This encounter from E3 is one of the problems with video game journalism
I've never been so embarrassed by another journalist's behavior to the point of having to apologize to PR or a dev on their behalf . Especially when I don't work with said journalist. But that's exactly what happened at E3 last week. This isn't news. This is more of an experience piece, so readers like you can see what goes on behind the booth walls at E3. This experience made me embarrassed of the industry that I work for... that I love.
This took place during my appointment with Disney Interactive for Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes. Basically, if you had an appointment or waited in line to play/see the game, you came away with a figurine of one of the new characters; I saw Hawkeye and Iron Fist, but there might have been more. There were so many people visiting their booth on Tuesday, the first day of E3, that they ran out of figures for Wednesday and Thursday. Guess when my booth appointment was? Wednesday. No biggie -- I just wanted to play the game and see the skill tree in action.
My appointment was double-booked, so I shared it with another "journalist." I put journalist in quotations because even though he had a media pass, he ended up being extremely obnoxious, only there for free schwag. Picture Eric Cartman in his mid-20s with glasses.
The first thing he said to the PR representative assigned to us was, "When am I getting my figurine?" The PR guy said that they unfortunately ran out yesterday. Totally serious, Cartman responded, "So are you guys gonna mail me them then?" I stared in disbelief. That wasn't the worst part of it, though. After PR laughed that off, Cartman asked, " Well can you get me to the front of the Super Hero selfie line?" Again, no. He didn't deserve priority access in a line to take a selfie (that had nothing to do with video game coverage) over people that waited in line for an hour. This guy failed to understand the reason he was at E3. This is a classic example of a video game journalist feeling that he's entitled to perks or special treatment in exchange for his coverage.
The rest of the time he was rude to developers, other media members, and show attendees. He was the most important person in the world. As long as you give him free sh*t, you're fine.
Our news editor Matt Liebl hard at work in the media room during E3. Not the journalist mentioned in this article.
Readers and the gaming community already think that gaming journalists give scores based on the amount of free stuff they receive, or whether they have ads running. My E3 preview of Madden NFL 15 was positive, and one of the first comments was "paid off." I just shrugged it off. Most smart readers know that's not the case. However, seeing this behavior first-hand was eye-opening. I don't blame gamers for not trusting a lot of what they read on sites.
I personally apologized to the PR guy and voiced how ridiculous I thought Cartman was. I was so embarrassed. He agreed with me and told me that a good amount of the "journalists" he interacts with have no sense of what's appropriate. Since I got some hands-on time the day before in my spare time, I let Cartman hog the controller while I asked questions and got some "off the record" reveals. I'm not going to post them. E3 for me is about building relationships and trust. I live in South Florida, so that's my opportunity to see the people I email on a week-to-week basis. I have to use this as contact building. (I did get some juicy info but since we want to maintain a good relationship with PR, I won't be writing about that until we're allowed.)
The lack of professionalism in video game journalism is jarring to me. A lot of it is due to the fact that anyone can start a coverage site or blog. Heck, before I started at GameZone, I just played a lot of video games while I worked at a Teen Center. Writing was a hobby for me. What difference is there between myself and Cartman? Objectivity would be my main answer. Of course, I'm speaking about myself, so how objective am I really being?
On the last day of E3, I also saw Cartman at my WB Games appointment. He was being rude to a girl at the media reception desk because he couldn't get in with his media badge, even though he didn't make an appointment. That entitled brat. I'm happy to say he didn't get in, and I smiled from the waiting room.
P.S. I'll happily disclose the free stuff I got from E3: five t-shirts, a pin, a statue of Geralt and copy of The Witcher 3, and a poster. Oh, and I got a Hawkeye figure from my Fantasia appointment. None of it was asked for. None of it has affected my coverage of a game, nor did I ever ask what free stuff I could get from someone that wasn't providing any.