Friday, February 15, 2008

Checking in with Crispy Gamer

Two weeks ago, I remarked upon the launch of Crispy Gamer, a new site that intends to counterbalance the fawning and uncritical coverage you allegedly find at the bigger game sites. There's no question that the industry could use more even-keeled, incisive journalism -- which is not to ignore the valuable contributions of legit journos like N'Gai Croal, Brian Crecente, Geoff Keighley, and many more. But for all the individuals doing solid work, there's still not one place readers can go to find high-quality journalism coupled with insightful game reviews. You have to mix and match your favorite writers from around the web, if that's what you're looking for. Or you have to wade through a bunch of filler.

The first thing Crispy Gamer did right was to assemble some excellent writers, and besides the initial "Game Trust" they've now also posted a review by erstwhile Gamespot scribe Alex Navarro. It's an all-star cast. They've also lent their aegis to Kyle Orland's illuminating "Games for Lunch" project. They've got the right people and the right idea. What I wonder is whether they have the right attitude.

This week, Crispy Gamer debuted a column titled "I Call Bullshit," pitching itself as "a 1,000-watt spotlight on anything and everything in the videogame industry that, you know, just doesn't smell right," and pledging to reveal the "hard, cold truth about the videogame industry." The first few paragraphs are snarky and self-congratulatory, as though the necessary corrective to the supplication of mainstream sites is macho chest-beating. Does the game industry need to be told some hard truths? Yes. Is the way to do that to be insulting and dismissive? Doubtful. If anything, it may only serve to create a bunker mentality among the PR class. Which, granted, may be a step up from the "profound contempt" they seem to be operating with now.

But then the piece goes on to call bullshit on issues that are well past their sell-by date, like the Mass Effect sex controversy and Xbox 360 hardware reliability. The former issue is dead and buried at this point, and this article adds no fresh perspective to it. Microsoft's ongoing inability to address their manufacturing troubles is a legitimate concern, but also one that has been well covered from one end of the web to the other. The world was not desperate for a hero to finally stand up and point out that Xbox 360s break. And, again, this wouldn't be a problem if the column illuminated the problem, instead of merely reiterating it.

Some of the complaints are ironic. An item about the New York Times' struggles to correctly identify industry figures and the names of video games is interesting, because you'd certainly expect the newspaper of record to show more professionalism. But coming as this does in a column that includes sentences written in all caps and questionable grammatical formulations like "Bullshit = called," the criticism loses some of its punch. The article also calls out "fresh-out-of-the-Photoshop-oven screenshots." But if you wait for the second rotating feature to load on the Crispy Gamer homepage, you'll see that it's promoting "exclusive screenshots" for LittleBigPlanet, Starcraft II, and the especially bullshotty Dark Sector. For a site that prides itself on not feeding from the PR trough, this is an interesting juxtaposition.

I know Crispy Gamer loaded up on content prior to their launch, so that could explain some of the staleness of this column. If future installments occur closer to real-time, stopping some of these runaway PR nightmares in their tracks, it'll be a worthwhile feature. But if it's going to remain nothing more then carping and namecalling, then guess what?

I call bullshit.


Anonymous said...

The column was indeed a few weeks old, but we wanted to put our stake in the sand about what we were going to do. We've already had several discussions of what the next column should be. As we get closer to daily updates, things will be much more timely. Jones tends to be snarky, but the column will be written by any writer that wants to tackle something that they think stinks in the industry. As long as they back up their claims and don't flail blindly, we'll let them run with it witht heir own style. The column will not be a regular feature, as we don;t want to force calling bullshit just to make a deadline.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and a slight correction to your post: The only exclusive screenshots we were promoting were the Dark Sector ones. Those were exclusive. The other were just screens of big games that we think people want to know about.

Mitch Krpata said...

Thank you for shedding a little bit of light on what was happening with the column. I'm hoping for great things from Crispy Gamer, which is why I wrote this post in the first place.

I really appreciate the comment. Thanks!