Industry Fucking Shmindustry

Mark Reid

Politics are fucking shite. Doesn’t matter whether it’s forum politics, social politics or that bullshit inter-family nonsense where you can’t just pick a wedding guest list based on who you actually want to have at your own fucking wedding… they’re all shite. Gaming industry politics is probably the worst of all though. The amount of back-biting that goes on is equalled only by the amount of back-slapping and, in order to really get ahead in this business, you need to do one or the other. Doing neither simply results in a position of stalemate whereby those who have the desire to be pandered to will rarely want to send you so much as a press release and those who want you to be openly negative about others will react in the same way.

Why bring this up now? Well, for a start, there’s all this bullshit surrounding the GMAs that we’ve seen floating around the frothy cesspool of Twitter this last week or so. I say “bullshit” like it’s some new thing when the fact is, unless you’re one of those people who long for that sort of feigned adoration, events such as the GMAs have always been nothing but corporate wankfests anyway. While the majority of gamers probably know damn all about the awards, the backlash on Twitter and subsequent articles (which, typically, resulted in even more Twitter backlash) means that the wider community is now much more aware of facades such as the GMAs and it has brought the impartiality of certain journalists into question.

 

Cool and flavourful!

The harsh reality of the gaming industry, and any industry which relies on positive publicity to promote limited-shelf-life products, is that there are those who will do their jobs regardless and those who can only see as far as the towel that slaps their arse in the showers. As an ex music-industry writer, and one who was at the helm of a music mag for a number of years, I know from first-hand experience that having a jolly jape with an industry figure down the pub can open more doors than a junkie in a JCB, and it was a struggle to move the magazine into a high-street position without the backing of the big name labels who were openly offering bribes for positive review scores and front cover features. I still did it though, through nothing more than hard work and determination, and ultimately closed the magazine down when the number of labels pressuring us into giving positive reviews got to the point where I no longer enjoyed what I was doing.

While my experience in the video games industry hasn’t yet reached the point where someone has asked me to give a review score a nudge in the “right” direction, or pushed for better coverage in exchange for gifts (or a full suite of PCs, as was the case with the music mag), the site has certainly experienced its fair share of obstacles, a number of which have been as a direct result of not being part of the club. When your traffic stats can’t get your voice heard by certain publishers even though much smaller sites, who happen to be friends with internal PRs, somehow manage to not only get review copies from them but a considerable amount of support in other areas… you really have to question the integrity of the people in control.

 

Everything you say is suspect.

Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be an in-the-flesh relationship for those doors to swing open with great gusto, and both Facebook and Twitter have helped many a site get a strong foothold with certain publishers because their PR people clearly like it when folk rally around them to let them know that they’re loved. It’s fair enough to befriend someone through work, but when those people stop doing their job (which is to publicise their product to anyone interested in giving it coverage) and start to channel all their energies to only those who participate in back and forth hashtagged banter, then you have to question both the judgement of those dishing out the information and those on the receiving end.

Taking a very deliberate stance of not getting involved in back-slapping can make it difficult for a site to grow, in terms of what is being made available as far as press releases and even preview/review codes are concerned. From what I can tell, and what I’ve learned through my own experience, the best way to avoid the politics and still allow a site to grow is to circumvent those who prefer to deal in secret handshakes and/or stolen whispers down whatever the most recent pub of choice is, and try to deal directly with the publisher or developer. The irony of being one of The Uninvited is that it can also spur you on to take more risks than you would ordinarily, and digging deep for events such as E3 and Gamescom can help secure that all-important content months before the various love-ins rear their ugly heads.

"A technical marvel that sets a new benchmark. The plot may twist until you lose grip of it altogether, but the balls-out street-driving action saves the day."

 

The problem with avoiding all the bullshit politics, and keeping yourself to yourself is that various PRs, as well as other gaming sites, will see you as being elitist. They’ll convince themselves that you have some bizarre superiority complex, looking down your nose at them because you don’t hang out at the same parties they do or turn up at any arranged get-togethers, shaking your head in disappointment as you watch yet another site post up images of their jollies with [insert name of random publisher here] thanks to their constant retweeting of press releases on Twitter, or chucking out the frequent “Oh man, I can’t wait until that’s out lolz” comment on Facebook. Similarly, the PRs who have a tendency to lean more towards those who openly show their love for the brand are more likely to avoid dealing with you because, as odd as it may seem, your impartiality is viewed as a negative as it can’t help their cause.

What do we take away from this? In my experience, what spending three years on the fringes, looking in at the merry elves dancing around the golden idol, has done for is to help me better appreciate integrity and singularity. I may never rub shoulders with certain people at industry piss-ups or get to do shots with them at some secret pub in Soho, but I’ll sure as fuck make sure that any site I’m involved with continues to grow because of the hard work that I, and the writers, put in to the site rather than riding along on the coat tails of someone capable of pulling strings and clearing the path of obstacles.

As long as events such as E3 exist where your entry is based on traffic and, to a certain extent, credibility, the sites who genuinely give a fuck about content will do what it is that they love to do – report with impartiality, although sadly not with impunity. The sad fact is that, for each site out there in this position, who opts to stick to the quiet corner of the locker room and avoid the wet towels, there will always be another ten or twenty who will take the easy way out and do as much sucking up as is necessary to further the site. So be it. Politics can fuck off.

6 Responses to “Industry Fucking Shmindustry”

  1. Rich says:

    You wanna live on top, you gotta live Cacteau’s way. What he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Your other option: come down here, maybe starve to death.

  2. Markuz says:

    Sandra Bullock’s arse in those black leggings was mesmerising.

  3. Gecks says:

    i feel like a lot of this is the responsibility of the reader: if we didn’t clamour for ‘exclusives’ and ‘day 1 reviews’ then the PR people would have less power. we should value being able to wait for measured reviews of a retail product, rather than getting that one at midnight of the embargo, written by some hack who has played the game in a hotel room for the past 12 hours.

    the music and film industry seem to have gotten past this stage, so maybe it’s just a natural progression.

  4. Rich says:

    well PEOWW tried to do that and it ultimately was the one thing that stopped us getting Metacritic traffic.

  5. Markuz says:

    We’ve been chased for reviews several times at GamingLives… one game in particular boasted over 300 hours of gameplay and yet, less than a week after getting the review copy (which was on release day, not early), we were being chased for the review. We tell all PRs that we review story-based games when the game is finished, otherwise the score isn’t representative of the entire game.

  6. Rich says:

    I guess that’s why some sites are ready to serve up their reviews after like one day and five achievements. There was a bit of that with Skyrim, I remember.

    Fucking shite sites.