As a gamer I love seeing different elements of our industry. For years I grew up playing games wondering how they’re made, who makes them, and who was lucky enough to play them before I plunked down my allowance to buy the latest PS1 game that captivated my young and impressionable mind. There’s always a sense of wonder to be hand upon seeing the amount of work that goes into making a video game whether it’s from the sheer brainwork that goes into programming everything or learning how a game is marketed.
Obviously now I find myself in the fortunate position to be a video game writer/blogger so I’m privy to some industry secrets and have even chatted with some of the people responsible for some of the games I love. So with that said my mind was a bit puzzled when I heard that the folks over at Polygon, the new video game centric site of Vox Media, had created a documentary called Press Reset. What exactly could this docu be about? Is it about games journalism in general and the ever declining state it’s in or is it about something else entirely? Upon watching the forty-three second long trailer that was released, PRESENTED BY INTERNET EXPLORER in case you missed the half dozen ads and watermarks present on the site, my mouth was left agape due to the sheer pretension found in the trailer and how it’s basically the antithesis of what game journalists should do in the first place.
By now I may be late to the party as far as making my comments about the Polygon documentary known or I may even well seem a bit petty in swallowing a gallon of hatorade to discuss Press Reset. But to be honest I think something needs to be said, even if it’s from a small time chap such as me, merely to show the general public that no, not all game journalists are wrapped up in their own self-worth nor do they all think they’re the greatest gift in the video game industry.
It may still be early to fully critique let alone review Press Reset since we’ve only seen a mere minute of footage sliced together in one of those brilliantly over dramatic compilations that’s meant to evoke deep feelings within those watching it. Already my comments about the documentary may seem a bit too cynical or filled with vitriol, but such feelings aren’t simply because I wasn’t a big fan of sites like Kotaku or Joystiq, of which notable Polygon staffers such as Brian Crecente and the McElroy Brothers worked at previously. Instead my feelings about Press Reset merely rest in this simple question: why does this exist?
I did bother to read the article in which the Press Reset trailer was attached to on the Verge so I do understand what attempts, however ill-conceived they may be, that the Polygon chaps are trying to achieve. But seeing a group of journalists take center stage themselves in a documentary relating to the site they work for, which hasn’t been launched yet, is just dumb to me and goes against what we as journalists should do. I’m totally cool with seeing something about journalists talking about the industry or whatever it may be, but seeing the Polygon staff talk about themselves and their apparent “struggles”, cue shots of a baby and a staffer signing a mortgage to instill a sense of “everything is on the line”, seems like it’s simply coming across as either a child screaming for attention or someone simply trying to show how important they think they’re perceived as.
My time as a game journalist may be minimal compared to those at Polygon, but I get the general jest of the job. As writers we’re supposed to provide factual news to our readers, provide informative reviews, and generally entertain them as best we can whether it’s through a thoughtful editorial or even something silly like an energy drink review. At the end of the day the focus of any good journalist should be on providing the facts and putting developers/games, whether it’s a huge triple-A or indie game, in the spotlight. Yes, developers should be in the spotlight and not those who merely write about games for a living; a concept which may seem tough to comprehend to those over at Polygon.
I really can’t help but think that Polygon has in a way shot themselves in the foot with the thought that Press Reset would be entertaining to the general masses and more specifically core gamers who read game websites on a daily basis and post regularly on boards such as NeoGAF. Given their resumes I think core gamers know of Polygon or at least the key staffers so there’s not much more that needs to be said other than to see the finished product, which as of now is still under development as far as the dedicated site is concerned. We’ve heard that Polygon is trying to do something different in the industry and establish a voice of their own, but the only thing that they’ve done so far is portray themselves as self-important journos who made an apparent Sundance reject documentary to talk about how creating a video game website is a struggle.
If Polygon was a true indie site, much like how Shogun Gamer is, then I think a documentary may be valid since it would be interesting to see a group of talented writers come together Voltron style and do something on their own. We roughly saw something like that in the early days of Giant Bomb through seeing Jeff Gertsmann and Ryan Davis record short videos in the original office space, which was a rather small basement like venue, but the key thing was that it was straight and to the point since it was a true indie effort more or less, especially in the wake of the infamous Gamespot incident. In the case of Polygon we’re talking about a major site that has a ton of venture capital behind it so the resources and cash are near infinite considering they assembled a top team of writers and managed to pull writers away from their existing lush gigs at places like Joystiq and Game Informer. So what’s the apparent struggle in going from an existing job to a new one that has a bunch of cash behind it?
One could say that the struggle of Polygon is finding their voice in a struggling industry and in turn the writing staff rising above their own personal histories, which in a case of a few Polygon staffers is rather infamous. Perhaps Press Reset will hit upon those points but to see a documentary serve as a prelude to the actual site launching is a bit egotistical if not outright silly. Why not just let the actual site speak for itself and perhaps kick things off with an actual documentary that doesn’t feature the staff as the center focus? Maybe that’s a bit naïve of me to imagine, but actually seeing a full-on legit feature from Polygon that’s indicative of their qualities and overall tone would’ve been better than a documentary filled with what appears to be constant ego wanking, presented of course by Internet Explorer.
Maybe I’m just overreacting a bit, perhaps so much so that I can be looked upon as a bitter small-time game journo envious of those in the spotlight. But in general I think what Polygon is doing has kind of set the bar for unnecessary pretension within our industry since so many things are broken and need to be fixed. Will Polygon possibly fix some of the issues in games journalism? Perhaps, but as of now we don’t know since the site is apparently too busy talking about itself rather than doing something we actually care about. I won’t damn Polygon just yet as being a prettier version of Kotaku, but in the end I wouldn’t be surprised if the site regresses over a period of time and we have another infamous Justin McElroy situation, this time presented by Internet Explorer and the deep pockets of Vox Media.