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Embarrassing truths about games are still truths

Embarrassing truths about games are still truths

Hello. My name is Gavin and I am a games journalist. I mainly write for PLAY magazine (the UK PlayStation one, not the US multi-format one), which includes writing a blog every day on Play-Mag.co.uk. Like this one.

A lot of my blogs are about sexy female game characters – most of the really popular ones anyway. This has opened me up to a lot of criticism, not all of it fair.

Last week, I posted a blog called ‘Top 10 side-boobs in games’, which has brought more traffic to the site than any other post in its history, and would have got more, had our servers not reacted to the massive spike in traffic by shutting themselves down. It seemed to me I was onto a good thing there, so the next day I posted a blog called ‘Top 10 under-boobs in games’.

Now, this one caught the notice of some other games journalists who posted links to it on their Twittter feeds, which was nice, along with some negative comments. Now, most of the comments were reasonably good humoured, but some weren’t. I won’t name any names because it’s unprofessional for one games journalist to openly and directly criticise another.

The first criticism, one I hear more than any other, was that I post these blogs to get hits. How is this even a criticism? I’m tasked with generating traffic for this site by my employer and I do. That is the bottom line and the #1 priority, and I’m not about to deny it. Whatever I say in the rest of this post, don’t think I’m claiming that anything is more important than the numbers. Still, that doesn’t mean numbers are everything.

The general gist of the remaining criticism was that I should not post these kinds of blogs as they are harmful and misrepresentative in some way. Did I misrepresent gamers as being interested in boobs? No, I did not. They are. Did I misrepresent the games industry as being ready and willing to cash-in on gamers’ interest in boobs? No, I did not. It is.

I was also accused of perpetuating the stereotype that gamers are all horny teenage boys. If you think that only horny teenage boys are interested in boobs, then it is you that is stereotyping.

Most of the traffic for the side-boobs piece came from BioWare’s Facebook feeds, which means it’s possible to see the names and faces of the 2,951 people who said they liked it. Sure, there are a lot of young males in there, but overall it’s a diverse range of people who presumably have a diverse range of reasons for liking the piece.

So, don’t lecture me on there being more to games and gamers than boobs, if you’ve failed to recognise that there’s more to boobs than horny teenage boys.

The argument that gaming is a diverse and varied culture is an argument for posting a variety of articles. It is not an argument against posting articles with popular appeal – articles that represent the core and the mainstream of gaming, even if it is a little bit embarrassing sometimes.

I’d argue that, far from being misrepresentative of gaming, pieces about side-boobs and under-boobs are about as true a representation of it as you can get. To claim otherwise sounds like wishful thinking to me.

Which is what is really going on when people criticise my articles – they’re embarrassed by what they see and their criticisms are an attempt to distance themselves from it. What might surprise you is that most of the criticism is entirely welcome. Most of it expresses embarrassment and directs ridicule at these pieces, which is exactly what they deserve. If you actually bother to read them properly, you’ll notice plenty of embarrassment and ridicule within the pieces themselves. I only have a problem with criticism when it’s other games journalists making snarky remarks about it, implying that I’m a bad journalist.

As a journalist, I have some news…

Sex, violence, swearing and other types of crudity are our bread and butter. If you’re trying to pretend that they’re not, then you’re denying a fundamental truth, and that makes you a bad journalist.

Yes, I’m exploiting gamers’ interest in boobs, but I’m also exposing it, highlighting it, poking fun at it, calling it into question and opening up discussion on it. Don’t believe me? Follow these links…

http://www.facebook.com/DragonAgeOrigins
http://www.facebook.com/masseffect
http://www.facebook.com/BioWare

The side-boobs piece was successful because BioWare used it as a springboard for a community discussion on whether there’s too much or not enough of that kind of thing in its games. The general consensus seems to be the more side-boob, the more sophisticated and mature the experience.

Ahem…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of BioWare. But if you think a piece that lets those guys claim that the sex in their games reflects an increased maturity and sophistication in gaming without making any attempt to question or dispute that claim is better journalism than a piece that calls BioWare King Of The Side-Boob, then you don’t know what good journalism is.

Good journalism is, above all, about telling the truth. Yes, I might be exploiting the truth, but at least it is the truth.




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  • Pionir

    It has to be said that sometimes people deliberately (or ignorantly) miss the point in order to try and appear superior.

    Usually they just show their ignorance but if enough people listen it can form popular opinion or worse, move attention from the subject matter in question.

    I remember a film critic in *shock* the daily mail writing a ludicrous review of Starship Troopers in 1997, accusing it of being a Nazi film because of the fascist state portrayed within. Of course what he failed to realise ( or ignored) was that it was satire from a director who grew up in occupied Holland and was quite aware of how grim it was.

    I’m sure plenty of mail readers nodded and viewed never to see it.

    David

  • NRGuitarist

    Good article and argument man. I side with you on this hands down.

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  • Jack

    You’re not saying ALL gamers are interested in boobs?
    If you are then I won’t accuse you of stereotyping because I know you’re not. I will, however, call you very sad and horrible. Is that OK?

  • Gavin Mackenzie

    I am not saying all gamers are interested in boobs.

  • KeeperOfTheWord

    I’m purchasing the ‘TEAM GAVIN’ t-shirt on this one.

    People are blowing this all WAAAAAAAAY out of proportion and forgetting the difficulty of conveying context on the internet.

  • koppert79

    the thing that puts Play mag above many of the others is its great sense of character and humour in the magazine that creates its own identity. It doesn’t just write about games but embraces the culture as well. And we like Boobs. Who cares

  • Jake

    Not really sure what the issue is.. Your a journalist, your job is to write about what people want to read. The fact it got so many hits the severs went down obviously means your doing it well

  • Hmmm seems a bit blown out of proportion to be perfectly honest. to be honest I was sniggering more at the desperation of some game developers than Gavin himself. As much as I wish there were more Claire Redfield style characters than most of the female cast of the DOA series it doesnt stop me both playing and enjoying those games. Frankly this just comes across as a group desperate to seem superior.