When I was approached to moderate Keiji Inafune’s panel at PAX, I had no idea I’d be sitting at ground zero of what would amount to be, basically, the announcement of the successor to Mega Man. As I mentioned in one of my USgamer pieces (see my amateur legal analysis and my Inafune interview), the video reel came as a surprise (I knew Inafune was announcing something, but not the particulars). A good surprise, definitely, but I also felt a little weird sitting at the front of the room as the plan and pitch for the game were laid out — being in the press, I really don’t have the luxury of being party to such direct promotion. I haven’t seen anyone criticizing me as a sell-out or anything (probably because I shut up once the trailer started running and the entire room forgot I was even there), but I did feel a bit self-conscious after the moderated portions came to an end.
Honestly, the entire Kickstarter thing makes the press’ role maddeningly muddy. For something like Mighty No. 9, I have no idea where I should stand. Personally, I’m really eager to see it happen; I want the game to be Mega Man minus corporate interference. If it’s “just” a spiritual take on Mega Man 11, I’ll enjoy it but be a little disappointed that it didn’t push the boundaries a little more. But I’m sure I’ll enjoy it regardless, and I’ll be watching enthusiastically as it stretches toward its console port goals and throughout its development cycle.
And, needless to say, as someone who’s been playing Mega Man games since the original was the only one you could buy in America, being on hand as the host for the announcement of its spiritual successor was an honor. It would have blown my mind back in 1988. “I’m your future self. Look, you’re going to make a lot of dumb choices in life and basically waste your potential, but: You get to moderate a presentation by the guy who did the art for his game as he announces his ‘continuation’ of this series. And a few months before that, you’ll get married. So believe in yourself! You don’t turn out to be a total failure. Also, skip Mega Man X6, it’s gonna be awful.”
On the other hand, the press is supposed to be “objective.” Which seems kind of difficult when a project that personally interests me is in the works. Especially when I’ve pledged a huge amount of money to the venture — more than I can really afford at the moment, to be honest. (The “design a challenge” pledge level was just too tempting; how could I pass up the chance to contribute a piece of game design to this venture?) But that also means that I now personally have a stake in the game. Am I even allowed to write about it for USgamer? I know I’m not the first member of the press to wrestle with the question, but it’s the first time I’ve personally had 25 years of fandom and hundreds of dollars invested in a project I’d like to write about, and it bears asking.
I’m writing this because I’m sincerely curious about everyone else’s take. Should someone like me not be able to write professionally about a game they support both financially and emotionally? Where to draw the line? It’s not like I’m getting anything from the game other than the game itself and the assorted ancillary knickknacks, so its ultimate success or failure have no real bearing on me. But still, I can’t be icily objective about the thing, either. I want to hear what you think.
My own thoughts are after the jump, in case you’d like to respond without my perspective biasing you (because, really, isn’t the entire question about unbiased perspectives?).
Personally, I find the idea of objectivity in journalism to be a complete fallacy. Human nature makes it impossible to know enough about a topic to be able to write about it effectively without also forming an opinion on it. And really, who cares, especially for a topic like video games? Who really wants to read unbiased coverage of something that ultimately is about entertainment?
Again, that holds doubly true for video games. What separates games from all other forms of entertainment media is their interactive nature: You read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, and see a play, but you play a video game. Your personal investment is, in part, what defines a video game. That idea permeates my work, and I think the most interesting writing people do about video games almost always involves themselves in some capacity — sometimes simply using video games as a hook to write about a personal experience, or doing more as I prefer to do — that is, not really writing about myself but simply using my own point of view as an entry point to a discussion of the game itself.
With that in mind, I don’t see a problem in my writing about Mighty No. 9, and in fact I think my coverage would be all the stronger as a result of my interest in the game. Where I feel I should step back is in reviewing the game, which is where some objectivity is called for. Not too much — I mean, unless you’re writing a Consumer Reports analysis, you need to approach a review as if you’re a human being — but more than I can probably bring to the table in this case.
But, again, I’d like to hear your thoughts.