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The Current Standard: Spin on Video Game Blogs
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posted by: Chris Martin
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date posted: 05:43 PM Fri Jan 5th, 2007
last revision: 12:48 PM Sat Jan 6th, 2007



Click to read.Traffic, we all need it. It's the way the world runs and the world of computers is profitable. Generally, webmasters are just out to get the most traffic to their site as possible. Sometimes this means construing headlines or slanting articles ? this is called "spin." Yes, what all those right and left activists have been accused to death of.

"Spinning" requires a clever mind and a bias. For instance, let's say conservative spokesman Bill O' Reilly (a spinner of spin, himself) says that the president "made a tough decision" in regard to the war on Iraq, while the media prints in the article headline "O'Reilly: Bush made mistake." And simply, you can see what this does to the original quote.

Usually keeping with the original idea, spin is accomplished by changing one word to a close synonym with different connotation, or by paraphrasing. The ethical interpretation regarding this spin is arguable; there is certainly a difference between "a tough decision" and a "mistake" and this is not demonstrative of my bias in politics (which I certainly have). But spin happens in every type of media ? this cannot be argued.

Spin. Slant. Bias. These are four-letter-words in the realm of all journalism. I don't think that the sometimes sophomoric reporting of the video-game industry is above this; nevertheless, it should be something as combated as aliasing.

Websurfers, certainly, have only one thing to worry about, simplicity and attractiveness; the easier and more interesting "sell" a site is the more likely they will click the link. Oftentimes, simplicity and attractiveness are accomplished through headlines. Recently, the video-games news site "FiringSquad.com" has used this to get some heavy traffic from hub sites like "GameTab.com" who only post the titles of articles.

The title of their article was "Microsoft: HD-DVD 'May Be The Next Betamax'" and the GameTab link to the Kotaku blog is entitled "Microsoft Rep Says HD-DVD 'The Next Betamax.'" Not only is this a poor way to get people to read the article, through abject sensationalism, but this is flat-out poor journalism.

The article, which originated from Ars Technica (the quote is on page 3)states:

"I was more intrigued with the HD DVD drive as a piece of hardware. I asked if we would ever see games use the drive. A firm 'no.' I asked if we would ever see a 360 with an HD DVD drive built-in. Another firm 'no.' No hesitation.

'We don't want to charge customers $200 extra for something that may be the next Betamax,' Henson told me (whoops).

They seem committed to the optional aspect of the HD DVD drive as it keeps the price down for consumers who don't care about HD DVD. It's a much different strategy than Sony's bundling a Blu-ray drive with every PS3. I don't know if it's the right one-HD DVD would certainly catch on faster if they found a way to incorporate it into the 360's design-but the question of a higher price for the hardware is a tough one. Is it really worth raising the price for a feature people don't seem to be asking for? They tell me developers by and large aren't asking for more space or complaining about a lack of space with a regular DVD, outside of a few comments here and there.


The article also discusses paying for codes in games among other things. It might be asking for it for Henson to even mention Sony's proprietary blunder in a sentence with a Microsoft product, but what about the rest of the sentence? Microsoft is reputedly afraid that high definition formats (both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD) might go the way of Sony's Betamax. Are they in the wrong? I don't think so. Offering the HD-DVD drive separate from the Xbox 360 allows early HD adopters to pick up one if they want, but it keeps it separate from the Xbox 360 experience. It's not forced, not like with the PS3 ? no bashing here, this is just fact.

What Henson actually said is that they don't want to force customers to buy something they don't want, not that HD-DVD is the next Betamax.

The headlines on both Firingsquad and Kotaku, however, spin it so that Henson said HD-DVD is the next Betamax. He didn't say that, why are people reporting it this way?

I don't want to "take Microsoft's side"; this is just a recent example of poor video-game journalism. Sure, they're both posted on blogs. But don't blogs have a standard of reliability in regard to their readership? They have, I argue, some of the youngest readers of news on the internet, and they should treat each article as if they do.

Apart from this, do people no longer understand the things they read? It seems from the reader posts after the blogs that some older (it seems) readers do and recognize these posts as sensationalist writing. Some, however, do not, and take the blog's word for it without probing further into the proprietary debate.

I'm a little disappointed in these two blogs, in particular the "bloggers" Luke Plunkett and John "JCal" Callaham. These are sites that I do read on a regular basis. Standards, perhaps, should be a little higher than they are currently.

-Chris

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