N’Gai Croal moves on and other thoughts on Game Journalism

For those of you who haven’t heard N’Gai Croal is leaving Newsweek effective the end of the week and becoming a consultant for the games’ industry. You can read his final post and farewell here. For those of you now asking “who is he or why should I care,” then I respond “why are you reading this site?” And for those of you legitimately ignorant, but would like to educate themselves I’m sure there are better places to understand him. This podcast comes to mind. I’m not sure I’d be correct in saying he started the games’ criticism movement that we now see in certain blog circles, but I he was definitely an important figure into getting things moving. What he was most famous for, or should I say infamous was his inflammatory’ remarks about racism in the Resident Evil 5 trailer.  But as to what he did overall I have to send you to Sexy Videogameland’s post.

He worked for a nationally recognized mainstream outlet and he spoke eloquently and critically about video games. And now he’s not. I think those two sentences sums up the transition best for those of us who are not N’Gai. He’s still going to post the same stuff on his new blog, ngaicroal.com, I hope. (Though it does mean I’ll have to fix the sidebar again.) But more importantly he’s going to get a voice into the industry. All the things we gaming public has been clamoring for on the outside, will now have a voice with the people who actually create them. That is a huge step forward for the medium. If a book ever gets written on how games rose to a new art form this will be more than a blurb, but now I’m just being starry eyed.

N’ Gai was a journalist, but he was more famous as a critic and commentator than a journalist. Really there are no games journalists. There are no investigative journalists at least. Most of them just print of the press releases or any tidbits about new games on the far distant horizon. Iroquois Pliskin at Versus CluClu Land had this to say on it. Here he does give two examples of people he think are doing it right, but I looked over some of the posts at The Cut Scene Blog and I wasn’t really impressed with what I saw. I don’t know how much of that is Ben Fritz being only held on retainer after losing his editorial position. And as for Gamasutra, years ago I followed them, but their e-mail updates were next to incomprehensible and were uninteresting. I went back lately and looked over some of their posts. Some of it is interesting, but other than the interviews I’m not sure I’d call what they do journalism either. Please send me links to prove me wrong. I like to be proven wrong when I’m all doom and gloom.

What’s my point in all of this? I’d say that to move forward in a medium you need two things: good criticism and good trade papers. Most of our focus for the past few months has been in trying to improve our criticism of video games. My opinion on this is the same as L.B. Jeffries, write the criticism first and we’ll see what works and what doesn’t. Either way we are getting the criticism thing down bit by bit, just look at my Game Critiquers sidebar or this blog list done by Alex Myers some time back. Neither is complete, but everyone on this list works hard at it. That’s a lot of people. But our trade papers consist of IGN, Gamespot and other like minded sites that give out reviews, press releases and odd features that correlate to lists in most cases. It was said, and I wish I could find where (the first thing I don’t have a link for), Game Journalism is like if Woodsworth and Bernstein were told to follow the money and they only wrote about the existence of the money.

Here’s an example. Ubiosft recently announced that Assassin’s Creed 2 is coming out this fiscal year, meaning sometime before March 31st 2010. I am excited by this information, I will not call it news, but that’s all we got. How about you dig for more information? Of course they aren’t going to give up any about the game, but how about what studio is developing it, or who is heading the design and what they’ve done previously. With Sexy VideogameDevloperLand and IGN’s top 100 Game Creators showing off many of the people behind the games in the industry it’s not inconceivable that this could be done. It would even present the opportunity to do analysis based on their previous work. If they aren’t giving up the goods, then put the onus on them and represent that you’ve asked. It’s just an idea.

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