Archive for the ‘what’ Category

Four score

The fourth annual Kunkel Awards are over. Will they be the last?

Our three judges – two who have stuck with this thing all four years – argued with each other on Discord, an hour at a time over seven consecutive weekends. Then they chose these deserving winners.

As they profanely debated, several themes emerged…

1. Reporters aren’t recorders

Quality journalists squint at each fact, distinguishing between crucial and trivial. Sadly, many of this year’s entries were packed with waaay too many facts.

If that sounds absurd coming from a journalism contest, consider: Facts are like liquor. In both cases, you want the purest ingredients. You want to filter out impurities. And while a little is delicious, too much makes you nauseous.

As one exasperated judge said, after slogging through a particularly ponderous entry: “They’re vomiting everything they found. There’s a lot of good stuff in that vomit, but it’s hard to get through.”

2. Investigating isn’t always interesting

Many entries boasted they were “investigations.” Most weren’t. They were just long lists of mundane facts that didn’t propel a story and proved nothing. Imagine a Ferrari with a powerful V12 engine, but each piston firing randomly. The car will make a lot of noise and smoke, but it won’t go anywhere.

One judge imagined the internal dialogue of some of these journalists: “I conducted an investigation, therefore it’s news.”

3. News and feature don’t need opinion

Many otherwise excellent entries couldn’t refrain from opining. Weirdly, their reporting proved their point, and they didn’t need to add, “I think this shit sucks/rocks.”

It might not sound fair, but even a little lame-ass opinion was enough to irk our judges. To return to our alcohol analogy: The best scotch whiskey isn’t worth drinking if it’s blended with even 1 percent human urine.

Alas, opinion (like urine) seeped into everything this year. As one judge complained, “We’re judging how well a fish climbs a tree.”

Concluding the Kunkels?

Like life itself, the Kunkels must evolve or die. For our fifth anniversary, we’re making big changes.

We got some big ideas, and we’re talking to people who smarter and more important (but much less sexy) than we are. If we have anything to announce, it’ll be right here.

Time for transparency.

New judge, new complications.

My name is Brittany Ferrendi, and I am the director of the third annual Kunkel Awards for video game journalism. Before I was a director, I was a judge in the second year. Since getting my “promotion” (quoted because I’m an unpaid volunteer, so unfortunately there’s no raise or company car), we needed a replacement.

That replacement was appointed by Michael Koretzky, the founder of the awards and the director for the first two years. At the time, I was still learning the job — and the gaming journo community — so I didn’t mind that he found someone he felt fit the role and cleared it with the other judges. Hey, one less thing to worry about is nice.

That judge is a gaming journalist. In fact, they’re the first gaming journo we’ve ever had as a Kunkel judge (I wrote a few gaming pieces here and there, but I wasn’t in the industry). Previously, all our judges were professional journalists outside of the gaming press, all with a varying understanding of it.

Since the judge is a gaming journo, that means they know people in the industry — including some journalists nominated for the awards. If you’re in the gaming journo community, you’re bound to meet other people in the biz. You can’t help who you know, but you can control how you affect these connections.

Having someone in the industry may come off as a perceived conflict of interest. That’s why I will be transparent. When the judge knows a journalist who’s been nominated, I’ll clearly state it, especially if they are a finalist. I’ll also use my discretion to sit them out as a judge if they know an entrant beyond a work-related acquaintanceship.

Winning a Kunkel Award isn’t about who you are; it’s about what you write. It won’t matter that you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 if your articles lack any trace of journalism. The judges know that, and I trust them to keep personal feelings away from the judging process.

The judging for the Kunkel Awards is nearly over. Stay tuned to see our winners.

We’ve Been Asked Anything.

Kunkel judge and director answered your burning questions.

On Monday, Kunkel judge Gideon Grudo and I appeared on Reddit’s /r/KotakuInAction to talk about the Kunkel Awards and video games journalism. A few of the members have been inviting us over the last few months, so we figured “Why not?”

For those unaware, KiA calls itself a “platform for open discussion of the issues where gaming, nerd culture, the Internet, and media collide.” Though they have a stance in the GamerGate movement, we didn’t give a shit about that. We care about journalism.

Here are the takeaways:


Why remove the “worst story” category?

Redditors asked Grudo and me three separate questions about why we killed the equally loved and hated “worst story of the year” category. After all, shouldn’t shoddy journalism be called out for what it is?

Well, it should. But I’m not convinced the Kunkels is the appropriate platform to do that right now.

So then, who does punish unethical journalism? In the words of Grudo:

“You don’t really want to have that type of construct. The more structured ethical rules are, the more you risk stifling speech. Consider a federal agency, for example, whose task it is to determine what’s ethically sound and what isn’t. Maybe they’ll provide badges to those journalists they deem ethical. Maybe they’ll forbid access to those they don’t. Consider industry attempting the same thing. Shivers. Defining ethics isn’t easy.”

A concern that popped up was that the Kunkel director and its judges were trying not to hurt journalists’ feelings. Short answer: We don’t give a shit about hurting people’s feelings. We give a shit about quality, ethical journalism, and could care less about who wrote it or how they feel.

New director, new approach. Former Kunkel Awards Director Michael Koretzky’s instincts were to publicly, harshly call out the shoddy journalism and give it a joke award. I agree with calling out unethical journalism, but not like this.

Of course, this could certainly change down the line as the Kunkels grow up.


What do we think of writers who don’t abide by a code of ethics?

“No one has to abide by a code of ethics,” wrote Gideon. “Everyone should abide by a code of ethics. Nationally distributed papers. Underground papers. Big papers. Small. Skinny. Fat. Ugly. Pretty. Don’t matter. Journalists have an obligation to be journalistic. While that ain’t easy to define, ethics codes do a good job attempting it, and at least provide some solid agreements between reporter and reader, like ’this is what this person said’ or ‘I fact checked this claim and reported the results.’”


Do we have to award shit journalism if there’s nothing better?

One Redditor asked if we feel a pressure to award unethical, low-quality work if better, more ethical articles are nowhere to be found.

“The answer is no,” I replied. “If the judges feel none of the entries are worth an award, nobody gets it.”

Gideon added, “If everything is garbage, no one wins. Except our measly blog. We may write it up to explain our dismay…We’re not angry, we’re…disappointed.”

This isn’t a new thing for us. Last year, Excellence in News Reporting had no third place winner. Excellence in College Journalism and Excellence in News Video/Streaming both lacked second and third places. In the first year, Excellence in Photography/Illustration/Infographic (a category we no longer have) only had a first place winner.

We haven’t ditched a first place winner yet, but none of the judges are pressured to pick the best of the worst if they feel none are deserving.


What do we think of the current state of journalism?

That’s way too vague a question to give a valid response without data and analysis. But we could offer anecdotal insight.

“Especially in the last few years, it seems gaming journalism has gained a bad rep — for valid reasons,” I wrote. “Faulty and sometimes nonexistent ethical codes are largely responsible.”

Up-and-coming gaming journalists that publish unethical content largely seem to lack journalism backgrounds. I claimed they are more often gamers first, journalists second, and thus never went to journalism school and learned ethical practices.

A user corrected me — rightfully so. I liked what they wrote, so I’ll quote /u/ITSigno here:

“I think it’s probably better to say there are:

  1. Games journalists who are journalists ‘slumming it’ in games because they didn’t get the WaPo job they really wanted.
  2. Games Journalists who are gamers that have a blog and would like to grow their business/brand around that.
  3. Games Journalists who are actually gamers and journalists.”

Meanwhile, Grudo thinks the state of games journalism is: “There ain’t enough of it, the journos producing it don’t get paid enough for the work they do (for the most part), the journos producing it likely don’t have enough paid hours to go as in-depth as the piece deserves, etc., ad nauseam.”

But that’s not unique to gaming journalism. Grudo expressed that’s true for all journalism, “and likely true of many other producers of things, content and/or otherwise.”


Everything else

Not all of the questions were hard-hitting. Someone asked us about our current and favorite video games.

I’m in the middle of Killing Floor 2, Metro 2033, and Pokemon Ultra Sun. My favorite game is definitely the Witcher III — a game that I finally convinced Grudo to play. Meanwhile, his favorite game is Horizon: Zero Dawn, a game that I personally can’t wait to get my hands on. Maybe we should just make a trade.

More questions poured in as we were wrapping up, and we plan to get back to them during the week. Since we volunteer, we have to put our big-boy jobs first and pay the bills.

That being said, it’s never too late to ask us questions. You’re always free to message us through the Kunkel’s Contact Us page, or hit us up on Twitter. Reach me at @bferrendi and Grudo at @ggrudo.

The Kunkel nominations would normally end this Friday, Jan. 26 — but I’m extending the deadline by a week. You now have until Friday, Feb. 2. Don’t miss out, or else your favorites in gaming journalism could be overlooked.

Nominate your favorite gaming stories and videos of 2017

New category steps up to the plate

The sports jargon may be a hint.

In the future, I want the Kunkels to be at E3. If that’s going to happen, we’ll need to acknowledge an ever-rising corner of video game journalism.

After the death of the Worst Story of the Year category, I’m replacing it with a new one: Excellence in eSports Writing:

One written story, either news or feature. eSports are a growing phenomena making its way up to top channels like ESPN — it’s time to take competitive gaming stories as seriously as NFL coverage. Submissions can be tournament- or community-based.

The rest of the media world covers sports, so why shouldn’t we? MOBA games like Dota 2 and League of Legends have tournaments with teams from around the world and million dollar prize pools. ESPN covers both these games as well as team-based shooters Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

This is territory the Kunkels haven’t touched before. What are we waiting for?

The category was pitched to me by one of our judges — specifically my replacement. (I was a Kunkel judge before taking over as Kunkel director.) Here’s what they had to say about the change:

I think it’s good to shift this into a more positive light rather than one that is associated with really harsh criticisms. I took note of some of the comments that were being made about the Kunkels last year in the circles in run in in gaming and many were offput by the sharp commentary of Koretzky. It’s good to keep the wit, but changing the tone is important too. I think you’re well on your way to doing that, Brittany.

Another judge was indifferent to the new category:

I don’t have strong feelings about sports or eSports, personally, but I see nothing wrong with it as a category.

The third judge simply said, “Cool,” but pointed out “Capital-letter-contrasted proper names for things always feels very 1993 to me.” To each their own.

Here’s a comment from my predecessor Michael Koretzky:

If ESPN is covering eSports, the Kunkels should cover the eSports media. It’s only a matter of time before eSports players are suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, ridiculed for taking a knee at the national anthem, and fired for punching women in elevators. The resulting journalism will need to be accurate and incisive. Someday, when my “off-putting sharp commentary” is nothing but a faded fecal stain upon the Kunkels, these awards will become truly eImportant.

Well, there you have it.

Now, we open up nominations for the third year in a row.

Nominate your favorite gaming stories and videos of 2017

Killing a category

Time to say goodbye.

When I first became Kunkel director, my predecessor Michael Koretzky introduced me to noteworthy people in the video game media industry. Some were gaming journalists, some nationally known public figures, and one was even a candidate for Congress.

All had one thing in common: a connection to the Kunkels.

So I called them and picked their brains on the last two Kunkel Awards and where they see it going in the next two years. One category in particular came up again and again: Worst Story of the Year. It was particularly disliked, and I agreed. So I’m taking Koretzky’s beloved category and sending it to the grave.

Here’s why. Take a look at how the Kunkel site describes the Worst Story category:

Learning by avoiding. Sometimes, the best way to teach the right thing is by studying the wrong thing. We’re looking for news or feature stories that didn’t just violate SPJ’s Code of Ethics, they laughed while doing it. The bigger the stories and the bigger the ethical lapses, the more likely one of them will “win.”

I’ve said it before, but my focus as the new Kunkel director is to educate video game journos on best practices and the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics. While it’s true journos can learn from looking at examples of bad journalism, I don’t need to potentially embarrass an author to do it.

If a piece is so terribly unethical by SPJ code’s standards, then it’s not worth referring to as “journalism,” much less deserving a joke award associated with five other categories meant to be taken seriously.

A better way to learn the trade is to discern where good journalism makes bad mistakes. And that’s what we already do with all of our other categories — show off what the judges consider the best of the best video game journalism while also pointing out its shortcomings.

Just because I’ve taken the power away from Koretzky doesn’t mean he can’t throw in his opinion. So I asked him what he thought about the death of his controversial category, and he had this to say:

We both seek to improve video game journalism. You choose to do it maturely and constructively. I suppose that’s one approach. It’s probably better, but it’s definitely not as much fun.

So I’m killing the Worst Story of the Year category. Up next, we’ll meet it’s replacement and open up nominations. Stay tuned.

Best news video 2016

“Ugh, this category is a mess.”

So sayeth one of our three judges about Excellence in News Video/Streaming.

Another judge – we try to keep them anonymous, but his initials are Gideon Grudo – profanely suggested…

Maybe we should put “Read this before nominating” on the site, where we say shit like, “Reviews ain’t news, motherfuckers. You find something while playing, THAT is news…motherfuckers.”

All three judges were annoyed at the lack of “sourcing” – basically, quoting other people to back up a claim. The worst journalists opine without proof, which is what pisses off most of America about our craft.

Too many entries committed this fatal flaw and knee-capped their otherwise noble efforts. For instance, Deception, Lies, and CSGO irked one judge because he wanted to like it…

After a confusing and long intro aiming for humor, the narrator says, “It seems like these gambling sites are popping up all over the place, and there’s some controversy stewing around it.” Well, how many sites? At least try to quantify it by saying something like, “I don’t know all the sites, but I visited a few like this one and this one…”

Further, fuck you for saying, “There’s some controversy stewing over it” without even one measly direct quote from an actual source saying something about the controversy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all in this guy’s head, and I have no evidence saying otherwise.

Of course, just because something isn’t news doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Some entries were clearly opinion, even though some folks submitted them as news. (Anyone can submit anything for the Kunkels.) For instance: Bethesda Is Wrong About Reviews: The Two Player Podcast.

This podcast features Erik Kain and Paul Tassi from Forbes, a respected news outlet that also hires columnists. In other words, Forbes knows the difference between news and opinion and (usually) labels each clearly for readers and viewers.

How can you tell this is opinion? As one judge explains…

Both personalities are opining about a company’s announcement without concrete analysis. They even say things like, ‘That’s how I take it.'”

One judge refused to comment on this podcast. The SPJ Code of Ethics says, “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.” Says this judge…

Erik Kain is a friend of a friend, although I’ve never really talked to him myself and don’t really have an opinion about him.

Thankfully, no judge knew the winner. In fact, only one of the 15 entries dazzled our judges. So they’ve decided to name only a first-place winner with no second or third. See which one it is – and why…

Tip of the hat


See you later?

The inaugural Kunkel Awards are over.

Like all good journalists, our three judges were vaguely dissatisfied with the whole thing. “Lots of room for improvement,” one of them told me during an hourlong Google Hangout last weekend.

Both consumers and producers of video game journalism seem to agree with our judges – perhaps the only time all three groups have been in accord. Here are the three major Kunkel criticisms I’ve heard, summarized from emails, tweets, and image boards…

  1. There weren’t enough categories. Could be. We purposefully started small so we wouldn’t screw up big.
  2. There weren’t enough criteria for those categories. Could be. We wanted our judges to have the utmost freedom to pick the first-ever winners. (Interestingly, even our judges complained about this. Sometimes too much freedom is as stressful as too little.)
  3. There wasn’t enough publicity. Could be. Our goal was modest this first year: No melodrama. Of course, the flip side is not enough drama.

So what happens now? We’re looking for a total of 20 gamers and gaming journalists who want to make the Kunkel Awards better for next year – and maybe improve gaming journalism all year long.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact us. Don’t worry, no heavy lifting required – we’ll handle all the boring logistics. We simply need thoughtful opinions and advice.

Thanks to everyone who nominated an entry, commented on the finalists, supported the Kunkel Awards, and criticized the Kunkel Awards. 

We don’t care…


…what you think.

The Kunkel Awards recognize the best in gaming news and features. The judging criteria stresses “balance” and “talking to all sides.”

Opinion columns and streams don’t do that – nor should they. Who wants to read/hear an opinion that begins, “On the one hand, this is a travesty, but on the other hand, maybe it isn’t”?

Opinions are like tea and beer. Very few folks want them weak or watered down.

Maybe someday, the Kunkel Awards will recognize the best in gaming opinion. But not today. We believe the gaming media already opine often and well. So we seek traditional news and features to encourage more of them. Sometimes, old school is still the best school.

Yet a quick scan of our 100-plus nominations reveals more than a few are outright opinion pieces. And that’s not, um, our opinion.

F’rinstance, this nominated entry is labeled OPINION in big letters at the top, the byline says, “Opinion by Brianna Wu,” and the last line starts, “The views expressed in this article are those of the author…”

Interestingly, this opinion is multi-sourced, well-researched, well-written, and well done – whether you agree with the author or not. But it doesn’t qualify for a Kunkel Award. It’s not “balanced” and shouldn’t be.

Fortunately, you still have the rest of the month to nominate an excellent news or feature story or stream. It’s easy. And that’s a fact.

Bad news


We’re too popular.

The Kunkel Awards for Video Game Journalism debuted exactly one week ago, and we’ve already received 104 nominations representing 33 websites and webcasters…

  • AlphaOmegaSin
  • AngryJoeShow
  • Breitbart
  • Don’t Die
  • Entertainment Software Association
  • Errant Signal
  • The Escapist
  • Eurogamer
  • Gamasutra
  • GamesNosh
  • The Guardian
  • GDC
  • Harmful Opinions
  • Innuendo Studios
  • Liana K
  • Kotaku
  • Medium
  • Metaleater
  • New York magazine
  • The New Yorker
  • Niche Gamer
  • Offworld
  • One Angry Gamer
  • Polygon
  • Liam Robertson
  • Super Bunnyhop
  • Superheroes in Racecars
  • SuperNerdLand
  • TechRaptor
  • TotalBiscuit
  • USgamer
  • Wired

…which means our judges are gonna be swamped. Even worse for them, there are still seven weeks left in the year.

Since all Kunkel-nominated stories and streams need to be posted in 2015, it’s quite likely some award-savvy gaming writers and casters will intentionally produce their most excellent work before New Year’s Day.

From those 104 nominations so far, we’ve drawn the following…


1. Gaming media will compete against mainstream media. So far, multiple nominations have rolled in for The Guardian newspaper and The New Yorker and New York magazines. We’ve been asked if Slate and Forbes can be nominated, and we replied hell yeah, because…

2. Anyone can commit an act of journalism. It might seem odd that the Entertainment Software Association and Game Developers Conference were also nominated. But we don’t care about the source, only the content. If a story or stream is accurate, balanced, ethical, and excellent, it just might win – regardless of the author.

3. GamerGate lovers and haters are already here. GamerGaters will adore nominations from Breitbart, TotalBiscuit, and One Angry Gamer. Their opponents will be pleased with nominations from Kotaku, Offworld, and Polygon. We believe life – and awards – are richer with all sides represented.


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