Human-interest stories in the news have traditionally taken a back seat to sensational headlines, not only because they appeal primarily to our fascination with the different, the weird, and the wacky (as opposed to human conflict, the driver of sensational news), but also because a substantial percentage of readers view such content as not being newsworthy to begin with. Reasons for this viewpoint can range from plain apathy to a raging insistence upon using the media’s resource pool exclusively for “what’s important,” or “what has an impact in the world.” And such readers may have a point: Why should we care about, for instance, the new world record for the tallest house of cards, when other reporters are out there covering wars, the economy, and the upcoming presidential election?
Some people may also feel that games in general aren’t newsworthy. If you’re one of those people, you can stop reading this right now. This editorial (and in fact, the core of my work for Examiner) is aimed at those folks who appreciate learning about games via the web, but immediately recognize when the line between “having a slow news day” and “churning out pointless drivel” has been crossed. If you’ve read anything by Yahoo! News within the last few months, you’re already aware that Unplugged, its sad excuse for a games column, commits this sin on a fairly regular basis. A few weeks ago, Unplugged attempted to celebrate Final Fantasy without acknowledging even the presence, let alone the importance, of nearly the entire first half of the franchise, essentially beating gamers over the head with what they already knew: the Final Fantasy series is some of the greatest video gaming around.
An arguably worse journalistic practice, however, is to treat something as a full-fledged competition when in reality it can hardly be called a game at all. For instance, this writer recalls a cringe-worthy piece by Unplugged about how to win at rock-paper-scissors. At the very least, that one can be filed under the “who cares” label, as (hopefully) nobody sits around all day honing their fist-to-selection timing and conversion skills. Most recently, though, Mike Smith described for Unplugged how to “Beat the Claw,” in reference to the infuriating prize-dispensing game commonly found in shopping malls and arcades. Tell me, why would anyone in their right mind encourage his audience, regardless of age or maturity level, to pump their hard-earned money into these machines? The article could have been summed up in one plain sentence: “They’ll rip you off no matter what you do, so avoid them at all costs.”
In addition to the insulting nature of this pattern of writing, it’s hard to believe that actual adults appeared to have conducted actual research for the claw piece. Smith sprinkles in persuasive principles like “Timing is everything,” and “Use a spotter,” as if it would ever be worth devising professional-level methodologies in order to acquire that precious panda bear sitting in the back corner. To top it all of, Yahoo! considered this piece important enough to link to from their homepage, thus wasting the time of millions.
As an intermediate-level competitive Scrabble player, Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Move owner and an Examiner, I know what’s worth pouring one’s passion into when it comes to games, and could do a better job as Editor at Yahoo! than the current set of schmucks. Over time, one can find prize-granting tournaments or gather enough knowledge to impress your friends or win at just about anything, but ultimately, gaming is supposed to be a social and intellectual experience, and the aforementioned content ignores that principle entirely. I’d appreciate it if the news in this field actually became important again, but in the meantime, the Unplugged column has lost one reader, and I encourage you to follow suit.