When the coordinated, faux-grassroots hitpieces against gamers came out to declare that “gamers are dead,” the creaking and obsolete “news” outlets that made up games journalism thought they were invincible. Why shouldn’t they have? They held all the cards, had the loudest megaphones, so why couldn’t they abuse that power and pander to a special interest group whose goals included attacking games culture and instituting a politically motivated stand-in that would parrot their own beliefs?
Over the last year, they’ve been systematically disassembled, rooted out, and destroyed. GamerGate accomplished more than even they thought possible, and between multiple dethroned ideologues, decimated budgets, and new blood, have proven that gamers are willing and able to defend themselves through the long haul. The old guard of corrupt journalists have been forced to recognize that GamerGate is important in their industry, and after months of lying defamation to try and slander the movement, finally decided to do something about it: run away.
To Boldly Flee
While the games press had first tried to invalidate our presence in the industry, now they’re trying to redefine the industry as something else. TechCrunch recently posted an article suggesting that mobile and smartphone games should be the focus of games journalism. Under the title of “updating its thinking,” the article espouses that games journalists should cater to the “blue ocean” of mobile games rather than a “console-vs-PC” paradigm:
in videogamemedialand the idea that iPhone and Android games matter more than PC or console games is still heretical. This is because gaming journalists are still operating from an older paradigm with a richer cultural heritage. Theirs is the paradigm of console as blockbuster-cinema, PC as arthouse-cinema and a few darlings like Nintendo doing their own thing. This kind of thinking is so prevalent as to be unconscious. It’s the conventional wisdom, but it radically needs updating.
So, of course, journalists should move toward covering this oh-so-important mobile field rather than the traditional coverage of actual markets that people care about. Why do they think that this is a good move for the industry? Their own waning relevance, of course! The article goes on to state that the rise of YouTubers and an “increasingly critical reception” (read: new intolerance of corruption) have made it too hard to journalists to make money. No wonder they want to move to greener pastures: these people don’t care about games, except so far as they can make money lying about them.
So, fine, self-interested writers who don’t care about games are jumping ship. No big news there. We’ve been suspecting for a while that these people don’t care about the things they cover as much their influence and paychecks. But what about the factual accuracy of the thesis this piece puts forward: the idea that mobile games are more important to the games industry now than PC or console games?
Why Mobile Games Are Not Important
Fine, mobile games make big money. They have a big portion of the market share vaguely defined as “games sold.” They’re what Bob the office drone thinks of then he hears the words “video game.”
Nobody cares, and here’s why: mobile game players do not give a shit what they are doing.
This whole argument is based on the premise that a mobile game owner is just as dedicated to the act of playing games as a lifelong PC enthusiast, and they are not. If they came out with a way to inject heroin into your eyes with your smartphone, every Candy Crush player would be doing that on the bus instead. They don’t care about what it is they’re playing, they don’t check websites for the hottest connect-four strategies, and they sure as hell aren’t going to read your clickbait articles about why the peppermint brick is sexually problematic. They’re just filling time between work and home, so this whole supposition that they count as serious gamers is fundamentally flawed.
The reason you can make so much dosh selling these things is because they are the digital equivalent of smack and gambling’s STD-ridden love child. They give ’em away for free, then charge you once you’re hooked. You’re set up on a reward scale that’s designed to keep you coming back for more, that makes you feel good when you spend money and bad if you don’t. To move towards writing about mobile games is akin to publishing the Weekly Crack Review: nobody who uses it will ever care.
In turn, the oft-cited proportion of gamers who are middle-aged or young women is similarly skewed by this portion of players who don’t game. Someone with an axe to grind will usually tell you that the industry needs to change it’s values to accommodate its new audience, but that audience has never and will never pay actual attention to this part of the industry.
Mobile games are essentially disposable; their audience tends to buy them, use ’em for a bit, then move on to the next one. Can anybody even remember what was big before Candy Crush? Anyone still up for a game of Bejeweled? The disregard their players have for them is indicative of their overall attitude toward entertainment, and the choice they’ve made to purchase mobile games at all is subject to the same ephemeral attitude. If iHeroin was an option already, they’d move right on to that, so why do you think they care about anything like reviews and coverage?
That’s why we’re called gamers and they aren’t. That’s why “casual” is both a useful semantic distinction worthy of our lexicon and a term of mild derision. It’s why “casual gamers” aren’t up in arms about shady practices in your profession, and why you’re trying to escape criticism by running to the very outskirts of what can even be considered games journalism.