Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
30 March 2006
Where is the Army of Davids for videogames?
I happened across this tidbit regarding regulation of political blogs that I think has some relevance to the videogame world:
The core of the decision is a recognition that the Internet is a unique medium. In traditional politics, money buys influence. On the Internet, influence raises money. And a bunch of a little bloggers, each with a million readers, can have a big influence. But the FEC isn't worried about the little guy. As long as you aren't being paid by a campaign, nothing you do online will be considered a contribution. Only traditional paid political ads on Web sites are subject to the old campaign rules.
The sentences I highlighted are important because, while this appears to be more and more true for politics and political blogs, I do not think it is true for videogames. There are hundreds of videogame bloggers out there, each plugging away with much the same fervor as an Atrios or and Instapundit, but collectively and separately I don't see them having the same effect on the games industry as the political bloggers are having on politics.

Where is the videogame equivalent of Rathergate or Ben Domenech fiasco, both big scandals broken by bloggers? Where is the public's champion like Ned Lamont, a candidate challenging an entrenched Senator (Joe Lieberman, Democrat from Connecticut)? Where is there a productive, thriving community for videogames that parallels DailyKos?

I suppose you can point to the success of Katamari Damacy and Geometry Wars, games which have succeeded in large part through word of mouth on the internets. It's good to see deserving games succeeding that way. And there is no doubt that there are lively, even very intellectual, forums and blogs talking about videogames.

Still, I'm left feeling that there are a lot of original and interesting reporting opportunities out there that aren't being taken up by videogame bloggers. When it's just "I played a game, it sux0rz and/or r0x0rz" day after day, it's as bad as a middle-aged man blogging about his cat and girlfriend problems. I just don't think that that kind of blogging can ever influence a million readers, and through that influence have an effect on the industry.

On the other hand, some original reporting that takes more than five minutes to bang out with Google and a keyboard might actually draw serious traffic. For example, with all the talk of investment of original games, which of the big game companies (e.g. EA, Activision, THQ, Nintendo, SCEA, and a few others) actually put a serious investment into brand new games (don't rely on a license, new gameplay ideas) last year? Do these companies level with their stockholders in their SEC filings about the risk of totally new games, as well as the potential for a truly profitable hit? What will EA's investment in original game ideas look like in March 2007, a year after they've talked up their renewed investment in original games?

Don't like my ideas? Fine, I'll keep 'em. What provocative questions can you pose about the games you play, the companies you buy from, and the systems you own?

When that kind of reporting becomes commonplace in some videogame blogs, those blogs will grow in traffic and therefore influence. With a dozen such bloggers, living and dying by their integrity and originality, the tightly controlled media system we now have would crack. And, ultimately that's what I would like to see: the strongly centralized power of the big sites -- IGN/GameSpy, GameSpot, 1UP, and others -- disrupted by an army of Davids.
--Matt Matthews at 22:24
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