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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Everyone Loves Conspiracy

Over the last few days this corner of the blogosphere has had what Amit at Damned Machines appropriately coined "A Very Slight Controversy". While Amit and some others have managed to roll this into some healthy conversations about what the mainstream does and what bloggers do and the nature of reviews, etc., there's still this meme going around that this was a brawl between the bloggers and the pros, so to speak.

Everyone loves a conspiracy. In one corner you have the upstart bloggers pointing out all the industry connections the mainstream has and in turn you have the mainstream pointing out how the bloggers don't have all the facts and just complain about the industry. It's fun, it's salacious, it's the kind of thing that Dynasty was made of ... a shame both sides don't really exist.

First off, the mainstream media being nothing but corrupt shills. Well, I've heard that one for a while. I've tried to defend titles like Doom 3 or Deus Ex 2 to the masses and used professional reviews as sources. Oh, but of course you can't trust professional reviews because reviewers are paid by companies which make their money by advertising which is paid by the gaming industry. So anyone in the professional gaming media is somehow on the take.

Heck, I even remember debating Unreal Tournament 2003 and being told that Mark Rein promised there would be vehicles and of course Gamespy was just his unwilling patsy.

So let's go to the core of this myth and illustrate one very specific fact.

Advertising makes for horrible bribes. And if you think differently, you've never worked anywhere near anything published. Advertising is costly and somewhat risky. You pay for production and you pay for exposure and you aren't really guaranteed squat. Compare that to a bribe, where you pay specifically for something and if you don't get it you break someone's legs. Trust me when I say the ROI is much better on bribes.

Yeah, the gaming media gets other perks. Free access to titles, previews, information, etc. And here is where the other myth blows up. The blogosphere can't hate the mainstream media because they need a resource for that kind of thing. Sure, bloggers have been getting into E3 and sometimes have their own sources and whatnot - but nothing beats working for the establishment if you want the industry to talk to you. And bloggers feed off that. I personally use about five different sets of RSS feeds to try and figure out what I think might be interesting in a day. How sparse would that be if I decided the mainstream was too corrupt to pay attention to?

So why did I bring up getting free titles in my post to Matthew? Well, mostly I wanted to point to his lousy logic skills. But I also wanted to illustrate that while there's plenty to disagree with the Tea Leaves post that there are some points. Look, I have conversations with lots and lots of people about gaming ... some industry and some not. They are wildly different. It's good to have these different perspectives. For instance, when I focused on how some reviews suck, the main leap was from large sites like IGN to smaller sites like RPGamer.

Now, does that mean the RPGamer is more honest and credible than IGN? Well, probably not more honest - but it did give a better review ... so perhaps more credible. Of course, IGN has about 100x more content, scoops, previews, etc. And which do I read more often? IGN covers a wide net, but you can bet the next RPG review I want I'll look at both sites.

So let us be clear. The "Carnival of Gamers" has nothing against the mainstream media. Never had, never will. It's just a method of collecting links together and moving that collection from one blog to another. It's not an entity or a collective thought. There is no manifesto. Any perception that there was one should be removed. There is no conspiracy. Not on either side. From here on out if someone has something to say about about another, take it up with each other and leave the rest of us alone.


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Peter said...
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