Actual Concerns In Games Journalism

(Spoiler: None of these involve a secret cabal of games journalists, plotting to destroy videogames in order to take over the world. Also, none of these concerns make me want to join up with a certain internet hate mob.)

1) The system of unpaid internships writing for gaming publications gives a massive advantage to prospective writers who have family money or other resources to support themselves while they work without pay for a year, and it puts writers who need to earn money from their work at a major disadvantage. This isn’t unique to gaming publications, but it doesn’t encourage a variety of voices, perspectives, or life experiences in games journalism.

2) Publications paying writers in revenue share, a bonus based on hits, or other similar methods that basically reward writers for writing clickbaity headlines and inflammatory posts.

3) Outlets that charge developers for “premium” or “expedited” reviews, and then just happen to give the paying developers 5-star reviews, and run these sponsored reviews next to legit reviews. It’s rough for developers, for writers who want to be journos and get these assignments, and the end result is annoying for readers/consumers.

4) One of the great things about the internet is that anyone and everyone can be a games writer! Seriously, Blogspot and WordPress are free, and take almost no time to set up. The barrier to entry has never been lower. (Which is one of the reasons that it’s ridiculous to say that closing comments on a blog or YouTube is censorship. You can write your own blog!) But, when the publisher, editor, ad sales, accounting, reviewer are all the same person, it’s easier for conflicts of interest to slip in. (I keep hearing about all these corporate shills, but in my experience, this is usually about trying to get a few extra AdSense pennies, not massive kickbacks.)
Editors receiving ad money from a games publisher (or soliciting an ad buy from that publisher) might be less inclined to run an unfavorable review of one of that publisher’s products. Reviewers who received their first review copies, or know they’ll need to work with that PR rep again, might be less inclined to write and publish critical reviews. And for one of a billion tiny examples of something other that pure artistry influencing which games are reviewed, Big Fish Games and Amazon offer affiliate programs that let bloggers earn commissions on products they’re reviewed positively, which can be a disincentive to review indie games, where there’s no affiliate profit to be made.
There are plenty of other examples of awkward areas for those whose love of games and game writing drives them to become the writer, editor, and publisher of their own outlet.

Finally, none of these concerns make me want to throw up my hands and condemn games journalism, these are more my thoughts on potential issues to bear in mind than OMG GAMES JOURNALISM CORRUPTION!!! ETHICS!!1!one!!! SMOKING GUN!!!! Still, the recent internet shrieking is probably what’s encouraged me to articulate and share some actual concerns in game writing.

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