There was a time when video games were judged in two ways: your friends and magazines. The introduction of online gaming sites and communities has changed all of that.
The media surrounding games has gone from one of physical word-of-mouth to online word-of-mouth. While friends still tell each other about the fun they've had on this game or that, the truth is that the culture of gaming has shifted almost entirely to online coverage, podcasts, and forums.
Podcasts, particularly, have given a louder voice to the gamers. While anyone can create a simple podcast, it takes a special group to continue it while treating the culture of gaming with respect. Many great podcasts deal with the subject material both professionally and maturely.
With the closing of many major magazines over the last few years, the divide has grown even further. The death of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Games for Windows, and others has taken a toll on the "professional" industry and moved many of the former magazine employees over to either the online side or game development itself.
This movement has also given more legitimacy to the web. With the former EGM Editor moving to his own created site along with a few other former EGMers, the reliability of web sources has grown tremendously. No longer are game sites looked down upon.
Legitimacy has also come from the look and design of web sites. Gone are the days of simple static web pages. The look and feel of even what an amateur can accomplish has increased dramatically. Web sites do not use frames but CSS. The rise of these complex systems have also greatly increased the the web developers ability to create content very quickly.
The speed of online game sites is another contributing factor to their growing popularity. There was a time when consumers had to wait a month before finding out about new games, reviews, and news from the industry. Now, sites can have this news up almost instantaneously. Not only can they post articles quickly, but live blogging and video functions have created new avenues in which to view media presentations.
Long-time gamers will likely tell you that while they miss the physical magazines of yesteryear, the shift to online coverage has been a welcome one. The ease of discovery of new games, the ability to interact with others like themselves, and creation of a gaming culture are all reasons for this.
The days of video game magazines will not be forgotten. For many, those were not only the early days of video games, but the early days of their very lives. Growing up with magazines may have endeared them to their heart, but everybody grows up. Online game sites have simply increased the coverage gamers see of their favorite products, and that's never a bad thing.
Remember that games are not movies, paintings, or music. While they may not have the same legitimacy as forms of art, that does not make them any less valid parts of entertainment culture.