Two weeks ago, the fans of this site got to look behind the curtain of the MMORPG news media and they didn’t like what they saw. Factual, admittedly heavy-hearted coverage led to the revocation of access. I’d hoped to move beyond that subject this week but, with my integrity called into question, I feel an explanation of the writing process is owed to our readers.
I can’t speak to what other sites do. I can only speak to what I do, and to what I’ve observed this site do. On the latter, I am in the exact same position you readers are. Contrary to popular myth we don’t sit around in low lit rooms smoking cigars made from the fat money we get to shill for big publishers. Rather, outside of my own writing, I ingest the content of this site exactly the same way any other reader does.
As a writer, when I sit down to write about a game, there is a lot on my mind. I don’t mean about the column at hand. Rather, I weigh what I am about to say and how it reflects upon the reputation of this website. I want my work to be entertaining for the readers, but still, maintain an air of professionalism. Above all else, I pursue honesty and maintain integrity. I may express opinions, but they come from my beliefs, ascertained by the observation of reality and I do my best to remove any emotions I harbor that may cloud that interpretation.
In the modern era, where even our leaders use social media like heartbroken teenagers that just got dumped, professionalism has come to be misunderstood. The difference between most of the gaming site’s I’ve read and sites like this one is holding opinions until the facts emerge versus stating what you think the facts will be even before they show themselves. The end result, while at times challenging, has more significance than you could imagine. If MMORPG went around trolling studios with a snarky Twitter account it may catch fire and translate to readers, but at what cost? We would lose our credibility and in the eyes of the studios and eventually, the readers and our voice would become meaningless.
Further complicating the issue, we would lose any access to exclusive or breaking content - the kind of content game news sites covet. You get that content one of two ways, quickly by being a shill and slowly by earning trust. Always protect your integrity above all else. I work by that and fortunately, MMORPG has never once asked me to compromise my values. Writing this right now is proof of it. The day they do would be the last day I write for them. You can tell yourself that is easy for me to say while currently employed, but then you would neglect to account for the columns I’ve done for free throughout the years.
The end result of such dedication to our integrity can’t be overstated. The coverage of MMORPGs isn’t a false narrative with bias intentions, rather its coverage of the actions of a game or studio. We don’t create that narrative, the studios do. They forge the reality of their game and we report what that reality is. “But everyone sees reality do they not?” While writers may offer a response to that reality that is unique to them, that response is based on a core fact. A studio hit beta, a studio missed beta, a studio fired people, a studio hired people. These are facts from which a columnist can pose questions and offer commentary but that commentary does not change the fact.
The very notion that MMORPG.com has a bias against specific games makes no sense when held to the realities of this site and how it functions as a business. MMORPG’s are a niche. MMORPG news sites make money, generally, from advertising. The more clicks we get, the more money is made. This isn’t a secret. Now, if you are a news site, and there is no news, you will quickly be out of business. This is especially a problem when you consider how few MMORPG’s are in development. The more MMORPG’s, the more players, the more news content there is, the better sites like this one do. It goes against any and all logic to wish any game to fail. Good news for games is good news for us. If anything, bad news for games is bad news for us. While we could ignore it we report it ahead of our best interests and we do it to maintain that integrity I keep mentioning.
Now you might be saying but Tim, you just made a clear case for how compromised you are! Your best interests align with the studios’ best interests! You even hide behind the guise of professionalism to protect your cozy relationships in exchange for the crumbs of exclusivity! Parasites! All of you!
If you read everything I said, and that is your conclusion, then you arrived at this destination before you clicked the intentionally click bait title. I didn’t write this to change your mind, I never could. I wrote this to let all of our readers pull that curtain back even further. When faced with the charge of hiding something, I showed you more and I didn’t have to. I chose to. I didn’t do it for clicks, I did it because my integrity and the integrity of this site were called into question and I felt the need to clarify how baseless such accusations are.
Under the above circumstance of a fake news site utilizing FUD Marketing for clicks, there are two things of note. Number one, that isn’t sustainable. Eventually, you will become so isolated even your dedicated readers will leave you. It may take years but, as cynical as I’ve become, I have to believe that eventually, you will fail. Two, I agree with the studios revoking access in those cases.
Where I take issue is when access is taken for reporting reality. If a reputable site is simply stating the facts of a game, and the studio takes issue with those facts, then it is a self-admission that those decisions were poorly made. We don’t break promises, we simply report they have been broken. We don’t miss deadlines, we simply report when they have been missed. We don't control the facts of a game, the studio does. If your actions are such that you don’t want news sites to report them, why did you take them?