Last week, we wrote an editorial telling former EGM editor Dan “Shoe” Hsu to stop beating what we believe is a dead horse: his feeling that game journalism (and journalists) are being undermined by publishers’ events, freebies and advertising dollars. Our editorial received quite a reaction, both for and against our opinion, but no reaction was more unexpected (yet warranted) than the one we received from Dan Hsu himself.
Posting in our DailyGame Forums, Hsu had quite a bit to say, mostly to clarify his position and thinking on the matter. We offered Hsu the opportunity to write a “formal” rebuttal piece, an op/ed to counter our own editorial. Instead, he requested that we simply publish his casual forum posts verbatim. Below are his comments.
Just a few things if I may:
I think Jonas’ article is perfectly fair and to be expected. I know for a fact that, yes, a lot of my peers in the industry are sick of me talking about this subject. That’s cool. Just wanted to let you know that I’m not necessarily writing this stuff for my peers, but sometimes, it’s to let readers know “Why did this game get this cover?” or “Why did this game review this way?” … stuff like that. People discuss that stuff all the time on message boards, in emails to our magazine, emails to me, etc. …so I know it’s a topic of interest.
And I’m certainly not claiming to be ‘the last bastion of hope for game journalism” at all. In fact, I hope I was forthcoming on my own shortcomings as a games editor/writer/journalist/whatever you want to call me. I never said I was the perfect example for all to follow (in fact, one story Crispin’s working on will make us look pretty bad, too…just like that Contra preview thing I wrote about). I was just hoping to provide a behind-the-scenes peek at how our world works. Judging from the responses, most people are curious and interested, but again, I totally don’t blame Jonas for being sick of it.
Maybe another motivation for me: A TON of readers ask me about breaking into the business, what it’s like, how to start up a fanzine or fansite… so I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about these stories because it’s given these up-and-comers an idea of what to expect or what to do or not do (not ’cause I tell them what they should do, but I present the background and they can decide for themselves how they want to operate).
Games journalism isn’t respected at all because of how some of us act. We’re at these events with CNN or MSNBC, and we’re lower-tier…not just ’cause of audience reach but because of some of the things that I wrote about. Maybe I’m selfishly hoping that so-and-so will stop doing certain unethical things, because then it’ll be better for all of us as an industry, if that makes any sense. Why aren’t game critics respected as much as movie critics? Well, lots of reasons, but the stuff that I’ve brought up certainly hurts our reputation as a whole.
And I don’t all that to sound like I’m oh-so-important and some sort of messiah or whatever. It’s really just…hey, I see how some of this stuff works, and let me share it. That’s all.
I guess the only thing I’d say that wasn’t fair is the stuff about me and my Halo fanboyism. Yes, I did score the last two games the highest possible scores, and I like featuring them in the magazine, but for one very specific reason: Everything “Halo” sells extremely well for us. Just like in the old days…EGM put Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter on every cover for a while ’cause it moved issues at newsstands. It’s just a business choice (ask GamePro about that…they did extra Halo covers as well because their first one was almost double the sales of their next best-selling issue).
I’m actually surprised, cause people who know me would probably say that, if I were a fanboy of anything, it’d be for Splinter Cell multiplayer. Maybe that’s a bit quiet now ’cause it’s been years since my last fave (Chaos Theory…not so much Double Agent), and Splinter Cell isn’t quite the commercial success that Halo is. But yeah…if I’m a fanboy, it’d be Splinter Cell first…way over Halo. Then maybe Advance Wars, Dark Reign (from a while ago)…in terms of raving about them, convincing people to buy/play them, obsessing over their details, making print-outs, etc.
Regarding the Halo gift bag: Literally the only thing I kept from that package is the duffel bag itself. I didn’t think anyone would care ’cause it had my name printed on it and it was really cheap and not very practical (it’s way huge). All of the inside contents…the “good” stuff (Legendary Edition helmet, controllers, toys, etc.) were all dispersed to the office and put in the pile of stuff that goes to readers for random contests.
Sorry for the long post. As Jonas can tell you, I tend to talk to much. 😉
After a small exchange of thoughts, Hsu continued….
I really hope I didn’t also give off the vibe that “games journalism is dead.” I don’t *believe* (but certainly might’ve given the impression) I’ve made any grand statements like that or along the lines of the “savior of journalism” tag I seem to have gotten. I really, honestly honestly don’t want that title. Who the heck wants his work, his life, his career, etc. scrutinized like that? I don’t. In fact, I recently wrote a story about EA’s Spore launch party for X-Play…and I was kinda annoyed with myself because I was wondering if people would wonder about me invited to this nice party, getting free food, etc. I became an outsider scrutinizing my own attendance in this thing that was perfectly fine to attend…just because I know I’ve brought it up before. Bah.
But Jonas, back to your post above. It’s not so much, “Hey, this review game came with a six-pack of beer…was that guy bought off? Is journalism dead?”…but rather, “Hey, did you know websites get rewarded for higher review scores? Do you know deals get made?” … bigger picture stuff like that, mainly. That was my intent, anyways.
And absolutely agree, there are many reasons gaming journalism doesn’t get the respect…besides what you and I mentioned. But again, I hope I wasn’t giving the wrong impression here. The stuff I bring up: That is not why gaming journalism isn’t as respected. It just doesn’t help and is only one of the factors. I may be naive, but I just don’t imagine Entertainment Weekly having “understandings” with movie studios about what their ratings will be in order to secure an exclusive review (for example).
I talked to N’Gai Croal at Newsweek about this stuff. He sees both sides, too. He knows there’s bullying on the enthusiast side that he doesn’t get because he’s big-time (with Newsweek). I just want to expose a bit of it, share some of it…. Maybe you’re very fortunate and haven’t had to deal with it. I have, either ’cause we’ve been bullied ourselves, or we’re losing out to close competitors who will play ball to get exclusives…and that stuff sucks. Hence my “rants” I suppose.
Anyway, I wasn’t even going to write this much about it initially, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive on my side (via the comments), so I guess that gave me enough feedback to do more of these. But that’s not the long-term goal of [my] blog. It’s not a watchdog site…I’ll leave that to the other guys doing that (Videogame Media Watch, Media Coverage, Kyle Orland, etc.). I’m just sharing some behind the scenes stuff. I’ll try to be more conscious of sounding too preachy, though! I appreciate the feedback, even if it was telling me flat out to STFU.