An Open Letter To N4G
I’ve been gaming as long as I can remember, and at one point I even decided that I wanted to make games. Instead, through an act of pure happenstance, I created and began running a videogame website. In retrospect I did this way too late and way after the gaming journalism bubble had already solidified into the calcified shell that is known as the battle between the major sites vs the not-so-major sites.
As one of the not-so-major sites, N4G has been a valuable way for us to get our content out into the world But lately I’m finding that for small sites like ours, the obstacles being put in the way of generating content are really making N4G less palatable as a content aggregator.
Over the past couple of years moderation has become extremely inconsistent, to the extent that I don’t believe many of the moderators are actually reading the content of the stories they are flagging and make arbitrary decisions much of the time. I understand that you don’t want it to become the WorldStarHipHop of videogame news, but consistency in the moderation would remove some of that Wild West feeling.
Recently, we posted a commentary article about a Kotaku piece, sourcing our site as the main source (for the commentary), and Kotaku as a secondary source. Plenty of N4G articles are allowed to publish in this format; ours was not. When we questioned the moderator about this inconsistency, my writer and I were banned for three days. This sort of arbitrary behavior is rampant, right down to the comments that moderators sometimes provide along with failed articles. A moderator recently flagged a piece from one of my writers with a single phrase: “Just lame.”
I’m fine with a site making its own rules—hell we have our own over at The SpawnPointBlog but we do our best to be nuanced in our approach and reasonable while looking at the circumstances presented. Of late it seems like a level of “Too big to fail” has taken over at your site, in which N4G has lost regard for content providers. This is unfortunate not only because it discourages lesser-known content providers from bothering with the process, but also because that weariness means that readers lose out on other valuable perspectives.
So: Dear N4G Head Honchos, here are three small steps you can take to make things better:
- Allow site owners to cite their own site as the main link (especially on opinion pieces) and let them add the sourced site as an alternate link. You can then moderate that story properly and flag writers if they don’t source properly.
- Hire some moderators, don’t crowd source them. The amount of traffic that your six websites are pulling must make you some money. Why not make it rain on some of the people who have been good stewards for your site. It hopefully would lead to more consistent moderation, moderators who actually read the stories they’re moderating, and less trolling. Good moderation leads to good content, which leads to happy content creators and more readers for you.
- Give content creators better tools to escalate moderator disputes. Content creators have few ways to actually escalate an issue past a mod if they feel like a story has been unjustly failed or flagged. Being able to upload screenshots to document exchanges with moderators would help keep things even and fair, which will ultimately also lead to happy content creators and happier readers.
I want readers to know this isn’t a piss and moan fest; this is about fairness. This is about letting the small guys have a chance against the Omega Supremes of gaming journalism. It’s about giving diverse voices a platform to share stories that won’t be on major sites. To make sure this continues to happen, you’ll have to fix your front door—because right now it’s broken.