A couple weeks ago now there was a rather important news piece on the unethical culture of gaming journalism circulating the internet and if you didn’t read it you really should. In it a prominent journalist has literally lost hope on the nature of the field he loves and the deep dark spiral it was heading into. It is a rather awkward circumstance as even though his piece was more of a warning to his journalistic field to maintain integrity and maybe reflect on the nature of the gaming PR practices it was taken as a threat by some, whom were named, that then vehemently defended their position. Matters got worse and as you can see from the article some of the parts were legally retracted and as such Mr Florence relinquished his position at Eurogamer. This as you can imagine caused a rather large ripple through gaming journalism and the playerbase at large and many write ups regarding the matter have been written with some notable ones being
- RPS have a rundown of the events
- coverage at Forbes
- Doritosgate at VG247, which also enacted sweeping changes in the company regarding ethical practices
- The loss of trust by games Industry International
- John Walker of RPS’s blog also has a few pieces and even a reply from Rab Florence
There are of course many more pieces but these seem to be the most notable and have very well written pieces, also the comment sections have some good replies as well as more links and info regarding the matter.
I’m writing about this as well because I also tend to think that being ethical is rather important. That may be coming from the psych degree where there is a rather rigid system in place but in the end it is of benefit to everyone. It just seems as though there is a distinct problem with ethics not just in the gaming media but entertainment journalism as a whole which i think comes from its very nature wherein it is dependent on the product it is attempting to discuss or review. It is a dependence to popularist opinion in a sense in order to generate the most page views and revenue themselves.
It is a nasty little system but it is made worse by the PR departments of the big name game companies. We all have our inherent bias’s when it comes to games as our interests, dislikes and experiences shape us in such a way but the question is, can our opinions be swayed in such a way by the lavish gifts and opulent experiences that seems customary in the field? Going by the amount of money and effort spent i would have to say it does. I don’t doubt that some may be able to maintain a sense of impartiality through it all, unswayed by the environment but most.. I don’t think so.
Bloggers are kind of apart from all this as we are attached to none and apart from the gaming media culture to a certain extent. I guess for some the dream is to be the next sheep in the big city, to be some sort of blogging superstar, to be lavished attention upon but in reality our opinions are relatively minor in terms of game sales. This is a good thing in a sense as we are effectively beneath the evil gaze of Sauron thus we can write incoherent rants about the games we hate and passionate dribble on the ones we do with these views usually being untainted… but sometimes, maybe not. Some of the big name bloggers attend the big events where all the cool people hang out and they seem like quite the spectacle; big companies, big spending, and maybe even big influence.
I remember reading Ravious at KTR and the article regarding the wait for GW2 and thinking that it would have been oh so cool to meet and chat with the developers and just visit all those VIP functions, the perks of the position but now.. now I can’t help but think this would have influenced his view of GW2 more than he thought possible. He was already what could have been described as a rabid fan as he was an avid GW player and in the wait for the new addition for years. It was clear he was very positive regarding the product already but being in that experience, with people you idolise must have had some sort of influence on his views. He may have overlooked certain discrepancies on the demo’s or more wrote more positively on other mechanics but to imagine there was no impact is to turn a blind eye.
Tobold put a piece up recently about how even he receives gifts of games or a book from time to time and that he discloses any sort of thing and i don’t even know if they could be an issue, purchasing a title invokes a certain sense of investment and would bypassing this make one a little less critical since it isn’t their own money on the line. I have no answer here and how best to handle this influential marketing culture, I’m relatively new to writing in this sense so my view may be a little more meaningless to those above and I’m just as passionate about games as most with my own inherent bias’s. I very rarely look critically at a new title and it only tends to surface once I have experienced it further and that is my own flaw. I have planned to attend the big Penny Arcade expo next year that is coming to Oz but I wonder if I was a part of the spectacle that is these big events and privy to some of the perks would this change.. would I still be writing like me? In the end I think none of us are immune to the sways of marketing, even though some of the prominent don’t consider themselves “journalists” and thus set themselves apart from the ethical standards of other industries I think it is still important to recognise the influence that does and will occur and maybe act and reflect accordingly .