I bought a Switch during the first lockdown last year and have enjoyed getting back into playing video games again, something I hadn’t done regularly for around 20 years. One of my first questions was “where is all the good writing about games?” That was answered by sites such as Critical Distance
, which is excellent at curating the best of the more serious articles and critiques each week. Another that I found quickly was Nintendo Life
. On the plus side, their reviews and features are generally excellent: their contributors are increasingly diverse and as a group they write well about the broader gaming industry and its culture (both of which are absolutely poisonous
Where the site falls down is the constant stream of lesser-quality news stories and the exhortations of “Let’s hear your comments down below” that accompany each one. The site relies on advertising revenue and these tactics are in place to increase the number of page views. You do not, in most cases, want to read the comments section. The lower-wattage readers take this instruction very literally and there are a large number of poor quality contributions. Ask an idiot to vomit their opinion and they will. (I’m reminded of an early Frasier episode. Frasier: “Have you ever had an unexpressed thought?” Niles: “I’m having one now.”)
This reaches a crescendo whenever any staff write about representation. The comments are full of sealioning
and logical fallacies
and general culture war bullshit. There is some pushback, but this merely entrenches opinions among the smoothbrains. The excellent Kate Gray
wrote a round-up of the best LGBTQ+ games
on the system; the awful responses meant that the comment section on the piece was closed the next day. (It’s since been reopened.) Kerry Brunskill
wrote a piece about Super Metroid
and the joy of playing a game in 1994 that had a female protagonist. Comments were closed and again they only reopened once the incels had something else to complain about. Henry Stockdale
wrote about how diversity and representation in games is (slowly) improving
. At the time of writing this newsletter, the comments section remains closed.
These three articles were all posted in the time since I last sent a newsletter and it is as depressing as it is unsurprising that this is still happening. Everyone knows that it is rare to see an enlightened comment section on any site; the combination of angry man-children that frequent games sites and the relentless pursuit of pageviews through solicitation of opinion isn’t going to change anything.
: another gaming site, Kotaku, has a new editor in chief, Patricia Hernandez. Her introductory piece
outlines what she thinks a gaming site should be, so of course the top comment begins “If you want your website to be more inclusive, shouldn’t you also take into account more conservative views? Shouldn’t you build bridges rather than ostracize people who may not fall as far left of the spectrum as you?” I mean really. Meanwhile one of the better science blogs
has drastically changed its comments policy due to abuse and misinformation from COVID deniers. This is why we can’t have nice things, and so on.