Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Gaming Media

I'm in mid-think about events surrounding and related to battle at B-R5RB.  Most of what can be said about the immediate outcomes and aftermath has already been said.  The battle has been a high probability event and waiting in the wings for some time. In and of itself, the battle produced little more than shrugs in the offices at Fiddler's Edge.  The questions of where, when and of magnitude were much more interesting.  I've been reading and listening to numerous holdings forth on "what it all means" and most have, I believe, missed the mark by a wide margin.

I'll publish a piece once the current sound and fury dies down.

In the meantime, over at Mad Haberdashers, Corelein has taken Massively, an online gaming 'zine, to task for shallow coverage of the industry in general and the quality of its writing which, Corelin points out, are often no more than a restatement of a company press release. In particular, Corelin calls Brenden Drain (who writes the EVE Evolved column at Massively) to account.  Corelin suggests that Brendan, a paid blogger, should write at least as well as any number of unpaid bloggers such as Ripard Teg, Rixx Javix, Noizy Gamer or (ahem) Mord Fiddle.

A bit further down Corelin writes: 
"I’m just gonna link Fiddler’s Edge because… well… I have no interest in being fair.  Mord has Brendan beaten like a rented mule."
My blushes.

In the comment section, Matt Westhorpe of Freebooted fame joins the fray and comes to Brenden's defense.  He and Corelin have a very thoughtful exchange - one well worth reading.  Matt being the writer Matt is, the meat of his argument is laid out early on:
"I’ve always taken pride in ensuring that I try to I write something well-researched, fresh and engaging. However, you soon realise the folly of spending an entire working day (or longer) information gathering for and writing a 1200-word article when you work out the hourly rate. However, I have no intention of capitulating on my principles (which is why it is unlikely I will survive as a games journalist).

With this in mind, it is not at all surprising to see unpaid blogs written by people who write for the love of the topic and the joy of writing producing material of exceptional quality, whilst in contrast, paid writers find themselves increasingly pushed toward ‘churnalism’ by their paymasters.

Personally, I think Brendan does a good job of maintaining a balance between writing accessibly for an EVE-curious audience and delving into enough detail to sate those who are more informed.

On the other hand, Mord has the luxury of being able to focus his appeal on his choice of audience, providing some fantastic but very esoteric and often impenetrably niche material."

First of all, thanks to Corelin for his kind words.  Without taking anything away from Brendan it's always gratifying to have one's work held up as an example of a good read - in spite of my apparent tendency toward the esoteric and impenetrable. 

As Matt points out, anyone wishing to write a 'popular' blog will follow a well circulated set of rules and guidelines, almost every one of which I violate with abandon.  I do challenge my readers at times. However, I find that those of you who are regulars at The Edge are not only up to the challenge, but enjoy it as well.  You are not off-put by the esoteric, and have the patience to follow what might at first glance seem impenetrable, trusting it will lead you somewhere worthwhile.  I find you a worthwhile audience to cultivate, and you have repaid my poor efforts many times over with your encouragement and reader loyalty. 

While the act of receiving payment for work can change the nature of the work, this is not an absolute. Many writers like Matt stand on their principles, even if it means a reduction in output or an investment of labor that makes no economic sense in terms of shillings per hour.  However, writing content tailored to the payer's wants doesn't seem to be the issue in this case.

Brendan's difficulty does not seem to be one of editorial directives so much as that he does not have the time to write in-depth owing to the demands on his time by his Predestination project.  Assuming that's the case, both Brendan and Massively's editorial board are not serving each other (or their readers) well.  Brenden ends up providing Massively with low value-add content and Massively, occupied in pushing new content to drive revenue, ends up publishing low value-add content.

So long as no one holds zines like Massively accountable for the quality of the content they publish, zines like Massively will not hold the writers of that content (such as Brendan) to meaningful quality standards. And good authors like Matt, who are willing to put in the time and effort to write well, will always be undervalued by zines like Massively as long as the status quo holds and writers can get paid for submitting the journalistic equivalent of toenail clippings.

It is ironic that as Corelin attempts to hold Brenden and Massively accountable for their content, Matt is arguing against such accountability.  Of course Matt is arguing on behalf of a fellow writer, which is laudable. However, in so doing he is, by his own admission, arguing for a system in which talent like his own has little place. 


  1. The solution is obvious, massively should fire all their paid (eve) writers and just ask bloggers for permission to repost articles.
    The blogger will be able to reach a bigger audience and perhaps get paid for their article, massively will get better articles, the massively writers... well they lose massively.

    All joking aside, it's hard for professionals to compete with volunteers when looking at it this way. If you do this for a living you want a certain minimum wage.

  2. Aye.

    Watching Matt turn into an paid writer told me that I'll always need s regular job as a fallback.

  3. I want to take issue with their characterization of your prose as impenetrable. It's no coincidence that the Illiad-inspired piece is one of the most popular. The world could do with a little more respect for readers.