The internet is a fickle, scary place. You can be a hero one minute then in a matter of seconds become reviled for something you’ve said or done that is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Take Laura Kate Dale, for example. Months ago she leaked various bits of information about the Nintendo Switch rather enthusiastically via Twitter. Some of it proved to be close to the mark, but a lot of it didn’t. Of course, the internet being what it is, reverence soon turned to malice, and a flurry of abuse was sent her way that was in no way justified but somewhat understandable. Feeding a pack of wolves is great when things are going your way, but come up short and they are sure to turn around and bite you without hesitation.
— PixelPodium (@PixelPodium) January 13, 2017
It doesn’t matter if the information you leak turns out to be completely true, either. Last May, Jason Schreier of Kotaku reported that No Man’s Sky had been delayed from its June release and the internet went primal. Death threats and general abuse were hurled like monkeys throw shit; as if he was the cause for the delay of the title that turned out to be 2016’s most crushing of disappointments. He was right, but I bet the question ‘was it worth it?’ popped into his mind as the hate flooded in.
What it's like to write about video games on the internet: pic.twitter.com/a4yRcGMbsA
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) May 27, 2016
As gaming journalists, the thirst for the next big scoop is always real, especially when it pertains to a title or piece of hardware that already has consumers whipped up into fervour. But is it always for the right reasons? Sure, traffic needs to be generated and content needs to be made, but care also needs to be taken that you’re not simply showing off like some Billy Big Time or playing with consumers’ expectations by misinforming them.
Leaking information should always be done with great care and consideration; after all, you’re on a knife-edge – right or wrong, one slip up and the vampires begin clamouring for your blood. The benefits – money, fame, perhaps credibility and a feeling of accomplishment if you get things right – need to be weighed up with the drawbacks – being blacklisted, receiving abuse, setting consumers up for disappointment – and if you do go for it, you need to be very confident of your sources.
Now I’m a rather cynical person, and so would rarely be willing to 100% believe anything unless I’ve seen it with my own eyes. People in retail talk absolute bollocks for example; all you have to do is go and stand in a GAME store somewhere for 15 mins to realise that. Sources working more closely within the games industry may be more reliable, but just how do you know that they are truly privy to the information they are telling you? There’s also the factor of time to consider as well. The information you’ve been told may have been correct a month ago but things change. Game features are easily dropped, release dates changed on a whim, and hardware specs slyly revised, making definitively reporting on them a minefield.
When it comes down to it, the fact of the matter is that videogames aren’t a matter of life and death. No one is going to drop dead because they don’t know the price and specifications of the Nintendo Switch months before release. The delay of No Man’s Sky wasn’t going to cause a meteor to strike earth, ending human life as we know it. Leak information that the internet loves and you’re momentarily a god. Get it wrong or cause upset and you’re the biggest bastard on the planet. So is it worth putting your credibility and working relationships on the line for five minutes of fame? I don’t think so, but there’ll always be someone stupid, desperate or brave enough to think that it is.