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PressSpotting: Bias or no bias? "This article is awful! The author is so biased!"It's a quote that should be familiar to anyone who's ever read a comment thread on a major video game Web site. The accusation can apply to a review (which is, by definition, supposed to be biased in one direction or another), a news story (which, theoretically, should be free from any undue bias), or, really, any piece that the commenter doesn't personally agree with. The implication, of course, is that the author is being unfairly swayed by some unseen factor (money, swag, advertising pressure, or even simple personal preference) and that therefore their reporting or opinion shouldn't even be considered.While throwing up an anonymous accusation of bias is easy, answering the charge isn't always so clear-cut. When I put the question of biased coverage to members of the gaming press, the answers ran the gamut."I think people are inevitably biased, and the best thing to do is just admit your preconceptions up front," said Wired Magazine's Chris Baker. "I ... think that journalists covering games tend to get caught up in the horserace, just as journalists covering political campaigns do. Every game is evaluated not just on its own merits but based on what has come before in the console wars." Many others agreed that subtle biases get introduced into gaming coverage for a variety of reasons. "Game press tends to go with the flow," said freelancer Matthew Sakey, "so if a trend of antagonism toward one platform begins, we often see it carried along by a sort of mob mentality."Some blamed the hype-fueled expectations of the gamers themselves for putting undue influence on journalists. "In a sense, this is what happened with Halo 2 and certainly with Halo 3," said The Denver Post's Dave Thomas. "I don't know a single game critic who would put either of those titles on their top 10 greatest games. But the gaming community wanted those games so bad, was so excited about them, that not only were you sort of strong armed into covering them, it also blunted your critical edge. ... It is an interesting case study in how fan enthusiasm creates something that looks like bias."Of course, most journalists wouldn't admit to any personal bias in their own writing, when asked directly. Many echoed the sentiments of freelancer Kieron Gillen: "I view all the console manufacturers with about equal suspicion, and don't have an illusion that one corporation that exists to make a lot of money is somehow better than another one." Others followed the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News' Chris Mautner in insisting they were "more concerned about the individual artistic merits of a particular game" than the fate of a particular console.There were a few journalists, though, who were surprisingly upfront and unapologetic about their personal system preferences. "Having owned all three consoles ... I felt that as a gamer, the PlayStation 3 offered much more of what I liked," said Epileptic Gaming cohost Robert Summa. "Our viewers know which systems the cast prefers and to some extent, we actually play up on that. I don't necessarily dislike any of the other consoles, in fact I think each of them brings something important to the industry in their own rights. ... As I tell my viewers: 'I'm not a fanboy. I'm just a fanboy of the best system.'"Not every journalist is on the Sony side of the fence, of course. "I don't like the PS3 and I don't have any desire to own one until the price drops considerably," admitted Gaming Target Managing Editor John Scalzo. "I'm a little sad to say that I sometimes get a little overzealous in reporting about the PS3's troubles compared to the other two consoles. But I'm not sure I see this as a problem because everything I'm reporting on as a PS3 problem is a verifiable fact. The games are being delayed. Developers are complaining about the development tools. The system isn't selling well. And it is too expensive."Scalzo's comments reflect what many saw as a widespread anti-Sony angle that infected much of the coverage following the PS3's launch. "I do think the press on the whole came out of the 'next-gen' gate with an angle against the PS3," said freelancer Tim Stevens. "After all of Sony's puffed chest proclamations of their complete dominance, and given how badly the company's initial E3 fanfare for the console backfired ... how could you not shake your head in bemusement at least a little at the immense cockiness the company's executives were exhibiting?" Others saw the anti-PS3 backlash as a simple reflection of the feelings of gamers as a whole. "I think the EGM cover with the tomatoes all over the machine was a gutsy move and expressed a feeling that was almost palpable among gamers and journalists alike," said venerable game journalist Bill Kunkel.Nintendo's Wii, on the other hand, is generally seen as getting an easier ride from the press on its way out of the gate, an attitude some say was all about expectations. "I think the general press reaction was based on surprise," Sakey said. "In 2005, my own opinion of the then-Revolution console was that Nintendo considered it an afterthought, something they 'needed' to produce to stay in the game, nothing but a distant second to the DS. I suspect many members of the press felt similarly until the control scheme was unveiled, and even then it wasn't until we saw early titles in action that the press was convinced." Of course, the system's low cost and stratospheric sales were bound to have an effect on coverage. "When they put out a system that was reasonably priced and included a great piece of software, how could they NOT look good?" Kunkel asked rhetorically. "I don't expect this to change because who argues with success?"These initial takes on the systems may be changing with time, according to many journalists, a trend that Sakey blames on changing facts on the ground rather than shifting biases. "I do think the press is losing patience with the fact that while the Wii may be revolutionary from a control perspective, but that you can count the number of really important games for the platform on one of Bart Simpson's hands," Sakey said. "Similarly, I think the PS3 is out of jail and will receive more complimentary coverage in 2008, especially if Sony is savvy when it comes to price cuts." Stevens similarly sees the press softening to the PS3, and thinks that "most of the media now seem to be hoping for a come from behind victory for the console." Of course, the change in tone might come too late to change the initial impressions of each system. "The steady barrage of '2008 is the Year of the PS3' and 'the Wii is just a fad' articles are increasing all the time," Scalzo said, "but neither seems to have any effect on how those two systems are perceived by the public."In the end, while coverage may occasionally be colored by personal opinion, most journalists try to be fair and balanced in their coverage of the never-ending console wars. "I think most of the people working in this business understand that there's nothing to gain from playing favorites," said Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann. "All these supposed payoffs that we're all getting to fix review scores at major outlets don't actually exist--at least, not in North America. ... Most of the people in this line of work spend their work hours surrounded by every console and a game-ready PC. Unless they're sleeping with PR people or something ... no one has any real reason to develop a bias in the first place."
sorry, the link is to gamespot so i'm not allowed to click it and give them a unique hit. copy and paste?
Quote from: Turambar on June 07, 2008, 05:19:42 pmsorry, the link is to gamespot so i'm not allowed to click it and give them a unique hit. copy and paste?huh?
Quote from: Ashrak on June 08, 2008, 03:14:23 amQuote from: Turambar on June 07, 2008, 05:19:42 pmsorry, the link is to gamespot so i'm not allowed to click it and give them a unique hit. copy and paste?bingo.seriously, **** their ad revenuehuh?He doesn't want to risk giving them a penny in ad revenue.
Quote from: Turambar on June 07, 2008, 05:19:42 pmsorry, the link is to gamespot so i'm not allowed to click it and give them a unique hit. copy and paste?bingo.seriously, **** their ad revenuehuh?
What exactly are they trying to say, anyway? It seems to me like a nice, honest, declaration that nobody is perfect.
Too many games are rated by how pretty they are.
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