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A Small, Polite Vent on Journalistic Research


As one of those scruffy little oiks known as ‘a student’, research is damned important. Mostly because good research will hopefully give me some juicy A grades come 4 weeks’ time (that soon!?) but also because it has value in itself, not least because good research means smarter people writing smarter stuff read by people who then become smarter for having read it and can spread their tidbit of smartness across the world, or lose it in the hives of scum and villainy that are Twitter and Tumblr as the case may be. But for some of that process people are more informed – and that is very rarely bad. It’s not like researching all the stuff that won’t be in Battlefront will harm me, only my hopes and dreams.

But do you know what does hurt people? Ignorance. It leads to so much evil, so much misery, so much goddamn inefficiency it makes me wish I could replace half the humans with droids even if it meant losing many a good beard. Of course, there are times when ignorance is bliss – but they pale in comparison to the times when ignorance is fury. When ignorance means backlash. Keeping players in the dark of incoming changes for example, is an easy way to piss off an MMO fanbase. And when ‘researchers’ keep the gaming public in the dark about the nature of their dubiously carried out study? Oh dear. And as for when that study fuels the eternal flames of internet hatred… well… nothing will help you.

Because, unfortunately, people are people. They love false dichotomy, they love confirmation bias, they have their worst elements on show to all and there is nothing that can be done about it. It is a fact of existence and one that must be worked around to minimize the effect these facets of the mental underbelly can have. The way to do that is to do research.

However it is so often difficult to make a choice when you do. It’s bloody hard to find solutions to problems, to narratives, to arguments, when problems arise with every new webpage you view. It’s how we know Valve did little research before botching their mods shite, because even a glance at Nexus would have forced them back to the drawing board. It’s how we know that Jed Whitaker of our very own Destructoid didn’t research the Fire Emblem piece where a Cblogger upstaged him big time because (and you’ll never guess!) Ckarasu did his research, clearing up Jed’s mess for him in his piece. Now, like a paranoid BBC executive, I will point out that Jed has done good work recently too as well as bad, and that there are many more writers in the world who need to appreciate the merits of knowledge – but Dtoid is where I make my home, and in fairness Jed is the main culprit here. I’d like him not to be, I kinda like the guy.

So let’s take an example (from the BBC of all places) of this and see where it went wrong.

In 2006 the BBC began a series called ‘Alternative Medicine’, presenting the merits - but not the flimsy science of – practices like acupuncture and herbalism, including a part in which a heart patient was given acupuncture during surgery, with the implication that acupuncture was a valid part of proper medical procedure. This will have caused some viewers to view such methods of treatment as genuine solutions, and not what they probably are – namely a placebo. Many scientists raised points against the series on grounds of bad science; that the BBC was presenting theory as fact. The BBC responded (in many cases via letter, and sometimes even in person) by claiming they presented the science fairly and accurately. As The Guardian and The Independent further criticized the program the BBC published a letter of support from a group of scientists. A letter that, as it turned out, was fabricated by the Beeb themselves as became obvious when some of the alleged signatories called bullshit. A year later the BBC finally apologized for the program after the investigatory wing of the BBC sided against management. That said the show had not presented the facts accurately, and agreed with the accusation that it had betrayed their audience’s trust as a reputable organization. My source for all this: here

Here is what went wrong:

  • The BBC did not do the research that would have brought the flaws of the alternative medicine to their attention
  • The BBC did not follow up on initial complaints, again a healthy dose of research would have brought the validity of those complaints to their attention
  • The BBC attempted to cover up their mistakes – fortunately, that doesn’t seem to happen in games reporting because if you lie, the internet will catch you. Always.
  • The Guardian and The Independent did do their research, and were in a good position to call bullshit at the expense of the Beeb’s reputation

All in all, not good for the BBC. It was preventable with some research, though you certainly don't have to go the full Sherlock.

So that’s the moral of the story; of my student life; of Fire Emblem; of all things: do your research. Of course you want to be first out the door with new news in the hopes of garnering a few extra clicks, but if you get that piece wrong somehow it will mercilessly come back to bite you. So please, to everyone, before you write news and report on gaming’s happenings – do your research.

And a very final note on the dichotomy that plagues the internet and journalists alike, I refer you to a song by creative thing-doer and comedian Tim Minchin:

(Warning: offensive to the easily offended)

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About James Internet Egoone of us since 2:56 PM on 04.21.2015

Howdy! Welcome to the little corner of the internet that a part of me calls home. Here's some stuff about me.

Occupation: Student

Hobbies: Videogames, Chess, Philosophy

Interests: Law, Philosophy, Gaming

Chores: PC maintenance, Uni prep

Current Thought: Damn you Witcher 3! Damn you Crones to hell!

Favorite Game: KotOR 2 for reasons, but Witcher 3 is now joint first, bloody marvelous game.

Current Game: The Witcher 3

I am a fan of the written word as well as the spoken variety, so you'll find me doing a lot of written stuff. Every couple of days hopefully.

Here is a nifty list of what I think is my best stuff.

Destructoid C-Blogs
How Cities: Skylines Almost Screwed Up My Exam
Why the PR Man Can Lie
On Mods and Money
How Mass Effect Made Me Like Music
Questing For Immersion
An Afternoon With the SWG Emulator
How to Buy a game in 2015
Some Upbeat Thoughts on Bioware
The Pain of Playing Old Games
Why Citybuilders Are Not ABout Building Cities
On Valve's Inability to Follow The Law
Band of Bloggers: KotOR

Some Written Word on Game Design
Ambivalence and Not Caring

Front Paged Things
Bloggers Wanted: KotOR 2

Kotaku UK
The Best Zombie Game Out There

That covers the bio, right?

Oh, right - name. I'm James, in case you couldn't guess.