February 28, 2007 4:19 AM | Simon Carless
So, there's this new Videogame Style Guide and Reference book, right? And I actually know and like the folks behind it - David Thomas of the IGJA is a tremendously smart, affable guy - though I'm a bit scared of his new moustache, I think. Kyle Orland has matured into a very smart journo for Joystiq and others - heck we even used him for a neat Capcom interview last week. And Scott Steinberg, setting aside his habit of billing himself "gaming's most prolific journalist", is obviously a smart enough person.
But I don't see the point of a universal style guide for games, and here's why - at the root, I find the whole concept of superdetailed style guides simply overkill. To be honest, I think these gigantic overarching glossaries in general are a dying breed. They're old media, they're tremendously overformal, and they're not even interactive. Unless you're managing a gigantic staff writing formal articles up the wazoo (perhaps at GameSpot and IGN), I don't believe they're particularly useful for game journalism.
Now, having said that, we do, somewhere, have an official style guide for Game Developer magazine - which extends to Gamasutra. But it's simply never referred to - everyone who works on the mag has a pretty damn clear of what is what. And it comes down to some key points that don't even need a one-page document to summarize:
- You need to know how to spell proper names of gaming devices and agree to override exceptionally dumb custom naming when necessary. For example, we can remember that it's Xbox, PlayStation, and Game Boy, respectively. Those are, honestly, about the only difficult ones, unless you count the fact that you're meant to call it Nintendo's Wii instead of the Nintendo Wii, and I think that's ridiculous enough to over-rule. Ditto for companies who insist you use all caps for their product name. So that's that.
- You need to have consensus on a couple of key points which are genuinely style-related and marginally game-specific. For regular day to day Gamasutra reporting, it's that game names are in italics, companies are always 'it' rather than 'they', and we spell it 'video game', not 'videogame' - this in itself a hilarious source of controversy! Oh, and we make sure that dates are always done in the same way. Those are honestly all the major points that I can recall we run into on a daily basis.
Now, admittedly I'm not a J-school grad, rather a reformed game developer and a History B.A. But I just think we have far more important things to worry about in today's fluid Web world regarding sourcing and plain good writing for game journalism than to spend our time on detailed style guides that nobody will read. And I find it a little irksome that the trio's intro to the style guide raises the specter of the inebriated, busted state of game journalism, YET AGAIN, over the right spelling of Xbox: "When it comes to presenting a consistent vocabulary, videogame journalism is sloppy at best. At worst, it's a complete mess." OMG CALL THE JOURNALISM POLICE!
As a slightly annoyed kiss-off, from the blurb page: "The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual contains all the tools you need to realize a distinguished career in game journalism, or go from enthusiast to editor today!" C'mon, could you be any more 'Make Money Fast' about it? I respect the spirit of the idea, and the people behind it, but the whole thing just seems to be wading in the shallows outside the reality of game journalism, to me. Dammit... I just realized that I'm probably not going to be approved for my free eBook copy any more, am I?