In the last few years, leaked video game information has become an extremely common thing online. You’ve got cases like with Pokemon Sun and Moon where every release gets datamined weeks in advance. There are examples like Paper Mario Color Splash, where information is unintentionally made available due to the game being accidentally released two weeks early. And through insiders, anonymous posts and YouTube mess ups alike, we’ve seen everything from Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty and Rayman revealed way before it was supposed to be.
Yet even with the rise in leaked information, it seems a large portion of the press doesn’t seem to want to cover anything early. You’ve got people posting screenshot upon screenshot on forums and videos popping up with the entire soundtrack, all while the press sits on their ass and does nothing for days on end. Or if you’re lucky, posts about one or two random discoveries while trying their very best to ignore the rest of it.
But I disagree. I think every gaming site should cover ‘leaked’ information to the fullest of their ability.
Well for one thing, because that’s closer to journalism than anything else the gaming press has done. Journalism means going out of your way to find information that the powerful do not want others to know. It means bending the rules to get the news your readers want rather than those that make for someone else’s good PR.
Look at the rest of the media for example. Yeah, they’re not as good as they used to be (especially where investigative journalism is concerned), but they don’t just sit around online and wait for information to come in. Or game companies to email them press releases.
Instead, they go out and look for a story. That might mean heading into a dangerous war zone in the midst of a global crisis. It might mean interviewing someone who might otherwise not want to provide any information about current events. Or attending political rallies and events, perhaps even undercover!
When’s the last time you saw a video game journalist go ‘undercover’ to get a major news story? Probably never to be honest.
And that’s kind of a problem with entertainment ‘journalism’ now. It’s not really journalism, it’s more an industry PR branch. It’s more about making the games and corporations look good than telling the readers what they really need to know.
But journalism isn’t supposed to be like that.
Journalism isn’t really about ‘making friends and influencing people’. Heck, some journalists would say that being friends with your subjects is the mark of a terrible journalist or reporter. No, journalists are supposed to be hated by the people they report on. Companies are supposed to dread journalists getting involved in a story about them (usually cause they’re in the middle of a public relations disaster).
So yeah, of course a company will hate you reporting on leaked content. Of course the Pokemon Company will hate people that post the final boss of Pokemon Sun and Moon two weeks before the release date. Heck, sometimes a company will go as far as to threaten you with legal action.
But that’s kind of expected as a journalist.
Journalism isn’t all fun and games. It’s a job which puts you at serious risk on numerous occasions, and one where dangerous or financial costly consequences are unfortunately all too common. Think being sued once sucks? Imagine being Ian Hislop (editor of Private Eye). He’s the most sued man in Britain, and has been through dozens of court cases over things like libel (and apparently lost most of them). That has never stopped the satire magazine releasing new issues.
And that’s nothing compared to the horrors that have happened to journalists writing about real politically charged subjects and dangerous parts of the world. They’ve been arrested for espionage, sent to prison for decades (or deported to Siberia in the Soviet Union). Assaulted or killed for saying things those in power didn’t want to hear (or just by sociopathic nutcases who were ‘offended’ by what they were saying).
Basically, journalism is about risks. Because of this, you need to realise at some point that your own ‘safety’ or ‘comfort’ is outweighed by the needs of the readers/viewers. Unfortunately, a lot of gaming journalists don’t ever get this. They think it’s about making their life convenient. Screw the readers, I matter more.
Which is completely wrong.
There’s also a very pragmatic reason for all this too. Namely, it’s bad business to be scared of leaked content.
I mean, look at Bulbapedia. They were so scared of Nintendo’s ‘response’ to covering leaked content (which never actually came) that they refused to open up editing from somewhere in September till now. The result? Their wiki is useless now. No one visits a Pokemon wiki (or a Mario or Zelda one) that doesn’t cover hardly anything about the latest games.
And the same will be true of your website if you don’t cover this stuff. A gaming site that censors itself and doesn’t cover the latest gaming news is honestly a rather useless website, and one that’s probably not gonna still open for much longer.
So cover leaked content, and be a real journalist. Because a journalist who only covers what others want him to cover isn’t much of a journalist at all.