Saturday, March 24, 2012

Conflict of Interest

In a newspaper, the lines are clear. You can be paid by a company for advertising space. Advertisements must either be clear in their advertising message OR if they are deliberately designed in such a way as to appear similar to the news content of the paper i.e. an 'advertorial' they must be clearly labelled as advertising.

If a conflict of interests can be shown to have graced a newspapers pages, it can damage that newspapers reputation, both with its audience, and within its industry.

At the present time, video-game 'journalism' seems to have none of the checks and balances that journalism requires to have any validity in modern society. The audience is too immature to stand up for their rights as consumers, or the content of journalism, and the corporations and 'journalists' know that the industry they work in is immature, and is looked down upon by so many other industries and popular culture, that they can get away with bloody murder.

At the moment, video-games 'journalism' is a production line where games get stamped with a quality rating. This rating is determined by two things:

The opinions of the reviewer (good)
The money and marketing thrown at them by the publisher (bad)

These numbers are meaningless, but consumers still fall for them, and companies use them (idiotically I might add) as a metric for the performance of development teams.

Newspapers are paid for by advertising and the consumer. If newspapers are seen to behave in ways seen as unethical, then readership falls, and therefore advertising revenue falls (advertising revenue is based off the number of people who read it). It is in the newspapers best interest to provide unbiased reporting.

Video-game 'journalism' is paid for PURELY BY ADVERTISEMENT. How much money they make is based on how many hits their websites get. How many hits they receive is based on how many hits they get from search engines. How many hits they get in search engines is based on how much they spam related content. That's why there are 150+ (o.0) videos of Mass Effect 3 at IGN.

Why are there so many news features on 'Bioware's artistic integrity'(regarding the complaints over endings in Mass Effect 3)? Its not because the websites care, or even understand what is at issue, its because its a 'hot topic' that gets hits. Many of these articles are FOR Bioware's artistic integrity. Are they so stupid that they don't realize EA and Bioware suckered us in with false advertising about decisions impacting the ending, and how it would be more than an A, B, C choice? No. It's because controversy gathers more hits and comments, and because they want to stay chummy with the companies that pay their wages. The big game websites may as well be on the payroll of the big corporations.

Gamers need to stand up for their rights. Problems with a product, problems with bias in journalism, need to be spoken, and spoken loudly. As things stand the corporations and journalists are riding roughshod over us. The few voices who speak out are labelled 'whiners' and 'entitled' and 'conspiracy theorists', even having a discussion of these issues is grounds for thread closure on Bioware's 'social network'.

The media and corporations taking advantage of consumers isn't conspiracy theory, IT IS WHAT THEY DO. IF we let them.

Demand impartiality in journalism. Demand your rights as a consumer. Ignore review scores. If you want to know about a game, seek out criticisms, don't just buy the corporate line wrapped up in 'review' clothing.

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