The Society of Professional Journalists is a meaningful and needed organization for any practicing journalist. I’ve posted their ethics policy below because it is such a well thought out policy shaped over the years by an important body of journalists.

If you’re a working journalists, no matter your subject, I highly encourage you join the SPJ.


Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.

Seek Truth and Report It

Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
— Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
— Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
— Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
— Never plagiarize.
— Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
— Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
— Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
— Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Minimize Harm

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:

— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
— Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
— Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
— Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
— Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Act Independently

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

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, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Be Accountable

Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should:

— Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced by thousands of writers, editors and other news professionals. The present version of the code was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after months of study and debate among the Society’s members.

Sigma Delta Chi’s first Code of Ethics was borrowed from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1926. In 1973, Sigma Delta Chi wrote its own code, which was revised in 1984, 1987 and 1996.

If game journalism and journalism ethics interest you, make sure to check out the stories I’ve been writing for the ongoing Game Journalism Mentorship program. Also, please feel free to discuss ethics and ethic policies in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

105 thoughts on “Game journalism and ethics”

  1. Yeah, given that the publishers/manufacture’s pretty much expect you not to follow any of these rules, combined with the hoard of 19 year old guys looking for free games and you’ve got an environment that actively discourages integrity with punitive measures.

    I would applaud a change and I know from personal experience that it can be a positive experience for both developers (artists, programmers) and gamers who appreciate honesty. It’s just getting the publishers on-board that’s the real challenge when they can cut your team off over a perceived slight and have no repercussions since some other magazine will be more than willing to take your place for the story leads.

    Not bitter, seriously 🙂

    1. Great post Bryan,

      I think many of the problems surrounding lack of ethics in game journalism stem from lack of content. In no other entertainment medium do you have such long spans between major events to the point where opinion, fabricated outrage and speculation make up the bulk of day to day content. that also means that journalistic outlets are so under pressure to be the first to see, talk, or review a game to get something actually material to talk about, that they’ll beg borrow and steal to be first in line.

      I work b2b journalism, in a vertical that is pretty small and even in that sector there is enough material news to make at least 10-12 solid stories daily without defaulting to opinion or speculations pieces. On any day the outlets and companies I cover will have multiple press releases and will make themselves available for comment, and that’s in addition to actually breaking hard news stories that happen. Even with that much to choose from, there are still instances where I need to run a story against my better judgement to appease a sponsor. The trends of content marketing and more pressure on journalistic outlets to play nice with advertisers has eroded at least some of the principles outline above for just about every publication.

      In VG journalism those content options simply aren’t there and that pressure to appease an advertiser while getting content up to draw eyeballs to the site is even higher. Add to that lack of transparency in the industry, rampant fanboy-ism and an audience that loves to hear itself talk and the quality of content falls even further.

      Think of it akin to sports entertainment journalism, a field that granted does not have the best track record on ethics (consider the press seats conundrum), but offers a decent analog. Regardless of who you cheer for there are at least 6 games on Sunday, one on Monday and one on Thursday and the aggregate cost to pay all the players in one game most be somewhere in the same stratum of a AAA game development budget. Anyways, those games are frequent enough that coverage can consist of ongoing analysis of the team, as well as coverage of the multi-weekly games themselves plus coaching strategy, scouting, sponsorships etc. I almost see triple AAA titles as a single Giants game that happens once every 4 years, and has the starting line revealed 3 weeks in advanced, naturally as a sports journalist you’re going to do anything to be at that game, even if its at a cost of violating the tenets above. When the team sucks in the NFL you have the hope they’ll rebound to keep the drama up, when a game sucks? that’s usually the end of the story.

      This is not a defense of game journalism in its current state. There could be more to cover; the business, development, legal and other behind the scenes type stuff that could make for great day to day content. Episodic content too could offer a space for daily analysis and conversations. But developers are generally tight lipped about industry details, and no one has really nailed the episodic game thing just yet (or has produced it quickly enough) so they’re not there to create original, compelling content on a day to day basis. The result is again opinion, speculation, and fabricated outrage.

      I offer no solution on this, just observations on why the space seems so schizophrenic and full of poor journalism. Some of this may also speak to the disparity in maturity level in the audience, on the one hand you have the 19 year old who is more interested in DOTA streams then the machinations of executive leadership going on at EA.

      Would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not you think this is part of the issue since you have more first hand experience in the space. Just thought I’d get my thoughts out there since this is topic of conversation I always finding interesting.

      1. There are a few solutions to that

        1 – click bait journalism, a lot of what we have. Shocking titles of are games x or has y gone to far. Little actual content disguised

        2 – Stories on the actual trends and economic situations of companies. Not OMG new AAA sell a bizillion but actual reporting and comparisons. It is hard to find anyone who actual talks about this in a serious manner, it is all just shock headlines like Mario Kart 8 sell terribly when it is the best selling one

        3- In depth analysis, and that doesn’t just mean shove in a social issue or idea you have. I mean stuff like matthewmatosis who studies a game and see what it actually has going on, not what the writer wants to talk about.

        4 – Don’t ignore none AAA or indie darling games. How many games get released a year that get a few trailers put up, an article saying it is out and maybe at best a page review? Most games I play now are from hearing them from friends and message boards because most of the interesting stuff is looked over in favour on stuff they hope will get clicks as it is AAA or an indie game with a simplistic message to masturbate over

        5 – Investigative journalism. The most I ever see of this is no better than looking on wikipedia, hell I’ve seen DYKG do more research for their videos. You have links use them to find actually interesting information no one else could

        And as a general point, just more effort needs to be put into writing.

      2. To restore any semblance of ethics in games journalism at this point, it will require the resignation of you and all your ilk. Even doritos pope knows whats up, but idiots like you have him, and others like him (including devs that don’t share your opinions), having to play both sides for the sake of politics.

        Keep your shit, idealist, never-going-to-be-proven gender politics “theories” out of video games

        Stop fucking with the Japanese market coverage, especially when it produces content the west (not counting eastern europe) can’t touch in terms of technical prowess and presentation

        No one in their right mind is calling for a boycott of women/minorities/etc in games, if anything it was ironically you fucking people all along by deeming that all the problems are caused by an ever decreasing percentage of the gaming population.

        No one cares about phone games, seeing shit like Kim Kardashian Hollywood getting accolades from you idiots is sickening.

        No one cares about 2deep4you non-games and walking simulators, keep that shit to yourself.

        Lastly, stop pushing your opinions on others, you don’t speak for anyone but yourself. To save you the pathetic rebuttal of “then why should I listen to you?”, I’m your potential fucking customer, if that doesn’t matter to you then reread my first point.

    2. I think the line in the SPJ about housing both sides of an issue is not being done here. Without that all you have is controversial rhetoric. Which is both polarizing, and dangerous, and it certainly isn’t news.

    3. I understand it can be daunting being out of the gate without a review the day of launch but I believe that if publishers do stone wall you and you’ve built up credibility with your audience that the simple mention of the fact they are stonewalling due to article x could have an impact on their bottom line to the point where such a threat would be ill advised on their part.

      At least I’d like to think we live in this kind of world. Still this isn’t an approach that I’ve seen tried from the press and would love to see it in action. If there could be something out there equivalent to the Michelin Guide in the culinary world for games, it might help people make more informed decisions. Or give developers a reason to raise the price of a certain game.

      I think where people get their gaming journalism should be handled on an individual basis. There are a few independents I trust to offer a bullshit free review and I’ve found those people on my own. If others crave that kind of experience, it’s already out there.

    4. Ok, sorry for my English. You always seemed like a good guy and I hope something positive will come out of this fiasco.

      First I would like to say i’ve been gaming since the 80s so I saw the emergence of mags, exclusives reviews and paid covers.

      I would love for the gaming press not to throw us under a bus and to the mainstream media when a few hundred raging lunatics are threatening people on Twitter for having an opinion.

      I would like more transparency. This includes disclosure of relationship when there is one. I do not believe you can be totally impartial when you are talking about your friends. I want disclosure of any kind of embargo or restrictions publishers have put upon discussing a game or a review.
      I would like more varied opinions when it comes to reviews and opinion pieces and people that are not afraid of their opinions or using a scale. This involves having more reviewers and journalists from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sex and religions.
      This may actually help with the metacritic system and offer more varied experiences.I would actually a gaming press that actually has the balls to get rid of the rating system altogether which may force metacritic to run a fresh/rotten system instead.

      I want stronger moderation on site, not for people that have a dissident opinion but for people that cannot handle a civil discussion.
      I want less clickbait, because I believe the press is partly to blame for this generation of gamer warriors, and more in depth articles about the underlying problems of the industry and the press. This includes corruption, but also companies that do not treat their employees fairly or equally or are simply being unethical. I want to hear about the difficulty or discrimination certain groups of people are suffering within the industry.
      I want the gaming press to stop acting like previewed games are super exciting and it is not a big advert for the publisher.

      I want to hear all the sides of a story when possible.

      If there’s anything positive about this whole situation is that we have proven is that gamers can organise and ruffle up some feathers. I want to gaming press to be less complacent and help us investigate and point out underlying issues in the industry so we can start focusing the gaming mob for good and hopefully eradicate some problems developers and journalists may have been suffering all these years.

      I would love to be able to discuss this without someone telling me ‘if you are not with us you are against us’. I will always be on the side of my fellow gamers, regardless of sex or origin.

  2. I have always liked the rules of ethics of journalism for a long time as they seem rather clear cut and simple to follow. However, often I feel these rules get bent for certain situations particularly when it comes to politics.

    I was wondering what you would say about sites like Wiki-leaks who when the initial scandal broke released the names of inocent individuals and parties which could (& may have to all I know) endangered them & their families.

    I know that Wiki-leaks may not be considered a news site by some journalists & many news organizations like the Washington Post worked incredibly hard to censor information of those who may be negatively harmed for simply being mentioned in the reports but I was wondering how does one deal with this? If you get a hold of something that could cause serious harm to inocent bystandards, but the story itself may be important for the public to know, how do you ensure what you do will not hurt those people or how do you censor something when all that information is already out there?

  3. It would be nice to have a business model that wasn’t entirely reliant on cooperation with the people covered.

    That’s not the sort of thing that can be fixed by trying harder to be more ethical, though.

    1. This isn’t some sort of gamergate thing, either. I see previews and reviews, at their heart, as advertorial content, and I’d love to see outlets focusing on something other than upcoming product which you should (not) preorder and new product which you should (not) buy.

      The problem is that I have no idea what that “something” would be, or how to attract enough of an audience to it in order to pay someone to write it. If I did have an idea, I wouldn’t be grousing in some article’s comment section!

  4. I think its important to really investigate a narrative before you start pushing it. For example some of the narrative being pushed by the anti gamergate crowd is that Jack Thompson was right and gamers are by and large being effected by what they play. This is a mindset everyone needs to fight against. I don’t think due diligence has been done on a bunch of these articles because the viewpoints they express are directing us towards a terrible end.

    Another issue is diverse gaming. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want diversity but its being pushed as a change what you like instead of make something new. We don’t need to sacrifice what we have or change what we have. We need more options on top of what is already available. I don’t understand why people don’t understand that. For example if you think bayonetta is too sexual don’t play it. Don’t tell those who enjoy it they are bad and don’t try to change that game just ignore it and find something you do like. Push developers to make new things but not at the expense of what people enjoy. That’s not an inclusive view that’s a greedy view. Appease me at the expense of all or else!

    Last but not least journalists should have a wall between them and subjects they cover. Obviously people will make friends onntje industry. That’s natural and expected. There is however a difference between a friend you see at events or talk to from time to time and a friend you talk to daily or see personally outside of work.

    I don’t mind someone putting their own views into an article or review but don’t knock somethings quality because you don’t agree with its “message” or ideals. That does a disservice to the game in question. If you would rate a game a 9 but give it a 7 because of a political view that’s unfair. A review should be based on the overall merit of the game. Talk about what you don’t agree with but don’t penalize because of it. I hope that makes sense because its obviously a tricky area.

    We just want fair truthful coverage of the industry. We don’t want to be mislead we don’t want things to be excluded because they aren’t your thing or made by someone you dont agree with.

    An example I personally have is gone home. I bought gone home based on someone in the press insinuating it was a horror themed game. I should have done more due diligence before buying it but it was someone I thought I could trust. Did I enjoy gone home? Sure, it was OK. I however never would have paid $20 had I known what it actually was. It was an experience worth having but I got there through less than honest means which really pissed me off.

  5. Dear Bryan Crecente, first of all, thank you for make this space possible, is good to know that not all bridges were burn, as a pro Gamergate I believe the problem comes from thinking that all is worth in the quest of equality in the medium, I’m pro feminist, pro diversity (I’m Mexican), and I think we can work together on this, I play games and for me the gender of the character is not the problem, I don’t fell my gender or identify in jeopardy, on the contrary, I fell I can understand more other people, right now I’m playing Alien Isolation, but the way Polygon, Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun and Gamasutra are talking about those changes is problematic, first, instead of point fingers at any one how play video games for not playing a female is way to put the mentality of “Us Vs. Them”, and that is not helpful, why not make them part of the solution, why not put positive things in the articles and make gamers fell not as the bad guy, but as the good guy, for example if there is a lack of female characters, way not say, we want more Tifas, more Lara Crofts more new characters put positive news; ¿Why doctor Sommers can have a more positive reception from gamers and not Anita? I think the problem is the approach, you cannot change the minds of people by closing discussion and from a Ivory Tower, you need to put your hands on the mud and talk to gamers, second, sexuality, the approach that Polygon is taking is not good, sexual expression can, and will change from subject to subject, there are people that want to expressed more, others less and we need to respect both, why music and movies can make videos as Anaconda with sexual themes or movies like Eyes Wide Shut and be call art, but video games cannot, is important to respect the sexuality of the game and understand the content of the piece, the industry has a place for Gone Home and Bayonetta 2, not only for one, third, if we really want equality, criticism cannot be only for males and not females, game media sites cannot afford another Zoe Quinn debacle, is a fact that if this news was well cover two months ago, like any other news, none of this will happen, let people blow off some steam in forums, when video games web sites made this news a “No Talk” subject, of course more people wanted to talk about it, I love games, and diversity is something that is happening right now, games will change, and they are changing, but we need to let everybody talk, the only reason to forbid someone from a forum or a discussion is if that person disrespectful of others, not if that person think different, is we want real diversity, all ideas need to be talk, even Gamergate, I think this forum is productive in order to reach a conclusion to this, thank you for your time.

  6. What we’ve been seeing from the gaming media lately is that they’re in bed with devs and publishers, there’s a lot of shady financial and personal connections going on. We’ve also seen an increasing contempt for their audience, even before the gamers are dead articles, and it’s just kept going since.

    There’s a definite feel of “methinks thou dost protest too much”, every concievable avenue to deflect criticism, shame and blame critical voices has been used. It’s just staggering the lengths the gaming media has gone to, to discredit a consumer revolt looking for some journalistic integrity in games media.

    It’s very clear that it was never about misogyny, and all about covering ass.

    Not only is gaming media in full smear mode on gamers, zealously so, it’s been pushing very hard for censorship from the start, banning all dissent to its fabricated narrative.

    And there’s been very real harm, people have had to drop out because they’ve been doxxed, threatened and in some cases had their place of work harassed into firing them. This goes unreported by the media of course, as only their chosen victims apparently matter, and are tied to their opposition without any evidence what so ever, and in many cases quite suspect to begin with(for example known self-confessed sock puppeteer gets tons of coverage, without any research or critical thought put into it).

  7. Look at the Patricia Hernandez situation. She clearly broke the rules twice with no consequence. The editor just weaved it off. When a journalist has a clear undeclared relationship and is actively promoting their friends/ former lovers products without the reader knowing there should be a clear mechanism in place for how that journalist is dealt with.

    These guidelines should be public and the readers should be able to know what will happen and what SHOULD happen in the event of a major lapse. You can’t just go “oops” and that be that.

  8. It would be nice if at least one of the “mainstream” outlets would “reveal” the “truth” behind #GamerGate: that it is a group of human beings (some shitty) who are united by being disenfranchised by their media when that media was pushed on issues of their own corruption.

    Personally, I’m not expecting professional journalistic standards, because most are just bloggers who made good. I’d LOVE professional standards, but what I expect from someone calling themselves a journalist is simple:

    Disclose connections of a financial or personal form as it relates to the subject or subjects of a journalistic article. Disclose financial or physical compensation for reviews.

    Recuse if you cannot, or will not, disclose those connections.

    Verify your source’s information, and Disclose if you can or will not.

    Punishment by editorial staff and publishers for journalists who refuse to follow these guidelines, or who attempt to obscure factual data.

    I’d genuinely prefer games journalists realize that it actually is about reporting information, and that “creating a message” is a matter for op-ed pieces, which should be labeled as such.

    What we have now, however, is a system where any dissent is met with threats and dismissal, from the journalist side. Not all, but enough to keep the fire burning.

    As a personal matter, I’d like the GameJournoPro complete e-mail list shown publicly. If it is such a vindicating document, that should reveal the truth behind the journos’ innocence. If, however, it is still worth hiding that suggests that there is still information in it worth concealing. I’d also like to know why “ethical” journos involved in it said nothing to their audience when they saw unethical behavior occurring.

  9. I would also say social media interactions need to be better handled. A LOT of this is due to people acting like dammed fools over Twitter etc. Editors need to power to say “If you say X in a public space you represent this site and will face discipline”

    If i said the things these people had said on my personal social media accounts no one would want to work with me. I’m not a public figure, a journalist who trades in reader confidence needs to be held to at least a basic standard.

    Badly researched, clearly biased or hit-piece articles need to be prevented. It should be basic policy that this shouldn’t take place. When it does take place we need a mechanism of reader accountability. E-mailing advertisers was a last resort option, it should NOT have to be the norm. These sites make money out of US. WE are their commodity they sell to their customers. When something is clearly out of line (and i do think it has to be extreme, populism isn’t always the best choice) we need to be able to hold their feet to the fire before it is allowed the escalate like it has done.

    Throwing gamers under the bus in the mainstream media is unacceptable practice for games journalist at a major website. That as appalling to see.

    Some Journalists also need to apologize. Right now. They are way past the line and actively damaging the image of the gaming industry.

  10. For Ethics.

    What I figured out in the last months that most article were even made not for actual coverage but to protect friends. This industry is so tightly together that actual objective Journalism has been made impossible. If you are friends with someone or have a relationship NEVER EVER write about them. Not even one word. Do not defend them personally be objective and not personal in your articles. Here is a great video about Journalistic Ethics and relationships and these rules are currently broken by almost every Games “journalist”

    As for Reviews and Criticizing games :

    It is totally fine to criticize a game based on a social issues but it should never negative influence a Review Score which is part of Metacritic. In this Industry Developer are getting paid by this score. Obsidian for example did not get a Bonus and had to cancel a project because their score was 84 instead of 85.

    If you want social commentary or a review do it as a second opinion or editorial. Do not give a score like Kotaku does. Also only criticize the Game and not the people who like these sort of games or Developer. I just read some report on the Hatred game calling the Dev Team “human Garbage”

    Also if you already know that you will hate the game do not Review it if its on Metacritic. It should not be the case that someone who hates Racing games thinks they and cars are dumb is going to Review Gran Turismo 6 and the score will affect Metacritic. If you do not like JRPGs do not review them if you do not like soccer or soccer games do not review them. Give an opinion if you want but without a score. Done.

    As for Social criticism in general. Don’t use words like Sexist, racist etc like its free Candy. These words actually meant something but through the over use of these words they lose meaning and only become annoying. Also do not hyperbole. It can not be the case that someone is allowed to compare a vampire Scene in Castlevania 2 with a game called Rapelay. This is clickbait and hyperbole. Do not use these social issues as a click-bait be honest and fair about it. Do not try to censor things with words through public pressure.

  11. I would like the gaming journalist and bloggers to adopt a code of journalistic ethics. that does not allow nepotism, cronyism, collusion or abuse of its customers. they should lose there jobs at some point if these practices continue. as it is, they dont even think there is a problem, much less that some one should be punished for these things. Gamergate has a list of ethics based on the journalists code of ethics. I also dont think that they should be able to label there customers as anything derogatory just to stop discussion on certain topics- misogynist, etc falls under the abuse of customers. silencing my opinion for having a different ideology is not right. also if you want to review games based on a political idiology your review score should not reflect on any all inclusive scores like Metacritic.
    since this has gone on to include game awards also. those need to be presented fairly and honestly. and not allowing people to participate because of there ideology can also not be allowed.

  12. After this week? After the entire main press jumping on gamers without investigating, calling us an hate mob, and creating more hate? After the entire mainstream press failing at basic human rationality? After generalizing, comparing us to terrorists, appealing to emotiong to generate more hate, saying hacking members of gamergate is ok? After that guy from gawker saying bullying is ok?

    I will fight to the end. I will fight until the truth comes out. But honestly, this week I lost all if any faith in journalism as a whole. I was hoping there were a few people with values, intelligence and ethics out there. A few people who would be skeptical enough to not buy the narrative that 30000 gamers are terrorists fighting to get girls out of videogames.

    Seems I was wrong.

    So currently? I do believe the entire industry needs to be purged; fire everyone and then hire new people. Gamergate would never achieve that of course. But I honestly believe that’s the only solution.

    But I digress. Click-bait journalist must end. There must be a central body who endorses good journalism and punished bad journalism. If you want to have a “badge” saying journalist, you must adhere to this body and behave according to it’s standarts. Inside our outside the internet. And if you fail you are kicked out. No journalism can be done by anyone who is not a journalist with a badge. And if you fail that badge you are out of the cool journalists club. Bloggers are bloggers, opinionators. Journalists are truth seekers, people who are here to make a better world. If you are a journalist and you only trust but don’t verify, if you are a journalists whose job description is not to publish the truth but generate click-bait, if your news are speculations; then you are not a journalist, you don’t have a badge and you are not authorized to call your pieces “news”.

  13. Our goal is to have the mainstream gaming media review and adopt ethics policies hopefully aligned with those laid out by the Society of Professional Journalists. If these standards are not achievable then the media should at least attempt to interact with the Gamergate community to see what actions changes can be made. A dialogue of some type on the issue is clearly needed.

  14. One of the talking points I’d like to see is where the line between ‘fast reporting’ and ‘accurate reporting’. I understand that to journalists, often being the first to break or comment on a story is going to (or it is perceived it will) earn them the biggest audience for coverage on that subject. The question I want to pose is where that line should be drawn. It feels like too often people are abandoning the allegation and distance from the topic until facts are known, and instead plunging into opinion pieces based on incomplete information, or worse, articles intended to come off as factual based on incorrect information.

    I believe at no point should haste cause any chance of inaccuracy in reporting, and that if it has the writers should own up to their mistakes instead of claiming ignorance at the time. I’d much rather read a factual piece 48 hours after the fact than a knee jerk reaction 12 hours afterwards. Haste itself doesn’t fall directly under any given bulletpoint, but I feel it is a cause for several of them, making them symptoms of it. I do concede that at times, a publication’s livelihood may rely on being the first to break the story, but is that truly an excuse for the risk of being biased by one’s own interpretation of events, or worse, flat out incorrect?

    Is there any ethical guideline one could enforce to make sure that haste doesn’t compromise a story, or can we only create guidelines to deal with the symptoms it causes?

  15. This seems fantastic. If you do stick to this (and I’m not saying you won’t) this will make you one of the most ethically sound publications in the US. That is something to be proud of! Actually, I think I should go email spj and ask them to put together a numeric rating system to judge media outlets on their ethical soundness.

  16. One more Think I totally forgot about the whole GamerGate scandal. I think it was really telling that not one of the gaming media who covert these events wrote something objective. It was all one sided fitting a narrative. There was no objectivity at all it was all protect these people and do not care about the rest and Writer do the same:

    For example I warned a unnamed writer for Polygon and co that her Address was being posted by a troll and that GamerGate is reporting them until he gets suspended. Hours later when she woke up she thanked me and I said “np and that we need to fight harassment together and not against each other”.

    A minute Later she blamed everything on GamerGate. I asked her politely if she could restate this claim and that it was not GamerGate but her response was this:

    ” Even if GamerGate itself didn’t doxxed me, its existence is encouraging this kind of harrasment to happen to women who speak up”

    I will not name the Person who writes for Polygon and other sites but this shows exactly what was going on. They spinned their own narrative without even reaching out to the other side. How can we trust Games Journalism if they have writer like this who do not care about the truth and objectivity but rather to cause even more outrage for the sake of their goals?

  17. We know there are a lot of financial connections and cozyness between developpers and game journalists. The first step would be to actually disclose them. No one would deny that they need review copies to do their jobs, but when you go on a 5000$ trip paid for by the devs, there is a problem.

    With full disclosure, it’s up to the to consumer decides whether or not to trust your review. Not only would we be able to give feedback on what is and isn’t acceptable, it would open the debate on grey areas.

    And ultimately, it puts pressure on the devs instead of the journalists. If a dev is giving a car with your review copy, a lot of the backlash would be directed (justly imo) at the dev.

    I would also like journalists to be accountable for their actions. Many of them insult people publicly and their parent companies are perfectly okay with it. If a dev does something like this they get crucified by the games media. But the same standards don’t seem to apply to them.

  18. A few issues I’ve had with gaming coverage recently:

    I read reviews expecting to get information about how games compare to others, how its graphics/sound/controls shape up, as well as how much fun the reviewer had playing it.

    I like obscure Japanese Strategy RPGs, like Disgaea and its ilk. Sometimes when I read reviews of them, I understand that the reviewer may not like those games as much. I then am forced to just rely on the more ‘objective’ aspects of the review, and ignore personal impressions since the reviewer doesn’t like the genre.

    I feel like more and more reviews I read recently are from people who “don’t like the genre.” I read reviews and come away with the feeling I’ve been criticized for liking those games. Whether that’s saying SRPGs are for math nerds or FPSs are for immature bros, or just a general attitude about the game being beneath them.

    That’s not to say I don’t or won’t read opinion pieces on gaming, but I don’t personally feel that has as much a place in reviews of a particular game. I wouldn’t want to be a developer releasing a game I’ve worked on for 3 years right when a few websites decide they need to take a stand against whatever genre my game is.

    I also feel like a lot of people have been burned recently by well reviewed indie games. I’ve read glowing reviews of games that have interesting mechanics, storylines, are particularly progressive in their handling of issues, etc. But when I buy them, I find they’re not actually that fun to play. And the reviewer maybe only played it because they had to, and had no desire to go back and play it on their own time. I want those games to be made, and I want them to be refined so that one of them is worth my time some day, but I don’t want to feel deceived by reviewers.

    The last issue I wanted to touch on maybe feeds into all of this. I think people have been concerned with the group-think / herd-mentality of video game journalists. I feel like this has fostered contempt for game players that I can feel in some reviews. I feel like this prevents reviewers from speaking out about issues with indie darlings. I feel like this prevents people from writing as well as they could. All of the gamergate related coverage has been to try and express some nuanced ideas about inclusiveness, stereotypes, and the complex relationship between consumer, journalist, and producer.

    I don’t feel like many of the writers attempting to tackle it are skilled enough to communicate that nuance. I have read many articles and felt stereotyped, criticized, and attacked. A lot of the writing is only capable of communicating an idea to someone who already understands the idea — as if no devil’s advocate editor or dissenting opinion has helped work through some imprecise language.

  19. Jeff already had a ver concise list of ideas so I am going to quote him to lend support to his suggestions.

    “Disclose connections of a financial or personal form as it relates to the subject or subjects of a journalistic article. Disclose financial or physical compensation for reviews.

    Recuse if you cannot, or will not, disclose those connections.

    Verify your source’s information, and Disclose if you can or will not.

    Punishment by editorial staff and publishers for journalists who refuse to follow these guidelines, or who attempt to obscure factual data.

    I’d genuinely prefer games journalists realize that it actually is about reporting information, and that “creating a message” is a matter for op-ed pieces, which should be labeled as such.”

    — Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
    — Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
    I think this has been a major issue in the past for Polygon and needs to be rectified.

    Also, corrections need to be given the proper format and visibility. Going back and changing the wording on an old aticle like ben Kuchera did with the sexual harassment article is not just unprofessional it is downright disingenuous.
    Between that, the undisclosed financial relationships to a developer & his attempts to stronarm another publication into shutting down discussion I have a very hard time moving past such actions & trusting the goodwill of Ben Kuchera. His handling of the Patricia Hernandez controversy also is more than questionable.

    — Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
    — Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
    — Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

    I think these points touch less on ethics per se, yet still are important to ensure a certain amount of value of information to the reader & would go a long way towards improving the site.

  20. Remove the journalists who attack and bully their own readers. Have strict social media policies and if your employees go on unprofessional vitriolic rants or insult people, take away their social media account or fire them. This should be under that “Act Accountable” section.

    Stop acting like sycophants towards other journalists and stop collaborating with each other to coordinate coverage and shape narratives.

    Stop promoting clickbait garbage that only seeks one side of a story and refuses to address the other side of an issue. Any journalist found to be intentionally misrepresenting a story should be dismissed. And never, EVER ban or delete people’s civil comments just because they disagree with the journalist’s position or wish to discuss an issue. If your sites have overly broad Terms of Use that basically let your moderators do anything they want, rewrite them, restrict their powers and make them accountable.

    Keep your politics out of your reviews. A professional review should be telling me whether *I* will like a game or not, not whether the reviewer liked it. And shoving your ideology into your review and score helps no one, because my ideology is not likely to be the same as yours. Pure objectivity is of course impossible, but you should strive to be as objective as possible.

    And then read Roger Ebert’s own ethical guidelines:

    And have your journalists follow every single one of them.

  21. Look… I don’t care for Anita’s criticism. I think Zoe isn’t a good person. I think you all can do a lot better job of choosing figures that represent diversity in gaming (and you do choose them). Maybe you feel like any woman would face undue hatred, but I still think you can write about better people. Also if you want to write about progressive topics, I encourage you all to not be so lazy as to manufacture controversy (read

    However, if you want to write about them on your website that’s fine. I won’t read it, and I don’t want to silence you. I don’t participate in GG (except for donating to anti-bullying fund), and I’ve never threatened anyone. There is a very real problem with big dev/publisher and press relationships, and I want consumer advocates that I can trust. Frankly I find IGN having console-specific editors that gush over their beat while getting first access a little gross too.

    However, I don’t think that’s the only problem with the industry, and from the outside looking in there is certainly reason to suspect a bit too much nepotism. I’m a big fan of GB. I think there doing something really unique with their content, but what has been made abundantly clear from watching those videos is that it’s common place for developers (both indie and big studio) to schmooze with the press. It may be innocent, but I think it’s legitimate to question how all of the same people going to almost monthly industry events with after-parties, living in the same cities where they spend social hours together, and reinforcing each other through networking on twitter and private email groups are not being influenced to unduly give coverage to people within their social circle. GB has been pretty good about making distinctions in coverage, but I’ve got to wonder whether the social interactions they have with devs are common place for journalism. How are you guys expected to maintain professional distance with the way social media and industry events have exploded?

    When I read a lot of reviews that all have the same criticisms, is that because you all made the same conclusions in your independent play-through’s of the game? Or is it because someone released their review first and everyone emulated it? Or is it because of a private mailing group that you all communicated on with your review builds helped influence a narrative about a game? Maybe it’s none of the above, but it’s certainly easy to perceive unethical behavior from the outside, and it’s not clear how you regulate that. How exactly do you guys quantify whether the friendships you maintain for exclusives are professional or something more? I think a little more self-reflection on those issues, and honest communication to your audiences would help us all find consensus instead of disagreement. At the very least, it would certainly improve my perception of a press that’s just a little to full of enthusiasm and not appreciating the bigger picture of how the internet and social interactions can potentially influence groupthink in your writing.

  22. I’ve already blown my top off at you over the editorial article. First and foremost, these ethics are something that should be applied to all your gamergate articles. The blatant misrepresentation of fact amid a very strong case to raise questions and demand an Ombudsman to be the one to investigate to verify the claim, is poor journalism. Do not be complacent with claims that carry a clear bias.

    “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

    A proper statement would be Kotaku claims that the relationship had no impact. This is yet to be verified by an independent investigation.

    The reason I push for it even in the articles being published about #GamerGate is because the media not properly investigating results in essentially slander pieces. They appear to be directed towards discrediting #GamerGate in a bid to avoid the true issues.

    In this case, all of this applies:

    —Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
    — Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
    — Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
    — Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
    — Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
    — Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

    But it appears that very little of this is actually followed in action. When it comes to denouncing harassment, #GamerGate is pretty much doing all it can do as a grassroots movement. Example is both the uncovering of the Brazilian Journalist harassing Anita and how /war/ on 8chan was flooded so the info was 404ed. Not indicating that such actions were undertaken also paints a biased narrative.

    All these informal fallacies have been present in some way in the media.

    As you can see, the ease at which I find so many is a disgrace. It shows that even when an opinion piece is produce by the media that the argument that they are presenting is faulty.

    As you may begin to understand now, the longer this drags out, the more damage it will do to the gaming press. More shit will be dug up and more cases such as what is happening with Gawker. These sites names will be dragged through the mud to the point that advertisers will slowly leave. Just look at the stock prices for Gamasutra’s parent company. The media’s reluctance to address this, negatively affects them but not the consumer. There is huge competition in games media we have seen and Devs still need to sell games to the consumer.

    Ultimately I want journalists that advocate for the consumer. We have seen barely any of this at all and that is probably the biggest factor that has contributed to the mess we have now.

    I pretty much fully endorse all of this code. If you were to have a ethics policy, copy and paste this adding in specific examples for clarification. I believe that this should be pushed as an industry standard.

    Also additionally, a discussion on the distinction between a review and a critique needs to be had. A review in my opinion should be aimed at a general audience, be the ones with a score and follow below.

    — Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

    Sorry for my outburst on twitter, but after finding a journalist finally willing to have the discussion then their employer releasing such an article, it was like an extreme bi-polar roller coaster. Enormous respect earned followed by a massive drop. Being here since the start and having such a passion for gaming means that I am may be over invested. But this is the first time that I’ve felt such purpose for a movement/revolt and actually dedicated time to one. Truth and integrity are something worth fighting for and after engaging with the community that sprung up and the ones that were always there, supporting each other through tough times, I couldn’t be more proud to call myself a gamer.

  23. See… this is why some of us are fighting in this. Publishers being able to cut you guys off, that’s bloody disgusting. We want to (and need to) go after as well, but right now, the focus is on the media outlet (who attacked us in the first place).

    In regards to journalism, what can we do to enforce the rules when EiC is complacent in the first place and the writers/journalists fear for their own employment? Subscription model failed (patreon is part of sub. model), the ad revenue model is failing us, industry paid model is unworkable, journalists can’t live on nothing, so definitely no free/hobbyist model. I’m afraid cutting out the middleman might become a likely possibility, a hybrid industry+consumer model might work, But that isn’t fair to everyone. Would having the site part of its parent company, thus making it liable, be a possible model? Escapist focus on more than just games, so they are a little diversified and thus not as tightly choked for contents. Will the same work for other sites? The lack of content might be one reason why certain sites are pushing out some stuff, masquerading as another.

  24. I would like to discuss an article recently published on Polygon and I want to be as respectful as possible, even if some of what I say may not sound pretty, please wait until the end before reaching a conclusion.

    My concerns come when the level of the threat is gauged. After reading the article, I end with the idea that her safety could have been seriously compromised, had Miss Sarkeesian decided to participate in the event, especially in the second update when it’s said that security preparations were taken very seriously or that the level of threat present is rare.

    On the other hand, there’s this letter from USU.

    “Together, we determined that there was no credible threat to students, staff or the speaker, and that this letter was intended to frighten the university into cancelling the event.”

    It’s shocking to me that state and federal law enforcement agencies didn’t consider there was a credible threat, but after Polygon reached police officials, this was never transmitted, or the author didn’t consider it was relevant to the story. It’s my belief that journalists have a responsability to avoid creating mass hysteria, among other reasons, because that probably was the main objective behind whoever sent the threats and validating these individuals can have a seriously dangerous effect, like creating copycats. I understand the writer isn’t in an easy position in a case like this one, since it feels heartless to “downplay” the suffering of others. But I feel I’m being told a substantially different story when I read “the level of threat presented is rare” on Polygon’s article (which could be a misleading choice of words) compared to the one I get after reading the statement from USU.

  25. First off, I’d like to thank you for taking comments on this. This is something we desired for a long time. I had to catch some sleep before writing on this topic. I’ll be talking about ethics first, then briefly go over biased reporting/reviews.

    I think for the gaming press to be taken seriously, it will need to first and foremost distance itself from the publishers, the game developers, etc. It’s all too common for their relationship to be too cozy. I haven’t forgotten controversies DoritoGate or the Kane & Lynch scandal. The press shouldn’t be accepting gifts, parties and etc offered by them. They have you by the balls when it comes to giving pre-release copies and frankly, that’s not an easy problem to tackle. But it’s pretty obscene that it’s common in the industry to have review blackouts because the non-positive coverage is banned before release.

    As much as I’d like to blame the publishers for corrupting the press, it’s on the press to actually put their foot down and set a clear guideline of ethics and fight them industry-wide. From what I gathered, the movie industry sends pre-release reviews by the bulk, so there’s a professional distance between the producers and the reviewers. This is what you guys need to establish first and foremost. And if that means to do like Kotaku has announced to do – to focus on post-release reviews instead, I say – go for it. I may hate Kotaku but this is definitely not a bad direction to go to.

    Now, I’ll go and tackle the meat of GamerGate – the conflicts of interest. The gaming press is in dire need of more transparency. It needs to remember than even appearance of impropriety is just as important as actual impropriety. I don’t think Kickstarter is much of an issue, not unless one funded the game massively but for an objective standard to be met, I think it’s important to at least disclose it when it happens. Yes, even if it’s something like 20-25$, mostly because I want an objective standard, not something subjective that can easily be twisted later on. Besides, it wouldn’t stop anyone from reviewing a game unless they contributed massively to the project.

    However, the maze of Patreon links between journalists/writers and the subjects they cover has been a depressing thing to discover. This, to me, has to go. Funding a person is quite different from the equivalent of pre-ordering a game (Kickstarter). When you like the person so much you’re funding them a monthly salary or vice versa (dev funding you), the trust is completely broken. You can’t be neutral or objective on anything if there’s a financial interest in it not to be. You may think “But I know, this wouldn’t affect my opinion either way”. No, appearance of impropriety is just as bad, especially when it comes to financial links.
    Some people will say a disclosure could be enough, I disagree with them because dollars are involved.

    The next issue to tackle is relationships being failed to be disclosed. This has been a problem that has been talked about quite a bit during GamerGate. This needs full-on disclosure or for the person involved to recuse themselves, depending on the nature of the relationship. Let me cite one egregious example : Patricia Hernandez. Now, I know you’re not Kotaku but entertain me for a moment, Patricia had a close personal relationship with Anna Antropy (they lived together at some point). Yet she still covered her games, even going so far as to recommend readers to buy them. This is NOT OKAY. Even more not okay is that the same thing happened between her and Christine Love, except this time, she dated her.

    This wasn’t disclosed. And when caught, it was disclosed retroactively with seemingly no consequences for Hernandez. And this is something that’s also important, if a writer fails to disclose a relationship, there needs to be consequences. Going back, updating the article and then going on as if nothing ever happened shatters the trust between readers and gaming websites. What’s to stop it from happening again?


    This was the part about ethics. Now, I’d like to discuss briefly the concept of trying to review a game as objectively as possible. And no, I do not think it’s something silly to strive for. Oliver Campbell wrote an article on this – and it’s an interesting read. tldr; version is “Your job, as a reviewer, isn’t to tell the customer what to buy. Your job is to INFORM the customer of what they COULD buy, should they be inclined to.”

    Also, if you absolutely must bring morality, sexism and those sort of things that are related to personal ideology into play, I suggest you take this from Christian reviewers, who do not let it affect scores by using a dual score system – . I think it’s really terrible for games to be marked down for political beliefs that your audience may not share, like the Tropico 5 review which got marked down for making the reviewer feel like a bad person. Especially in light of the abomination that is Metacritic scores being used to determine whether devs get paid bonuses or not. Personally, I’d love nothing more than to do away with scores but we all know this isn’t a realistic approach.

    And that’s it for me. I didn’t really touch fair reporting or the lack of investigative journalism though these are also important things to strive for. The SPJ code does already cover this stuff quite well, so I’ve got nothing to add on the subject.

    Again, I’d like to thank you for fielding comments on this issue, even if it’s on a personal level and not as a representative of Polygon.

  26. Two short ideas. Throw away account, obviously.

    First: acknowlege that you aren’t part of the gaming industry. You’re people in the press who have gaming as their beat. Entirely different.

    So very many of the defences and grievances revolve around this idea that “they are a colleague and we need to be able to work and socialize with our colleagues”. That is wrong. Dangerously wrong. Game designers and political activists focused on gaming may be lovely people…but they are subjects, not colleagues.

    There should be some distance, and instead there is a chummy and cozy clique.

    The latter group can be especially difficult, since they are writers themselves much of the time, and often journalists privately agree with them. But they are exactly those people who “seek power, influence or attention” that the SPJ refers to. They are attempting to use that writing to change policy and polity alike. They are closer to politicians than journalists, and deserve some scrutiny.

    (Even the ones you agree with. ESPECIALLY the ones you agree with.)

    It doesn’t help that so many gaming writers are obviously angling for a job in the industry either. Every Journo who becomes a “Community Manager” or the like is another weight crushing your credibility to dust.

    Second: yes, we’re all aware that there is no such thing as complete objectivity in either journalism or criticism. You can stop using that to defend yourselves now, we all get it. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t Pronounce Factual Judgment on a difficult subject as a journalist, or provide quantitative and definitive scores as a critic, and then turn around and start rambling on and on and on and on about how it’s just your “feels” when challenged on your reasoning or justification. That’s disingenuous, dishonest, and plain dumb.

    The scores, especially, are produced knowing that they are going to be compared and aggregated. That is why you produce numbers. That is what numbers are FOR. If you don’t like it, DONT PRODUCE NUMBERS. Kotaku doesn’t. Rock Paper Shotgun doesn’t. Polygon could ditch them tomorrow. The choice to use them is valid, but accept what that choice means.

    Either way, you have a duty to be intellectually honest. Clearly explain your reasons and methods, and ground your writing in those reasons and methods. If your writint is supposed to be seen through a particular ideological lens, make it obvious, so that nobody is caught by surprise. If you are writing about a person or group, give them a chance to comment, and cite them clearly and fairly, without fear or favor. Taking potshots at a caricature makes YOU look like an idiot too.

    And, finally, accept that there are going to be those that disagree with you of equal or greater intelligence and moral fiber to your own. Even the ones who can’t write as well as you can. Your flair with words doesn’t prove a goddamned thing.

    It’s not enough. But it’s a start.

  27. To me the problem is that there’s a clique of game journalists who are trying to monopolize the ability to discuss issues.

    I’m going to use Anita Sarkeesian as an example. The responses to her videos can be spit into three groups.

    Group 1) Personal threats against Anita. These are horrific and morally bankrupt.

    Group 2) Attempts to discredit Anita as a critic. For example, digging up a clip of her saying “I’m not a gamer”. I don’t like this either – it’s a textbook ad homenim logical fallacy. Arguments should be judged on their own merits.

    Group 3) Actual rebuttals and counter critiques.

    There’s an enormous range of actual rebuttals. To demonstrate the diversity – I have seen feminists criticizing Anita from an explicitly feminist perspective (then again, given the history of feminism that shouldn’t be surprising… I digress).

    What should have happened is that journalists would have found the best rebuttals and given them visibility. People would then see these rebuttals and write counter-rebuttals, then counter-counter-rebuttals. So on ad infintium, and we’d have a proper discussion.

    What happened instead is that game journalists lumped all three groups together and talked down to them as though everyone disagreeing with Anita was complicit in harassment. Unsurprisingly people don’t like being talked down to or accused of misogyny, so this behavior has been slowly but steadily sowing distrust and division for years.

    I believe that said distrust and decision is a major factor that led up to the explosion that was gamergate.

    I don’t mind if journalists agree with and want to support Anita.

    I don’t mind if reviewers want to mark a game down for not being feminist enough.

    But I think they have to accept and respect other points of view. They should not divide the world into “people who agree with me” and “neckbearded manbabies”.

  28. I’m honestly not positive that games journalism has anywhere to go but towards irrelevancy. Certainly there are some issues that can be addressed immediately, such as disclosure and recusal – take much of Patrica Hernandez’s work over at Kotaku for example – her hype pieces on the work of her friends, roomates, or erstwhile lovers is completely indefensible by any standard or metric of journalistic practice. In fact, this so egregiously violates any standard of propriety that it’s almost impossible to take the publication seriously at all since one must suppose that Stephen Totilo (EiC) didn’t just passively “miss” a few instances of this behavior, but actually thought it was *fine*

    Ending these sort of practices has to be first. This also means cultivating a level of distance between journalists and their subject material, which in the case of the indie games scene is going to be both difficult, but also *extremely necessary* if you actually give a damn about the development of indie talent. As it stands right now, through blind nepotism and incestuous relationships, the entire scene has turned into a charity welfare system for “needy games” where “needy games” are often synonymous with “my best mates games” or “games who have a political agenda that I think needs press”. Both of these attitudes are completely self serving and do not serve the consumer or the developers working in this scene at all.

    And finally, even if these things were addressed, frankly the caliber of the gaming “press” has been exposed as fucking atrocious. When people that their peers hail as their “best writers” fail at making simple ontological arguments, or conflate critical theory with qualitative analysis, it literally blows your fucking mind. A lot of the anger I think we are seeing from the public on the whole is because while they may not understand epistemology the way, say a social sciences professor would, all human beings understand it in principle and we certainly notice it when it’s lacking.

    I really have no idea how you fix this last issue. Maybe stop hiring freelancers with creative writing degrees, or certainly get better editors. It seems too many people in this scene are concerned with being perceived as being “Writerly” instead of intellectually challenging, or they conflate intellectual challenge with just challenging societal norms (although I question if this is actually happening and instead what we are seeing is careful construction of strawmen to burn by journalists). Obviously, the former takes more effort and expertise on behalf of the writer to accomplish than the later, but it’s also the objective measure by which we value writing – as in your audience is not going to invest their time and intellectual capital into non-consumer review pieces that fundamentally fail the epistemological tests of their thesis without eventually getting pissed off.

    I often think that many writers believe their audiences are stupid because they put too much of a value on ones ability to express themselves as a sign of intelligence (naturally, they are writers after all). They fail to recognize that simply because someone may have a limited vocabulary or life experiences, doesn’t mean that they cannot logically process causality. I see this a lot with people who are supporting #GamerGate right now, not all of them are incredibly articulate, but the notion of everything I’ve stated in this post is absolutely there even if they can’t express it using exact terms like I can.

    Anyway, getting back to my opening paragraph – I’m not convinced that anything can be done here. I think what we’re seeing is just one in a long line of middle fingers given by the public to the press as it continues to tumble towards irrelevancy. Between the problems of an obviously diminished talent pool and a freelancer system that isn’t designed to cultivate intellectual talent, much like the mainstream press we’ll just see a decline into yellow journalism while people move to places like Youtube to connect with personalities that have more credibility. And while I appreciate the position that this puts you guys in, I can’t honestly say I’m sad over it.

  29. Most who are not young gamers seem to assume game journalists, in their current form, are still necessary. I think this is wrong because a) they never acted like journalists and b) youtubers have taken over their main schtick.

    In this discussion, people have also been confusing reviews with opinion, to the point where some journalists have essentially declared objectivity dead.

    For the most part, gamers don’t care that Kotaku posts another article about the sexualization of Medusa’s breasts in God of War. People care about reviews. These are reports that are supposed to inform consumers of games of the content and quality of a product on day 1. To do this, reporters receive privileged early access to games. Relevant questions include:

    – Can anyone with a credible channel get early access? (No)

    – Have reviewers been gagged from discussing certain aspects? (Yes)

    – Have outlets been blacklisted for publishing negative reviews? (Yes)

    – Have writers been fired for criticizing advertised games? (Yes)

    – Are review scores used for purposes other than informing consumers, like the bonuses game developers receive? (Yes)

    – Are reviews used to push a political agenda by docking points for subjective interpretations? (Yes)

    The whole system is so obviously rigged at this point, you have to question it entirely. Shouldn’t there be more transparency in this? Shouldn’t game companies have more open policies about giving reviewers access? And in an age when there is no shortage of DLC and DRM, why have real “shareware” demos gone all but extinct?

    On top of that, when you ignore the reviews, what you are left with is mostly…. bloggers. Not journalists. If you want in-the-field reporting on gamer events, an expose on unreasonable crunch time, news from academic research, or measured thoughts on interaction and game design, good luck finding them. The social justice warriors act like their brilliant critique simply isn’t being understood, when in truth, most people hate it because it’s shit and third-rate.

  30. I believe that gaming journalism needs to have a good think about the nature of crowdfunding approaches like Paetron and Kickstarter. If a journalist starts to ‘invest’ in a particular person or title, they are showing an enhanced interest in that person succeeding.

    So if a games journalist has invested heavily in (say) Star Citizen, they’ll be personally invested in that title succeeding. They’ll have an interest in writing more articles about the game and also will have a more directly line to the developers through backer-only content. They’ll be less critical in pushing news about that second Kickstarter because they want the game to succeed (plus they’ve already invested $$$ in it). The extreme end is where the games journalist becomes an unpaid PR mouth piece – something that should be avoided.

    We’re also moving into the position of paid games curation as well. It strikes me as odd that game sites are heading towards recommending titles AND providing a link that sells them where they make a cut. That seems to start heading towards a conflict of interest, since if you make money off the games you sell, then the incentive is to recommend more of them.

    There really hasn’t been much discussion around mock reviews since the Florence / Wainwright blow-up a few years ago, but I’m not sure how much of a thing mock reviews are any more.

  31. Don’t review or give other positive coverage to people you have a close personal connection with.

    Don’t refrain from reviewing or giving other positive coverage to people you don’t have a close personal connection with.

    Don’t insult your audience.

    Don’t coordinate with others in the games media to push agendas, construct narratives, suppress stories.

    Don’t suppress stories that paint people you have a close personal connection with in a negative light.

    Polygon is Polygon. Kotaku is Kotaku. RPS is RPS. They should have their own distinctive voices, motivations, and even to some degree their own ideological slants. They should be competitors. This does not appear to be the case.

    ‘Friends’ shouldn’t come into anything. If anyone gets preferential treatment, you are quite simply not a journalist.

  32. Thanks for listening to us. i understand now why you were drawn red and blue

    for the cultural stuff the press threw up i completly agree with Jorge Cervera.
    I would like to add to that statement that everything should be critizised from sexism to radical feministical ideas only that way can a satisfactory conclusion be reached

    for the ethics stuff i really like your list my question is how to enforce it since well trust for selfpolicing is at an alltime low.
    also no blacklisting of developers we do not want people out in the streets just because they stubbed the wrong toes.

  33. 1. Journalists aren’t allowed to accept gifts or money.

    2. Journalists reporting on a game or product are not allowed to go to the developers offices to review a product. No VIP treatment type stuff.

    3. You can go to industry parties but you are not allowed to right articles or review products for a company that you went to a party for or have close friendships or affiliations with.

    4. At public events or stuff you’re invited to you are not allowed to review anything that you received for free from that specific developer. Like Ubisoft giving press free tablets. That’s a big no-no and if you accept it you shouldn’t talk about what it is you saw.

    5. 5 point system for rating stuff. This was often a point of contempt in the past that would upset people because you can’t rate something objectively I would argue you can.

    A. Is the Pacing good (Pacing referring to how smoothly the game played, were the objectives not expressed well were you cruising through the game and no all of a sudden you keep dying?

    B. Do the Mechanics of the game bring something new to the table? Ex: The new Call of Duty allowing much more vertical movement and laser weapons do you think that this changes the formula or is something new.

    C. Is there any Replayability? This includes Multiplayer.

    D. What are the options menu like? Does it provide plenty of options to change your ability to play the game? Head phones option? Color Blind mode, screen adjustments etc etc.

    E. Was the game bugged or glitchy? did you run into any issues with the game of something just not working or other problems?

    Yes = 1 point
    Kinda = 1/2

  34. I think anyone that works under the title of journalist and covers gaming media needs to get back to basic.

    Journalists need to be above reproach when covering a story. Usually I’m all for people being entitled to a private life, however, when you take a position that requires integrity and the status of being above reproach to cover material in the least bias manner for the sake of truth, you often lose certain privileges to keep your integrity intact.

    This includes having overly friendly to intimate relationships with possible sources. They are plenty of people to have relationships with in the world and the potential sources of a journalist shouldn’t be one of them. Feelings may compromise one’s journalistic integrity and form bias.

    This should also apply to receiving free swag, nice accommodations, getting game previews before the release date, etc.

    As for reviews… I think the reviews are more than welcome to critique from a social point of view so as long as that the author discloses ideologies or religious views that may bias the the critique and not affect the overall gaming score.

    A social score could be created apart from gaming score in the similar vain to the current game rating system.

    The gaming score should be about graphics, design, well written story (whether or not you agree with it), speed, controls, game mechanics similar to how hardware reviews often score electronics.

    If a piece of hardware has a naked male / female on it. I think its relevant to make a note about this, but it shouldn’t detract from a score meant for things like price, quality, speed, capacity, etc.

    Opeds… Since opinions pieces are stated with an elevated voice that could sway or polarize the audience published on a news platform, a place that should be more about facts than opinions, there should be more transparency.

    Hopefully, this will force the writer to at least use facts to back up the opinion and to reveal any bias which may help avoid compromising the authors integrity and giving readers a feeling of betrayal later when the come across information that may call into question the integrity of the writer.

    Also it may be in the best interests for the public that a person try not to straddle the fence of being a game journalist and a game critic.

    Transparency. In a field where integrity is part of the job requirement, there shouldn’t be a private e-mail list, google hangout, or private meetings for like minded people to share things that may cause colluding.

    It should either be a public list or the list shouldn’t exist in order to keep journalistic integrity above reproach.

    TL;DR Avoid actions that may question you’re integrity. If you can’t do that, disclose all such actions.

  35. One more thing to add to the list above. I believe that it is imperative that we continue the movement of inclusiveness in our culture while also allowing article writers to express themselves freely through their writing.

    With that being said I would the key points I touched on above to be the standard for game reviewing as far as a point system goes however the person doing the review is absolutely allowed to say that he thought the game was garbage misogynistic propaganda to encourage the rape and murder of young women they are perfectly allowed to right their anti cis gendered male manifseto without affecting the score of the game.

  36. Ethics should reflect the role of the journalist

    Protecting the consumer should be #1

    Looking over the SPJ ethics code I really struggle to find examples which gaming journalists have not broken in the last 12 months and I’m not just talking about what has occurred during GG

    I am not saying there are not ethical journalists, but as a collective they have failed and the disconnect and loss of trust from their consumers can not be better demonstrated than the massive surge in popularity of Youtube’s LP’s and game reviews.

    If your consumers are going elsewhere for content you use to provide for them maybe you should pay attention to it, when consumers tell you that they do not trust the information and opinions being presented to them you should ask why that is and how can it be improved

    I want gaming media to be beacon on what journalism should be and something that other journalists strive to achieve. I want media that I am proud of, not clickbait.

  37. Things I want to see:

    -Fact checking, even in editorials. (this is the most important one for me)

    -Not only should you not review the game of someone you have an intimate or financially involved with, but you should not even use them as a SOURCE. If for some reason you can’t recuse yourself, you must DISCLOSE this information.

    (NOTE: I would define financial involvement as investment that includes potential return, or someone who you are financially co-dependent with (ie a housemate, landlord, child, or parent). If you donate to Patreon, or other crowdfunding THAT MUST BE DISCLOSED. And I also feel like all disclosures should be at the top of the article.)

    -Remove review scores, especially from reviews that make no effort to be objective. Disclose at the top of the review how you obtained your copy of the game.

    -If you choose to run a publication that does not do ‘objective’ reviews, you must go out of your way to publish reviews of the same game from authors with different perspectives/ideologies, and display them prominently on the same page (I remember when some game mags would actually do this). And you must NEVER delete comments simply for question the ideologies of the author or the review itself.

    -Be consistent in your coverage of “drama”. Do your best to not appear as if you hold one person’s personal life more important than another.

    These are the responsibilities of the both the publication AND the journalist. Journalists should be pushing these sites away from clickbait. Refuse to write clickbait headlines. Police each other and call each other out. Journalism should be a noble profession. If you want to be a real journalist then you must make sacrifices. Sometimes that means sacrificing a portion of your social life. Sometimes that means making almost nothing.

    I think a lot of games journalists are honest people, but the bad ones screwed up the trust. The best things games journalists can do now is remove any doubt of misconduct. Disclose, disclose, disclose. It’s the easiest thing you can do. If you’re not sure whether something is worth disclosing… disclose it.

  38. I’d also like to add that you should avoid developing an intimate or financial relationship AFTER you use someone as a source or review their game as well. Yes that’s hard, but journalism should be hard. I’m sorry, but that’s the only way trust can be formed.

  39. To start Brian, I’ll say that none of these are specifically aimed at you (obviously) as your stance in the Sony/Playstation Home story is one that I think all game journalists could learn from.

    I’ll hit up a few details in what I am looking for:

    Full Disclosure:
    This means anything and everything. The problem of “closeness” in the industry is to the point where I’m not sure where it ends so I couldn’t possibly guess as to whether or not a journalist is actually disclosing “everything”.

    From the SPJ Code of Ethics: Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

    Obviously some journalists don’t do enough on this subject, but I think even those who are “turning the corner” aren’t truly following this step as they think disclosure solves all.

    Going further, there are times when conflicts of interest are truly “unavoidable”. Such a COI might be: My brother married a game developer. This is unavoidable from the Journalist, but should still be disclosed. Taking this further, I dislike the idea that simple disclosure should be “enough”. If a Journalist is flown out to a developer and put up in a Hotel and whatever because it was the only means by which they could get a “review copy”, the proper solution is not to simply disclose this, but rather it is to not have participated at all.

    This is why when Polygon updates their previously horrible “Patreon Guidelines” to indicate that all Patreon donations must simply be disclosed, I have no choice but to laugh. While I argue that Patreon donations ARE a conflict of interest, I don’t think anyone can argue that they aren’t, at the very least, a perceived conflict of interest. From the SPJ CoE, these perceived conflicts of interests should be AVOIDED, not just disclosed. To think otherwise is to not take ethics seriously (IMO).

    To take this further (and is hopefully a point that you yourself need no preaching about), the right answer to PR pressure should always be to walk away. PR firm won’t give you coverage if you don’t agree to only use “positive” words (see recent youtube coverage)? You walk away. PR firm won’t give you a review copy that isn’t in the form of a giant Master Chief replica? You walk away. And disclose. I think the quickest way to alert your reader-base and gain their sympathy for a lack of coverage on a game is to let them know that shady-PR deals led to it.

    While I have many others, there is one last one that I would like to touch on, and that is the subject of “Objective Reviews”. While Polygon maintains that these are impossible and that no one wants them anyways, I disagree, to an extent.

    To put it in another way, while “somebody” would find value in a Call of Duty review written by someone who only plays racing games, I believe that such a review on a website that represents all gamers would be useless. Similarly, I think the same topic could apply in regards to political issues etc.

    My problem with inserting personal-views into game reviews is that you alienate the usefulness of the review to only those who share the same views (well, kind of anyways). It’s a problem I have with the “individual reviewer” system that most sites use. While I think reviews that attempt to be as objective as possible will always be best (A review that talks about the quality of a shooters shooting mechanics instead of lamenting about how the thrill of shooting doesn’t compare to the thrill of racing is, I presume, inherently more desirable), I’m open to the idea of more subjective reviews under the following circumstances:

    I, personally, would like for all reviews on Polygon to be held to a universal “guideline”. While Polygon may expect every reader to learn and follow individual reviewers, I think that websites need to understand that a review posted on Polygon is a “Polygon” review and not an “Arthur Gies” review. As a result I would be more inclined to accept subjective input on a game as long as it follows the “Polygon Review Standards”, so to speak. As an example, look at many of the Christian Game reviewers. They discuss objective qualities of the game, but also review the game against a moral guideline (the bible?). If Polygon held all of it’s reviews to the same standard, I think there would be less of an issue.

  40. It’s simple:

    More disclosure of relationships between devs, journalists and companies, and less clickbait journalism.

  41. Let’s put aside the conspiracy theories I blabber on about on twitter for a minute,

    What gets me about recent games journalism is scope. If a website wants to write articles on games with their connections/connotations/conclusions to politics than that’s what the site should be for. More and more I see politics creeping up into product reviews. In politics nobody is ever truly “right” so it falls into the opinions category when you apply a political bias to your writing. I just want such writing labeled as such so I can respectfully go read a different article.

    You don’t see politics popping up in magazines and/or journals and/or blogs related to RC aircraft. You just see a lot of articles about events, fun, and comparing products for what they are worth. A wrongful police arrest related to RC use would be appropriate for such a magazine sure, but it wouldn’t be on the front page.

    To reiterate: opinionated and biased coverage of a game is fine if that’s what your site is all about. I just want it labeled as such so I can seek out more objective product reviews. Other people might be interested in pieces like that, but not me nor many others.

  42. My biggest concerns are the following:
    The separation of cultural critique and game critique in terms of allocating reviews. I understand wanting to be able to talk about the cultural, sexist, dangerous, and so forth aspects that can be present in any form of media, however your analysis of those should be separate. When I look into a review, I want to see analysis of game mechanics, graphics and physics engines, is the story powerful, is it challenging, what are the flaws in the gameplay, and ultimately is it worth the cost. I do not care for the politics of the reviewer to be injected into the score of the game. Like if they wish to do a moral analysis of the game under review, there can be a separate section for analysis of morals and societal ills the game addresses [or fails to address].

    The second issue, and honestly to me as someone who relies more on personal experience and experience of a few close friends to judge a games value the more serious one, is the deep collusion between both authors on hypothetically competing websites and the collusion between developers and those writers. For the first, this allows them to push whatever rhetoric they wish upon readers, without allowing for any dissenting opinions to spring forth [see Gamers are Dead, responses to Zoe post specifically]. Collusion between the developers and writers/reviewers can prevent legitimate criticism being levied at the game in question for fear of not being allowed to review further games of the developer.

    While obviously friendships between authors, and friendships between reviewers and developers are not in and of themselves a bad thing, nor is communication about big issues, the problem comes when it is decided that there is a single agenda to push, especially one that alienates the consumer base, one that does not give the consumer base a chance to respond, and one which does not make it clear the relations that may have influenced the author. We want clear and open lines of communication, with honest discussion on all ends. That does not seem too much to ask.

    Thank you for your consideration and the time spent to review our concerns.

  43. You could start by not having someone so openly in favor of one corporation write a review for a game that they publicly tweeted should not exist. Don’t know who I’m talking about? Then you do not know your staff very well.

    By far, the most alarming aspect out of all of this is that somehow gaming journalists think the distaste for their antics and nonsense began in late August. One of you went on a disgusting, offensive, drunken verbal rampage on an E3 2010 podcast. One of you made a joke about Catholics being child molesters on Weekend Confirmed. Ethics? Maybe you could try not being completely offensive morons first, and then focus on the ethics. Notice what has not been mentioned – the events unveiled in late August. I never heard of the journalist involved prior to that, but I did laugh my ass off when he had the gall to write an article about what YouTube personalities (who are not, and have never been journalists) may or may not be doing wrong. Pot. Kettle. Black hole.

    It must be very easy for you to tell yourselves that this is all the work of 4chan, Reddit, and some digital lynch mob. Wrong. Some of us have attended events and shook your hands. Some of us have actually been playing games for thirty years. Some of us used to read John Carmack’s .plan file in 1998, simply because we find the medium interesting. Some of us have repeatedly scratched our heads at the spectacular decline in gaming journalism since 2008. We did not magically appear on August 20th, and we will not vanish when the people you are throwing us under the bus for go find another imaginary injustice to cash in on with speaking engagements.

    That the perception exists among gaming journalists that this all stems from the sexual indiscretions of a lousy gaming blogger that we had not previously heard of, is absolutely hysterical. Keep stabbing at ghosts and anons. We’ll keep emailing your advertisers with links and .mp3 snippets of every dumb, hateful, wildly ignorant, and patently disgusting thing you have been writing and saying for the past six years. You can kill the needless hashtag tomorrow. Six years of wanting to vomit at the moment of exposure to your horrendous bullshit is not going anywhere.


    Gamers Everywhere, emailing and using adBlock

  44. These are the basic positions of the journalist that they all need to be held to, agreed. I’d like to go further and ask for people to stop treating their readers like human scum, if at all possible?

    This said, we also need to work with you journalists to kill this cycle where you are reliant on the publishers to feed you information. As journalists it is your JOB to report on them for the public, and we need to enable the freedom of the press in that manner- something we have been neglectful in primarily because of lack of impetus to do so. That they can attempt to blackball you as was done with Kotaku and Sony in 2007 is unconscionable and should be reported so public feedback can be used to push back against such bad practices. We’re here not just to consume the content you provide, but keep both you and the games industry you report on in line. We’re the hammer, as Damion Schubert said; You’re supposed to be the focussing lens for our response.

  45. This is what I want in gaming journalism:
    No more writing about people you are friends with or have financial ties to. If you do write about them, then put it up front so everyone knows and they are able to read the article with the thought in mind that you may be leaving out anything negative.
    An end to deciding who gets coverage (mainly applies to indie devs) based on your personal connections or ideologies. If you can’t or won’t give them fair coverage then direct them to someone who can.
    Publicly available ethics policies available on all gaming journalism websites. They should be presented on a page all to themselves with a clearly visible link on the websites home page.
    These ethics policies should be strictly enforced and all breaches should be investigated by an outside entity with no stake in the outcome so as to refrain from creating a conflict of interest.
    Friendships between journalists and others in the industry should be watched to make sure they won’t lead to a breach of ethics or conflict of interest. Remember, as a journalist your number one priority is your readership.
    No more accepting bribes and/or gifts from developers (including AAA) companies. If they have to bribe you for good coverage then they have no faith in their products and should really take a bit to reevaluate their production process and view on what the consumer would like. As a journalist it is your job to go to the story, not the stories job to come to you. If your company won’t pay for your travel expenses and instead relies on the developers for it, then you need to find a different company.
    When it comes to reviews and ratings, leave your personal bias and views at the door. Listen to what the community wants to know. We want objective reviews based on the structural and mechanical merits of the game. We want to know if the physics engine works properly, if we are going to glitch out every couple of steps, if the control scheme is efficiently utilized, and how the graphics quality is among other things. When it comes to reviewing character design, do is so it is in relation to the other graphical qualities of the game. I want to know if the buildings look realistic but the characters look like cartoons. I don’t care if you think a character is to sexy, to brutish, to dopey looking, or to hideous. I want to know if the design fits in with the rest of the graphics in the game. The rating giving to the game should reflect those qualities and those qualities only.
    Ratings can affect the financial aspects of many peoples lives and you have no right to control that with your personal biases. You might as well go demand the pope pay you a tax every year because you’re an atheist. If you do want to review the game from your own personal biases, do so in a separate piece that is clearly labeled as your opinion. Do this so everyone else has a chance to form their own opinions on the game.
    I’ll say this to illustrate my point: Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and that’s okay. What’s not okay is for you to whip it out in public and rub it my face because then we will have a problem.
    When it comes to awards shows: give the awards to the games that actually deserve it. Quit with “Let’s give it to game x because I don’t think they’ll succeed without it” mentality. When you hand out participation trophies to everyone they all think they should always get awarded for doing absolutely nothing. You kill the concept of a competitive market and devalue hard work. If you can’t handle failure every now and then, GTFO. You have no right to demand success be given to you. It is something you have to work for.
    And lastly, if you don’t like the current games on the market, then go make your own. Quit complaining and just go put in the work to make some you’ll like. If there’s a market, people will come.

  46. Much has been already said here, but the thing I want to talk about are nuance, evenhandedness and public responsibility. To preface, I think journalism has a duty to public discourse, to keep it civil, functional and most importantly well informed. The very fact that GamerGate and other, smaller controversies in the past have taken place makes it abundantly clear that journalism has failed at this.

    The only one of these controversies that I’m intimately familiar with is the one started by Jason Schreier’s Kotaku article about Dragon’s Crown, which was frankly a deplorable piece of writing simply because of how astoundingly uninformative it was. Setting aside whatever one might think about the art style of Dragon’s Crown, Schreier failed to represent what Dragon’s Crown’s art was like as a whole, or that the artist he was calling a “fourteen-year-old boy” was in fact the celebrated George Kamitani, who is (I believe) a very rare example of an artist as a company head. To this day I wonder if Schreier was truly unaware of these things – if so, he had failed to do even the faintest bit of research on the matter, and worse, inflicting his ignorance upon his audience, many of whom, myself included, initially took him at his word. Whatever Schreier wanted to say could have been expressed in a less inflammatory article or, God forbid, an interview that would have also served to inform the public, and everyone would have been happier for it.

    The need for nuance and evenhanded reporting extends to political issues. The pieces written about Christina Hoff Sommers at major game sites were bizarre. I want to say that for a single video, she received more mainstream criticism in hours than Anita Sarkeesian has received throughout her career, but it would be exaggeration to call many of those articles criticism; some were more like dismissals. That Kotaku refers to Sarkeesian as a “scholar” (she has the same academic title as I) but but refers to Sommers, an actual scholar and former professor, as “conservative critic”, is an amusing detail that speaks volumes.

    I am personally ambivalent about Sarkeesian’s work, but I think it would have been in the public interest for the major game sites to have brought up voices critical of her work to the mainstream; that this was not done made many feel that their voice was not being heard in the game media, serving only to radicalise them and making healthy discourse that much harder to have. In this case, game sites had the opportunity to give the floor to moderate, nuanced criticisms and leave the small hate-spewing minority to the margins; if that had happened, I think everyone would have been better off.

    Finally, to take this back to games, I think evenhandedness is crucial when it comes to reviewing as well. Being a good reviewer or critic doesn’t mean being without bias, but it does mean being aware of one’s biases, using them at a tool to examine games and also trying to see past them. Professional game reviewing in itself involves its unique biases, one of which Mike Krahulik of PA brought up about how reviewers handled the original Assassin’s Creed; simply put, professional reviewers play games in a different manner than ordinary players do, often in a hurry to finish, which in some ways makes their perceptions useless to the consumer. Many tropes of today, such as the “Video games are Art” and “Citizen Kane of Video Games” show, I believe, that reviewers have a difficult time approaching and appreciating games for what they are. Personally, and this is purely an opinion rather than a strict issue of ethics, I think it would behoove professional journalists to play and write more about older games. It would ground them, make them less suspectible to hype and keep them from being distanced from the audience that they ultimately serve.

    I have heard a great deal of things about the economic straits of game journalism, and how writing nuanced, well-researched pieces simply doesn’t pay. That might be, and the journalists who are stretched thin by financial demands deserve some sympathy, but the public is nonetheless in the position of having to consider whether gaming journalism is, in its present form, doing more harm than good. Insightful reviews and criticism of games is readily available from fan sites, and TotalBiscuit, a Youtuber, is doing a far better job being a reasonable, equitable voice in matters big and small than journalists. I find it disturbing that some journalists seem to think of themselves as thought leaders, when in its proper form journalists should, in my opinion, be public servants. If the present game journalism isn’t capable of upholding its role in enabling a healthy public discourse but rather keeps poisoning it, perhaps it should be replaced with something else.

  47. To add an addition:

    I know that most members of GameJournoPros don’t think the list is that damning specifically because they don’t think it shows active colluding/collusion.

    However, I would argue that the peer-pressure tone/arguments exerted by some (I’m looking at Ben Kuchera) cross a line between “advice” and attempting to shape a narrative. While not all members agree and “collude”, the tone of some of these people clearly led me to believe that they were hoping to craft the narrative by influencing the other members. I don’t think there is any place for that in journalism and am dissapointed that only a select few participants identified the conversation for what it was (unethical and conflicts of interest).

  48. Whats transpired has hurt all of us, no one with a stake in this in untouched.
    No one can better tell you what you done then yourself, you know the part you and every other journo had in this debacle. With that said i want to tell you personally that i used to look up to game media with awe and inspiration, the way you used to speak on games and gamers made me proud to call myself a fan. I remember a time when game journalist where the first ones to stick up for us in a fight, when you’d rebuke any claim that gamers where just abunch of kids or nerds or only white. What happened to the gaming media that defended us from the jack thompsons of the world? What the hell happened to the game media that gave two shits about of how we felt and stood up for ethics and positivity? I know i suck at writing but please know you and every other figure i held in high regard cut me deep when you pulled this gamers are dead crap. Hurts seeing the people you respect wave you off with false claims of misogyny and buzzwords. People above me have great ideas for better ethics but just let me say this.
    If you re-build the bridge you burnt, don’t expect us to be the ones to cross it, you need to come back to us.

  49. Specific suggestions:

    1. Institute policies that either forbid journos from writing about friends and people they have financial ties to or adopt a disclosure policy. To be clear, “friends” means friends outside of just professional acquaintances. And not only to adopt these policies, but enforce them.

    2. CLEARLY label and separate promotional/advertorial content from non-promo content.

    3. Adopt company policies/employee manuals etc. that encourage writers to strive for objectivity and not just what will get the most clicks. While it’s true that all things are subjective, it’s also true that journos should strive to put their subjective view aside and try to be FAIR. In other words, always try to play devil’s advocate to your own viewpoint.

    On morality/political beliefs in game review scores.

    This is a problem due to the unique system in gaming regarding metacritic. Ideally, the industry should stop tying dev bonuses to metacritic scores. But the industry has never given any signs, even with the pressure from journos, consumers, and devs, that they’ll abandon the metacritic bonus system any time soon. So it seems that we’re stuck with it for now.

    This system makes scoring a game based on a moral/political viewpoint problematic. It gives reviewers far to much power to a reviewer who can influence the pay a dev receives based on a moral stance or political viewpoint.

    It doesn’t sound that bad if we agree with the moral viewpoint of the reviewer, however, consider if a reviewer were staunchly homophobic/anti-gay marriage and gave a game a low score because it depicted homosexuality in a positive way. This would effect the monetary compensation the devs receive and influence them to not approach difficult or controversial subject matter in the future. It creates a chilling effect on art.

    Suggested solution: If reviewers want to include their individual stance on morality or politics in a review. Give 2 separate scores. One is the game score that’s counted in metacritic and the other would be the morality/social conscious score that isn’t but is still available to readers of that particular site. This is already how many Christian sites review games.

    Those are all the suggestions I have for now. Thanks.

  50. Stop letting writers do reviews on things that they have conflicts of interest in. It doesn’t even matter if they give it a positive review or not, they should recuse themselves and let someone else decide if it really warrants being written about or not.

  51. I personally think a lot of the problems in gaming journalism seen by those participating in the current debate are not specifically ethical, but of sensationalism and bias.

    That’s not to say that ethics are not a problem. Everybody knows IGN reviews are bought and sold to the highest bidder even if nobody will come out and say it.

    The problem I see is that these articles are no longer produced to be interesting, but to be enraging. It seems all people want is to go viral because something is so offensive or outright stupid that people share it just to laugh at or rage at.

    Also, the video games press for several years has been fairly apolitical. Recently they’ve come out with a fairly clear progressive bias. This would be fine if there was a balance, but when nearly all of the sites start pushing this ideology and demonizing everybody who doesn’t follow it as a various combination of ‘ists’ and ‘phobics’ it becomes a problem.

    On the subject of actual ethics, the GameJournoPros leak was fairly worrying to several members of the gaming community. Not only did it reveal that the people involved are a bit too chummy, but it also that they subscribe to a fairly dangerous ideological groupthink.

    The worst part of it is not even what we’ve seen. but what might be in there. There’s supposedly 800 some threads, and we’ve only seen a few posts out of them.

    The Alistair Pinsoff situation is one of the most shifty ones we’ve seen so far. I’m not a lawyer, but it smells like illegal blacklisting to me.

  52. I actually had such a strong interest in journalistic ethics in games media that I started a ethics watchdog project (The Sentinel Wire) and i’m using SPJ’s ethics criteria to examine articles and journalists. I recently finished a review of Leigh Alexander’s TIME article as the first of many reviews.

    There’s been a lot of cries of collusion and malevolent corruption but from my research I haven’t seen much that could even broadly be considered either. However, I have seen a fair amount of laziness and the mistake of writing a story, then finding evidence to back up your points.

    Gaming journalism is really, really young, and approaching something like strict ethics in an enthusiast press is, I think, not only difficult but almost a barrier to entry. For a long time something like “Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity” would have been unthinkable in gaming journalism. As far as I can tell, the current issues are growing pains for everyone.

  53. Just to add to my previous comment re: Paetron.

    The issue with Paetron and conflicts of interest is only going to get worse as time goes on. Today there is a clear-ish line between the Paetron-funded and those Paetron-funding, but as people like games journalists jump between those lines (such as the recent IGN video bloggers who started Kinda Funny) things are going to get very messy about where the conflict of interest lies.

    How video games journalism is going to handle the ethics of crowdfunding is an issue that needs to be carefully considered. Ideally you’d want those things kept completely separate, because I don’t think simple disclosure of a conflict is enough (such as a journalist saying they are friends with a dev team in an article where they promote their Kickstarter).

  54. The worst issue, for me, is probably the standard of disclosure.

    Because it is so poor, and carries such little consequence, I don’t trust anything that’s written.

    Did they really think the social issues were there, or is it a justification for a bad score they’d already decided it would get for other reasons? It’s a beautiful way to ‘launder’ scores – what’s good or bad is already subjective, but you can at least see what they’re calling good or bad. The social impact or secret meaning of something? Absolutely no way of checking if they’re 100% pulling it out of their ass, or what they’re basing it on.

    Did they really think it was positive in social terms, or is that a justification for a high score because they’re connected to the creator and we don’t know it?

    It’s just so appallingly loose right now that it really needs to be proven that an outlet is clean.


    “— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.”

    I don’t think this will happen with big friendly groups that are relied upon for direction and/or support. With something like GJP, I think it hurts journalists’ ability to report on anything done by a fellow member. William Usher has been criticised by another GJP member as having ‘betrayed friends’.

    This attitude concerns me greatly, and is why I don’t believe a group that conducts itself as it apparently did should exist. Who wants to be kicked out of the ‘in crowd’? Got to be careful what you do, to avoid the boot.

  55. Well Brain, I am glad you opened up some good discussion in here, though it seems that things are going a bit slow.

    My First problem is that Disclosure isn’t done much enough personally. The PC Gamer incident shown that lack of relationship disclosure with Video Game Companies is more negligence than anything. The severity of the relationship does not need to be disclosed (as that’s none of our business.) but the existence of a relationship I believe is very important. At least as an honest gesture to the reader.

    The Second is Affiliate deals. The FTC has recent made it violation if Affiliate deals are not disclosed and the reason is simple. Users simply want that transparency that it is indeed an Affiliate and essentially and advertisement of a product.

  56. I’ll start with the reason I’m here right now responding to this, well, perhaps I’ll start with the reason for that reason as, with this as well as a lot of things, there’s a large list of reasons. Getting right down to it, I took journalism in high school and planned for three years to go into the field before getting cold feet as the current economic crisis loomed. That being said, I constantly watched channels like CNN (reporting without solid facts just to be first), MSNBC (hi, we’re crazy and you should know it!), and Fox (do I even have to explain?) and saw the abundance of ethical violations and just downright unfair or ridiculous nature of their reporting. It grated on me because I did want to go into the field and while I understood what was going on, when an agenda was being pushed or people were acting unethically, I knew others wouldn’t. The news is a powerful tool in a difficult system of government, its state does little to help the careful and sensitive nature of our current national body politic and it upset me that people would be so willing to push crap over ethical reporting.

    Now let’s take a step back here. The year is 2006. I enroll in journalism in high school after a lengthy discussion on what I would personally like to do. I’m held to a higher standard than most rags that I’ve seen currently (three sources on an issue or you go back and find more). We busted ass to put out a newspaper on time with only 90 minutes a day, five days a week to work on it, the six other newspaper students and I. I busted ass, and I expected the journalists that reported on things to bust ass and kept to code, and I expected the same of the various news outlets I went to.

    Once again, we’re going to step back further, this time to about early 2004. I’m looking at my mother, angry about something. I was upset, but I didn’t understand it. It would cause me problems through out my second year of high school that would lead me to damage band equipment, angrily storm out of a performance, and eventually, bring me into conflict with my mother–the last thing a woman on crutches for the rest of her life needed. She was smart though. She worked with children sometimes and she knew I was a teenager. So she decided to connect with me. She pointed out I needed something to drive me forwards. If not band, what? That was when she started telling me stories of her time working at a professional newspaper, how she gave the benefit of the doubt to the downtrodden, to convicted murderers, not because of compassion but because of her ethical responsibilities as a journalist. She told me a story of how she reported on a gym being built that the entire student body backed and payed for (thinking they’d all have access) but instead members of the athletic staff had planned to bar all but members of the football team from entering. She showed me what an ethical free press can do, the power and the impact it can have. I made heroes out of Woodward and Bernstein and saw Watergate as a pinnacle of the effect good journalism could have. And it’s thanks to a woman.

    A woman is why I’m here today.

    Right now, the state of gaming journalism is abysmal. The people it should be benefiting: the readers, they’re getting nothing but lies and deceit. I’m sorry, that is the state of things. The following are a list of ethical violations compiled over the years:

    -Accepting gifts from sources or people being reported on. (At one point, an editor for a major gaming news site accepted an expensive gift from Ubisoft)

    -Unhealthy relationships between sources and journalists. (No matter the reason, Nathan Grayson and others should not have been friends with Zoe Quinn if they knew they were going to have to report on her)

    -Dorito Pope still has a fucking job. ( )

    -Editorializing in things marked news (HUGE no no. Doing this gets people strung up by the ankles in print media. Or at least, it used to.)

    -Failure to comply with FTC guidelines on disclosure.

    -Failure to set ethical guidelines on what is allowed to be reported.

    -Failure to consider the consumer.

    -Failure to keep political opinions from creating clear biases, and failure to check those biases properly.

    -Failure to report fairly (Max Temkin was gas lit for unproven accusations of rape by someone he hasn’t seen in years, but there’s proof Zoe Quinn emotionally abused Eron Gjoni, but no news story would run it.)

    All of these are cardinal sins in my book. This is a problem that could easily be fixed by clear guidelines and enforced policies. This is what people want, this is what people expect. Please, consider what you’ve done, consider what your coworkers are doing, and then please realize that much of this is fairly unacceptable.

    Thank you.

  57. I was a long-time commenter on Kotaku (invited back when invitations were only given out to those who sent in tips etc). Before I was entirely familiar with the modernized idea of click-bait, I cordially replied to one of the editors (not you) complaining about how the comments were a cesspool in one of the “Resident Evil 5 is racist!” topics. It all seems so naive & perhaps even marginally sycophantic now, but I suggested a minor tweak to the headline that’d start readers off on a better foot, so to speak. My entire account was nuked. I had spent 3 or 4 years with you guys, sending in tips and trying to be a constructive “addition” to the site (again, perceiving it a little differently than the average user considering how long I had been there).

    I’m not sure if I’d call myself a GGer, but that’s the sort of thing which made me receptive to a lot of the ideas going around. The internet isn’t always a great place for cordial discourse, but these kind of things are cancerous. They create an environment where it’s perceived that you profit from controversy while all opposing voices are snuffed out. Moreover, today the pattern is to denigrate any disagreement as an attack on a person’s character (be it racist, misogynist etc) by association. I’m not part of a club. I get no GG memo. I’ve never doxxed anyone or even said anything hateful on twitter, but I have qualms with these reoccurring patterns of generating controversy and silencing/denigrating dissent.

    It’s arguable that this thing won’t die because it’s one big hydra of grievances.

  58. I apologize in advance for this being very blunt and riddled with sarcasm. We’ve addressed these matters plenty of times and been shot down with deflection and accusations of all sorts of vile shit. I’ve lost the mood for pleasantries a while ago.

    — Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
    -> I hate to bring them up again after all this, but: Wizardchan.

    — Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
    -> And again: Wizardchan.

    — Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
    -> Clickbait.

    — Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
    -> Key phrase: “avoid imposing those values on others”.

    — Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
    -> Just about any “Fuck you white gamers!” article

    — Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
    -> Well, guess covering GamerGate properly would be a start. Whodathunkit.

    — Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
    -> Native advertising, shady ad deals. Come on, we all saw it burn IGN.

    — Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.
    -> Brad Wardell.

    — Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    -> Key phrase: “or perceived”. If the readership feels this is out of line, it is out of line.

    — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
    -> Silverstring Media. GameJournoPros

    — Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
    -> This is a muddy one, but the swag you are offered should be refused.

    — Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
    -> Well bugger me, disclosure would be nice!

    — Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
    -> Could stand with the customer against publishers, couldn’t you?

    — Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
    -> Key phrase: “invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct”.

    — Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
    -> Pretty self-explanatory, really. No, mocking ‘it’s actually about ethics in game journalism’ is not encouraging at all.

    — Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
    -> I commend PC Gamer for that. I appreciate Totilo getting onto it even if the results were less-than-stellar. But it’s still a long shot from this actually happening across the board.

    — Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
    -> Rather than working together to cover it up via GJP.

    — Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
    -> The hypocrisy we have seen between “ends justify the means” attitudes and the constant calls for GamerGate to “reform itself” before journos may so much as think about doing the same. Yeah, well tough shit: The reader’s not the professional.

    That said – these all apply to varying degrees to different people and outlets. I’ve brought up a few specific examples, and been vague with other matters (mainly because this is just a quick write-up, and we’ve been over this and documented it – or tried to, with DDoS and Wikipedia rewritings as the result a few times – plenty of times. As I said, PC Gamer did a great thing the other day in addressing the CoI concern brought up, Totilo at least tried to investigate the Grayson matter – it’s really not that hard. We’re not asking for much, just some basic decency.

  59. “Act Independently

    Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.”

    See, this is where many of the big sites fail since they rely on their source’s advertisements to stay afloat, in addition to accepting swag and invitations to parties.

    Polygon especially has, on numerous occasions, failed to act independently, namely in letting a friend of a dev review Gone Home, and more importantly (and disgustingly) accepting $750,000 from Microsoft; accepting that sort of money should be grounds to make a site to recluse themselves from covering anything MS related ever again but I guess it would have been impolite to refuse that money.

  60. As far as ethics issues go, disclosure is the big one. It seems like a lot of sites are recognizing this and updating their policies so that conflict of interest isn’t as big of a deal, which I think is great. It’s just about the transparency aspect. If the journalist writing an article on Game X is good friends with the developer, awesome, good for them – but you should let the audience know. Whether or not their relationship affects how they cover the game, it’s something that should be shared.

    Also, less about journalism ethics and more about journalism etiquette – journalists insulting huge groups of people and calling them entitled when there are controversies over a game is getting a little old. If you were a fan of old DMC and you played the reboot and love it, awesome! Glad you enjoyed it. And yeah, people can get a little ridiculous with the hate circlejerk over these things (DmC, Mass Effect 3, etc all come to mind). But there are legitimate fans and legitimate complaints out there too and to make sweeping, patronizing statements about them is offensive and silly.

    Finally – on both sides, both journalist and consumer, I think people need to get with the idea that all games have the right to exist, and all people have the right to enjoy them. The whole Dragon’s Crown controversy springs to mind, with another example of writers talking down to their audience (this time for enjoying something), but also Depression Quest and the hate storm that received because people didn’t feel it was enough of a game. If a game personally offends you, that’s unfortunate, but part of the beauty of society in the 21st century is that millions of people have protested and fought and died so that we could have the freedom to consume whatever media we want. Regardless of if you think Bayonetta is disgusting and oversexualized or Gone Home is just a walking simulator and a ripoff, there are plenty of sensible, well-minded adults who enjoy them both, and neither one deserves to be censored or removed or whatever. Who cares? Just enjoy video games. That’s the point.

    I dunno.

  61. Gamer here.

    Game journalists need to follow the SPJ code of ethics. If they had then Gamergate never would have been a thing.

  62. This is a useful dialogue.

    I recently commented to Tim on PC Gamer that having suitable ethics and standards policies are the only way a company can protect themselves from consumer (and other stakeholder ire). This corporate compliance includes a large number of areas not limited to:

    > Conflicts of Interest
    > Bribery
    > Favours
    > Facilitation
    > Impartiality

    It appears in the wake of #GamerGate that the consumer movement wasn’t just important, but relevant as IGN have adopted an acceptable set of policies. It also seems that PC Gamer and Future Publishing are considering this; rather than just saying they follow the UK Bribery Act and apologising when they trip over their feet. In addition the FTC and the UK ASA have started enforcing paid content rules (which existed but were being ignored) with a more appropriate degree of rigour.

    There are two areas of concern remaining to me as an ‘industry uninvolved’ consumer:

    > There is however further work to be done in creating tools and standards for medium sized and smaller outlets to understand how they can appropriately provision ethics and standards.
    > I also think we have entered a phase where companies are starting to realise that in order to ‘Redress’ consumers concern there is a need to shift company cultures to be ‘pro-active’ rather than ‘reactive’ with regards to ethics and standards. But some people are loathe to say it.

  63. My main gripe is the lack of disclosure about relationships.

    Nobody cares if you fucking Sally Sue or Billy Bob and write about stuff that could benefit them; so long as you put that out there. Let the CONSUMERS decide if you are biased. If your review seems fair nobody will care. If it seems biased, your disclosure lets people take it with a bigger grain of salt and perhaps just ignore it entirely and find another source.

    Better yet – have someone who isn’t in a relationship take over and write that article so there isn’t a chance of bias.

    I don’t care how well you think you can separate work from relationship, you can’t. That’s why relationships that can create a COI are disclosed in every other form of journalism. You aren’t some special snowflake who isn’t like every other human out there.

    Next – pushing your ideology needs to fucking stop. Enough of this SJW bullshit. If you think Dead or Alive is sexist, fuck off. There are woman out there with those body types who do enjoy being represented. For you to assume it’s male-pandering or all the females are unrealistic sluts says more about you than anything else.

    Review the gameplay, story, game mechanics, theme, compare it to similar games in the genre, the controls/camera, etc. You have so much to talk about other than “this game has female characters with big breasts and that’s sexist!” and going on a 5 paragraph essay about how sexist games have become and how they could have had more realistic dimensions and blah blah fucking blah. Nobody gives a fuck, drop it.

  64. Recusal/disclosure should not be an afterthought. And if writers are caught plugging their friends, family or partners the response should be much more robust than that of Stephen Totilo fill for example. He maintains Nathan Grayson’s innocence despite there being overwhelming evidence that he and Quinn were at least friends 2 years prior to him writing about him twice. We also know for a fact that he repeatedly plugged Joshua Boggs as a favour.

    Financial ties via Patreon and affiliations are a huge problem.

    Groups like GameJournoPros are also a big problem and only serve to reinforce cliquish BS instead of fostering competition between outlets to provide quality, competitive scoops. I’m not even convinced they’ve disbanded, just that they’ve moved elsewhere. I have 0 trust in these vultures.

    I’m interested in newsworthy subjects and reviews. I’d be more interested if reviews could be carried out in the impartial fashion that Christ Centred Gamer attempts. If you want to cry about how attractive Bayonetta is and imply I’m an awful person to placate feminists, cool. Please do that in a separate score. Then rate the stuff gamers care about afterwards.

    1. Oh, and another thing!
      The way Brad Wardell, Erik Kain and Ben Paddon have been treated is disgusting. As long as Ben Kuchera is employed, I will never take his employer seriously.

  65. What I want is very simple:

    If a journalist has any sort of relationship with the person they’re writing about – professional, personal, monetary, etc – I want them to disclose that connection up front.

    That’s it.

    I’m okay with a journalist writing about something they’re really passionate about, even if they have some kind of personal or professional connection to that thing. That’s okay…as long as you TELL me. As long as you state up front what your connection is, and allow me to go from there.

    That’s seriously ALL I want.

    …of course if you can manage to get politics and social justice out of my games journalism, I’ll be happy, too, since gaming has always been my refuge from politics and I hate seeing the two mixed as they are currently. But all I really, truly want is the disclosure. Just tell me.

  66. I think the main issue is the fact that none of you journalists had the balls to call out your co-workers/fellow journalists for the shady shit they’ve been doing. Name any other medium where a writer/journo could literally call a majority percentage of the audience names and berate them, without their fellow journalists putting them on blast? The fact is there is too much collusion in this industry, and that could be because of how it originally started which is fine, but if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist there’s no way half the shit you guys do should be okay. Leigh Alexander’s article was not okay. Neither was the 9 other websites spewing the same hateful shit. None of those articles targetted me specifically(being a black male) but racism is racism. The fact that the majority of the journalists in this industry SUPPORTED that racism because of their personal beliefs on white males or cisgendered individuals is what’s wrong.

  67. Here are two recent articles from RawStory. In the first one,, Boggioni at least attempts to publish that gamergate did this with attribution, trouble is he fails to state how Lynn knows that gamergate was behind this. In the second piece,, Hern doesn’t even try at attribution, he merely publishes that this was linked to GG.
    I don’t know your background, if you’ve never done time in newspapers or have a degree in journalism, run this by an editor you know and see if they feel the proper standards for attribution in news stories were met.

  68. Fact checking. Too many “journalists” out there will run a controversial story based on the word of one person, and make no attempt to verify the details from a third party.

    That the Escapist’s EiC Greg Tito actually defended such behavior shows that lack of professionalism goes straight to the top and is unacceptable for the media that covers the world’s largest entertainment industry.

  69. On this point:

    “Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”

    Let us say that a game journo had helped test a game and provided feedback to a dev:

    Now, imagine that some time later that journo can be seen pledging to “burn down” the industry if that dev should end up leaving it:

    A few months from then, that dev is using the failure of a game jam event to promote the dev’s own game jam event. The journo wrote about the failed game jam and ended the article with a lengthy quote from the dev talking about the prospect of setting up a different game jam.

    Days after the article is published the dev and journo are involved in a sexual relationship.

    How is that seeking to “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility”?

  70. I feel like disclosure is a primary concern for many people, there have clearly been undeniable lapses in judgement from many journalists involved in this industry on that regard.

    Games journalists attacking groups of people is not okay either, especially when they can reach a large audience and can spread misinformation and deceive people as to the true nature of a situation. The fragrant misrepresentation of gamers by people like Leigh Alexander and the people who moved on to attack it without understanding it serves as a fine example of this.

    As far as I’m concerned talking about politics and gaming is perfectly fine, gaming as a medium is going to mature whether people like it or not and we need to learn to handle more sensitive material within this medium, (although it will take a few attempts to make it work and developers shouldn’t be attacked for trying). That being said, far-left banner waving is just as bad as far-right banner waving, it’s dangerous and it alienates people, especially when it’s coupled with poor, cherry picked evidence like the Kotaku Bayonetta 2 review or any video made by Johnathan McIntosh.

    Equality and diversity is something that will happen over time, too, people need to realize that hiring as many women as men doesn’t make your company progressive, if you’re hiring/not-hiring people based on their gender then that is sexist, people should get positions based on their capability to do a job.

    Also it’d be nice if a number of the journalists/sites who are responsible for causing this shit-storm apologized for their mistakes, from the people who attacked/accused others to the people who are behind many of the ethical lapses.

    There are real people involved in both sides of this debate, and it would be better if people stopped attacking eachother and came together to admit there are problems, and discuss them rationally.

  71. I’d like to see this guy contrast this code with alot of the actions, statements, and publications of prominent gamejournos and associated organizations.

    Especially in light of many of these organizations updating policies to reflect said criticisms.

  72. Speaking with people on the inside of gaming journalism, not only is cronyism rampant, it’s usually excused by calling it “normal networking” or “developing sources”.

    While both of those things are REAL journalistic tools, they have been extended by many in the game community to include:

    * Close personal relationships with persons they can be expected to cover (“it’s just a friendship, our being room-mates has nothing to do with how I cover their game”, “I may be listed in the credits of their game, but that should not be a barrier to reporting on that game”, etc)

    * Accepting gifts of substantial value, from persons and corporations which one can be expected to cover (“They just left the laptop right there and winked at me — I make squat at this job, why wouldn’t I take it?”)

    * Promoting works, persons and organizations because they are friends or friends of friends, even if they are poorly designed or cause actual damage (e.g., the “GGAutoblocker” which blanket-smeared as “harassers” anyone who followed two or more prominent members of GamerGate… this ended up including both KFC and one of the chairmen of the IGDA, which ironically had endorsed and promoted the tool themselves).

    * Abusive and stereotyping of actual gamers, in favor of game developers/publishers, esp. those with strong financial or personal relationships to the journalistic outlet and/or its staff (“ME3 Gamer Entitlement”, “Gamers are Dead/Don’t Have to Be Your Audience”)

    These four things are merely the first which pop to mind in the first few minutes.

    But that last item is particularly egregious, given that the argument “straight male gamers make gaming sites unsafe for everyone else” was already being pitched to numerous gaming-site editors a year before GamerGate existed. The narrative presented at that time, by Samantha Allen, included the same arguments pitched later in the “Gamers are Dead” articles. Namely, blaming people on basis of race/gender for harming the gaming community, burning bridges with them, “you don’t need their advertising revenue”, declarations that any backlash should be rebuffed as coming from 4chan et al, demonization of any such complaints as coming from the same stereotypes, et cetera.

    The fact that Samantha Allen self-declaredly hates all males, according to her post “What Misandry Means to Me”, did not appear to serve as a moderating note of warning to these game-site editors, who a year later adopted most of her talking-points to declared gamers “over”.

    If nothing else, gaming media simply cannot be used as a means by which to spread toxic hatred, and GamerGate stands against such activities.

  73. The SPJ indeed has a wonderful set of guidelines. But they are clearly not being followed by game journalists, and that is one of the many reasons this current storm is happening. I’ve tried to address as many as possible.
    Journalists should:
    — Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
    Most video game journalism sites I’ve frequented only use one source, and the accuracy is not tested. For example Kotaku ran an article that was completely false. Deliberate distortion is more arguable since intent has to be proven, but so far I’ve seen several claims that the press is distorting the news. For example:

    — Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
    Again, several examples of this guideline being ignored and broken by game journalists. Brad Wardell was contacted, but only given 24 hours to respond. When Ben Spur made his notorious “beat up Anita” game the articles I found such as only used his twitter comments, and made no mention of actually contacting Ben Spurr for his side of the story. When Hatred developer’s were accused of being Nazi’s, and their game being a neo-nazi hate crime (example: They were not contacted to give their side of the story. While eventually other publications did reach out to, many publications acted unethically.

    — Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
    Right now click bait in videogame journalism is endemic. A great example was given by While the article was about the different mindset between western gamers and developers and the ones held by their western counterparts, the original headline was “The Guy Who Made Bayonetta Is Clueless About Valve And PC Gaming”. Another example was The original headline claimed damning evidence of Brad Wardell, but in reality it was allegations. Allegations that were later dropped, the person who brought the lawsuit apologized.

    — Never plagiarize.
    Plagiarism is sadly common video game journalism, at very least allegations of plagiarism. One example, Another example is when Kotaku allegedly plagiarized a piece unknowingly.

    — Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
    While video game journalists aren’t afraid to tell unpopular stories, they do seem to only give one point of view without diversity. Look at all the coverage given to Anita Sarkessian’s criticism, but when a long time feminist academic with a doctorate, Christina Hoff Sommers offered criticism of Anita Sarkessian, she was dismissed and mocked by video game journalists.

    — Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
    While we are seeing an examination of cultural values in games, we are also seeing games journalists attempting to impose those values on others. For example called upon a game developer to remove scenes from a game.

    — Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.

    — Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
    One of the outcries in the past few months is that critics of video game journalists are repugnant, and their voices should be dismissed. How often have we seen video game journalists claim “you wouldn’t give nazi’s a chance to speak, why would you give gamergate a chance to speak”?

    — Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
    Please see above.

    — Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
    The previous example of was labeled as a preview, and not an opinion piece.

    — Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
    Many major video game journalism sites have had massive problems with native advertising. To the point there was a major letter writing campaign to the FTC over it.

    —Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    The past few months have been filled with allegations of conflicts of interest. At least two game journalists having relationships with individuals while covering games that were helped produced by said individuals. Game Journalists having financial ties to people they were covering etc.

    — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
    See above.

    — Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
    Among game journalists, they call these sort of things: “Swag”

    — Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
    Again over these last few month, several conflicts have been found, and the disclosures were only edited in after the fact.

    — Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
    Again, there are multiple accusations of review scored being inflated due to advertising with publishers. For example the Jeff Gertsmann firing years ago.

    — Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
    These last few months there have been countless calls to dismiss the criticisms against video game journalism. Forums on most large sites shut down discussion.

    You gave SPJ guidelines and emphasized their importance, but from my own (admittedly amateurish) point of view it seems games journalism fails to live up to these standards. In some cases they actually mock them. Maybe it’s time that ethics in games journalism stops being a joke.

  74. Brian,

    Thanks for asking. I want to get my response in under the wire so I’m writing without sorting through the existing responses first. I’ve included a summary of my thoughts and then the text of a post outlining my personal story as an LGBTQ person who supports GG.

    I see the intrusion of social justice into gaming as an issue. The modern social justice narrative is a highly divisive one, to say the least. The focus on shaming and on negative rhetoric is harmful. Those who would paint gaming as a 30 year old boy’s club are erasing an entire history of diversity: MU*s provided a place for LGBT people to gather and explore their identities in the 80s and 90s, and even today. Chan culture is chock full of individuals with divergent gender identities, but critics of gaming never notice this or investigate the ways that gamers use games as a means to express their gender identities. Elements of many Japanese games represent continuations of complex topics of gender expression and homosexuality in Japanese culture, however social justice critics just see these games as filth.

    Of course, criticism is welcome. However, that criticism comes with responsibility. It is not enough to say ‘it’s misogynistic’ and call anyone who disagrees a ‘hate group’. That is essentially what the gaming press and anti-GG have been doing. Take a look at /r/KiA, actually read through the comments. Does it look like a hate mob? Absolutely not. Terrorists? Come on…

    Now obviously, there is harassment on both sides. But as you know, being a public figure on the internet now means you’re going to get trolled. Nobody should get death threats, but when replying to someone’s tweets is ‘harassment’, we’ve crossed the Crazy Rubicon. My point is that the modern social justice movement is unhealthy, and its intrusion into the gaming media is troubling.

    The assertion that games (an art form) ‘need’ to reflect a certain set of values to move forward is, in my opinion, a dangerous one. This is the same sort of notion that created Soviet Realism. Its dangerous. Its puritanical. And it erases 30 years of art that has meant an enormous amount to a very diverse group.

    I know I’m writing quite a bit, but I’m going to include here the text of a post I made on KiA a few months ago, outlining my personal story as a queer person who supports GG. I’ve sent this story in one form or another to Leigh Alexander, Brianna Wu and others, getting no response. This is what gaming means to me, and why I resent the mischaracterization of gaming as a negative force. If you’ve taken the time to read, thank you sincerely. And if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or ping me on twitter.



    Please allow me to take a moment and share with you why I support GG, and what it means to me.

    As a child, gaming was for me – as it was for many of you – a way to escape constant persecution by my peer group. From about the time I was six until I entered adolescence, I was ruthlessly bullied by my peers – called a faggot before my testes had even dropped, told my mother was a whore, told I was universally reviled by my peers although the only crime I imagined myself to be guilty of was the crime of being too shy to engage with them. I was precocious and I prided myself on being different – and for that I was routinely punished.

    As a youth I learned that I was not heteronormative. I identify as queer, although only to those very close to me as I know that my gender identity would not be accepted by the mainstream nor by traditionally non-gender-specific people (to the normal observer I just look like any other dude). Futhermore I was diagnosed with crippling OCD and depression at 11 and those diseases have become inextricably a part of my identity; something I will carry to my grave and something which I have to fight daily to make my life the life I want to live, instead of a swirling maelstrom of terror and misery.

    For me, gaming represented a way out of all this. It represented – even as a young child – a way to build bridges with other people, a way to find common ground. I have so many poignant memories of video games as a child: the months when my mother compiled a whole booklet of maps for the Legend of Zelda as we played through it together, captivated by its mysteries after we’d initially gotten our family’s NES. The mind-blowing weekend where an equally nerdy friend and I rented Space Harrier II for the Genesis. The first time a friend and I played a demo of Xenogears, or the first time we witnessed the death of Aeris together…

    …The time I played Double Dragon with a young black boy my own age, while peddling hosuewares in the projects with my grandfather (I’m white, in case you care). I often think about that boy, how similar we were and yet how differently we surely have been treated by society in the 15+ years since that day.
    As I grew older, gaming culture grew more complex. It was already a commodity when I was a child, reading Gamepro or Game Informer, slavering over the Funcoland catalog in the back of the magazine; but by the time I was a youth in college it had taken a leap: it had become its own ineffable beast, comprising the experiences of multiple generations of human beings to whom video games meant something…impossible to articulate.
    You didn’t have to tell me at 20 years old that games are an art form: I had been trawling games’ abstract systems for so long by then that to me, they were the most potent form of expression. You didn’t have to tell me that games were sexualized: to me, the presence of game content which acknowledged the existence of sex was helping to confirm and legitimize my identity as a sexual creature, helping to reinforce the idea that I didn’t have to conform to gender norms. I didn’t have to be a jock, I didn’t have to be a nerd or a band geek or whatever, I didn’t even have to conform to a stereotype of what homosexuality looks like: I could invent my own identity from whole cloth.

    Since then, I’ve never fallen out of love with games. I’ve ended up working with technology my whole adult life, as anyone around me as a child could have predicted. I aspire to express myself through the medium of games development. I consider games to be an inclusive art form which – like all other art forms – has room for popular dreck as well as avant garde statements.

    I resent the characterization of this culture – which I consider an inextricable part of myself – as an atavistic, reactionary and intolerant place. If anything, we gamers have adopted the intolerance of our peers and turned it into a calling card for our culture, an ironic symbol of our willingness to disagree while still affirming the things that bind us together. Looking at the higher-than-average incidence of non-binary gender identities coupled with the attempted reclaimation of homophobic slurs like ‘faggot’ by gamers is, I posit, evidence of this.

    I resent the implication that our culture needs to change in order to be more inclusive. I am a weird motherfucker, a freak who was derided constantly as a child, someone who longs to connect with other human beings and who cherishes those connections. I’ve met so many different people from all over the world because of games. I welcome open discourse about games, I welcome controversial discourse about games; however I will not allow anyone to use identity politics to sully the culture we’ve built over all these years, and I will not allow anyone to commoditize us ‘gamers’ to the point where not only are our identities as part of this culture a commodity, but ridiculing us becomes a commodity in and of itself.

    So I thank you, people. Over the past few weeks I’ve felt many times as though I ought not to be so upset about this whole thing, but then I remember how important games have been to me, how they’ve pulled me back from the brink of despair so many times, how they’ve allowed me to exercise my intellect and express myself in a way no other medium could achieve. I’m not afraid of anything anyone can say to me about this, because I know I’m right, and I know that there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same.
    And I thank you.

  75. it isn’t about journalists entirely. editors also matter.

    editors should:
    * be aware of conflicts of interests of their employees.
    * disclose or avoid conflicts of interests. a journalist with a boyfriend in a company can still report on games, just not games associated with that company (without disclosure).
    * not publish hatespeech, especially hatespeech against the audience or against members of a group associated with the audience.
    * look at all the citations in the material. and have the citations of appropriate authority, for the argument being made. IE if you want to say women in gaming want X, publish statistics showing you did a survey on the topic. also, editor, make sure your survey isn’t biased either.
    * (journalists should) never be allowed to pander to a narative or audience prejudice, part of curration is not publishing such articles.
    * not hire people who feel contempt towards actors/stakeholders in the ‘conversation’
    * not hire and fire anyone who is unwilling to hold themselves up to be good faith ambassadors of the brand. people who express bad faith towards their consumer will lose their readership.

    these attitudes suggest that editors should not only edit their writers content, but they should see themselves as curators who characterize their brand.

  76. On disclosure:
    Disclosure is what I want from game journalists, if you have a relationship with someone who works for a company you are covering I would like that disclosed, it doesn’t have to be specifics, a vague statement like “I have personal friends who work for X” or “I’m in a relationship with someone who works for X”.
    I would also like company relations disclosed, if you cover a game by a company that owns your company or has given significant money to your company, I would like to know. If the company paid for accommodation, meals etc this should also be disclosed. This may not affect the reviewer personally but can give the appearance of bias.
    I would also like these disclosures at the top of the article, I hate reading an article only to come to a disclaimer at the bottom that may make me disregard the article.

    On Ethics Policies:
    Also, all sites should have their ethics policies made public, this lets me read them and decide if it is good enough for me. I would also like consequences for journalists who break the policy, this consequence can be kept private by the company, but the breach should be addressed publically by the company.

    On Private Mailing Lists:
    I can understand the desire to talk to colleagues from other companies or freelance friends, but I am not a fan of discussing current/upcoming work, this may not be strictly related to ethics but it just rubs me the wrong way. I’m an Engineer and if I discussed my current or upcoming work in any detail with people outside my company, especially competitors, I would be let go immediately and would face possible legal action.

    On Sources:
    Please try and minimise secondary and tertiary sources, I see this way too often.

    Ethical Behaviour:
    This is not directed at you but all journalists, please stop acting like spoiled children on twitter, you represent your company and it’s embarrassing to watch. I know it’s hard when random people aren’t held to the same standard but please act professionally.

    There are other smaller things I would like to know as well about reviews including:-
    – How you got the game (Review copy, bought by employer, bought yourself etc)
    – How long you played the game for?
    -What difficulty did you play the game on?
    – Did you finish the game?
    -Is the game owned by the reviewer personally or is it a company owned game?
    -Any personal bias (i.e reviewing a platform game, but not a fan of the genre)
    (While this may not all be completely related to ethics, I believe it would help the readers immensely)

    Sorry for the poorly written comment, I started writing without pausing to collect my thoughts (and I still haven’t to be honest).

    Finally as a member of GG who has never insulted or harassment anyone, I would really appreciate if journalists stoped smearing whole movements on the actions of a few trolls. While I won’t deny there has being harassment (on both sides) most of what I see is just arguing back and forth and I would attribute most of this to the twitter format (short comments are often viewed harsher than the intent). The hit pieces call GG a misogamists harassment campaign don’t help either, it just drags more third parties in who think they are doing the right thing by harassing and insulting GG resulting in retaliation from the less mature members and culsterfucks ensure.
    If you read all this, thank you for your time.

  77. ***The following was originally posted/formatted to twitter***

    In no particular order:
    1. If you’re writing a piece for purely political reasons be honest about it.

    2. If you make a claim that will hurt someone’s reputation, back it up with facts. (See: Brad Wardell sexual harassment hoax)

    3. Disclose personal or financial relationships with your subjects (See: Nathan Grayson, Patricia Hernandez, Tyler Wilde)

    4. Do not hide important information to protect corporate relationships [HARD] (See: EA’s 40000 User Hack)

    META: Don’t lie about your readers politics to protect the financial interests of your personal friends. (See “Gamers are dead”)

    Wouldn’t hurt if you refused to censor your readers and exposed scams (See: IGF/Indiefund racket) but that’s not why we’re here.

  78. From the beginning of all this I’ve been trying to summarize the main concerns and think about what a reasonable person might ask for. I advocate time and time again that people shouldn’t loose their jobs just for having an unpopular opinion and that includes the journalists who apparently hate their audience enough to write hit pieces on the entire demographic.

    I disagree completely with the “objectiove review” idea, you are allowed to like or not like a game for whatever reason you choose. I advocate for an honest review, honesty includes telling people “I like this game because the person who made it is really cool and we’re buds.” liking a game because you’re friends with the maker is totally fine, it really is, but you must be honest about that being the reason you like it. I don’t think that’s asking for too much.

    as far as the “ethical” concerns go, games “journalism” isn’t the same as regular journalism it’s more like a trade publication right, journalists should have an obligation to inform the consumer and advocate for that consumer when dealing with those who produce this content. making “kim kardashians give me all your money now please” a game of the year is advocating for the company and actively rooting against the consumer, you cannot on one hand condemn micro-transactions then on the other praise games that abuse it.

    At this point most GGers would probably settle for simple disclosure and making an effort to get both sides of the story before writing an article. the bar is really that low, but when the response to a somewhat silly call for these things was to double down on the jack-assery and to openly mock people for wanting these things. Well now we have trust issues, and trust is hard to build. for GG to go away completely and not be an issue ever again GJ is going to have to double down on trust building and be over-cautious for a while. That’s just all there is to it. right now game journalism is seen rightly by most consumers as an advertising branch for game companies. your job is to make us buy games weather they are good or not, weather they use anti-consumer mechanics or not. You want consumer trust back? get on our side again, advocate for us, call games out on their bullshit and then stick to your guns, don’t run an article on what a crappy company ubisoft is then make far cry 4 your game of the year. just respect your readers it isn’t rocket science.

  79. I think a lot of people would agree with me in that there should be more honest distinguishability for consider themselves critiques, a disclaimer should be made known for those who are analysing and those with a political agenda. If they offer no counter arguments, cherry pick and use out of context material to manufacture a narrative, they are not a critique but intact a propaganda artist, and should therefore not be promoted in a misleading way.

    It is not ethical to give exposure to such people, simply because you are afraid of the backlash of what they stand for. Anyone who knows the facts which are purposefully hidden from the general public (but easily available to those who delve deeper) can easily discover the truth, and this tarnishes the name of your site and alienates your fans.

    Please consider what I’m saying, it is only a matter of time before some con-artists are exposed, it just takes someone with a lot of swing to point it out and then the broader media will jump on it. Sites like yours will look bad in hindsight for purposely being deceiving by concealing or postponing the truth.

    Thank you for your time.

  80. Reporters unquestioningly reporting claims of threats and their purported but undocumented source. Just using a hashtag is not enough to identify the source, and certainly threats without hashtags should not be identified as GG.

    Reporting claims of people fleeing home while at the person’s home.

    Media staying silent on the Zoe post then they all post the same article, obviously planned or, if you will, colluded. Saying they don’t pry into a woman’s sex life but when a man was accused (falsely) of impropriety, he is fair game.

    Parroting those who say critique of their work is harassment or targeting them because they’re female.

    Refusal to consider our side of the story, or to look at our evidence of fakery or chicanery.

    Not reporting on the many in GG who have been harassed, threatened, doxed.

    Giving little if any time to anyone on the GG side. Saying that because we don’t have a leader or flack for hire, they can’t tell our side.

    Deleting or closing comments because they disagree with the story, not because of spam or harassment.

    Because the anti’s are well connected to media, they gain access and control the narrative.

    Focusing on the sensational “women being harassed!” instead of corrupt media.

    Failure to point out hypocrisy of supposed feminists in brigading against female developers and gamers who disagree with them. While accusing us of pushing women out of gaming, they are calling for boycotts of female-developed games.

    Allowing people like Anita Sarkeesian to explain our motives (that it’s no longer a boys club, come on, that doesn’t pass the giggle test) instead of asking us.

    Stacking the deck against us by limiting pro-GG discussions to certain areas. In the case of Reddit, only r/KotakuInAction is allowed but why not r/Gamergate? Because people will search for it.

    Media usually pick up stories from other sources, but pro-GG stories like those written by Milo Yiannopoulos are seldom picked up despite being well-researched.

    That’s all I can say for now. Thanks.

  81. I will break my grievances down as simple and concise as possible along with suggestions.

    1. Report fairly and honestly. Cherry picking bits and pieces out of an article or study to push an agenda is NOT acceptable. We’ve seen this done in the past TWO YEARS to push a sensationalist headline and recently it’s been done to hurt gamers by the people we are supposed to trust.

    2. Disclosure and transparency. IF you are paying someone, you should not write articles about them. If you are living with someone, you should not write articles about them. If for WHATEVER reason that’s somehow impossible, put a friggin line at the top so people know. This isn’t hard and the cost is your audience’s trust.

    3. Do not insult your audience! Do I really have to point this out? I feel like I shouldn’t but holy hell in the wake of gamergate I KNOW I do. Even worse, insulting our intelligence. Posting twelve articles all saying variations of gamers are dead linking the same nonsense study across several sites in a 48 hour period and then saying “No no! There’s no collusion!”
    We’re not stupid. Don’t act like we are. That kinda crap is why this whole thing erupted in the first place.

    4. Do not shame developers for artistic choices.
    “This woman has breasts that are too large! This game won’t let you play as a girl! This game should not be violent!”
    Criticism is fine. In fact, in many ways, it can be positive! I became a much better writer after sucking up my pride, taking my beatings over my mistakes, and listening to people’s criticisms. However, when it turns into a campaign to try and force developers to change their games, then it’s journalists making the news, not reporting it.

    5. Report RESPONSIBLY!
    There are many examples of this one being broken, but the most notable one is that of Brad Wardell being tried and convicted in the court of kotaku long before his case ever saw a courtroom. In the end, the case was so flimsy that it was dismissed with prejudice and the plaintiff was forced to apologize. He was found innocent in the end, but he was found guilty long before then. This is NOT responsible reporting! In fact, given the circumstances, it could be endangerment.

    6. The world is not black and white. Don’t write like it is!
    What do I mean by that? not all muslims are terrorists. Not all black people are robbers. The common argument against this is what I call the “M and M’s Offense.”

    “If you had a bowl of M and M’s and you knew ten percent were poison, would you eat one?”

    This is an argument for bigots. swap that with any minority and illegal activity and you would be seen as racist. Watch and be amazed:
    “If you were at a party with a hundred black people and you knew one was a robber, would you talk to them?”

    See? Just as stupid as the M and M offense.

    Back to my point, not all gamers are the trolls who hurl slurs on xbox live. DON’T WRITE LIKE WE ARE!

    7. Review scores are NOT weapons! Don’t low ball a review just because you want to punish a developer for their choices. I’m mostly referring to the bayonetta 2 score here. The review (which I read ZOMG!) reads nothing like the score. They just don’t match up. The reason for that is simple and clear. Punish the dev by lowering the metacritic score. Sure, you can throw up your hands and say “well maybe publishers and companies shouldn’t put as much emphasis on metacritic!” Obviously they shouldn’t, but this argument is quite literally, don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

    No. Don’t play the game. Be responsible.

    7. Irresponsible reviews and previews. The simcity review polygon posted lead many people to think they would have no issues playing it. Unfortunately, this review was done before the game was released, so they had no issues with logging in. Shocking to the exciting demographic of the not insanely stupid, when the game finally released, people couldn’t play and had holy crap levels of issues with the game. Polygon updated their score, but that change never went on to metacritic. Why? Because the first score was the only one that mattered, much to EA’s delight I’m sure.

    This is also the same for previews. I know it’s difficult to write a preview that isn’t just PR, but if that’s all it is, maybe don’t write a preview. Analyze the actual game if possible and highlight concerns.

    I could go on for FAR too long, but these are the main issues I have with the current state of game journalism. I can promise you I have no issues with women. I have, in fact, received a broken nose in defense of a girl. I’m not part of gamergate because of some oddball iidea that we all hate women. I really and truly am In it to bring a light to corruption in journalism, not to mention to stop the censorship of developers. The moment I see true change come to the game journalist industry, I will drop out of gamergate faster than you can blink. Until then I will stand with gamergate, I have not and will NOT doxx, ddos, or harass people, and I will encourage female developers like @gmshivers who has had corrupt journalists try and denounce her simply because she didn’t tow their line.

  82. It’s simple. Journalists are the eyes, ears, and mouth of the public. The public invests trust and authority in journalism so that they can be accurately informed, and so they can speak to those in power without riots and violence, or leadership changes.

    Why did it matter in gaming journalism? Because this is just a glimpse of the corruption problem that plagues all media now. The media pretends to represent the public’s interests while decieving the public for profit and the benefit of their friends. It must end. How can we expect the public to make rational decisions for the good of everyone if it doesn’t know the truth?

  83. I am going to take this from a slightly different angle and try not to relate this to GG but rather from a gamer critiquing the performance of games journalism as a whole

    Is current games journalism representative of a $100 billion dollar industry? Should journalists be held to a higher standard when the industry is doing well or are we stuck with enthusiast bloggers from a time when the industry was performing poorly masquerading as journalists?

    Are games journalists seeking to inform their audience? In what ways are journalists seeking to influence their audience, is it to make gaming better in the long run or are they simply pandering to what is now considered hip or trendy to generate views?

    >Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.

    Just looking at the preamble, why is enlightenment of the public so important in a democracy? Informing the public with accurate and pertinent information so they can make an informed decision so in regards to gaming journalism that would correspond to journalists reviewing games and products so consumers can make accurate purchases. Providing fair and comprehensive accounts of event and issues which arise in the game or product, with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of this, consumers can not trust the opinion of a journalist if there is even the appearance of impropriety, which is where we are at the moment. Go to any forum and ask the question are games journalists to be trusted? Most of the time you will get the response no they are not and have not been for a long time.

    Where has this problem arisen from? Some of this is due to past issues where games magazines were just the PR arm of the gaming companies, I believe it has occurred over a number of years with small issues which gradually got consumers to the point where they feel that games journalists are again just the PR arm of the industry. That is not really the case but when games are being released filled with bugs or incomplete content and the games media are calling it the greatest thing since sliced bread, people will begin to question if games journalism is just a big ball of hype with nothing of substance to offer.

    Games media is changing, the rise of youtube as the new media frontier means that traditional written media is not as relevant, the saying a picture is worth a thousand words is probably never more apt. Forums such as reddit and even 8chan means that information scoops traditionally provided by the journalist are now being directly disseminated to the consumer further reducing the relevance of the journalist, it wasn’t that long ago that a major games site got caught plagiarising content from reddit without crediting the source. Instances like that is what erodes the consumers confidence to call games journalism reliable.

    Seek Truth and Report it

    >Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
    Do i really need to cite examples of the number of times that journalists have used promo images on their stories and the game turns out nothing like it, when a product does not meet the standards set by the journalists they should be the ones calling the game companies out, not the consumers but on numerous occasions journalists have appeared to scared to do anything that will upset the games industry which makes consumers question were are the journalists priorities? are they here to inform me the consumer or are they in it the promote a game?

    >Never plagiarize.
    See above, It has been seen over and over games sites lifting stories from reddit neogaf or tumbler, which is not an issue most of the time if the source is credited and an effort is made to contact them, but that has not always been the case and there have been numerous instances of inaccurate reporting just because someone wanted to get the scoop on their site first and didn’t bother to fact check it. This further erodes confidence in the media especially due to games media being so small, so poor standards reflect upon the whole to a greater extent

    >Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
    Gaming is a diverse group from a number of different countries with different beliefs, that is why politics has no place in gaming. Games are a diverse medium with a myriad of idea on offer, and gaming companies are in it to make money. If there is an indie idea which makes money you can guarantee that there will be a line of clones just behind it but to try and shoe horn ideas into the palette of an already abundant medium of ideas will end up just producing obtuse and disingenuous works which its audience will ignore, things like that need to occur naturally and when they do it will be the real next break though game and propel gaming along further as has been done throughout gaming’s history.
    If someone wants to do a cultural critique of a game I welcome it but they had better be willing to defend their ideas, this is gaming after all a lynchpin in the internet. Critiques have not been done well to date, they are often criticised due to poor writing or incomplete knowledge on the subject matter and cherrypicking of subject matter to fit an idea rather than looking at the game holistically. I actually appreciate the effort that journalists are trying to critique games but I currently do not think what has been written to be a fair example of what critiques should be, but I expect it should improve given time and when writers take into consideration the criticism of their work. I should also add, a critique is not a review and should not be used as one

    >Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
    Gamers are diverse we moved away from those stereotypes years ago, it was disappointing to see games journalists so adamant to bring those back recently, it did nothing but to hurt and inflame an already agitated issue

    >Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
    This is where sites like the escapists have shown better ethical standards than other sites, the EiC did not agree with GG but still allowed its discussion. A similar argument can be said of allowing comments on youtube and articles on sites, there is no need to have comments open but there is a need to have some place where they can be discussed and criticism be shared.

    >Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
    That it took the FTC to enunciate its expectations and was not being done by sites themselves is another reason why consumers lack the confidence to assume what a journalist says is truth and not just some piece of PR

    Look I could keep going with this if you want but I think you get my point. Consumer confidence in journalistic integrity is low, I mean most gamers if asked will say they gave up on sites long before GG started. What can be done about it I do not know, over exaggeration of ethics maybe, disclosure of the smallest things even when normally an editor would say “dont worry about it, it is not an issue” should be disclosed.

    GG could have been over in a week had sites agreed to update their ethics standards and simply say “look it appears there maybe somethings which got overlooked, it should not have happened and we will try to do better in the future, lets have a talk about it here (link to forum)”

    You may not agree with GG or just think it is all about attacking women or harassment but I do ask you this. What is more likely to be accomplished? Addressing and updating ethical concerns of gaming sites or trying to stop harassment on the internet? Harassment is wrong but by trying to tar all of GG as harassers while ignoring the concerns we had about the ethical standards in journalism is what has made this continue for 5 months and given the actual harassers someone to deflect the blame to

    There is a disconnect between consumers and journalists and it will take effort from boths sides to show that there should really be no sides to this, we should all want better standards in games journalism and we should want less harassment of everyone on the internet

  84. The biggest modern issues with games journalism (and honestly journalism as a whole) these days come from the following, in my opinion

    >Journalists are not becoming journalists to inform the public, but are instead joining to convince the public.
    While there is a place for OP-EDs and activist journalism, it’s place is not to sublimate investigation and reporting of factual information. Far too often, willfully or otherwise, publications will post entire articles predicated on untrue information, or at least contain some untrue information from which conclusions are propagandized to the reader. This, quite simply, must stop. Journalists are there to present objectively true information, and THEN they may apply their subjective analysis, but we can’t keep having them make shit up to pontificate on.

    >Journalists should leave comment sections active on all articles, when you don’t allow them it acts as a de facto confirmation that their statements will not hold up under public scrutiny, and that they aren’t trying to spark discussion, rather they are trying to end it.

    >Journalists need to disclose any potential conflicts of interest they might have associated with any subject matter they are covering, and if they are unwilling to disclose their connection or if the connection is too significant they should recuse themselves from reporting on that subject matter

    >Endorsing/Supporting any sort of blacklisting, regardless if it’s a mass-social-media blocking tool or a targeted blackballing of an individual across publications, as not only is that a legal grey area and a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen, it also runs counter to the duty of a journalist, as it is hard to get factual information from large groups of people whom you’re not permitting to speak.

    >Overt sensationalism, clickbaiting, and creating news where there is no news, serve only to encourage narration w/o facts and emotive appeals rather than ones based on logic and true information.

    >Arrogance/lack of accountability. Journalists today behave like they are untouchable, and much of that is due to nepotism/political adherence creating a situation where, for example, publishers are not deciding whether to discipline their employee for their bad decisions, but are instead fully on board with their Buddy from College/political ally who made bad decisions while promoting a political position.

    Journalists do, by picking up the pen, take on a responsibility, whether they want to or not, and we simply cannot continue having them disregard that responsibility whenever it suits them with no ramifications for their actions, because when the public sees journalists have no respect for what they are supposed to be there to do, they will easily join them in disrespect for what journalists are supposed to be and do.

    Thank you for taking the time to read/do this.

  85. If you are looking for the simplest, quick-shot solution it can be summed up thus: disclosure.

    Disclosure has been, by far, the biggest bone of contention.

    For example, it was just recently discovered that a senior editor at PC Gamer had an undisclosed relationship with blogger/PR staffer at Ubisoft. The Editor had continued to do coverage on Ubisoft , with no mention of all of the relationship, no effort at disclosure.

    When this came to the attention of PC Gamer, they swiftly addressed the situation, rather than dismissing the concerns. They stated what their policy is and noted that the situation with that editor was a lapse in the practice of that policy, and explained how they would correct it going forward. This should be the gold standard for game news sites addressing ethical concerns brought up by the audience.

    That’s really all it takes, just respecting the audience enough to address their concerns. In an ideal world, that report that GamerGate compiled last year would have been looked over by at least the EIC of every major gaming outlet (and reported on, since many game news sites now report on gaming culture issues) and clear instances of ethics breaches would have been addressed along with publishing current and updated ethics policies.

    The fact that so few sites even willing to address the fact that is an issue, and would rather ignore, hurl insults at, and mischaracterize the gaming audience, is really sad. The way in which some sites, reporters, and even EICs have treated the concerns of gamers, and gamers as an audience, has sent a clear message to a gaming audience that is already jaded on the industry’s press.

  86. I recently emailed Joe Skeel, the executive director of the Society of Professional Journalists and he forwarded me to Andrew Seaman, the ethics committee chairman, whom I am still waiting to hear back on his input to my questions.

    I asked the SPJ should journalism in the entertainment industry, particularly the computer gaming media meet the same standards as journalists in any other industry.

    I also put to them should we expect gaming media journalists to be members of an organisation such as the SPJ which can provide resources, training and on-going education in journalism and ethics. Lastly, I asked if it is reasonable for consumers to have the expectation for these kind of reforms in the gaming media industry.

    I have browsed linked-in for a number of publications looking at the education, work experience and memberships of the senior personnel of various gaming publications and I think most lack traditional journalist routes, many come from blogging or freelancing backgrounds so I do not think they have been institutionalised into the kind of professional standards required typically from people who perform journalistic roles.

    I don’t the primary fault lies with the individual journalist, it lies more with the structure of the organisation, from editors to others in the leadership structure who do not prevent unethical conduct or reporting.

    I believe the SPJ has a strong code of ethics which should be applied to all forms of journalism where the general public is reliant on the honesty of those reporting to them.

    As we saw with PC Gamer, the editor was aware of an unethical situation where a journalist was writing about a company and it’s products while he was in a relationship with an employee. Even if he didn’t show any conscious bias, the reader is not unaware of any subconscious bias. Strong ethics protect the publisher, the reader, the journalist and their family because it prevents problems from occurring if you believe in ethics and enforce them.

    I think what people will find is they will see better type of articles being written, there is nothing wrong with a journalist wanting to use their article to write opinion pieces, however, a real journalist will categorically state what is fact and what is an opinion.

    We just can’t have games journalists attack people like Brad Wardell of Stardock Games like they did before, most journalists who attacked him have not apologised to him since.

    There is no place for people like Leigh Alexander, of Gamasutra, attacking gamers with a politically driven agenda. If you want to write like a blogger, then the blogs are where you belong.

  87. I’m going to be short as I have class soon. Take this as something from an amateur developer and a lover of good journalism no matter where it comes from. Also you know, read it in full and contact me. I would really like to get to know someone that works in this field.

    Lets split this up into two areas for the sake of simplicity

    Area 1: Lack of reporting.

    So news breaks. Lets say that Activision uses their DMCA power to stop people from spread of information that would make their newest edition of COD look fairly bad at release. (something that did happen late last year. A lot of major games news, the ones that are household names, just dont cover it. IGN didnt but Joystiq did. The issue remains that Activision silenced a lot of youtube videos for showing problems with the game but websites that would say be able to contact activision or have the resources to keep up with the story didnt actually report about it.

    Furthermore there is no unifying or transparent code of ethics for the medium. Which is needed given its nature. Like check out the associated press.

    Area 2: Separation of Product and Art/The Platinum dilemma.

    This is something dealing with game reviews as they relate to game reporting and is itself segmented.

    Games at the end of the day are a software product that serves as a type of entertainment media. They straddle the line between performing smoothly and successfully as well as dodging, addressing and dealing with the kind of things other media forms get crap for. Like violence and sexuality and politics and so on. The issue that this leads to in games reviewing is that many reviewers choose to separate what they think about a game in terms of its stability and its content controversial or not in different measures. In short scoring videogames is inherently tricky and uneven because it needs to be. But many sites still stick to the idea of a 10/10 system and aggregate scores like metacritic. Its just not acceptible to use such a simple system for games reviews.

    The other segment is what I call the platinum dilemma. Platinum likes to create videogames that are “character action”. Deep hack and slash combat based on style and reaction. These games are different from the genre from which they spring. When their games get reviewed too often the reviewers dont “get” them and play them wrong and then review them based on their flawed understanding of the game. This isnt unique to platinum’s games but its a lot more clear as all of their products are games that take varying genres and add a twist to them that alters their gameplay. Vanquish. Wonderful101. Bayonetta(one more that two). There is too little attention paid to how a game is meant to be played and it leads to a disparity between user and site scores.

    A criticism that polygon gets a lot I imagine is that reviews on your site have a single reviewer that talks about their experience with the game and its content but at the end of the review its given a score which is determined by multiple people and is separate from the views of the individual creating the written review. This is a huge wall between the reader and the rationalizations of the group that came up with the score. Bayonetta 2 is an example of such a review where it was clear the reviewer talked about the game in the manner an editorial might but didn’t actually talk about gameplay. But at the end of the article there was a score.

    I’ll stop here as class draws near. Sorry if its poorly formatted. Please I want to have a larger dialog about this. Contact me at the provided email. I hope you are being sincere.

  88. It’s a fine list, in fact I think many of points could be removed since they’d be impossible to enforce– but that’s each publication’s management’s problem. The only amendments or additions I’d make to the list is,

    1. Test stories from other publications, press-releases, or news-agencies, before repeating the story, or using facts from it. #GamerGate coverage has been one endless game of telephone for the most part. And even though other publications may have their own rigorous verification process, it may not be as good as yours, and should still be checked like any other source.

    2. Other than personal harm, there is no good reason to turn away an important story. When TFYC tried getting their story out there, many journalists turned them away, fearing it’d make them unpopular with certain groups of people.

    3. Editors should disclose their conflicts of interest. Anyone who has the power to change, or edit a story, should be making disclosures or recusing themselves, not just the journalists writing the article. Anyone who is deciding what story the journalist should write, what sources they should use, what angle to pursue, should be making disclosures as well.

    4. More for the news site, rather than for a specific individual: Implement a policy to only delete abusive comments, or spam. Or at the very least state what types of comments are/aren’t allowed. In addition to this, keep a record of all deleted comments, so that any complaints against moderators can be properly looked into.

    5. In addition to an ethics policy, a clarification of the terms used is needed:
    – What makes something an “acceptable source”?
    – What constitutes “harm”?
    – What is or isn’t a “conflict of interest”?
    – [You get the idea.]
    Things like these need to be properly defined, before readers can trust that all articles, stories, journalists, editors, etc are being consistently managed. Improperly defined terms, gives room for purposeful misinterpretation, and does little to curtail corrupt/biased actions.

    6. This is purely managemental, and I have no idea how such a thing could be implemented, maybe it’s just something that has to change culturally– but journalists need to take more pride in what they do.
    Video game journalism is the primary thing connecting gamers, developers, and the mainstream news outlets & public. It provides each party insight on the other, and it’s a key component in keeping this community & industry alive and in balance.
    Yet more, and more I keep seeing game journalists/editors using the “ethics in video games journalism” memes, telling others it’s “only video games journalism”, or just generally having a “who cares” attitude about their profession. And it’s all very depressing; if professionals don’t take their profession seriously, what hope do things like ethics policies have in changing anything?

    Thank you for taking the time to read all these replies, and thank you for your uncynical approach in trying to change journalism for the better. I wish you the best of luck.

  89. If you are looking for the simplest, quick-shot solution it can be summed up thus: disclosure.

    For example, it was just recently discovered that a senior editor at PC Gamer had an undisclosed relationship with blogger/PR staffer at Ubisoft. The Editor had continued to do coverage on Ubisoft , with no mention of all of the relationship, no effort at disclosure.

    When this came to the attention of PC Gamer, they swiftly addressed the situation, rather than dismissing the concerns. They stated what their policy is and noted that the situation with that editor was a lapse, and explained how they would correct it going forward. This should be the gold standard for game news sites addressing ethical concerns brought up by the audience.

    That’s really all it takes, just respecting the audience enough to address their concerns. In an ideal world, that report that GamerGate compiled last year would have been looked over by at least the EIC of every major gaming outlet and clear instances of ethics breaches would have been addressed along with publishing current and updated ethics policies.

    The fact that so few sites even willing to address the fact that is an issue, and would rather ignore, hurl insults at, and mischaracterize the gaming audience, is really sad. The way in which some sites, reporters, and even EICs have treated the concerns of gamers has sent a clear message to a gaming audience that is already jaded on the industry’s press.

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