I get a little fired up on this one. Recently I found out that some reviewers are charging money for reviews, and I make the case that this is an inexcusable conflict of interest that needs to stop. Hear me out.
Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction
Please join the discussion below. Stay in touch by subscribing, joining our BoardGameGeek Guild, or by following The Thoughtful Gamer on facebook or twitter.
5 thoughts on “<span class="entry-title-primary">Desk Side Talks With Marc #3</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Conflicts of Interest</span>”
Thanks, Marc, for this podcast. I had no idea this was going on. I have to admit to being a bit frustrated that you didn’t mention any reviewers by name. I feel that if you are going to bring this up and feel this strongly about it, you ought to consider ‘naming names.’ Because if consumers don’t know who is doing this, how can we know who is feeding us tainted reviews and who is on the up and up?
I was hesitant to do that for a few reasons.
1. I didn’t want this to be about any names because I was trying to make the basic case itself. It seems like quite a few people don’t see the problem, so I wanted to articulate and defend it as a problem.
2. Part of my knowledge of this is from a closed facebook group, so I’d feel wrong quoting from that directly with names.
3. Because people are muddying the waters between reviews and previews, I need to do some more research to verify the names I have heard before I’m 100%
4. I’m positive I’d miss some, and I don’t want people to assume that any names I would give would be comprehensive, but I know they would.
5. Not sure if it’s my place, as a reviewer, to try to round up names since I’m theoretically to gain from it and I’m not necessarily the one who is harmed. I’d rather consumers take a critical eye to the people they listen to.
6. Frankly I’m terrified of the response from random internet people if I did release a non-comprehensive list of names. I don’t trust the masses one bit.
That said, I don’t know if those reasons are adequate or good. I’m still debating with myself on it, and I’d rather err on the side of caution. What I tried to do was present my arguments and nudge a tiny bit of social pressure on consumers to be careful and on reviewers to make sure they’re acting above board. Not sure if I succeeded.
I completely understand your concerns. You are obviously frustrated with this practice. However, if this practice goes on and no one is called out on it, then it’s hard to see any reason why reviewers would change their practices. So it will likely continue. No one is going to voluntarily stop taking money. Unless there is a public backlash of this practice, most people can rationalize why they should ‘get paid’ for whatever it is they’re doing.
So now we’re left with ‘some reviewers are gettng paid to do reviews but we (the consumers) may never know who they are.’
You have to question what good it does to bring it up if nothing is going to change.
I’m not saying this out of criticism to you, but just wondering what your goal of publishing this podcast was.
Pingback: The Biases of Review Copies – Meeple Like Us
A comprehensive criticism of any game takes much more time, thought and presentation skill to address the positive and negative features of the product. The paradox here is that such effort should be eligible for appropriate compensation, but its very presence might affect the review integrity. I believe it is possible to be impartial even if you accept money from the game publisher, and part of that should include a clear disclosure statement that precedes EVERY video/written review (as you mentioned). But it’s not enough. While the disclosure statement simply forewarns viewers of possible COIs, the review itself may still be compromised. All of your suggestions are merely OK, but to create the impartial environment that truly benefits the consumer, you’ll need to do much more.
If you want to truly change the culture of reviews and establish a industry-wide standard to provide consistent integrity, then people like yourself must submit their work to a body of peers for editorial process before it is released. The composition of the editorial board should include established reviewers, a publisher representative and a end-consumer rep as well. There should be rules for submission of review content AND enforced penalties for failure to meet the standards (whatever those might end up being).
I’m sorry but while the board game industry makes a lot of money, it pales in comparison to healthcare and pharma, where this stuff is a constant threat despite volumes of regulatory standards. The typical resistance to proposals like this include: 1] it’s too expensive; 2] it takes too much time/work; 3] how do we agree on standards; 4] who would organize such a thing; 5] who would enforce penalties; 6] no one is going to agree to this.
There’s nothing more difficult than changing a culture. Good luck.