Angus Kidman, Editor of Lifehacker Australia reminded me that today was April Fools' day and I groaned. Audibly.
No. Don’t do it. Think twice.
Think twice before you write that headline. Think twice before you hit publish. Think twice before creating that fake ‘news’ story. Think twice before developing some elaborate ruse for the ‘epic lols’. Yes, it’s April 1. I get it. Who gives a shit? April Fools' jokes in games media stopped being funny after I spent weeks trying to unlock Sheng Long in Street Fighter II and it hasn’t been funny since.
I know what’s coming. I know that today, and possibly into the April 2 as a result of the US time difference, I should expect literal, actual lies on the homepage of video game websites. I should expect it and tolerate it. I should be on my guard.
What a day. What a weird day. A day in which the media is not only allowed to test the boundaries of trust with its readership, but is actively encouraged to invent news. To try and mislead its audience instead of informing it.
It’s funny? Is that the point? Well, obviously that’s the point, but is that funny? To lie to your readership? I’m certain there have been well put together, funny April Fools' jokes on video game websites but, at this precise moment I’m struggling to think of one.
It’s a strange balance. If the fake-news in question is too real, it’s probably not funny. It’s probably too close to the bone to be good for a laugh. If I were to report – a story fabricated out of thin air -- that EA was planning to publish Titanfall on the PlayStation 4 would that be funny? Probably not. If I were to report that and later say, ‘April Fools you goddamn idiots’ – would that be funny? Of course not.
If I were to report that Optimus Prime was going to be made available as a playable Titan in Titanfall, would that be funny? I guess maybe, but the hilarity of that joke would be completely dependent on a certain subset of your audience being actually misled by Kotaku Australia, a news outlet it should be able to trust.
The balance is delicate. 95% of April Fools stories simply aren’t worth the effort. They’re either way too silly to be realistic and, hence, fool no-one, or they mislead your audience, and that’s just shit. I’m not in the business of trying to mislead my audience and I don’t think anyone should be.
Sure, I’m being a killjoy. Yes, I’m on my proverbial high horse, but I’d like you to know that today Kotaku Australia will be an April Fools free zone. There will be no bullshit. No invented stories. No made up news for our own self-indulgent amusement.
I hate to be the party pooper, but today it will be business as usual.