Archive for the ‘why’ Category


Back with baggage

The Kunkel Awards are back.

And unfortunately, so am I.

My name is Michael Koretzky. I created the Kunkels in 2015, with the help of several skeptical gaming journalists. (James Fudge suggested the name, others the original categories.)

I made, uh, several mistakes. Thankfully, none were fatal. Last year, I bequeathed the title of contest director – which isn’t the same as being a judge – to a groovy woman named Brittany Ferrendi. She quickly killed my favorite category (worst story of the year) and added one I never thought of but should’ve (esports coverage).

Then she bailed.

Ferrendi used this mostly maligned gig to help herself land a job at Discord, the chat app popular among gamers. She moved from South Florida to San Francisco, and I was proud of her. She made lemonade out of a shit sandwich.

Let’s face it, being Kunkel director sucks. The hours are long, the appreciation is meager, the insults are legion, and the salary is nothing. So good for her.

Not sure it’s good for me or the Kunkels, though. Ferrendi told me in late August she wasn’t returning, which turned out not be enough time to coerce – er, recruit – a new contest director who could handle the job. Ferrendi was well-suited for the role, with her major qualification being: She’s not a 53-year-old white dude whose only video game experience is playing Age of Empires III against his ancient Mac Pro while liberally using cheat codes.

So while I search for another young video game-playing journalist to run the Kunkels next year, I’ll resume command this year. I expect this news to be met with a hearty yawn from the gaming press, which has mostly ignored the Kunkels because they think it’s associated with GamerGate. Meanwhile, the remnants of that online shitshow dismiss the Kunkels because its mortal enemy Kotaku has won multiple awards.

So why persevere? I’m reminded of what Winston Churchill once said: “Democ­ra­cy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment, except for all those oth­er forms.”

The Kunkels are the worst kind of video game journalism awards, except for all those others – because there aren’t any. Sadly, this is it. So onward and downward.

NEXT WEEK: How to enter the 2018 Kunkel Awards. For free, as always.

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.

Younger smarter better

New director, new direction.


Meet Brittany Ferrendi. She’s the new director of the Kunkel Awards.

After two years, I’m turning over the Kunkels to someone half my age, with twice my energy and a billion more hours actually spent playing video games.

(I off-handedly asked her what game she’s playing right now, and I got this long-ass answer…

I’ve been hooked on Mass Effect: Andromeda ever since it came out last month. The series has been a long-time favorite of mine, but when they announced a fourth addition, I was skeptical after seeing a handful of busywork quests in Dragon Age: Inquisition — another game created by the same developers and publishers. I wound up picking ME:A at launch anyway, and I don’t regret a thing. I’m also playing Killing Floor 2 — the game itself is engaging, but it’s the people you play with that truly makes it worthwhile.

…which is a keen reminder why I never engage in small talk.)

When she’s not playing games and actually working for a living, Ferrendi is digital content editor at South Florida Gay News, the largest LGBT publication in the southeast United States. Yet she’s not gay. For this youngest generation of journalists, that shit doesn’t matter – if it’s a cool job, who cares? A big improvement over my generation.

Ferrendi graduated from college only last year, but she was a capable Kunkel judge this year. Some of the most amusing and educational comments were hers. For an awards program that’s only grudgingly gaining acceptance, she gushes, “I was definitely impressed by the response we received to the awards and to the judges’ comments. Our readers are passionate, whether or not they agreed.”

But as contest coordinator, Ferrendi will no longer judge. So what will she do?

  • Consult gaming journalists, readers, and developers to determine how many (and what kind of) categories the Kunkels will offer.
  • Recruit judges and sets deadlines for their wise decisions and nasty comments.
  • Writes up those comments in blog posts and winner remarks that are intended to both teach and encourage quality journalism.
  • Act as spokesperson to anyone who wants to talk or complain about the Kunkels.

Alas, the position is neither paid nor respected. It comes without perks such as free travel, cash bribes, or horny groupies. But Ferrendi still wants the gig, because in 10 years, she envisions this…

I’d love to see the Kunkels advance to its own spot at E3. We’d have more resources available to aspiring video game journalists and be an essential part of the Society of Professional Journalists. Video games are being taken more seriously in mainstream media, with their own timeslots on ESPN — I envision gaming journalism will be just as important in the coming years as sports journalism is today.

I’d love to see that myself, so I’m sticking around to help – by working for Ferrendi. If you want to share your own vision for the Kunkels with her, she’s at KunkelAwards@gmail.com.

Worst story of 2016

So bad it’s goo.


Our judges struggled to select the absolute worst gaming story of 2016 – because all 42 entries were horrific in their own way. But one was amusing and meta…

An anonymous somebody submitted the Kunkel post that announced the Worst Story of Year category. Now that’s good comedy.

Sadly, it was the first and last laugh.

Our three judges settled on three terrible stories that each committed a cardinal sin of journalism. First, there’s Rock Band 4 is doing a lot of the fun things you want it to do from Polygon – a large media outlet that won second place last year for Excellence in News Reporting.

Alas, this was excellent only at self-indulgence. Here’s the opening paragraph…

A few of my more effervescent, more gregarious, more alive colleagues in game journalism are on stage “rocking out” to The Killers. We are on the rooftop of a pricey hotel in Santa Monica, at a press event organized by Rock Band 4’s developer and publisher Harmonix.

Guess what? No one cares about you. To be more specific, no one wants to read about how much fun you’re having “on the rooftop of a pricey hotel.” If you fell off that roof, no one would mourn you.

Journalists are simply data-delivery androids. That’s their only value to society. Spat one judge…

This reads like a fucking diary entry. “I’m having an OK time,” the writer says, like that’s at all relevant to a Rock Band 4 review. “I don’t care about music. I dislike crowds and I dislike loud noises.” BUT THIS IS A LOUD MUSIC GAME! Why are you telling me about your preferences? Are you rehearsing for your Tinder profile? It takes the writer 11 paragraphs to get to the game’s features – after sifting through a very odd tangent about his grandmother.

Concluded another judge:”Journalism isn’t about you, the writer. It’s about your audience, the readers. Go fuck yourself.”

As you might’ve noticed, this newest Kunkel category elicited the most “fucks” from our judges. They’re actually compassionate people, but they believe journalism’s porcelain-like reputation will crack beyond all repair if idiots keep fumbling with its basic rules.

That’s why they also despised Why Isn’t it Called No Woman’s Sky? from Jezebel. This story – if you can call a total of 91 words a “story” – explains why  the feminist website won’t write a story about a video game called No Man’s Sky…

We find the name of this “first person space travel” game to be distasteful, offensive, and shamelessly anti-feminist.

Ranted one judge…

Essentially, “We don’t like the name of this game, so we’re not gonna review it.” OK, then don’t fucking post about it. Especially if you’re not going to even fucking ask the developer the question in your headline and get some kind of comment. I’m not sure WTF this is, but it’s not good or funny or useful or journalism.

The issue here isn’t feminism, it’s journalism. If you’re going to slag on someone, at least try talking with them.

Another judge thought this could’ve been a superb story – if Jezebel had done more…

The headline should have been “Why Jezebel Won’t Cover This Game.” It’s BECAUSE the title is offensive that an offended feminist site should COVER it. That’s, like, journalism 101. Missed opportunity, for sure.

In other words, instead of simply declaring you’re offended, interview the people who offended you and get their side. Ask other feminists (and anti-feminists) about the blatant or subtle impact of a game’s name.

Two more cringe-worthy points…

1. What about the content of the game? Heaven forbid the game itself is actually feminist – but because you refused to even play it, you don’t know. Journalism means follow-through.

2. Jezebel’s principled stand ends with, “For an in-depth review, please visit our sister site.” Huh?

Finally, there’s My GamerGate silence helped elect Trump (and other truths). The fetid issue here has nothing to do with GamerGate. It has to do with journalists embracing clickbait headlines that over-sell the actual story, and then pimping their other stories way too hard.

Explains one judge…

I knew the writer would make a large-scale controversy all about her just from reading the headline. But I was nevertheless appalled to see she promoted her previous stories in the FIRST PARAGRAPH – you know, the paragraph meant to grab a reader’s attention. The shameless self-plug alone ranks this one poorly in my book.

So that’s every pair of shoes in the place. The second annual Kunkel Awards are over. How’d we do this year? Tell us how much we suck in the comments below. Next week, we announce a big change to next year’s Kunkel Awards.

So bad they win

Who’s the first worst?


Here’s the sad, hidden truth about journalism: All too often, terrible stories are written by talented reporters.

Did these reporters interview only one source? Was that source wrong on the facts? Did they forget to check those facts? Did they violate damn near every entry in the SPJ Code of Ethics?

Those reporters might be evil. Or they might be tired.

Last year, I met a journalist at a major gaming news outlet. He hated half of everything he wrote – because he was under pressure from his bosses to churn out 5-10 posts a day.

So there’s a fair chance the winner of the first-ever Kunkel Award for Worst Story of the Year won’t dispute receiving this dubious honor.

Of course, it’s just as likely it goes to someone who doesn’t give a shit about being ethical.

Either way, I’ve been asked why the Kunkels are offering such an inflammatory award. It’s not like most gaming journalists respect us in the first place. Won’t this just make it worse?

Maybe. But the Kunkel Awards seek to improve gaming journalism by teaching both readers and reporters what’s excellent. That’s why we insist on blunt judges’ comments.

Sometimes, though, you learn best by knowing what not to do.

The goal here isn’t humiliation. It’s education. So this is the only Kunkel Award that comes with a prize: A free year of SPJ membership.

Let the jokes about that begin.

Tomorrow: The Kunkels go to college.


Nominate your favorite gaming stories and videos of 2016

 

Can’t take a hint

Not going away.


Last year’s inaugural Kunkel Awards didn’t exactly grab the gaming world by the throat.

Many gaming journalists purposefully ignored the Kunkels. They were suspicious of SPJ AirPlay, the 2015 live-streamed debate about the ethics of the gaming press. Onstage were several GamerGate proponents. (GamerGate opponents refused to attend.)

Explains James Fudge, the managing editor of Unwinnable, former ME of the defunct Games Politics, and one of the creators of the Kunkel Awards…

“Last year, a number of colleagues privately expressed discomfort at publicly supporting the first annual Kunkel awards, mostly due to a lack of trust or confidence in SPJ. That distrust – while understandable in the caustic online atmosphere of 2016 – was unfounded and misguided. The Kunkel Awards accomplished what they were designed to do: highlight excellent games journalism.”

Of course, many GamerGate supporters hated the Kunkel Awards, too. That’s because some winners were media outlets they can’t stand – with the dreaded Kotaku dominating the news category.

As one Kunkel commenter angrily typed last year, honoring Kotaku “is like giving John Wayne Gacey a man of the year award for not stabbing someone he passed in the grocery store.” Don’t quite grasp the analogy, but it sounds bad.

Then there were the gamers who called the Kunkel Awards a hot mess and complete shit.

Still, we’re encouraged…

  • Distrust and loathing are far better than apathy and ignorance.
  • For all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, we still got nearly 300 entries last year.
  • The original reason for the Kunkel Awards hasn’t changed.

So today, we open nominations for the second time. Tomorrow, we’ll start explaining our two new categories. One of them is sure to be really hated.


Nominate your favorite gaming stories and videos of 2016

 

Good question

kunkel2

“Why?”


I’ve heard that question a lot, ever since I proposed national awards for video game journalism. But I’ve never heard it from video game enthusiasts or journalists.

Those who play, buy, and cover video games already know why…

  • People: 155 million Americans “regularly” play video games. Only 126 million voted in the 2012 presidential election.
  • Money: The U.S. video game industry raked in more than $22 billion last year. That’s more than the NFL ($11 billion) and Major League Baseball ($9 billion) combined.

Yet there are no national awards for video game journalism.

Political reporting awards? Scads of those. Everything from the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism to something called the Hanns Seidel Foundation Patronage Award for Political Journalism. (No, I never heard of it, either.)

And not only does SPJ’s vaunted Sigma Delta Chi Awards have a “sports column writing” category, there’s even an awards program for fantasy sports coverage.

So you can win an award for covering fantasy football, but not Final Fantasy.

It took some persuading, but SPJ has warily authorized the Kunkel Awards for Video Game Journalism  only for one year, though. If the Kunkels recognize excellent and ethical reporting without too much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, I suppose it’ll survive another year.

Meanwhile, journalists can win an award for writing the year’s best obituary. It’s called a Grimmy. Can’t make that shit up.

So that’s why.

Honest questions? Withering criticism? Wanton praise? Comment below or contact me.

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