It used to be so simple, you know? 10 years ago, this “industry” was swollen and sweating from the quality of writers that filled its tight seams. We were heavy-handed and quick to review, pick apart, and really delve into the next generation of gaming. Back when I started writing for games, we were at the end of the PS2 era and the PS3 was playable at the first E3 to which I had ever gone. Back then, the halls were quiet, yet throbbing with intensity as game journalists took down internal notes, spoke into voice recorders, and set themselves up to dictate interviews. At the PS3 launch, which I was lucky to attend as part of the media, we cheered and jotted down colorful words to express just how excited we were for something new. We’d retreat to our laptops and our articles would be the first things you’d see from us about the next new coming of the gaming era.
It all happened in 2006.
In March, Twitter opened up its servers and spread like a beautiful pair of cornflower blue wings as it soared slowly but gained a steady pace through social media. Soon to follow would be Facebook, opening up full registration to people outside of colleges in September. Through a move that I doubt even it realized was genius, Sony let the hype build on these eventual monoliths before launching the PS3 fully in November. The gaming world took off with all of this new information and the beautiful, fast, and heavy-handed ways it could actually get it out into the ether, and it didn’t stop. Before you could blink, the job that I took so seriously and felt so close to was done in 140 characters or less and gave even the guy down the street a chance at being quotable. Yes, even I felt threatened. I was nobody. I was just a girl in a boy’s world, trying to stay above the gender hype and here I was, watching everyone become a critic.
It started there in 2006 and you started seeing the crowds move in. Everywhere around me, you saw the writers start to worry and people shifted around. Writers who were comfortable giving their reviews — their editorials about games — were fleeing to get PR jobs within game companies because they knew they couldn’t outrun the bulls. Twitter and Facebook gave everyone a voice, and within that voice came a thousand previously hushed voices that now felt they were free and could say and express everything they loved. Joe Junior down the block was now making blogs about his opinions of his favorite video games; Penny in Australia was making video blogs to gripe about feminism in gaming, and that was just the beginning. With this new and open source of communication, we found ourselves in a dying artform because nobody wanted to pay for the space taken up by people’s opinions anymore — we’re flooded with the damn things!
I saw it coming and I watched it on my radar. Electronic Gaming Monthly, a magazine that I was close to from childhood — it was what brought on my start in gaming (a story for another time) — was being sold by Ziff Davis. The backlash was felt all over the Internet and nobody understood in the gaming industry that this was just the first taste of what was going to absorb everything around us. Nobody was safe. Publications in print were taking heavy hits and online media was just more cost effective. Even now, you see it as clear as day; in this economy, print magazines take heavy losses because people can just type in a few letters and find their news on the Internet. In 2009, EGM was discontinued but then rebuilt by its creator, Steve Harris. Placeholders were removed and people started taking things into their own hands because publishers just didn’t want to absorb the costs anymore.
And now, 1UP is going down too.
Look, folks. It comes down to money and nobody has it anymore, you know? It comes down to the fact that you can hashtag a popular game on Twitter and find millions of voices ready to tell you everything. Why pay someone for it? There’s no money in it anymore and that kind of crunch is felt even here. Yes, here. If you look deep into the history of the written word, its been dying out with each new generation that comes in and they leave their trash but pick up the brand new hotness without so much as a whisper of regret for the world they left behind them. Everything changes, one could argue, and that’s fantastic. Hell, we’re evolving and yet actual gaming storage media is still meant to be cost-effective instead of space-considerate. Money troubles usually signal the first symptoms of the sickness when it comes to the eventual death of a culture. Yes, journalism for gaming is dying and so is journalism in technology because that’s the beauty of advances in both — they make every single one of us a journalist in our own right.
Bring in the bloggers with their gif images and memes on Tumblr, bring in the Twitter feeds and the Facebook news posts with sponsorship from big companies with fancy new games built to keep your attention and show you just how much you need that new game. Face it, kids. We’re not needed anymore around here and that’s both a beautiful and dangerously sad concept to reconcile.
Where do you sit in this argument? Do you think the written word will prevail, or are you ready for the onslaught of digital information coming from everyone around you?
Image: Paper Boats by PublicDomainPictures.net