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

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As long as their Kickstarter promised that they were willing to die of starvation/exposure while working because they wouldn't spend the money on essential life-supporting needs, I think it would be okay.

Gotta dedicate yourself to your craft, you know?
I think it's more like

"I'm a member of the press and I thought this game was really cool. These are my thoughts on it. I have no other financial or personal connection with the person who makes this game."

vs

"I'm a member of the press and I think it's my job to promote cool indie games that I find. It's great getting to know them and I'll chip in money to them, because I'm part of the scene. We bump into each other at these gaming events and it's cool that I can help get this person's games get made."

I think the second example moves you from being a member of the press to a role as evangelist and gatekeeper of the indie scene. That's when things get weird.
 
So if a videogame was made by one person would you have problems supporting that?

To me this line of argument just seems like an exceptionally slippery slope.
First of all, ethics are not black and white. Every reporter and outlet has to draw their own lines when it comes to any of the questions they deal with on a daily basis.

As far as I see it, buying a video game or even backing a video game on Kickstarter is exchanging money for a product or in hopes of supporting a product, no matter how many people are involved. Backing an individual's Patreon is directly supporting a person, and that could potentially create conflicts of interest that just aren't worth the hassle.

Think about it this way: let's say I back game developer Bob on Patreon, start getting monthly updates, hearing all about his life, etc. I'm connected to him in a way I wouldn't be otherwise, and if Bob was involved in some sort of corruption scandal that I needed to cover, that might create problems. And even if I'm capable of reporting on Bob without any emotional complications, my Patreon backing can still create the appearance of impropriety. It's just not worth it.
 
I think it's more like

"I'm a member of the press and I thought this game was really cool. These are my thoughts on it. I have no other financial or personal connection with the person who makes this game."

vs

"I'm a member of the press and I think it's my job to promote cool indie games that I find. It's great getting to know them and I'll chip in money to them, because I'm part of the scene. We bump into each other at these gaming events and it's cool that I can help get this person's games get made."

I think the second example moves you from being a member of the press to a role as evangelist and gatekeeper of the indie scene. That's when things get weird.
There is no way the former can be true if you're part of the press for videogames. You have to interact with developers and publishers and you're going to form some connections. I swear, the culture lately wants anyone who writes, positively or negatively, about videogames to be a saint and have some neutral placement that's impossible to have. It's a symbiotic relationship and you can't escape that if you're hoping for any level of real discourse with the people you're covering.
 
There is no way the former can be true if you're part of the press for videogames. You have to interact with developers and publishers and you're going to form some connections. I swear, the culture lately wants anyone who writes, positively or negatively, about videogames to be a saint and have some neutral placement that's impossible to have. It's a symbiotic relationship and you can't escape that if you're hoping for any level of real discourse with the people you're covering.
Reviewing of products and interviews can be largely impersonal.
It's nothing unreasonable to demand.
 
I am so torn on this. On the one hand I totally get the complication that Patreon and Kickstarter bring to covering games. Can you really cover something in an unbiased way if you're also advocating for it? But then again, where does that end? Should someone review a Call of Duty game if they were a fan of the previous installment? We already know they're a fan of the series, so does that taint their view of subsequent games?

I honestly don't mind too much if writers I like support devs with their money, no matter the means. I have to trust that writers I care about are doing things above board. If I ever get a whiff of something that stinks, I'll stop reading that particular writer or outlet and find something else that I feel is more trustworthy. And I don't have a problem with disclosure at all. In fact, I think it's a great step forward.

But then this one last point — I feel like this particular case is pretty insidious because it targeted two writers that mainstream gamers already dislike, mostly because they challenge status quo beliefs. I didn't catch the front page reddit post about the fact that the Giant Bomb guys are pretty well known for being friends with tons of people in the industry, even executives. Can Jeff and the gang cover PlayStation products without being influenced by their friendship with John Drake, Matt Kessler, et al.? Personally, I think they can. But it's interesting that hardly anyone brings it up. And I think it's mostly because those guys are not Kuchera or Hernandez or someone they already don't like.

Just food for thought. My whole perspective is this — if you don't feel like you can trust someone, don't read them. Move on. Find something that you feel like you can trust.
 
There is no way the former can be true if you're part of the press for videogames. You have to interact with developers and publishers and you're going to form some connections. I swear, the culture lately wants anyone who writes, positively or negatively, about videogames to be a saint and have some neutral placement that's impossible to have. It's a symbiotic relationship and you can't escape that if you're hoping for any level of real discourse with the people you're covering.
You are right, but I think donating to Patreon and KickStarter is just adding to that.
 
But then this one last point — I feel like this particular case is pretty insidious because it targeted two writers that mainstream gamers already dislike, mostly because they challenge status quo beliefs. I didn't catch the front page reddit post about the fact that the Giant Bomb guys are pretty well known for being friends with tons of people in the industry, even executives. Can Jeff and the gang cover PlayStation products without being influenced by their friendship with John Drake, Matt Kessler, et al.? Personally, I think they can. But it's interesting that hardly anyone brings it up. And I think it's mostly because those guys are not Kuchera or Hernandez or someone they already don't like.
Giant Bomb's relationship with developers has been brought up quite a few times on this very forum. In particular the fact that they didn't review Dance Central 3, a game they noted that they didn't like too much, even though they'd reviewed the previously two (both of which they did like). Some thought that was quite iffy given that we know some publishers pay bonuses based on review averages, and some wondered whether or not that may have played a role in them not wanting to put out a review for it.
 
Giant Bomb's relationship with developers has been brought up quite a few times on this very forum. In particular the fact that they didn't review Dance Central 3, a game they noted that they didn't like too much, even though they'd reviewed the previously two (both of which they did like). Some thought that was quite iffy given that we know some publishers pay bonuses based on review averages, and some wondered whether or not that may have played a role in them not wanting to put out a review for it.
Yeah, I've definitely seen a little bit of discussion related to them not running reviews for Harmonix games because of friendships and Alex previously working there. But again, now that Drake is at PlayStation, the breadth of products they wouldn't be able to cover because of that friendship would be kind of insane for any gaming site hoping to stay relevant. That's where the problem lies with "press and the industry are too buddy-buddy." It's a sticky wicket for sure. I don't have the answers, and I'm not sure anyone does. Disclosure is really the only reasonable step.
 
I am so torn on this. On the one hand I totally get the complication that Patreon and Kickstarter bring to covering games. Can you really cover something in an unbiased way if you're also advocating for it? But then again, where does that end? Should someone review a Call of Duty game if they were a fan of the previous installment? We already know they're a fan of the series, so does that taint their view of subsequent games?

I honestly don't mind too much if writers I like support devs with their money, no matter the means. I have to trust that writers I care about are doing things above board. If I ever get a whiff of something that stinks, I'll stop reading that particular writer or outlet and find something else that I feel is more trustworthy. And I don't have a problem with disclosure at all. In fact, I think it's a great step forward.

But then this one last point — I feel like this particular case is pretty insidious because it targeted two writers that mainstream gamers already dislike, mostly because they challenge status quo beliefs. I didn't catch the front page reddit post about the fact that the Giant Bomb guys are pretty well known for being friends with tons of people in the industry, even executives. Can Jeff and the gang cover PlayStation products without being influenced by their friendship with John Drake, Matt Kessler, et al.? Personally, I think they can. But it's interesting that hardly anyone brings it up. And I think it's mostly because those guys are not Kuchera or Hernandez or someone they already don't like.

Just food for thought. My whole perspective is this — if you don't feel like you can trust someone, don't read them. Move on. Find something that you feel like you can trust.
Here's the difference between Giantbomb and this other situation, Giantbomb are very transparent about their relations with execs and their views are able to viewed with that in mind. Same goes to your example about the person who reviews and likes Call of Duty their articles and views on said game are public and transparent for all to see making it perfectly ok for them to keep reviewing said series. These people who are supporting the patreons of said developers did not disclose they're doing this while still writing articles about said developers so the writers in this situation had no transparency about any of it
 
Here's the difference between Giantbomb and this other situation, Giantbomb are very transparent about their relations with execs and their views are able to viewed with that in mind.
I feel like that's only true if you are an avid follower of the content produced by Giant Bomb. If you're a driveby reader or viewer, are you really aware of those friendships? I mean, there's no disclaimer on the PlayStation Now Quick Look about Jeff's friendship with John Drake. Should there be?

Again, I'm not purporting to have the answers, and I'm not trying to imply impropriety on the part of anyone in particular. I'm just pointing out how difficult these problems are to solve and how deep the issue goes. Who decides what level of relationship is worth disclosing? Is a handshake or attending the same party as someone else enough? I don't know, and I think it's unreasonable for anyone to claim they can set up some system for what is "too close" and what is just a cordial business relationship.
 
Reviewing of products and interviews can be largely impersonal.
It's nothing unreasonable to demand.
What in the world would an impersonal review or interview even look like? I mean, maybe it exists but I can't imagine anyone would want to read it.
First of all, ethics are not black and white. Every reporter and outlet has to draw their own lines when it comes to any of the questions they deal with on a daily basis.

As far as I see it, buying a video game or even backing a video game on Kickstarter is exchanging money for a product or in hopes of supporting a product, no matter how many people are involved. Backing an individual's Patreon is directly supporting a person, and that could potentially create conflicts of interest that just aren't worth the hassle.

Think about it this way: let's say I back game developer Bob on Patreon, start getting monthly updates, hearing all about his life, etc. I'm connected to him in a way I wouldn't be otherwise, and if Bob was involved in some sort of corruption scandal that I needed to cover, that might create problems. And even if I'm capable of reporting on Bob without any emotional complications, my Patreon backing can still create the appearance of impropriety. It's just not worth it.
And on the other hand, if Bob makes something really big that every media outlet wants a part of, you're now closer to the developer and can get far better coverage than anyone else (this actually goes for scandals too, thinking on it). Plus, you're helping a person pursue a passion that they otherwise wouldn't be able to. The positives seem to outweigh the potential negatives, at least in terms of both being useful to a company and providing encouragement for independent work.

More importantly though, assuming a company is aware of reporting biases (which I assume they are given that this has all come out), why wouldn't they just assign somebody to report on the work who they're not worried about regarding conflict of interest? Seems like an easier and less dense solution to the issue.
 
Glad to see something good came out of this insanity. Taking a clear stance on this issue is one less bow in the quiver of people who would claim corruption where there is none.

Hopefully other sites take a similar approach.
 
I see a significant difference between buying or funding a project and directly funding a person. I think the latter brings up ethical questions that I'd rather just avoid entirely.
Buying a game I can see your argument, but funding a game/funding a person to make a game is one in the same. If you are funding a project and then review said project that is a bit unethical. You already had an interest in the product beforehand and have some sort of affinity for the project thus creating a problem. Now if you were to not review/promote the game then by all means fund a project.

On to your later post about ethics, while ethics are not black and white, there should be guidelines or basic ethics that game journalists must follow (same with any other journalist genre). Promoting something while having a connection to the person or project should not be allowed under any circumstances. If you have personal blog then sure, but not on the main site or newspaper. Sure that could be seen as extreme, but in that case you have nothing clouding your judgement or articles.
 
Yeah, I've definitely seen a little bit of discussion related to them not running reviews for Harmonix games because of friendships and Alex previously working there. But again, now that Drake is at PlayStation, the breadth of products they wouldn't be able to cover because of that friendship would be kind of insane for any gaming site hoping to stay relevant. That's where the problem lies with "press and the industry are too buddy-buddy." It's a sticky wicket for sure. I don't have the answers, and I'm not sure anyone does. Disclosure is really the only reasonable step.
It's certainly a slippery slope and it seems that all sites are having to figure out where they're going to stand. I think a major factor with GB is that it doesn't seem like their fans really see them as journalists. They're more entertainment figures in the same way as PewDiePie or AngryJoe. Their site is popular not because of articles or reviews, but because of Quick Looks and their podcast. It's a very personality driven site. On the other hand, Kotaku is known for their articles and reviews. And as such they're likely to be much more sensitive to things that may make people question where their writers are coming from. As someone mentioned before, they're one of the few sites that no longer even accepts publishers paying for flights to preview events and such. So they're taking serious stances against things other may not see as being a big deal, but to them it is because they don't want their writers being questioned.
 
ABCJ business journalism ethics should be what all forms of press follows, imo, what Kotaku is doing fits the mar(well, sorta I think them making exemptions for kickstarter is a problem)).


Reporters not moving in the realm of possible conflicts(in the sense of promoting s certain type of donation scheme vs another) is needed. It isnt as simple as a certain person getting promoted, as it is certain store fronts and what not getting promoted. Which is why I think that not allowing kickstarter would make sense too as it not only encourages people to be more pro that game, it also gives kickstarter the company more attention. Essentially if you as an orginization allow investments into kickstarter or what not that is technically fine, you just cant report on it to stay in the ethical clear. So, I think Kotaku could make a choice between allowing their users to support(financially) kickstarter and the like but not report on them or dont allow them to donate, but allow them to report. Doing both of those presents possible problems down the line and encourages more types of wiggle room.

Allowing exemptions is a bad thing to adhere to, because it opens the door for other things based on the same argument.

If the writer is a Democrat, the writer's judgments are going to be taken to be a lot more reliable than if the writer is a Republican, because of course a Republican would say that about an Obama budget. Donating to Republicans doesn't make pundits more likely to unfairly criticize Obama, but a pundit who donates to Republicans is more likely to unfairly criticize Obama than a pundit who does not.[/B]
I dont get how you think a democrat reviewing a democrat policy is more reliable then a republican one, both of them have motivations to not be has honest with their critiques. Judging by what you are saying it would be more logical to have someone not affiliated with a political party at all, to get your reporting from if you want a less...political partisanship opinion. I'd say with the bold, the only people who would actually think like that are other democrats.

in that case they should be transparent that they were involved in said kickstarter and people can view the article with that in mind, making it fine.
No it wouldnt. Expecting them to remain objective as possible, simply because they admitted they will struggle to be completely objective doesnt fix the issue. If a reporter is allowed to become involved in an investment they report about, then it infers that the company in general allows it, whcih infers that their limited objectivity that they already have is even more clouded.
 
But then this one last point — I feel like this particular case is pretty insidious because it targeted two writers that mainstream gamers already dislike, mostly because they challenge status quo beliefs. I didn't catch the front page reddit post about the fact that the Giant Bomb guys are pretty well known for being friends with tons of people in the industry, even executives. Can Jeff and the gang cover PlayStation products without being influenced by their friendship with John Drake, Matt Kessler, et al.? Personally, I think they can. But it's interesting that hardly anyone brings it up. And I think it's mostly because those guys are not Kuchera or Hernandez or someone they already don't like.

Just food for thought. My whole perspective is this — if you don't feel like you can trust someone, don't read them. Move on. Find something that you feel like you can trust.
The answer for me is pretty simple: I don't visit the Giant Bomb site for any reasons that would be compromised by those relationships. I visit that site because I like the guys' personalities and they make funny videos. I rarely if ever take their opinions as gospel for various reasons, industry connections being the least of them.

It would be different if I saw Schreier acting in that manner, because he's a hard news guy known for his reporting. And he's damn good at it.

And reviews, well, I don't read professional reviews at all anymore. Not because I don't trust the media or anything, but because I like going into games fairly blind and it's easy enough to use the community as a barometer for whether or not a game is worth my time.
 
The answer for me is pretty simple: I don't visit the Giant Bomb site for any reasons that would be compromised by those relationships. I visit that site because I like the guys' personalities and they make funny videos. I rarely if ever take their opinions as gospel for various reasons, industry connections being the least of them.

It would be different if I saw Schreier acting in that manner, because he's a hard news guy known for his reporting. And he's damn good at it.

And reviews, well, I don't read professional reviews at all anymore. Not because I don't trust the media or anything, but because I like going into games fairly blind and it's easy enough to use the community as a barometer for whether or not a game is worth my time.
Ya, Giantbomb is a massive op-ed, their actually reporting is limited to, practically, interviews. If they become something more then an op-ed they will have a problem, until then though, not a problem.
 
You missed an important bit of context there:


He's saying that a writer going against their own biases will be perceived as more reliable than a writer going with their biases.
I'm not sure why that would be the case though. The reasons for their disagreements would still be, probably, very different. For instance the disagreements on budget would be more philosophical(well with some anywhos), where a democrat that disagree's with another dem is more about how it is spent, where as with a republican it is more about that it is spent and the reasons behind it. One would probably more adhere to Keynes the other Hayek.
 
I dont get how you think a democrat reviewing a democrat policy is more reliable then a republican one, both of them have motivations to not be has honest with their critiques. Judging by what you are saying it would be more logical to have someone not affiliated with a political party at all, to get your reporting from if you want a less...political partisanship opinion. I'd say with the bold, the only people who would actually think like that are other democrats.
I think you may have missed that my example was of a writer being critical of an Obama proposal. If I type "even the li" into Google the top suggestion is "even the liberal New Republic". A Democrat criticizing Democrats is prima facie a much bigger deal than a Republican criticizing Democrats (in exactly the same way, for the same reasons, etc.), or even an independent criticizing Democrats, because the thing they're criticizing must be really egregious to get someone to break rank like that.

But, yes, my point was that a major reason that media figures are so concerned with not being publicly aligned with a political party is that their motivations will be questioned if they say something that appears to align with their political bias.
 
I think you may have missed that my example was of a writer being critical of an Obama proposal. If I type "even the li" into Google the top suggestion is "even the liberal New Republic". A Democrat criticizing Democrats is prima facie a much bigger deal than a Republican criticizing Democrats (in exactly the same way, for the same reasons, etc.), or even an independent criticizing Democrats, because the thing they're criticizing must be really egregious to get someone to break rank like that.

But, yes, my point was that a major reason that media figures are so concerned with not being publicly aligned with a political party is that their motivations will be questioned if they say something that appears to align with their political bias.
But why would the critique be more reliable? At face value a dem disagreeing with another dem, would most probably, be very different from a republican disagreeing with a dem. The arguements, I would imagine(at least in the financial arena), would be very different and come from different angles, where the motivations of the critical Dem would most probably still be the motivation os strengthening the democrats. The arguments in regards to reliability in the sense of impropriety would then still be in question, I would think if you believe in supply side.

In other words, if the issue stems from a problem in demand side economics then you cant rely on the critiques of the dem to point out the issues with the demand side of the equation, only in the personal disagreements of the democrats in question. The critique in that regard would still not be one that would want to highlight any shortcomings of a demand side philosophy, so the conflict of interest would still be there.
 
But why would the critique be more reliable? At face value a dem disagreeing with another dem, would most probably, be very different from a republican disagreeing with a dem. The arguements, I would imagine(at least in the financial arena) would be very different and come from different angles, where the motivations of the critical Dem would most probably still be the motivation os strengthening the democrats. The arguments in regards to reliability in the sense of impropriety would then still be in question, I would think if you believe in supply side.

In other words, if the issue stems from a problem in demand side economics then you cant rely on the critiques of the dem to point out the issues with the demand side of the equation, only in the personal disagreements of the democrats in question. The critique in that regard would still not be one that would want to highlight any shortcomings of a demand side philosophy, so the conflict of interest would still be there.
Sure, most Democrats that criticize an Obama budget proposal will be doing so from the left. My example was of someone criticizing an Obama budget proposal from the right. I said "someone writes about how the budget proposal is socialist and is punishing success, etc." So we're not arguing about what the disagreement looks like - I stipulated the nature of the disagreement. I promise you that if a prominent national Democrat starts attacking Obama as a socialist that Democrat is going to be a very popular guest on all the cable news shows, whereas nobody really gives a shit if a prominent Republican calls Obama a socialist.
 
Sure, most Democrats that criticize an Obama budget proposal will be doing so from the left. My example was of someone criticizing an Obama budget proposal from the right. I said "someone writes about how the budget proposal is socialist and is punishing success, etc." So we're not arguing about what the disagreement looks like - I stipulated the nature of the disagreement. I promise you that if a prominent national Democrat starts attacking Obama as a socialist that Democrat is going to be a very popular guest on all the cable news shows, whereas nobody really gives a shit if a prominent Republican calls Obama a socialist.
I agee that it causes more of a stir, I was just coming at it from the angle of it actually helping the consumer(I think we can all agree cable news shows very rarely educate/help the consumer/voter/anything). My only point was that assuming that people in gaming(or anything really) cant be more objective after having financial stakes in a matter(no matter how small since you are showing you value one idea over another) clouds the consumers perception of what is actually going on. I guess my point is, I agree with you in theory, that(for instance) a demand side democrat/republican or a supply side republican/democrat being critical of their own philosophies or works is more useful, in terms of pointing out the issues, but from my experience that is incredibly rare.
 
Giant Bomb's relationship with developers has been brought up quite a few times on this very forum. In particular the fact that they didn't review Dance Central 3, a game they noted that they didn't like too much, even though they'd reviewed the previously two (both of which they did like). Some thought that was quite iffy given that we know some publishers pay bonuses based on review averages, and some wondered whether or not that may have played a role in them not wanting to put out a review for it.
In this scenario, the only people being "deceived" or mis-served are the people that own Harmonix.

And Jeff's said plenty of times he's not into Metacritic. So maybe he's a revolutionary. He's just refusing to play the capital's game. Viva la giante bombe.
 
As far as I see it, buying a video game or even backing a video game on Kickstarter is exchanging money for a product or in hopes of supporting a product, no matter how many people are involved. Backing an individual's Patreon is directly supporting a person, and that could potentially create conflicts of interest that just aren't worth the hassle.
I see where you're coming from with Kickstarter, but it's got so muddy I can't say I agree. If you're kickstarting a non-gaming thing then whatever, that's a product you think might have potential. when it comes to gaming I'm not sure it's as clear.

Look at Harmonix's kickstarter. That was absolutely going to fail, it was no where near there target and not trending to hit it. Then some friends in the industry start promoting it, they appeared on Giant Bomb and the like.

You personally may have no connection to them, which is a shame if you're tarred with the same brush, but having the press tell the audience that we should support stuff that's made by their friends, particularly if it doesn't actually exist yet, is uncomfortable at best
 
Look at Harmonix's kickstarter. That was absolutely going to fail, it was no where near there target and not trending to hit it. Then some friends in the industry start promoting it, they appeared on Giant Bomb and the like.
Sounds a bit like revisionist history to me. The way it started was with a media blitz, trying to get the word out - and it did get on all the sites. (And for what it's worth, I do think the Amplitude Kickstarter was one of the few KS campaigns with actual news value rather than just sites promoting it. The fact that it was a Sony IP and console exclusive was newsworthy on its own.) Toward the end, while it was floundering, any press attention it got was mostly negative - which is a terrible thing for a Kickstarter campaign's momentum.

The "friends in the industry" who I saw actually help save it were from the game development community - your Insomniac, your notch, your Skullgirls, etc.
 
Sounds a bit like revisionist history to me. The way it started was with a media blitz, trying to get the word out - and it did get on all the sites. (And for what it's worth, I do think the Amplitude Kickstarter was one of the few KS campaigns with actual news value rather than just sites promoting it. The fact that it was a Sony IP and console exclusive was newsworthy on its own.) Toward the end, while it was floundering, any press attention it got was mostly negative - which is a terrible thing for a Kickstarter campaign's momentum.

The "friends in the industry" who I saw actually help save it were from the game development community - your Insomniac, your notch, your Skullgirls, etc.
I agree that they had help from devs, and that it was newsworthy, but it's not revisionist . Garnet Lee called it out at the time, John Drake was on a Giant Bomb live stream towards the end pushing it very hard. It's just an example, there's plenty of others where people have bigged up a Kickstarter on a podcast etc
 
Oh, to see all these bullshit thinkpieces springing up in the wake of this news from people who have never taken a media law class in their lives, let alone being spoken over by people who aren't getting their BA with a major in journalism in a week and a half.

Yes, I'm mad, which is why I'm not going to articulate my particular response until/unless I calm down.
 
OK, so I've thought a lot about this whole Patreon thing, and digested much of the criticism I've seen here, on Twitter, and elsewhere, and I still feel pretty strongly that disallowing journalists from donating to Patreon is the right move.

Granted, as many have pointed out, Patreon does not exactly represent the Biggest Problem in game journalism ethics. I mean, I've seen things firsthand that go way deeper and are way more of an issue than journalists giving money to fund independent game developers. Freelance reviewers regularly accept mock reviews, taking money from people they cover; toxic Metacritic culture leads publishers to spend inordinate amounts of money just for the sake of extra review points; game journalists preview AAA games without disclosing that they're dating prominent people involved with those projects, etc. Hell, Jessica Chobot once previewed Mass Effect 3 for G4 without mentioning that she's in the game. Game journalism has a lot of issues.

But for as long as I've worked Kotaku, Stephen Totilo has fought very hard to ensure that we steer clear from those issues, especially when it comes to AAA video gaming. We don't take press junkets, and we regularly turn down extravagant invitations to go to Rome and China and Las Vegas for big lavish preview events that have certainly led to coverage on a lot of gaming sites. We do our best to get rid of swag and we try to avoid putting ourselves in any sort of position where it might even appear as if there are conflicts of interest influencing the coverage we write for readers every day, though of course, as with all ethical issues, that is a very complex and nuanced process. Stephen spends a lot of time thinking about how we should best approach some of the big ethical dilemmas we face every day, and a lot of that never gets seen by the public.

Of course, any good reporter has friends and sources in game development, and questions of when to disclose, how much to disclose, and what to disclose are things we always think and talk about.

Before this week, however, we didn't spend a lot of time thinking or talking about our conflicts of interest when it comes to indie developers. Some of our writers are very close to indie game-makers, and we may have inadvertently helped contribute to the appearance of a giant clique where journalists and developers are constantly scratching one another's backs, and where developers feel like they have to befriend reporters in order to get proper coverage. That's a problem.

By saying "Kotaku writers will no longer to donate to game developers on Patreon," Stephen is taking a hardline stance on ethical issues, as he often does (and should). Not only does that help eliminate potential conflicts of interest that might result if one of our reporters has to cover someone they're connected to on Patreon, it also helps stave off the appearance that game journalists and game developers are part of the same industry, one big bubble where everyone is friends and the reporters serve developers, rather than our readers.

This doesn't mean we're ever going to stop covering issues of inclusivity or marginalized game developers. But I think it's important to draw a line between "covering" and "actively supporting," even if that line does get blurred often.
 
OK, so I've thought a lot about this whole Patreon thing, and digested much of the criticism I've seen here, on Twitter, and elsewhere, and I still feel pretty strongly that disallowing journalists from donating to Patreon is the right move.

Granted, as many have pointed out, Patreon does not exactly represent the Biggest Problem in game journalism ethics. I mean, I've seen things firsthand that go way deeper and are way more of an issue than journalists giving money to fund independent game developers. Freelance reviewers regularly accept mock reviews, taking money from people they cover; toxic Metacritic culture leads publishers to spend inordinate amounts of money just for the sake of extra review points; game journalists preview AAA games without disclosing that they're dating prominent people involved with those projects, etc. Hell, Jessica Chobot once previewed Mass Effect 3 for G4 without mentioning that she's in the game. Game journalism has a lot of issues.

But for as long as I've worked Kotaku, Stephen Totilo has fought very hard to ensure that we steer clear from those issues, especially when it comes to AAA video gaming. We don't take press junkets, and we regularly turn down extravagant invitations to go to Rome and China and Las Vegas for big lavish preview events that have certainly led to coverage on a lot of gaming sites. We do our best to get rid of swag and we try to avoid putting ourselves in any sort of position where it might even appear as if there are conflicts of interest influencing the coverage we write for readers every day, though of course, as with all ethical issues, that is a very complex and nuanced process. Stephen spends a lot of time thinking about how we should best approach some of the big ethical dilemmas we face every day, and a lot of that never gets seen by the public.

Of course, any good reporter has friends and sources in game development, and questions of when to disclose, how much to disclose, and what to disclose are things we always think and talk about.

Before this week, however, we didn't spend a lot of time thinking or talking about our conflicts of interest when it comes to indie developers. Some of our writers are very close to indie game-makers, and we may have inadvertently helped contribute to the appearance of a giant clique where journalists and developers are constantly scratching one another's backs, and where developers feel like they have to befriend reporters in order to get proper coverage. That's a problem.

By saying "Kotaku writers will no longer to donate to game developers on Patreon," Stephen is taking a hardline stance on ethical issues, as he often does (and should). Not only does that help eliminate potential conflicts of interest that might result if one of our reporters has to cover someone they're connected to on Patreon, it also helps stave off the appearance that game journalists and game developers are part of the same industry, one big bubble where everyone is friends and the reporters serve developers, rather than our readers.

This doesn't mean we're ever going to stop covering issues of inclusivity or marginalized game developers. But I think it's important to draw a line between "covering" and "actively supporting," even if that line does get blurred often.
I'm genuinely impressed with how much Kotaku has evolved in recent years. Keep up the good work! It's good to know that there is at least one gaming site out there that takes ethics and integrity seriously.
 
I agree that they had help from devs, and that it was newsworthy, but it's not revisionist . Garnet Lee called it out at the time, John Drake was on a Giant Bomb live stream towards the end pushing it very hard. It's just an example, there's plenty of others where people have bigged up a Kickstarter on a podcast etc
Giant Bomb has been one of the worst when it comes to cozying up with devs. Their "trust us, this stuff doesn't color out reviews" line is always good for a laugh.
 
Part of me feels like actively stopping donations is too big a shotgun approach to the idea, but then I remembered that the entire point of Patreon is periodic donations, as opposed to one-time offers, which entails a genuine show of support that would effectively stop one from being impartial henceforth, or at least give the impression. Really, it took the Zoe Quinn escapade for me to really see it, but journalists and developers, as they are, are too tight-knit and intertwined, so again, as someone who has actually spent years studying this stuff in the hopes of one day getting a job in the field, I appreciate any steps to restrict those relationships from being too cordial.

Then again, many events in the past month have come close to convincing me to stop rather than stick it out, so perhaps the gesture is in vain. We'll see.
 
My god...one hell of a week so far. I learned of the madness at Kotaku also and Polygon regarding conflicts of interest involving Patricia Hernandez and a separate conflict of interest incident in involving Ben Kuchera....it inspires me to really want to go for gaming journalism and stay the hell away from these kinds of PR "fraternity" groups/partnerships/friendships, etc., that are compromising what honest gaming journalism should be. It's sickening.
 
OK, so I've thought a lot about this whole Patreon thing, and digested much of the criticism I've seen here, on Twitter, and elsewhere, and I still feel pretty strongly that disallowing journalists from donating to Patreon is the right move.

Granted, as many have pointed out, Patreon does not exactly represent the Biggest Problem in game journalism ethics. I mean, I've seen things firsthand that go way deeper and are way more of an issue than journalists giving money to fund independent game developers. Freelance reviewers regularly accept mock reviews, taking money from people they cover; toxic Metacritic culture leads publishers to spend inordinate amounts of money just for the sake of extra review points; game journalists preview AAA games without disclosing that they're dating prominent people involved with those projects, etc. Hell, Jessica Chobot once previewed Mass Effect 3 for G4 without mentioning that she's in the game. Game journalism has a lot of issues.

But for as long as I've worked Kotaku, Stephen Totilo has fought very hard to ensure that we steer clear from those issues, especially when it comes to AAA video gaming. We don't take press junkets, and we regularly turn down extravagant invitations to go to Rome and China and Las Vegas for big lavish preview events that have certainly led to coverage on a lot of gaming sites. We do our best to get rid of swag and we try to avoid putting ourselves in any sort of position where it might even appear as if there are conflicts of interest influencing the coverage we write for readers every day, though of course, as with all ethical issues, that is a very complex and nuanced process. Stephen spends a lot of time thinking about how we should best approach some of the big ethical dilemmas we face every day, and a lot of that never gets seen by the public.

Of course, any good reporter has friends and sources in game development, and questions of when to disclose, how much to disclose, and what to disclose are things we always think and talk about.

Before this week, however, we didn't spend a lot of time thinking or talking about our conflicts of interest when it comes to indie developers. Some of our writers are very close to indie game-makers, and we may have inadvertently helped contribute to the appearance of a giant clique where journalists and developers are constantly scratching one another's backs, and where developers feel like they have to befriend reporters in order to get proper coverage. That's a problem.

By saying "Kotaku writers will no longer to donate to game developers on Patreon," Stephen is taking a hardline stance on ethical issues, as he often does (and should). Not only does that help eliminate potential conflicts of interest that might result if one of our reporters has to cover someone they're connected to on Patreon, it also helps stave off the appearance that game journalists and game developers are part of the same industry, one big bubble where everyone is friends and the reporters serve developers, rather than our readers.

This doesn't mean we're ever going to stop covering issues of inclusivity or marginalized game developers. But I think it's important to draw a line between "covering" and "actively supporting," even if that line does get blurred often.
I, in general, view all journalism with skepticism, but you guys do it right. Have your friends, have your sources, you need them. Don't put your office or your money on any side of anything. Know that your coverage will have an effect and what you select to cover will tend to benefit from the exposure (and that's fine), but maintain the thought that readers want to see you considering their best interests.

That's all meant to be a compliment paraphrasing what you just said, not preachy, but I'm going to leave it as written :)
 
OK, so I've thought a lot about this whole Patreon thing, and digested much of the criticism I've seen here, on Twitter, and elsewhere, and I still feel pretty strongly that disallowing journalists from donating to Patreon is the right move.

Granted, as many have pointed out, Patreon does not exactly represent the Biggest Problem in game journalism ethics. I mean, I've seen things firsthand that go way deeper and are way more of an issue than journalists giving money to fund independent game developers. Freelance reviewers regularly accept mock reviews, taking money from people they cover; toxic Metacritic culture leads publishers to spend inordinate amounts of money just for the sake of extra review points; game journalists preview AAA games without disclosing that they're dating prominent people involved with those projects, etc. Hell, Jessica Chobot once previewed Mass Effect 3 for G4 without mentioning that she's in the game. Game journalism has a lot of issues.

But for as long as I've worked Kotaku, Stephen Totilo has fought very hard to ensure that we steer clear from those issues, especially when it comes to AAA video gaming. We don't take press junkets, and we regularly turn down extravagant invitations to go to Rome and China and Las Vegas for big lavish preview events that have certainly led to coverage on a lot of gaming sites. We do our best to get rid of swag and we try to avoid putting ourselves in any sort of position where it might even appear as if there are conflicts of interest influencing the coverage we write for readers every day, though of course, as with all ethical issues, that is a very complex and nuanced process. Stephen spends a lot of time thinking about how we should best approach some of the big ethical dilemmas we face every day, and a lot of that never gets seen by the public.

Of course, any good reporter has friends and sources in game development, and questions of when to disclose, how much to disclose, and what to disclose are things we always think and talk about.

Before this week, however, we didn't spend a lot of time thinking or talking about our conflicts of interest when it comes to indie developers. Some of our writers are very close to indie game-makers, and we may have inadvertently helped contribute to the appearance of a giant clique where journalists and developers are constantly scratching one another's backs, and where developers feel like they have to befriend reporters in order to get proper coverage. That's a problem.

By saying "Kotaku writers will no longer to donate to game developers on Patreon," Stephen is taking a hardline stance on ethical issues, as he often does (and should). Not only does that help eliminate potential conflicts of interest that might result if one of our reporters has to cover someone they're connected to on Patreon, it also helps stave off the appearance that game journalists and game developers are part of the same industry, one big bubble where everyone is friends and the reporters serve developers, rather than our readers.

This doesn't mean we're ever going to stop covering issues of inclusivity or marginalized game developers. But I think it's important to draw a line between "covering" and "actively supporting," even if that line does get blurred often.
Bravo, Jason. I want to commend you and Stephen for the good work you do. It is because of you two that I actively read Kotaku on a daily basis.
 

Keogh doesn't seem to be the only one unhappy about this, and I'm not sure he's altogether off base:

https://twitter.com/BRKeogh/status/504622507354095617
https://twitter.com/BRKeogh/status/504631937118380032
https://twitter.com/Wheeler/status/504592871446839296
https://twitter.com/kierongillen/status/504597271544336384
https://twitter.com/mcclure111/status/504415924120612864

(More of this on Keogh's twitter feed.)

Keogh and several others seem to think that this is pandering to the misogynistic anti-Zoe Quinn mobs at the expense of smaller developers. Not convinced that Kotaku's stance is as noble and ethical as it might look like at first glance.
 
Tell your boss to read his Twitter and read the criticisms of this decision.

Also, "odd to allow oneself to dutifully observe the rules of engagement set by corporations, but reject those set by starving marginalized indies"

And ": Singling out Patreon in particular as a conflict of interest colludes in the hegemonic and exploitative interests of capital."
I don’t get the second criticism(?). Patreon is a private, venture capital funded, for-profit company that tries to make money from a financial service for creators. They are basically the embodiment of “the hegemonic and exploitative interests of capital”. Supporting them isn’t really an act of resistance against corporations or against capitalism, it just means to reinforce the current structure of production in a slightly different fashion (funding people through Patreon instead of funding projects through Kickstarter/Indiegogo… or through buying existing games).
 
Keogh and several others seem to think that this is pandering to the misogynistic anti-Zoe Quinn mobs at the expense of smaller developers. Not convinced that Kotaku's stance is as noble and ethical as it might look like at first glance.
I'm going to echo this again, especially in response to that final tweet, which claims that Kotaku can now only support the big companies and never the indies, the implication being that Patreon has been the only way to support indies.

The major delineation in Patreon support, and the one that causes the gulf in possible conflicts of interest removed from simply buying the game, or receiving a review copy and covering it as per the norm, is that a Patreon, despite the many claims otherwise, is no mere tip jar. The fact that money is given every month/week, or when a project is released, depending on the parameters, implies a much greater connection than simply being in the position as every other consumer and buying the game, or in the position a general press member has, which is getting a review copy with the obligation of coverage that brings. If the monetary donations get particularly great, some idiots could even perceive it to be a bona fide financial investment. And it's that "over a period of time" qualifier, which sets Patreon apart from Kickstarter, that makes the difference.

Journalists and developers, as is, have too much stake in each other, and while it's true that the field really has bigger fish to fry than Patreon, I will take any step necessary to approach a greater degree of impartiality. True objectivity is a pipedream, but moreso because of the nature of language and its flexibility rather than it being impossible to stay uninvested in anything. Aside from that, connections should go as far as is needed for press to do their jobs, and no further.
 
Keogh and several others seem to think that this is pandering to the misogynistic anti-Zoe Quinn mobs at the expense of smaller developers. Not convinced that Kotaku's stance is as noble and ethical as it might look like at first glance.
What exactly has Kotaku done in the past that would make people think they'd cater to that group? Kotaku actually seems like one of the last sites that would do such a thing.
 
Aside from that, connections should go as far as is needed for press to do their jobs, and no further.
Who is qualified to write the rulebook on what is "as far as is needed"? You seem to have some knowledge and interest in journalism and ethics... is there a model in other industries already in place that you feel would work well for gaming?
 
Keogh and several others seem to think that this is pandering to the misogynistic anti-Zoe Quinn mobs at the expense of smaller developers.
This is the narrative that the extremely defensive game press are already running with. Any demand for transparency is already being framed as veiled misogyny by "neckbeards". First we were all fanboys, then we were all too entitled and now we just plain hate women. The gaming press has long fought to get the game playing public to just shut up, swill mountain dew and pay whatever publishers charge. They don't have uncomfortably close relationships with industry insiders, because they are the same industry, gaming journalists are PR and advertisement. When the public questions the relationship between the press and the industry the public becomes the enemy, every single time.
 
Giant Bomb has been one of the worst when it comes to cozying up with devs. Their "trust us, this stuff doesn't color out reviews" line is always good for a laugh.
And Jeff is completely aware of that, even going so far as to say they're pretty close to just up and ending gaming reviews for their site since in the grand scheme of things they aren't even prioritizing them (text instead of video).
 
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