Why Everyone In Video Games Is Tweeting The Starfield Title Screen

Why Everyone In Video Games Is Tweeting The Starfield Title Screen

Press and influencers need to be more than torch bearers of hype for game developers.

There is a long-running conspiracy theory that game journalists are little more than tools of publishers, paid off to say good things about video games with zero integrity. We’re not, but the current state of affairs isn’t doing our reputation any favours. Yesterday evening, several critics and influencers tweeted the Starfield title screen to let the masses know precisely when they can expect reviews to drop for the newest Bethesda RPG.

We avoided taking part, and I didn’t even notice that passage in the email when the code came through. We have the game in our possession and a review shall follow on embargo, but to promote that on a social media platform where it’s only designed to be seen as an enabler of hype in the ongoing marketing cycle doesn’t serve readers, only the publishers themselves. I’ve been guilty of it in the past, but it doesn’t feel worth it anymore if I want to be taken seriously as a critic with my integrity intact.

This practice seemed to become commonplace with the dawn of Sony’s prestige narrative blockbusters during the previous generation. It pioneered the vague yet artistic title screen that made an immediate lasting impression and was quickly identifiable by anyone who laid their eyes on it. When hundreds of press and influencers are sharing it after they were granted permission by the very same company that provided code, it’s no accident.

Starfield Reviews

The majority of review codes are delivered with a blunt instruction to avoid mentioning that we have even received the game, let alone the embargo date or precisely what the public can expect when it lifts. When the opposite is done, the purpose is to try and turn this moment in time which would otherwise be a mundane part of the job into a celebration.

Whether press and influencers realize it or not, giving in to their excitement only dilutes what should be honest and worthwhile critique. To pose for photos and also create unique assets to share the fact you’re reviewing Starfield presents you as a fan more than anything else, and not a critic we can trust to be honest and incisive.

I’m not saying the press and influencers aren’t allowed to be excited about video games. We get into this line of work because we love the medium and all it is capable of, but you have to reconsider your perspective once you find yourself in a position of critical authority that many look up to and trust. That integrity fades away when you’re happily tweeting out press kits complete with hashtags that ensure they reach the right people and, more than likely, help secure more pre-orders for a game you didn’t help make nor will benefit from.

The player character standing in a crater in Starfield.

Consumers have grown to expect press and influencers to act like fans, and believe those who dare to take their work seriously aren’t real gamers or shouldn’t be trusted to critique. Some feel they shouldn’t even be given access to games early at all, because those codes would be better positioned in the hands of someone already inclined to care about them. The majority of us do care, and that’s why we try to be intricate and brutal in our examinations while still dishing out praise when it’s deserved.

The average joe comes to press and influencers they know are likely to reinforce the ingrained opinions already in their heads, telling them an obviously good game is good, or a blatantly bad game is bad with little room for nuance. I’m not sure if there’s any escaping it unless we try to change and stop enabling this cycle of behaviour ourselves. But it’s difficult to do this when such behaviour results in high viewing figures, record-breaking traffic, and a lack of toxicity which often burdens those who offer critique that goes against the status quo.

starfield astronaut looking up at a planet
via Bethesda

Bethesda is giving us permission to share the fact we’re playing Starfield early and will soon have opinions to share because it benefits their bottom line. The majority of press and creators dance to a tune that casts aside critical integrity in favour of marketing hype, at least before a game is out if (hopefully) not in a review itself, because the video game industry has been conditioned to do this over and over again. Without it, we’d lose out and subject ourselves to ridicule, not to mention lost revenue if access was stripped back, and it sucks that those who want things to change or cover video games in nuanced, interesting ways are viewed as spoiling the fun or not being in love enough with the medium to justify anything they have to say.

I understand the excitement for Starfield, and that sharing your early access for followers to see is all part of the brilliance that comes with a livelihood like this, but it comes with deeper meaning, consequences and responsibilities we need to consider if gaming as a medium wants to grow and be taken seriously.

Next: Games Media Has Failed The Hogwarts Legacy Test

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