Earlier this week Sony announced the Playstation 4, and while the bells and whistles are certainly exciting, at the moment I could really care less. That’s because a much larger piece of news also happened this week although its hardly gotten the same flair of recognition. I’m talking about the announced closure by Ziff Davis of 1up.com, Ugo.com, and Gamespy.com. New consoles come and go but lately there has been an ever depressing trend of video game news agencies simply going. For many people in the world the loss of these publications is barley noticeable, as if they were stars burning out billions of miles away. But for those who are deeply entrenched in this industry, particularly as a journalist, their closure starkly reminds us of the increasing vulnerability which plagues news organizations.
Like nearly every form of written media in the modern world, the loss of diversified allies signals a power shift and rises the risk of informational abuse. With less outlets to engage for news and opinions, people are left with shutting up and submitting to those who hold all of the cards. This risk is heightened when it plays out within the constraints of a specialized, for profit industry. One of the largest reasons that people follow video game sites is to be informed about the products they wish to buy. However, if you drastically narrow the field of informational outlets then how may a person draw an educated conclusion about whether or not this information is trust worthy? A company would merely have to pull the right strings of two or three major publications in order to dupe the masses into buying a product instead of allowing them to choose based off of a myriad of editorial opinions and research.
Over the last 7 years the industry has lost some of its most valuable editorial gems: EGM, Nintendo Power, GamePro, Playstation Magazine, and Computer Gaming World just to name a few. Then throw in the mix the closure of G4 and the loss of these great sites and all the sudden the room starts to look a little lonely. The worst part about this all though is that while there are still a few untainted bastions of video game information and real journalistic editorial opinions, most of these losses have been replaced by total garbage. Some random persons blog or podcast, no matter how entertaining they may be, can never truly fill the void that is created when authentic journalism is trampled. Many large publication companies love these things because they can pay people with no journalistic training to be a post monkey for all of the press releases they receive at little more than minimum wage. However, this is merely true capitalism at work and the true tragedy of it all is that it is only an effective cycle because people allow it to be. Instead of demanding untainted, news and editorials that push the industry to new heights, most people are content with being told about the new Call of Duty a thousand times because Activision bought up all the ad space. Then they are told to go preorder it at GameStop (and only GameStop) because the retail side of the industry has suffered the same fate: all of the power is in one place.
I miss the days when I could read interesting articles like how video games are effecting the development of childhood psychology or when a local game store would get featured in a magazine. I miss the days when a publication prided itself on not taking gifts from a company that they might be covering, let alone being owned by one. But most importantly, I miss the days when the average gamer demanded more from this industry. Our industry may have grown wonderfully in the last few decades but I’m left wondering if we aren’t simultaneously loosing a bit of our soul every time one of these icons closes its doors. We aren’t so far down the rabbit hole that we can never be saved, we just need to remember the benefits that come with a diverse and professional journalistic field and reclaim our zeal for it before its too late.