Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
30 March 2007
The hyped get hypeder: Invitation policy for the New E3
Joystiq said a few weeks ago that lots of journalists are being snubbed concerning getting invited for the forthcoming E3 2.0. A recent Kotaku post confirms that the game companies are fully in charge this time out concerning who gets invited and who does not.

Under the old system, one generally applied to attend, then supplied press credentials, and if they checked out: wham, you're in. Those credentials could be as simple as being loosely affiliated with a website. With the help of the (great) guys at N-Sider, for whom I've done all of one article, I was able to obtain entry credentials two years running. (I wasn't able to attend either time, but I still have my pass for last year. I would scan it and put it on the web, but the picture is from my driver's license. Ugh.)

It is understood that recent years have seen E3 become quite a rancorous display, an annual geek festival akin to DragonCon but sprayed with a light sheen of professionalism--very light, judging from all the booth babe photo collections that popped up every year. And it didn't help when they started holding public access days.

But the new system is just as bad in the opposite direction. According to Joystiq:
The ESA told Hill, "It is entirely up to participating companies to decide whom to invite to the event. Thus, if anyone calls ESA to ask for 'tickets' to the event, that's what they will be told."
Hill did receive an invitation after publicly saying aloud how nice it'd be to get one. (Further reading indicates that reason may also have something to do with E3 receiving more of a North American focus and Hill being in Australia, but the above quote seems to counter that.)

The result, to my eyes, is another intensifier of the tremendous influence that big game companies already wield over game journalists. Under the new scheme it's possible that, if you displease the Great Ones, you could mysteriously fail to receive your invite next time.

The ultimate result? Less insightful commentary out of the big-site attendees, meaning more of its reverse: more blather, more mindless teenager chasing, more pseudo-hipster posing, and more hype, if that's possible.

The purpose of this, really? It is an attempt by Big Console's PR departments to more accurately micro-manage the essential First Impression, that point where the general public outside the NDA firewall first finds out about a new product. Recently, Sony was all about cutting off the flow of precious, life-giving hype to Kotaku when they broke early about Playstation Home, and that was only a couple of days early! Why would they throw such a fit over 48 hours?

It's because the big companies recognize that, what with the fickle and faddish nature of game press hype, given that its main consumers are notoriously fickle and faddish teenage boys, it can fall to a single malicious word to banish a promising game or feature to Teh Suckland. (Exhibit A: "Celda.") These are people who dismiss with ease, and are rarely willing to rethink their first impressions. By controlling the message (telling the world through specially-chosen people exposed to a big unveiling show), they attempt to make the hype-happy gaming world do their bidding, instead of trading snarky little jokes about Giant Enemy Crabs.

Does my premise sound unlikely to you? Well, think of it this way. Sit for a moment and imagine if someone had broken news of Nintendo's controller early, and instead of receiving a wave of mostly uniform appreciation for the device, using phrases like "It really does look like Nintendo is reach out to non-traditional gamers," they said more things like "It remains to be seen if Wii will become anything more than Gamecube 2.0"? Then all those cheering echo posts from second-tier sites, instead of being enthusiastic celebrations of Nintendo's bold direction, become, instead, responses to grave concerns. Features about Nintendo's bold new direction will instead chart the company's downward spiral, and probably include a good number of Wii jokes along the way.

What is that I hear? Do you think I paint an overly grim picture of the enthusiast press? Well cheer up Bunky. At least, in the end, all that's at stake here are silly little video games. If you want to get a look at this debate framing, echo chamber process on a much larger and sadder scale, well, you really don't have to look very hard to find it.

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--John Harris at 02:30
Comment [ 11 ]

Comments on this post:

Your game stuff is interesting.

Your political stuff is "just another silly moonbat".

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 30 March, 2007 08:47  

Anonymous = The Right-Wing Game Blogger? (Whatever happened to that guy anyway?)

By Blogger Dustin, at 30 March, 2007 11:19  

Well since someone decided to call names....

You know, the really nice thing about the term "moonbat" is that it gained currency only recently, to describe people that certain right-wing folk find to be crazy.

According to Wikipedia (who says the info comes from William Safire) sci-fi author Robert Heinlein, who himself was not the most centered individual politically shall we say, coined the term.

But anyway, the interesting thing about the term moonbat is that it seems to ONLY be used by people who have a drunk a lot of, and it seems actually enjoys, the taste of Kool-Aid.

By Blogger JohnH, at 30 March, 2007 13:16  

Yes, what a rare term...

Results 1 - 50 of about 1,540,000 for moonbat.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 30 March, 2007 16:43  

Jack of "access" is really just an excuse given by lazy journalists who are not willing to put in the effort. You should not expect stories to just be handed to you by game companies - you have to do your own digging. Journalism is hard. Investigative reporters don't have companies coming to them and saying, "hey, we did something wrong, and we'd really like you to look into it". Lack of access does not amount censorship, you just need to work outside of NDAs, and, big surprise, actually have something interesting to say, and not expect companies to spoon-feed you your content.

By Anonymous Alex, at 30 March, 2007 16:54  

alex: I've espoused this opinion in the past. However, it should be recognized that, because of NDAs and general secrecy, there isn't really a lot of this reporting to do. Until, say, Nintendo speaks up about the game, then there isn't a whole lot to say about Super Mario Galaxy that isn't ultimately speculation.

That's why the big shows are generally important, and why they want to restrict access to them. It's one of the few opportunities there is to get legitimate, unfiltered news about in-development software. And that's what's going to be harder to come by at the new E3.

By Blogger JohnH, at 30 March, 2007 18:01  

Alex, depending on the kind of site you're going for, access is the news. Investigative reporting on video games? Sheesh, there are very few stories outside of the business of games that requires investigative reporting. But I consider news/journalism something other than criticism or content analysis.

For independent sites that want access to games, E for All might be the show to go to. Both Nintendo and Sony are going to be there, but who knows what kind of access you might really get. I've never been to a consumer show (or trade show for that matter).

By Blogger Mordrak, at 30 March, 2007 22:48  

Meh. Anonymous is right. Every now and again, people piss and moan about this or that... because it's trendy.

5 years from now, we will have something else trendy to piss and moan about.

the 'vast right-wing conspiracy' is like the 'vast left-wing conspiracy' designed by rich folks to distract us from making sure the Constitution is protected. Anything else is just grandstanding and whiny political correctness.

As for gaming... yeah, it's just games.. but that's our hobby. People are starving in Africa and Asia, too. People are still making slave wages in 80% of the world... (if wages at all). China's undermining our economy...

But we come to this site to read about games and game-like instances. Injections of 'real world' political views just smacks of smug elitism.

So much for this site too. It was fun once...

By Blogger JFT, at 31 March, 2007 03:13  

Pissing and moaning is a national sport, this is recognized yes. It is obvious.

But it is ALSO obvious that the state of the U.S. government right now is bad far beyond the usual governmental havoc.

Anyway, I didn't say anything about a conspiracy. I implied, strongly, that there is a united front among multiple sources to echo the same, fundamentally conservative, points, and that it can be insightful to compare the game press to the real press.

It's hard enough to write these things without staying away from relevant, albeit hot-button, topics should they happen to be relevant, so all I can do is bid you farewell in this case.

By Blogger JohnH, at 31 March, 2007 03:28  

What the...? Such tender sensibilities in the commenters.

That's it. We're through. Tomorrrow, 1 April 2007, we start Milk of Human Kindness Gamer. ;^)

By Blogger jvm, at 31 March, 2007 07:07  

I expect that sour pretty fast.

By Blogger Mordrak, at 31 March, 2007 07:33  

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