Can We Save Video Game Journalism? : Can grass roots media contribute with a more critical perspective to contemporary video game coverage?

Detta är en Master-uppsats från Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för informatik och media


Video game journalism has been accused for lack in journalistic legitimacy for decades. The historical relation between video game journalists and video game publishers has always been problematic from an objective point of view, as publishers have the power to govern and dictate journalistic coverage by withdrawing financial funding and review material. This has consequently lead to lack in journalistic legitimacy when it comes to video game coverage. However, as the grass roots media movement gained popularity and attention in the mid 2000s, a new more direct and personal way of coverage became evident. Nowadays, grass roots media producers operate within the same field of practice as traditional journalists and the difference between entertainment and journalism has become harder than ever to distinguish.

The aim of this master thesis is to discover if grass roots media is more critical than traditional video game journalism regarding industry coverage. The study combines Communication Power theory, Web 2.0 and Convergence Culture, as well as Alternative Media and Participatory Journalistic theory, to create an interdisciplinary theoretical framework. The theoretical framework also guides our choice in methodology as a grounded theory study, where the aim of analysis is to present or discover a new theory or present propositions grounded in our analysis. To reach this methodological goal, 10 different grass roots media producers were interviewed at 6 different occasions. The interviewees were asked about their opinions regarding grass roots media production, their own contribution, as well how they identified journalistic coverage.

It was discovered that the grass roots media producers were not more critical than traditional video game journalists. This was because grass roots media producers operate under the rules of entertainment production. It was discovered that if grass roots media producers break out of the normative rules of entertainment production, they would either loose their autonomous freedom or funding, resulting in a catch-22 situation.

Furthermore, it was found that grass roots media producers did not identify themselves as journalists; rather they identified themselves as game critics or reviewers. Thus, a video game journalist is categorised as an individual that report writes or edits video game news as an occupation, with formal journalistic training. However, since neither grass roots media producers nor industry veterans in general have journalistic training, it is still unclear who is a video game journalist.

Lastly, we found that grass roots media producers have little possibility to influence traditional video game journalism. The only way to increase the status of journalistic legitimacy is by encouraging journalism itself, to engage in critical media coverage. As there is a public demand for industry coverage, and journalistic legitimacy is grounded on the normative democratic self-descriptions of the profession, video game journalism needs to move beyond entertainment and engage in democratically, constructive and critical coverage.

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