For the past few weeks, a lot of people have been asking me about “objectivity,” mostly thanks to a contextless tweet that has been circulating among the GamerGate crowd for quite some time now.

I know what you’re thinking: “GamerGate? Taking things out of context? NO.” But here we are. Take a look at the tweet in question:

Your personal reaction to this tweet will likely depend on your personal definition of objectivity, especially with regard to how it applies to journalism. Ask ten different people for a proper explanation of “objectivity” and they will give you 40 different answers. To one reader, “objectivity” might equate to fairness; to another it might mean that a reporter must refuse to let their personal biases influence how they write or talk about a given subject. To others, being objective means keeping opinions out of reviewing and reporting.

Dictionary definitions are equally messy. Here’s what Dictionary.com says: “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.” And here’s Merriam-Webster: “lack of favoritism toward one side or another.”

There’s not a lot of consistency here, and those official definitions are not particularly helpful when asking how “objectivity” applies to reviewing and reporting on video games. So come enter the realm of inside baseball and please do indulge me while I explain what I mean when I talk about this stuff.

Let’s go with that first definition. “Not influenced by personal feelings.” So when I say that objectivity is a silly thing to strive for, what I mean is that there is no such thing as reporting or reviewing that is not influenced by a writer’s personal biases and feelings.

Every — and I do mean every — piece of writing is affected by subjective thoughts, from the number of quotes to the structure of the sentences. When a reporter chooses who to interview or how to excerpt what they have said, that’s subjective. The structure of a story? That’s subjective, too. The journalist who writes “Dog Bites Man” and the one who writes “Man Bitten By Dog” are each influenced by all sorts of biases both blatant and subtle. (The latter might need to draw a little more influence from, uh, good writers.)

Even the simple act of presenting basic news about video games is a process impacted by all sorts of little factors. Say EA announces a whole bunch of details on the new Star Wars: Battlefront including release date, platforms, and specific features. (Multiplayer-only! 40 players max! New maps!) Say you have to write about this. Of course, standard journalistic procedure dictates that while writing about this announcement, you’d put the most important information first. But deciding what’s “most important” is a subjective process. Is it the release date? The platforms? The fact that it won’t have a single-player campaign? Once you’ve decided, what goes next? What do you leave out? And how do you add value to your news story so it won’t read like a carbon copy of every other story, including EA’s own press release?

Because it is impossible to write anything without making those subjective decisions, it is impossible for any journalist to achieve any sort of objectivity. And it’s silly to pretend that we can make those decisions in a vacuum. Writing can and never will be free of outside influences. It’s too malleable.

So if not objectivity, then what? I think the two most important guiding principles for a journalist are A) honesty and B) fairness. The first one is pretty obvious — and it’s pretty easy not to lie, cut corners, or pretend to know something you don’t — but being honest doesn’t just mean writing truthful things. It also means being clear about your sourcing, providing proper context for all of your quotes, and, perhaps most importantly, finding the truth even if that means challenging sources and asking tough questions — actions that are unequivocally subjective. A reporter who echoes false information or lies under the guise of “objectivity” is failing to do his or her job.

Fairness is a little trickier, because the act of determining what is “fair” is also subjective, and it can never take priority to the truth. It’s certainly fair to ask all parties of a story for comment — and for any substantial or serious story that’s essential — but is it fair to give all of those comments equal weight? What if one party has done something wrong? What if one party is clearly lying? Is it fair for a reporter to say so? Should a journalist writing a story about gay marriage give equal space to those who are against it? When I found out last year that the game company Crytek had not paid its staff, and the company refused to comment, should I have refused to report the story because we only had one side? Sometimes reality can paint an unfair picture.

Still, a journalist’s responsibility is to be as open-minded and neutral as possible in pursuit of the truth, which is perhaps how some people define “objectivity.” If that’s your definition, then I’m all for it, although it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. It can be tempting, as a reporter, to come at a story with preconceived notions and shape the narrative a certain way whether or not you’ve actually figured out what really happened. Just ask the folks at Rolling Stone.

A quick note on game reviews: obviously the notion of a review uninfluenced by opinion is silly, and reviews are not very useful in a vacuum, without influence from outside factors. But those who call for “objective reviews” while really meaning “reviews that are not affected by the pressure of video game publishers and developers,” I sympathize. Your word choice could be better, but I’m with you.

It’s tough for people who have never done this job to understand the challenges and questions that reporters face, which might be why so many seem to think it’s an easy process. As a reporter in the wild, wonderful world of gaming, I have to wear a lot of different hats, and because of that, I wind up writing and reporting a lot of different types of stories, from quick news blasts and silly blog posts to big reviews and long investigative reports. There is never a one-size-fits-all approach for what we do. Some articles call for lighthearted opinion; others call for stone-cold stoicism. But none of them ever call for objectivity. They never could.


  • It’s impossible to be completely objective, because ultimately we’re human beings that are shaped by our past experiences, feelings, morals, values, friendships, alliances, etc.

    People tend to dis sites like Metacritic, but I find it useful because it’s a quick way to take a look at what various people are saying about the game – including users that are not paid for doing so, and then make up my own mind as to whether I want to play it or not.

    • Yes, I agree you can’t be 100% objective. But as a professional with experience, being able to analyse content should bring forth logical objectivity in regards to the story, aesthetic, themes and over all experience.

      So no, you can’t be 100% objective about taste, which is a large contributing factor to any review or article. Though one can try see it from another perspective, but it would be unreasonable to require it.

      However, you can, and should, be objective about the ideas and notions brought forth by games, movies, books and art or other media that most study, or at least learn, when becoming a media or art critic. Heck I even did, to some extent, in high school english.

      Edit, sorry for the length: I’ll give an example. I have studied film theory and writing while studying film. My brother, while studying games development (At uni and TAFE), has even learned about film theory, writing, editing, moods etc.

      If I were to review Mad Max 2, for example, I could say whether or not I liked the film, sure. But I would also be able to tell you that it is a Post Apocalyptic Ozploitation film. It’s filmed in a barren waste land (Which I could debate could be a type of purgatory as Max searches for ‘redemption’) and has many of the themes and motives of a western. Complete with bandits, a small town, a gruff anti-hero and a ‘train heist’.

      Because I know these things, I have a greater understanding of why they worked and didn’t work in Mad Max, and hence why I, personally did, or didn’t, like it. That’s the ‘ logical objectivity’ I’m talking about.

      The thing is, most games journalists don’t seem to study the theory behind stories, themes, motives, character development, etc. They write largely opinion pieces, grounded on nothing but personal taste, and then get defensive when people ask for objectivity.

      • No one said 100% objective. That would be impossible. But you can be objective in your writing. That is, present the information, acknowledge your own feelings and why:

        “This is an RTS game. I hated it. I always hate RTS games.”

        Schreier’s tweet is being targeted because it doesn’t really refer to the unattainable 100% objectivity. It quite simply means “100% objectivity is impossible, therefore why bother to try to be objective at all.”. This is in line with all of Kotaku’s writers and pieces. Clear bias and influence pandering to personal and/ or business relationships. Plenty of other sites and reviewers are now far more objective in their reviews than Kotaku even pretends or intends to be.

        At the least, this article skirts the issue and discusses the nature of objectivity, as an excuse for a tweet rather than an explanation of policy and how it is applied.

        • “100% objectivity is impossible, therefore why bother to try to be objective at all.”

          That’s my understanding of the situation as well, well put (Edit: That point in particular, I don’t really want to get into Kotaku’s ethics etc because that’s pure speculation.)

          • It’s easy to see how that tweet could have been misinterpreted. It is ambiguous. So is it any wonder that it blew up, especially with the GG crowd. It’s almost trolling for their reaction.

          • Yup. Though I do think that there are some GG supporters legitimately concerned about ethics, although they should probably try to distance themselves from the gamergate stigma.

            From the outside, it seems to me that gamergate is about two things, and should hence have two different banners so that the supporters stop clashing, trying to take the banner for ‘only’ their cause. (I know that’s a simplified outlook though.)

            I don’t really follow gamergate myself, but when ‘games journalism can never be objective’ comes up, I do like to share my thoughts on it.

          • It’s one of the reasons I’ve walked away from both sides of the argument. Frankly, the accusations and recriminations on both sides are simply laughable.

            You have the rabid side of reddit’s KIA; on the whole, that subreddit is an eclectic mix, but you have a lot of people with entrenched victim-mentality that GGers are being crucified by mainstream media. They are angry because no-one is listening to their point of view, and much of that has nothing to do with women in gaming or making threats and doxxing. Most there are just as outraged and anyone else and are angry because they get the blame for the actions of a bunch of idiots.

            Then you have GamerGhazi; they are just as big a set of trolls as those in GG that do the threat and doxxing. Never have I been banned from a subreddit for trying to inject commonsense and conciliation, but I was in Ghazi. They just don’t want a bar of it. They just want to attack GG for their own perverse reasons and play the “white knights”. What a joke.

            As a discussion, it’s just not worth it anymore. It’s no longer a discussion. It’s not even an argument. It’s become a religious war. It’s monkey’s in trenches throwing poo at each other. You only need to look at comments like http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/04/objectivity/comment-page-1/#comment-3310837 to see what I mean.

          • Pretty much. I don’t feel that either ‘ethics’ or ‘sexism’ concerns will gain traction under the GG banner because of the constant shit flinging that has happened (from both sides) because of a select few who couldn’t see that there very well ‘can be’ two separate issues in question. Or the third issue of the extremists bigots (And other sub groups I’m sure) who have latched onto the issue, giving it an even worse stigma.

            Edit: I think this is the last I’ll be saying about GG. I don’t really want to be brought into it TBH. My standing is: I take cation with any extreme view, and personally strive for equality and honesty in all things.

          • He claims it is taken out of context, but does not provide the context…

            He explains objectivity and yet does not explain how it relates to the tweet…

            Kotaku claim GG is dead and they won’t give it any more attention, yet consistently bring it up again and again.

            Its not deliberate trolling. Its pure clickbaiting. Both pro and anti GGers will click on this article.

          • Kotaku claim GG is dead and they won’t give it any more attention, yet consistently bring it up again and again.

            That’s because to some, GG is a great construct to point at and say “here be baddies”.

            And yeah … you’re right about the clickbaiting. I just think they are one and the same.

  • Are games art or a product? Sold as a product then yeah, objectively does it do what it’s meant to? Presented as art, any idiot trying to apply objectivity to art is missing the point entirely.

  • I just think that reading an article you get a good gauge on the author’s viewpoint on whatever’s being discussed, whether it a game or feminism. That’s fine. Being a journalist is all about putting your own spin on things as you see them.

    So if not objectivity, then what? I think the two most important guiding principles for a journalist are A) honesty and B) fairness. The first one is pretty obvious — and it’s pretty easy not to lie, cut corners, or pretend to know something you don’t — but being honest doesn’t just mean writing truthful things. It also means being clear about your sourcing, providing proper context for all of your quotes, and, perhaps most importantly, finding the truth even if that means challenging sources and asking tough questions — actions that are unequivocally subjective. A reporter who echoes false information or lies under the guise of “objectivity” is failing to do his or her job.

    What should be singled out as far as I’m concerned though is if the author has any personal connection to the subject matter. We as readers trust the writer to be honest about what they’re writing. If it’s found out there’s some outside influence to a review, say from backhand deals for favourable reviews or having a relationship with a developer, then that trust gets called into question and it has done, albeit in a manner which has led to a lot of unpleasantness.

    A quick note on game reviews: obviously the notion of a review uninfluenced by opinion is silly, and reviews are not very useful in a vacuum, without influence from outside factors. But those who call for “objective reviews” while really meaning “reviews that are not affected by the pressure of video game publishers and developers,” I sympathize. Your word choice could be better, but I’m with you.

    Good. Hopefully that’s what we see. It doesn’t really affect the Australian site though as Mark does a fantastic job of reviewing games and as far as I can tell, it’s all from what he perceives of the game and not what he’s being told to say by anyone in the industry. Basically, Serrells has that integrity whereas the American Kotaku writers, that integrity needs to be renewed for a lot of people

  • Even mainstream press isn’t objective anymore. Reporting is filtered by personal viewpoint or editorial direction.

    Which is why it’s important to read a number of different sites/reports/sources & form your own opinions.

    EDIT: When I say different… I mean different, not all right or left wing, with some dissent. Getting an echochambers worth is not helping yourself.

  • Objectivity and honesty are quite different things.

    I expect the reviews, articles etc. to be honest and open, not completely objective.

  • This whole post seems like a strange way to respond to criticism, frankly. Jason, you have some of the most unprofessional articles I’ve ever read here, you were roundly and rightly criticised for calling George Kamitani a 14 year old boy, fancied yourself a defender of women and an arbiter of what they should find offensive (as though they needed your help), argued that art shouldn’t exist if it happens to offend your personal sensitivities and other really basic failures.

    I noticed this though:

    The journalist who writes “Dog Bites Man” and the one who writes “Man Bitten By Dog” are each influenced by all sorts of biases both blatant and subtle. (The latter might need to draw a little more influence from, uh, good writers.)

    I’m pretty sure they teach you about active voice and passive voice in journalism courses, or even in intermediate high school English for that matter. You’re attributing ‘biases’ to things that are typically governed by style guidelines. It’s fairly well known in journalism that you generally write in passive voice because it’s more neutral, yet you clumsily criticise the passive voice example as needing to write better.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think you should maybe brush up on your own writing skills before criticising other people for theirs. It undermines your arguments to speak from a position of authority you don’t actually hold. And to be blunt, most of the other writers at Kotaku (and especially Kotaku AU) are more objective than you, so trying to drag them all down with you with that tweet was pretty stupid.

    • You said everything much better than I could have. I agree with what you said.

      “uh, good writers”. What a wanky thing to say.

    • It’s pretty obvious you don’t like Jason’s writing, so why keep reading his articles? And what gives you the right to tell someone else how they should or shouldn’t write?

      • I don’t like some of Jason’s past writing. I’m not going to know if I like his future writing until I read it. Are you suggesting Jason should be immune from criticism?

        When did I say what Jason should and shouldn’t write? Jason can write what he likes, but in the position he’s in, writing in a paid and public capacity for a website like this, there are reasonable expectations of journalistic and ethical behaviour, and an expectation of some level of professionalism.

        • That’s like saying “I didn’t like the stuff Andrew Bolt wrote previously, maybe I’ll like the next article he writes.” or “I don’t like Michael Bay movies. Better go see the next thing he puts out.”
          Anyone of reasonable intelligence can work out wether or not the style of a given artist, journalist, director, etc. is compatible with their own personal views or preferences. It’s not hard to figure out.

          When did you say what Jason should or shouldn’t write? With the paragraph about passive/active voices and “style guidelines”. Should Hunter S Thompson have refrained from gonzo journalism, just because there was no “style guideline” for it?

          • You’ve clearly misread or misinterpreted what was written.

            I said I don’t like some of Jason’s articles. I’m not going to stop reading Jason’s articles just because I don’t like some of them, that is not the behaviour of someone of ‘reasonable intelligence’. I didn’t like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, but I’m not stupid enough to stop watching Star Wars because of it, and I’m looking forward to the new movie.

            You’ve also misinterpreted my comment on active and passive voice, so I’ll simplify it for you. Jason implied that “man bitten by dog” is inferior to “dog bites man” and that someone who wrote the first sentence isn’t a good writer. Jason is apparently ignorant of what active and passive voice are, so I explained the difference. It’s not inferior writing, it’s a standard guideline at many news outlets. At no point in that paragraph did I say anything about how Jason should or shouldn’t write.

          • Of course you’re looking forward to the new Star Wars film. But would you be looking forward to it a little less if Lucas was involved? Of course; he’s got a horrible track record with the modern Star Wars films. Can you imagine what a Michael Bay directed Star Wars film would be like? Or a Tarantino directed one? You could easily imagine them, as those directors have their own styles to directing, just as writers have their own styles of writing, or musicians have their own style of making music. If you haven’t like previous Metallica albums, you wouldn’t rush out to get the next one, would you? And if you haven’t liked past articles, why would you expect to like future ones? That’s very close to the definition of insanity, as you’re basically repeating your actions and expecting different outcomes.

            And as for “standard guideline at many news outlets”, you must be talking about your years of experience working at many news outlets, right? After all, how else would you know what each of their standard guidelines are? Or are you just making stuff up, and are angry because someone wrote an article that doesn’t conform to your particular standard?

          • I only got a notice of this reply now, thanks Kotaku.

            I contracted as a technical writer a few years back, one of the tasks I was given involved researching style guides used by major academic and news publishers. You have a remarkably narrow view of how people can go about learning things if you think “work at a news outlet” is the only way to learn about how things happen at a news outlet. That’s the same kind of logic that creationists use to dismiss historical science because “you scientists weren’t there when it happened”.

            I’ve told you, what, three times now? I don’t judge all of someone’s work, some of which I liked, on the basis of some of it that I didn’t like. I feel sorry for people who function that way. It’s really not that hard a concept to wrap your head around.

          • Trying to revive a three-week old conversation? You should probably just let it go; I’m starting to feel a little sorry for you at this point.

          • @scruffy Can you read? I only got a notice about this reply yesterday. No wonder you can’t understand simple concepts if you can’t even understand basic sentences.

          • @zombiejesus
            Sure, whatever you say. If you want to bring up an old conversation, go for it. But I’ve got better things to do.

    • When the object of a sentence is more important than the subject then the passive voice is quite acceptable. For example “US President Targeted By Prank Caller” rather than “Prank Caller Targets US President”. In any case, writing is an art as much as it is a science, particularly in English, the most bastardised language in the world.

      In terms of objectivity, perhaps fairness is a better way to go when reporting news. If you cannot present both sides of a story, you should at least give each side the opportunity to be heard before reporting it. For example “Crytek declined to comment when contacted.” No-one expects both sides of the story to be given equal space in a news article, but anything relevant to an argument should at least be mentioned, if not elaborated upon, so as to enable the reader to form a complete picture of what is happening and what the participants’ relative positions are. If there is no polemic then obviously there is no need to fabricate a contrary position just to have a ‘fair’ portrayal.

      When one side of the news story is controversial, the recent Honey Badger incident in Calgary, for example, it is even more important to be fair if you want to appear unbiased. If you are going to comment on the merits of either the participants involved in the news story or the subject matter (e.g. moral issues) surrounding the story, it is important to make it clear to the reader that the article is an editorial or opinion piece, rather than a news story.

      Objectivity in games reviews could be described as approaching the game from a neutral standpoint, with no prejudgments and willing to review a game on its own merits. You should not mark a game up or down because of the genre of game it is, because of who made it or because of what platform it is (or isn’t) on. No-one should want to be known as ‘that reviewer who always gives COD games 10 out of 10’.

      I generally find Jason’s articles to be well-written and interesting. I think with this one he is being a bit too defensive.

      • I have mixed opinions on Jason’s articles, some are good and some are bad, but the ones that are bad I find to be particularly bad. It’s not uncommon to see articles with barely any text, or mostly images, or missing sources and links, but Jason is the only author I’ve seen here that crosses lines like directly insulting people in his articles.

        I agree with your view on objectivity. Of course reviews are going to be subjective to some extent and that’s expected, but what I imagine most people expect is that the commentary is unfettered by personal influences and biases. I don’t much like fighting games, for example, but I’m confident I could review the technical and artistic accomplishments of one without my personal feelings getting in the way. Jason has shown on at least a few occasions that he’s not always able to do that, but rather than acknowledge that as a flaw or failure, he tends to write “why should I be sorry” pieces, not unlike this one.

          • I’m trying to figure out if it’s wilful or accidental that you keep missing the point. The point in Sterling’s satirical review doesn’t have much to do with anything I’ve said. I already stated that subjectivity is normal and expected in reviews.

          • Sterling is satirising the view, which you appear to hold, that it’s both possible and desirable to write a review “unfettered by personal influence and biases”.

            And let me clarify: do you take the view that someone who does enjoy fighting games is well placed to write a review about fighting games? Would such a review be more or less objective than one written by someone who dislikes fighting games?

          • Sterling is satirising the notion of pure objectivity by “now re-reviewing a game in a manner that completely negates subjective and personal thought”. Neither of those things are things I want kept out of reviews. I have no problem with subjectivity and personal thought, I have a problem with personal biases affecting a review.

            I’m of the view that while reviewers who like or dislike a genre can give an equally neutral review, a reviewer who likes the genre is more likely to be more familiar with it and better able to cover the things people want to hear about. I don’t think it’s black and white, I think a good reviewer can review games from genres they dislike just fine as long as they’re fluent in it. There’s no assurance that a review is going to be more or less objective based on whether the reviewer likes or dislikes the genre, just a general trend.

            Aside from fighting games, another example might be the 2D retro/pixel art style. I’m sick of that style, personally, but I believe I can still give a good assessment of the visual quality, attention to detail and overall cohesiveness of a game’s visual style even if I don’t much like it on a personal taste level. The fact I’m tired of retro graphics doesn’t actually have anything to do with how good the game is, or how well made it is, so it doesn’t really have a place in a review. I mentioned somewhere else in this thread, the review should always be about the game, not a soapbox for the reviewer.

            If I don’t feel like I can do that, I would be recusing myself from reviewing. I have very strong political sentiments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I don’t feel like I’d give a fair review to an Israeli-made game, so I wouldn’t try. That wouldn’t be fair to the readers, nor to the developers of the game.

          • Why would the observation that a genre has been overdone be something to exclude from a review? That’s an observation that at present is fairly commonly made by film critics in relation to the current abundance of superhero films, just to take one example. To take another, many reviews of the last couple of Assassin’s Creed games have noted that they’re drinking heavily from the same well as their predecessors. Is that not a legitimate observation to make? The reader may agree or disagree with the reviewer’s conclusion on the point of course, but I submit it’s still relevant.

            To ask that a review be limited to the technical merits of a piece of work only is to ignore the contexts in which the work exists.

          • @spanner Commenting on repetition or flooded genres is fine. The example I gave was on the basis of it not being to my personal taste, not on the basis of it being overdone. I also personally don’t like rap music but I wouldn’t want that to affect my review of a game that includes rap music as its soundtrack. If the music was bad or poorly integrated into the rest of the game then that bears mentioning (as it would if it was quality music, well integrated into the experience), but “The soundtrack sucks because I don’t like rap” is useless information.

            (Edit: As an aside, I really didn’t like the musical score in Samurai Champloo, but it was still a great series and if I were to write a review of it, I would be complimenting the musical score for being used well and fitting the scenes and story, there would probably be no mention that I don’t like that genre of music.)

            I don’t expect context to be ignored, I expect personal biases to be left out.

    • Yeah, ‘that’s what style guides are for’ was my first thought when reading that section, too.

      But that’s something they teach in journalism school, something the average reader isn’t going to be aware of. It may not be a strong point if it were used in the context of a traditional media outlet aiming for neutral tone or passive voice and protection from bias lawsuits, but it is illustrative of a process. One which may actually be appropriate for the ‘new media’.
      I think that’s useful.

      I mean, in the context of sites like Kotaku? I’ve never considered it a ‘hard news’ site as much as a gaming-culture blog. The ‘new media’ paradigm is a conversational one, complete with its inherent bias. Celebrated for it, even. I really don’t think passive voice is what the intended audience is looking for. Especially not when it comes to reviews.

      That’s certainly not protection from the crticisms you point out in your opening paragraph, but softens any criticism I might’ve had about exempting themselves from basic industry standards that journalism students are familiar with, such as style guides.

      Re: the elephant in the room:

      I’m not a fan of people appropriating ‘objectivity’ as shorthand for their real concerns for fear of being seen as politically incorrect.
      It’s fine to complain, “I’m concerned about a writer receiving money/preferential treatment/sex from the people I’m trusting them to give me critical information about,” even if it is thinly-veiled criticism of someone daring to show they stand on an opposing side of a political divide.

      But once that issue is addressed (or isn’t addressed, and you write them off and move on), it just seems disingenuous or ignorant at best to continue to raise those concerns under the banner of ‘objectivity’ which not only (ironically) relates to far more narrow and specific definitions than many might believe, but also isn’t necessarily appropriate in the context of a conversational gaming news blog. At best, it’s lazy – pick a better word. English has loads of them. At worst, it’s a deliberate attempt to paint a cause as more noble by marching under a more laudable label.

      Whatever else I think or don’t think about the author’s writing, I’m a fan of this article at least for spotlighting the process and clarifying which definitions of ‘objectivity’ are worth lending any weight to in the context of game-reviews.

      • I’m not saying Jason should or shouldn’t use any writing style, Kotaku is free to use any style they like, or none at all. I’m simply saying that criticising one style as inferior in the way he did is ignorant of why these different styles exist in the first place. I agree with you that Kotaku isn’t and has never been anything but a lightweight conversational media outlet.

        I don’t know what in particular triggered this article, so I can’t say if any recent criticism of Jason’s writing is to blame. I can say that I’ve been particularly disappointed by a pronounced lack of objectivity and neutrality from Jason in some of his past articles.

        • Probably triggered by some people paying WAY too much fucking attention to people on Twitter who hold opposed political viewpoints to them. Seems to be the trigger behind ANY Internet bitch-fit these days.

          • Ah, the Internet. A place where you can’t simply say hello to someone without inevitably getting accused of racism because you didn’t say aloha, bonjour, salam, namaste or some other shit instead.

          • Ooh! My favourite storm in a tea cup that comes up every now and again: Christians (well, Americans) wanting to substitute the word ‘hello’, because ‘hell’ is offensive to them. It’s not just the internet, dude, stupidity is everywhere…

    • News is written in active voice as is most formal prose. Passive voice is more often saved for scientific journals.

      • The example on correct voice a friend of mine was taught during her journalism course was it’s always “Man hit by car”, never “Car hits man”. Definitely agree with you that scientific writing is almost exclusively in passive voice, also for neutrality reasons – it’s the job of these types of writing to observe and record what happens, and active voice tends to imply a more interactive role, even if that’s not the intention.

        • I can only speak from my experience as a journo not your friend’s, but active voice was drilled into me at uni (having come from a science background it was more difficult than I expected) and when I slip up now and default to passive voice the subs end up re-configuring it to active voice.

          Passive voice is considered sterile and uninteresting except for the odd occasions where it subjectively reads better. The Fairfax and News Ltd style guides both say to avoid passive voice unless it is putting the most interesting information first.

          Of course I only write about sportsball so what would I know?

    • Blah blah censorship boogeyman blah blah! Games are art, but when I say art I don’t mean like novels and paintings and plays that are regularly and routinely subject to criticism as a normal part of their existence as works of art!

      Schreier’s original article on Dragon’s Crown was a pithy critique of its juvenile sexual fantasy art direction (of the type that you would expect of a film critic had such imagery been presented in a film, for example):


      To which the artist responded with casual homophobia:


      Apologies were issued on both sides to cool tensions and then the original critique was expanded upon:


      This part of a broader landscape of review and critique of the game, with various authors taking both positive and negative spins on the game:


      And of course then came the demands for ‘objectivity’ in the coverage of the game.

      • I’m well aware of how the sequence of events went, if you change those Kotaku links to Kotaku AU you’ll see I posted in some of them. Jason’s original comment was a personal attack, plain and simple, something that has no place in even Gawker levels of journalism. Kamitani’s response was similarly childish.

        I haven’t said anything about censorship here so I’m not sure why you mentioned it. I did make one passing comment on censorship in the followup article, but the gist of my argument was that it’s not the artist’s fault for making art you don’t personally like, and you don’t fix perceived imbalances in artistic representation by attacking and insulting artists who make art you don’t like, you do it by encouraging artists to make more art you do like. Negativity doesn’t change things nearly as well as positivity does – as the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

        • Besides, there’s something that’s just pure bullshit about the attitude of, “There isn’t as much stuff around as I like, my solution is that you should have less of the stuff you like and feel bad for liking it.”

          That’s the kind of over-the-top juvenile bullshit I lampoon when I call people monsters for liking pineapple on their pizzas and demanding that it shouldn’t exist.

  • The idiom ‘without fear or favour’ is the important one IMO.
    It best summarizes the “objectivity” that I want to see out of a games writer.

    Games are a form of entertainment. They aren’t a matter of life or death.
    The most important criteria that a game needs to meet is that the player finds it enjoyable. That’s about as difficult to quantify objectively as possible.

    Look at Bloodborne for example: some people love it, some people hate it…. Both agreements can be made and both are equally valid.
    As long as there is no fear (“I won’t look like a true gamer if I admit that I find this game frustrating”) or favour (“I won’t get special access to Bloodborne 2 if I slag this game”) then I’m happy.

  • As I mentioned previously on an article where some reviewer refused to cover Titan Souls because he’d had a spat with the dev and therefore couldn’t remain objective… objectivity in something as inherently subjective as video games is a joke.

    Look at the structure of reviews (‘what I liked about the game, what I didn’t like, overall feelings towards the game’). The only things you can objectively review about the game are the system requirements, performance and cost. Numbers. As soon as you start commenting on presentation, gameplay, structure, etc. you venture into subjective territory, because while you might love the open-world storytelling, maybe I hated it. Your ‘infuriating and game-breaking glitch’ might be my ‘minor bug that I didn’t really notice’.

    That isn’t to say that I don’t like game reviews. I actually love them, and as long as the reviewer is up-front about the subjectivity, I have no problem with it.

    • As I have said above, you can be objective about the themes, motifs, story, structure, mood, etc. Normal media critics apply that to explain their subjective feelings instead of simple ‘I didn’t like x, y or z’. Games journalists can do that too.

      That, and honesty about bugs and the completeness of the product, are what I think people are calling for.

      • How do you get total objectivity about bugs and completeness? Should every review have a complete list of bugs, no matter how major or minor? In what order? What does “complete” mean?

        If you’re reading a lot of reviews that say things like “I didn’t like the story” without explaining what they think the story got wrong (pacing, dialogue, characterisation, whatever) then you’re reading some pretty poor reviews.

        • I have a pretty big comment up top with a more thorough explanation of my point. I don’t want to repost it and bog down the comments section lol.

          I’m not trying to say what you think I’m saying, and reading my above comment should clarify things, sorry for the confusion. There’s no need to be on the offensive about me reading the wrong types of reviews etc.

  • When Gamergaters say they want objectivity in games coverage, what they mean is coverage presented exclusively from a white male “nerd” subjectivity.

  • Objectivity, fairness and balance are all such loaded terms and in this world of increasing media criticism are thrown around by an audience that know what they don’t like, but don’t really know what they want.
    It’s hard to read the comments section around here without someone criticising the writer’s journalistic ability as if there is a strict definition of what is and what isn’t “journalism”.
    We have more diversity of sources now and the competition of every two-bit blogger means that audiences tend to gravitate towards subject matter that reinforces their own particular world view.
    Traditional media has jumped back on the yellow journalism bandwagon in a lot of ways too because it is the only way to survive… pandering to a demographic that just wants to be told that they are right to think and feel the way they do instead of challenging people and their ingrained beliefs.
    New media has always pandered and for most of us that read sites like this, objectivity is really the last thing we want.

    • I can’t speak for others but what I want from news media are articles written neutrally, that report on their subjects without influence from the author’s personal biases, political views or conflicts of interest. If an author is incapable of reviewing a game based on its own merits, they probably should leave it to someone who can. That doesn’t mean they can’t be subjective to some extent, but a review should be about its subject, not a soap box for the reviewer.

  • This is why I pretty much don’t read game reviews. I couldn’t give one either on that note. It’s not the lack of honesty it’s just the lack of fairness. If I read gaming reviews i wouldn’t have played games like Watch Dogs, Infamous : Second Sun and Destiny. I’m not saying that they’re the best games but I liked the hell out of them regardless of what other players and reviewers said.

    If I did see a gaming review though, I usually scroll to the comments. They give me a better indication whether a game is worth it or not. Having other users input their views just seem more on my level than say a journalist reviewing it with outside influences possibly swaying their stance. In my line of work I could tell you what car is worth buying or not but in the end, the consumer has to make their own mind up from their own experience.

    • I’m liking Steam reviews. I prefer bad reviews to good ones, frankly. People who gush about a game, I don’t trust. They might genuinely and sincerely love the game, but what I don’t trust isn’t their ‘bought’ influence… it’s their goggles. The lens through which they’re viewing this ‘masterpiece’.
      We’ve all done it with friends, I’m sure. “This game’s really good, man!”
      “Yeah, but you also like MOBAs, which I’d rather do my own dental work than play, so your opinion isn’t worth anything to me. You’re dead to me, Michael. DEAD TO ME. …We still raiding later?”

      For me, negative reviews are more helpful. They’re the first thing I switch to when looking at Steam titles I’m interested in. Worst case scenario I’ll get a litany of horrific bugs and other flaws that are totally shared pet peeves of mine, absolute dealbreakers. Best-case, it’s a handful of people complaining of a rare bug not being responded to about or ‘not what kickstarter backers were promised’ (like I give a fuck, I wasn’t one).

      It’s usually pretty easy to discard the, “This game is mobile-ported bullshit, don’t bother,” reviews which hold no insight, leaving simply a helpful list of cons which I know about in advance and can factor into my decision. I VERY often buy things even knowing there’s flaws, but just like watching a movie with low expectations, it helps to enhance your enjoyment because you’re not being ambushed by unpleasant surprises.

      Plus, Steam reviews are helpful in that they’re an aggregate. It’s pretty difficult to ‘buy’ the influence of 16,000 reviewers and end up with an ‘overwhelmingly positive’ aggregate. It might be indicative of a bit of groupthink trending, justifying their purchase, or whatever, but the odds are pretty good that there’s something to like, there.

      An Internet Hatemonger can’t go exhort their legion of trolls to bomb the reviews of a game on Steam unless those winged digital monkeys actually go and BUY THE GAME first. And a lot of basement-dweller nerdrage peters out at about the point that they have to put their money where their mouth is.

      It’s not a perfect system, but it’s easier at a glance than filtering out the reviews of one particular, popular reviewer who shares your tastes. (Eg: Subtract 4-10 points from any game which happens to be a racing game, because it is a racing game which are not ‘games’ as much as they are boredom/frustration-simulators. Someone who actually likes racing games – presumably thanks to scientific experiments on removing parts of their brain during infancy – isn’t going to give me a review I can trust to suit my tastes.)

      • I find it’s helpful to look the positive/negative component of Steam reviews as a statement of whether the reviewer thinks you should buy the game. In that respect it’s important to read both positive and negative reviews so you can get a good view of both sides of that question.

        On the other hand, I hate aggregates of user reviews because a lot of users will give negative or zero-star reviews for the dumbest things, like their PC not being able to handle the game, or “I don’t like the RMAH” (which trashed Diablo 3’s aggregate score on Metacritic to far lower than I think it deserved to be).

        I think the best reviews are ones that don’t constrain themselves to a number/star system, but just try to describe their experience, pros and cons both. It’s one reason I quite like TotalBiscuit’s “WTF Is…” series.

        • The only reason I mentioned Metacritic in my comment above is because it’s a place where you can see both the positive and negative comments/reviews about a game in one place. This then allows you to drill down to more detail to find out both good things and bad things about the game.

          Ultimately I couldn’t care less about the scores. I’ve played games that I really enjoyed which had low scores and also played games that I disliked which had really high scores. So now a score is completely meaningless.

          If the game seems cool and I’m reading interesting things about it, then I’ll grab it.

          Reading the reviews/comments can be useful as well as a good way to find out about other things that are related to the game – like for instance bugs you should avoid.

          I think the best reviews are ones that don’t constrain themselves to a number/star system

          Spot on. Here’s the game, here’s what I think it does well and here’s what I think it doesn’t do so well. You make up your own mind.

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