Video game journalism

Video game journalism

Video game journalism is a branch of journalism concerned with the reporting and discussion of video games. It is typically based on a core reveal/preview/review cycle. There has been a recent growth in online publications and blogs.


History of print based video gaming magazines

The first magazine to cover the video game industry which is still in continuous publication is the subscription only, trade periodical Play Meter magazine which began publication in 1974 and covered the entire coin-operated entertainment industry.

The first consumer oriented print magazine dedicated solely to video gaming was Computer and Video Games which premiered in the U.K. in November 1981, two weeks ahead of the U.S. launch of the next oldest video gaming publication Electronic Games magazine.

The oldest video game publication still in continuous circulation (as of 2008) was Computer Gaming World, or CGW (now known as Games For Windows), which also debuted in 1981 but does not get credit for being first all around as it began publication as a bi-weekly newsletter before becoming a full scale magazine.

History of web based video gaming magazines

There are conflicting claims regarding which of the first two electronic video game magazines was the "first to be published regularly" online. Originally starting as a print fanzine in April of 1992,[1] Game Zero magazine, claims to have launched a web page in November of 1994,[2] with the earliest formal announcement of the page occurring in April of 1995. Game Zero's web site was based upon a printed bi-monthly magazine based in Central Ohio with a circulation of 1500 that developed into a CD-ROM based magazine with a circulation of 150,000 at its peak. The website was updated weekly during its active period from 1994-1996.

Another publication, Intelligent Gamer Online ("IG Online") debuted a complete web site in April of 1995, commencing regular updates to the site on a daily basis despite its "bi-weekly" name.[3] Intelligent Gamer had been publishing online for years prior to the popularization of the web, originally having been based upon a downloadable "Intelligent Gamer" publication developed by Joe Barlow and Jeremy Horwitz in 1993.[4] This evolved further under Horwitz and Usenet-based publisher Anthony Shubert[5] into "Intelligent Gamer Online" interactive online mini-sites for America Online (AOL) and the Los Angeles Times' TimesLink/Prodigy online services in late 1994 and early 1995. At the time, it was called "the first national videogame magazine found only online."[6]

Game Zero Magazine ceased active publication at the end of 1996 and is maintained as an archive site. Efforts by Horwitz and Shubert, backed by a strong library of built up web content eventually allowed IG Online to be acquired by Sendai Publishing and Ziff Davis Media, the publishers of then-leading United States print publication Electronic Gaming Monthly who transformed the publication into a separate print property in February 1996.[7][8][9]

New Media and games journalism

The traditional video games press has suffered the most at the hands of new media. Gaming is a technological past-time, thus many gamers, defined here as those interested enough to consider purchasing printed gaming publications, can use the Internet for finding relevant information. This, coupled with the fast pace of the games industry, has eroded the influence of print in computer game journalism. For contrast a typical print magazine is published monthly, and will have on average a three month lead time between when any given article or review is written to when it is finally delivered into the readers hands. This creates a situation where print media is always a couple of months behind their on-line counterparts in covering news.[citation needed]

Future Publishing exemplifies the old media's decline in the games sector. In 2003 the group saw multi-million GBP profits and strong growth,[10] but by early 2006 were issuing profit warnings[11] and closing unprofitable magazines (none related to gaming).[12] Then, in late November 2006, the publisher reported both a pre-tax loss of £49 million ($96 million USD) and the sale - in order to reduce its level of bank debt - of Italian subsidiary Future Media Italy.[13]

In mid-2006 Eurogamer's business development manager Pat Garratt wrote a criticism of those in print games journalism who had not adapted to the web, drawing on his own prior experience in print to offer an explanation of both the challenges facing companies like Future Publishing and why he believed they had not overcome them.[14]

This then combined with the move away from mass media outlets towards niche experts to create a growing market for bespoke games writing. This gaming coverage, rather than trying to be objective, acknowledges that it is written from a certain perspective. Some outlets, Game People's social media for example, even use this bias as a unique selling point of their content.

Independent games journalism

While self-made print fanzines about games have been around since the advent of the first home consoles, it was the inclusion of the internet in the lives of most gamers that gave independent writers a real voice in video game journalism. At first ignored by most major game publishers, it was not until the communities developed an influential and dedicated readership, and increasingly produced professional (or near-professional) writing that the sites gained the attention of these larger companies.

Independent video game websites are generally non-profit, with any revenue going back towards hosting costs and, occasionally, paying its writers. As their name suggests, they are not affiliated with any companies or studios, though bias is inherent in the unregulated model to which they subscribe. While many independent sites take the form of blogs (the vast majority in fact, depending on how low down the ladder you look), the 'user-submitted' model, where readers write stories that are moderated by an editorial team, is also popular.

In recent times some of the larger independent sites have begun to be bought up by larger media companies, most often Ziff Davis Media, who now own a string of independent sites.


The computer and video game media industry is criticised for holding lax journalistic standards.[15] Reviews are the most controversial area, with issues in the following areas:

Conflicts of interest
A publication reviewing a game when it has received advertising revenue from the game's publishers or has been invited to lavish 'press day' parties is often held in suspicion.[16] Reviews by 'official' console magazines such as Nintendo Power, Official PlayStation Magazine[disambiguation needed ] or the Official Xbox Magazine, all of which have direct financial ties to their respective platform holders, usually find themselves in similar positions. Publishers have been known to withhold material and/or advertising money from publications that do not adhere to their wishes (e.g. making the game in question the cover story) or do not show the game in a positive light.
Time spent on the game
Unlike linear media, getting a complete sense of a game can require far longer than the time it takes to play it from start to end. Further to this, games such as RPGs can last for hundreds of hours. Computer and video game reviewers therefore tread a fine line between producing timely copy and playing enough of a game to be able to reliably critique it.
A famous exposé of underplaying was published by Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik in September 2006: he dissected a review of Enchanted Arms and among other findings concluded that the reviewer had barely played three hours of the game's fifty before forming his opinion.[17] This conclusion was later refuted by the review's assigning editor, citing proof of the reviewer's completion of the game. [18]

New Games Journalism

New Games Journalism (NGJ) is a video game journalism term, coined in 2004 by journalist Kieron Gillen, in which personal anecdotes, references to other media, and creative analyses are used to explore game design, play, and culture.[19] It is a model of New Journalism applied to video game journalism. Gillen's NGJ manifesto was first published on the now defunct state forum/website, a community of videogame players often engaged in discussion and analysis of their hobby, from which an anecdotal piece, Bow Nigger[20], had appeared. Gillen cites the work as a major inspiration for and example of what NGJ should achieve and the piece was later republished in the UK edition of PC Gamer, a magazine with which Gillen has close professional ties.

Most New Games Journalism articles are not reviews of games in the traditional sense. They can instead be understood as being analogous to travel journalism, where the writer responds to subjective experiences presented to them by the game world, as well as interactions with other players online, real-world events surrounding gameplay, and other personal experiences and anecdotes which create a unique story. The story is not necessarily indicative of the experience any other player will have with the game and will be unlikely to offer any objective value-judgements regarding the game's merits or failings[citation needed]. Instead attention is focused on the subjective experience of the person[21] playing the game.

Publications of note

See: Category:Video game websites
See: Category:Video game magazines


Blogs - Joystiq, Kotaku, Destructoid, Gaming-Unleashed, ScrewAttack
Four mass-appeal blogs that rose to prominence at similar times. Often carrying the latest rumours and hype, they are viewed as being the primary tabloid games journalism sites.[22]
Online - 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GameSpy, GamesRadar, Eurogamer, Bitmob, ScrewAttack, Gaming-Unleashed
Nine notable examples online games journalism. All attempt to cater to a wide audience, contain enormous amounts of information on all the major platforms, offer paid subscriptions (with the exception of 1UP, GamesRadar, and Eurogamer) and have extensive community features.
Video-based - GameTrailers, ScrewAttack
A media website that specializes in video game related content. It provides free access to original programming (such as reviews and previews), game trailers and recorded game play. Many of the video clips are offered in high definition along with standard definition.
Strategy guides, and previews - Prima Games
One of the biggest producers of video game strategy guides, with over 1000 published books, both Official and Unauthorized, publishers of walkthroughs as well as reviews and previews, of console and home computer programs. See also List of Prima Games guides.
Game Informer
Nintendo Power
Official PlayStation Magazine (United States, United Kingdom, Australia)
Official Xbox Magazine
PC Gamer
BioGamer Girl Magazine
Good Game
GameTrailers TV

Trade publications

Print - Game Developer Magazine
Online - Gamasutra
The largest games trade magazine (circ 35 000), and its associated website. A focus on North America.
Print/Online - MCV
UK trade publication (circ 10 000). Unusually, it is published weekly.
Online -
Popular trade website for Europe.


  1. ^ "On-line reprint of main article from first issue with reprint notice at foot of page". April 1992. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  2. ^ "Earliest Game Zero website reference notice found in Usenet". 8 January 1995. Retrieved 2007-01-20.  (needs better citation)
  3. ^ "IGO web launch and GZ's formal web launches mentioned". 8 April 1995. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  4. ^ "Earliest Intelligent Gamer reference found in Usenet". 13 January 1994. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  5. ^ "Game Master Journal #34". 9 November 1993. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  6. ^ "The first national videogame magazine found ONLY online, via Prodigy and TimesLink". 3 March 1995. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  7. ^ "IGF announcement of Sendai Publishing agreement". 7 January 1996. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  8. ^ "IGF staff member indicates the magazine is coming soon". 18 February 1996. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  9. ^ "IGF staff member announces sighting of first print issue on stands". 22 February 1996. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  10. ^ "Future reports strong results for 2003". 10 March 2003. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  11. ^ "Future slips to three-year low on profit warning". 10 March 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  12. ^ "Future Publishing confirms magazine closures, but games titles safe". 20 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  13. ^ "Future posts pre-tax loss of £49m". 29 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-29. 
  14. ^ "Paper Trails". 18 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  15. ^ "Ethics in Video Game Journalism". Online Journalism Review. 4 April 2003. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  16. ^ Mike Musgrove (2007-07-03). "An Inside Play To Sway Video Gamers". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  17. ^ "I review a review". Penny Arcade. 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  18. ^ "More on the Escapist, PA, and Cameron Lewis". 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  19. ^ Gillen, Kieron. "The NGJ Manifesto". Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  20. ^ "Bow Nigger". Retrieved 2009-02-05. 
  21. ^ Robertson, Andy. "The Game People Philosophy". Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  22. ^ Simon Carless (12 April 2007). "The Future Of Fair, Balanced Game Editorial". GameSetWatch. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 

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