News Imitating Life, Imitating SEO

These days I probably read about the games industry as much as I enjoy playing the games themselves. I’ve always found the business intriguing, particularly around console launch time. I looked forward to following the accuracy of my predictions and certainly have my scars of loved and lost consoles.

During all this time, I have been a fan and follower of Gamespot. Probably from back when I had as many Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files as I had games. I’ve always enjoyed their obvious passion for gaming, with long-serving veteran reviewers who clearly loved the industry even more than I did. And even more-so recently when an influx of bad behaviour in their forums and comments caused them to rally to the defense of one of their own as they outwardly protested back, reminding the gaming community what it was meant to be about.

So I was really quite saddened when I read the article entitled “Ninteno’s Plan to Quietly Kill the Wii U“. Particularly as it was located in the news section but was clearly an editorial, completely speculating the possible next steps of Nintendo and their troubled “Next-gen” console.

It’s clear that the heading was blatant click-fodder, drawing people into hot topics with tantalising titles. I don’t recall this being an issue at the Beeb, but then they were hardly fighting for news attention.

Headlines have always sold rags even before the internet. But rather than witty satirical puns, headlines today seem to be forged from a selection of predefined SEO keywords that are then muddled into a sentence.

If I go back far enough I could recall the odd site that would prefix their articles like “News: ” or “Blog: ” to avoid confusion and aid navigation. Though this would never happen today, I believe that news content providers have a responsibility to avoid misinformation of their readers, particularly when their “news index” page is very often a search engine, with limited space to add context to the result it finds for a user’s keywords.

I understand the predicament Gamespot is in, and their motivations. But they have an undeniable effect on the games industry. They are the voice of them and us, and such irresponsible reportage (week in, week out) will no doubt have an indelible negative effect on the overall perception of a platform that will eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Gamespot risk alienating and losing the respect of their exiting faithful audience when they choose to steal attention with cheap tricks (particularly the Nintendo fans). Whatever new visitors they hope to gather from such tactics are certainly not the kind of people I’d want to share a scene or conversation with… Probably a message for all content providers there.

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