Tech Column: Video Game Journalism Lacks Integrity

I’m biased. I know this for an absolute fact. My longtime readers know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Anyone with a minimal understanding of video games today could look at me and see my bias clean as day, and I’ve never made a particular point of hiding or compensating for my bias. This is simply because my happy lot is to write a newspaper column, not an objective article on assignment.

There are many writers out there, however, who do write articles about video games on assignment, and moreover are far better compensated than I for their trouble. How is it, then, that video game journalism is such a biased field?

Although they are not completely lacking in credibility or skill, it is nonetheless a fact that sites like IGN, GameSpot, Game Informer and others show a remarkable tendency toward bias. Not just personal bias, however, that’s my lowly crime. The major sites have demonstrated a tendency toward something far worse.

My current fascination with integrity in the field of video game journalism began with the coverage that the high-profile WiiU has received in the past weeks. As a new installment in the console lineup of one of the three major players in the gaming market, it stands to reason that everyone would want to write their own review of the console. Heck, even I’ve done my fair share of pre-release reviews of the system.

The point is, nearly every game journalist was out to voice an opinion on the WiiU, from independent bloggers to the vaunted Wall Street Journal. Variety being the spice of life that it is, it should theoretically benefit consumers to hear many different opinions being offered on the same subject, since they would be able to process those different opinions and arrive at their own conclusion.

The only problem is this: the opinions being offered were practically the same ones across the board, and literally all reviews of the console so far have cast every possible feature in a negative light. The last time I saw such consistent and one-sided criticism of a tech product was during the release of the Nokia N-Gage, which was an obvious road kill splat on the highway of gaming.

By my own admission, I am not really able to comment on most of the criticisms regarding long load times, short battery life and online patch issues that nearly every WiiU review site has touched on, due to the fact that I’ve only been able to play the console for about an hour at a retail stand in a GameStop. The consistency of the criticism across sources would therefore lead one of two conclusions: Nintendo has made a product so bad that you have to be an idiot to miss the problems, or everyone reviewing the console is wrong.

Although I’m definitely a Nintendo fanboy, I’m not too blind in my affection toward the company to admit that the first possibility is … possible. Maybe even likely. However, one specific article from titled “Nintendo’s WiiU Launch Titles: Not Good Enough?” got me thinking that the second possibility might just be the more plausible one.

This article, written objectively, criticizes Nintendo for not releasing a strong enough set of games in the WiiU’s launch window, citing the strength of the Wii’s launch titles in comparison. This is factually incorrect. Sure, the Wii’s launch gave us Zelda: Twilight Princess, a strong contender for best game in the franchise, but what else did it really have to offer? Nintendo’s only other game was Wii Sports and third parties only had paltry offerings like Excite Truck, Trauma Center, Super Monkey Ball and Need For Speed Carbon.

With the WiiU, the launch lineup includes not only two real Nintendo games, New Super Mario Bros U and Pikmin 3 as well as the tech demo Nintendo Land, but also a whole bastion of critically acclaimed third party software, including the very new Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Rayman Legends and a long list of others. Never in the history of the company has Nintendo had stronger support from third parties in addition to launching two of their own titles right off the bat, and I really find it hard to believe that PC Magazine published an article that, in good faith, stated that the WiiU’s launch lineup was inadequate.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, so I won’t go as far as to state that a massive fix is in and that journalists are being paid off right and left to foul up the launch of the WiiU. I will point out, however, that nothing but positive reviews were given of both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation3 when they were released, despite the fact that the Xbox had one anchor game at launch and the PS3 had none.

It’s not too hard for me to imagine a scenario in the not-so-distant future, where the Xbox 720 launches with nothing but Kinect Sports 2 in the lineup, to rave reviews. I’d rather read the truth.

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