I love new media. I love blogging. But what I don’t like to see (and I’ve talked about this before) is an attack on writers over small mistakes or misunderstandings — a disconnect between writer and reader that usually exists because so many people on the Internet either can’t be bothered to read or use a difference in opinion as grounds for provocation.
A nasty exchange went down at Forbes today between readers and one of the games writers whose articles I read regularly. Long story short, the writer tried to show that a video game (Nightmare Busters) that’s now selling for $60 is old, not new, and available on a console most people don’t even own anymore (the Super Nintendo). While releasing games for retro consoles isn’t unheard of, $60 (the average price for today’s full console games) is a bit steep, especially when people were playing the game for free on an emulator — a program that runs games (usually illegally) on the computer and off their native platform.
But this was a different case: The game was never actually published.
What began as, “Hey, this is a game that never got released, but look, people have been playing anyway” — which is maybe what built interest and led to it getting picked up as an official release by the developer — turned into a massacre on Forbes and Twitter, where readers accused the writer of advocating piracy. Big names in the industry then lashed out, claws drawn, at their fellow writer — condemning his career, his integrity, and urging him to get out of the business.
Forbes writer updates the story. Admits he doesn't understand what he wrote about. Asks readers for legal help. You can't make this up.—
(@BenKuchera) January 29, 2013
I find this divide interesting — this determination to ruin other people’s reputations over a few mistakes or sloppy wording. Commenters take off our heads for any slight in writing even when they have no concept of the work and care involved. And when commenters aren’t the ones leading the witchhunt, now it’s fellow “journalists” — or are we “bloggers,” as if blogging is a step below, that special spot reserved for freelancers and unpaid enthusiasts?
And while so-called journalists are spitting on bloggers, and real-world journalists are brushing off games journalists, everyone is quick to judge and knock each other down for not being perfectly articulate 100 percent of the time.
Yes, as writers, it’s our job to be articulate. But you wouldn’t set such a high bar for someone who was talking to you in real life — saying something “offensive,” maybe not being totally politically correct, maybe dropping too many ellipses. That’s the beauty of human speech — what makes it interesting, right? And we can’t have that. We can’t have any sign that human beings are the ones typing away behind these keyboards. God forbid.
Asking readers questions and interacting with your audience is why new media is more fun than print and more valuable.—
Erik Kain (@erikkain) January 29, 2013
But if journalists — no, sorry, bloggers — like Forbes writer Erik Kain, who’s now been ostracized by peers he thought he had an amiable relationship with, aren’t allowed to make mistakes because no good journalist ever makes mistakes … but wait, he isn’t a journalist. Isn’t that what everyone’s saying? He’s a blogger, so he should act like one. Well, guess what? Bloggers make mistakes. Bloggers write on emotion — they write about what they love, not just what’s necessarily big or making waves. They’re there to learn and engage. Their passion is what gives them power, not their team of copy editors and fact-checkers.
I want to throw both “journalist” and “blogger” out the window, though, when it comes to games writing. Let’s not segregate ourselves or wage war within our ranks. Let’s just be writers. That means owning up to our mistakes, doing our homework, and supporting each other when we fail. God knows we all have.