The field of video game journalism places writers in opinionated positions. They write the same types of stories as newspaper journalists – news, features, opinions and reviews – but also must entertain their audience.
In addition, the news stories are often regurgitated press releases. Take a six or seven paragraph press release and condense it down to three or four. This gives writers a bit of freedom as to how to handle their articles.
Especially if said video game journalists are working at a blog, much like this one. They are often called upon to be witty, to provide information and entertainment that 20 or 30 other sites aren’t to get more web traffic.
However, some blog writers are willing to go too far by isolating and insulting a portion of their audience in order to appeal to the largest – males age 13-27 – demographic.
A recent example of this is a news story by Destructoid Reviews Editor Jim Sterling about Hello Kitty: Big City Adventure, titled “Buy a DS and you’re guaranteed pussy: Hello Kitty pussy, of course.” In an attempt to be clever when reporting on new screen shots for the new DS game, Sterling attaches a sensitive title, a picture of Hello Kitty crying tears of blood and the following closing sentence, “Also, pussy. Pussy pussy pussy.”
The two paragraphs in the article describing the new screen shots aren’t offensive, they’re simply discussing new screenshots for a children’s video game. Only the title and final sentence stand out. In order to call attention to Destructoid and stand out, Sterling was willing to isolate and insult women and children, the two audiences that would likely purchase Hello Kitty: Big City Adventure. It seems counter-intuitive.
And then there is Ripten’s “Vagina Hero: Exclusive First Look” by Editor Dan Landis. While the Destructoid article simply featured a brief moment of adolescent humor designed to extort a chuckle from teenagers at the word “pussy”, this parody article by Landis goes a step further towards possibly permanently alienating female readers.
The article discusses a hypothetical game by Arctivision called Vagina Hero, obviously a play on the uber successful Guitar Hero franchise. Landis goes on to take cheap shots with statements mentioning a Pro Bundle costing $600 extra that isn’t any different, displaying a HodgePodge controller (with 18 different buttons) designed to look like the female anatomy and having each stage be a different woman.
Clearly the intent of the story is to get attention but you have to consider the cost. Landis’ story may have more than 140 Diggs but there are also multiple blog entries by writers who didn’t find Vagina Hero so funny, like Shakesville, Feministing and The F-Word. Clearly “Vagina Hero: Exclusive First Look” isn’t for everyone but perhaps Ripten may have stepped over a line in writing and releasing such a story.
Yes, racy and juvenile articles could mean a momentary spike in readership. I’m sure every blog or video game site would love to have a post hit 100,000+ hits and sit on the front page of Digg for a few days. Does the end justify the means? By running stories like the two above, sites could be losing loyal fan bases.
So how do these kinds of articles affect you, the readers? How do you respond when you come across a “Buy a DS and you’re guaranteed pussy: Hello Kitty pussy, of course” or “Vagina Hero: Exclusive First Look”? Would you overlook a few off-color articles and continue frequenting the site? Or would you search for news at a different source? Would you, perhaps, be less likely to trust news reported by sites which would publish controversial fluff stories?