I’ve been struggling for the last few days on this piece I want to write about game journalists and crowdfunding; I’ve had a terrible head cold, for one thing, and that’s made it difficult to think about anything besides wishing I had softer tissues at my work desk, and also a pillow and a blanket, and maybe wishing I’d simply called in sick and stayed in bed.
And in those moments when I do have some relative clarity, I find myself unsure of what to say about it. Ultimately, I suppose I find it distressing that these prominent writers feel it necessary to supplement their income by crowdfunding at all – not that they shouldn’t do whatever they want to do, but rather that nobody’s already paying them to do it. These are not amateur hacks like me – these are professional writers, articulate, experienced, insightful and enjoyable to read, and yet in order for them to do the work they really want to do, they need our help.
I sometimes wonder if there’s even a sizable audience for this kind of work; or, alternately, if there are enough games to support this kind of analysis. For every Gone Home or Journey, games that can’t help but inspire insightful and beautiful writing, there are at least thirty mindless shooters with narratives so dumb and hackneyed they might as well not even be there. The indie game scene is where all the interesting things seem to be happening these days, and that’s where all the good writing seems to be flowing, too… but the audience for those things is, by definition, small. And when a major outlet gives one of these games a glowing review (i.e., Gamespot giving Gone Home a 9), 80% of the comments are completely incredulous that Gone Home can even be considered a real “game”.
I don’t mean to sound snobbish about this, but look at this Q&A, from Patrick Klepek’s tumblr (again):
Q: I have nothing against you as a person (I can’t, I don’t know you). But I consider you to be literally everything wrong with games journalism, you pick up some minuscule point then decide to sensationalize it to gain views.
A: You don’t get to show up to this argument without examples, son.
There are so many amazing things about this question – like the fact that it was asked anonymously, and that (as PK notes) there are no examples (and, indeed, PK does not generally write hard criticism), but the most amazing thing is the idea that anyone would “pick up some minuscule point” in an effort to “gain views.” It seems to me that most people who “read” reviews basically skip to the number in order to confirm that their preconceived notion of a game that they haven’t played was correct.
I suppose I’m also feeling a little distressed because, for some strange reason, I’ve decided that this is the field I’d like to enter; this is the job I feel called to, even if I came to it very late, and I’m old-ish, and I also have a baby and I’m trying to save money to buy a house next year. If the best writers need crowdfunding to help support themselves in their efforts to write, I’m fucked.
Here are some further links to check out:
- Cara Ellison’s Patreon (which is what inspired this whole thing): http://www.patreon.com/carachan
- and also: http://mammonmachine.com/post/72462887175/crowdfunding-advice-part-1
- and MM’s Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/mammonmachine
- and especially also this piece, which says a lot of what I’d like to say if I weren’t feeling so incoherent and sinus-y: http://big-tall-words.com/2014/01/08/thoughts-on-games-writing/
- And here’s a list of significant patreon links: http://www.mattiebrice.com/support-games-criticism/