Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When Nothing Else Matters

I just finished reading When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan's Last Comeback by Michael Leahy. While I would recommend it for the excellence of the writing and the depth of thought alone, it also has relevance when it comes to the current state of gaming journalism.

Leahy is not sympathetic to Michael Jordan. He sees him as a man stuck in a state of chronic adolescence, unable to move beyond the moment of the game into something more substantive as he reaches the end of his career. A fair criticism, certainly, but Leahy uses it as a stick instead of a lense. In spite of his bias, though, Leahy manages to do something that no one else who has written about Jordan has ever done: he succeeds in making Jordan human. There is more than a small hint of Shakespearean tragedy in Jordan's decline, and it is that inevitable winnowing that makes for absolutely compelling reading. While it is true that the book is biased, it is just as true that it is clearly remarkable.

Leahy also comments about the relationship between sports journalists and the players they cover, and I think his observations also apply to gaming journalism in general. He writes that the relationship is one of relative subservience because access is more important than content. Without access, the writer has nothing, so he must preserve his access at all costs, even if the quality and depth of the content must suffer. True investigative reporting in sports is extremely rare, and the sidekick mentality is the core of the reason.

His descriptions reminded me almost exactly of how I see the current state of gaming journalism. It's focused more on promotion than it is investigation. When was the last investigative journalism piece you read on gaming? If you can't think of one, you're not alone. And gaming journalists will never be taken seriously until there is more distance between them and the companies they cover.

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