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

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Well there goes any respect I have for eurogamer. I don't care if they were worried about a lawsuit, they clearly can't be trusted to provide honest information. Any journalist that bows to pressure is worthless, but hey if they want to make nothing but top ten lists I guess that's their prerogative.
 

NervousXtian

Thought Emoji Movie was good. Take that as you will.
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).
Well, the embargo equivalent with movies is no pre-screenings for critics. So technically other fields do it.

The closer the embargo is to release day the more you should probably fear it's quality.
 
Well, the embargo equivalent with movies is no pre-screenings for critics. So technically other fields do it.

The closer the embargo to release day the more you should probably fear, just no movies that don't have pre-screenings for critics.
It seems to be more of a standard for games than films. PLENTY of movies get prescreenings.
 

NervousXtian

Thought Emoji Movie was good. Take that as you will.
It seems to be more of a standard for games than films. PLENTY of movies get prescreenings.
The good ones do ;)

..but yeah, embargoes suck. Yet I guess if you are getting the game early, you gotta play by their rule of when you can release reviews. In some ways, it at least isn't having everyone just rush to be first.
 
I am glad the fake mask of integrity and ethics is finally being removed by some in the games press, though they aren't removing it intentionally. Their logic and arguments are revealing to say the least. :)
 
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.
Just to be 100% clear I am not saying that PR people are horrible people, that they are conniving bastards trying to trick people, or that after a nice dinner with Totilo they go back the office and cackle over what a rube he is.

Inviting someone to a dinner with devs where you can get a little info on a game and write a nice story about it isn't a trick. But it is a strategy.

As a member of the press you get access and info - the life blood of your site. As a PR person you get coverage - which is your job. And both sides perform some personal relationship maintenance that will make that coverage read a little softer, or make the PR person more likely to give you some exclusive screens down the road.

There is nothing cynical or accusatory about pointing out that PR people do PR.
 
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?
Ah yes, I missed that part.

That's a tough call. I'm a bit self-centered, so I probably wouldn't write the review so I don't offend a friend. On the other hand, I'm kind of anti-social, so I wouldn't be afraid of throwing someone under the bus to warn people not to play that game (whether I was on good speaking terms with the designer or not).

It's up to the reviewer I guess, but I think not reviewing a game you may have a potential bias toward is better in regards to keeping your credibility intact. Yes, some readers might feel as if they were done a disservice, but I think that's a little more understandable than reviewing a friend's game. If you did happen to review it, I think you should make it clear right off the bat that you're on good speaking terms with a designer. People don't like it when you hide stuff from them.

In my opinion. Every critic has their own sets of moral guidelines when it comes to this stuff (I assume), but they should at least be honest about it. I guess that's just me.

Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of Kotaku (although I enjoy the very simple color scheme and a few of the articles) but I'm glad I can talk to someone who's a writer for them. Makes me feel like my voice is being heard, which is nice.
 
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.
I just read/re-read them (I'd seen some of them). I don't have much to add. They're not controversial. The job of PR is to get the most positive image of their product or client out there. I've been aware of this for a very long time and assume folks here are, too.

As I read through the chronology of what set all this off, the most interesting thing to me--the thing that feels new--is the possibility that one media outlet threatened another and that the other caved and edited their story. But I still don't know the fact of that, and it looks like there are conflicting accounts.

But regarding PR's influence? it's significant to the extent that reporters interact with PR, which is probably why the Kotaku stories I am proudest of didn't begin with PR outreach, often didn't even involve PR people or sometimes pissed some PR people off. I always remember that a PR person's job is to seem like my pal even if deep down inside they might not actually want to be my pal (I'm sure most of them don't!). But that's not the most important thing to remember about the reporter-publicist relationship: I am always mindful of the fact that PR people, even the nicest ones, are paid to mostly just tell me the company line, whereas I'm paid to tell the truth. Sometimes those are the same thing; sometimes they're not. It's why I'd never take a job in PR. The priorities of that job, which certainly involve the useful service of being one possible point of contact for a company, are just so different from those of the journalist.

About the whole chumminess thing. There are only one or two people who work in any part of the games industry who I might be tempted to call a friend, but even with those people I find myself stopping short any time I might refer to them as such. It's because one of my old journalism school ethics professors liked to remind me and my fellow students that journalists should have no friends. Not just no friends on the beat, but NO friends! He was extreme. He also suggested that if a war reporter was embedded with a platoon and knew the platoon was about to walk into an ambush that the reporter shouldn't warn the platoon. That was because he said a reporter's primary goal was to report the truth without altering the truth. And his "no friends" thing was because he was sure that any good reporter would have to print something true and therefore not necessarily flattering about anyone they might come across and therefore couldn't afford to be friendly with these people.

Our other ethics professor laughed some of this off and pointed out that this was all rather extreme, but it's a hell of a standard to operate in relation to, and it's these kind of extremes that I use to guide me. This is why it's laughable to me when I see people going after me for a Halo unboxing video. I made a news judgment on that and decided the mailing had enough news value to show it to people, but I certainly was aware of the ethical issues around it. I always am for anything we do.
 
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.
If you want to take issue with what I wrote feel free. Otherwise I'm going to assume you can't specifically say what was wrong with it because you are incapable of doing so.

What I wrote was completely rational and was not about "fake-kindness machines."

For lack of a better phrase man up. If my post was so terrible explain why. Feel free to use direct quotes instead of poor paraphrasing.
 
Just to be 100% clear I am not saying that PR people are horrible people, that they are conniving bastards trying to trick people, or that after a nice dinner with Totilo they go back the office and cackle over what a rube he is.

Inviting someone to a dinner with devs where you can get a little info on a game and write a nice story about it isn't a trick. But it is a strategy.

As a member of the press you get access and info - the life blood of your site. As a PR person you get coverage - which is your job. And both sides perform some personal relationship maintenance that will make that coverage read a little softer, or make the PR person more likely to give you some exclusive screens down the road.

There is nothing cynical or accusatory about pointing out that PR people do PR.
Right, it's a symbiotic relationship to a degree, but people in the press should see PR as friendly adversaries rather than friends, and vice-versa. They're not mustache-twiddling villains, but it's the job of the press to push back and to keep in mind what the goals of PR are.

I'm sure there are plenty of people in the gaming press who do realize this, but it's also something that's easy to forget as these relationships become more comfortable.

But regarding PR's influence? it's significant to the extent that reporters interact with PR, which is probably why the Kotaku stories I am proudest of didn't begin with PR outreach, often didn't even involve PR people or sometimes pissed some PR people off. I always remember that a PR person's job is to seem like my pal even if deep down inside they might not actually want to be my pal (I'm sure most of them don't!). But that's not the most important thing to remember about the reporter-publicist relationship: I am always mindful of the fact that PR people, even the nicest ones, are paid to mostly just tell me the company line, whereas I'm paid to tell the truth. Sometimes those are the same thing; sometimes they're not. It's why I'd never take a job in PR. The priorities of that job, which certainly involve the useful service of being one possible point of contact for a company, are just so different from those of the journalist.

About the whole chumminess thing. There are only one or two people who work in any part of the games industry who I might be tempted to call a friend, but even with those people I find myself stopping short any time I might refer to them as such.
Thanks for clarifying your position. You should also keep in mind when making public comments which may be interpreted (or even mis-interpreted) in such a way that makes it seem like you don't feel this way. Many of your posts in this thread and comments elsewhere about this situation come off as rather defensive and dismissive. While this may be because it seemed absurdly obvious to you, it isn't necessarily the case for the audiences of those comments.
 
So, my question is, how do you name drop people, then develop a conscious about it two paragraphs later? Why not go after the really crooked ones, if you have the evidence to do so?
Pretty major difference between directly quoting someone and saying "the history of [insert person's name here]'s entire career has been suspect."
 

Htown

STOP SHITTING ON MY MOTHER'S HEADSTONE
What if I'm good friends with a designer whose game I'm assigned to review?
Don't review that game.

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?
Don't review that stuff.

These are great questions and there are no easy answers. And situations like this have indeed led to some ruined friendships, sadly enough.
The answer's pretty simple. Bail out. Let somebody else have the review. Recuse yourself, to borrow a legal term.

If that's not feasible because everybody knows everybody else, or the people you'd hand it off to also have the same connections to people working on the games they're reviewing, then maybe that's part of the problem.
 
The good ones do ;)

..but yeah, embargoes suck. Yet I guess if you are getting the game early, you gotta play by their rule of when you can release reviews. In some ways, it at least isn't having everyone just rush to be first.
right but when a bunch of them come with addendum "You cant review this until embargo date....unless you give a score of 8+" that is seriously fucking shady as hell
 
I just read/re-read them (I'd seen some of them). I don't have much to add. They're not controversial. The job of PR is to get the most positive image of their product or client out there. I've been aware of this for a very long time and assume folks here are, too.

As I read through the chronology of what set all this off, the most interesting thing to me--the thing that feels new--is the possibility that one media outlet threatened another and that the other caved and edited their story. But I still don't know the fact of that, and it looks like there are conflicting accounts.

But regarding PR's influence? it's significant to the extent that reporters interact with PR, which is probably why the Kotaku stories I am proudest of didn't begin with PR outreach, often didn't even involve PR people or sometimes pissed some PR people off. I always remember that a PR person's job is to seem like my pal even if deep down inside they might not actually want to be my pal (I'm sure most of them don't!). But that's not the most important thing to remember about the reporter-publicist relationship: I am always mindful of the fact that PR people, even the nicest ones, are paid to mostly just tell me the company line, whereas I'm paid to tell the truth. Sometimes those are the same thing; sometimes they're not. It's why I'd never take a job in PR. The priorities of that job, which certainly involve the useful service of being one possible point of contact for a company, are just so different from those of the journalist.

About the whole chumminess thing. There are only one or two people who work in any part of the games industry who I might be tempted to call a friend, but even with those people I find myself stopping short any time I might refer to them as such. It's because one of my old journalism school ethics professors liked to remind me and my fellow students that journalists should have no friends. Not just no friends on the beat, but NO friends! He was extreme. He also suggested that if a war reporter was embedded with a platoon and knew the platoon was about to walk into an ambush that the reporter shouldn't warn the platoon. That was because he said a reporter's primary goal was to report the truth without altering the truth. And his "no friends" thing was because he was sure that any good reporter would have to print something true and therefore not necessarily flattering about anyone they might come across and therefore couldn't afford to be friendly with these people.

Our other ethics professor laughed some of this off and pointed out that this was all rather extreme, but it's a hell of a standard to operate in relation to, and it's these kind of extremes that I use to guide me. This is why it's laughable to me when I see people going after me for a Halo unboxing video. I made a news judgment on that and decided the mailing had enough news value to show it to people, but I certainly was aware of the ethical issues around it. I always am for anything we do.
Thanks for this. It is honest. It also lets me know I should avoid Kotaku for what I am looking for. I don't agree with your former ethics professor, but I certainly agree with him more than merely "laughing off" the argument. I am sure you guys have and will continue to have a great audience. I am clearly not it. Not with that editorial perspective. Laughing off that $500 of bullshit unboxing is not an argument in my opinion. It is simply a statement of your journalistic integrity as far as I am concerned.
 
Don't review that game.

Don't review that stuff.

The answer's pretty simple. Bail out. Let somebody else have the review. Recuse yourself, to borrow a legal term.

If that's not feasible because everybody knows everybody else, or the people you'd hand it off to also have the same connections to people working on the games they're reviewing, then maybe that's part of the problem.
"Let somebody else have the review" is the best advice in that whole thing. Just pass it off to someone else at Kotaku. Taking a moral stance on reviewing a game is better than being accused of being somewhat biased.
 
Thanks for this. It is honest. It also lets me know I should avoid Kotaku for what I am looking for. I don't agree with your former ethics professor, but I certainly agree with him more than merely "laughing off" the argument. I am sure you guys have and will continue to have a great audience. I am clearly not it. Not with that editorial perspective. Laughing off that $500 of bullshit unboxing is not an argument in my opinion. It is simply a statement of your journalistic integrity as far as I am concerned.
Why does an unboxing bother you? I was actually thinking of doing one--mostly because I'd never done one before--on a forum I hang out on since I've actually purchased one of these 360s.
 
I always remember that a PR person's job is to seem like my pal even if deep down inside they might not actually want to be my pal (I'm sure most of them don't!). But that's not the most important thing to remember about the reporter-publicist relationship: I am always mindful of the fact that PR people, even the nicest ones, are paid to mostly just tell me the company line, whereas I'm paid to tell the truth. Sometimes those are the same thing; sometimes they're not. It's why I'd never take a job in PR. The priorities of that job, which certainly involve the useful service of being one possible point of contact for a company, are just so different from those of the journalist.
I like how you are now indirectly arguing with your own employee. Totilo why you gots to call PR people fake kindness machines? Can't you be rational?

Totilo meet Jschrier?

I also find it more than a bit funny that if a random Neogaf poster posted the above N'Gai, Jschrier, et al would take to Twitter to mock it as conspiracy theory.

Edit: To be clear I do commend Totilo for writing what he wrote above, though a basic understanding of what PR is is a curious thing to have to debate.
 
Why does an unboxing bother you? I was actually thinking of doing one--mostly because I'd never done one before--on a forum I hang out on since I've actually purchased one of these 360s.
From what I'm understanding in this thread, it's because it's not news. It's glorified advertising on Kotaku's part. Microsoft themselves could show off what's in the box set, but Kotaku did it for free. Also this:

I think people are bothered by the unboxings where the item in question is received for free from PR.
That's not my stance on this, however. I'm not a fan of unboxing videos in general. I don't get any gratification watching people open boxes/assorted merchandise. To me, that's like watching other people open gifts on Christmas that I didn't get them. I don't really give a shit about it, even less so on a site which should be reporting about video games. If it's free from PR, then it definitely raises some questions.
 
From what I'm understanding in this thread, it's because it's not news. It's glorified advertising on Kotaku's part. Microsoft themselves could show off what's in the box set, but Kotaku did it for free.

That's not my stance on this, however. I'm not a fan of unboxing videos in general. I don't get any gratification watching people open boxes/assorted merchandise. To me, that's like watching other people open gifts on Christmas that I didn't get them. I don't really give a shit about it, even less so on a site which should be reporting about video games.
Hm. As someone getting the product, as well as someone interested in Collector's Editions (and awesome packaging in general; yes, I'm weird, but I really like good packaging--see Zune/Kin), watching an unboxing video is relevant to my interests.

It seems as though people are just trying to find a reason to hate on Kotaku more than anything. Grats, guys, you don't think it's newsworthy. I think JRPGs generally have shitty music, but I don't whine about people who want to make random posts about their tunes, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone that opportunity. Different people have different interests. Not all news is going to be interesting to everyone, but it doesn't mean that someone's ethics have been compromised just because they made an unboxing video, anymore than "hey, I really loved the music in this game, so let's reminisce" is ethically compromised.
 
Thanks for this. It is honest. It also lets me know I should avoid Kotaku for what I am looking for. I don't agree with your former ethics professor, but I certainly agree with him more than merely "laughing off" the argument. I am sure you guys have and will continue to have a great audience. I am clearly not it. Not with that editorial perspective. Laughing off that $500 of bullshit unboxing is not an argument in my opinion. It is simply a statement of your journalistic integrity as far as I am concerned.
Well, to be fair, the professor who laughed off the extreme position that a journalist should have zero friends was a bit of a free-thinker. When he was asked by a student what humanity's best invention was, he skipped easy answers like "the wheel" or "medicine" and went with "the weekend". I thought that was a wonderful answer. Power to the people, sticking it to the man, etc.

What would you have done with the Halo 4 Xbox 360 that Microsoft might have mailed you and that your readers might have been curious to see in something other than officially-lit product shots? Privately smashed it with a hammer, coughed up the postage to send it back, or written an expose about the insidiousness of PR?
 
From what I'm understanding in this thread, it's because it's not news. It's glorified advertising on Kotaku's part. Microsoft themselves could show off what's in the box set, but Kotaku did it for free. Also this:



That's not my stance on this, however. I'm not a fan of unboxing videos in general. I don't get any gratification watching people open boxes/assorted merchandise. To me, that's like watching other people open gifts on Christmas that I didn't get them. I don't really give a shit about it, even less so on a site which should be reporting about video games. If it's free from PR, then it definitely raises some questions.
Seems like you get it perfectly to me. My stance is very similar to yours.
 
Hm. As someone getting the product, as well as someone interested in Collector's Editions (and awesome packaging in general; yes, I'm weird, but I really like good packaging--see Zune/Kin), watching an unboxing video is relevant to my interests.
Do you ever find yourself saying, "do it slow, oh yes, now turn around, mmmmm"
 
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 agree, it definitely can happen in areas other than PR. I also think it is something that isn't 100% avoidable no matter how strict one's code of ethics is. Any journalist who works long enough will probably come across a similar situation and have to make some tough choices.

Where I see this intersecting with the overall discussion, is that the more friendly one is with PR, accepting of gifts, printing stuff PR clearly wants you to print, or what have you, the more likely this situation can occur. Likewise, even if it doesn't actually happen, it can create suspicion. There's a spectrum here, and its worth taking it seriously so it can be avoided as much as possible. Even if one falls on the furthest away side of the spectrum, never interacting with a single person in the industry, they should still take it seriously.

What happened in the UK scene is a great example of going too far in the wrong direction, especially with things like the GMAs and the hashtags. I think a lot of the anger and more abusive/generalized responses are due to seeing what happened to Rab Florence for pointing the issue out. An attempt at silencing someone was made, which just made the whole thing appear a million times more shady. Then seeing other journalists appear to mock, exaggerate or downplay the issue made some people even more upset. Thus the responses to things like Totilo's original quote about this being "tired nonsense" and not worth sending a reporter to research. His responses since have been great and cleared things up and are much appreciated, but I think one can see why that original statement was met with a whole lot of skepticism considering the circumstances.

It's a tricky thing to navigate and I don't envy anyone who has to do it. I think the key take away from all this is, no matter how on the up-and-up you might be as an individual, it's always important to give this issue the attention and respect it deserves, because you never know how things might be happening at other publications or across the ocean. It might seem unfair to have things out of one's control affect one's reputation, but I think it's all about how one ends up responding to it.
 
Well, to be fair, the professor who laughed off the extreme position that a journalist should have zero friends was a bit of a free-thinker. When he was asked by a student what humanity's best invention was, he skipped easy answers like "the wheel" or "medicine" and went with "the weekend". I thought that was a wonderful answer. Power to the people, sticking it to the man, etc.

What would you have done with the Halo 4 Xbox 360 that Microsoft might have mailed you and that your readers might have been curious to see in something other than officially-lit product shots? Privately smashed it with a hammer, coughed up the postage to send it back, or written an expose about the insidiousness of PR?
Probably just ignored it and kept it around in case a staff member needed a replacement 360 at some point for work purposes.

Could donate it to Child's Play. Then everyone would win.
edit - or that.


I know you're not in the advertising department at Kotaku, but do you think it would cost Microsoft more or less than $500 to run a 7 and a half minute ad 25,000 times on your site?
 

shintoki

sparkle this bitch
What would you have done with the Halo 4 Xbox 360 that Microsoft might have mailed you and that your readers might have been curious to see in something other than officially-lit product shots? Privately smashed it with a hammer, coughed up the postage to send it back, or written an expose about the insidiousness of PR?
Could donate it to Child's Play. They give you something extra you don't need to review a game. Give it to someone who can make use of it.
 
Well there goes any respect I have for eurogamer. I don't care if they were worried about a lawsuit, they clearly can't be trusted to provide honest information. Any journalist that bows to pressure is worthless, but hey if they want to make nothing but top ten lists I guess that's their prerogative.
Yeah, I do wonder what happened there. It's not a good sign. But I also think Eurogamer comes out of this looking pretty good, all things considered--especially compared to many of their peers. I wish they could tell us exactly why they redacted the content they did. If it was for legal reasons, say so. If it was purely an editorial decision, say so. If it was an editorial decision based on outside pressure, well... that's not so good.

But regarding PR's influence? it's significant to the extent that reporters interact with PR, which is probably why the Kotaku stories I am proudest of didn't begin with PR outreach, often didn't even involve PR people or sometimes pissed some PR people off. I always remember that a PR person's job is to seem like my pal even if deep down inside they might not actually want to be my pal (I'm sure most of them don't!). But that's not the most important thing to remember about the reporter-publicist relationship: I am always mindful of the fact that PR people, even the nicest ones, are paid to mostly just tell me the company line, whereas I'm paid to tell the truth. Sometimes those are the same thing; sometimes they're not. It's why I'd never take a job in PR. The priorities of that job, which certainly involve the useful service of being one possible point of contact for a company, are just so different from those of the journalist.

About the whole chumminess thing. There are only one or two people who work in any part of the games industry who I might be tempted to call a friend, but even with those people I find myself stopping short any time I might refer to them as such. It's because one of my old journalism school ethics professors liked to remind me and my fellow students that journalists should have no friends. Not just no friends on the beat, but NO friends! He was extreme. He also suggested that if a war reporter was embedded with a platoon and knew the platoon was about to walk into an ambush that the reporter shouldn't warn the platoon. That was because he said a reporter's primary goal was to report the truth without altering the truth. And his "no friends" thing was because he was sure that any good reporter would have to print something true and therefore not necessarily flattering about anyone they might come across and therefore couldn't afford to be friendly with these people.
This is really awesome stuff. And maybe it's because I'm a professional writer myself, but I actually agree with this whackjob professor of yours. Writers of all stripes (not just journalists) have this sort of obligation to the truth. Is it extreme? Only if you say shitty things about everyone you know. But I think his point was that everyone is fair game.

Our other ethics professor laughed some of this off and pointed out that this was all rather extreme, but it's a hell of a standard to operate in relation to, and it's these kind of extremes that I use to guide me. This is why it's laughable to me when I see people going after me for a Halo unboxing video. I made a news judgment on that and decided the mailing had enough news value to show it to people, but I certainly was aware of the ethical issues around it. I always am for anything we do.
It's a trivial thing. I don't understand how a trivial thing weighed against an ethical judgment wins out. The only excuse is that it gets readers. Not that it's some commitment to "the Truth." You're a reasonable and smart guy. And you know your business. But I don't see how posts like that can pass an ethical bar. It's silly, and it exists only as a favor to publishers and as pandering to readers.

As an earlier poster mentioned, I used to read Kotaku daily. But at some point the site took a turn (and this was before you took over). It was things like that unboxing video. It's a silly thing. I don't see the point. It just looks bad and cheap. I used to read your work on Multiplayer. I'm sure you continue writing great things on Kotaku, but I don't read them because it means wading through all that other stuff that panders to readers' basest desires as consumers, not as critical or engaged gamers.
 
Seems like you get it perfectly to me. My stance is very similar to yours.
I'm glad to know we're on the same page!

Hm. As someone getting the product, as well as someone interested in Collector's Editions (and awesome packaging in general; yes, I'm weird, but I really like good packaging--see Zune/Kin), watching an unboxing video is relevant to my interests.

It seems as though people are just trying to find a reason to hate on Kotaku more than anything. Grats, guys, you don't think it's newsworthy. I think JRPGs generally have shitty music, but I don't whine about people who want to make random posts about their tunes, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone that opportunity. Different people have different interests. Not all news is going to be interesting to everyone, but it doesn't mean that someone's ethics have been compromised just because they made an unboxing video, anymore than "hey, I really loved the music in this game, so let's reminisce" is ethically compromised.
If I had to choose a specific thing I didn't like about merchandise unboxing videos, it's that they have nothing to do with the game itself. There's no substance in it. It's about the merchandise that comes with a premier edition of the game, rather than the content of the game itself. I can see why people would enjoy them and I don't insult people who enjoy those videos, but I don't particularly enjoy seeing videos like that on game journalism sites. To me, it's just extra merchandise. To you, they're Collectibles. There's nothing wrong with at, all I'm saying is that I don't enjoy them.

Does that hurt Kotaku's credibility? For some, it does. Maybe people share my sentiment and want to see more journalism and less talking about extra things that will be coming with special pre-order bundles (I'm not following Halo 4 at all, so I have no idea if this thing is a pre-order bundle or what). The content of the game has the highest importance, while merchandise is of very little importance to me.
 
I see unboxings as being entertainment reporting just like previews are. People want to see stuff ahead of time. As long as you're not doing something obviously stupid like taking it home or selling it on ebay, I don't have a problem with it. Also, of course it's an extension of PR, I don't think Kotaku tries to hide that fact from viewers. They do say where the stuff comes from, at least in the examples I've seen in this thread so far.
 
Probably just ignored it and kept it around in case a staff member needed a replacement 360 at some point for work purposes.



edit - or that.


I know you're not in the advertising department at Kotaku, but do you think it would cost Microsoft more or less than $500 to run a 7 and a half minute ad 25,000 times on your site?
No clue, but probably more. We also did a video of the new super-slim PS3. That one was already out of the box, so it wasn't technically an unboxing. We compared it to the other PS3s and other modern consoles in terms of size, showed the finish and some other basic aspects of the machine. This was a super-slim PS3 sent to us by Sony on the day the unit came out. We made the video because I figured people would like to have more information about whether or not to pick up the new PS3. Clearly Sony was hoping we would show the new PS3 to our readers. We wanted to show it to them soon. Using the same standards that have been used here to criticize the Halo 4 video, you could say this too was nothing more than an ad and was entirely inappropriate for posting, but I'd say that was lunacy given that our readers clearly would benefit from some insight about the new console and whether it's something they'd be interested in buying. On the spectrum of PR stunts to fall for and ones not to fall for, the PS3 video isn't that far from the Halo one. If you ran a game site, had a new model of PS3 to cover for your readers and didn't, I'd think that was strange.

Serious question: would it have made a difference if the Halo 4 thing wasn't an unboxing and if the thing was already just out of the box? Less consumer-porn, as others have put it, and more straight up: here is a thing for you to judge with your eyes?

Anyway, it's late. Fun chatting with everyone (mostly).
 
Well, to be fair, the professor who laughed off the extreme position that a journalist should have zero friends was a bit of a free-thinker. When he was asked by a student what humanity's best invention was, he skipped easy answers like "the wheel" or "medicine" and went with "the weekend". I thought that was a wonderful answer. Power to the people, sticking it to the man, etc.

What would you have done with the Halo 4 Xbox 360 that Microsoft might have mailed you and that your readers might have been curious to see in something other than officially-lit product shots? Privately smashed it with a hammer, coughed up the postage to send it back, or written an expose about the insidiousness of PR?
I don't think I would have done an unboxing video of it. Also, one of the problems I had with that video was you saying out loud PR directions to "make sure you mention that Halo 4 comes with the bundle" as if the entire production was based on guidelines handed to you in a review guide.
 
If you simply google "effective pr" one of the first hits is a Business Week piece that includes this:

The public can be cynical. They have a lot of advertising messages thrown at them on a daily basis. I've seen new companies throw $10,000 into scattershot advertising and get almost no return for it.

But when people read media articles, they're going to take them more seriously than they do ads, especially if you can get a third party—maybe a former client or an expert of some kind—to comment positively in the article about your company. That lends you enormous credibility, it's good content that's not coming from you, and you don't have to pay for it. Well, maybe you're paying $5,000 a month for a PR firm, but that's a lot different from $150,000 for an ad in The New York Times.
When an MS PR person sends Kotaku something to unbox they are spending practically nothing and getting advertising that appears more credible than if it appeared on an MS website.

The fact that Kotaku is covering it at all says "this is important" - but it's actually PR determining that it's news, not Kotaku. There is an implied value judgement from Kotaku that doesn't actually exist.

Now whether or not unboxing provides a valuable service to readers is open to debate.

On another note:

Now we're getting into interesting discussion!
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What if I'm good friends with a designer whose game I'm assigned to review?
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These are great questions and there are no easy answers.
Is this genuinely interesting and not just completely brain-dead obvious? That whether or not you should review a game that your friend works on is some sort of moral quandary is absurd.

As a journalist you avoid conflict of interest and the appearance of conflict of interest. I took one class in Journalism at Harvard extension school and I know this! If you are seriously struggling with questions like these your ethical compass needs adjustment. This is not grey-area stuff, this is textbook "don't do this" stuff.
 
Well, to be fair, the professor who laughed off the extreme position that a journalist should have zero friends was a bit of a free thinker. When he was asked by a student what humanity's best invention was, he skipped easy answers like "the wheel" or "medicine" and went with "the weekend". I thought that was a wonderful answer. Power to the people, sticking it to the man, etc.

What would you have done with the Halo 4 Xbox 360 that Microsoft might have mailed you and that your readers might have been curious to see in something other than officially-lit product shots? Privately smashed it with a hammer, coughed up the postage to send it back, or written an expose about the insidiousness of PR?
I don't know how you connect the unboxing of $500 worth of Halo merchandise with "free thinking" and "sticking it to the man." That is some pretty impressive mental flexibility.

However as for what I would do, I clearly would not have done the video. I view it as consumer porn and a fullfilment of the highest hopes of marketing agenda when they sent it to you. And I certainly, with every fiber of my being reject the idea that it represents the "good journalism" that you claim Kotaku is about. I don't know if you have watched that video since you shot it. You should. I recommend you do so with low lights and soft music for proper ambiance.
 
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Serious question: would it have made a difference if the Halo 4 thing wasn't an unboxing and if the thing was already just out of the box? Less consumer-porn, as others have put it, and more straight up: here is a thing for you to judge with your eyes?
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I would bring it up in the next video. Ask your viewers which they would prefer. Pose it like "do you want us to spend time on camera opening this stuff up, or would you rather we just skipped that and showed you what's in the box?"

If you're asking me, I'd say just show what's in the box.
 
I'm glad to know we're on the same page!



If I had to choose a specific thing I didn't like about merchandise unboxing videos, it's that they have nothing to do with the game itself. There's no substance in it. It's about the merchandise that comes with a premier edition of the game, rather than the content of the game itself. I can see why people would enjoy them and I don't insult people who enjoy those videos, but I don't particularly enjoy seeing videos like that on game journalism sites. To me, it's just extra merchandise. To you, they're Collectibles. There's nothing wrong with at, all I'm saying is that I don't enjoy them.

Does that hurt Kotaku's credibility? For some, it does. Maybe people share my sentiment and want to see more journalism and less talking about extra things that will be coming with special pre-order bundles (I'm not following Halo 4 at all, so I have no idea if this thing is a pre-order bundle or what). The content of the game has the highest importance, while merchandise is of very little importance to me.
Right. I wasn't trying to criticize you, specifically, but the people who feel that it makes Kotaku less credible. I can't wait, for instance, to check out a copy of The Avengers Phase 1. The packaging, the gorgeous DVD covers, the metal briefcase... that's all really interesting to me, so I'm excited about it.

I absolutely agree that the content is of the highest importance, but literally everything about the medium is interesting to me, from the process of development, to the way it's distributed, to the game itself.

If someone wanted to write an expose on the day in the life of a booth babe (props for going undercover), I'd read it. If someone wrote an article about the tools developers use to make games, cool, I'd read it. If someone wanted to write about advertising in games, you bet I'd read it.

Games, absolutely, are the meat of all this, but all that other stuff? The packaging, the advertising, the breakdown cost of a game, the distribution, everything... it's all fascinating to me. I feel like content would be boring if all we ever talked about was JUST the games. Whether it's the artistry of good packaging or the passion of the people behind a product, I'm interested in it.

So... I have a hard time understanding people who feel that an unboxing video is unethical or reprehensible. If you (anyone reading this, not specifically you, HyperCubed4) want to criticize Kotaku, by all means, tear 'em a new one for not respecting their audience, the excessive random articles about Japan, the way they destroyed their excellent commenting system, the way their headlines seem a bit baity, anything Joel Johnston wrote (I'm so glad he's gone), or whatever else. But whining about an unboxing is just silly.

I would bring it up in the next video. Ask your viewers which they would prefer. Pose it like "do you want us to spend time on camera opening this stuff up, or would you rather we just skipped that and showed you what's in the box?"

If you're asking me, I'd say just show what's in the box.
Whereas I would have been like "why are you talking to me, Totilo?" and then "actually, yes, show me some of dat sweet, sexy packaging." Because I like packaging.
 
I see unboxings as being entertainment reporting just like previews are. People want to see stuff ahead of time. As long as you're not doing something obviously stupid like taking it home or selling it on ebay, I don't have a problem with it. Also, of course it's an extension of PR, I don't think Kotaku tries to hide that fact from viewers. They do say where the stuff comes from, at least in the examples I've seen in this thread so far.
And again, that's my problem with it: I don't consider video game merchandise to be video game news. I consider pre-order merchandise to be a shitty practice, as you're essentially pre-ordering a game because of the merchandise and not the content of the game. Obviously people are getting Halo 4 because it's Halo 4, but many are preordering the Special Editions or whatever because of all the extra little goodies they get.

Serious question: would it have made a difference if the Halo 4 thing wasn't an unboxing and if the thing was already just out of the box? Less consumer-porn, as others have put it, and more straight up: here is a thing for you to judge with your eyes?
I don't feel like repeating myself. Merchandise not news, need more info about the game itself, etcetera, etcetera. I guess if you started off with the merchandise out of the box, it would definitely be less "consumer-porn," but in my eyes, it wouldn't really make it any more appealing. But I'm just one man and there are probably plenty of other people who would disagree with me.
 
I'm guessing most Kotaku viewers would agree.
I can't speak for them, to be honest. Most of the good commenters left when Kinja ruined. No more ~100-200 comment threads hijacking articles discussing modern theatrical storytelling techniques and their applications regarding game narratives and whatnot these days.

Sad. :(

I, personally, enjoy the way in which people put bits of plastic and cardboard together to create an aesthetically pleasing, artistic whole. That, to me, is really fascinating. It's like industrial sculpture or something.

I get the feeling that Totilo is ignoring me. Hm.
 
And again, that's my problem with it: I don't consider video game merchandise to be video game news. I consider pre-order merchandise to be a shitty practice, as you're essentially pre-ordering a game because of the merchandise and not the content of the game. Obviously people are getting Halo 4 because it's Halo 4, but many are preordering the Special Editions or whatever because of all the extra little goodies they get.
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Thing is, some people out there actually want that extra bs and find it valuable. They'll even buy two copies just to keep one unopened on a shelf. While I've never found myself in that camp, who am I to judge? Unboxings are in fact news for them.

And to be clear, I am also including previews as being within this same area of entertainment news. It's all basically reporting on PR campaigns about upcoming products. Same goes for movie sites/shows that talk about upcoming films and show trailers.
 
So... I have a hard time understanding people who feel that an unboxing video is unethical or reprehensible.
Remember the context of the unboxing video was that it was juxtaposed against a comment from Totilo extolling the fine journalism (his word) at Kotaku. And that this ethics stuff is not being covered because it's not the sort of important journalism Kotaku does.

In that context a PR-driven fluff piece looks a little silly.
 
Don't review that game.


Don't review that stuff.


The answer's pretty simple. Bail out. Let somebody else have the review. Recuse yourself, to borrow a legal term.

If that's not feasible because everybody knows everybody else, or the people you'd hand it off to also have the same connections to people working on the games they're reviewing, then maybe that's part of the problem.
yeah, those dont sound like interesting or difficult questions at all. if there is a conflict, potential, perceived, real, whatever, remove yourself from the situation. pretty simple.
 
My mistrust of the gaming press has been building slowly for a very long time. I remember noticing the sharp disparity between community discussion type stuff (neogaf, etc.) and ‘games journalism’ during the launch of the 360. It seemed like no one in the games media would acknowledge how poorly the early 360s were holding up and kept saying everyone’s anecdotes didn’t prove anything, even as they piled up over the months. It was well-known amongst people on GAF and elsewhere that microsoft should’ve been held accountable for their shoddy hardware, but no one seemed willing to take them to task on it. Members of the 1up podcasts I listened to at the time continually brushed off the issue- even as their own 360s were dying. It was absurd. Eventually Microsoft essentially admitted to it way after that fact with their warranty extension program. ‘Games journalists,’ rather than questioning microsoft themselves, gathering data, and holding their feet to the fire, essentially took microsoft’s side until the very last moment, and then swept the complicity under the rug and went on with their lives.

Games criticism is intertwined with the other parts of the games media, and the uniformness of the reviews is innately suspicious. Movies with universal praise seem relatively uncommon, while in gaming, it is the standard. Real gamers have many different opinions and it shouldn’t be surprising that some people love a game like ME3 and can ignore the problems, while others will absolutely hate how the game was handled. That you only see the positive side of the two at every major media outlet is very telling, especially when you see their response to gamers’ complaints, that we’re ‘whiny and entitled.’ Bullshit. It was just an instance where we could clearly see that media outlets’ interests and gamers’ interest were not that same at all- they just happen to coincide sometimes.

The outcry you see in this thread wouldn’t be what it is without the decades of unethical behavior that has been obviously occurring in the gaming media. This has been building for a long time. Unfortunately, like others have mentioned in this thread have said, I have little hope for anything significant changing. I’ve been perfectly happy using GAF as my sole source/aggregator of gaming information for quite some time.
 
Remember the context of the unboxing video was that it was juxtaposed against a comment from Totilo extolling the fine journalism (his word) at Kotaku. And that this ethics stuff is not being covered because it's not the sort of important journalism Kotaku does.

In that context a PR-driven fluff piece looks a little silly.
The context of that was someone showing up and going "really? you're doing this thing and not that UK-centric thing so you're bad journalists," followed by Totilo going "this is a thing that I believe is relevant, and I think we've done some really awesome work; covering Eurogamer's drama isn't really relevant to us," yes? Doesn't seem particularly offensive to me.

Ultimately, people seem to be demanding that EVERYONE suddenly reveal all this rampant corruption that supposedly exists, and, judging by some comments I've read in this thread, it appears that this corruption might be very Eurocentric (the GMAs are, yes?), and thus something that the American sites don't really have that much to say about.

My understanding of the situation is that the audience won't be satisfied until they hear all this nice, juicy dirt about how bad games journalism is, but the American guys apparently aren't close enough to the situation to have much dirt to share. So... the audiences, who believe this is some sort of global pandemic where LITERALLY EVERYONE IS GUILTY PROBABLY, is picking on the American sites for going about their normal behavior, and the American sites are like "sorry, there's not really much for us to say, guys."

I used to write about comics. Maybe that grants me a more sympathetic perspective? It feels like people are being bitchy for no really good reason.
 
People ARE being bitchy - but it shouldn't take long to parse out those who should be paid attention to, those with cogent points and a sense of understanding, from people taking free shots from the back of the class with wet wads of paper and a big-ass straw.

A messageboard is going to have a high signal-to-noise ratio. This is a given. Focusing on people who are taking free shots at the expense of discussion should be easy to spot and summarily ignore.

I think general satisfaction will be had not if everyone opens up every closet and shoves every last bone onto the floor to be pawed through like Integrity Wampas, but if it can be seen that people are taking the responsibilities of their jobs seriously.

so far as unboxing videos go: That shit is fetish porn. Leave it for YouTube. I'm not saying it's not newsworthy, but if it's news, it's a series of bullet points and photos at best.
 
No clue, but probably more. We also did a video of the new super-slim PS3. That one was already out of the box, so it wasn't technically an unboxing. We compared it to the other PS3s and other modern consoles in terms of size, showed the finish and some other basic aspects of the machine. This was a super-slim PS3 sent to us by Sony on the day the unit came out. We made the video because I figured people would like to have more information about whether or not to pick up the new PS3. Clearly Sony was hoping we would show the new PS3 to our readers. We wanted to show it to them soon. Using the same standards that have been used here to criticize the Halo 4 video, you could say this too was nothing more than an ad and was entirely inappropriate for posting, but I'd say that was lunacy given that our readers clearly would benefit from some insight about the new console and whether it's something they'd be interested in buying. On the spectrum of PR stunts to fall for and ones not to fall for, the PS3 video isn't that far from the Halo one. If you ran a game site, had a new model of PS3 to cover for your readers and didn't, I'd think that was strange.

Serious question: would it have made a difference if the Halo 4 thing wasn't an unboxing and if the thing was already just out of the box? Less consumer-porn, as others have put it, and more straight up: here is a thing for you to judge with your eyes?

Anyway, it's late. Fun chatting with everyone (mostly).
I don't think it would make any difference whether or not it started out in a box or not.

I do think that in the case of the latest PS3 model, putting it in the same space and showing a direct comparison to the previous PS3 models does offer some small amount of service to readers interested in maybe picking one up - though this would be just as well-served coming straight from Sony themselves.

In the case of the Halo 4 360, it's still just a 360S with a different coat of paint. There's no real value to seeing a video of it over seeing a direct PR screenshot.

Neither is a proper hardware review -- which are things that might have real value to a reader -- they're really just showing off an item a PR department sent to you. I guess the line between free publicity and journalistic content lies in the question, "Does my presence in this video as a member of the press add value to my customer beyond the value which would be given by a paid PR representative?"
 
I'm probably not the first one to say this, as I haven't read the entire thread, but why do journalists seem to think that saying, "I know it's PR's job to woo me over!" means that they are obviously immune to it? Shawn Eliot's video he posted perfectly illustrates this--that it's easy to do a bunch of "little lies" to yourself that add up, and knowing PR's intentions doesn't make you immune to the influence of gifts, no matter how "small" they seem.

It's not a defence; please, stop using it.
 
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