How Not to be a Gamz Jarnalist, E3 2010 Edition

by Mitchell Dyer

I’ve been very vocal in apologizing for the gaming press when it comes under fire. While I condemn the methods of how certain people take on the enthusiast press, I encourage everyone to offer their ideas to improve it. All too often we see accusations that journalists, bloggers and critics are on the take, have a blatant bias toward one platform or another, or generally suck at having the coolest job ever. I usually think most claims against “game journalists,” or whatever we want to call them, are baseless or unjustified. But I also believe constructive criticism leads to improvement in any industry.

After spending 5 days running around Los Angeles for E3 2010 for GameShark.com, I’ve got some constructive criticism of my own. I’m no model for society, but I know what makes a good game journalist, and it wasn’t the E3 media. The following are a set of rules I think should be enforced with aggression in our industry. Apology Mode, deactivate.

1. Don’t wear gaming shirts to events

E3 is supposed to be a professional event, but there’s a leniency to it that allows us to rock shorts in the smoldering heat and to call each other “dude.” We don’t need to wear suits. Before my first E3, my editor encouraged collared shirts because they just look better than tees. This worked out nicely because that’s basically what I wear all the time anyway. If you just want to wear jeans and a t-shirt, that’s totally alright. Again, this is a laid-back industry. But, for the love of all that is holy, do not wear an industry-branded shirt around the show floor.

I can’t count how many people wearing media badges wore Battlestar Galactica Online, Mafia 2 and Def Jam Rapstar shirts on the second day. It’s as tacky as wearing the band’s shirt to their concert. When you wear the PlayStation blog event shirt to the show, you look like you have teh bias, especially when you’re trying to jump the line at the Microsoft booth.

2. Free Shit should not be your top priority

As I waited for the desk lady to grab my PR guy, I saw someone wearing a media badge sprinting across the show floor toward me. I thought he was late for some appointment. No. The dude just about knocked me over as he cut in front of me to grab a shirt off the desk. “No XL?” he asked in a panic. “No, sorry, just the large and mediums left,” the girl running the booth said. “Ugh. Fine! I’ll take a large then,” the angry press dude said as he stormed off with his latest wardrobe addition. He didn’t even stop to see the game. What the hell? Free stuff is cool and all, but get your shit together, guys. You’re not there to collect on piles of key chains and trinkets. You’re there to work. Grab one on the way out if you have to.

3. Leave the booth babes alone

They don’t want to take a picture with you. You’re reporting on the games they’re trying to pull your attention toward. You’re not there to show your friends the smokin’ hot chick you got to stand beside.

4. Shower

Some of those meeting rooms are small and cramped. If you’re not using your hotel’s bathing facilities and hygiene products, then applying deodorant to your underarms, everyone around you will hate you.

5. Do not hoop, holler and applaud after trailers

As a member of the media, your job is to report on what you see. If a trailer is totally friggin’ sweet, say so. Just don’t applaud when Need for Speed: Most Wanted flashes onto the screen at the end. If you squeal or let out an “OH MY GOD YES” when a video ends, you’re putting way too much emphasis on the wrong word in “enthusiast press.” After a five minute cinematic trailer for The Old Republic, the demo room at LucasArts’ booth exploded with cheers and clapping. I know I’m not alone in thinking this is totally absurd. I looked to my right to a fellow GameShark writer shaking his head and giving me a “this is just sad” look.

It’s great to be excited for new games. We’re in this biz because we love it, and we’re all anxious to see what’s coming. But belting out “yahoo” is a bit much. Presentations and people should be welcomed with enthusiasm. Advertisements, not so much.

UPDATE: I’ve received a lot of questions and comments about this, so let me clarify a little bit if you’re not sure what I’m getting at: I think we should applaud people, presentations and performances. When a choir kicks ass at the Konami conference, celebrate them. When Peter Moore walks on stage, welcome him. When a developer is done showing their game, thank them. You can do this with applause, and it’s totally OK. What I’m referring to, again, is trailers and title screens and moments where someone’s head explodes. As someone in the comments mentioned, squealing like a pre-teen at a Bieber concert is silly when all you’ve seen is a CG promo or a nice headshot.

6.  Stop watching World Cup

EA is to blame for this too, thanks to their positively brilliant positioning of the FIFA booth. It was smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest areas in all of the LA Convention Center, where everyone needs to go to get between halls. They didn’t show off FIFA 11 there or anything… Just live World Cup games. You’re taking up space in the middle of a busy hallway when you’re standing watching sports all day instead of doing your job. It’s cool that EA had this here because it’s a great place to kick back and relax. But if you’re reporting, get to your appointment or go play something you can write about. ESPN has this covered.

7. Don’t delay another journalist’s meetings with fanboy bullshit

A friend of mine told me an incredible story at this week’s show. He was sitting down with the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog to talk about his new game. As he was getting ready to rock and roll with some game playing and developer chit-chatting, another media dude whipped out a stuffed Sonic toy and asked the designer to sign it. Yep. He asked for an autograph, on a stuffed animal, during a meeting. As if that wasn’t enough, he then asked the clearly impatient dev to snap a photo with him. In short, don’t ask a game designer to sign something while everyone else in the meeting waits.

That’s my advice, anyway. I think a lot of people in the press are there to play games early and nothing else. I’d like to see the gaming press act like they’re there to do something worthwhile. Many of them do, and many of them do a damn fine job of it, even when they’re having a good time. There’s no reason to be rigid and cranky the whole time. The job itself is awesome, and we get to play games all day. What’s not to enjoy? But certain people wearing press badges need to do their job right, or get out of the way so those of us who care about more than booth babes and free shit can get things done.

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