Gaming journalists have had their fair share of difficulty finding stories to write for their audiences during the pandemic.
Dean Takahashi, the lead writer for GamesBeat at VentureBeat, has been covering video games for more than 20 years. The Toronto Observer interviewed Takahashi in mid-June about his views on how gaming journalists have been affected by COVID-19.
“You know, it does make journalism harder,” said Takahashi. “We can’t go visit a company. If a company wants to stage a preview event, they can’t just go. [We can’t] rent a warehouse, put a bunch of computers in and say go play.”
Numerous gaming industry events have been cancelled because of COVID-19. One of which is E3, a popular convention that exhibits up-and-coming games, consoles and other video game-related products. This event was cancelled for the first time since its debut in 1995.
When games are needed to test and review in order to write a story, Takahashi says that companies have to figure out new ways to get them into the hands of journalists digitally.
And then there’s the limitations that working from home that Takahashi has had to face.
“You can’t go out and meet them in their environment. Like you can’t go to their office and see all these things on his wall, and all these toys around his desk,” Takahashi said, explaining how he would use these observations to better understand the personalities of his sources.
However, Takahashi explained that Zoom calls are becoming a standard in the industry. And with that, a whole new set of details are sometimes revealed.
“You can see what their homes look like. Or you can see if their kids are coming in to interrupt the conversation,” Takahashi said with a smile.
E3 may have been cancelled, but that didn’t stop companies like Sony from shaking up the gaming community with the reveal of its new console and video game line up.
Takahashi has not left that unnoticed. He has written a few articles about the new PlayStation 5 and two articles on the sequel to his favourite game, The Last of Us Part II.
Takahashi stated that game companies that haven’t been hurt that badly can still get new products released. With that, people are more enthusiastic about buying and playing games since gaming has become a form of socialization during these isolating times.
“We’re seeing a lot of companies say that in the first quarter, either sales or users were up, you know, 30 per cent to 70 per cent. And that means that game companies can retain their revenues, keep their employees, hire more,” said Takahashi. “I saw a survey one of the companies was doing which was keeping track of all the layoffs that were happening, and they found that almost all of the major video game companies are hiring right now.”
Takahashi also mentioned how gaming has evolved from being a nonexistent journalism genre, to having professional and citizen journalists, such as streamers and influencers, play video games live on the Internet, and discuss and play games for an audience. He believes that journalists will have to catch up with streamers to garner audience interest.
“I think it’s important for people who are very enthusiastic about making content about games to consider options that can make them successful… livestreaming [is] something that people are interested in, which go beyond the sort of written work in communicating to people,” he said.