Author Archives: crecente

Ethics in Game Journalism or EiGJ

I am not a fan of Gamergate.

Maybe that’s been unclear to some because on occasion I’ve been willing to listen. That’s simply because, no matter the hashtag a group might band together with, I believe that if they raise serious issues about ethics in journalism, those issues should be addressed or looked into.

But here’s the problem: While the Gamergate movement does on occasion raise those issues, it also raises a myriad of unrelated issues. Those who use that hashtag also harass, antagonize and say and do other vile things. Sorting through the nastiness, the unrelated, the personal attacks, is both exhausting and a waste of time.

So here’s what I propose: If your concern is ethics in game journalism, if that’s what motivates you, than use a different hashtag to bring up those issues. I’m not addressing the import, value, or your right to be a member of GamerGate, but I am saying that I can no longer justify to myself, the value of wading through the political mire, vitriol, hate and ad hominem attacks to find those occasional important concerns.

Besides, if what you want is ethics in journalism, why would you want that very important message lost in a sea of unrelated messaging and antics? If that’s really your concern, it’s time you find a new home.

What about something simple? Maybe EiGJ. Of course that hashtag will only be valuable for as long as those who use it can maintain its purity as a place to discuss ethics, not the myriad of other topics that so overwhelm the GG hashtag.

GamerGate is a movement that – even if you ignore how it started and its use by people who have broken the law to harass others – is inarguable about much more than simply ethics in journalism. Continuing to use it to address that is at best a fallacy and at worst dishonest.

Game journalism, all journalism, faces a slew of ethical quandaries. Sifting through them to determine what has already been figured out through past example and what needs to be discussed or revisited is an incredibly important task.

What GamerGate has done in regards to ethics in journalism is create a smokescreen behind which some non-journalists can lob attacks and some journalists can hide from a very real, very important call to action.

Let’s, those of us who really do care about this topic, move on and find a new place for civil discourse.

Watch these scary movies

I have seen an inordinate amount of horror movies, but most of them are from the late 80s and earlier. Over the years since, I’ve slowly tried to catch up, but never can.

Below you’ll find two lists. The first is an unsorted list of some of my favorite horror movies. The second is my short list of what I still want to see.

What am I missing?

Note, I didn’t include some great movies because they simply weren’t scary. Cabin in the Woods, for instance, strikes me as something closer to action fantasy then horror.

Psycho
Rosemary’s Baby
Babadook
Alien
Aliens
Pan’s Labyrinth
Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2
The Birds
Night of the Living Dead
Silence of the Lambs
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Cat People
Halloween
Carrie
The Omen
The Exorcist
Christine
The Shining
Nightmare on Elmstreet
Friday the 13th
The Fly
What ever happened to baby Jane?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Blair Witch Project
The Wicker Man
The Dead Zone
Poltergeist
Misery
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Scream
The Thing
The House of the Devil
The Others
Insidious
Day of the Dead

It Follows
Drag me to hell
A girl walks home alone at night
The Loved Ones
Paranormal Activity
The Strangers
Kairo
[Rec]
The Orphanage
Kill List
The Devil’s Backbone

Crecente’s PGP Public Key

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3

I still can’t believe Iwata is dead. I found out about his death while at JFK International Airport waiting for Trish’s parents to arrive. I was completely stunned.

I still am.

I spent the week in New York City visiting with developers and publishers checking out a bulk of the games shown off at E3.

I got a chance to hang out with a slew of folks during a big PlayStation event, got my hands (and head) on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, played some Electronic Arts and Activision games and then visited Nintendo’s New York office to see the company’s E3 builds.

It’s always fun to get to spend time in the company of so many talented people.

What I read that I liked

Emanuel Maiberg has a neat story over on Motherboard about the doctor who treats eSports athletes and their injuries. “If you don’t rest the body doesn’t have a chance to heal itself, to go into a homeostatic state and say okay, now I can repair myself,” Dr. Levi said. “Whether it’s non-stop gaming or non-stop MMA training, the body doesn’t like that, and there’s a price.”

Bijan Stephen writes about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book Between the World and Me in an article entitled How to Live Within a Black Body. “If you were to map the black bodies destroyed by American police this year, you would have what looks like the shadow of a cancer creeping steadily across the lower 48; the names would bloom across the states in the way that a malignant lung tumor might, from as common and as lethal a cause. In his latest book, Between the World and Me, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates interrogates the effects of a life lived under the gun, aware of the ever-present violence that is systematically and relentlessly perpetrated against black people in America.”

An examination of how Facebook’s news feeds work by Victor Luckerson. “How a controversial feature grew into one of the most influential products on the Internet”

Colin Campbell exams the life and death of Electronic Arts’ soul, in this deep dive into one of the world’s biggest game makers. “If EA’s brand marketing was a call to action for the game developer as a person of note, its computer game packaging was a love letter to the games themselves and to the art of media.”

I love the Smithsonian Magazine, mostly because seemingly everything they run, I love reading. In this article, Kimbra Cutlip breaks down the deep impact the Scopes Trial had on science journalism. “John Thomas Scopes was Dayton’s high school football coach and substitute biology teacher. Portrayed today as a hero of great conviction, Scopes did not specifically recall teaching evolution. He did, however, believe the law was unjust, and the town leaders were able to persuade him to stand trial for their cause, although their cause had little to do with evolution. Their aim was simply to draw visitors and their wallets into town for the trial.”

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

Back when BioShock came out I managed to convince Ken Levine and the head of the Ayn Rand Institute to talk about objectivism in the game.

Etc.

I finished reading Ernest Cline’s Armada. It’s not as good as his first, but I enjoyed it. (I hope to write something about that for Polygon soonish). Most of my week was taken up by traveling back and forth between my house and the city. It’s an hour and a half to two hour trip each way, so I end up not doing much more than working and chugging along on a train (and working) on those days.

My brother and son have started working on putting together a Twitch channel of sorts. I’m not sure yet if they’re planning on doing a podcast dealio or a streaming thingie. It sounds like it could be fun though.

This weekend we’re going to have a cookout and invite some friends over. I plan on doing a lot of nothing. That and trying to decide if I should switch from Comcast cable to Fire TV and an assortment of apps.

2

Comic-Con is in full bloom, packed with gaming news, movie trailers and not a few amazing web series. A lot of people I’ve been talking to this week feel like SDCC is becoming less of a comic convention and more of a pop culture convention.

They’re probably right, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

What I read that I liked

I’m a sucker for book lists, and while this one over at io9 isn’t the best, it is neat to see some of the sci-fi books professors are using to teach with.

Rosalind Wiseman has a fantastic piece over on Time about the inherent misperceptions some people have of boys and video games. “Kids are fed up with Kate Upton. When the ads for Game of War started showing up on my students’ phones last year—they haven’t stopped—many were annoyed. They hated that it was impossible to close the ad, forcing them instead to watch the video until the end. But what really irritated them was Ms. Upton, in a full-cleavage-baring white flowing dress.”

Rachel Nuwar discusses new research on the decline in bumblebees and how it’s linked to climate change over on Smithsonian.Com.  “To probe the mystery, scientists from Canada, Europe and the U.S. turned to bumblebee observation records collected across Europe and North America, dating back 110 years and encompassing 67 species.”

Colin Cambell has a great, deep read on the reinvention of Lara Croft over on Polygon. “Camilla Luddington is frowning seven different ways. She’s an experienced actor, so each frown carries its own nuance and meaning: defiance, confusion, vulnerability, fear.”

Rukmini Callimachi led a team of reporters at the New York Times to pull together a fascinating look at ISIS and how it recruits young americans. I missed it last week, if you did too, you should absolutely take the time to read it this weekend. “Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.”

Josh Dzieza’s profile of website The Awl seems to be the most talked about story in my circles, and for good reason. It’s a deftly written, nuanced description of not the website, but the people who drive it. That I know quite a lot of them might make it feel more engrossing to me, but anyone who starts reading this story will find it hard to stop. “As more content is published directly onto Facebook, users will gradually lose a sense of who’s producing what. The most consequential journalism becomes just another unit of content in a single stream of music videos, movie trailers, updates from friends and relatives, advertisements, and viral tidbits from sites adept at gaming fast-changing algorithms and behaviors. Readerships that seem large now will turn out to be as ephemeral as Snapchats.”

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

I stumbled across a police blotter entry about a man dying of a heart attack one night in the middle of a swamp. After a month or so of reporting on and off, I ended up writing this story about snail hunting in the moonlit waters of Florida.

Etc.

This week has been completely absorbed by meetings and helping out the away team covering San Diego Comic-Con. I put my longer stories on hold to spend time popping out a dozen or so dailies a day from the show and help where I can in terms of editing and asset wrangling.

I also put my reading on hold to try and zip through Eric Cline’s soon-to-be-released Armada. It just arrived, so I haven’t gotten very far. Speaking of Armada, when I was looking for it on Amazon, the shopping website let me know that people that purchased the book about video games and aliens also tended to purchase Harper Lee’s new book. (You can read the first chapter of that right here.) I suspect that may not be the case.

My left arm has been feeling tingly and numb for a few days now. I’m fairly certain it isn’t heart related, but it has reminded me to schedule my check in. I’ve gained a disgusting amount of weight, a first for me. And it’s had all kinds of weird implications. Like the other day, watching Clue while lying on the floor and feeling the weight of my body pressing my into the thick carpet, it was weird. I probably should do something about that.

We somehow managed not to see Jurassic World yet, but I have high hopes for this weekend.

On Sunday, Trish’s parents arrive from Australia for their summer stay. At some point we’re all going to Montreal and I will be eating obscene amounts of fancy gravy-soaked french fries.

1

I’m going to start writing a little weekly thing summarizing the big stories I’ve read and enjoyed. Most of them will be about video games, but not all of them. I’ll likely evolve this over time. Think of it as a Daily Note to myself … as sad as that sounds.

What I read that I liked

David Shimomura has an interesting story over on Kill Screen which examines Kojima’s “dark and often troubling preoccupation with the human body and the basic dignity of humanness.”

Hua Hsu talks about the impact video games have had on popular music over in the New Yorker, by writing about the book Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. “There is,” Hsu writes, “an entire alternate history of modern music that revolves around figures like Kondo, Hip Tanaka, and Nobuo Uematsu, whose scores for the Final Fantasy series are now performed in concert halls.”

Paul Theroux returns to the town that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird to examine what’s changed and what hasn’t for Smithsonian Magazine. “Every year, a highly praised and lively dramatization of the novel is put on by the town’s Mockingbird Players, with dramatic courtroom action in the Old Courthouse. But Nannie Ruth smiled when she was asked whether she’d ever seen it. “You won’t find more than four or five black people in the audience,” a local man told me later. “They’ve lived it. They’ve been there. They don’t want to be taken there again. They want to deal with the real thing that’s going on now.”

Over on Design Oriented you can try applying the Vlambeer Scale of Quality to your favorite games with a handy tool inspired by Jan Willen Nijman’s game design talk.

The Murder in Exam Room 15 is a wonderful examination of the escalating battle between patients and healthcare written by Chris Sweeney for Boston Magazine. “For 20 more minutes, the two men continued to talk. No one outside the exam room heard a sound, until all at once two blasts from a .40-caliber pistol tore through the morning calm.”

Jack Smith IV (I can’t help but think he’s a robot now, better than the last three models) does a nice job of examining Disney’s odd little hybrid between video games and toys: The Playmation line for Mic.com. It’s a little PR-heavy, a little breathless, but it’s also packed with interesting insight into the way Disney thinks and designs.

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

Ex Machina really is a great sci-fi movie and you should see it if you haven’t. Here’s what I wrote about the movie and the people who made it.

Etc.

I’m most actively reading Seveneves, Neal Stephenson’s latest, right now and it’s pretty good. I somehow accidentally purchased Bum Rap, a book I’ve never heard of by an author I never heard of, and will likely dig into that soon too because … providence?

I bought a clutch of old CDs from a library sale the other week and immediately imported them into my digital library. So right now I’m listening to a collection of 70s love songs (the best love songs) 80s rock and one-hit wonders and a mix of artists I’ve never heard of singing songs that are sometimes great, sometimes awful.

We’re hoping to go see Jurassic World this weekend and in preparation rewatched the first three. I think I may like the third more than the first, but maybe I’m crazy. Finally watched John Wick. It was fine, but not nearly as good as everyone lead me to believe it would be. Maybe I don’t like turtlenecks as much as the next person.

I’ve been tinkering a bit with Bierzerkers, Counter-Strike: GO and VainGlory.

Now that I own an Amazon Echo I’ve become obsessed with getting it to do things it wasn’t designed to do. My latest goal is to get it to boot-up my computer when I ask it to and to flash the lights in my son’s room when an alarm goes off. I guess that’s better than using it to send text messages to the slack room where everyone at Polygon works. There’s something wrong with me.


Let me know what you think, if you want more of something or less of something and I’ll keep it in mind for next week.

 

 

The video game beat

Video game journalism is, as I love to say, journalism. But it’s also a beat. That means a specific area of coverage that brings with it its own set of issues, its own field of knowledge and, yes, its own sort of journalistic quandaries.

In this video we talk about that, a bit about GamerGate, and edit mentee Andrea’s news story.

That’s it for this week. You can check out all of the mentorship stories and videos right here.

The importance of previews

This week’s New York Comic-Con means I won’t be able to do a video with Andrea this week for the video game journalism mentorship. We’re still working through her take on the fish piracy story, but I wanted to try and put something up for those of you not in the program, but following along.

Given that this week is packed with preview events, I figured it would be a good idea to walk people through my advice on covering a preview.

In some ways, the gameplay is the least important aspect of a preview. I treat it like I do anything that involves going to cover something, it’s important color, something that can help inform the story and put the reader in the experience, but it’s not the story.

Previews are inherently news events, events created by developers and publishers to impart new information about a game to reporters, typically with a strong time peg. As with interviews and other news events, you should go to these events prepared with not only an understanding of what has already been reported on the game, but also what angles you might explore.

While a reporter may come away from an event with an opinion about the current state of a game and its future potential, they should also leave with a solid idea of what new information came to light during the event through gameplay and interviews. The news story or stories that come out of these events should clearly explain to readers what new information came to light, what the game’s current state is and what you personally found interesting. Interviews at the event that push deeper into those new elements, or other interesting angles, will go a long way in helping preview coverage stand out.

The best sort of story from one of these events has a solid hook or angle that pursues and explains that new information and provides color and light opinion through immersive gameplay explanation. The right balance will lean more heavily toward the news, but remembers to place the reader in the game at some point.

Here are a couple of examples of straight preview events that lead to interesting stories:

Max Payne is a character study shaped by addiction and violence

A video game about mass surveillance in the age of big brother and little brothers

The point is that as a reporter you’re not there to write the story public relations or developers want you to write, you’re there to find what’s interesting, to report it out and then to write it for an audience of passionate gamers who want more than anything else to be intellectually stimulated, engrossed, informed.

The notion of writing a preview that tells you what the buttons do, what the graphics look like, what the new game mechanic is, is and should be dead. Those are all bits and pieces that can and should be weaved into your bigger story: How did the game make you feel? What is important about this game? What sets it apart?

Previews aren’t dead, but previews as early reviews are. Game coverage shouldn’t stop with a game’s release, but it shouldn’t start with it either.

How to write a basic news story and not confuse everyone

Week three and four of my game journalism mentorship is all about putting some of what we’ve learned to use. So Andrea was assigned a story, put together some questions, did an interview and then we sat down to discuss angles and the basics of news story structure in this video.

I’ll write up some of what I went over in the video, below the embed.

The Inverted Pyramid

The ancient Mesopotamians built pyramids for their gods, the Egyptians built them for their god-kings and journalists build inverted pyramids for their readers.

😀

The idea of the inverted pyramid was born out of the need to make stories easy to quickly cut. Laying out a paper on deadline, an editor or layout artist could simply cut from the bottom up to fit a story into a particular space. The inverted pyramid format ensured nothing important would be lost.

Fortunately, websites don’t have the same constraints as print, but our readers are still as impatient, as easily distracted, as unwilling at times to read to the end. So we still follow the inverted pyramid structure.

How’s it work? Simple. A story needs to be constructed with the most important information at top, followed by details for the story, followed by general information and background. Think of it as digging down into a story.

The whole thing should be topped with a “summary lede,” which is another way of saying, essentially, a conclusion.

Ex:

Linda Boreman, who starred as Linda Lovelace in the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat, died Monday from injuries she suffered in a Douglas County car crash earlier this month.

Boreman, 53, was injured April 3 near Highlands Ranch and taken to Denver Health Medical Center. She was taken off life support and died about 3 p.m. Monday, said her daughter, Lindsay Marchiano.

“I want her to be remembered not as L.L., but as Linda Boreman, as herself,” she said.

The April 3 crash happened about 10 a.m. when Boreman’s Kia Sportage veered off the right side of eastbound C-470 between South University Boulevard and South Quebec Street. Her Kia hit a mile-marker post, then spun and rolled twice, throwing Boreman from the vehicle. She was not wearing a seat belt.

Colorado State Patrol investigators have not determined what caused the crash, but do not suspect alcohol or drugs were involved.

(This is just the top half of the story)

Further listening: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2011/05/20/dear-reader-introducing-world-premier-inverted-pyramid-song/

Further reading: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/chip-on-your-shoulder/12754/writing-from-the-top-down-pros-and-cons-of-the-inverted-pyramid/

Ledes

The lede is the first sentence or paragraph of your story. There are several styles that can be used. The one you need to learn first, and will use most, is the aforementioned summary lede.

The anecdotal lede is another approach, kicking off a story with a imaginative, eye-catching example, anecdote or description that fits with the story. There are also more complex ledes.

Straight lede ex:

Victor Brancaccio’s mother fainted and his grandmother had to be helped out of the courtroom in a wheelchair, but the man who angrily beat to death 81-year-old Mollie Mae Frazier in 1993 hardly reacted Friday as a jury declared him guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder.

Anecdotal lede ex:

Blank-faced, Sean Paul Hanify tries to explain.

When I’m hurting somebody, I want to see them.

I want to crash their skull.

And I want to get them with that knife.

And I like to hear the sounds of the pounding.

And I like to see the breathing when I’m killing them.

And when I’m killing somebody, I don’t care I’m killing them.

The words fill the silence of the Denver County Jail’s visitation room.

Hanify, 31, glances up at the Rocky Mountain News reporter he’s invited here to confess to killing as many as seven men. Police say it may be as many as eight. He has been charged with one murder and police are looking seriously at four others.

Complex lede ex:

Shack died amid the discarded cans and cigarette wrappers of Northwest Second Street, his bitten and bruised body lying in the knee-high weeds of a South Florida dirt alley.

Tossed into a fighting pit with a trained and vicious dog, the pet pit bull lasted only 15 minutes.

He was put there by Deroy Dawes, a 19-year-old who had found the dog wandering the streets of a coastal South Florida town a week earlier, police say.

After the April 4 fight, Dawes told police he washed the blood from the dog’s body, walked him to a nearby house and chained him to a backyard fence, where he died hours later.

Shack’s owner, Alonzo Austin, found him the same day and buried him where he lay. It was a week after Austin had reported the dog he had owned for three years missing.

“I couldn’t move him, I’d gone through so much,” Austin said. “For me to see my baby like that, it really hurt me.”

Police arrested Dawes April 27 on felony charges of fighting animals and animal cruelty, making him the first person in Palm Beach County to be charged in five years.

“He told us he fought Shack because he wanted to see what he could do,” said Liz Roerich, an animal control officer in Boynton Beach, a small coastal city between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. “It’s becoming fashionable for teens to have pit bulls and fight them.”

Further reading: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/journalism/isaacs/client_edit/Mencher.html

Nutgraph

This is the sentence or “graph” that explains why you’re writing the story, why readers should care, why now.

In traditional inverted pyramid news stories, the nutgraph is often also the lede. But some stories that use anecdotal ledes, or that tackle bigger, longer topics, have a secondary graph that is the nutgraph.

All news stories absolutely need a nutgraph.

Ex:

At first glance, Furtune Troni, clutching a bagel in one hand and a half-empty cup of McDonald’s orange drink in the other, acts like any other 10-year-old: staring at strangers from under her father’s elbow, playing with her braided hair, thoughtfully eating her food.

But on Sunday, when her father started talking about his family’s horrific 20-hour mountainous trek through Kosovo to the refugee camps in Macedonia, the slight girl ran from the room to vomit.

”Our children are very traumatized,” her father, Ilirjan Troni, explained later through a translator. ”They saw things that no child should have seen.”

Ilirjan Troni, his wife and their four children along with two other refugee families from the war-torn region spoke at a rally of 70 hushed and sometimes crying supporters Sunday in suburban Delray Beach.

(The nutgraph is the fourth graph.)

Further reading: http://michellerafter.com/2010/01/07/back-to-basics-the-nut-graph/

Brevity

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s also the soul of journalism.

Given the time, a writer should slowly walk through their stories and measure each and every word’s weight, judging it for its value and its use to a reader.

Or as a journalist would put it: Keep it short.

An educational facility is a school. A North American head of public and media relations is a spokesperson. “Has” is rarely needed before a verb.

After you are done writing, go back and see how much you can cut without changing the meaning.

This is especially true with ledes. Flowery, creative ledes are almost never as powerful as a short, punchy sentence.

Twitter is a great agent of brevity; practice your writing there. Try to get across complex thoughts without butchering the English language or breaking the Twitter character count.

Ex:

Melven Febres died twice Tuesday.

Mopsy has looked into the face of death, and it is whiskered.

Gary Robinson died hungry.

When they heard the screams, no one suspected the rooster.

Further reading:

The corpse had a familiar face by Edna Buchanan

 

Strunk and White, aka The Elements of Style, aka The Journalist’s Bible.

http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/chip-on-your-shoulder/10589/the-power-of-brevity/

http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/94055/25-non-random-things-about-writing-short/

A bit of advice

There are plenty of tricks you can use to shorten your ledes and make your stories more easily comprehensible.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Tell a friend: Are you struggling to come up with your lede or summarize your story? Try talking to a friend, a cat, yourself about the story. People naturally summarize when they talk about subjects. What you find impossible to condense in writing you will do automatically when speaking. (I used to call my wife up on deadline at midnight and tell her about the most gruesome murders, car crashes and fires. )

Say it, don’t just type it: When you’re done writing, after you’ve read through and copyedited your own work, take a minute to read it aloud. I don’t mean in your head; I mean as if you’re on a stage, speaking lines to an audience. And read what you wrote, not what you meant to write. You’ll find yourself stumbling over poorly crafted sentences, confused comma splices and misspellings. It’s amazing how much better your writing becomes when you write it to be read aloud. If you find yourself running out of breath in one sentence, it’s probably too long. (When I first started working from home, my wife thought I spent much of my days on the phone with people, until she discovered I was reading my stories to myself.)

Art and science: All of these rules are guidelines. You absolutely need to master these skills and know how to write a summary lede, a nutgrapaph, a “straight” news story. Once you do, then you can start poking at the borders that seem to separate a hard news story from a feature. There’s a reason that a journalism degree is a bachelor of arts at some universities and a bachelor of science at others; good journalism blends both.

Read and write: Not just for work, but for fun. Never stop learning, never stop being inspired by the talent of other’s work.

That’s it for this week. You can check out all of the mentorship stories and videos right here.