The “Video” in Video Games Journalism


As you probably already figured out from my last blog post, I’ve been thinking about the end of 1up and EGM as we know it. With most of the GameVideos staff getting the chop, I’ve started to think about the role of video in Video Games Journalism and how to handle it.

Video Games are a visual medium. Duh.  Consequently, when you’re talking about video games, it really helps to see the game. Before high-speed Internet, the standard way of going about this was through putting screen shots on your web pages, or in the magazine articles about the game. Later, as Video Games became moderately mainstream, and we got Video Game related TV shows, like Gamespot TV (later Extended Play) and Electric Playground, we finally got to see the video games in motion before we bought them – and consequently we could get a good look at how good or bad the graphics were, and how good or bad the controls were. As an example, from seeing gameplay footage of Enter The Matrix on Extended Play before the game was released, I was somewhat able to tell, in advance, that the graphics weren’t very good, and that the control wasn’t very good. Surprise, surprise, when the reviews came out, the game was panned for, among other things, poor graphics and poor controls.

As broadband proliferated, using video to talk about games became more feasible, and higher quality video files became more feasible as well. This lead to the Video Review, where the reviewer got to stand in front of a camera, with footage of the game edited into the review (and possibly also playing behind him) and talk about the game. This turned game reviewers into recognizable personalities, the same way that television made Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert recognizable to people outside of Chicago.

Once you’ve got personalities, you’ve now got a way to support a TV show, first with just streaming programming on the web pages for sites like Gamespot.com, and later to (once Podcasts started catching on) video podcasts, from On The Spot on Gamespot.com, to the 1Up Show on 1up.com.

This brings us to now. Gamespot has On The Spot. They still have video reviews, but their reviewers don’t appear in the actual reviews (possibly as a way to, well, make it easier to get rid of reviewers if they need to – or if publishers want them too). GameTrailers makes it’s living out of video, but with the exception of Geoff Keigley (sp), Amanda McKay, and David Kayser, they don’t have any first party personalities. There are 3rd party personalities, like those through ScrewAttack (Stuttering Craig and the Angry Video Game Nerd), but that’s about it. The fate of video on the 1up network is in doubt. Giant Bomb is, really, the last bastion of the classic Gamespot video review, with the reviewer on camera.

So, what I want to know is this – how is the video in video games journalism going to pan out in the future. Will video reviews go through a voice-over person or through similar steps to make the people reviewing the games more faceless, or will the concept of the visible video game journalist move to smaller sites, as major sites like 1up and Gamespot.com become homes for the faceless, voiceless, disposable reviewer?

I’m putting an open call for comment by people in the games press, particularly those who used to work for 1up.com. Am I going in the right direction? Am I totally off base? Or is it a mixture of both?

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