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If you have to keep saying it…

April 8th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Media

It’s been a long time since anyone really cared about Adrenaline Vault, once one of the most popular game review websites. They were famous for never using one word where seven would do, leading to 5000 word reviews of truck racing games or something equally silly. It’s been in turmoil and on hiatus for months.

In any case, it has returned from the dead and published an interview with John Romero, a game design icon who should be hitting urban legend status any day now. He’s working on an MMO (of course) and thinks that console gaming is doomed. Yeah, consoles.

But it’s the last question that really annoys me.

“Avault is proud of its independence from publisher agendas. Do you think this is wise or should we also be sucking up to the man like most other gaming sites?”

You want to know the truth? Bigger game sites are likely more free from publisher agendas because they are, in fact, bigger. If Eidos or Ubisoft start pushing Gamespot or 1up around, they are likely to push back. “Independence from publisher agendas” is probably near the bottom of my concerns about the major gaming press. Smaller sites are much more likely to lose access and, consequently, can be pushed around.

This doesn’t mean that experienced and professional game media types can’t be wowed by a slick PR presentation or corrupted by over-familiarity with development and publishing figures. Access to exclusives, limited review conditions, calling people back…the PR people are professionals, too, and their profession is getting the best coverage for their game.

But for all the accusations of gaming press being in bed with publishers and developers, there have been very few specifics. Yeah, Dan Hsu claimed that competing magazines sold their covers, but he wouldn’t name names. Occasionally a developer or fan community get bent out of shape over a review score and charge that the publisher, editor or writer is corrupt or biased. But if this is such a huge deal, you would think that the story would have broken wide open by now. There is a lot of turnover in this industry, and not all partings are sweet sorrow.

Running around saying you’re independent doesn’t mean anything. It’s like saying that your website is “by gamers for gamers” or that you have “an irreverent take on the day’s news”.

Independence means going up to important people you have partnered with who have a clear message they want to get across and saying, “That’s not what we’ve heard.” I wish that the interviewer wasn’t simply known as “GFW” – there are some good questions there and the reader should know who’s asking them. (EIC Jeff Green credits Shawn Elliott for putting the thing together, so good on Shawn.)

In the words of Sondheim, “Don’t worry if your vision is new. Let others make that decision. They usually do.”


6 Comments so far ↓

  • Angel Munoz

    Thank you for taking the time to write about the Adrenaline Vault’s return. We appreciate your views.

    We are proudly independent from the common industry agendas and have no issues stating that we are. This obviously rubs you the wrong way. We apologize for that, as it is not our goal to antagonize anyone.

    Keep in mind that we are one of the few websites that wants to remain small, and prefer to cater to a selected group of gamers that have solid opinions and can distinguish between hyperbole and news. Two that are severely intertwined in the industry. You seem to fit that description, hopefully we will see you back at the site.

    Thank for your comments.

    Angel Munoz
    Avault Founder

  • Alan

    As the (irritatingly unsourced) quote goes, “Love us, hate us, just don’t ignore us.” To be honest, I had written Avault off after it imploded, destroyed by its own quirky policies and internal instability. I’m not sure what to think of the recent revival; Angel’s comment makes me think they’re up to their old tricks again, for better or worse.

  • Troy

    Angel, thanks for stopping by.

    I have no problem with you being proudly independent. I am proudly independent. Jeff Green is proudly independent. Every editor I have worked for is proudly independent. So your independence does not rub me the wrong way at all. Independence is good. Keep being independent. Yay for freedom.

    I just do not see any point in trumpeting it everywhere, especially in an interview with a developer in a question that basically reads, “We don’t suck like those guys, do we?” My conflicts are acknowledged (check the “About me” section) and I disclose them when and where I think this is an issue. I hope my few dozen readers are smart enough to call me on it when I let things pass. I’m hardly interwined with the industry as the many cynical comments I’ve made on this blog will attest.

    Your mission statement that you try to appeal to a small group of elite gamers isn’t any more original than claiming to be independent. I must have written at a half dozen websites that all thought their audiences were special or smarter or discerning than the masses. And maybe they were. When you get to millions of readers like Gamespot, it’s hard to keep forums free of dross.

    As always, I wish you the best of luck with Avault and hope that it is as successful as it once was.

  • Angel Munoz

    Hi Troy,

    Point taken on the interview. The question was meant as a tongue-in-cheek final question, not as a mission statement. You wouldn’t see that again.

    Avault had millions of readers at one time, and honestly I have no desire to work that hard on a review/news site. We already have other ventures with that kind of traffic and I enjoy the peace of stopping by avault and not worrying about the myriad of issues related to catering to a big audience.

    Thanks and take care.

  • Troy

    Big audiences make big demands, that’s for sure. That’s the beauty of blogging – no one really cares.

    Best wishes.

  • Alan

    I’m relieved to hear that the interview question was more or less a one-off; the old Avault was the product of an era where ego and personal charisma drove readership, and I’m wary of seeing a return to that model. Best of luck to the new Avault, and may it avoid the pitfalls of its past.