Do you have a favorite video game critic?
Strangely, it's a question that even avid gamers can't readily answer. They may recall a few names that have gained public traction over the years, but very rarely do I come across someone who says, "Oh, I always love the reviews from 'insert critic name here.'"
In other industries, the names of the top critics are widely recognized. There are plenty of film critics who the majority of film buffs know and trust. I have a few book-loving friends who consistently trust so-and-so's book reviews. In the music biz, publications like Rolling Stone have employed some of the best, and music fanatics over the years can name many of those critics. While gaming is a relatively new industry, I believe the next step must include identifiable, passionate critics with great personalities. And above all, the sites and publications for which they work should promote those names.
I realize this may sound like shameless personal promotion in the business place, and that one could make the argument that we should focus on the journalism aspect. After all, while gaming has made significant strides, it's unfortunately true that game journalists are essentially second-class citizens in the eyes of other journalists. It's critical that we continue to employ professionals in this field, especially for the sake of industry legitimacy. Some may say that's irrelevant; that it doesn't matter what the mainstream media thinks, that we should just be happy in our own little world.
In some ways, I agree. But in reality, gaming must progress in the world and fortunately or unfortunately, that world includes certain compromising realities. This is why we need personalities – professional personalities – who produce highly polished work and at the same time, generate many readers and fans. It is possible to create refined, intelligent work and have it be popular in the digital space. I know "intelligent" and "Internet popularity" are often like oil and water but done correctly, with proper talent and personality, smart, engaging work is feasible.
And let's face it: So much of journalism in this industry hinges on product reviews. More so than any other industry, I believe. So, within the next decade, I want to see at least a couple of our critics who are known to all core gamers. Even more importantly, I want that person to be a proper ambassador for video games. Is it too much to hope for…? I hope not.