Editorial: Game Journalists Are Anti-Consumer, Not Bethesda

I did an article before covering all the ridiculous ways in which games journalists have devalued the industry and diminished the integrity of game reviews by focusing on political topics or injecting politics into gaming where none was required. This came after Bethesda announced that they were cutting out journalists from early review copies, and journalists responded by throwing a digital tantrum.

Unfortunately, the wily words of journalists were enough to work as a sweet sap to lure some gamers into thinking that Bethesda is the bad guy in this situation. The reality is that Bethesda is just being a corporation… trying to make money. They’re going to go to whatever lengths they need to (within plausible means and the law) to make said money. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but that’s what they do.

This is not an excuse to justify on-disc DLC, pre-order bonuses, retailer specific content, cut-endings or season passes. No, this is to say that we can expect corporations to push the limits against consumers, but it’s supposed to be the job of games journalists to inform consumers and, if necessary, hold accountable the corporations for the things that the consumers find unsavory.

The latter doesn’t happen within the gaming industry; and this push back against Bethesda for cutting journalists out of the loop of early review copies seems more like the game  journalists feeling entitled to early copies of games as opposed to feeling as if their pro-consumer activism is put in jeopardy.

In fact, even in the secret GameJournoPros group — consisting of major gaming media journalists — they couldn’t agree about whether or not they were serving gamers well by doing early access reviews of Simcity when EA’s review servers didn’t perform on par to the consumer servers, which resulted in game reviewers giving the game a much higher score than the average gamer.

That whole escapade was covered in-depth by a piece on Medium. This poses the question: how are early access reviews helpful when game journalists mislead people about the performance of the game due to the review sessions being different from the end-user experience?

Heck, when gamers felt as if EA and BioWare didn’t deliver on what was promised for the ending of Mass Effect 3, games journalists ran to the defense of EA and called gamers “entitled”. IGN even did a piece interviewing EA to dismiss claims about why people hate EA titled “Why Do People Hate EA”. I mean, promising different endings and delivering different colors wasn’t what gamers expected from Mass Effect 3. It’s still something that’s discussed on various game boards, and Deep Freeze has an entry about the debacle titled “Our enemy, the gamers”.

No Man's Sky

Just this past summer you had sites like Polygon and Vice running to the defense of Hello Games, saying that No Man’s Sky’s backlash was unwarranted, and that it was a “nasty” reaction from the audience. It was a spin on the fact that No Man’s Sky released with a lot of undelivered promises, still absent to this very day, prompting for an investigation by the U.K’s Advertising Standards Agency, as reported by Forbes.

Heat Street was one of the few sites that actually came to the defense of the gaming community.

How ironic is it that Polygon was one of the first to then criticize Bethesda about withholding early review copies of their games as if they’re the champions of pro-consumer activism?

Remember, this is the same Polygon who was first to defend Zoe Quinn during the #GamerGate scandal, despite having their own undisclosed ties to the developer. This is also the same Polygon who tried using a secret e-mail group for journalists to silence discussion across the web about the topic in order to protect a friend.

It sounds more like Polygon is in it for self interests and not necessarily because the gaming community deserves to be defended.

“But, but, but… there are others!” you say. Well, there are others sprinkled about the journalism space here and there, but the major mainstream sites are quick to run to the defense of publishers. Heck, CNET and Gizmodo didn’t hesitate to prop up the original Xbox One’s anti-consumer DRM policies against used games, saying that axing the policies made the Xbox One “way worse”. Obviously, it’s pro-consumer to attack gamers for wanting to buy used games… right?

VG 24/7 sided with Blizzard over their use of always-on DRM for Diablo III, penning a piece called “Diablo 3, You can’t log-in and you shouldn’t care”.

VG 24/7 wasn’t even the only one to take that stance. The professional Metacritic scores for Diablo III were glowing, despite a lot of gamers not being able to play due to the DRM. That didn’t stop Digitally Downloaded from calling gamers “entitled” for being angry at not being able to play a game that they paid $60 for. Crave Online was quick to jump on the bandwagon and also call gamers “entitled”. Or how about how EGM Now attacked the gaming audience for a 3.5 out of 10 Metacritic user score because a lot of gamers gave it a 1 out of 10 because the always-on DRM prevented them from playing the single-player mode offline?

These are the people you’re defending in the case of Bethesda axing early review copies? People who get their copies and then attack their audience for not buying into the corporate economy of increasingly anti-consumer antics?

“But, but, but… there are good game journalists!” and how many of them stood up for you when the media lied about the gaming community being a den of misogynists?

Only a few notable sites with any clout fired back. Erik Kain from Forbes called for reasoned heads, as did various YouTubers like TotalBiscuit, and TechRaptor, GamesNosh and Niche Gamer were very small at the time but were willing to throw their hats in with gamers. Were there any other larger websites that said “No, the media is lying… #GamerGate isn’t a harassment campaign”?

How many major websites jumped in to defend Sarkeesian after she lied about #GamerGate? Rock, Paper, Shotgun was quick to demonize their own audience and banned people who didn’t agree with them, even though the abuse organization that Sarkeesian funded, Crash Override Network, couldn’t find any evidence that #GamerGate harassed her!

So not only are they pro-corporatist but they also happen to be anti-facts!

It’s a perfect mixing bowl to diminish the integrity and quality of the gaming industry.

“But, but, but… what about the good ones?!” Yes, there are some good journalists out there, but the ones that go to bat for the consumer all small time. You won’t find good journalists at Newsweek, or the New York Times, or Time Magazine, or Gawker’s remaining subsidiaries, or Rolling Stone Magazine (because otherwise the latter two wouldn’t have been sued for sloppy journalism).

In fact, Gawker recently tanked due to the Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit. And just before that, their subsidiary Kotaku did an in-depth, one-sided hit-piece on a developer at Wildcard Studio that was used in a case to help cost that developer $40 million.

You’re defending these people? Why?

Kotaku was the one who levied unsubstantiated rape allegations at Max Temkin. Kotaku was the one who dragged Stardock Entertainment’s Brad Wardell through the mud over more unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations. Kotaku was the one who started the trend (that other websites followed) in the media where if you supported Dragon’s Crown you were labeled as sexist!

We now have the media to thank for all this “sexism in gaming!” nonsense that has managed to find its way all the way up to the United Nations, even causing them to come down against Japan. Thankfully, Japan told them to bugger off.

The argument I’ve been seeing from some people is that this is an anti-consumer move by Bethesda, and now games journalists can’t help gamers make informed decisions.

My question is: when did games journalists help gamers make informed decisions within the last few years prior to a game’s release? It’s either been aimless shilling, politically motivated posturing, or nonchalant talking-point-regurgitation.

Heck, the journalists didn’t even warn gamers about Aliens: Colonial Marines being nothing like its E3 demo even after they got hands-on time with it… before release! Eurogamer, Digital Trends and Games Radar all failed to mention in their hands-on sessions that none of the game resembled the E3 footage at all, and instead passed it off that it was still “in beta”.

When was the last time the journalists really actually went to bat for gamers when it came to the aggressive DLC or season passes? Heck, some of them even defended Capcom for taking steps to normalize on-disc DLC.

Has the media been defending gaming against charges that games make people violent and sexist? I’ve been seeing the opposite lately, where some of the media have jumped on board with saying that games cause you to become violent and sexist.

Where is this pro-consumer activism that people are saying is being stripped away from games journalism with Bethesda’s latest move? Where did it go? Where has it been? When – within the last few years – has it been so active in bettering and furthering the growth of the gaming industry?

For as far as I can see, games journalism’s pro-consumer activism is about as alive and well as Bambi’s mother.

(Main image courtesy of dogtown1)


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

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