Editorial – Gaming Journalism: Ethics, Integrity & Professionalism

Hello ladies and gentlemen, after seeing Kotaku’s claims of being blacklisted by Bethesda and Ubisoft as well as the way they worded it and their responses to people I thought that today I would like to talk about gaming journalism, ethics and integrity in gaming journalism and the justifications used for having poor gaming journalistic ethics. This is quite clearly an opinion piece as I know some people don’t agree with my viewpoints about this, obviously such as the sites who do these things for example, and then there are people who do agree with my viewpoints about this. Much of this editorial could apply to journalism in all forms but I am focusing on gaming journalism exclusively at this time.

Please note that I do not claim to call myself a gaming journalist. I’m just an amateur blogger who loves video games and I try to  hold myself to the high standards that I believe professional gaming journalists should be held to.

Ever since I started paying to attention to video games journalism in the last 3-5 years it seems that journalistic quality has been on the decline and I’ve seen evidence that indicates many people agree. I’ve seen more and more articles reporting on unsubstantiated rumor just so they can say they were first, including articles where it’s quite apparent that the reveal the article is trying to do is fake because their source was a friend’s cousin’s brother’s neighbor’s hairdresser, who talked to a complete stranger on the street. I’ve also seen instances of sensationalizing a title for clicks just to find out the contents of the article don’t really match the title such as taking what a person said for an interview and twisting it in such a way to get a rather different meaning out of it.

The sites that do this often claim that their readers want to know these things and that if they actually waited for proof then they would be seen as slow and their readers would complain. While that is sadly true to an extent, in every case I’ve seen there were more people complaining about the fact that the sites didn’t wait for more facts, or even a fact in some cases, before posting, especially when it was obviously fake. Yes, people like to be the first to find things out but people also like knowing the facts and I firmly believe that many people would appreciate a site that’s a little bit slower but much more factual in their reporting than a site that’s first on everything but has to keep making corrections or posting retractions.

Journalists do have an obligation to their readers however they are also supposed to have ethics and know when to and when not to publish something. Unfortunately in this day and age ethics and what those ethics make you do or not do can apparently be a grey area. To borrow part of a Jurassic Park quote, “they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

As a result here are the ethics that I believe a gaming journalist should have. and these are the ethics that I strive to abide by when writing articles.

  1. News & Truth – Perfectly fine to report on as it’s officially released.
  2. Rumors – Can be reported on provided they are clearly indicated as rumor and not reported as being the “truth” when there is nothing at all to back it up. (I personally hate reporting rumors and will never do so if I can avoid it).
  3. Leaks – Before reporting on any of these I believe the journalist should ask themselves two questions. “Would my readers, the gamers, be harmed in some way by not releasing this information?” and “Would releasing and reporting on this possibly help bring about positive changes for the industry?” Examples would be poor working conditions at a company, any shady practices such as passing off another company’s game as your own or deliberately shipping a glitch infested game just to meet the release date. If the answer to either question is yes then the leak should be reported. If the answer is no and the leak is just about an unannounced game then the leak should not be reported. Most people hate spoilers and posting leaked news about a new unannounced game before the developer or publisher is ready to is essentially just a spoiler, one that is not appreciated by the people who poured all that hard work into making it.
  4. Reviews – Try to be as unbiased and professional as possible. This one can be tougher since reviews are essentially subjective works but you can still be somewhat objective about them too and not go off into crazy rants or complaints. For instance, bemoaning a game for only having 3 player co-op when  in fact the game has only 3 playable characters (such as Lord of the Rings: War in the North) or saying a game is complete garbage because the reviewer didn’t bother paying attention to the in game instructions such as that infamous Nier review with the fishing rant.
  5. Language – This one is incredibly subjective but I refuse to write like swear words are actual adjectives that can be used to help describe something. To me it’s unprofessional and I firmly believe that a person can express their opinion without resorting to it, even when they’re disagreeing with someone else.
  6. Attacks – This is less on the journalists and more on the readers though I’ve seen some of the gaming journalists be guilty of this too. Attacks because someone prefers a different console or different genre should never happen and this is something you’ll never see me do. We’re all gamers who enjoy the same hobby after all.

In closing I would just like to say thank you for taking the time to read this. For the good of the industry I also hope that gaming journalism gets back the ethics and integrity that it used to have.

Thank you,

Boone Ironshield

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