#1 Edited by spacebob (2 posts) -

I'm curious what everyone's thoughts are, and Giantbomb's policy is, on the games media disclosing if they have backed a Kickstarter or a Patreon for which they are covering. Typically a journalist won't cover a topic or company that they have a financial stake in but does backing a Kickstarter or Patreon count as a financial interest?

Kickstarter is a little different. If you've backed a Kickstarter you do have some interest in it meeting it's funding goals to receive the benefits of being a backer. Is it a problem if an editor publishes a story about a specific Kickstarter to help push them over their goal if that editor has backed said Kickstarter? As a hypothetical, since Patrick wrote the review for Shovel Knight if he had backed the Kickstarter should that info be disclosed in the review? Should he have not reviewed it at all?

Thoughts?

#2 Edited by Veektarius (4837 posts) -

We say we want journalistic integrity in games media, but how much is that really true? Are we just saying it because we know that's what serious news does and we want to be serious? Outside of reviews, do we really want impartial journalists or are we just looking for well-informed fellow enthusiasts who can clue us in to things that they think are cool? It's because I want the latter that I'm on GB.

Also, the last thread I posted in on this general topic got deleted, so this may be against some kind of rule; I didn't see the explanation for the other one.

#3 Posted by Jesus_Phish (799 posts) -

@spacebob: Difference here is the guy reviewing House of Cards with a Netflix subscription isn't directly funding Kevin Spacey. That person is paying a company for a service and that service happen to make a show in which they employed Kevin Spacey.

Ben is directly giving money to Zoe (of which I'm sure Patreon takes a cut). I think if he reports on her work, or anyone elses work then that information should be disclosed. Similar to how they decided to tell people exactly how they got review copies and on what platforms this information should be disclosed.

Same for Kickstarter. If you back a project and then write about it your opening or closing statement should be "I am a backer". It's no problem that you're backing a project as long as you're upfront about it.

#4 Edited by forkboy (1151 posts) -

I really don't think spending money on something prejudices a serious writers ability to write on that topic. So why would, what is in effect, pre-ordering something? Obviously if you are using Patreon you are a fan of someone's work, but I don't get why that level of support is all the different from buying Kojima's games because you like things that Kojima makes.

So no, I don't think it's massively important, I mean I don't need games writers to tell me who in the industry they like personally & who they dislike, because that level of disclosure would be silly & unwieldy. If it is someone I trust then I assume that person will be professional enough to disconnect their friendship while reviewing a game, and if it is someone I don't trust then I'm probably not reading their views in the first place.

#5 Posted by VaddixBell (269 posts) -

Someone asked a while back on the podcast did backing something make you more critical of it, which Brad replied he believed it had the opposite effect. He stated he thought it would have the opposite effect (I'm paraphrasing here on it as I can't remember the exact podcast or discussion) where you want it to do well so you may not see flaws with it. So, that's what Brad essentially said not too long ago....

I think having a Netflix subscription and directly paying money into someone's account are very different things and I would see that a slippery slope argument.

I think the main thing is honesty, Giantbomb were very transparent how they know people at SuperGiant games when it came to Bastion and were very transparent and they didn't review it. They did give it a lot of praise but also made note to be transparent and honest. If you don't see it as a problem, then there should be no problem to disclosing that when you write about it. That way they can still provide an opinion but people can choose to take it with a grain of salt.

#6 Posted by SethPhotopoulos (5263 posts) -

I think GB has said they don't back video game kickstarters numerous times.

#7 Edited by Rowr (5660 posts) -

This seems like it would matter more if anyone gave a crap about reviews anymore or took them with anything more than a grain of salt anyway.

I mean i dunno, Patrick for example seems to be friends with zoe quinn and seems to do a lot of write ups that involve her. Is that some sort of conflict of interest that he writes articles involving her because he is invested as someone who is friends with her.

I'm aware that's a pretty bad example, tbh I haven't read any of it so i'm just speculating to make a point.

All the bounds and rules of journalism I used to care about kind of mean less and less to me by the day since it kind of feels like traditional responsible journalism has pretty much fallen apart in the tide of sensationalist attention seeking and money hats in recent times.

I dunno maybe i'm just getting old and jaded.

#8 Edited by 71Ranchero (2771 posts) -

I dont think they should have to tell us anything. Reviews are irreverent and "video games journalism" in general is a big wank. As far as I am concerned, as long as they aren't being shitty human beings then its none of my business what games they support. Kickstarter isnt much different from pre-ordering anyways(but with a chance of a refund instead of what you paid for), Im not even sure why it would be an issue.

#9 Posted by Brodehouse (9950 posts) -

If Forbes or some Video Game Consumers Guide were up to this, it would be worth wringing hands over.

Kotaku or GB or Gamespot or Polygon are not video game journalists, they're video game personalities. What we have is TMZ. We have music mags written by music fans.

I do think it's strange video game personalities like to speculate about business decisions so much having never gone to business school.

#10 Edited by Oldirtybearon (4813 posts) -

@brodehouse said:

If Forbes or some Video Game Consumers Guide were up to this, it would be worth wringing hands over.

Kotaku or GB or Gamespot or Polygon are not video game journalists, they're video game personalities. What we have is TMZ. We have music mags written by music fans.

I do think it's strange video game personalities like to speculate about business decisions so much having never gone to business school.

Here's the problem though, these are video game personalities (as you called them) who want to be treated like journalists. Ben Kuchera, Stephen Totilo, and a myriad of others want to be seen as journalists. While guys like Jeff Gerstmann or the McElroy Wonders may be upfront about their position and how it relates to games, there are a greater number of "personalities" who want credit as a journalist and go to great pains to present themselves as such.

What we have here is this whole method imploding. People like Ben Kuchera have been banging on the Journalism Drum for so long that people are finally taking them seriously as journalists, and we (collective we as in the audience/readership as a whole) have found him (and others) wanting. When faced against the standards of how they want to be perceived, they fall woefully under the bare minimum.

Game personalities, game journalists, enthusiast press, whatever you want to call them, by the standards of their profession supporting a Patreon or backing a Kickstarter while reporting on them is a huge conflict of interest. I don't think anyone is advocating that Giant Bomb stops bringing industry "friends" into video content, more that other "personalities" should follow Giant Bomb's example by providing complete and utter disclosure so that the viewer/readership can make an informed decision of whether to regard or disregard the content.

This has whole thing has been brewing for awhile, just under the surface. I'd argue it started on Twitter when it became painfully obvious just how incestuous and closed off "games journalism" is to the world at large.

Online
#11 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

GB has been deleting all threads that mention Zoe Quinn in any way for fear of the conversation devolving into attacks. The subject at hand though I think is a very relevant one. We go to sites like kotaku to get opinions of the writers that we follow because we assume they actually like the games they say they do. If the reason they like the games is because they are friends with the dev, that is a big problem when they are actively influencing people's buying choices.

#12 Edited by brandondryrock (41 posts) -

Where does that disclosure stop though? Should personalities disclose every time they were interacting with someone that has worked on a game? Maybe a reviewer had a few drinks and talked to Randy Pitchford for a few hours at a party. Should they disclose that while reviewing the next Borderlands game?

I think this whole situation has become a way bigger deal than it should have, and the quicker it goes away the better. At the end of the day nobody is forcing you to spend your money on games or game jams or whatever. People need to do more independent research about what they are putting their money towards instead of just blindly following what the media says.

#13 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

Where does that disclosure stop though? Should personalities disclose every time they were interacting with someone that has worked on a game? Maybe a reviewer had a few drinks and talked to Randy Pitchford for a few hours at a party. Should they disclose that while reviewing the next Borderlands game?

I think this whole situation has become a way bigger deal than it should have, and the quicker it goes away the better.

Well its of interest to a lot of people, they are concerned about conflicts of interest. Why should that topic go away?

I think a casual conversation is a lot different than signing up to give someone money every month, don't you agree?

#14 Edited by EXTomar (4736 posts) -

I don't get the issue with Zoe Quinn. Why is the internet freaking out and obsessed with her? And given the hostile attitude on some of these topics, I'm glad GB moderation is locking any of those threads because we have shown we can't handle it. Specifically I don't see the issue with Ben Kuchera writing a story on Zoe Quinn while giving money to her on Petreon. This would be like I can write something praising or condemning how PBS works because I gave them $200 in the last pledge drive.

The only conflict of interest I can see is if GB or whoever is "subscribed" to someone's subscription service and has a show or article on subscription services and deliberate avoids or explicitly shows things they've subscribed in only a good way.

#15 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

@extomar said:

I don't get the issue with Zoe Quinn. Why is the internet freaking out and obsessed with her? Specifically I don't see the issue with Ben Kuchera writing a story on Zoe Quinn while giving money to her on Petreon. This would be like I can write something praising or condemning how PBS works because I gave them $200 in the last pledge drive.

The only conflict of interest I can see is if GB or whoever is "subscribed" to someone's subscription service and has a show or article on subscription services and deliberate avoids or explicitly shows things they've subscribed in only a good way.

Its a good deal different because the money goes directly to the person. You are basically paying their bills for them. Its not difficult to see a conflict of interest here, don't you think their motivations might be in question?

#16 Edited by EXTomar (4736 posts) -

@n1nj4d00m said:

@extomar said:

I don't get the issue with Zoe Quinn. Why is the internet freaking out and obsessed with her? Specifically I don't see the issue with Ben Kuchera writing a story on Zoe Quinn while giving money to her on Petreon. This would be like I can write something praising or condemning how PBS works because I gave them $200 in the last pledge drive.

The only conflict of interest I can see is if GB or whoever is "subscribed" to someone's subscription service and has a show or article on subscription services and deliberate avoids or explicitly shows things they've subscribed in only a good way.

Its a good deal different because the money goes directly to the person. You are basically paying their bills for them. Its not difficult to see a conflict of interest here, don't you think their motivations might be in question?

You say that like you know what that means but you clearly don't. Example: Go to a restaurant and ask for their signature dish, eat it and find it out it is yummy or terrible. Their tab went into the pockets of the waiting staff and the kitchen cooks let alone the owner and manager. Are you suggesting no one can tell any one "That restaurant was awesome" or "That restaurant was terrible!" because they paid for it? They had a very valid experience but they paid for it.

You are confusing patronage with "buying off". To get an experience one often needs to pay or invest something into it where the suggestion that afterwards they can't comment on it is dubious in logic.

#18 Posted by BBAlpert (1475 posts) -

@extomar said:

I don't get the issue with Zoe Quinn. Why is the internet freaking out and obsessed with her? Specifically I don't see the issue with Ben Kuchera writing a story on Zoe Quinn while giving money to her on Petreon. This would be like I can write something praising or condemning how PBS works because I gave them $200 in the last pledge drive.

The only conflict of interest I can see is if GB or whoever is "subscribed" to someone's subscription service and has a show or article on subscription services and deliberate avoids or explicitly shows things they've subscribed in only a good way.

Its a good deal different because the money goes directly to the person. You are basically paying their bills for them. Its not difficult to see a conflict of interest here, don't you think their motivations might be in question?

What you're talking about is almost the opposite of a conflict of interest. If Quinn were paying Kuchera, THAT would be a conflict of interest. This is more along the lines of say, Vinny buying a game on Steam in order to do a quick look video.

#19 Posted by ottoman673 (517 posts) -

@extomar: in the instance of a restaurant, you're only paying for that plate of food once, knowing full well what that plate of food is. In the case of Kuchera funding Quinn's patreon, he's giving her some amount of money a month to make SOMETHING (we don't always know what it is) and when we invest in something rather than purchase it flat out, we tend to have higher hopes and tend to exude favoritism towards the investment because you want it to be good. If a random game shows up on Ben's desk that he has no financial attachments to, he can play and review it without these feelings.

#21 Posted by Jesna (84 posts) -

@extomar: That is a false analogy, and I'm pretty sure you know it. What you are describing is a regular business transaction, the reviewer in question payed for a product (with his own money) and then reviewed it. While the money does go to the producers pockets, it does so in the same way any other customers would. It is in fact better for the reviewer to have to pay for the product, because being given it for free can potentially be construed as a conflict of interest (albeit a small one).

The issue with patreon in this particular instance is that the reviewer is not paying for a product, they are simply giving their own money to the producer for personal reasons. Because that producer is potentially going to use that money to make games that the reviewer will then review. He is funding the livelihood of someone he will review in the future. It is a conflict of interest, because he is effectively reviewing a game he himself helped create. The example you gave has nothing to do with what is happening in Kuchera's case (or Kickstarter really).

#22 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -
@extomar said:

@n1nj4d00m said:

@extomar said:

I don't get the issue with Zoe Quinn. Why is the internet freaking out and obsessed with her? Specifically I don't see the issue with Ben Kuchera writing a story on Zoe Quinn while giving money to her on Petreon. This would be like I can write something praising or condemning how PBS works because I gave them $200 in the last pledge drive.

The only conflict of interest I can see is if GB or whoever is "subscribed" to someone's subscription service and has a show or article on subscription services and deliberate avoids or explicitly shows things they've subscribed in only a good way.

Its a good deal different because the money goes directly to the person. You are basically paying their bills for them. Its not difficult to see a conflict of interest here, don't you think their motivations might be in question?

You say that like you know what that means but you clearly don't. Example: Go to a restaurant and ask for their signature dish, eat it and find it out it is yummy or terrible. Their tab went into the pockets of the waiting staff and the kitchen cooks let alone the owner and manager. Are you suggesting no one can tell any one "That restaurant was awesome" or "That restaurant was terrible!" because they paid for it? They had a very valid experience but they paid for it.

You are confusing patronage with "buying off". To get an experience you often need to pay or invest something into it where the suggestion that now you can't comment on it is dubious in logic.

But we're not talking about a purchase of a game, we're talking about supporting and paying for its development. Big difference. You don't think someone is more inclined to write favorably about a game that they have basically been paying to produce?

This is why I really respect the GB crew, I've never felt the need to question their integrity on this type of stuff. They disclose all involvement and I just read that Patrick even addressed this on his tumblr:

http://patrickklepek.tumblr.com/post/95293807754/im-sure-youve-been-asked-already-but-how-do-you-feel

So even while they are heavily moderating the site, which can look suspicious to outside observers, they are willing to address potential issues openly. This is what honest journalism looks like.

#23 Posted by HelloDanni (19 posts) -

We say we want journalistic integrity in games media, but how much is that really true? Are we just saying it because we know that's what serious news does and we want to be serious? Outside of reviews, do we really want impartial journalists or are we just looking for well-informed fellow enthusiasts who can clue us in to things that they think are cool? It's because I want the latter that I'm on GB.

Also, the last thread I posted in on this general topic got deleted, so this may be against some kind of rule; I didn't see the explanation for the other one.

Well said and fully agree.

#24 Posted by CoverlessTech (746 posts) -

People need to do more independent research about what they are putting their money towards instead of just blindly following what the media says.

But don't you see, this is where the whole problem stems from. The argument is that if these personalities and journalists have a vested interested in the success/failure of of a person/product they will do what they can to make sure that happens.

How can you do independent research if the press and publications are reporting based on a vested bias? We as consumers can no longer trust what people are saying about a thing.

A lot of Straw Man and False Analogy is happening in this thread. Here is a proper analogy :

A Car Review publication funds and supports Toyota. They prominently feature Toyota all the time and constantly give them good reviews/press. Can you trust that publications views on Toyota? Of course not, they fund Toyota and have a vested interest in seeing them succeed. Could you do proper independent research on the car industry if all publications had interests like this?

#25 Edited by EXTomar (4736 posts) -

Then use the PBS/NPR model or even GB's subscriber model. Because I keep hearing how people can't comment on things they subscribe too so praising or complaining about the Bombcast or any Premium feature is a "no-no"? No one wants to see the GB site or Bombcast or premium features go away so they can't comment on what works and what doesn't work with how they work? That is ridiculous.

I keep repeating it but people keep confusing patronage with pay off. There isn't automatically a problem with patronage where people are in a tizzy over something I don't see yet. If Zoe Quinn approached Ben Kuchera saying "Please promote me for $N" then that would be a problem. Ben Kuchera thinking what Zoe Quinn is doing is neat and pays her to do some more then commenting that "I like what Zoe Quinn is doing" is not a problem.

#26 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

Regardless, props to GB for letting this thread stay up! I think one of the reasons that this has become so big is that (while there have been some pretty disgusting things thrown around) people have tried to shut down the discussion of this all over the internet.

#27 Edited by KoolAid (936 posts) -

I mean, what are we really talking about here? $1 a month on patreon? $15 dollars on kickstarter? We are definitely stretching the word "fund" as far as it can possibility go.

In any case, Giant Bomb specifically has always said they are biased. They play and review what they want. As for other sites, I dunno man. It seems like the only way to be "totally unbiased" is to completely separate games media from game makers. Giant Bomb for example would cut all ties, professionally and personally, with Dave Lang, Adam Boyes, John T. Drake, Greg Kavisain, Zoe Quinn, Brad Muir, etc... and I know I don't want them to do that, that sounds terrible.

I don't want game journalists who live in their own bubble completely cut off from game makers. That sounds like it would foster a tense and bad relationship. I mean, I guess you get some 'corruption' when everyone is friends. But as a game developer AND as someone who goes to Giant Bomb, I really don't want the alternative.

#28 Posted by INCSlayer (37 posts) -

I would like them to disclose it if they are the ones writing the review on the game because then I can take that into account when reading the review. However if Patrick for example supports a kickstarter/Patreon for a game and then plays it on Spookin with Scoops or a UPF it would in my opinion matter less to me since while yes they show of the game the reason to watch those is again in my opinion not primarily meant to be a help as a buying decision for the game but be more of a entertainment show in itself (watching Patrick get scared is FUN).

tl;dr Reviews - Yes. Other Content - Preferable but not necessary.

#29 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

@extomar said:

Then use the PBS/NPR model or even GB's subscriber model. Because I keep hearing how people can't comment on things they subscribe too so praising or complaining about the Bombcast or any Premium feature is a "no-no"? No one wants to see the GB site or Bombcast or premium features go away so they can't comment on what works and what doesn't work with how they work? That is ridiculous.

I keep repeating it but people keep confusing patronage with pay off. There isn't automatically a problem with patronage where people are in a tizzy over something I don't see yet. If Zoe Quinn approached Ben Kuchera saying "Please promote me for $N" then that would be a problem. Ben Kuchera thinking what Zoe Quinn is doing is neat and pays her to do some more then commenting that "I like what Zoe Quinn is doing" is not a problem.

It is a problem because he works in the games industry. If he was willing to recuse himself from all coverage concerning her projects then it wouldn't be a problem, (which he may have done, I don't know and haven't seen any coverage of her work by him). The thing about conflicts of interest isn't that they always cause a problem, its that they always give the appearance of a problem. It tarnishes reputations and calls into question people's motivations. Even if someone is behaving totally ethically, it won't be believed if there was money changing hands, nor should it.

#30 Posted by CoverlessTech (746 posts) -

@extomar: There is a difference between a user review/comment and a professional journalist review/comment. It's a given that consumer reviews will be biased because consumers by default are not suppose to uphold the type of integrity that professionals are held up to.

By becoming a patron of someone you are showing you have a vested interest in their success. When you are a professional with a lot of respect and weight in an industry it is expected that you would be honest and open about what you do. Some people in the industry have proven that they are patrons of people and use their weight in the industry to raise them up, because of their bias.

It's not about patronage or paying off or not being about to comment on things. It's about how much integrity you can have when you have a pre-conceived vested interest in something.

You are using some very bad analogies to support your side. Take your restaurant example, it is not analogous to the original problem at all. In your analogy add that the reviewer buying the meal has invested money into the restaurant outside of the meal and is a professional who has a lot of weight in the restaurant business. He's already shown bias towards the restaurant by investing, do you really think he will provide a fair un-biased opinion of it?

#31 Edited by Ford_Dent (180 posts) -

@extomar said:

Then use the PBS/NPR model or even GB's subscriber model. Because I keep hearing how people can't comment on things they subscribe too so praising or complaining about the Bombcast or any Premium feature is a "no-no"? No one wants to see the GB site or Bombcast or premium features go away so they can't comment on what works and what doesn't work with how they work? That is ridiculous.

I keep repeating it but people keep confusing patronage with pay off. There isn't automatically a problem with patronage where people are in a tizzy over something I don't see yet. If Zoe Quinn approached Ben Kuchera saying "Please promote me for $N" then that would be a problem. Ben Kuchera thinking what Zoe Quinn is doing is neat and pays her to do some more then commenting that "I like what Zoe Quinn is doing" is not a problem.

This is the best explanation of that Patreon is. If you like the work someone's doing, and so you throw some money their way to keep doing what they're doing, and then say "hey everyone I like what this person's doing," I'm not seeing a real conflict of interest here. I tell people that I think Giant Bomb is great, and I subscribe to Giant Bomb--does that mean I'm somehow benefiting from more people going to Giant Bomb on my recommendation? What is the difference between paying someone money and saying you like what they do and saying you like what someone does beyond money coming out of your bank account? If anything, it's just a sign of how much you enjoy someone's work (or how good you believe it to be) when you are willing to give them money. It's baffling that this has become such an issue--critics have always had creators in particular they like (see: movie critics and anything Martin Scorcese does).

#32 Edited by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

@extomar said:

Then use the PBS/NPR model or even GB's subscriber model. Because I keep hearing how people can't comment on things they subscribe too so praising or complaining about the Bombcast or any Premium feature is a "no-no"? No one wants to see the GB site or Bombcast or premium features go away so they can't comment on what works and what doesn't work with how they work? That is ridiculous.

I keep repeating it but people keep confusing patronage with pay off. There isn't automatically a problem with patronage where people are in a tizzy over something I don't see yet. If Zoe Quinn approached Ben Kuchera saying "Please promote me for $N" then that would be a problem. Ben Kuchera thinking what Zoe Quinn is doing is neat and pays her to do some more then commenting that "I like what Zoe Quinn is doing" is not a problem.

This is the best explanation of that Patreon is. If you like the work someone's doing, and so you throw some money their way to keep doing what they're doing, and then say "hey everyone I like what this person's doing," I'm not seeing a real conflict of interest here. I tell people that I think Giant Bomb is great, and I subscribe to Giant Bomb--does that mean I'm somehow benefiting from more people going to Giant Bomb on my recommendation? What is the difference between paying someone money and saying you like what they do and saying you like what someone does beyond money coming out of your bank account? If anything, it's just a sign of how much you enjoy someone's work (or how good you believe it to be) when you are willing to give them money. It's baffling that this has become such an issue--critics have always had creators in particular they like (see: movie critics and anything Martin Scorcese does).

You are not a journalist though, if you were then it would be a problem. If this was any other topic outside of entertainment media, you would be able to see the problem more clearly.

#33 Edited by Corvak (1077 posts) -

Shouldn't have to disclose anything. The guys spend their money on what they want.

Are they corrupt? is it a conflict of interest? depends on your definition. I don't think it is unless they see some kind of financial compensation after the fact. Kickstarter/Patreon are a one way street, and you aren't truly backing these projects, because you have no claim to the profits as an investor would. Giving them a positive review or more exposure results in little to no benefit to the writer.

I'd prefer the guys write and talk about what they like, even if they are biased, because the personality, not the criticism, is why I use this site. I don't want to read a Giant Bomb where they have to remain staunchly neutral towards everything.

#34 Edited by EXTomar (4736 posts) -

Again people saying there is a conflict of interest but they don't understand what it means. What is the conflict of interest for Ben Kuchera in supporting Zoe Quinn? Is Kuchera getting paid if Zoe Quinn is successful? Unless there is something else going on then answer is clearly "NO" so where is the ethics issue?

In particular, I see GB Subscribers in this thread complaining about this strange situation. They enjoy GB Premium content and features and have a vested interest in seeing more GB stuff. Can they praise or complain about the stuff going on in Professional Fridays or Alt-F1? I don't see the problem but evidently according to these comments it is an issue...? I'm confused because if nothing else these premium subscribers have the best position to offer opinions.

#35 Posted by CoverlessTech (746 posts) -

@ford_dent: Again, false analogy and straw man. Would you trust a movie reviewer/journalist's opinion of movies if they have been funding a certain studio? What if your favourite movie reviewer started funding his friends new studio and started talking about it on their website at every chance they got without disclosing that the studio is their friends or that they put their money into the studio? Would you continue to trust that reviewer?

Not only are they using their weight to push the success of their friends who they have a vested interest in, they may even be ignoring other new studios or creatives because they are focusing on their friends. Would that reviewer post honest un-biased news and reviews of another competing studio?

#36 Edited by KoolAid (936 posts) -

I mean, what are we really talking about here? $1 a month on patreon? $15 dollars on kickstarter? We are differentially stretching the word "fund" as far as it can possibility go.

In any case, Giant Bomb specifically has always said they are biased. They play and review what they want. As for other sites, I dunno man. It seems like the only way to be "totally unbiased" is to completely separate games media from game makers. Giant Bomb for example would cut all ties, professionally and personally, with Dave Lang, Adam Boyes, John T. Drake, Greg Kavisain, Zoe Quinn, Brad Muir, etc... and I know I don't want them to do that, that sounds terrible.

I don't want game journalists who live in their own bubble completely cut off from game makers. That sounds like it would foster a tense and bad relationship. I mean, I guess you get some 'corruption' when everyone is friends. But as a game developer AND as someone who goes to Giant Bomb, I really don't want the alternative.

#37 Posted by Jeff (3577 posts) -

@spacebob said:

I'm curious what everyone's thoughts are, and Giantbomb's policy is, on the games media disclosing if they have backed a Kickstarter or a Patreon for which they are covering. Typically a journalist won't cover a topic or company that they have a financial stake in but does backing a Kickstarter or Patreon count as a financial interest?

Since you're not actually earning money/royalties/whatever when you back a Kickstarter or a Patreon, I don't think this counts as a stake or interest. But there's nothing wrong with disclosure. The worst case scenario I'd see happening around this stuff is if someone backed a project that was on the bubble and then covered the game while the Kickstarter was still running to help it reach the finish line. Or, if someone had a personal relationship (living together, marriage, etc.) with the person running the Kickstarter, which could result in a financial benefit from seeing it do well. That, obviously, would be something a person should disclose.

I backed some of the Pinball Arcade Kickstarters at a "send me a code for this when it's done" pre-order-type level because I really wanted to play Terminator 2. But I also bought the Season Passes for all tables in the iOS version of that because I like that game and want to play it. In the end, they probably got a significant amount more out of me from me simply buying the game like anyone else. Are those two things different enough to matter? Does paying money for a fake pinball table before it's out when I already buy a lot of games disqualify my opinion on that product? Probbbbably not?

On some level I think people have warped the term journalist in so many different ways that, when it comes to covering games on an increasingly changing internet, the expectations are all out of whack. Disclosure is an easy way to sidestep a lot of the current, crappy conversation about those expectations and say "here's my stance, here's where I'm coming from, here's any additional details you might want to know about me, you go ahead and decide if I'm trustworthy or not." Unfortunately that's boring, and people love a good conspiracy theory, so their imaginations dream up all sorts of wild alternatives to what is, ultimately, a relatively quiet line of work.

Staff
#38 Edited by James_Hayward (361 posts) -

If the question is whether Giantbomb has to close the door to industry friends and guests to preserve the kind of distance needed to be trustworthy then I'd say no it doesn't.

Even if proximity leads to bias (which it inevitably will), that door can be open... but commercial affiliations of guests should correspondingly be disclosed... At the end of the day Giantbomb may not be a journalistic website in the traditional sense but the Kane & Lynch-founded credibility of the site's purchase-informing games criticism is a core part of why many people continue to respect the site. I think that it carries much more weight than any of the youtube talking heads, largely for this reason.

When it comes to backing others on patreon or kickstarter, that does get a little bit murkier and... to stay on the safe side it probably ought to be avoided by people involved in games criticism and coverage.

Kickstarting and Investing are not the same thing but they are perceived similarly enough to make the ethics a little less clear cut. So at the very least the onus should be on critics to exempt themselves from coverage of any game they've personally backed.

#39 Posted by CoverlessTech (746 posts) -
@extomar said:

Again people saying there is a conflict of interest but they don't understand what it means. What is the conflict of interest for Ben Kuchera in supporting Zoe Quinn? Is Kuchera getting paid if Zoe Quinn is successful? Unless there is something else going on then answer is clearly "NO" so where is the ethics issue?

In particular, I see GB Subscribers in this thread complaining about this strange situation. They enjoy GB Premium content and features and have a vested interest in seeing more GB stuff. Can they praise or complain about the stuff going on in Professional Fridays or Alt-F1? I don't see the problem but evidently according to these comments it is an issue...? I'm confused.

You seem to be having a hard time separating users/consumers from professionals/journalists.

To use your exact example there, the ethics issue is that Ben has a vested interest in seeing Zoe succeed. This means that he may only post positively about Zoe, this means he may ignore other creatives that may be doing a similar thing as Zoe (if I create a game about depression would he be more or less likely to feature me because he already is invested in Zoe? Arguably my game could be in competition with Zoe's so my success may take away from hers. So why would he feature me at all, he could bury me in fact, or use any coverage of my game to promote Zoe's). As a professional, not a consumer, this causes an issue for consumers who want un-biased news.

I'm not saying Ben has done that but without disclosing his obvious connections then there is no way to know.

#40 Edited by Oldirtybearon (4813 posts) -

@koolaid: Nobody is asking for anyone to cut ties to developers or friends in the industry. What people want, and correctly so, is clear disclosure of those relationships when they apply.

A better example is when Giant Bomb decided as a website not to run a review on Bastion, a (quality) game made by friends of theirs that they knew personally for many, many years. SuperGiant Games is headed up by Greg Kasavin, who used to be Jeff's boss (along with many other GB staffers). The fact that Giant Bomb recognized the conflict of interest and addressed it is what people want more of. Giant Bomb made a series of videos that acted as a check-in on the game, as well as promoted it heavily.

Again, nobody wants to demonize people being friendly. Nobody wants Patrick Klepek to burn his rolodex of sources/contacts in the games industry. Nobody wants Dave Lang to stop being an obnoxious asshole on camera. What people want is a clear and visible adherence to a code of ethics, and for game journalists to recognize openly and publicly when there is a potential conflict of interest.

What games journalists do (or game "personalities" or "bloggers") needs our trust to work. The readerships trust is their sole currency, and it is their sole means of establishing credibility. That trust, and that credibility is being eroded by scandals and worse, closed ranks. Nobody is talking about these conflicts openly, and most assuredly not publicly. Instead what we see is a mentality that calls for all developers and all journalists (or personalities, or bloggers) to circle the wagons until the threat has passed. This is not how you build trust nor is it how you build credibility.

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#41 Edited by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

@james_hayward said:

If the question is whether Giantbomb has to close the door to industry friends and guests to preserve the kind of distance needed to be objective then I'd say no it doesn't.

Even if it leads to bias (which it inevitably will), that door can be open... but commercial affiliations of guests should correspondingly be disclosed... At the end of the day Giantbomb may not be a journalistic website in the traditional sense but the Kane & Lynch-founded credibility of the site's purchase-informing games criticism is a core part of why many people continue to respect the site. I think that it carries much more weight than many of the youtube talking heads, largely for this reason.

Exactly, this is the main reason I came to the site.

#42 Edited by EXTomar (4736 posts) -

And you are having a hard time understanding the issue and haven't answered this simple question: What is the ethics violation/issue here? Just thinking there is an ethics violation doesn't mean there is one.

I'll give you a hint: Patronage is not a ethics violation. Having an opinion is not an ethics violation. Paying for things one likes then saying "Man I like that thing" is not an ethics violation.

To be blunt, Ben Kuchera has an opinion and he can say whatever he wants about what he likes and dislikes. There is no right or wrong nor is Kuchera "missing or ignoring" things about Zoe Quinn or any other person or project when it comes to his tastes. If you don't like what Ben Kuchera is doing or saying about Zoe Quinn then that is fine as well but don't claim it is an ethics issue.

#43 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

@extomar said:

And you are having a hard time understanding the issue and haven't answered this simple question: What is the ethics violation/issue here? Just thinking there is an ethics violation doesn't mean there is one.

I'll give you a hint: Patronage is not a ethics violation. Having an opinion is not an ethics violation. Paying for things one likes then saying "Man I like that thing" is not an ethics violation.

To be blunt, Ben Kuchera has an opinion and he can say whatever he wants about what he likes and dislikes. There is no right or wrong nor is Kuchera missing or ignoring things about Zoe Quinn or any other person or project when it comes to his tastes. If you don't like what Ben Kuchera is doing or saying about Zoe Quinn then that is fine as well but don't claim it is an ethics issue.

The ethics violation is this: People who read news expect the reporters to be impartial. If that impartiality is compromised in any way, readers expect it to be disclosed. Ben Kuchera can say whatever he wants, yes, but if he is reporting on someone who he has given money to, that needs to be disclosed in that article.

#44 Posted by CoverlessTech (746 posts) -

@extomar said:

And you are having a hard time understanding the issue and haven't answered this simple question: What is the ethics violation/issue here? Just thinking there is an ethics violation doesn't mean there is one.

To use your exact example there, the ethics issue is that Ben has a vested interest in seeing Zoe succeed. This means that he may only post positively about Zoe, this means he may ignore other creatives that may be doing a similar thing as Zoe (if I create a game about depression would he be more or less likely to feature me because he already is invested in Zoe? Arguably my game could be in competition with Zoe's so my success may take away from hers. So why would he feature me at all, he could bury me in fact, or use any coverage of my game to promote Zoe's). As a professional, not a consumer, this causes an issue for consumers who want un-biased news.

I'm not saying Ben has done that but without disclosing his obvious connections then there is no way to know.

http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

#45 Edited by Fear_the_Booboo (489 posts) -

@n1nj4d00m: Except Kuchera mostly writes opinion pieces. Polygon is pretty open about not being impartial at all, as they proudly try to push progressive concepts even in their news article. They don't hide that, nor do they hide their involvement with developpers (many of those have written for Polygon) I don't visit Kotaku, but I never saw Polygon as an objective website and many people here hate Polygon for that exact reason.

#46 Posted by KoolAid (936 posts) -

@oldirtybearon: Fine, don't cut ties. But then the question becomes: where is the line? Personally, drop in the bucket crowdfunding donations do not seem like a conflict of interest to me. They seem very inconsequential.

#47 Edited by Chaser324 (6546 posts) -

There's no harm in disclosure, but I'm a largely inclined to believe that funding a project through Kickstarter, Patreon, et al. in no way predisposes you to speak positively about the end product. I could certainly see the issues, both ethically and possibly legally, if these press people owned a legitimate stake in the product or company (stocks/dividends, royalties, etc.) and stood to profit by skewing editorial content to be more favorable, but as far as I can tell, that isn't really the case here.

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#48 Posted by D_Mac (124 posts) -

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. As someone who works as a news producer, I'm subject to journalistic standards (which are made public here, largely because we're a public institution). I feel very conflicted about recent goings on in the "games media" industry. It's especially hard to say what "games journalism" is, is it art criticism, is it straight up journalism, is it consumer advocacy? Is it all of these things? Journalism as a whole is on the precipice of a tremendous change, the internet, bloggers, native journalism, youtube; these things, they're changing who can publish and broadcast things, the audience they can reach. It's an interesting time, and we need to have these conversations.

That being said, I don't think crowd funding a project means you have a special relationship with that project, you've essential preordred it, you've exchanged money for goods. Movie reviewers do the same thing, they preorder tickets, and in some rare cases screenings or stage performances get cancelled because they're under sold. These aren't unusual circumstances, and the journalist doesn't gain anything special. I agree that publishing an article, to push a game over finish line, and help it get funded ,is crossing the line, if only because the journalist is using their special access, and publication, to alter the course of events.

#49 Posted by n1nj4d00m (62 posts) -

@n1nj4d00m: Except Kuchera mostly writes opinion pieces. Polygon is pretty open about not being impartial at all, as they proudly try to push progressive concepts even in their news article. They don't hide that, nor do they hide their involvment with developpers (many of those have written for Polygon) I don't visit Kotaku, but I never saw Polygon as an objective website and many people here hate Polygon for that exact reason.

Being an opinion piece doesn't let you off the hook for not disclosing personal ties with someone. Its easy to see a conflict arising here as well, as monetary or personal issues can color someones opinion very easily. You have to ask yourself is he giving his honest opinion or has the money given affected it? If he simply disclosed that information (which he may have, I don't know) then the conflict could be resolved right there because people could make up their own minds if they think its important or not.

#50 Posted by Jesna (84 posts) -
@extomar said:

And you are having a hard time understanding the issue and haven't answered this simple question: What is the ethics violation/issue here? Just thinking there is an ethics violation doesn't mean there is one.

I'll give you a hint: Patronage is not a ethics violation. Having an opinion is not an ethics violation. Paying for things one likes then saying "Man I like that thing" is not an ethics violation.

I already told you how it was an ethics violation, but I guess I'll do it again. Patronage as a concept is not an ethics violation, Patronage by a reporter is a very real ethics violation. There is no problem with a reviewer having an opinion, it is in fact a part of their job, but when they fund the project they are reviewing or reporting on their is distinct lack of impartiality.

Impartiality does not mean that they have no opinions on the subject, or have no prior biases, but it does require that they are sufficiently removed from a subject to observe it without undue external or internal pressures. Funding a project or a creator without knowing the end quality of their work is fine for non-reporters like us. We have no duty to report things impartially, but reviewers and reporters do, which is the problem presented here. They have established a personal connection to the projects success or failure before it is released, which compromises their impartiality once it is time to report on it.