Watching The Watchmen: The Games Journalism Prizes

By Alec Meer on July 17th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

'I do', says watchmen supervisor

There isn’t much that honours the strange, dark art of games journalism, and I’m willing to bet that’s primarily because the kernel of excellence and talent is so surrounded by soulless number-giving and rote promotion on one side and ranting, thoughtless poison on the other. In the UK, we do have the Games Media Awards, but while the right prizes admittedly sometimes go to the right people it is essentially about a cult of personality rather than much to do with the writing itself. The new (no capital ‘n’ there, please note) Games Journalism Prizes are an attempt at an independent award for the best writing (as opposed to best/most liked writers) of the year and, unlike the GMAs’ additional status as a multiply-sponsored big earner for organisers Intent Media, these are not a profit-making endeavour. They exist solely to find and pay tribute to the best writing, in multiple fields. Hurrah!

The GJP are orchestrated by Dave Green (BAFTA, formerly NTK), Dan Griliopoulos (roving freelancer, occasionally of this parish) and Keith Stuart (The Guardian, Hookshot), none of whose own work will be eligible. They’ll be corralling a panel of judges picked from the best, brightest and most-knownest of games journalism, including our own Kieron Gillen, Leigh Alexander, Guy Cocker (Gamespot), Rob Fahey (GI.biz/EG/The Times etc), Keza MacDonald (IGN), Helen Lewis (New Statesman), Rick Porter (Games TM), Alex Wiltshire (Edge) and a whole load more. The idea is that no judge will serve on the panel twice, and should not vote for work they have a vested interest in.

It all sounds like very much like a splendid idea – the right people finding and celebrating the best of the medium, and an ever-changing roster of judges ensuring sustained variety. There’s much left to hear about how it’s all going to work, with the first round of prizes themselves not due until 2013 – leaving plenty of time to submit excellent pieces of writing from across the industry to them. Our own John Walker is concerned that games journalists judging games journalists is inherently flawed, as there’s obviously a big risk they might simply vote for their chums or give the cold shoulder to people or publications they consider rivals/plain don’t like, as some fear is already a problem at the GMAs – but as I don’t personally agree that’s likely here given the fine people involved, I’ll leave him to document that more fully elsewhere if he so wishes. The GJP organisers are aware of the concern and are apparently exploring more ways to ensure as level yet broad a playing field as possible – it’s still early days and the panel’s size and nature is not yet fixed, they tell me. I suppose it’s only by actually doing that they can establish whether gentlemen’s agreements, trust and mutual respect will keep this good ship afloat.

Personally speaking, if the GJPs do all they can to keep bias in check without inadvertently ruling out loads of good stuff as a result, I think it’s got strong potential to work out very well and be a good-natured, illuminating affair that genuinely helps to hold strong writing and writers aloft from the teeming mass of reposted press releases and puerile bile. Of course, if awareness of it doesn’t spread far and wide it’s also got the potential to be a pointless circle-jerk, unable to escape the echo chamber, and the UK-centric corner of it specifically. That won’t happen if goodly folk like you, as someone (probably) outside this little industry, can help to steer it ever further afield by submitting recent examples of games journalism that you believe are particularly deserving of (non-monetary) acclaim.

Three categories exist: Criticism and analysis, Investigation and news, Feature and other pieces. The former has apparently seen the most submissions thus far, so don’t forget the other two. Roam far and wide, find strong, inventive, bold, mad, passionate, unique writing and let the GJPs know so that they can indeed be a true and vital celebration of the best of games journalism in all its forms.

Image by QuinnAnya

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58 Comments »

  1. SMiD says:

    I’m not entirely sure of the category, but this has to win something.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/06/05/warface-warface/

  2. Chris D says:

    Not sure if this is the right place for rules questions but here goes anyway.

    Is this limited to written journalism or do other formats like podcasts count, such as Three Moves Ahead or Shut up and Sit Down? Oh, also videogames only or boardgames too?

    • DuddBudda says:

      3MA! eloquent, entertaining chaps talk shop with industry figureheads in an atmosphere Parki couldn’t beat
      if there’s a podcast or interview category there’s mo doubt Troy, Rob, Tom, Bruce and Julian get my vote

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    Who sharpens the sharpie?

  4. Sardonic says:

    Anybody who defended the original ME3 endings should be barred from winning any of these.

      • Sardonic says:

        There were a truly amazing amount of hacks defending the ME3 endings with bad arguments this past year. It cheapened the whole concept of ‘gaming journalism’. There’s a video floating around of some IGN douche actively criticizing people who didn’t like the ending, stating that he couldn’t’ find anybody in the office who didn’t like the endings. No big surprise, considering the actual presence of a terribly voice acted journalist character in ME3 who was voice acted by an IGN “Journalist”.

        • AmateurScience says:

          Well yes, there was a lot of rot written about ME3′s ending, but it wasn’t *all* bad. I would argue that some of the best writing about it was the stuff that came out in defence of the (as far as a large part of the community was concerned) indefensible. Calm, well reasoned discussion pieces (where it’s totally ok to not agree with what’s being said). Which arguably makes it exactly the kind of thing that we should be attempting to reward with these award type things.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          sounds like your entitled

          • misterT0AST says:

            Sounds like you forgot an apostrophe.

          • Hoaxfish says:

            well, I did, then I thought it was amusingly representative of the type of person who uses such a statement so left it in on purpose

        • Marijn says:

          That’s so funny: two of the five pieces I’ve submitted to the GJPs so far actually speak out in defense of the ending(s) of ME3. Agree to disagree I guess.

    • The Random One says:

      I won’t object as long as you make a distinction between ‘defending the ending’ and ‘attacking the entitled jackasses that demanded things must be done to their liking because they said so’.

  5. Nim says:

    Aha a riddle!

    oh um. hm.

    A mirror?

  6. AmateurScience says:

    What no Grainger Games involved? Boo hiss!

  7. Gap Gen says:

    Today’s Home Affairs Select Committee.

  8. DXN says:

    But who washes the washmen? Notches the notchmen? Scotches the scotchmen? We may never know.

  9. daruna says:

    Goddamn I hate woodchip

  10. CrookedLittleVein says:

    CENSORFACE

  11. Llewyn says:

    Can’t help thinking this seems a little pointless. There only seem to be about two dozen people capable of and willing to write intelligently about games and half of them are either on the judging panel or closely associated with someone who is. Especially if it’s (is it?) limited to British writers.

    Hopefully I’m about to be proved wrong by lots of RPS commenters educating me on where all the consistently good writing about games hides.

    • Aerothorn says:

      I think you’ve missed the explosion of indie gaming blogs. Yes, there’s a lot of bad writing on the “big sites,” but there is a MOUNTAIN of thoughtful games journalism on little blogs or sites you’ve never heard of. To run with Crooked’s example, Nightmare Mode has some two dozen people writing for it; even if you considered only a quarter of the writing thoughtful, that’s 6 more write there. And there are dozens of sites like Nightmare Mode and thousands of personal blogs.

      If you want a good starter list of some great blogs, e-mail me at aerothorn at gmail dawt com and I’d be happy to give you some links:)

    • Hoaxfish says:

      They just need the right categories

      Least likely to turn down a bribe.
      Most flexible morality.
      Best hypocritical rant.
      Best Devil’s Advocate’s Accountant
      Whitest Knighting of an unintelligent argument and/or irrational person.
      Most patronising attack on readers in defense of a publisher or developer.

  12. Eukatheude says:

    It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Gril piece here, or did i miss something?

  13. Keefstuart says:

    Hello RPS – I’m hoping I can allay some fears here, as one of the people behind the prize. First up, it won’t be a pointless circle jerk (thanks for that mental image, Alec, you charmer) – there will be no factionalism, no favouritism, no rivalry. This will be a celebration of great game writing from around the world (we’re restricted to English language at the moment), and if I get a hint – a hint – that someone is being partial or tactical they will be removed from the judging process and will never be involved again. I don’t care about who writes for whom – I care about promoting amazing writing. That’s why I got involved in this crazy caper.

    I also think there is PLENTY of amazing writing on games – it’s everywhere from small barely read blogs to developer sites to Eurogamer. My bookmark folder is stuffed with it, but I wanted a more reliable method of finding, recording and celebrating it. That’s what me and Dan talked about at the beginning – would’t it be great to store this stuff and make it easily available. There’s a plan to release an anthology, in ebook form, of the best entries – I think this is viable and plausible. If there can be anthologies of sports, music and film writing, there can collections of game writing. I mean, look at this site – it’s a bloody embarrassment of great writing.

    It kind of amazes me – and yet somehow also doesn’t surprise me – that there has been such a skeptical reaction in some quarters – it’s the nature of our business. But I just want to assure you all, this was set up with the best of intentions – it comes from a passion about games journalism – I’ve been doing it for 18 years; I’ve worked for film, music, sports and lifestyle publications on the way and I’ve always come back, because – as Kieron Gillen pointed out in our Bafta panel event last night – the rules are yet to be formed here; we’re at the vanguard. That’s really exciting.

    So no, I won’t be sitting in a circle of self-abusing games journalists. I don’t even want to think about that – are you thinking about it now? I’m sorry.

    All the best

    Keith Stuart

    • CrookedLittleVein says:

      “Keefstuart”

      “Keith Stuart”

      You’ve fallen at the first hurdle you utter fool! You can’t even keep your alias straight. Imposter says I!

      PS: Big fan. :3

    • Alec Meer says:

      Hey Keith,
      think my circle jerk bit didn’t come across as intended – it was supposed to prompt folk reading to submit interesting stuff from far and wide, precisely in order to help ensure this doesn’t wind up only covering a narrow cross-section of the medium. Over-colourful language on my part, I guess. I think this whole thing is very positive indeed, I’m just very keen to see that it ends up being what it needs to be.

      ta,
      Alec

  14. RobF says:

    Can I just nominate J Nash for everything and pretend it was all done this year? Is that ok?

  15. Duke of Chutney says:

    i prefered ‘magic meer’ to meer face. Anywho, it’l be interesting to read the winning articles, perhaps it will be the measure of the industry?

  16. Rotekian says:

    Has the time of the ‘Kieron Gillen award for being Kieron Gillen’ finally arrived?

  17. Warskull says:

    While I believe you are correct about the good nuggets of game journalism being surrounded by a lot of bad writing, I think there is another major factor. There isn’t a whole lot of stuff really worth awarding. There isn’t a ton of journalism in games journalism. Even at its absolute best it tends to be editorials.

    Articles about games tend to lack that punch for a real definitive piece. Something that uncovers truths that absolutely everyone should read.

    • Grayvern says:

      They’re not awarding based on journalistic practice they are awarding journalistic writing.

      Then again I’m not sure where you get the idea that there’s good reporting in the mainstream press, I’ve tried staying informed but the opinions of non social theorists mostly taking phone calls from pr companies has always simply lead to rage.

  18. Ian says:

    I’m a subscriber. You should be trying to win ME an award!

  19. HilariousCow says:

    While more of a critic than a Journalist, I hope Chris Franklin ( http://www.errantsignal.com ) gets some kinda nod. His output this year has been raising the bar, in my opinion. Really in depth analysis of games. Never just “product review”.

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