Friday, 26 October 2012

Accepting free consoles for promotion is bad? An explanation

Despite mainstream gaming sites going silent over the fallout from Rob Florence's leaving/sacking from Eurogamer, due to his article criticising the climate of accepting free stuff for favourable reviews within UK games journalism, and accurately describing the Games Media Awards as the self congratulatory gang bang of mediocre, coked up, hack games journos that it is. The internets are getting all hot and shouty over "Rabgate" as no one is calling it, as UK games journalism stumbles further into the gutter, as it was reaching for a free Tekken 6 mug..

Gamers have always suspected that some reviewers may have been "bought off" by the game publishers, and Florence cited the actions of MCV's Lauren Wainwright in particular, and how she partook in a competition to win a PS3 for hash-tagging a games publisher and her constant tweets about the new Tomb Raider. Published by a company she previously freelanced for. And the fact that her twitter background has imagery from the new Tomb Raider game. He didn't outright accuse her of being in Square Enix's pocket, but it certainly looked dodgy when her job is to review games and she's openly publicising  a game that's yet to be released.
Wainright's employer asks Eurogamer to edit out any mentions of her, Eurogamer complies and Rob Florence announces he's leaving Eurogamer, thus causing fans of the overrated, human biscuit tin to go apeshit online and cry foul play on MCV's part. That Eurogamer was threatened with legal action over Florence naming names in his article has been suggested by everyone and their sister, something that MCV has denied. Nonetheless, fans of Florence and the cynically minded have cited this as the proof of their long-term suspicions that publishers call the shots, when it comes to  the reviews of their games. And shedding light on it got Florence and Eurogamer into hot water. It didn't help that some pointlessly posted insults on Wainwright's personal website as well as her latest post on MCV. Great job on helping games media mature by acting like toddlers guys. Whoever accused Wainwright of flirting with Nintendo's PR to get a 3DS obviously isn't in UK games journalism, because Ninty's UK PR is so fucking stingy, you'd have to gang bang the entire PR firm just to get a Gameboy Advance!  But is the minor shit-storm anger justified?

I used the now infamous image of "industry leader" Geoff Keighley sat next to some corn chips and fizzy pop, because Florence used it as the basis for his condescending, but sadly censored article. That Keighley is sat next to obviously placed snack treats is a sure sign he's taken a kickback from Dorritios and Mountain Dew, right? Most likely not. He was publicising a video game awards show, that he would be presenting. If there's product placement there, that's something that's been decided by the award organisers (in this case, secret SOPA supporters, Spike TV) and even if Keighley did accepted cash for sitting next to some food, so what?  He's more of a presenter than an actual journalist (see also Jessica Chobot) and unless Mountain Dew or Doritos enter the world of games publishing, there's no real conflict of interest, right?
Not when it gives off the impression you're a corporate lap dog and your job involves people believing in your opinion in something.  If you're a games journalist and you help yourself to complementary food at a press event, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Hell, without them, some journos would fucking starve. Poor Steve Hill is living off whiskey fumes after paying so much for his house in stab-town, North London. But being sat next to a big cardboard sign for Halo 4 is the real issue. Someone who people look to for an opinion on video games is sat, slap-bang next to a advert for a upcoming video game. But no one has really taken much notice of that, which is odd because that's more representative of what so many UK games journalists do. But it happens so much, everyone has become desensitised to it. It's why most of the hacks don't even see the conflict of interest it creates.

Some journos genuinely asked, "what's wrong with getting a free games console for promoting a video game?" And cries of how hard it is as a freelancer to afford consoles, so scoring one  for free is a much needed in their line of work

This is what entitled looks like

Well, unless the ghost of Dominic Diamond's career makes you compelled to be a games journalist for the rest of your  life,  why not do what the rest of the world does, get a regular or temp job and fucking buy your own. It's no wonder new game journalists are always asking, "How strict should I be with my review?" because they feel uneasy in giving a harsh write up to a bad game, because the PR people were nice enough to send you a review copy of their game, sprang for lovely canopies and designer beer and gave you a load of t-shirts and key rings (which you're best off giving away in competitions and not flogging on ebay like Dave Jenkins does), so long as you're fair in your critique, you shouldn't feel obligated to bump up your score of a game.  Or  you risk losing whatever credibility you have. Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead made a very good point, about the subject
"So how can you know when a writer is being sincere in their praise? Here's the horrible truth: you can't. It's a trust thing. And that trust is eroded when writers enthusiastically take part in PR and promotional stunts."

People often ask me, "Do games journalists get all their games for free?" And, on the whole, they do. If you're a freelancer or writing for a site with a ok-ish following, then there will be times you'll have to buy a game, simply because review copies are limited and all the big publications and websites get theirs first. Or it's an obscure game with little to no PR or has to be imported (like some people did to review Max Anarchy/Anarchy Reigns), so going to  press events to try and charm the PR into guaranteeing you review code is sadly a essential part of games journalism, if you're  starting out in the business, as we mentioned before.
But if you honestly can't see there's a difference between saying, "Hey, you should get this game because I think it's really good" and, "Hey this game is awesome #IwantAfreePairOfShoes awesome@capcom" then congratulations, you clearly have the lack of integrity and shame needed to be a UK games journalist. Now tell Dan Maher you love his work and that GMA is bound to be yours.

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