This, like so many of my efforts will probably fall on deaf ears, but I guess I still have to try.
I recently read your piece on Kotaku about how you feel Bethesda and Ubisoft have blacklisted your outlet. I say feel because there has been no official word of a blacklisting, but it seems to be the case. The article was titled “A Price of Games Journalism.” Some people responded positively to your article where others celebrated the implied blacklist. I personally tweeted you and asked, “What do you think my response should be to this?”
It’s clear what you would like to people think after reading your article and those who are familiar with me would probably anticipate my response would have been celebratory. I asked my question because I was hoping to engage you in a earnest discussion.
I’ve done some writing about games, not enough that I would call myself a journalist, but for lack of a better word I was one. Despite lacking the connections you do, I at one point was tipped off to the a new game that was being made by a well known studio. I eventually didn’t go through with the story because I felt I didn’t have enough to report it.
In the process of considering the piece I had to reflect on the possibility that reporting this information ahead of time would have been bad for professional relations. It was something of a moot point though because I’m mostly invisible, at least compared to someone like yourself. Had I the influence that you do, I likely would not have reported it because in terms of business, it’s not smart for the long game. I would have gotten a scoop and some short term benefits with a bump in traffic but ultimately unwise. See if it were a matter of a developer or a shady publisher trying to act in an anti-consumer way then there would be no questions about whether to report it, just what consequence might await me for reporting something that was supposed to stay hidden.
Being an advocate for my audience is the most important thing, followed by a respect for the content creator of the industry. I love both groups but it’s ultimately the gaming audience that fits the bill for everyone and has the least amount of coordinated power. I have to help them.
Let’s be realistic, Stephen. You made a poorly calculated move. You choose the short term benefit and judging from recent history this is an ongoing pattern for Kotaku. Whether it be Hernandez failing to recuse herself, Grayson badgering developers over social issues instead of the actual game or Schrier acting just utterly unprofessional you have to admit you and your staff have been doing a really poor job at making yourself valuable to a developer or publisher.
I don’t know if there’s something I’m missing or if it’s a matter of becoming complacent in your work, but you are not entitled to information and review copies regardless of how you and your people act. You claim it was a moral choice done for your readers and some people have also said it was good business but it’s also good business for a creator to not give information to someone who will spill the beans ahead of time. Can you honestly blame them? Can you really say they should work with you despite proving that you probably aren’t trustworthy?
Kotaku has even run articles that are practically advertisements as in the case of Diablo III, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Call of Duty. None of this paints the picture of an altruistic outlet that just wants to service their reader. We know that’s not the case though. Plunkett even penned one of the Gamers are Dead articles. Instead of trying to be honest about things your article amounts to not much more than acting like Kotaku is the victim.
I’m sorry if my words sound unfairly critical but there’s no way around the issue without going into the facts. Kotaku has alienated the gaming audience and the industry. Even your newest staff, Klepek, accused Playtonic of lying to the audience without proof. He says it was a mistake he would learn from, but this is common from Patrick and my tweeting at him about it got me immediately blocked.
Please do not take this as a condemnation of all games journalists. I know not all of them are bad, but there is a very real part of the games media that is blatantly anti-consumer. Technology is changing and the people who enjoy games are looking for new things from their media. Your format is rapidly becoming obsolete and the manner in which you guys conduct yourselves is increasing that pace. Despite any shortcomings, Youtubers will and are replacing you. It is within your best interest to start playing nice rather than attacking people and attaching some kind of alleged bigotry to any dissent.
You haven’t tried to encourage a more ethical brand of journalism. For the sake of your job, try to adapt! Consider the outcome of this path. Your site even defended rape accusations that had no proof. How does that help your readers?
I attended the Society of Professional Journalists Airplay panel with a pro-consumer stance to discuss issues with the gaming media. The second panel was interrupted and we continued with it outside when the venue was sent more than ten bomb threats. Kotaku never reported on it. This was an event that had the goal of improving things for the gaming audience. Yet your outlet was mysteriously quiet about it.
Do you see how this contradicts your claim of being an advocate for your reader?
It’s grey area to report Ubisoft and Bethesda information like you did, and a clear cut case if your reporting hurts those business, but what was cause for people celebrating the blacklist is that they feel Kotaku deserves it.
One of the questions posed to me during Airplay, was if it was even worth it for Kotaku since there are gamers who will forever hate you.
My answer hasn’t changed. I still think that it would just be a matter of time for most before Kotaku can begin to slowly earn back the trust of gamers.
You just have to try. It’s not impossible but it won’t be easy. This reputation will follow you and your staff even if Kotaku is closed down.
The lid can’t be put back on. People know that Kotaku and Gawker treat the end as justification for the means. People won’t forget.
I certainly won’t and I won’t stop talking about these things, even if it’s unpopular. You can condemn all gamers and say we’re negative but I’m here aren’t I? I’m still here trying to make some kind of dialogue and that’s at least one person that proves you wrong.
I know they’re out there, I know them personally. You just have to try. You have to make it about more than yourself. I hope you consider what I’ve said and hopefully I won’t see blowback. For the sake of the industry though, I think it’s all worth a try.