David Jaffe might not possess the same kind of name recognition that Markus "Notch" Persson and Ken Levine currently enjoy, but with franchises like Twisted Metal and God of War under his belt, it's hard to deny his importance to the industry. So, it probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that he also has the power to inspire a little controversy.
On Wednesday, Jaffe penned a 450-word proposal aimed at repairing the glaring problems within video game journalism. I doubt he expected anyone to seriously consider the proposal in its current form—I think he was just kicking off the conversation—but the amount of backlash he received obviously surprised him, because yesterday he posted a 15-minute video response to the flood of journalistic criticism.
The original article was inspired by a post on Penny Arcade in which Ben Kuchera explains why the industry is so heavily focused on boobs (Spoiler alert: It's because you like to click on them). So, Jaffe proposed a system where the readers themselves would support a small collection of journalists via Kickstarter. This would mean that web-based advertisers could be tossed by the wayside, and the journalists wouldn't have to write articles with titles like "The Top Ten Breasts in a Game About Lesbians."
The thing is, I really like Jaffe’s idea. And, let's be honest, I've got no real stake in the conversation, because I certainly wouldn't be among the top ten journalists chosen to represent the industry.
But Jaffe's proposal has the benefit of being entirely pressure free for the journalists. It would give them the chance to actually write about video games without having to worry about whether or not the article would get enough clicks to make the post worthwhile from a business perspective. Even now, I'm a little concerned about the number of clicks that this article is going to get. Maybe I'll throw a bikini into the title image, just in case.
Very few game journalists have ever had the opportunity participate in real journalism, simply because the market doesn't support it. And Jaffe's proposal would give them that chance.
Plus, this plan would force the industry's hand. If a community-funded campaign actually managed to raise enough money to support a journalist or two, it would send a pretty clear message to big name outlets that gamers are actually interested in genuine journalism.
The problem, though, is that David Jaffe's plan is probably a little idealistic at this point in time. As much as I would love to think that the gaming community would actively support this kind of system, I just don't see it happening.
Now, I hope that my readers won't take this personally, but gamers tend to be a little shortsighted when it comes to their wallets. The gaming industry is currently struggling to support itself while piracy rates continue to climb and gamers continue to complain about spending $60 per game. Advertising revenue on journalistic websites continues to slide and free-to-play models are slowly replacing standard pricing structures.
Obviously, it's very difficult to make a living in gaming, even for some of the biggest names in the industry. So, I have a really hard time believing that a community who guards their wallets so tightly would willingly hand over their hard earned cash under the nebulous promise of high quality journalism. As much as I would love to live in that world, it still seems a little far-fetched.
Though, I'd love to be proven wrong.
Date: April 19, 2013