Earlier this month GameTrailers.com (GT) shut their doors and I did not notice…and I try to go to the site as often as possible. That’s not to say its closure didn’t have some impact, there are hundreds of forum pages breaking down “What Went Wrong” or something.
Here’s what went wrong: people are leaving behind the traditional games press.
Sure, you can point out, and many did, that YouTube, corporate middle management shenanigans, laying off popular staff, site redesigns, and so on did the site in. Nevertheless, what you can’t deny is that most games press outlets are on the decline.
In the aftermath of GT going away, I looked around to what people were saying and found our good friend Jim “Consumer Advocate” Sterling weighing in…figuratively…I mean, he is a large man.
His article “GameTrailers Was A Victim Of Itself” says something along the lines of what I’ve always been saying: shaved apes can run the games press and no one would care…or notice! He places the blame on corporations not finding inherent value in “audiences” anymore, be they of the site proper or the people running it. Which is a bit laughable in the years after #Gamergate when people like Jim Sterling actively antagonized their “audiences” for not accepting the “correct viewpoint” and drove traffic away from the “traditional games press”?
He then goes on to give “examples” of how corporations just don’t realize the utter goldmine of talent they have with IGN letting go of it’s “most recognizable faces” so they could form Kinda Funny Games, The Escapist “laying off” Bob Chipman, and that’s about it.
With Kinda Funny Games, I do not think IGN “just let them go”. IGN has been around for decades now. They, along with Gamespot, are some of the top hits when you type “video games” in to Google. IGN doesn’t have need for, and in fact has chugged along just fine without, “recognizable” faces for most of its run. Quick, can you name other people from IGN that have since moved on? What’s that? Who gives a shit? Exactly.
Oddly enough, Jim Sterling’s tacit support of ol’ “MovieBob” Chipman is rather humorous as both are now e-begging “free agents” who have had parallel trajectories since leaving The Escapist. For some odd reason Jim Sterling walked away with the “most audience” whereas MovieBob has regularly failed to maintain a steady stream of “audience”.
This may be because Jim Sterling has kept a constant output of some quality, whereas MovieBob can only be bothered to fart out content when the need arises, or in between crying in blog posts about the need for a social life and battling his addiction to cake.
This is even in the face of MovieBob’s Pixels video review going viral. He garnered absolutely nothing from it, his Patreon stayed at its perpetual flat line, but a disturbing trend began of filling his next video reviews full of crass, fast talking nonsense that flew in the face of all the decent work he had done in the past. If Jim Sterling had one video go viral, you’d be damn certain he would’ve been able to capitalize on it.
However, therein lies the rub, even the mighty Jim Sterling isn’t flying high with “audiences”. Looking at website analytics, he’s on the same trajectory as any other games press outlet, on a smaller scale of course. There’s clearly a big bump around the release of Fallout 4, which broke his website, but after that…nothing. His YouTube channel has grown very little, but there may be mitigating circumstances to that one.
In his free agency, Jim Sterling has developed a nasty habit of repeating himself. You can even break it down in to about a 3-4 month window. He’s got about four good topics in him and he repeats them ad nauseam. In fact, he’s acutely aware of this and refutes this obvious cycle by stating he has to because things don’t change. I guess it has no bearing on him being a lazy, soft target-loving pundit…no, no, no, that can’t be it at all.
Those four topics are (in no particular order): Fuck(Game Company) typically the big AAA companies that everyone loathes, free-to-play being evil, gas lighting Stream games and their creators, and finally railing on and on about that one time Randy Pitchford tricked grizzled game press veteran Jim Sterling in to believing that Aliens: Colonial Marines was going to be a good game. Just as recently as four weeks ago, Jim Sterling was once again riding Pitchford’s jock over something.
This is not how you maintain an “audiences”, by any standard.
Continuing in his article, Jim Sterling has the gall to throw shade at these games press sites that charge for “premium subscriptions”. Those who live in e-begging refrigerator boxes shouldn’t throw shit at subscription glass houses. Even more insulting is the fact that Jim Sterling has nothing of value to say in the whole of the games press sliding in to obsolescence. Maybe because he is also just white knuckling his relevancy as long as he can before it’s all gone.
This echoes in the annual tradition of certain members of the game press asking what or whom the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is for anymore. Where you want to scream “It’s for you assholes! If you didn’t have something like E3 to cover you wouldn’t even exist!” The most traffic any games press site gets is in correlation to E3. It is from this traffic that essentially makes it so the corporation that owns the games site allows it to run for another year. It becomes absurd that even they can’t see that by bemoaning the annual tradition and trying to free themselves from the annual grasp of E3 is only going to expedite their end.
On the other hand, I believe that this vaunted “audiences” Jim Sterling is speaking of is looking for something more authentic out of its games press these days. The games press is still too bloated with failed actors, models, and entertainment “reporters” who don’t give two shits about video games. Websites are still too bloated with too many “editors” who are indistinguishable from one another, and in fact, have nothing of worth to really say anyways that would differentiate them from one another. And with the bulk of these games press outlets being situated in California you an throw a brick in downtown San Francisco and hit a snaky hipster you can pay far less for his “take” on a video game.
This is to say nothing of the perpetual need of some of the current games press to try and push their ideological bent in their output. I think these “audiences” are looking to get back to the games press’ roots established in the hobbyist and enthusiast nature of ye olden times. Because you can find all of the “This game made me feel…” or “This game is lacking diversity” bullshit all over the place. Where’s the games press for how the game plays/looks/costs and less about how you can grind axes in a review?
You’re going to see continued shrinkage of the game press as the years go on. Even free agency isn’t going to save the vaunted pundits who pride themselves on their iconoclastic bullshit. People’s largess can only take you so far, and when you’re not saying anything of value, you will lose “audiences” as they move on. We need look no further than to see how games press legends Adam Sessler and Jeff Green were chewed up and spit out by their “audiences” once they left the games press at large to forge new career paths. Some people just need overlords to churn out good content.
What’s more, shaved apes could run the games press and do a similar if not better job. All that is truly required of a games journalist is an ability to get overexcited about loud music, moving pictures and bright lights, then slap a few sentences together about their experience and stop for the day. There is no value in this to an audience, who is looking for more from their games and this is why the games press will continue its slide in to nothing.
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