7. 7. #struggleforprofessionalism There’s an institutional problem with game journalism Brandon Boyer’s GDC ’10 rant (he’s my hero)
    8. 8. #brandingiron Different topic: When things go wrong Who knows this guy?
    9. 9. #scratchmyback Recap: game marketing? “Quid pro quo, Clarice” – Hannibal Lecter
    10. 10. #saleshatesobjectivity Why you should know about this stuff • Marketing vs. Press • 1-10 Scale discussion • Make/break based on Metacritic results
    11. 11. #david vs goliath Know your real ‘enemy’ You Random big publisher • Dirty tricks, lots of money • Pressure on journalists, tons of advertising • Power over the media Your marketing strategy “The games press is often painted as corrupt, lazy and – as I mentioned – fundamentally stupid. This is because we tend to be corrupt, lazy and fundamentally stupid. “ - Kieron Gillen (former game journalist)
    12. 12. #bedifferent Don’t use their tricks “I have been one of those people, doing everything I can to get to try game journalists to place my games on the cover of their magazines, extended previews, assets posted online and the scores as high as possible. I have pulled ad buys in protest of what I felt were unfair review scores. I have spoken to the “boss” of publications before, and complained about certain journalists. I have “banned” certain media outlets from getting pre-release access to games, because of previous unfavorable coverage.” - Anonymous person from a Big Publisher
    13. 13. #awkwardmoments Behind Closed Doors “At the end of the twenty-minute presentation, the man who was in charge—or at least, who talked the most— held out a large, glossy folder emblazoned with the THQ logo. “Everything you need is in here,” he said. […] Here was my preview. […] My qualification was the ability to publish information about MX vs. ATV: Untamed without a THQ watermark. So then I had an even worse thought: I was not the author of the piece I was about to write.“ - Joseph Bernstein (game journalist)
    14. 14. #saleshatesobjectivity Wake up and smell the coffee “The job of a game journalist consists in many ways of balancing acts between a perceived loyalty to the reading public and a dependency on industry material. “ - David Nieborg (game researcher)
    15. 15. #weneedmoreofthese New Game Journalism “Where the review/preview structure is the bread and butter of the majority of game publications; with very few exceptions, there is no culture of historically and critically informed game journalism to speak of.“ - David Nieborg (game researcher)
    16. 16. #itallstartswithanemail Dealing with the game press “A passionate games journalist who loves your work will get you more coverage than an entire PR department.” - Kieron Gillen (game journalist)
    17. 17. #chooseyourtarget Step 1: Find your champions! “Here’s the good news: We’re on your side. […] You represent the ideal of why we want to write about games in the first place” - Kieron Gillen (game journalist)
    18. 18. #fearisyourbiggestenemy Reach out to them “A journalist, investigating, that’s how 90% of indie games get reviewed.” – Kieron Gillen (game journalist)
    19. 19. #preparationiskey Take action • Read the press, and leave a comment some times • Get in touch with them, send them a polite request to have a look at your game • Offer people review copies/codes, politely • Know why your game is actually worth while looking at • Look back at my marketing lecture.
    20. 20. #justdontsendthemflowers Court them • Get to know these people personally, have a beer with them. • Understand the mechanics of game journalism (read everything I give you at the end of this talk) • Be polite x 3000 • Don’t pressure them, there’s enough fish in the sea! • Prepare for any attention or interest accordingly, have your press kit and elevator pitch ready • Make it easy for them to remember you and your game (do marketing).
    21. 21. #dontbethatguy Step: 2 Don’t exaggerate “The press is busy just like you. They work hard and are often underpaid. It's perfectly fine to send them one email and leave one voice message. […] Don't email them multiple times per day or leave multiple voice messages. […] Annoying journalists is the shortest path to getting ignored for the foreseeable future.” – Luis Levy (game developer & author)
    22. 22. #thinkniche Step: 3 Choose the right people Making a PC game? • Focus on big PC markets – Great Britain – Scandinavia – Germany • Magazines and website watch each other constantly and yes, they copy stuff from each other. All. The.Time.
    23. 23. #doallthesethings Summary • Do. Your. Research. • Be polite. • Have press kits prepared at all time. – Put your gameplay trailer on your phone! • Mail press, meet them at events. • Build a relationship.
    24. 24. #readitall References/Further Reading • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Most importantly: http://www.pixelprospector.com/indev/2010/08/the-big-list-of-indiemarketing-and-business-tips/ http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?page_id=693 http://www.next-gen.biz/blogs/everyones-a-critic http://www.planetxbox360.com/article_5728/A_Detailed_Look_into_the_Problems_of_Games_Jo urnalism http://www.gamespace.nl/content/NieborgSihvonen09_TheNewGatekeepers.pdf http://sorethumbs.tumblr.com/page/20 http://bitmob.com/articles/what-defines-a-games-journalist http://sorethumbs.tumblr.com/post/48781177/publisherperspective http://bitmob.com/articles/a-new-era-of-video-game-journalism http://sorethumbs.tumblr.com/page/20 http://shawnelliott.blogspot.com/2008/12/symposium-part-one-review-scores.html http://shawnelliott.blogspot.com/2009/02/symposium-part-two-review-policy.html http://vgmwatch.com/ http://killscreendaily.com/articles/intern-affairs-you-can-ski-jump http://www.planetxbox360.com/article_5728/A_Detailed_Look_into_the_Problems_of_Games_Jo urnalism http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?page_id=693 http://kotaku.com/#!328244/gamespot-editor-fired-over-kane--lynch-review
    25. 25. #imlonely Contact me • I’m in ur campus, working in ur Gamelabz • Will be staying in the guest lecturer house at Talo 6 #F28. Look me up there in the evening and let’s play some beer pong. • Mail me at v.micu@vgvisionary.com • @vgvisionary • Website: www.vgvisionary.com