Stuck In A Web: How Game Journalism Lost Its Originality
Spider-Man Dump Truck
On September 7th, a thread was posted on Twitter with criticisms that the recent PS4 release of Marvel’s Spider-Man had turned the titular character into a surveillance state supporter and that the game was “copaganda”. The basis of the argument is that a map revealing gameplay mechanic is bad because it sees the player aid the NYPD in turning on a series of Oscorp owned towers scattered throughout the world. The Tweeter was frustrated by the idea of private tech being used to aid the police. They even went so far as to draw real world parallels to a recent story where the NYPD were caught using surveillance cameras to profile random New Yorkers.

Besides the simple but obnoxious hacking puzzle that accompanied each in-game tower, this way of revealing the map is most certainly not new to gaming. As many gamers are all too well aware, Ubisoft at one point laughably made use of this trope so often that it even made it into their racing game, The Crew.

Annoyingly, none of that seemed to matter. The fairly small thread that as of this writing didn’t see more than 235 retweets and 648 likes was shared among a few game journalists on Twitter.

Marvel's Spider-Man - Subway Spider

Within days articles began to pop up on various sites discussing the Spider-Man “cop problem”. The first of these pieces was posted on Deadspin.

The article, written by Tom Ley, begins with him praising the game before saying that one thing he did not enjoy “is how the game turns Spider-Man into a friggin’ cop!” The article then goes on to repeat most of the talking points made in the original twitter thread mentioned above. So similar is it to that post that I was shocked to see that it wasn’t sourced in the article. Given that it seems the article is trying to make it seem as if the criticism is his idea, I reached out to Tom on Twitter to ask if the Twitter thread was the inspiration for the piece, and if so, why it wasn’t mentioned, but after a couple of days of silence I’ve yet to receive a reply.

Following the article on Deadspin a deluge of new pieces criticizing Spider-Man for being a cop spilled forth onto the web. KotakuThe Ringer and The Outline all ran articles, and even my “pals” over at Waypoint got all uppity about it towards the end of their most recent Podcast.

With the influx of criticisms towards Spider-Man, for what in this writer’s opinion is a silly controversy, I was immediately struck by the similarity the wave of stories had to another incident I had Tweeted about earlier in the Summer.

Back around E3 when The Division 2 was revealed a ton of sites ran stories criticizing the game for not being political. Eurogamer, Kotaku, PolygonThe RingerPaste, and countless others all ran similar articles venting frustration that a game taking place in Washington DC, during a civil war, was not addressing current politics. Never mind that to my knowledge a virus is wiping out huge swaths of the population of the United States, a core plot of the first Division, it seemed nonsensical that all of a sudden, just because a game took place in this Nation’s capital, it had to address not just politics, but the left-leaning ones that most modern game journalists seem to align to.

What bothered me most was that games taking place in DC is nothing new.

I remember visiting the White House and assassinating the Vice President in Hitman: Blood Money back in 2006 without articles addressing its politics.

So what happened? Why in 2018 must all games be political? From Far Cry 5 not being enough of a Trump supporter killing simulator to The Division 2 not being political enough, and even up to the current release of Shadow of the Tomb Raider for not addressing it’s history of “colonialism”.

How did game journalism go from simply covering games to covering the social and political impact of them? Well, the answer is quite simple.

Controversy sells.

Game’s coverage is no longer just enough of a means to bring in clicks. This is shown in the coverage of virtual reality. Once when I asked a journalist of a fairly large website as to why PSVR games rarely get reviewed I was told that those articles get almost zero views.

Sites like IGN can avoid such politically charged articles (though they occasionally run some) because they get exclusive access to new games and sometimes even their reveals, but for places like Polygon and their ilk, they must rely on more clickbaity means to bring in higher traffic; and like sheep, the internet goes to feed on their fields of nonsense.

Outrage rules the day, and the culture its built has taken the shape of a human centipede where both ends have been sewn together into the form of a demented ouroboros, and we’re all trying to find nourishment off the same excess of human waste.

As hardcore gamers we all want better game coverage, so rip your mouth off the anus of these sites and stop metaphorically sucking their ass. The fact is, your hatred drives their profit margins. No one likes to hear that they’re to blame, and while a clique of close friends do have way too much control over the medium, we are just as much at fault as they are.

The solution here is simple: STOP VISITING THEIR SITES.

Rely on those that have archived it, but even then, if you can help it, ignore them. I know most of us won’t do that. Internet outrage has too much of a presence and too many of us take fun in shitting on these shitty journalists, but if you truly value the medium, and if you actually want to see things change, then block as many “journalists” as you can, and prop up those that do a good job.

Only one thing hurts a website, and that’s the dwindling of funds, so hurt them in their wallets. Lest we all remain trapped in a web of bad takes, terrible journalism, and the rise of an agenda that will only inevitably hurt a hobby I hold dear.


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Sophia is a freelance writer, you can find her on Twitter @sophnar0747, and if you’d like to support her work by contributing to her surgery fund you can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/sophnar0747.

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