Game journalists were once the voice of the consumer, offering public feedback to game developers that reflected the needs and wants of the video game-consuming public. When games were being maligned in the mainstream media for sex and violence, they were on the front lines defending the hobby. This is no longer the case.
The rise of social media fostered a culture of outrage, ushering in the rise of the socially conscious game journalist – whose woker-than-thou attitude involves speaking down to their audience and treating video games as a vehicle for a political agenda veering toward neo-Puritanism. Jokes are problematic, sexuality is haram, violence is verboten, and no fun is allowed.
There can be no ethical consumption under capitalism, much less in the Age of Trump – or so they argue.
Not a game goes by without at least half-a-dozen major outlets seizing it as an opportunity to virtue signal. VICE pronounced the action-adventure game Shadow of the Tomb Raider guilty of perpetuating “colonialist” tropes. Other outlets like Variety and GamesRadar offered complaints over cultural appropriation and the “white saviour complex.” Indiana Jones would have an impossible time in today’s political climate.
Other games face complaints over racism without due cause. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a historical role-playing game developed in the Czech Republic, and set in medieval Bohemia, was critically panned for its supposed “exclusion” of people of colour. Despite its authentic setting, game journalists demanded that its demographics reflect that of twenty-first century North America, citing a little-known Tumblr blog as a source for their arguments. Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson, a cheerleader for the progressive movement in video games, called it “very much a game about white manly men doing white manly men things.” That’s most of your audience, Grayson.
As for sexism? Well, women in video games can’t be sexy without earning a litany of complaints from feminist voices. Their ire at seeing games perpetuate the so-called “male gaze” is matched only by their ability to have their words regurgitated ad nauseam by male feminist allies, as if they represent some larger, unspoken-for audience of women who would be playing video games were it not for those damn skin-tight outfits and the bodies they’re on.
The creative medium is now being dictated to by millennial schoolmarms, who demand that developers recognise their social duty to promote progressive ideas about identity politics and, in turn, massage an unenlightened audience with “woke” messaging designed to transform bigots into social activists.
It’s not a plan helped by the fact that game journalists just aren’t any good at the games they play. No more is this lack of skill more obvious than in veteran game journalist Dean Takahashi’s now-infamous struggle to finish the tutorial level for Cuphead, or Polygon’s playthrough of the shooter, DOOM – a demonstration amazing for all the wrong reasons.
Over the past decade, they’ve attacked challenging, skill-based games for their “exclusionary” nature. Tough games are keeping women out of the hobby, apparently. It’s insulting to assume women are naturally bad at gaming when they make up a significant portion of streamers on Twitch and Mixer. The girls can game just as hard as the boys.
And when they’re not pushing a political agenda, they’re sometimes caught plagiarising content. An IGN editor, Filip Miucin, was fired for lifting a review word-for-word from a gaming YouTube channel, which raises the question: why go to IGN when you can go to YouTube?
These once-advocates for the nascent medium of interactive entertainment have lost touch with their audience, and thus their trust.
Thanks to the rise of YouTube, Twitch and alternative media outlets, consumers are now capable of taking matters into their own hands and do not have to rely on the traditional gatekeepers of the medium to represent them. Things might not be so bad for consumers after all.