(DISCLAIMER - I am a member of the GAMA Retail Division Board of Directors. The opinions you are about to read are MINE and MINE ALONE. This blog is not, and never has been, an approved communications method by GAMA, its Executive Director, its Board of Directors, or the Retail Division.) Yes yes, this is a special Tuesday blog! Strangely enough I started writing this last Wednesday with plans to publish on Monday, but then there was that whole thing with MAP changes for the holiday weekend, and then I had to write about that as well. Rather than sitting on this for an extra week, we present blogs two days in a row.
The last six days have been a little rough for the industry, at least within the segment we refer to as 'media.' An incident with a bottom-feeding YouTube commentator led to a prominent member of the Magic community deciding that the time she spends traveling, playing, and cosplaying, are no longer worth her time. It saddens me when the hate-spewing trolls win, but I get where she's coming from, sometimes the thing that used to bring you joy becomes work because of the people you are forced to deal with. I hope that he is punished swiftly and harshly, and that she is made to feel welcome again, because her cosplay in the world of Magic is absolutely second to none. I believe in this case it behooves Wizards of the Coast to issue this person a lifetime ban from sanctioned Magic, send a C&D that prevents him profiting on videos featuring their products, and make an example of him.
Believe it or not, that idiot is only one member of the game trade 'media' I find myself frustrated with right now. Before we dig into that frustration, let's talk about journalists. Journalists live by, or try to live by, a code of ethics. That code typically includes something along the lines of objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and truthfulness. Journalists are accountable to the public for these things, and to be a journalist means to aspire to tell the truth. Journalists share opinions after research, or they stick to topics they know and understand. They do not profess to be experts in something they've never done, never studied, and never discussed with a real life expert. Research is the hallmark of true journalism. So, imagine my disgust when a member of the trade media said, and I'm forced to paraphrase because I refuse to click on that video again, that he was 'uninvited from the GAMA Trade Show.' This gross distortion of the truth is the type of thing that earns you Four Pinocchios from the Washington Post. You see, the invitations haven't gone out. You can not be uninvited from something that you were never invited to, because no one has been invited.
I've encountered this 'media' personality at various trade shows and found him to be pompous, self-important, and utterly ignorant of the actual concerns of this industry. I strongly suspect that is the case because he gets free things from publishers, special treatment from convention staff, and sponsorship from one of the largest deep discounters in the land of the internet. He is not, and should not ever be, considered a member of any respectable media. He is a game reviewer, and due to the size of his audience, publishers believe he is good for their product.
I'm here to say unequivocally that if you believe this personality to be good for your brand, you are wrong. The more you allow this person to push your brand under the logo of his deep discounter sponsor, the more difficult you make it for brick and mortar retailers, where the majority of this product is moved, to take you seriously. There are far too many publishers in the industry, putting out far too many products, so if you're not offering price protection and you're encouraging this person to push your product through his deep discounter sponsor, your product becomes more and more difficult to justify my shelf space for.
The fact is that you all, every publisher who sends him free review copies, every organization that treats him special because he shoots a couple live videos from your con, created this bull and let him loose in the china shop, and his elitist attitudes and inability to separate truth from fiction, combined with the apparent roadblock between his mouth and his brain, have made him far more detrimental to the hobby than anything else. Our trade suffers from a nearly complete lack of media sources, and that continues to affect our ability to grow into a truly respectable trade. We currently, in my opinion, have only one source for 'news' in this industry, as ICv2.com makes an attempt to report on things that matter to our industry, but the rest of what we have is YouTube personalities doing game reviews. Don't get me totally wrong, I think some of those people are really good at it, I enjoy some of the Watch it Played stuff, and I've found GameWire to be very pleasant to watch. I believe Bebo to be a positive influence on our industry, and I'd be thrilled if her viewer numbers matched some of the more toxic members of the review crowd, because her videos are well-produced, pleasant, and devoid of toxic stupidity.
Some game reviewers in this industry have received entirely too much special treatment. It's not just sponsorship that ties reviewers to a retailer who needs to move product, or free product from publishers who believe that these reviewers move units, but there have also been stipends given to attend trade shows that included free hotel rooms, and free spaces to produce their shows. This unequal treatment of certain members of the so-called media has led to some heads getting too large to fit through doorways, and it's time for it to stop. The NFL doesn't pay for reporters to attend the Super Bowl. The US government doesn't pay for reporters to have hotel rooms so they can work in the White House. Yet, news organizations still cover those things because it is what they are supposed to do, in their accountability to the public they report the news that comes from those organizations despite not being paid by those organizations to do so.
This industry needs real media. I have high hopes for the work being done by Game Trade Magazine as it transforms into Game Trade Media, but it could possibly suffer from the stigma, fair or unfair, of being the house publishing arm of Alliance Game Distributors. The same holds true for GameWire as the house magazine of GTS, but each of the major distributors has its own house media that exists as a public relations brand, and the work being done by Rick and the people of GTM has the real potential to be a great media source for the industry. This industry needs people capable of unbiased reporting, who are not purchased by sponsors, and can be fair to the five different groups who make this industry great; consumers, retailers, distributors, publishers, and designers.
We do that by not treating certain members of the self-proclaimed media any differently than other members of that same group. Anyone who can meet the standards for media credentials should be given media credentials, and those people should be expected to pay their own way, behave professionally, and share the same media space with the other members, unless they have the resources to pay for their own space. There should not be preferential treatment given to any member of the group, as every member of the group has met the requirements to receive credentials.
Until this industry completes the hard task of growing up we will have to deal with the hateful rants of the ignorant. In order to grow up we have to stop propping up the people responsible for those rants, and pretending they are important to our success. That hard work should begin right now.