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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Gamers, Don't Trust The Fans

As anyone involved in games journalism will be aware of, the past few days have been rife with discussion about this weeks hot topic, the integrity of games journalists. I wasn't intending on addressing it, primarily because I believe that we all should be spending our time discussing and producing content for the gaming community, but there are a few comments in a recent column from Robert Florence that I felt I wanted to address in more than 140 characters.

I'm not going to be discussing the ethics of what happened with the competition or who allegedly did what but rather focus on two key points in Mr Florences article:

1. Games journalists cannot write about a game/game series that they have publicly displayed a passion for without their integrity being questioned.

2. Games journalists/PR/developers cannot be friends and possess the ability to separate their professional and personal relationships.

Now as anyone who knows me personally or even online will be aware, I am a huge Mass Effect fan. I got into the series later than others but the titles instantly appealed to me at a grand scale - featuring what I believe to be an interesting narrative and engaging characters.

Because of my love of the series, I have collected many related pieces of merchandise over the years from little trinkets, statuettes and my personal favourite, an N7 hoody that I'm rarely seen without. My Mass Effect collection is made up of items I have both acquired through promotional events/expos and primarily things I have purchased.

The beginning of the end

Rewind to December 11th 2010 and Bioware have announced Mass Effect 3 with a brand new trailer tagged with a Holiday 2011 release date for the final title in the trilogy. Of course I was tweeting prolifically about my excitement around the title as new pieces of information and images were released right up until the release of the game which I would be reviewing.

Now, prior to actually getting my hands on the full game I had attended as many promotional events as I could, published plenty of related content on StickTwiddlers.com, picked up a few freebies (a tee and a blow-up Omni Blade) and developed a relationship with members of the BioWare team - leading to the site giving away a few hundred early access beta keys for a competition following an independent piece of coverage I wrote following the first glimpses of female Shepard in a trailer.

Did my public love for the series and my relationship with members of the BioWare team compromise my opinion of Mass Effect 3? Of course not. Did I think that it was an absolutely flawless title and the best game ever made? Of course not. Why? Because I'm a fan.

Fans of anything are always the most critical of the final product and will do anything they can to find out any piece of information, as trivial as it may be. Their product is something that they have developed a long-term emotional attachment to and as such will pick it apart to the core and will always ask the hard questions. I want a fan to review a product or bring me news on the latest information as I know that they are the most qualified for the job. It's like asking for a different plumber because you think this ones red overalls and thick moustache might compromise his opinion of your flooded kitchen.

My personal passion for a series has meant that I've always been able to provide my community with the best and most up to date Mass Effect related content there is, and I think everyone has been the better for it. Anyone who wants to question my integrity for being a fan or having a relationship with members of the dev and PR team can just ask me what I thought of the "Commander Shepard: Space Farmer" mechanic in ME 2.

Pic I tweeted early 2012 post ME3 hands-on

There are of course fans who will blindly love the product they support and those who may let their personal relationships affect their content, but I feel that these are in the minority and that there are enough outlets for people who feel like they are consistently finding non-critical coverage to discover other places to get what they want.

I firmly believe that those in the gaming industry are here because they have a passion for video games (it's certainly not for the paycheck) and if they're not, I frankly don't want them to be. You get the best out of people who love what they do and anybody who doesn't publicly display their love for games and their favourite titles shouldn't be trusted, not the other way around.

Now go back to tweeting/Facebooking/blogging about how awesome Hotline Miami is, you fanboys/fangirls.