Gaming Journalism Drama - DoritoGate Edition

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About 4 minutes in he starts giving advice for aspiring gaming journalists:

See Posts below for Updates.

Haha...
That's a lot of product placement. I wish they filmed the person who spent twenty minutes trying to position the Doritos just so.

So one of the better game journalists out there gives a pretty good interview and offers some good advice to aspiring journalists. Oh and there are ad placements probably set up by Spike tv the company he works for.

So is there any discussion value here or is this another one of your pointless threads Dexter?

You take what you get, I guess. Even if what you get is Spike TV.

Frankly, no TV station has any dignity to me anymore. I wouldn't respect someone going with Spike/Mountain Dew/Doritoes less than some washed up celebrity or politician. They're all snakey interest groups, but you need funding from someone. It's a rough world out there to be penniless in.

*skips to 4 minutes in* Stupid product placement aside, it's not bad advice. Find something you're good at and work with it. Make yourself stand out. It's basic and kinda cliched, but it works.

Not exactly rife with discussion value.

The product placement is ridiculous. The picture is... unfortunate. The interview, though, was fine.

Was that a parody? Or where they serious?

Eddie the head:
Was that a parody? Or where they serious?

I have no idea i'm so....confused..

CAPTCHA: sir Squirrel

Well, it was just so crass I had to share, someone did a Photoshop :P

"Are Video Games Art"? xD

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Part of what I'm talking about today is the double XP program that Mountain Dew and Doritos are bringing back which actually allow[s] gamers to rank up inside of War Games in Halo 4 by purchasing Mountain Dew or Doritos. So, that's a great example of a brand saying: "Hey, we actually want to give benefit and value to gamers." So if you buy, uh, you know, uh, if you buy, uh, Mountain Dew, you buy Doritos, you get a code, you go to dewxp dot com or doritosxp dot com, enter that code, link it to your gamer tag and then you're gonna get some experience in the game. So, it's-it's, uh, it's a good partnership.

It's funny thinking about it, that people get hung up on the smallest of things, from some characters design e.g. being "too sexy" to the smallest design decision calling it 5 year loss on "Gaming being considered art as a medium" or getting all indignant about not being wanted to be seen as a "gamer" anymore, when this crass commercialization, marketing and cutting up of games is doing far more widespread damage to gaming as a medium and its importance/seriosity in being able to carry messages, which some people seem to just brush off as "business as always".

To add to this topic, there is an article about it on EuroGamer now: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-10-24-lost-humanity-18-a-table-of-doritos

There was also an interesting piece on "Games Journalism" following that by John Walker of Rock Paper Shotgun: http://botherer.org/2012/10/24/games-journalists-and-the-perception-of-corruption/

cant tell if serious...

This is the man who "hardcore" console gamers laud for having great integrity because he gives Reggie from Nintendo a slightly harder time than everyone else in interviews. LMAO.

Andrewtheeviscerator:
So one of the better game journalists out there gives a pretty good interview and offers some good advice to aspiring journalists. Oh and there are ad placements probably set up by Spike tv the company he works for.

So is there any discussion value here or is this another one of your pointless threads Dexter?

Mr. Omega:
*skips to 4 minutes in* Stupid product placement aside, it's not bad advice. Find something you're good at and work with it. Make yourself stand out. It's basic and kinda cliched, but it works.

Not exactly rife with discussion value.

Yeah exactly these... Whats the discussion value? The advice wasn't even bad, find a niche your good at and do that. Didn't realize that was bad.

Korten12:
Yeah exactly these... Whats the discussion value? The advice wasn't even bad, find a niche your good at and do that. Didn't realize that was bad.

Apparently his niche is selling any ounce of integrity to product placement, huh?

I guess some people really need to get their noses rubbed right into it, I thought the "discussion value" was rather evident for everyone. That it isn't is rather worrying in itself...

Anyway here you go, I'll just quote this in its entirety: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-10-24-lost-humanity-18-a-table-of-doritos

There is an image doing the rounds on the internet this week. It is an image of Geoff Keighley, a Canadian games journalist, sitting dead-eyed beside a garish Halo 4 poster and a table of Mountain Dew and Doritos. It is a tragic, vulgar image. But I think that it is the most important image in games journalism today. I think we should all find it and study it. It is important.

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This might be an image of Geoff Keighley if we're allowed to do that. If not, it'll be Dark Souls again.

Geoff Keighley is often described as an industry leader. A games expert. He is one of the most prominent games journalists in the world. And there he sits, right there, beside a table of snacks. He will be sitting there forever, in our minds. That's what he is now. And in a sense, it is what he always was. As Executive Producer of the mindless, horrifying spectacle that is the Spike TV Video Game Awards he oversees the delivery of a televisual table full of junk, an entire festival of cultural Doritos.

How many games journalists are sitting beside that table?

Recently, the Games Media Awards rolled around again, and games journos turned up to a thing to party with their friends in games PR. Games PR people and games journos voted for their favourite friends, and friends gave awards to friends, and everyone had a good night out. Eurogamer won an award. Kieron Gillen was named an industry legend (and if anyone is a legend in games writing, he is) but he deserves a better platform for recognition than those GMAs. The GMAs shouldn't exist. By rights, that room should be full of people who feel uncomfortable in each other's company. PR people should be looking at games journos and thinking, "That person makes my job very challenging." Why are they all best buddies? What the hell is going on?

Whenever you criticise the GMAs, as I've done in the past, you face the accusation of being "bitter". I've removed myself from those accusations somewhat by consistently making it clear that I'm not a games journalist. I'm a writer who regularly writes about games, that's all. And I've been happy for people who have been nominated for GMAs in the past, because I've known how much they wanted to be accepted by that circle. There is nothing wrong with wanting to belong, or wanting to be recognised by your peers. But it's important to ask yourself who your peers are, and exactly what it is you feel a need to belong to.

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If I was to accept any kind of bribe to promote a game, I'd take the bribe to promote the amazing Hotline Miami.

Just today, as I sat down to write this piece, I saw that there were games journalists winning PS3s on Twitter. There was a competition at those GMAs - tweet about our game and win a PS3. One of those stupid, crass things. And some games journos took part. All piling in, opening a sharing bag of Doritos, tweeting the hashtag as instructed. And today the winners were announced. Then a whole big argument happened, and other people who claim to be journalists claimed to see nothing wrong with what those so-called journalists had done. I think the winners are now giving away their PS3s, but it's too late. It's too late. Let me show you an example.

One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: "Urm... Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that's a bad thing?"

Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: "Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider pic.twitter.com/VOWDSavZ"

And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist's apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she's in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I'm sure she isn't, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?

Another journalist, one of the winners of the PS3 competition, tweeted this at disgusted RPS writer John Walker: "It was a hashtag, not an advert. Get off the pedestal." Now, this was Dave Cook, a guy I've met before. A good guy, as far as I could tell. But I don't believe for one second that Dave doesn't understand that in this time of social media madness a hashtag is just as powerful as an advert. Either he's on the defensive or he doesn't get what being a journalist is actually about.

I want to make a confession. I stalk games journalists. It's something I've always done. I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won't name them here, because it's a horrible thing to do, but I'm sure some of you will know who they are. I'm fascinated by these creatures because they are living one of the most strange existences - they are playing at being a thing that they don't understand. And if they don't understand it, how can they love it? And if they don't love it, why are they playing at being it?

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And just in case we did use that image of Geoff Keighley, here's this week's Dark Souls repeat.

This club, this weird club of pals and buddies that make up a fair proportion of games media, needs to be broken up somehow. They have a powerful bond, though - held together by the pressures of playing to the same audience. Games publishers and games press sources are all trying to keep you happy, and it's much easier to do that if they work together. Publishers are well aware that some of you go crazy if a new AAA title gets a crappy review score on a website, and they use that knowledge to keep the boat from rocking. Everyone has a nice easy ride if the review scores stay decent and the content of the games are never challenged. Websites get their exclusives. Ad revenue keeps rolling in. The information is controlled. Everyone stays friendly. It's a steady flow of Mountain Dew pouring from the hills of the money men, down through the fingers of the weary journos, down into your mouths. At some point you will have to stop drinking that stuff and demand something better.

Standards are important. They are hard to live up to, sure, but that's the point of them. The trouble with games journalism is that there are no standards. We expect to see Geoff Keighley sitting beside a table of s***. We expect to see the flurry of excitement when the GMAs get announced, instead of a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. We expect to see our games journos failing to get what journalistic integrity means. The brilliant writers, like John Walker for example, don't get the credit they deserve simply because they don't play the game. Indeed, John Walker gets told to get off his pedestal because he has high standards and is pointing out a worrying problem.

Geoff Keighley, meanwhile, is sitting beside a table of snacks. A table of delicious Doritos and refreshing Mountain Dew. He is, as you'll see on Wikipedia, "only one of two journalists, the other being 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, profiled in the Harvard Business School press book 'Geeks and Geezers' by noted leadership expert Warren Bennis." Geoff Keighley is important. He is a leader in his field. He once said, "There's such a lack of investigative journalism. I wish I had more time to do more, sort of, investigation." And yet there he sits, glassy-eyed, beside a table heaving with sickly Doritos and Mountain Dew.

It's an important image. Study it.

I love how raising obvious, eternal questions like the relationship between commerce and media is just evidence of how backward and provincial you are and totally devoid of discussion value.

Yep, it's pretty bad. I pay WAAAY too much for Xbox LIVE for each new update to make the interface more impenetrable and the advertisements more IN YOUR FACE. I love the home page now, it's like 85% advertisements. At least they remembered to stick your game in the corner.

And the publishers and the media are WAAAY too close. It's just like that in the United States, where journalists who don't ask the hard questions are rewarded with access and prestige and the ones who do are viewed as antagonists by the rest. Advertising doesn't come into it, but the incentives on journalists and how it affects their work is always going to be an important consideration.

Why are we pretending that image is not only totally innocuous, but even devoid of discussion value? What are we trying so damn hard to avoid discussing?

By the way, it was a good thing that I quoted the entire article before, apparently the author of said EuroGamer article was asked to amend it, and after he refused he "got" quit or left, whatever it is he doesn't work for EuroGamer anymore over it.

Here's also another opinion piece from John Walker on that: http://botherer.org/2012/10/25/an-utter-disgrace/

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It's unfortunate he'd fall prey to this kind of product whoring, but I still respect the guy. He's given some great interviews before. Not the pinnacle of ethical game journalism, but at least he gives sound advice.

It's just another aspect of the creative media industries that is basically the same people slapping each other on the back and cross-covering for mistakes and saying the same thing over and over again.

It's not exactly news but that doesn't stop it being deplorable.

And he's saying people should base their careers on gimmicks? It might work for the rare few who are lucky enough to be indulged but not for the majority.

To be honest, it just reminds me of the start of this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIP73xIAPLU&list=FL7fZxikcXZzssIhTc_9OVQw

But I remember way back in the Medievil era of 2009 when GameTrailers got criticism for giving Modern Warfare 2 GOTY over Uncharted 2. I was younger so I followed GameTrailers but I started to notice how much they appeal to a certain type of gamer (which is fair enough, I just didn't feel I fitted that). Even with the GT redesign, they seemed to just fit into that template of appealing to early teens. Although I do enjoy a lot of their OC.

There is something ever so slightly depressing about the original poster's video though. Can't put my finger on it.

So, I'm not sure why some people didn't still follow this, but it became kind of a "big deal" over the last few days, especially after the amendment of the EuroGamer article mentioned above, which has been discussed here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.392165-Eurogamer-alters-article-due-to-legal-action-Yet-another-daily-s-t-storm-in-the-gaming-community xD

Here's some of the articles dealing with it:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/10/26/all-the-pretty-doritos-how-video-game-journalism-went-off-the-rails/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/10/25/video-game-journalist-robert-florence-leaves-eurogamer-after-libel-complaints/
http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/libel-alleged-legal-threats-and-conflicts-of-interest-the-twisted-story-of-
http://gamasutra.com/view/news/180134/It_takes_all_kinds_Video_game_cultures_weird_identity_crisis.php
http://www.giantbomb.com/news/worth-reading-102612/4426/
Jim Sterling: http://www.gamefront.com/critics-in-the-headlights/
http://wosland.podgamer.com/a-table-of-cowards/
http://wosland.podgamer.com/the-wainwright-profile/
http://www.incgamers.com/2012/10/incgamers-podcast-special-the-florencewainwright-incident/
http://worthplaying.com/article/2012/10/25/editorials/87350/

Of course most of the "Big Gaming Media" has been largely silent about it (including The Escapist), not only that but a lot of them kept making sarcastic comments as to why, for instance, GameSpot apparently doesn't write about it because "noone cares":

Danny O'Dwyer (GameSpot UK):
It's lose-lose mate. 99% of our audience don't give a crap about this stuff. Plus, it's not gaming news. That's why Jon Walker wrote is excellent peice (which I fully agree with) on his personal blog. It's friggin late October. If this happened in June and we were all sitting on our hands, perhaps a few more blogs would go up - but write now most of us are too busy trying to get through the busiest part of the year.

I've said some pretty candid things on twitter and on here, and I have no problem honestly answering questions on the matter. I may post something about it in the future - but the folks who act like children in our industry react a lot more to internet fury than blog posts from their peers. They certainly never listened to our vocal critisisms before.

I'm sure certain websites (those who's hands have been muddied by this whole affair) are telling their staff to keep shut - but don't paint us all with the same brush. Some of us make very sure to act properly, and have been publically vocal about it with everyone on twitter. You don't get much more open than that mate.

Kotaku:
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There's also this great NeoGAF thread that keeps going on about the issue: http://neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=497024

A lot of really mature comments from Mr. N'Gai Croal and cohorts up there. Straw-man much, Mr. Croal? I think the better question is, what use are video game journalists who's inane drivel puts the forum trolls to shame? Why does everyone pretend that it takes effort and conspiracy on the part of publishers to create influence on journalists? Is it because they're trying to EVADE DISCUSSION WITH A CHEAP SHOT? It doesn't require a conspiracy, and that's the problem. Influence is just how the world works. I take issue even with Mr. John Walker and Kaine on that point.

SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS OF INCENTIVE =/= CONSPIRACY

They seem to go back and forth on which they are talking about and why. I understand they are trying to avoid being straw manned by such mountains of integrity as Mr. N'Gai Croal, but they are undercutting their own message. Sometimes you have to commit or keep your trap shut. It wouldn't be a big deal but it feeds the self serving delusions of these fools who want to pretend like journalistic integrity was ever easy or not worthy of examination. Anyone who says or implies that is selling something or just doesn't know what the fuck they're doing.

Also, jokes about blacklisting are in bad taste and kind of prove the point because several blacklisting incidents are known to have taken place over the years. Probably not what I would be bringing attention to if I was trying to demonstrate that journalistic integrity in video game media was literally not news ever and unworthy of examination.

There is absolutely no question about cooperate influence on gaming journalism. I mean you would be blind not to see. Blind, deaf and dumb. We are talking beating dead horse territory.

While like TotalBisquit points out that for some reason the general impression is that a brown envelope of changes hands and a 10/10 is born, it is much much easier than that. It is Nintendo Power more or less. The publishers still control access and since we (the audience) value early information, they can control what goes out there by only letting those who play ball through.

I dont really see a solution to this anytime soon. Unless there is a bigshot uncorruptible with big enough audience to force publishers through him then its not gonna happen.

At this point I should also point out that the needle does swing in the other direction as well. That there disgruntled fan circle-jerks going on as well as corporate whoring. It is the problem with the internet general i think.

I note how the relevant Eurogamer article has already been cited, and I do believe it presents a very important take on this issue.

Namely, gaming "journalism" isn't. While this interview and the Twitter incident mentioned in the article are what are being mentioned, I refer back to Jessica Chobot getting a job doing voice acting for Mass Effect 3.

When it came out that this was happening, people talked about the ugliness of the character model but I think the most important discussion was on journalistic integrity, namely, how can you have any when you are working for the industry that you write about.

Yes yes, you can debate Chobot's status as a journalist as opposed to a minor celebrity IGN stick on their review videos, and she is of course free to pursue capital, more power to her if she wants to get into the voice acting business. But you cannot claim that her integrity has been fundamentally compromised by her getting this job.

And this is the case with all gaming journalism, and there are more issues at play as well, even if we forget the corporate influence, it's incredibly shallow and there is no investigation in a medium that seriously needs investigative media.

We constantly speculate on the nature of publisher's influence over developers, or on the scandals that occur when lead members leave companies, or heck, on the corporate influence over journalists, but we never get any kind of investigation into this by journalists because no-one has ever considered this to be something gaming journalists need to do.

In conclusion, there is no journalistic integrity in gaming journalism, and no investigative journalism either, most of it is simply an extension of companies PR departments.

The face reminds me of Tommy Wiseau:

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Gaming journalism hasn't had its "payola scandal" yet, but it's due to happen any year now.

With the frequency of whispers about the unethical practices that go on behind the scenes, there will eventually be a flashpoint that makes us all stand back and see these practices for what they really are. Whether that takes one, two or five years to materialize remains to be seen.

I had some time to read over the last few pages of the NeoGAF thread, and the commentators there nailed it. Stephen Totilo from Kotaku came over to try to "quell the fire", and told people that it didn't need to be reported on because it "wasn't of interest to our readership", while failing understand that any controversy within game journalism is remembered more than the garden-variety puff pieces it pushes on a weekly basis. We remember Gerstmann's Kane and Lynch review, the attempted Sony blacklisting of Kotaku and Chobot's role in ME3/IGN's ridiculous coverage by Colin Moriarty far more than we do their opening of an unboxing video. Hell, that Kotaku story on Silicon Knights was damn near lightweight - telling people most of what they already know about the company, with a few anonymous quotes sprinkled in for good measure.

The problem also lies in gaming sites that are at the crossroads of a blog and a legitimate news outlet - on one hand, they try to report on major shakeups and exclusive stories with one hand, while accepting expensive gifts and groveling at the feet of publishers with the other. It reminds me of the film site AintItCool, which (back in the late 90's/early 00's) was the bastion of underground film reporting. Then, the owner got in tight with studios that gave him set tours and freebies, and the quality of his content plummeted. The only reason people still visit that site is for the comment sections and giveaways, or to troll the owner.

(Of course, Kotaku - which is owned by Gawker Media - has somewhat fallen from its lofty perch. A large number of commentators fled the site when it switched over to a new format, and various users have slowly ebbed away due to the off-mission posts and constantly-changing comment system.)

All that said, I think that the gaming outlets are fearful of losing that tenuous hold on legitimacy, which is why cases like this get shooed under the rug by the gaming media, while the common gamer remembers it and takes it personally the next time something similar occurs. We just haven't hit rock bottom yet.

This was a rather good article/Blog Post on the matter: http://checkthis.com/82qo

Editorial: You Don't Talk About Video Game Journalism

I covered the video game industry from 2008 to 2011, doing things like volunteer blogging at 1UP, freelancing for mainstream sites and launching my own dot com (CriticalPixels.com, no longer up) dedicated to video game criticism. In that short time I witnessed one of the most insular, nepotistic and ethically obtuse communities I've come across.

In the past few days, the conversation I always wanted PR, game journalists and readers to have is finally starting to come to the surface. For those in the know, I'm referring to the floodgates opened by Robert Florence's Eurogamer editorial entitled, "Lost Humanity 18: A Table of Doritos," where he used an image of Geoff Keighley, surrounded by a Doritos, Mountain Dew and a Halo 4 cardboard cutout as a springboard to comment on the state of the video game journalism.

For a summary of some of the events that followed Florence's editorial, read "The Wainwright Profile" over at Wings Over Sealand and check out this excellent thread on the video game forum, NeoGAF.

Journalist? Writer? Blogger? Critic? Gaming enthusiast?

A critical problem with the consumer press side of the video game industry is that one word: journalist. Those in the field -- like Geoff Keighley -- seem to have no problem referring to themselves as journalists, yet their behavior mirrors that of a blatant marketing personality and this causes understandable friction between themselves and their readers and viewers.

I come from a traditional journalism background. I have a bachelors in journalism, completed graduate-level program work at Georgetown's Institute for Political Journalism and worked at several print newspapers, to name a few CV-related criteria. The majority of what you see on video game websites and in magazines would never pass for journalism.

Why? There's two components to this. One is that most game "journalists" either don't have a journalism degree or any kind of journalism experience prior to being hired at a website or magazine. The industry is so flooded (and has been for a while) with those of aspirations of covering video games, that the cheapest and most ethically-malleable labor wins out.

Now, I'm not saying you should have to have a journalism degree to cover the industry, but some experience has to be required as a baseline. For example, knowing Associated Press style, how to attribute sources, the difference between a background and an anonymous source -- knowledge of these things indicate a potentially decent journalist.

However, as I eluded to in the previous paragraph, that's not the way the industry functions. Cheap labor wins. Magazines and websites want high profit margins and many would rather cycle through hires on a regular basis than have an established staff of real journalists.

Ethics? I've got my "own" or : cognitive dissonance

Don't worry: I didn't forget about the second component. Sure, a big problem is that most video game journalists aren't actual journalists, but the greater problem is that of ethics.

In nearly every undergraduate journalism program, students are taught about ethics codes, such as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which under its "Act Independently" section says journalists should:
Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment ... if they compromise journalistic integrity.
Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist the pressure to influence news coverage.
It is common for that bulleted list of ethics points to be routinely violated by writers, editors and so on up the food chain at video game websites and magazines.

Here are some examples of how I saw ethics routinely violated during my time covering the industry:
Journalists accepting free airfare, free cab fare, free hotel rooms, free meals and drinks.
Editors telling journalists to rate a game a certain score so the publication or website doesn't get blacklisted and punished by having its ties to a game company severed.
Journalists selling review copies of games.
Journalists using events like press junkets to network for potential jobs at game companies instead of doing the job they're paid for, i.e., reporting on the event, gathering info on a game, etc.
A lot in the industry will say doing things like accepting free airfare or advance copies of games is no big deal and there's no way of working with game companies without doing these things. However, this is a cop out. At the end of the day you can always not accept that free dinner. You can not accept the advance copy of the game that comes with a bunch of special goodies.

For example, do you really need to fly to an exotic locale and have everything paid for (transportation, food, drinks, etc.), to play a game and share your thoughts? No. Public relations and marketing will do everything they can to influence you in every way they can. That's their job. Your job as a journalist is to say, "No."

Anyone who argues things are fine the way they are and have been is engaging in cognitive dissonance. Saying, "Yeah, I got an advance copy of the game but it won't influence me," is lying to the inherent wiring of your brain. Sure, it sounds OK, but it's an excuse.

It's in our nature to practice self deceit, as this blog post entitled, "How and Why We Lie to Ourselves: Cognitive Dissonance," referencing Morton Hunt's "The Story of Psychology" explains, "People quickly adjust their values to fit their behavior, even when it is clearly immoral. Those stealing from their employer will claim that 'Everyone does it' so they would be losing out if they didn't, or alternatively, 'I'm underpaid, so I deserve a little extra on the side.'"

From one side of the aisle to the other

Not only do we have the problem of ethics and Internet personalities masquerading as journalists, but the common-know, but rarely-acknowledged fact that many video game journalists ultimately see their job as a stepping stone to a position at a game company.

It's a common sight to see a journalist spend sometimes as little as a year or two at a video game website or magazine and then get hired at a video game company for a position in marketing or PR like a community manager.

This hardly ever looks good to readers as coverage that journalist provided of that particular company and its products gets looked back over with a healthy dose of skepticism and cynicism.

I witnessed plenty of "journalists" using events like press junkets as just glorified networking opportunities and joking that they'll do a sloppy job covering the event (often turning in their copy late), as the real goal is to exchange business cards, make friends and get those LinkedIn connections flowing.

(Almost) No one is clean, but we can be transparent

When I worked on my own, volunteer blogging at places like 1UP and for my own dot com, I stuck to my own standard, journalistic ethics. I never accepted a single product or favor as I was my own boss.

Confession time: When I was freelancing, I followed the policies of my editors and the higher ups. That is, I engaged in cognitive dissonance. Yes, I accepted airfare paid for by game companies. Yes, I accepted advance copies of games. I was told, "That's business as usual. It's how everyone operates and we can't afford to do it any other way. You want to write for us, you play by those rules."

Did it compromise how I covered things? Absolutely. Anyone that says it doesn't is lying to themselves. Sure, I can claim it didn't, but just the mere perception from readers that anything was accepted in exchange for coverage, can never look good, no matter how you frame it.

Anyone that's covered this industry, going back for years, has accepted some form of freebie. Whether it was paid airfare, special advance copies of games or networking opportunities that turned into jobs.

Looking ahead

Like I mentioned in the introduction to this editorial, this is a conversation that's been a long time coming. I'm glad it's happening.

While there are a lot of people trying to re-frame the argue by saying things like, "Why so serious about video games?" or, "It's all conspiracy theories," the readers and fans can see past that.

The boat has been rocked. A lot of people are nervous that business won't continue as usual. It shouldn't. I applaud those like Robert Florence that did some actual journalism and frankly, upset a lot of folks sitting in cushy positions that were never questioned.

To say any or all aspects of the industry are beyond criticism is individuals covering for one another. Any industry with integrity can stand introspection and should welcome it.

Trust is a fragile concept. It's one that's always assumed between readers and publications like websites and magazines. However, that trust has always been just that, an assumption. It's something that needs to be earned from your readers, proven by your actions and defended as your most precious attribute.

Also, in regards to Gifts and the Ethics mentioned above, this apparently came up with someone trying to sell one of those mentioned "Press Kits" for Assassin's Creed III: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Assassins-Creed-III-3-Colonial-Flag-Promo-Press-Kit-Fully-Licensed-Ubisoft-Ezio-/330805265358 with a personal "Thank you" letter from UbiSoft PR for the services rendered:

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It's almost July 4. Time to fire up the grill, invite some friends over and celebrate our nation's birth.

But this July 4 all of us at Ubisoft will have another reason to celebrate. And that's the phenomenal success of our Assassin's Creed brand which couldn't have happened without your incredible support and partnerships. So I'm writing to say, quite simply, 'Thank you.'

Thank you for helping make Assassin's Creed one of the best selling franchises of all time.

Thank you for igniting unprecedented consumer interest in Assassin's Creed 3 which is sure to break plenty of sales records this holiday.

Thank you for helping Assassin's Creed 3 achieve stellar exposure long before launch. Plus a stunning array of honors at E3 that exceeded our wildest expectations. We scored over 40 nominations and took home a bounty of awards including Xplay's Best of Show, Game Informers's Game of Show, and Gamespot's Editor Choice.

So this Independence Day, no matter your nationality, we hope you'll fly this colonial style flag as we celebrate our critical success. And this holiday season, all of us will ignite yet another revolution.

Thanks again,

Tony Key
Sr. VP. Sales and Marketing
Ubisoft Entertainment

And the story goes on:

Penny Arcade Editorial did a little research, and found out that there was indeed the threat of a lawsuit over the EuroGamer article: http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/mcvs-lauren-wainwright-english-libel-law-and-the-gaming-press-why-this-stor

Stephen Totillo, Editor-in-Chief of Kotaku has suddenly changed his opinion on this apparently being worthy to report about (see picture further up):
image

Jim Sterling on Destructoid wrote down his opinion and invited his readers to discuss, maybe "Jimquisition" could be over this entire affair this time round?: http://www.destructoid.com/from-a-bag-of-doritos-to-a-bag-of-dirty-laundry-237619.phtml

And RPGCodex did a very long, very readable Editorial about the entire thing :P
http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=8579

P.S. Great Channel :P: https://twitter.com/JournoShits

I don't quite get it... how is this a "gate" or scandal? I'd wager it's absolutely no such thing, as the product placement is only in extension to what's already on the standee.

As I no longer own a 360, I really couldn't care less, but I went to the dewxp.com website. The sponsoring is very in-your-face, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Doritos and Mountain Dew seem to have partnered up with Microsoft and/or whoever's in charge, so my question to you and anyone else throwing an anticonsumerist, anticapitalist hissie fit is this:

What's wrong with that? They pay for stuff so you and I and everyone else can have it. In turn, they get to stuff their logos into our faces. That doesn't mean we have to go forth and buy all Doritos and Dew products available, does it? They want to look cool, and I enjoy a Dew or some Doritos every now and then, but no campaign can change/raise my practically non-existent demand for either of them.

Anyone going bonkers over it seems to have way too much time at their hands, and should lay off from smoking Marx late at night, as it messes with the brain.

Headdrivehardscrew:
I don't quite get it... how is this a "gate" or scandal? I'd wager it's absolutely no such thing, as the product placement is only in extension to what's already on the standee.

As I no longer own a 360, I really couldn't care less, but I went to the dewxp.com website. The sponsoring is very in-your-face, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Doritos and Mountain Dew seem to have partnered up with Microsoft and/or whoever's in charge, so my question to you and anyone else throwing an anticonsumerist, anticapitalist hissie fit is this:

What's wrong with that? They pay for stuff so you and I and everyone else can have it. In turn, they get to stuff their logos into our faces. That doesn't mean we have to go forth and buy all Doritos and Dew products available, does it? They want to look cool, and I enjoy a Dew or some Doritos every now and then, but no campaign can change/raise my practically non-existent demand for either of them.

Anyone going bonkers over it seems to have way too much time at their hands, and should lay off from smoking Marx late at night, as it messes with the brain.

The point isn't that Doritos and Mountain Dew gets in bed with Microsoft (hey, that's capitalism), it is that a supposedly "neutral" and "unbiased" gaming journalists so willingly sits down in front of something that is nothing more then a gigantic advertising billboard and doesn't see anything wrong with it. This was compounded by Rob Florence article on Eurogamer about the corruption in gaming journalism and how many gaming journalists have a very close relationship to the companies who's products they are supposed to report on and review in an unbiased fashion.

That's the elephant in the room here, the extremely tight relation between game publisher PR-reps and gaming journalists. Look at the video again, it is not meant as an advertisement, it doesn't even mention the Halo/Doritos/Mountain Dew campaign, but yet there an "unbiased" journalists sits and acts as if he isn't being a shill, but is just there to talk about games in a neutral and even-handed manner.

The sentiment in this threads and many more around the net sum up what's wrong with the gaming journalist picture... no one takes it seriously.
Not the gamers, not the outsiders, and sure as fuck not the "journalists".

And until someone puts their foot down and establishes some professional and ethical standards calling this clown show journalism is simply a joke, I do not mind clown shows but do not go pretending they are more then that.
Ignorance always has been and always will be the bane of our existence.

FINALLY I HAVE AN EXCUSE TO POST THIS VIDEO

FINALLY

And yet, all the while this fiasco plays itself out, an echo can be heard from the deepest regions of my memory, especially when it involves Doritos...

ANYONE that does anything with products like what was shown, does not get taken seriously in my books. At all. Period.

This crap happens everywhere, unfortunately. It's definitely not limited to just the gaming industry. Hell, it's been going on in US politics for decades. Corporations can basically buy senators' votes on bills that benefit them. It's a damn travesty. Look up anything on Citizens United. Or, hell, look up former VP Dick Cheaney and Haliburton

Wow, went a little off-topic. Basically, just trust user reviews or Youtube channels that you trust.

To an extent we see industry pandering on these very forums. If anyone who works at a development studio or publisher makes an account here, they get a special red name and executive treatment. They get, essentially, an "I'm more important than you are" account. It's always bothered me but I never spoke up out of fear of getting banned. Maybe it's time to have that conversation.

Spartan212:
This crap happens everywhere, unfortunately. It's definitely not limited to just the gaming industry.

Indeed, but this isn't a new thing. Gaming may be the worst of the bunch when it comes to the writer/PR relationship, but it influences other industries as well. I can't tell you how many times I've filled out an accreditation form for a film screening or festival and have been asked (a) every scrap of info about my employer, (b) what the publication's circulation/viewer demographics are, (c) examples of previous coverage and (d) what my coverage will be used for.

Not only that, but plenty of gaming blogs (including this site, for that matter) base a large amount of content on repurposed press releases. There have been many times over the past couple months that I've seen an EA or Sony press release posted here on the site, near verbatim. This practice, however, is symptomatic of the journalism industry as a whole - you have to keep pushing out content or risk losing readers, and releases are just the quick fix instead of in-depth reporting.

Basically, just trust user reviews or Youtube channels that you trust.

Even that isn't immune to PR influence. The industry is pushing towards rewarding Youtube/Machinima partners with previews, early access to the game and publishing deals that give them near-exclusivity in monetizing their playthroughs. It's hard to trust many Youtubers when half of them drop advertising plugs in the middle of their videos.

About the only thing that's still halfway honest are user reviews - just count the positive-to-negative reviews, and you'll get a good idea on where a game stands.

AC10:
To an extent we see industry pandering on these very forums. If anyone who works at a development studio or publisher makes an account here, they get a special red name and executive treatment. They get, essentially, an "I'm more important than you are" account. It's always bothered me but I never spoke up out of fear of getting banned. Maybe it's time to have that conversation.

You mean I'm not special? =(

Actually I had it explained that it was to do the exact opposite, to alert to regular plebs-I mean, readers ;) - that they work in the industry and that what they say could be biased (i.e. avoid astro-turfing from PR made shill accounts).

I haven't seen that happen as those that are flagged are actual devs, not PR types, and are usually just responding to common "how to get a job in the industry" questions or correct misconceptions of the game development process. Or just getting involved in general "my fav game is ..." type conversations.

Red name yes, special treatment no.

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