Originally Posted by RionaaM
Does anyone really know how it all came to this? How did PR people get so much power and influence over the gaming industry? How did they manage to put all the bigger sites and the so called journalists in their pockets? When did this "journalists" decide that the perks and free stuff they were getting from these companies were more important than integrity and honesty? When did the gaming sites' owners decide to turn them into marketing fronts?
It's all about access. The magazines and sites want to cover the big games, the hyped games, because that's what brings in the readers/subscribers/viewers/hits/etc. The same goes for any part of the entertainment business, really. In order to GET this access, the press has to "play ball." Most game companies explicitly tell all their employees not to talk to the press under any circumstances. In many (most) cases, it's a fireable offense if they do. It's considered breaking an NDA, or violating confidentiality.
So, except for on rare occasions, when the rare enterprising reporter is able to contact the rare game company employee willing to speak (almost always off the record), the *only* way a press outlet is going to be able to get you those sweet, sweet Assassin's Creed screen shots is by dealing with the game companies' official spokespeople/representatives---i.e., by going through the PR departments. Piss off the PR departments, and say goodbye to your access. Believe me, I know. I had it happen to me multiple times at CGW. "Playing ball" can even include showing up at whatever stupid, contrived "media event" the PR department has organized as part of the marketing plan. Should a press outlet actually decide that, hey, they'd rather actually decide for themselves what's news, and maybe that event is some kind of horseshit thing they'd rather not attend, there can be repercussions for that too. Again, I had it happen to me personally. ("You don't want to attend? FINE! We'll give the next screens to your competitors!")
In short, if an outlet decides that part of their editorial mission is to provide you with the latest/greatest "sneak peeks", screens, "first looks", whateverthefuck, if they decide they'd rather you get it from THEM rather than their competition, then they better suck it up and play along. You wanna defy them? Good luck getting access. The game companies hold all the cards. (And again--this is no different from other entertainment fields--movies, music, TV, etc.)
Now, some companies are better, more open, less dickly than others. Some will let their designers speak a little more off the cuff (rather than following scripted bullet points). Some will provide a remarkable degree of candor, or a level of access normally not seen. But, for the most part, they have little incentive to do so. They've got the press by the proverbial short hairs.
But the press certainly has some choice, in some matters. You do NOT have to accept free shit. You do not have to tweet with the hashtags the companies tell you to. You do not have to take even one free drink or travel on their dime. You can play ball without compromising your own personal integrity. But you ALSO have to acknowledge that, to some extent, you ARE playing ball, and that it is not always going to look particularly noble or brave. That's why you have to try extra hard not to do dumb shit, not to LOOK like the shill you're desperately trying not to be. Because everyone else thinks you are. Including some of the companies you're covering. THEY see you as part of their marketing plan.
Others have said it better than I the last couple days, including Jim Sterling in his great piece. But this was just me helping to answer the "how it came to this" in the post quoted above.