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Behind The Games
(10-28-2012, 05:32 AM)
Hi. I'm back. I figured this would be nice to answer.

Originally Posted by GarthVaderUK

Seeing as we have a couple of Kotaku folks in here, does Kotaku have an ethics statement available to read anywhere (like Polygon does)?

Nope. Nothing published for Kotaku.

Originally Posted by GarthVaderUK

I mean, would Kotaku writers be free to consult on games for developers/publishers and then report on those games at Kotaku?

Absolutely not. It's sad that you even would feel the need to ask. But I get that that's what this whole thread is about: that that this kind of thing can happen elsewhere.

Originally Posted by GarthVaderUK

Is it fine for Kotaku writers to go out for meals, hit the town etc with PR people at the PR people's expense?

It's not the end of the world, and I pay my share some of the time, but if you're looking for a lapse, here you go. I always offer to pay my share but will be willing to be talked out of it sometimes. I should be more consistent in paying. (I can afford it; so don't make the impoverished-games-journalist excuse for me). You didn't ask, but I think I've gone to dinner with PR people three or four times this year. Maybe they paid twice or three times? I can't remember. I don't make PR dinners a habit. I prefer to have non-work dinners!

Originally Posted by GarthVaderUK

Is there any monetary value limit to what you'll willingly receive from people in the games industry?

I don't have a limit, but then again we don't accept stuff from publishers other than games we're sent for review/coverage. We never ask for swag. As I mentioned previously, if we get some, we give it away or just throw it out. Occasionally I'll mention some of it on the site, but any time we do that it's obviously falling for the PR ploy of giving the game extra publicity. I ran a video of the Street Fighter chess set because I figured readers would like to see it and it's an item that Capcom sells, so readers could get a better sense of whether it was worth buying for themselves. Now I have no idea what to do with it. I'd never just take it home and use it as my personal chess set because that'd be crossing the line. So it sits in its box in the office. Our company does charity giveaways, so I often just pile up excess swag for that.

We're also sent consoles (like that Halo one in the unboxing video). We use them or just let them sit in boxes. I think some outlets send this stuff back, which is a valid approach if you want to pay for shipping stuff back that you didn't ask for.

The basic rule of thumb is just to use stuff for playing games and covering them but not for any non-work-related personal gain. For example, I sometimes trade in games at GameStop for other games I want to check out, in lieu of asking for the publisher to send me said game. But here too there's an obvious line not to cross: I'd never trade the games for cash.

Originally Posted by GarthVaderUK

What's your stance on review events?

If they require travel, we don't do them because they're not worth our budget and we do not accept travel money. And if they don't require travel, I'm still leery of the time it takes out of the work day, since our staff plays games for review mostly outside what are ostensibly work hours. (One exception on the travel money: during the pre-E3 judges' tour, publishers pool money together to pay for reporters/critics to see a week's worth of E3 games from a consortium of a dozen or more publishers. Since the publishers pay at random--they don't pick which reporter/critic they're paying for and that reporter then winds up covering games from all the publishers. I disclose this on the site, as we did in previous years before I was EiC.)

Originally Posted by GarthVaderUK

Do you think all the freebies, wining and dining, and closer relationships with PR people could affect a writer's impressions of the associated products, perhaps even on a subconscious level?

Yeah, of course. Some of the things that seem off in what I've seen people here saying include this fixation on PR people. A reporter could get close to anyone on the beat they cover. It could be a developer, an executive... anyone... and even if there was zero wining and dining... the desire to have access or to not offend or to be cordial or whatever can defang a reporter or critic's best instincts to do good reporting and criticism. Some of the dismissiveness and eye-rolling that you probably detect from some in the media when this kind of message board thread flares up is because the charges against the press become almost cartoonish. Keeping oneself honest and making sure oneself is not being too soft on anything for any reason is any good reporter's daily obligation. Many of us are mindful of this in more ways than you can imagine and agonize over these issues all the time. It's this way for any reporter on any beat. It's not specific to the games press and it's not usually something as black and white as whether someone did undisclosed paid consulting on the same game they wrote for or took a gift from a PR person and didn't disclose it.

I've shared all of this publicly before in various places, but I hope it's useful for it to be here in reply to your questions.