Games Journalism! Wainwright/Florence/Tomb Raider/Eurogamer/Libel Threats/Doritos

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People generally give interviews to promote what they're working on. This goes for pretty much everything. Not just games.
No. Not generally. It's common. But it's far from universal. Look at the music and film industries. There are press junkets, and these are done as a promotional gig, and often attached to those are appearances on talk shows. But then there's the interviews done by music/film journalists and critics. They also often do interviews, but they're selective about them. And they're generally not done at the insistence of a musician's or filmmaker's PR rep. They're instigated by the writers.

Or for something much closer to home, look at the interviews done regularly by Kill Screen. They're not promotional. If anything, Kill Screen is trying to bring attention to games or people that don't even have representation. Now, if you want to get into a semantic argument and say that Kill Screen is just doing "marketing," I'd counter with the fact that the writers are the ones doing the digging, contacting, interviewing. It's the complete reverse of how most game journalists do their jobs. That's the heart of the difference. Whose idea is the story? Whose idea is the interview? If the answer is "the writer," then that's a lot more trustworthy than if the answer was "an agent/PR rep."

Do I know whose idea Keighley's Final Hours piece was? No. Did Valve have a big say in the content? I have no idea. But it should be clear as day. That same metric should apply to pretty much everything the gaming press produces. I understand that many times there is negotiation involved, especially for the higher profile deals. But there should at least be a strong sense that a piece was wholly the writer's or editor's idea, not something given to them or suggested to them by another company.
 
I'm surprised Shawn is contributing at all, after the IGN music section thing he seemed to bow out of any industry talk. I hope he's venomous in the coming months, and not reigned in for his posts in this thread.
 
Now that Shawn is years removed from being a member of the game press, I wonder if he'd be willing to give specific examples of times when he was affected by PR.
They talked about that stuff pretty openly on GFW even at the time. I loved Shawn's story about encountered Borderlands 1 at E3 and the "loot fountain" they were presented with. That story cracked me up even though I enjoyed the end game Borderlands became.
 
If it weren't for review-copies I'd be paying to be a game-critic. The site I write for doesn't have the kind of money to pay reviewers. Hell I still end up buying quite a few of the games I review. That's just how it goes sometimes.

It doesn't seem to make a difference either way.

EDIT: Goddamn I hate being the "00th" post. I may as well have not even bothered.
This might help then :p
 
You know what?


In the end, it's all fucking metacritics fault.

Sure smaller sites are weighted differently, but they still matter somewhat. If the 'college students freelancers' can be bribed, they can still control the average somewhat.

You can't steal my tinfoil hat Jason! I'm using super glue!
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
 
You know what?


In the end, it's all fucking metacritics fault.

Sure smaller sites are weighted differently, but they still matter somewhat. If the 'college students freelancers' can be bribed, they can still control the average somewhat.

You can't steal my tinfoil hat Jason! I'm using super glue!
I actually do think that Metacritic has led to some very serious problems, and I've written quite a bit about some of them, ex: http://kotaku.com/5893595/why-are-game-developer-bonuses-based-on-review-scores
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
It's not an ulterior motive.

It's their job.
 
It's not an ulterior motive.

It's their job.
Exactly! Thank you. It's like he doesn't even see what he's saying.

jschreier said:
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
They may be your friends, but it's their job to be your friend.

And I'm saying this as someone who has a good friend who works in PR for a major movie studio. She's a wonderful person and truly is friendly with many people in the press. But she's under no illusions about what she does. She likes people. She likes the company she works for. She likes the movies they produce. There's nothing "ulterior" about it. It's not like she selling swamp land or something.

But as a member of the press, it's your job to recognize that it's their job to be your friend. Students try to be teachers' friends and it's not always out of some evil motive. People are nice. But a good teacher needs to know how to establish firm boundaries. Same goes for lawyers. Or any number of other professional relationships.
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
Whether or not the feelings of friendship or comraderie are sincere is irrelevant
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
Lol. You can't be serious.
 
Whether or not the feelings of friendship or comraderie are sincere is irrelevant
Oh, I agree with you there. I don't agree with the perspective that PR people are like strippers only using us for our wallets (or in this case: our audiences), and I think that plenty of people who work in PR are genuine human beings who just want to be friends because friendships are lovely. It's still something for people like me to be aware of as we do our jobs.

And it's not just PR people - we the press have to constantly be aware of the influence from our relationships with anyone who works for game companies. This is all nothing new.
 
Contacts are everything to those PR folk. Your their currency.
They might like you sure; but look at Lauren Wainwright, its evident her 'friends' ditched her as soon as trouble appeared (someone should have just said STOP!).

Sure they might like you, but they have other lives and other things they could be doing.
Its their job first and foremost however. Seriously, they work with a lot of people - why do they single journalists out? Why do they all get on with them?

Co'mon. Don't be so foolish to think salesman only sell direct to your readers, their selling you their product as well - just because its business to business sales doesn't make them any less than salesmen. Their PR - this is their job.

EDIT: Just to say, ofc personal relationships develop. The problem is this is a 'enthusiastic press'; the lines become so muddled because theres no personal/private life.
A true friendship between a PR/Jorno is a totally off the record relationship where work isn't a part of it, then an on the record work life. Even then things are complex.

But the fact is the press and PR should have a lot more fall outs. Which brings us back to Rabs original point, its 'too' comfortable, not to say it should be a gun fight, just distinctions have to be made.
 
As long as the distinction is maintained on a website between who is a critic, an investigative reporter, an entertainment reporter, an enthusiast blogger, or behind the scenes in some other capacity, then I think that publication is doing about as good a job as they can. When those lines get blurred is where we have problems. The critics who are doing the job of an entertainment reporter (going to events and doing PR-guided previews) ought to pick a role and stick with it. Either that, or put their review on their personal blog. Or perhaps re-brand yourself as an enthusiast blogger for the site.

You wouldn't consider a film critic's job to include talking about how awesome the new trailer for some movie is, or what the real deal is about some celebrity breakup. You wouldn't expect them to show up at a film's opening night to shoot the shit with Michael Bay. If that was going on, you'd have every right to question that person's integrity. True, they could be solid as a rock and impervious to coercion to a super-human degree, and that's great... but how are we to know that? It's best to avoid situations where questions of ethics could come up in the first place. For the vast majority of film critics or critics of any other sort, that's exactly what they do.

If someone is regularly going to events or conducting interviews while at the same time writing reviews, then they are enthusiast bloggers. They are gaming 'personalities', and part of their job is to build trust with their readership. People read them because they think they're cool, can identify with what they put out there, and they trust these guys enough to not get 'bought'. If ethical questions arise and they use that opportunity to either mock the readers for being silly or they become defensive... well they of all people shouldn't be shocked at the backlash to follow. They skate a thin line every day and shouldn't take the readers' trust for granted.
 
Oh, I agree with you there. I don't agree with the perspective that PR people are like strippers only using us for our wallets (or in this case: our audiences), and I think that plenty of people who work in PR are genuine human beings who just want to be friends because friendships are lovely. with anyone who works for game companies. This is all nothing new.
Strippers can be genuinely attracted to people too. They are, after all, also "genuine human beings." I really do not understand the comparison.
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
Hang around business school students and you would be amazed.
 
Times it actually affected him.
Fair enough. Shawn honestly strikes me as someone that wouldnt put up with that bullshit if someone tried to force it on him. And Jeff Green was his editor and he doesn't strike me as someone who would ever force him to deal with it and would guard against it. But, obviously, I can only hypotheisize. I do think the fact that they were talking about these sorts of probelms on GFW all the time goes a long way in establishing credibility, though.
 
Just a quick note: I'm based in New York. The weird GMAs and PS3 contests and "weird club of pals and buddies" that Robert Florence discussed in his article are all based in the UK. My experiences in this industry have been almost nothing like what he has described. There seem to be a lot of fundamental differences in the way that UK and US press operate, which is another wrinkle to consider when having this conversation.

I don't think any reporters I know would think it was OK to consult for companies that they write about, for example. At least I hope not!
 
After their article last week on the Rab Florence incident, I feel confident in the intent and conduct behind this interview.

And isn't that ultimately all that any of us is asking for?
I was gave money to "kickstart" Kill Screen and have maintained my subscription since, so I am fine with their conduct.

They could be picked apart like anyone else.

Ultimately, we choose who we trust. No publication is perfect.

I don't think any publication is saying what happened to Rab is okay.

The Kill Screen article didn't touch on their relationship with PR, their policies as a website, or offer any of the transparency that many in this thread are asking for.
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
"Ulterior motives." Lol. It's like you and Totilo both have no idea what PR is.

PR people are paid to control information in a way that gets them good coverage. That is their FUCKING JOBS. Taking you out to dinner, making your feel special, and letting Totilo feel like he is a crack reporter who dug up "good intel" and then can go write a piece about it (a piece that, wow what a coincidence, accomplishes exactly what PR intended!) is part of an overall PR strategy.

Jesus.

It's not an "ulterior motive." It's THE motive - PR people get paid to do PR.

You are seriously suggesting that when a PR person plans a PR event with company money that comes out of their PR budget that actually DOING PR might be an "ulterior motive?"

Building rapport is part of the job. FFS just google stuff like "effective PR" and read up on what PR strategies are.

You and Totilo seem willfully naive about this to the point of parody.

Edit:

Strippers can be genuinely attracted to people too.
Ha ha, I made a strippers analogy as well but took it out because I thought it might be too inflammatory. It's a pretty good analogy though. A stripper does not have "getting paid" as an ulterior motive and neither does a PR person - and what a PR person gets paid for is building rapport, organizing events, drip feeding intel, having meet and greets, and a variety of other tried and true strategies that result in positive coverage.

As a dev you agree to go to dinner with PR and press folks because you hope it will result in good coverage. That doesn't mean you can't also have a nice dinner and enjoy yourself, but you are definitely "on" for that - it's a PR event.

PR is more than getting press releases in your email!
 
Hang around business school students and you would be amazed.
A short story:

I am teaching a business professional writing class this semester. The book I am using suggested that a document leaked by homeland security was "flawed" because it revealed flaws in the homeland security system and that this information could be damaging to the agency if the document was leaked to the public in some manner. I asked my two classes what they thought of this, everybody thought the document should have been written in such a way that it would not reveal damaging information to the public if leaked.

I was stunned that not a single student thought about the public good in a document about homeland security. All of them were more concerned about covering their employer's ass. One of them even mentioned how letting the public know might create uncertainty. Nobody objected. Even when I tried to pause and encourage dissent multiple times. They just seemed confused.

It was an eye opening experience for me.
 
Good stuff in those Shawn Elliott posts. I think it's cynical (and incorrect) to assume that every PR person has ulterior motives every time they want to go out to dinner or become friendly with a reporter - sometimes people just want to be friends with other people - but it's definitely something to think about.
 

DjangoReinhardt

Thinks he should have been the one to kill Batman's parents.
Honesty is always useful (and essential), whether it's in a review, a preview, a reported feature, a tweet, or anything else. If a reporter is worried that his/her access will be limited if he/she is honest, that is a serious problem.

What's the solution? I have no idea. Publishers have been conditioned to treat press a certain way over the past few decades, and the press who aren't big enough to be unconcerned with these issues don't have all that many options. For a smaller website that needs early Metacritic review traffic to survive, access can make all the difference. Not that I want to pick on the smaller guys, many of whom do some great work. But it is indeed a problem.
A generous dose of creative destruction. The audience needs to stop supporting the abysmal work of the enthusiast press. Their manner of operating serves the interests of the enthusiast press/PR firms/publishers at the expense of consumers.

Post-release criticism of new games that I read on GAF is far more worthwhile than the previews and reviews that I used to read from the media. Give me a website comprised of writers who are as articulate, knowledgable, passionate, and merciless as the better posters here, then we'll talk.

I have no use for the childish drivel of hype monkeys.
 
"Ulterior motives." Lol. It's like you and Totilo both have no idea what PR is.

PR people are paid to control information in a way that gets them good coverage. That is their FUCKING JOBS. Taking you out to dinner, making your feel special, and letting Totilo feel like he is a crack reporter who dug up "good intel" and then can go write a piece about it (a piece that, wow what a coincidence, accomplishes exactly what PR intended!) is part of an overall PR strategy.

Jesus.

It's not an "ulterior motive." It's THE motive - PR people get paid to do PR.

You are seriously suggesting that when a PR person plans a PR event with company money that comes out of their PR budget that actually DOING PR might be an "ulterior motive?"

Building rapport is part of the job. FFS just google stuff like "effective PR" and read up on what PR strategies are.

You and Totilo seem willfully naive about this to the point of parody.
You don't even know what my good intel is, but keep on dismissing any notion that people who do this for a living have any idea what they're talking about. Is everyone in your world stupider than you, or just the games journalists?
 
I cannot believe that I read something with such a fierce naïveté from someone who works at reporting anything at all, much less the enthusiast press. Do lobbyists just get a job to make friends? Wow, Jason.
 
You don't even know what my good intel is, but keep on dismissing any notion that people who do this for a living have any idea what they're talking about. Is everyone in your world stupider than you, or just the games journalists?
Ok, I am just going to be very blunt and honest here:

Anyone who posts an unboxing "news story" about $500 worth of Halo shit that Microsoft sent them is someone who I think is not thinking critically enough about their relationship to PR.
 
Man, PR people must be like PR robots to half the people in these threads, always singlemindedly focused on the job of shilling products probably half of them don't really honestly care about that much. Not to crap on other more relevant arguments, of course.
 
You don't even know what my good intel is, but keep on dismissing any notion that people who do this for a living have any idea what they're talking about. Is everyone in your world stupider than you, or just the games journalists?
It's kind of stupid that a games "journalist" has little to no idea about what PR is. When PR people go to dinner with reporters/journalist, they don't have ulterior motives. Their actual motive is to get good press.
 
"Ulterior motives." Lol. It's like you and Totilo both have no idea what PR is.

PR people are paid to control information in a way that gets them good coverage. That is their FUCKING JOBS. Taking you out to dinner, making your feel special, and letting Totilo feel like he is a crack reporter who dug up "good intel" and then can go write a piece about it (a piece that, wow what a coincidence, accomplishes exactly what PR intended!) is part of an overall PR strategy.

Jesus.

It's not an "ulterior motive." It's THE motive - PR people get paid to do PR.

You are seriously suggesting that when a PR person plans a PR event with company money that comes out of their PR budget that actually DOING PR might be an "ulterior motive?"

Building rapport is part of the job. FFS just google stuff like "effective PR" and read up on what PR strategies are.


You and Totilo seem willfully naive about this to the point of parody.
I may not have put it as harshly as you, but as someone that has done PR, that is spot on. I happened to genuinely like the products that I represented at the time, and I don't feel that I was misleading or unfair to the people that I reached out to, but the goal behind just about everything I did while on the clock was to help my company sell our products. I was able to be a nice person and enjoy the company of others, but business is business.

This *should* be about as noteworthy as pointing out that the goal of a used car salesperson is to sell you a car, even if they happen to be upbeat and friendly when around you.

Man, PR people must be like PR robots to half the people in these threads, always singlemindedly focused on the job of shilling products probably half of them don't really honestly care about that much. Not to crap on other more relevant arguments, of course.
I definitely wasn't a robot during my job. I happened to still have hobbies and friends, too! I wasn't writing press releases, calling press and updating our social media platforms for my own amusement, though.
 
You don't even know what my good intel is, but keep on dismissing any notion that people who do this for a living have any idea what they're talking about. Is everyone in your world stupider than you, or just the games journalists?


That'll get Kotaku some hits.

He has a point about PR people, though. PR people aren't always nice because they're generally nice people. Sure, some of them are, but their job is to make the company they look for look good. It's their job. They can like you and think you're a cool dude, but their job is to make sure the gaming public has a certain view of their game before it releases.

EDIT: or, you know. Just listen to what Nert said. Can't use that "you don't what I do, so you don't understand" crap after that post, when someone who's done PR agrees with the post you're trying to dismiss.
 
I think a lot of it is more subtle and more of a grey area than a lot of people are saying. I don't think its about bad guys and corruption and secret envelopes full of PS3s. That stuff is obvious and while things like that occasionally happen, it's usually called out. It's the more insidious stuff that's more interesting. I think by exaggerating all criticism to that level isn't always helpful. A lot of Shawn Elliot's posts talk about what I think is important.

Let's take a journalist who is pals with some PR people from a specific company. The PR guys are genuinely good pals with the journalist as well. They've known each other for years. They know that if they put out a bad game, the journalist has every right to call em on it and should. He may have even written a negative review of one of their games in the past. There's no bad guys at all in this equation. They're all just doing their jobs and respect each other.

But then a new game comes out, and the journalist plays it and for whatever reason doesn't like it. Part of it is broken, there's some obvious flaws, whatever. At the same time, he knows that the company that his PR friends work at isn't doing so well and layoffs are a definite possibility. He has a choice to review it, and negatively affect the Metacritic or not.

Now I don't think a lot of this has to be conscious. He isn't mapping this all out in his head. But maybe he finds he lacks motivation to really spend the time necessary to play the entire game and write the review. Motivation, now that's a tricky feeling, right? Maybe he has other obligations and things to do(there's always other things that need to be done) that he can focus on instead. Maybe he can send off a tweet or two or mention some of the flaws in a podcast, to help rationalize it. Having friends lose their jobs sucks, and it's not like that review has to be written.

Like I said, noone in that example is a bad guy. The PR guys aren't rubbing their hands together about having the journalist do exactly what they want, the journalist doesn't feel like he's purposefully not doing his job to help some company. Noone is buying anyone else's service. Its all psychological and rationalization.

Of course the end result is one less review, one less bad score, one less voice that consumers might be relying on. And maybe none of that is true, even. They weren't rationalizations, he just really was too busy.

But it is this sort of situation, or the appearance of this situation, that could be avoided by not being so friendly with PR or accepting gifts or meals or plane tickets or whatever. I think that's why some journalistic rules of ethics forbid all this stuff. Not because journalists are weak-willed and easily controlled, but because it can happen bit by bit, completely innocently. Or give off the impression of something shady. Like in Shawn Elliot's posts, a lot of stuff goes on in the mind that we aren't 100% aware of and in control of.
 
Ok, I am just going to be very blunt and honest here:

Anyone who posts an unboxing "new story" about $500 worth of Halo shit that Microsoft sent them is someone who I think is not thinking critically enough about their relationship to PR.
Clearly things are either black or white. Thanks fot the insight. You must have skipped my post about my ethical standards which seemed to go largely without comment except in this thread except for the person who wanted to double-check if maybe, somehow, even though we don't sell our swag, we were benefitting from a tax deduction by giving it to a charity.

As long as you keep fighting strawmen, it will feel like you're winning. But if you bother to notice that at least the Kotaku people in here are presenting something more complex than the image of being the pushovers for PR and tools of marketing that you think we are, you might wind up with some insights that are a little closer to reality.
 
Man, PR people must be like PR robots to half the people in these threads, always singlemindedly focused on the job of shilling products probably half of them don't really honestly care about that much. Not to crap on other more relevant arguments, of course.
I don't disagree given some of the carictitures. However, that doesn't dismiss the fact that even where they are genuine they create a conflict of interest (perhaps even more so).

Honestly where we are talking about mass corporate culture, I don't even know what "genuine" means. For example, I have not walked into a big box store for years without the realization that whatever some employee is telling me me or their ultimate agenda in a conversation isn't a result of a handbook or some ambitious manager's aspirations to a higher MST ratio.

And that cynacism doesn't just come from observation or secondary anecdotes. It comes from me being a manager at Babbage's software for 6 years and watching as it gradually became the Gamestop so many people righfully loathe today. Ultimately it is why I quit. I know what "customer service" constistutes in the modern era and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It makes me not want to talk to anyone working in a big retail environment because I know thar their job requires that they not be human; that they have to always be thinkng about a way to integrate whatever marketing bullshit they are currently required to mention into the conversation. And that they are always tracking their preorders, msts, and warantee sales for the day in the back if their mind. It is an absolutely horrible way to interact with another human being, so I generally opt to be as rude to them as possible to spare them the humiliation. The whole thing sucks.
 
I think a lot of it is more subtle and more of a grey area than a lot of people are saying. I don't think its about bad guys and corruption and secret envelopes full of PS3s. That stuff is obvious and while things like that occasionally happen, it's usually called out. It's the more insidious stuff that's more interesting. I think by exaggerating all criticism to that level isn't always helpful. A lot of Shawn Elliot's posts talk about what I think is important.

Let's take a journalist who is pals with some PR people from a specific company. The PR guys are genuinely good pals with the journalist as well. They've known each other for years. They know that if they put out a bad game, the journalist has every right to call em on it and should. He may have even written a negative review of one of their games in the past. There's no bad guys at all in this equation. They're all just doing their jobs and respect each other.

But then a new game comes out, and the journalist plays it and for whatever reason doesn't like it. Part of it is broken, there's some obvious flaws, whatever. At the same time, he knows that the company that his PR friends work out isn't doing so well and layoffs are a derfinite possibility. He has a choice to review it, and negatively affect the Metacritic or not.

Now I don't think a lot of this has to be conscious. He isn't mapping this all out in his head. But maybe he finds he lacks motivation to really spend the time necessary to play the entire game and write the review. Motivation, now that's a tricky feeling, right? Maybe he has other obligations and things to do(there's always other things that need to be done) that he can focus on instead. Maybe he can send off a tweet or two or mention some of the flaws in a podcast, to help rationalize it. Having friends lose their jobs sucks, and it's not like that review has to be written.

Like I said, noone in that example is a bad guy. The PR guys aren't rubbing their hands together about having the journalist do exactly what they want, the journalist doesn't feel like he's purposefully not doing his job to help some friends. Noone is buying anyone else's service. Its all psychological and rationalization.

Of course the end result is one less review, one less bad score, one less voice that consumers might be relying on. And maybe none of that is true, even. They weren't rationalizations, he just really was too busy.

But it is this sort of situation, or the appearance of this situation, that could be avoided by not being so friendly with PR or accepting gifts or meals or plane tickets or whatever. I think that's why some journalistic rules of ethics forbid all this stuff. Not because journalists are weak-willed and easily controlled, but because it can happen bit by bit, completely innocently. Or give off that impression. Like in Shawn Elliot's posts, a lot of stuff goes on in the mind that we aren't 100% aware of and in control of.
Now we're getting into interesting discussion! Thanks for these rational thoughts. They're especially striking in contrast to some of the earlier posts about how PR people are fake-kindness machines.

This all doesn't exclusively apply to PR, of course. What if I'm good friends with a designer whose game I'm assigned to review? What if I'm close to an artist on a game but I can't stand the art? What if my review could have a palpable impact on a friend's livelihood? How could any of that NOT impact my honesty and the way I do my job?

These are great questions and there are no easy answers. And situations like this have indeed led to some ruined friendships, sadly enough.
 
Clearly things are either black or white. Thanks fot the insight. You must have skipped my post about my ethical standards which seemed to go largely without comment except in this thread except for the person who wanted to double-check if maybe, somehow, even though we don't sell our swag, we were benefitting from a tax deduction by giving it to a charity.

As long as you keep fighting strawmen, it will feel like you're winning. But if you bother to notice that at least the Kotaku people in here are presenting something more complex than the image of being the pushovers for PR and tools of marketing that you think we are, you might wind up with some insights that are a little closer to reality.
Did you read Shawn's posts? It seems you're responding to the more hostile posters that believe journalists are "money hats" and other bullshit. I want more responses to what Shawn (and many of us) is saying. You might have responded, but yeah, this is a tough thread to keep track of.
 
Now we're getting into interesting discussion! Thanks for these rational thoughts. They're especially striking in contrast to some of the earlier posts about how PR people are fake-kindness machines.

This all doesn't exclusively apply to PR, of course. What if I'm good friends with a designer whose game I'm assigned to review? What if I'm close to an artist on a game but I can't stand the art? What if my review could have a palpable impact on a friend's livelihood? How could any of that NOT impact my honesty and the way I do my job?

These are great questions and there are no easy answers. And situations like this have indeed led to some ruined friendships, sadly enough.
I think a good answer would be to NOT review a game that a friend helped design. I think you have to separate that personal and professional relationship in that instance, especially when you have to judge something that a friend created. Of course there is going to be a little bias.

I know it sucks, but that's the way it should be. I'd love to be friends with everyone, but not if it interfered with my passion, which in your case (I'd hope) is being a game journalist/critic.
 
I think a good answer would be to NOT review a game that a friend helped design. I think you have to separate that personal and professional relationship in that instance, especially when you have to judge something that a friend created. Of course there is going to be a little bias.

I know it sucks, but that's the way it should be. I'd love to be friends with everyone, but not if it interfered with my passion, which in your case (I'd hope) is being a game journalist/critic.
Of course that's the obvious answer (and the one I'd most likely go with), but if you'll re-read voodoopanda's post, he brings up a different issue: what if you're doing a disservice to your readers by not warning them to stay away from a bad game?
 
Clearly things are either black or white. Thanks fot the insight. You must have skipped my post about my ethical standards which seemed to go largely without comment except in this thread except for the person who wanted to double-check if maybe, somehow, even though we don't sell our swag, we were benefitting from a tax deduction by giving it to a charity.

As long as you keep fighting strawmen, it will feel like you're winning. But if you bother to notice that at least the Kotaku people in here are presenting something more complex than the image of being the pushovers for PR and tools of marketing that you think we are, you might wind up with some insights that are a little closer to reality.
I read this response first, and was all like "wow, Totilo, chill."

Then I scrolled up. Wow, guys. Come on. Yeah, yeah, I know, I used to be a prolific Kotaku commenter, so maybe that means I'm totes biased or something, but I left Kotaku because I, like a lot of members, felt like they stopped giving a shit about (much less respecting) their audience. If anything, I feel like I should be just as crazy and anti-Kotaku as anybody, but...

Some of the criticisms being leveled here are fucking stupid. I have no issue with Kotaku posting an unboxing video of a product I have on preorder. I'm excited to see what's in it. Unboxing videos are not some sort of horrific evil. Publishers get swag all the time. That can be a problem, for sure, but I'm pretty sure it's nowhere near on par with the truly reprehensible stuff, like inserting a staff member into a game or flying people to Hawaii to preview one.

No, I'm not a fan of Kotaku anymore, though, credit where credit's due, Kotaku's posted some good stuff (though it seems more few and far between). But... wow. Can we all be a bit more calm about stuff?

I'm really upset about the way this Eurogamer situation has been handled, and yeah, I'm a bit offended that it seems like Kotaku writers--and this isn't to single them out, because it seems like EVERY major site is avoiding this--don't think their audience (of which I, and many people I know, used to be)... but some of these attacks are really fucking stupid.

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For me, the interesting discussion is all about ethics and how gaming journalism can work to exert better control over the publishers. For instance, it's batshit insane that publishers are able to prevent people from releasing reviews late. Every other industry does early reviews, but the game industry's all like "NOPE. We don't wanna run the risk of our bad games getting shit scores, so we're gonna force you to wait until a bunch of people already have their copies at home," which misses the point of reviews entirely (reviews should help people make informed purchases).

Another interesting discussion would be about serious criticism: I absolutely believe that many games critics are serious when they give games great scores, even though many of us might not. I do feel that reviews are often, however, somewhat shallow. I don't understand, for instance, how people can say that Half-Life 2 or Bioware games have great stories, but that's because my own personal background is in literature and criticism. I feel like a lot of game writers are just fans who aren't all that well-versed in genuine criticism, so, for instance, when they see a Bioware game, they go "wow, it's got gay characters, so it's awesome!" without thinking about how poorly the characters/sexuality is being represented.

I'm probably not writing this well, but I've had a long day and I'm tired.

I feel like I could do a better job of games journalism than most games journalists, so someone should hire me.
 
I think a lot of it is more subtle and more of a grey area than a lot of people are saying. I don't think its about bad guys and corruption and secret envelopes full of PS3s. That stuff is obvious and while things like that occasionally happen, it's usually called out. It's the more insidious stuff that's more interesting. I think by exaggerating all criticism to that level isn't always helpful. A lot of Shawn Elliot's posts talk about what I think is important.

Let's take a journalist who is pals with some PR people from a specific company. The PR guys are genuinely good pals with the journalist as well. They've known each other for years. They know that if they put out a bad game, the journalist has every right to call em on it and should. He may have even written a negative review of one of their games in the past. There's no bad guys at all in this equation. They're all just doing their jobs and respect each other.

But then a new game comes out, and the journalist plays it and for whatever reason doesn't like it. Part of it is broken, there's some obvious flaws, whatever. At the same time, he knows that the company that his PR friends work at isn't doing so well and layoffs are a definite possibility. He has a choice to review it, and negatively affect the Metacritic or not.

Now I don't think a lot of this has to be conscious. He isn't mapping this all out in his head. But maybe he finds he lacks motivation to really spend the time necessary to play the entire game and write the review. Motivation, now that's a tricky feeling, right? Maybe he has other obligations and things to do(there's always other things that need to be done) that he can focus on instead. Maybe he can send off a tweet or two or mention some of the flaws in a podcast, to help rationalize it. Having friends lose their jobs sucks, and it's not like that review has to be written.

Like I said, noone in that example is a bad guy. The PR guys aren't rubbing their hands together about having the journalist do exactly what they want, the journalist doesn't feel like he's purposefully not doing his job to help some company. Noone is buying anyone else's service. Its all psychological and rationalization.

Of course the end result is one less review, one less bad score, one less voice that consumers might be relying on. And maybe none of that is true, even. They weren't rationalizations, he just really was too busy.

But it is this sort of situation, or the appearance of this situation, that could be avoided by not being so friendly with PR or accepting gifts or meals or plane tickets or whatever. I think that's why some journalistic rules of ethics forbid all this stuff. Not because journalists are weak-willed and easily controlled, but because it can happen bit by bit, completely innocently. Or give off the impression of something shady. Like in Shawn Elliot's posts, a lot of stuff goes on in the mind that we aren't 100% aware of and in control of.

I great post and a great analog to Giant Bomb's decision not to review Dance Central 3.

And yes, I know, but somebody's gotta ground it.
 
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