Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where to Go: Great spots to get your gaming news

One of the questions that I am frequently asked by non-gamers is where I get all of my gaming information. Obviously, it isn't picked up by internet osmosis, and, like mainstream news and other forms of entertainment, there are a multitude of sources. I don't think that the people asking me this question are unaware that these sources exist but rather are trying to find out what they are called on how to access them. In today's post I cover some of the main places I trawl for my dose of gaming news. Tomorrow, in the same vein, I will highlight some of my favourite non-news gaming sites/shows. As always, this is a list of my preferences presented in no particular order, it is not a 'best of' or 'most popular' listing; feel free to disagree.

IGN (Ziff Davis)
By most metrics, IGN is the biggest gaming news site on the internet. While many gamers revile them claiming that they only pandering to those in the industry with the biggest pocket books, the site is highly polished and features a ton of daily content updates. I agree that it would be nice to see more of a focus on upcoming indie titles instead of only the triple-A blockbusters, but have simply come to accept that this isn't what IGN wants to provide. Reviews are usually a bit biased in favour of advertisers but I haven't seen anything way off the mark; bad games still receive poor scores but occasionally you will see an okay game scored as though it were great. The upshot of IGN's favourable relationship with big companies is that they often are afforded sweeping access to upcoming titles and exclusive interviews with project leads and other senior members of the development team.

For non-gamers, IGN provides an overview of the biggest upcoming titles and I have no problem recommending it to those who are interested in what's currently happening in gaming even if they are not an avid gamer themselves. The site is slick and even branches out in to non-gaming areas such as film and thus does a good job of being a one stop shop for general entertainment news. That said, treat the gushing previews and semi-inflated review scores with a grain of salt and always be wary when the background splash advertisement is also the subject of the headline story.

Not a news site per se, Kotaku offers a collection of interesting articles on a range of topics including gaming, comic books, and anime. Much of the content has to do with interesting facts or digressions as opposed to directly tackling the biggest story of the day. For example, it is common to see an article highlighting the best cosplay from a recent convention as opposed to the convention itself. Kotaku often represents a less serious approach to reporting and is (in)famous for its prominent featuring of the comments section which rapidly allows users to reply to each other and promotes popular threads to the top. Indeed, a great deal of the allure of Kotaku is the often humorous comments that users generate in response to an odd-ball piece of news. I must confess that some of the commonly featured topics, such as anime, are outside of my own personal interests but I still enjoy cherry-picking those stories that appeal to me. I would recommend anyone with even a passing interest in games to give Kotaku a look but totally understand that it may not suit everybody.

Official Forums (various)
It is increasingly common practice for the official website of a new game to come bundled with a public community forum. When I am looking for specific information on a specific game I find that, usually, the best source is through these forums. While the content is sometimes strictly moderated, and, as with any online forum, threads often degrade into nonsensical rants, the official forums are often the first place where information such as patch notes and developer commentaries are made available. Sure, the biggest news makes its way to general gaming sites but the more granular stuff is rarely tackled elsewhere. If you want to know if a particular bug is affecting other players, get a general consensus of community reaction to the latest content update, or just find out about specific outstanding imbalances in the gameplay, you simply cannot find a more in depth source to go then the community forums.

As attentive readers of my blog are probably aware, most of my gaming takes place on the PC platform. As such, I think it is quite understandable that I would include this publication on my list. While the quality of content has waxed and waned over the years, there has scarcely been a better overall source for platform specific coverage than PC Gamer. One of PC Gamer's particularly strong suits is its coverage of gaming specific hardware. Other sources review and discuss computer hardware but few relate its specific use for gaming. Gamers don't care how awesome the sound fidelity is in the latest headset if it isn't compatible with most games and consequently PC Gamer will focus on such an issue. While the editorials are seldom hard-hitting explorations of gaming issues at large, they do a great job of covering topics that are of interest to the PC platform. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend this to those who don't primarily play games on the PC, but it is a must read for any gamer who's tools of the trade include a mouse and keyboard.

Another product of a media giant, Gamespot doesn't hold quite the stigma that IGN does with gamers. I think this due, at least in part, to the more prominent editorial features. It is quite common to see the news ticker featuring the various shows produced by the editorial team and most of these are unscripted and genuinely entertaining. Many of these shows aim to tackle some of the serious social issues in gaming that other sites tend to shy away from and, as such, I feel that Gamespot has a pretty good handle on the demands of the gaming community. Beyond the biggest titles, it is quite common to see reports on smaller topics such as the latest indie release, the results from the most recent e-sport tournament, or even an analysis of a statement from an industry veteran. As an aside, the Gamespot staff is quite diverse featuring a healthy mix of men and women as well as a strong representation of openly gay journalists. All together, I think this helps to provide an aggregate of viewpoints virtually unmatched on any other gaming site.

All that said, Gamespot is still advertiser supported so make no mistake that the content appearing on the site is, at least somewhat, filtered. While a seemingly greater degree of creative control is on offer than IGN, it would be foolish to think that it is totally uncensored. Personally, I use Gamespot as my primary source of general gaming information and highly recommend it to those who want a bit more than the biggest stories but still crave presentation in a slick package. Of course, I supplement anything I find there with a bevy of other sources.

Honourable mentions:
  • Giantbomb: A great site that has a lot of personality but doesn't quite make the list as I feel they are a bit light on news reporting. Also, the future direction of the site is a question mark in the wake of co-founder Ryan Davis' tragic death earlier this year (aged 34).
  • 1up: The edgier younger brother of Ziff Davis' IGN, the site is being phased out by corporate and consequently didn't make the cut.
  • Joystiq: I am simply not very familiar with this AOL owned site. I am aware that it is popular but would prefer not to give an opinion without further firsthand knowledge.

Well there you have it, a vastly incomplete listing of some of the sources I use to get my gaming news. Feel free to let me know if I am missing out on somewhere amazing. Also, check back tomorrow where I will list some of my favourite non-news gaming sites and shows.