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Advocacy Journalism

August 15th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

The always reliably interesting Kieron Gillen has published the full text of his address to the Free Play conference in Melbourne, Australia last July.

Gillen paints an interesting picture of how the gaming press can help small developers get noticed and sell more games. It’s not about corruption (unless you consider sending out copies of your game to reviewers “corruption”) but networking and gaming the system.

I like his advice to indie developers to seek out advocates. I imagine myself an advocate for the indie strategy world. I’ve pushed Tin Soldiers, Children of the Nile, Darwinia, the Slitherine games and others on poor friends and acquaintances and mention the still in development Imperium at every opportunity.

But an advocate is not a shill, and I’m sure that Gillen would agree. Just because I want to see more strategy games out there doesn’t mean that I will turn a blind eye to repetitive design (Spartan), archaic interfaces (Crown of Glory) or unsatisfactory play experiences (Flashpoint Germany).

I say this not because I expect free games (sending games out is another piece of Gillen’s advice) but because it’s not easy to get air time for smaller games, especially in a niche world like historical strategy games. Almost every publication or website has a guy (it’s almost always a guy) who is into this sort of thing. And if not, there are a few of us freelancers who love to talk about this sort of thing and will pitch it to an editor we know. We can’t talk about games we don’t know about, so even an email here and there saying “What do you think of this idea?” or “We have new screenshots for X” does a lot to build the buzz.

Even if I don’t like your game at all, the fact that I am talking about it here on my blog or on one of the many gaming forums I frequent can’t help but raise your profile. Plus you might get an idea what gamer like me are looking for.

A better example than myself is DIY Games’ Jozef Purdes. He also writes for Netjak, but it is his role as DIY’s Adventure Game publicizer that he is most constructive for developers. He seems to play every tiny adventure game that developers do in their spare time, and he hates a good number of them. But he knows his stuff, and will absolutely play your adventure. And you can always build on his criticism.

There is a line, of course, between advocating for the little guy and being a mere extension of somebody’s PR line. But the gaming review side of the media is enthusiast press, not investigative journalism. This applies to most gaming blogs, as well.

So take advantage of the enthusiasm. As Gillen notes in his speech, it’s the part of the job we love.


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