IGN Steps Up and Gains Ethical Standards, #GamerGate

Well, some more good news for the GamerGate effort.  It seems that one of the gaming news publications has decided to step up.  One gaming publication has decided that they are going to actually care about ethics and do the right thing.  After five months of battle against people like Leigh Alexander and Ben Kuchera, people who could give two shits about ethics and openly mock the idea, there has finally been a publication that has decided to do the right thing.  It may seem unreal, but this is a big first step.  The fact that it didn’t come sooner is telling, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

IGN, one of the largest online publications, has decided to publish a list of new ethical standards that they are adopting for the future.  They have actually gone the distance and done something so wonderfully simple.  In two paragraphs, they have done the simple thing that GamerGaters like myself have asked for.  Without feeling the need to become massive drama queens and to sell their bullshit, they just did it.  The list of standards (linked here) includes some lovely tidbit.  Let’s talk about some of them.

IGN aims to provide you with content that’s timely, comprehensive, and reliable. In order to do that prior to the public release of the game, movie, technology, or other entertainment we’re covering, we often have to agree to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and embargoes with the creators of the projects and products we cover. It’s a very common practice that allows us to have better content prepped in advance of a game or movie’s announcement or release. While we push back when the timing of these embargoes doesn’t serve our audience and staff, we never alter our opinion or the tone of a given piece of content as leverage. In other words, we wouldn’t alter our opinion of a product just to negotiate for an earlier embargo or exclusive.

There’s a good step in the right direction.  Showing that you won’t pander to the corporate side of gaming.  As we have seen with games like Shadow of Mordor, where companies won’t give out early review copies to publications unless they could get positive coverage.  Showing that they are willing to take some knocks in order to give a fair review is good.  That pleases us.

The details of review production, including who we assign to review a game, movie, TV show, or other product, the timing of the review, and the scope of its production and promotion, are handled entirely by our editorial team. Scores and overall editorial opinion are determined by the reviewer and the Reviews Editor or supervising editor. No consideration is made for advertising, exclusive access, or the future goodwill of the publishers whose projects we cover. Sponsorship details are not disclosed to the reviews teams.

This ties in to something that I had been thinking about – why they let the same writers who talk about games review them.  It is a clear bias on the part of the publication toward the game.  Having a separate team to handle reviews of games is a smart idea, and I am fully behind it.

IGN’s been around a long time, and some of the people who used to work here now work at companies that make the products we cover. Conversely, some people who work here currently, used to work at those same companies. Coverage assignments are managed so that we can avoid any possible conflict of interest. If we feel it’s necessary to cover a game or movie made by a former employee, that coverage will be handled by a freelancer or staffer who had no close personal relationship with the former employee. Current employees are also restricted from covering products they used to work on before they came to IGN.

 

If someone at IGN develops a relationship with an industry contact that extends beyond a professional friendship, he or she must disclose that to the editorial managers, who will determine whether or not that employee should be permitted to cover their friend’s projects. If we determine that employee can still cover the project fairly, that personal relationship will be disclosed to our users.

And there you have it.  That, in a nutshell, is one of the central things that we have been railing against.  When you have people in the press and the industry getting chummy, sleeping together or being more than professional friends, it is wrong to report on them.  Or, if there is to be reporting, there must be disclosure.  This is what GamerGate has been all about.  It’s been about the shadowy friendships and connections between the gaming press and the industry, from developers to PR of various companies.  This is what we wanted.

In two paragraphs, IGN has done what every gaming news company should have done.  Those two paragraphs should be adopted by every single gaming media publication.  Is it really too much to ask that, if a person at the press is donating large amounts of money or having sex with someone in the industry, they disclose that relationship or be kept from writing about the person at all?  It’s not an unreasonable request.  There is no argument that can be made showing that it is unreasonable.

And yet, for five months, we have been fighting a culture war with scum like Ben Kuchera, Brianna Wu (who has no real dog in this fight) and their ilk, because they don’t want to have to admit their flawed practices.  They don’t want to have to step up and do something as easy as adopting standards.  Why do they push so hard against it?  Could it be that there are perks that these publications are getting?  Could there be an axe that they are having to grind with their opposition?  Could these personal connections and financial ties be the bread and butter of the access they have?  Who knows?!  And the fact that they are unwilling to even do something as simple as these two paragraphs shows just how scummy these publications really are.  What’s more – it’s starting to tell.  The popularity of sites like Kotaku and Gamasutra is falling off a cliff.  Gawker is out seven figures, and all of these publications have egg on their face.

However, don’t think that just because IGN has decided to adopt policies towards being more ethical that we can rest easy.  After all, what happens when there are violations?  There is nowhere in that page that talks about what happens if someone violates it.  I would they that they should get fired on the spot, but that’s just me.  And this list of guidelines is no guarantee that they will follow it.  I mean, what happens if the Dorito Pope decides to blank-faced pander to another corporation?  It is up to us, the consumers, to call them out when we see corruption.  We have to be their watchdogs.  We have to be the people who show their flaws.

We have to do our part.  Still, it is a great day for the struggle for honesty in journalism, and the fact that IGN are the ones who are willing to step up is telling.  I guess the other publications are too busy for ethics.  Well, Totillo almost did, but then he went and redconned it out of existence.  A bunch of real winners at those sites.  How are their view counts?

Until next time, a quote,

“There are those who said that this day would never come.  What are they to say now?”  -Prophet of Truth, Halo 2

Peace out,

Maverick

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