I don’t enjoy doing these types of lists. Firstly, who cares what I think? By just offering an opinion I’m somehow making it seem valid, which is ridiculous because my thoughts rarely are.
But in the general discussion about video games journalism, there’s very little talk about the investigative work that’s been done and is continuing to be written. By and large I think criticism gets the most discussion. (Although to be fair, Polygon’s features have mostly changed that perspective).
I view journalism as a very distinct thing, separate from criticism. When we talk about “journalism” I think sources, interviews and investigations, not opinions and reviews. Both are good, but very different things.
So with that in mind, I’ve drawn up a quick list of ten of the best pieces of journalism about or relating to video games. You won’t find opinions in this list, nor will you find reviews. This is about investigation and profiles – classical journalism type stuff.
Why do this? Well, apart from the fact I can, I think it’s a good idea to share good writing when we can. It gives us a good standard to live up to and by promoting these pieces of writing as good, we all strive a little more. The video game industry does excellent work, and these are just a few examples of that. When we focus and put our heads down, we can make excellent, fantastic work.
So here are 10 of the best, (and in no particular order). I hope you enjoy them:
Simon Parkin is possibly the closest thing to a Michael Lewis we have in games writing – his ability to turn a phrase makes me weep. His investigation into the deaths of Taiwan gamers in cafes is well-research and excellently told.
Hyper – The Rise and Fall of Red Ant (Originally printed in Hyper, republished on Kotaku)
I’m proud to have written for a magazine which has published such a riveting story – a story that won Tracey Lien a Walkley award for journalism. This extraordinarily well-researched story delves into the collapse of a once-great Australian publisher.
Boston Globe – End Game
Funny how these stories tend to focus on collapses – perhaps it’s the drama. In any case, Jason Schwartz journalism here chronicles the end of 38 Studios after the disappointing Kingdoms of Amalur. Some of the best video game journalism comes from non-video game journalists, and this is an excellent example.
New Yorker – Jennifer Hale: The Queen of Video-Game Acting
The art of the profile is an extremely difficult one to master. Tom Bissell does it well. This portrait of Hale’s life and her work is not only an honest look at one of the industry’s most recognised voices but also one that provides a sobering look at how beloved games are actually made.
Journalism is full of stories of writers being embedded in a group and then reporting on the outcome. Maddy Myers’ story may not have had the life-threatening elements of someone like Nellie Bly, her courage should be rewarded all the same.
New Yorker – The grammar of fun
Another New Yorker, another Tom Bissell. And with good reason. This profile of gaming’s closest thing to a rock star is a solid lesson in how to portray someone in print. The touches on Bleszenski’s late father are lovely.
Eurogamer – Journeyman
Yet another Simon Parkin piece. His discussion with Jenova Chen made waves when published for its portrayal of who is probably one of the industry’s best chances of pushing the medium into something new and exciting. A lovely look at what makes the man tick.
iOS/PC/Mac – The Final Hours of Portal 2
Geoff Keighley gets a bad rap, but his Final Hours series are excellent pieces of journalism. The content is rich, with interviews and discussions on the difficulties of making specific games and the rush to the finish line. The execution is also just as important – by self-publishing the apps Keighley paves the way for more writers to take control of their content. (Brendan Keogh took up the torch with his book on Spec Ops, Killing Is Harmless, in 2012).
IGN Australia – Why did LA Noire take seven years to make?
Andrew McMillen deserves praise for his hard work in piecing together this story from employees and others in the industry. His work brought to light the troubles involved with the Team Bondi studio, which eventually collapsed. It’s excellent stuff, and a good example of how games journalists still have the ability to do more traditional reporting with gusto.
Worth taking a look at also is McMillen’s talk on the aftermath of his piece – featuring some commentary on games journalism practices in general.
Kotaku – How LucasArts Fell Apart
A relatively new piece, Jason Schreier’s epic piece at Kotaku is an excellent showcase of reporting over a long period of time. Tying up interviews with ex-employees he puts together the tragic story of a once-proud developer turned dead. Fantastic, riveting stuff.