Game On

Video-game journalists look for a little respect.

Readers (and editors) of a certain age may not fully comprehend the nuances of Takahashi's essay. After all, Takahashi, who's forty, and Thomas, 39, are on the far edges of the gaming demographic. Yet Orland sees time as an ally of better video-game journalism.

"If you didn't grow up with video games, it's hard to get into this world," he says. "But in the next ten or twenty years, more and more of the opinion-makers will have grown up with them and will understand that they're not just horrible things that make children violent. They'll want articles that don't just look at the technical things, but that describe things in an interesting and compelling way that they'll want to read even if they haven't already played the game."

As the video-game-savvy readership grows, Takahashi is hopeful that opportunities to specialize in gaming will, too. In comparison with most daily newspapers, the Mercury News is extremely receptive to such coverage, which is generally split between Takahashi and colleague Mike Antonucci. Nevertheless, Takahashi guesses that only about 20 percent of his duties revolve around video games. "In some ways, we're a little disappointed that things haven't moved as quickly as we thought they might," he concedes. "Video games are mainstream now, but there's still a certain attitude you run into -- like, 'How many stories do we actually need to do on the game industry? Can't we just do reviews and leave it at that? Are gaming conferences worth attending?' And, in my case, 'Will I ever have a chance to write about this stuff full-time?'" In his view, "progress is being made" toward silencing doubters once and for all, "but we're not there yet."

David Thomas hopes to bring a style to video-game 
James Glader
David Thomas hopes to bring a style to video-game journalism.

By treating video-game journalism as a worthy pursuit rather than the principal domain of arrested adolescents and geeky fanboys, Thomas hopes the IGJA will help smooth the way for such a shift -- and he's confident that a new and exciting approach to writing will distinguish this new era.

"People ask, 'Where's the Lester Bangs of video-game criticism?'" he says. "And I'm starting to think that might be the wrong question. Video games are a different kind of medium, and they need to be covered in a different way. We can't just borrow all of its idiom from film and rock criticism. But it should aspire to the same kind of quality that critics like Pauline Kael and Robert Christgau established.

"I see the association as being an expression of game journalism maturing," he adds. "We're trying to do something grown-up with it."

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