Gifts

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Remember the “Washington Post talks Fallout 3” post I did a couple of days ago? Well Kotaku felt the original Washington Post article was an attack on gaming journalists, and did a reply, here’s a snippet:

Even more interesting still is that the story was written while attending the Bethesda Fallout 3 event I recently attended. The article seems to imply that companies like Bethesda are paying for good press. This couldn’t be father from the truth.Firstly, many of the sites represented at the affair, including Kotaku, refuse to accept free air fare and hotel accommodations from gaming companies. We pay our own way to these events to help make sure our readers always have the best information we can provide on our dime.

And while yes, I believe that no legitimate press outlet should accept travel and hotel rooms, I also recognize that for some smaller outlets it is the only way they can afford to cover major events. Does this mean they end up being swayed by the money lavished upon them? Game Revolution’s Mike Reilly, whom you should never mention World of Warcraft around, said it best.

“The reason I got invited is I have readership,” he said. “The only way I keep readership is by staying honest, by calling it how I see it.”

Basically people can smell bullshit, and integrity is the most important aspect of this business. Note that I didn’t say a complete lack of bias…after all part of our job is to give you our opinions. We just have to make sure those opinions are our own.

In the comments section of that post at Kotaku you can see another view on the issue:

I think it’s great (and great to know) that Kotaku does not accept free air fare or accomodations.

However…

And while yes, I believe that no legitimate press outlet should accept travel and hotel rooms, I also recognize that for some smaller outlets it is the only way they can afford to cover major events. Does this mean they end up being swayed by the money lavished upon them?

Yes it does. Anybody can say otherwise, that doesn’t make it any less true.

I used to work for a little crap video game web site that shall remain nameless because it’s actually embarrassing what they’ve gone and turned it into these days. But the point is we used to get invited to these press junkets and we were one of these smaller sites that had to accept the air fare and accommodations to afford to go. You really think we were going to give anybody a bad writeup after they’d spent $3,000 on paying for three guys to go from New York to LA and stay in a swanky Beverly Hills hotel for three nights?

At worst, we’d give a neutral writeup, those non-committal previews that basically read like bullet point feature lists, with a bit of a “hands-on” added to the effect of “we got to try these features out for ourselves, and we have to admit the game shows promise even at this early stage.” Did our readers “smell bullshit”? Sure, they probably did. Do you not smell bullshit when you read previews on Gamespot and IGN? Do you stop reading those sites because of it? Not many people have, judging by their stats.

We were brutally honest when reviewing games and systems, to the point that Sony eventually refused to send us review copies of games anymore and we had to buy our own. But there is a not-so-subtle psychological effect of having thousands of dollars worth of pampering given to you that makes it very hard to say anything really negative about a company – at least for that week.

Anyone that says otherwise is rationalizing their acceptance of these gifts. (And gifts is what they are.)

For people interested in these issues do check this old piece from CVGames.

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4 thoughts on “Gifts

  1. The biggest problem with Kotaku’s piece is not that he’s defending his own integrity, that’s his good right, he’s claiming *none* of the people that accepted gifts or accepted Bethesda covering their costs had their opinions affected in any way. There’s no way he can know that, so that’s a flat-out lie.

    Escapist mag did a good piece on quality of gaming journalism, a long long time ago.

  2. Come on, I can sift through the bullshit and find out the stuff I want to know from any news article. Even regular news is completely biased in one direction or another nowadays. Any reader worth their beans knows how to pick out the facts from the fancy words surrounding it. The Game Informer article, for instance, had a bias to it, no doubt due to the incredible exclusive they got on the story. So what? So the people who saw the demo enjoyed. Doesn’t mean I would, and fact is they talk about what they saw at the demo and it’s pretty easy to put together a picture of what was there for yourself if you got two cents worht of brains.

  3. Spin Doctoring

    The professional and fan reviews are being fudged or spun into universal love of the status quo. Manipulated to justify game design strategies.

    Maybe this happy hype is used to juice up the shares of the game companies that are publicly traded. And that’s ok, just so all know it’s happy hype.

    Unit sales are real enough,
    but it’s this brave new / Nex Gen marketing ideology of game design
    in lock step with the console wars
    that dictates a mythic peer pressure of warm and fuzzy for 21st Century mediocrity. Only FPS sellz and contrived ignorance of what RPG’s are and could be is the norm.

    Boredom is our only hope?

    The softball reviews SHRIEKED that Oblivion was PERFECT.

    Now. Why do the apologists say the mod’s will save Oblivion?

    Aware this makes Oblivion look like shovel ware?

    Mods will save?

    Cop out.

    At some point in time, this Bethesda spin, stops oscillating, and lies.

    Too much money is involved. The smart money stacks the deck.

    Anticipate formula cut and paste games with ultra full glossy cut and paste reviews.

    How will better games be made when only the mediocre are rewarded and innovation a – buzz word – that is now meaningless when not applied to the syntax of sales?

    Good that THEY make money and we are bored?

    Boredom is our only hope?

    4too

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