Lesson Five – Hope springs eternal

In this set of lessons in Games Journalism we’ve learned about the foundations and building blocks of the industry from the legendary Gary Penn. The notorious Keiron Gillen inspired us to be creative and original in our thinking. We’ve been humbled by the words of the lauded Jeff Gerstmann to hold on to our integrity. The powerful and respected Tim Clarke reminded us that it takes a hard day’s work to earn a fair day’s pay. In this, my last lesson, I looked to my own experiences of the last 12 years in journalism for something I could say to you that would be of tangible use should you decide to pursue a career as a videogame journalist. I thought about all the rules that I myself use in the day to day work I do about vigilance, style, perspective and so on and none of them quite cut it as a true lesson to live by in the industry. Weeks went by as I ruminated on what to tell you.

Today I sat alone in Starbucks, sipping my coffee and reading a games magazine when I came across an article. I know you’re hoping it was awesome and inspiring in a wonderful way. It wasn’t. It was everything that is wrong with journalism, not just games journalism but all journalism. The article stated that since console publishers were, this Christmas, selling to the public on a basis of their inclusion of new multimedia features and apps and barely mentioning in their mainstream advertising that the machine actually played games – this meant the end of gaming as we know it. Soon we would only be allowed to play Halo and Wii Fit. Everything else would be buried under an avalanche of social network applications, avatar clothing and movie services. “IT’S THE END! THE END OF EVERYTHING!” the article seemed to scream. The point is reached, in any form of journalism, where the journalists themselves lose touch with why they started doing the job in the first place. They’ve seen, done and said it all and they start to look inward, losing touch with the audience and picking at the fabric of the very thing they loved so much when they started out. Newspapers and news stations no longer tell us of the things that happened today. They shriek that we will all soon die from Swine Flu, poverty and natural disasters. They don’t ask for the experts’ view on the current situation or even the possible future. They ask loaded questions. “If extreme scenario #23 happened, even though that has a 0.00034% chance of ever occurring… how destructive/gross/painful would it be? How many millions would die – give me your answer in millions only please, even if it’s 0.00001 million… JUST SAY MILLION!!” There’s no love for the truth there, no care for the reader or viewer, there is no passion, no hope.

I cry when I see a trailer for a game that really blows my mind. Little Big Planet, Assassins Creed, Okami – these are games that have made me well up, my lungs fill like they are going to burst and I get a huge lump in my throat. I remember once my sister excused herself for a moment from a game shop we were in when I bought her Tomb Raider Legend because she was a bit overcome. Last week I called my friend Rob early in the morning to say I had a copy of his most anticipated game from his most beloved series… two weeks before release and that he could come around and get it. He’d been fast asleep in his bed when I called. He was at my door within eight minutes despite living ten minutes away. He was dressed… just… and shaking a bit. What we have, as gamers so dedicated we want to make a career of talking about it, is passion and hope. It’s that ever present hope that should drive every word. You should always want a game to be good. If you ever feel pleased that you said a game was going to be shit and then it was then you should give up – give up now. If you are so into a particular console that you want, even secretly, for its competitor to fail then just stop going down this career path. You are not going to be a good games journalist. Oh you could be a journalist alright but not a good one. I would play a game if it was on my toaster just to see what it was like – in case it turns out to be totally brilliant. You should always be hoping, even secretly, that the next game/console/DLC/peripheral/avatar pic is going to be awesome. You may suspect, in your expertise about a particular genre or product, that the next big thing is going to be a bit disappointing or even a crashing disaster but there is always hope.

The ‘fourth estate’ of gaming, our press, is maturing. It’s a bad thing. We are becoming like the other press media, obsessed with attention grabbing headlines of doom, sneering reviews filled with in-jokes and self referential nonsense. You can stop it though. You can turn back the tide and bring love, passion and joy back to games journalism. You can be the young guns, the rat pack, you can go in like gangbusters and change it all. I know you can, I know you will because I have hope.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Alexander Pope







3 responses to “Lesson Five – Hope springs eternal”

  1. MarkuzR avatar

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying here – journalism should be about passion without compromising your integrity in the process. I gave up on journalism 17 years ago because the music industry wanted to buy favour and, when that wasn’t forthcoming, the individual organisations pulled back and made it difficult to arrange interviews with their artists. Why should journalism have to be about politics or playing favourites with distributors, when all people really need to hear are the the facts rather than conjecture.

  2. […] Lesson 5 – Hope springs eternal Kirsten is the Editor of Ready Up. Aged 33, she’s been a journalist for twelve years and working in gaming for six. As one of the Frag Dolls she attended many games events, learned to use a sniper rifle and drive a tank. She holds two Guinness World Records for longest marathon in the FPS and driving genres. […]

  3. Duncan avatar


    I love writing and games. Therefore, I agree! Love the writing, love the gaming, and never forget that and we’d all be a very happy bunch. 😀

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