Veteran game writer on what happens when studios shut down and the need for more adversarial industry coverage

Jason Schreier, a longtime games writer with Kotaku and Bloomberg News, sought to publish adversarial journalism in that context and did well at it. Now he's writing a book about volatility in the video game industry and what happens to people when studios shut down: Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry. Corey Plante interviewed him for The Inverse.

… game companies are obsessively secretive. When you expose those secrets — be they game leaks or toxic work culture — you embarrass the people in charge that prop up the status quo.

"It speaks to this larger point that there isn't that adversarial relationship that maybe there should be more of in the industry," Schreier says. "I wish there was a little bit more exposing these big companies, even if it leads to burning bridges."

He points to outlets like IGN, GameSpot, and Polygon as doing great journalistic work, but even the biggest outlets are at a distinct disadvantage.

"There's really a lack of money in media, especially in games, to pay for good salaries and good reporting," Schreier says. "There's so little reporting on bad business practices because there isn't the economics there to support it."

The games beat is a wizard's jizzpot of consumerism and misplaced anger. I figure that coverage of the industry's appalling working conditions cut deeply because it disrupted readers' parasocial relationships with the corporations being covered — capital-G "gamers" have a strong tribal identification with both the subject and with products, even with executives. The only subjects more likely to generate neurotic retaliatory behavior from fans are social media influencers, authors working in the young adult category of fiction, and venture capitalists.

P.S. Maybe I'm remembering it all wrong, but the sarcastic, snarky mode of consumer-product blogging in gadgets, games, etc., can be traced to games journalism in the late 80s and 1990s trying to sound like the opposite of an access-dependent enthusiast press. It's hard to replace a trivial adversarial position with an earnest one because the cynical culture it generated is everywhere and because the media environment is not conducive to trust.