2014: Why look back, not forward?

Many people will be desperate to hear more about this year’s big titles. It seems that the expectation will be realised of most gamers going online to play story-led games such as Destiny and The Division. Perhaps the precursor to this was LEGO Star Wars, which popularised the idea of drop in/drop out local multiplayer, or perhaps DOOM’s influence is more notable, a game which showed the potential for online multiplayer. Does the past of a form of entertainment matter for our readers, though? Why shouldn’t journalists purely set their sights on the here and now?

destiny

Destiny (Image credit to Currys, game by Bungie/Activision)

There is a need to keep present and up to the demands of the 24 hour news cycle. For instance, people clamour to hear any information about the next Uncharted release, and a relevant website that doesn’t report updates on time risks significantly damaging their credibility. The focus of games journalists, for most publications, needs to be on current issue if they are to serve the needs of their readers.

The readers are the ones who keep a website running, but they are done a disservice, however, if it is assumed that they won’t have an interest in the past. Many gamers might if they were exposed to it, and it’s clearly evident that many still are, with services like XLink Kai keeping games alive that have said goodbye to their servers. If we don’t provide recognition that gamers buy and play games in different ways, then readers will undoubtedly spend more time on sites that dedicate themselves to their particular passions.

Understanding the past and the small communities that still exist around old games can also help the crafting of news and features. Press releases are all well and good in providing news about AAA releases, but what about a developer who has disappeared from the mainstream for ten years? Won’t the audience want to know what they are up to? And researching the past can’t replace thorough knowledge because, like following anything change, one doesn’t follow a straight path to see the evolution of games.

Understanding the past also lets games journalists understand the future. You can see trends, and you can write pieces that contain analysis based on a wealth of knowledge. I have previously said that communication is the most important part of journalism. However, what’s the point in communicating ideas if it is merely regurgitation? What makes games journalism irreplaceable? Games journalism only is if journalists have insight that others may not.

Remember that your work has the side effect of serving the games industry. I don’t mean that the needs of PR should be served, but if journalists aren’t going to champion all corners of the gaming industry, then who is? Yes, you might tell a friend about¬†that trilogy Bungie made before¬†Halo, but writing an article about it lets many more people know about something they might not. You will have provided a gateway to people who may not be familiar with games before the last generation. You have stopped the overwhelming hype PR for upcoming releases from dominating the gaming conversation.

 A screenshot of DOOM's multiplayer (Image credit to Dedoimedo, game by ID Software/Bethesda)

A screenshot of DOOM’s multiplayer (Image credit to Dedoimedo, game by ID Software/Bethesda)

The year has yet to begin in earnest, with none of the big titles having been released. This leaves a good chunk of time to consider how we can serve our readers better. As long as there is cause and effect, the past will always play a part in the present.

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