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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Try Again, Matthew

Matthew Gallant over at Computer Games Magazine wrote up a review of the recent Carnival of Gamers that Senor Buttonmasher organized. I'd like to take a moment to help Matthew with his reading skills. Let me start you with what my grade school teacher taught me: Read everything completely and thoroughly.

Seems simple? Well, Matt dismissed the Carnival completely because he didn't like the first blog that was linked, which happened to be Tea Leaves' dissection of an honest review ...

I didn't bother with any of the other articles; if that's what they're going to lead with, then I can just go to the local middle school playground and ask for the hippest in gaming editorial there. I guess that since I've written for the sites that he slams, my words are immediately suspect, but I don't really care; I'm going to argue anyway.
-- Matthew Gallant, CGOnline

Wow. I feel bad, because I meant to e-mail Tony and remind him that "if it bleeds it leads" was the rule for real journalism since clearly the idea of the Carnival was to order the blogs in the most interesting manner. Then I remembered that was idiotic since the whole goal was just to let people submit what they wanted and not rank or judge them individually. Silly me.

Of course, if I used Matt's harsh method of reading, I wouldn't get past his first sentence:

Slashdot and other sites have thrown a link the way of this thing called "The Carnival of Gamers", a blog that collects articles posted on other gaming blogs.

Actually Matt ... there isn't any blog called "The Carnival of Gamers". There is a blog which does what you what you describe (gameblogs) ... but is the blog, the Carnival was just a post and next time it will be posted somewhere else. So, tell me, Mr. Gallant - if you can't even make your first sentence factually correct ... why should I bother reading anything after that? What's funny, of course, if that if Matthew had just bothered reading the whole post, that would be evident to him. I guess reading one page is too time-consuming for his busy day of, you know, not reading things.

And what's Matthew's big beef with Tea Leaves? Well, since Tea Leaves buys their own games and they consider that a point of integrity ... they clearly just don't get the industry:

Our paladin of game reviewing trots out the standby that he's got more integrity than any reviewer at any major site or mag because he buys his games. What the guy doesn't know is that half the time your editor will tell you to go buy the game, and you get the price of the game added on to your fee for the review. What the guy doesn't know (and should because it's so completely obvious) is that publishers send review copies to sites and magazines because it costs them virtually nothing to do so, and if they don't it's because they just forget.

Is it me or does he seems to try to dismiss the point that purchasing games for review is honest by bragging about how he gets his for free? Yeah, that makes sense.

Having read all of Tea Leaves' post, there are things I kinda disagree with (for instance, that Roger Ebert is truly credible), but towards the end he brings home a fine point:

All that's needed to write (and edit) great reviews is a commitment to clear writing, a desire to be something other than an industry shill, and the strength of character to keep your published words consistent with that desire.
-- The Best Review A Money Can Buy

And is probably something Matthew should read again, considering I'm now far more likely to read the Tea Leaves blog than any of his columns.

Speaking of - why is a professional game reviewer getting paid to review a blog? Particularly one they don't like? That's like devoting a magazine review to a mod that just sucks. You're more likely to get people to play it than not.

I thought the games.slashdot responses were odd - but at least those were just bored geeks, not someone taking a check.

Oh right, magazines need filler from time to time. I forget.


Matthew said...

Josh, I don't know how long you've been into blogging, but individual posts in a blog are often also referred to as blogs, as in "today's blog is about puppies and how cute they are". It's a side effect of the term being so totemic for some people. Smurfs smurf a smurf, and bloggers blog a blog.

And the comment about buying games-- game publishers often don't send review copies of games to reviewers. If a reviewer gets a free copy of the game from the person paying him to do the review, I don't see how there's any ethical quandry whatsoever. I don't see any ethical quandry if the reviewer gets the free copy from the game publisher either, because like I said, sending out review copies costs a publisher very little except the time of the PR schlub they've handed the task.

What has been my experience is that the free game thing is an issue only to the people who see value in a free game. There isn't any, not to anyone who does it professionally. If you really want free games so bad, maybe you should just be a software pirate, because then you don't have to write anything about the game after you play it.

-Matthew Gallant

Matthew said...

As to why I'm getting paid to review a blog-- I'm not. I'm getting paid to do news commentary, to look through the news and what other sites are talking about and offer my own view. The Carnival of Gamers was on several different sites, blogging being the "in" thing and all.

Josh said...

You wouldn't say "Former FBI Agents Debate Ethics" is a website or a magazine, would you Matthew? No, it's an article. And if you can't see how your sentence, as written, indicates that the Carnival is itself a blog ... go find yourself a better editor. Or any editor. Or just learn how to write clearly on your own. As it is, you don't even mention the actual blog until you're done with the article - which is confusing and inaccurate.

As for getting the free copy ... it's not a matter of how much it costs the publisher and nowhere does Tea Leaves indicate that's what their talking about. All they are saying is that by having to invest in the game they review they have a reason to be as objective as any other consumer.

Nobody is saying they want free games, they're saying that buying your own games keeps the publisher and the conumer/reviewer distinct. Personally, I don't think it's all that big of a deal either way. When I read Gamespy I realize that they have a different relationship with the publishers than I do and I take that it into account, but I still see Tea Leaves' point.

As for getting paid to do news commentary, how delightful that you writeup an analysis about a blog post that you didn't even bother to finish reading. News commentary? Bullshit. You were just pissed some blogger decided to critique the "professional reviewer" and you decided to take it out with a pen.

Wow, California and Illinois are about to pass laws which could directly effect gamers and you chose one link from one post on one blog. E3's just finished up and there's more opinion than fact floating out there, but you really felt your reading audience needed this "free copy" issue figured out?

Wow, Matt, what insightful analysis. What's next week for you - debating whether a forum post about how the PS3 will rule is accurate?

Winkyboy said...

Matthew, I don't know you from Tea Leaves, but when you say you get paid -- wait, how was it... "to look through the news and what other sites are talking about and offer my own view," it quite appears you DID NOT do that in this case.

We can prove that with your own words: "The first article they link to ... is an article I've seen several times before.... I didn't bother with any of the other articles".

I read your entire article. It appears as though your problem is not with the Carnival of Gamers, but with Tea Leaves. And not so much with Tea Leaves, but with the fact that they complain (in one of their posts) about game reviews in general, of which your works comprise a portion. So rather than taking it out against a free-association grouping of blogs, why don't you just respond on Tea Leaves' blog about how you're unhappy with what they wrote?


You said, "To hold up a couple of pieces of evidence that really only show that you don't know anything about anything and claim that poor ethics are standard procedure— well, that's not writing, that's just babbling."

This sounds very much like what you just did to the Carnvial of Gamers.

Matthew said...

All they are saying is that by having to invest in the game they review they have a reason to be as objective as any other consumer.

So reviewers who get free games have a reason not to be objective? Or somehow lack the comprehension of the concept of fifty dollars, and thus can't possibly imagine what it would be like if they had paid for it?

Do you think that non-blog game writers are from some evil alien race wearing human skins or something? I wrote a lot about games in my free time before I ever got paid to, you know. I'm not part of some privileged pig class that sits in the farmer's house while you horses, chickens, and sheep work yourselves to death churning out honest and pure game writing.

Matthew said...

I gave the Carnival a ding for linking it, winkyboy, but the focus was on Tea Leaves. If I had said the other articles in the Carnival were just as bad without reading them, then I'd be a Tea Leaves-level hypocrit, but I didn't.

I assumed that there was some editorial control going on in the linking of the various blogs, and judging by the quality of the first one, I found said editorial to have a high tolerance for crap. It wasn't a comment on blogging as a whole. I didn't know that Tony was just linking all submissions. The Carnival only came to my attention because it was linked as something worth reading on multiple sites that I read. Blame them, blame Tony for not being choosy enough, or blame whoever you want, but don't blame me for not liking the carnival in its inagural incarnation.

Josh said...

Yes, I do think that someone who takes an interest in a title, goes to a store and pays with their own money and then writes a review is probably going to be able to match a consumer's objectivity than someone who has access to the publisher's PR, gets free copies, can call the developers and ask questions, etc.

Do I think it marks some big gap between honest reporting and corrupt media? No, and if you had bothered to read my response fully, you would know that. Jesus man, your reading skills seriously kinda suck.

No, I don't think the mainstream media is a bunch of bodysnatchers. I read them more frequently than blogs in general. I have noticed that for some titles, smaller sites and blogs seem to sometimes have more accurate details than the larger sites. And sometimes I get far more insightful analysis from some blogs than I've ever gotten from the MSM. Go find my comparison of Shining Tears review as an example.

But if you really think there is no public perception that the closer one gets to the game industry the less focused and objective they get - you're living in a bubble. And while PeterB might have been overgeneralized - there are still some valid points he's making.

And you certainly aren't helping the MSM's image by writing what amounts to slightly above a forum rant in response. Now it just also appears that some MSM writers feel that bloggers "aren't industry" and therefore shouldn't comment on it. As winky points out - instead of just commenting/discussing this Tea Leaves like a normal person would, you went half-cocked and wrote a column about it.

Well bully for you. Hope you feel like a journalist now.

Josh said...

The Carnival only came to my attention because it was linked as something worth reading on multiple sites that I read. Blame them, blame Tony for not being choosy enough, or blame whoever you want, but don't blame me for not liking the carnival in its inagural incarnation.

Take some responsibility for god's sake.

You didn't fully read the Carnival post. You didn't try to investigate what it was about. You didn't take ten minutes to actually know what the hell you were writing about. You just went off an condemned it because someone's blog gave reviewers a harsh typing.

We are blaming you for not taking the time to read up on what you decided to write about. If not you, who should we?

If that's the standard CGOnline holds, the only thing that makes you a professional is that someone is unfortunate enough to sign a paycheck.

Matthew said...

I never misrepresented how much of the Carnival I read. Like I said over at buttonmashing, many have chided me for not reading all the blogs, but nobody has vouched for the quality of any particular one. Except for Tony, of course, in the original post. And I've found him to be less than discriminating. Carnivals need to have ringmasters, but this one started with the clowns.

Josh said...

Well it's good to know that in your professional capacity that if a game has a really poorly done intro or first mission, that game must totally suck and there's no reason to keep playing it.

Wait, I'm sorry, how does that not make you a hack? I thought game reviewers tried to play as much of the game as possible, even if it was painful, so that they could review the whole experience.

Guess you're right. Don't understand the industry at all.

Hieronymus @ The Game Chair said...

It does seem to me to be overblown to say that getting a free US$40 game a couple of times a year would in any way affect objectivity. By the time it gets to the reviewer in a big place like CGM or whatever, there's probably no trace of whether it was bought or given.

But I do agree with the rest of your post (note, I'm not saying "blog"). It does seem unfair to read one post in a Carnival and declare them all useless. And then to brag about that fact is even more elitist.

Tony said...

Carnivals need to have ringmasters, but this one started with the clowns.

Actually, circuses have ringmasters. A Carnival is "a traveling show; having sideshows and rides and games of skill etc." All I did was dole out the lots at the fairgrounds (my site) to the carnies (bloggers). They took over from there.

Matthew said...

Yeah, the elitist one is the one who refutes the idea that the mainstream media is universally corrupt by default and then decides not to read any more of this guy's other links.

Josh, you've gone off the deep end if you think you can compare the proper way to review a game made by a team of people over the course of years with the way I review a collection of links put together by some dude named Tony. I don't have anything else to say to you. You have got to get some perspective.

Tony Walsh said...

I'm with Matthew. You carnies badly need a reality check. I think the Carnival idea is decent, but your execution is poor. Worst of all, your refusal to accept criticism is downright embarassing. Is this what game bloggers are all about? Get out of your carnival and explore the world -- I guarantee its borders extend further than Kotaku.

Corvus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Corvus said...

I decided that my original commitment to stay out of it was valid and deleted my long rant.

But... ooo... I wanted to get into the fray there for a moment!

Matthew said...

I think we could all use a pint of Guinness. Josh, my treat.

Matthew... ah, what the hell, I might as well say what I feel. You were obviously hurt by the commentary on Tea Leaves. Your reaction to it was too strong, too dismissive, and too public to mean much else. Unless... it hit too close to home? Anyway, I'm certian that if you asked really, really nicely, and established an adult dialogue that an accord could be reached.

So, the fact is you made some assumptions in your reporting of the Carnival of Gamers. At the very least, you assumed Tony filtered for quality and you assumed the rest of us were of the same caliber and bent as Tea Leaves. Then, you... reported on it? The last time I checked, reporters had journalistic standards to live up to. Are you certain you're not a commentator?

Oh, and before you throw the "You must be hurt too" comment at me, I'll admit I was a bit stung to be tossed into the refuse bin along with the other quality blogs you dismissed so quickly. Then I realized, I'm a) in good company, and b) probably going to get more hits from the attention.

So... um... thanks!

I'm not going to guess your mental state, I'm nowhere near as empathic as you guys are. Telling me how I feel and what I'm thinking and what I do when no one's looking and stuff.

No really, it solidifies your arguments. You should be on Dr. Phil.

Matthew said...

Whoopsie! I guess you're in it now despite your slightly delayed best wishes, corvuse.

Are you certain you're not a commentator?

I believe that's what I said I was right there in my second comment, so you win the prize for investigative journalism. Report thy feat to Morley Safer.

Corvus said...

D'oh! I've been outed anyway. Thanks for not allowing me to rethink a hasty action, and keeping me honest Matthew.

I believe that's what I said I was right there in my second comment, so you win the prize for investigative journalism.

Quite right. I'm afraid I skimmed that too quickly. Dig accepted. Good thing that I, too, am a commentator, hence, you know, blogging, not writing for a gaming site. Regardless, I do find your reactions very interesting. Perhaps 'ours' (since we're being all lumped together, I might as well give in and accept it) are equally interesting to you.

Josh said...

I think my perspective is pretty clear and simple, Matthew. You were too lazy to read up on the Carnival, too lazy to read the whole thing and hell - you even blame the bloggers for that.

In short, you were too lazy to do your job. If you were going to write a piece about the Carnival, the least a professional would have done is bothered to have read it. If you can't be bothered to do that, why should I think you'd perform any other job any differently? Why should I think that this sloppy example isn't indicative of how you work?

You want to be treated like a professional? Write like one. Act like one.

Slybri said...

Ya know, it seems like 90% of web content these days is people reviewing random things in a snarky way. It's getting boring. Now you guys are fighting about a review of a blog post that simply listed other blog posts? Now THAT'S ENTERTAIMENT!

Keep it up!