John Walker's Electronic House

Tag: games journalism

Why The GMA’s So-Called “Media Academy” Prize Is So Demeaning

by on May.24, 2013, under Rants

While common sense should assume that the Games Media Awards is incapable of doing anything without making it a murky, dubious mess, I really didn’t see how they could make a new student prize something awful. But their abilities know no boundaries.

This year there are definitely some claimed improvements. They’ve stopped PRs from voting in most categories, which is something I’ve appealed for since the awards first began. And they’ve got rid of the “goodybags”, which contained hundreds of pounds worth of items and were given to every winner. It’s great that these things are gone.

What hasn’t changed is that it’s an evening funded by publishers and PRs, in which they provide the games journalists who report on them with free food and limitless free drink, and then present them with awards sponsored by themselves. It’s promoted as a piss-up, and it has, for years, been the British games industry at its most tawdry, wretched, and dubious. From the first year’s awarding of prizes to magazines owned by the sponsors of the categories, to the despicable antics of two years ago with the Grainger Games sponsorship, to last year’s disgraceful mess of journalists tweeting adverts for games to win a Playstation, it has always been a horror show. That it has cleaned up a fraction of its act is progress, but it’s certainly not anything for celebration. That most of the UK games industry will still happily trundle along for the free booze, no matter how it associates them with it all, is hugely demoralising.


Picture nicked from the Guardian, showing the dancers at the strip club in which the first GMA took place.

And this year they’ve added the ludicrously named “Games Media Academy”. This pompously grandiose title is really just a prize for a single person – an unpaid hopeful writer – of £1000 of commissions, and some unexplained (and indeed entirely unmentioned by the actual description at the bottom of the page) “mentoring” from “some of the biggest names in games media”.

The prize is to get some paid work.

In an industry that is increasingly screwing over new writers by not paying them, some might want to argue this as a positive step. I’d suggest that’s a bit like giving a trophy to husbands who don’t beat their wives. What it is, in fact, is publishers doing their damned jobs, and pretending it’s something special. It’s like telling a plumber they’ve won the lucky prize that you’ll pay them to fix your sink.

It is a part of every media outlet’s job to find and hire new writers. Submissions arrive to magazines and websites all the time, both solicited and unsolicited. When a publication is looking for new freelancers, or even new employees, they look at these, and they commission based on potential talent they spot. People who are good enough at writing get paid work, and the system continues.

The idea of doing exactly this, but pretending it’s a special prize, simultaneously demeans both the writers submitting their work, and the entire occupation itself. It reduces our job down to a special treat, given out to one lucky person, and a ruffle of their hair. And it reduces potential writers down to entrants in a competition, and then pretends that doing the work that earns the money is some manner of award! It’s outrageous. There is NO prize! They get £1000 for doing £1000 worth of work!

So what is it really? It’s IGN, Future, MCV and bloody Network-N advertising themselves, getting their names mentioned in concert with this extraordinary act of altruism of paying some writers to do a job. The people judging may not have been so cynical in their acceptance – they may simply want to be involved in a process that finds new talent. But unfortunately, as positive as their intentions may (or indeed may not, looking at some of the names) be, they’re associated with the awfulness of the GMAs, and they’re – perhaps unwittingly – part of a non-prize that demeans everyone involved. Oh, and the winning entrants get published in a supplement in trade rag MCV, owned by Intent, who own the GMAs. Will they be paid for that publication? There’s no indication that they will.

(So what should they have done instead? Accepted nominations for a category for unpaid writers, and given the best one an award in the hope of raising their profile. Editors paying attention would look at their work, and if they liked it, commission them. Instead, because this is the GMAs, it’s become about promoting publishers in a faked act of goodwill, bullshitting that paid work is a prize, and insulting everyone involved.)

There is no obligation on anyone in this industry to attend the GMAs. If free drinks mean so much to you, crash a wedding. By walking through those doors, you endorse everything the GMAs have done, and intend to do. And for what? You don’t even get the bag of bribes this year. Please people, just don’t go.

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Guest Post: Robert Florence On The Eurogamer Incident

by on Oct.26, 2012, under Rants

Below is a guest post from Robert Florence, comedian, RPS columnist, and author of the Eurogamer article at the centre of the scandal of the past couple of days.

Okay. I feel I have to say something about all this mess. It’s difficult to know what to say, and how to say it, because there are good people I don’t want to put under any more pressure. I’ll be brief.

First of all, I think it’s important to explain how my Eurogamer piece came to be. On Wednesday morning I sat down to write a column about that fascinating image of Geoff Keighley beside a table of snacks. When I opened up Twitter I saw that there were some games writers having an argument. Another games scene drama. This time it was about games journalists tweeting promotional hashtags to win prizes – something I think is wrong. I saw a parallel between games writers’ casual acceptance that they can happily take a role in these silly PR stunts and Keighley’s weird buffet. That was why those particular games writers, Dave Cook and Lauren Wainwright, were referenced in my column. On another day, it could have been another two games writers, another drama. But on Wednesday, unfortunately for many of us, Lauren Wainwright had made a public tweet about those gifted PS3s.

I want to clarify here that at no point in my column did I suggest that either Dave Cook or Lauren Wainwright were corrupt. Their public tweets were purely evidence that games writers rarely question what their relationship with PR should be. In Lauren’s case I made the point that her suggestion that it’s fine for a games writer to tweet a promotional hashtag for personal gain could make everything she tweets and writes suspect. I was saying – “Folks, be careful what you say. You might make yourself look bad.” There was nothing libellous in that column.

Yesterday, Eurogamer removed a section of my column. Tom Bramwell, my editor, is a good man. Believe me when I tell you that the 24 hours that followed the publication of my column were horrendous for Tom. In all my time writing for Eurogamer, Tom Bramwell has never asked me to change a word. Even when I wrote about Eurogamer’s acceptance of Booth Babes at the Eurogamer Expo, Tom Bramwell had my back. When Tom emailed me telling me that the column was going to be amended, that it HAD to be amended, you can believe that it wasn’t a decision he took lightly. I can’t share everything about my exchanges with Tom, but I ask that you don’t see him as a villain in this. His attempts to defend my position were, if anything, heroic.

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A Bit Of Perspective

by on Oct.25, 2012, under Rants

People like a fuss.

Clearly I’ve been provoking a lot of that fuss in having written frankly about the last two days’ activities, but things have gotten a touch out of hand. So…

First thing I want to make clear: My concern and the anger behind my two posts has not been based on the actions of one or two people, but on wide circles of the UK games journalist/PR industry and their behaviour in reaction to the events. The shock, disgust, flippancy, sarcasm and straw-manning that has been exhibited from so many who don’t want questions asked, don’t want certain behaviours challenged, and don’t want their boats rocked. It’s abysmal, and it’s what drove me to write about it.

This afternoon’s post was more immediately about Lauren Wainwright’s successful censoring of Robert Florence’s article, and my fury at a journalist who would seek to use legal threats to silence another. But further, it was once again about so many in the business leaping to defend her, throwing around unsubstantiated allegations of libel where there was none, and besmirching a journalist who asked awkward questions to defend another who deserved awkward questions to be asked of her. The cowardice implicit in this is like a plague in the industry, and it deserves to be called out.

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An Utter Disgrace

by on Oct.25, 2012, under Rants

Yesterday, astonishingly, a number of games journalists defended advertising a game on their Twitter feeds in order to win themselves a PS3. This caused a reaction from others, me included, and I was quickly told to shut up and stop interfering by a number of those I had thought were colleagues. Robert Florence wrote an excellent article about this on Eurogamer, in which he quoted a couple of these people, and then pointed out the potential damage such statements could make to someone’s reputation.

He pointed out that when someone vociferously defends a journalist’s right to advertise a game for personal gain, and also has her Twitter homepage emblazoned in images from the forthcoming Tomb Raider game, it could make others ask questions. Never mind that it’s obviously massively stupid and inappropriate for a games journalist to smother an unreleased game all over their personal page – he simply pointed out that in doing so while so enthusiastically arguing that other forms of advertising are fine, people could conflate the two. That would be an entirely reasonable point. You’d think.

However, that point has now been removed, following a complaint from writer Lauren Wainwright, one of the people quoted in Rab’s article.

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Games Journalists, And The Perception Of Corruption

by on Oct.24, 2012, under Rants

I want to get some thoughts down on paperscreen, and then out in public, about the recent brouhaha over games journalists’ behaviour and integrity, and the conflicts I see with the Games Media Awards. I also want to still have some friends in this industry, but sometimes the two don’t go hand in hand.

I also want to be clear that I don’t think any of these matters are clear-cut or simple, and that I certainly don’t consider myself to be a paragon, above all the accusations of corruption, or the activities that some consider compromising. So I want to explain the compromises I experience, too.

And incredibly importantly, I want to point out that the vast majority of the time, no matter which site or magazine you read, the chances are what you’re reading is un-bought, uncorrupted opinion. That’s the norm. Issues are the exception. Frankly, anything else would require more organisation and effort than most editors have the time or energy for. And of the very many games journalists I know, I know of not one who’s ever done anything openly corrupt, or written an influenced review. Most people, and most content, is exactly as you’d hope it was.

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