So there has been a hullabaloo recently surrounding a movement called GamerGate. This is a loosely (and I mean that in the most literal terms) knit group of gamers and advocates for journalistic integrity and ethics. At least that is the jist of what they want to be known for. I will talk more about it in a later post, but that is sufficient introduction for now.
As a result of some conversations I have had with GamerGate supporters, I decided that I wanted to make a clear statement on what my disclosure policies are in regards to my reporting here and other game sites I own. I am still bound by disclosure policies for sites I write for but do not own and those policies may be different than here. So I wanted to go through each point of my disclosure policy one by one and explain a bit about it. These disclosure policy statements can be found under the About tab in our menu.
Unless otherwise stated, all games reviewed on our site were purchased with our own money or reviewed based on legally and freely available version/demo.
For some reason, a couple of people I talked with are under the belief that reviewing a game that I actually bought is somehow ethically compromised. I have no clue where these people are coming from. It really makes no sense. I would think that people seeking journalistic integrity would much prefer journalists and reviewers to buy the games rather than have them given to them by the developer or publisher.
However, I am more likely to buy a game than have one given to me, so I tend to do the former when I review one. However, I also do a lot of Ouya reviews and games there will often have a free trial or demo version available and those are what I base my reviews on. So most of the time, I have either bought the game myself or played a free demo prior to writing my review.
If on the off chance a developer does give me a free copy of the game I end up reviewing, I will absolutely disclose that fact. I will also disclose any stipulations or provisions the developer/publisher requires me to agree to, if I actually agree and end up reviewing the game. If I am feeling unusually unhappy with the terms, I will simply write about said terms rather than review the game.
We support Kickstarter and other crowdfunding campaigns we are passionate about. We treat this just as we do with games we have purchased.
Just as the above says, I treat crowdfunding the same way I do buying a game. If I see a Kickstarter, Patreon, IndieGogo or other campaign I like, I will most likely back it. If I really like it, I will share it on Facebook and Twitter. If I really really like it, I will write about here or on another blog. I think that is hugely important. Most of the time, I will state whether I backed the project or not, but I never feel compelled to do so.
I was again told that reporting on a crowdfunding campaign that I backed makes me ethically compromised. I don’t see how. If it is fine for me to share that news on Facebook and Twitter, why is it not ok to share that same news on this site?
I was also told that it is not so much that I backed the campaign but that I might have backed it for too much money. Take for instance a campaign that allows a backer to create and item or monster for use in the game if that backer pledges a certain amount. I am told that I could be ethically compromised because I now have a stake in the final outcome of the project. Sure, I guess I do, but I don’t have a financial stake in the outcome. The only stake I actually have is whether I get to make my object or not. I don’t get royalties or payment myself, just a neat feeling for having contributed.
So no, I don’t feel the need to disclose whether I have backed a crowdfunding campaign or not.
At Random Tower, we pride ourselves on our ability to connect with people in the industry. We believe that this is a healthy way to learn of new and interesting developments in the games industry. As such, we do not feel the need to disclose those relationships unless absolutely necessary.
Once again, some people feel that knowing people in the industry is the same thing as being vested in that person. Meaning, that if I report on someone I know personally at some level, I am ethically compromised. This, again, does not make much sense.
How exactly is one supposed to make it as a journalist without making friends and connections in the games industry? Are we just supposed to work from PR statements and what other people are writing about on the internet? That seems like a crappy way to do business.
As such, I don’t feel the need to disclose every relationship I have with people in the games industry. It should be a given. If, on some occasions, I report on a person who has benefited me in some recognizable way, such as someone donating to my site or flying me to Washinton D.C., then sure, I will disclose that fact.
Which leads me to my next point.
There are times when a game developer or other person in the industry we report on has financially or in some other way materially supported us. We will disclose those instances for a time frame of one (1) year after the last such show of support.
This will always be disclosed. I have no problem with disclosing such. Someone gives me money, I will tell you why and for how much. If someone buys or gives me something, I will tell you why and what it was.
However, I believe that there is a statute of limitations on this and feel that one(1) year following the last such material gift to be more than sufficient. Once that year is up, I do not feel the need to continue to disclose that fact. It should be well known by then.
We use a third party advertising partner. As such, we have limited control over the ads that appear on our site. We do have some control and if we feel a particular ad interferes with our ability to properly report on the industry, we will try to remove those ads.
Advertising is a tricky business. Without it, most sites you read on the internet would not exist. So it becomes a necessary evil. As such I do what I can to mitigate the impact it has on my reporting.
As such, I am currently using a third party advertising partner. However, I have limited control over the ads that show up. If an ad shows up that corresponds to a game or person I am writing about, I don’t have any control as that ad showed up under a deal between the company placing the ad and the third party ad provider I use.
If there is some occasion where that could be seen as a conflict of interest, for example the ad showing up for an extended period of time, thus appearing to be an endorsement, then I would be open to disclosing that, but for a brief time during the time the ad actually shows.
None of this applies to a time in the future when I might be large enough to have direct advertising deals with game developers and publishers. At such a time, I would more than be happy to disclose the nature of the agreement when reporting on said company.
Random Tower is a subsidiary of Divine Knight Gaming. Our Chief Editor, E. Zachary Knight, is also the Lead Developer/Co-owner of Divine Knight. Any article about Divine Knight or one of its games or subsidiaries will always include a disclaimer stating that fact.
Yes, I own this site, other sites, and an indie game development studio. As such, anytime I write about my game development work or work on another Divine Knight owned site, I will disclose that fact. I have no problem with it.
Alright. I hope that helps you understand where I am coming from here. I want to be open and honest with my readers, but I also want to make sure I stay sane. Trying to keep up with the journalistic integrity kerfuffle of the week and complying with that will drive me completely insane as I feel many don’t make sense or are contradictory to other supposed requirements.
I will guarantee that I will continue to abide by the above disclosure requirements and any new ones I come up with that I feel need to be followed.