Some answers may have been merged – ie, where I’ve been given the same link/article/answer multiple times, I will just include link with a note of how many people answered with this in the format: [article](x5)
Some answers may not be included if they misunderstood the question – they may instead have moved to ‘bonus’ as a section. Will highlight if that is the case.
People are anon if they didn’t explictly say “call me x”. Email me again if you want to change that 🙂Anon referencing consistent within this topic, but not with others.
1. What categories of content would you like to see? (ie, news, reviews, op-eds, etc.)
Anon1: “Most content put out by existing websites is fine, but the unsaid intent behind it is in need of reform.
Reviews of playable games are fine, previews are fine too… both need to acknowledge under what conditions they were played. A number of problems with Simcity (5) only came to light once many people at home tried to play it leading to connectivity issues. This was because many reviewers had played it on on EA’s own premises, or during limited access, so the pressures on the technology were massively reduced. Polygon’s review was one of the worst examples of this, with their final “score” changing daily, from a high 9/10 mark, dropping down to a 4/10 score, and multiple points in between.
There is also a need for writers to recuse themselves in the case of conflict of interests. The whole of PCGamer declined to review Gunpoint because Tom Francis had literally worked for the company up until the release of his game. But sites like Kotaku had a number of people giving and receiving numerous benefits between writers and their subjects… which has only come to light during the recent events. This is not something that should be “fixed” with retroactive admissions years later.
Interviews with industry members (developers, publishers, etc), in-depth dissections of genres or industry events (like “the crash” of the 80s), hardware comparisons, discussions between the journalists are interesting opportunities to explore the medium without the interference of bias around a specific product… though it still possible to inject some if it is too close to a product launch. Polygon ran numerous articles about Gone Home, and the Full Bright company both before and after the launch of Gone Home.
Article about “culture” need to be properly managed though. Kotaku is well known for running article that have very little to do with gaming. Part of this problem derives from pushing for at least 1 article every 30 minutes to ensure advertising and retention of community (other sites manage far fewer articles per day, without being “barren”). One of the main defenses Kotaku relies on in this case is the claim that they cover “culture” (i.e. things gamers might also look at when not gaming). These articles have included a variety of things including japanese foods, pornography, fashion, and arrests for public indecency.
This is more of a minor thing, but a number of sites need to properly title their articles. Whether consciously or not, at least a handful of writers feel the need to inject their personality or jokes into the main title and opening paragraphs. Some sites do not have publishing systems that allow for an article byline… this basically forces any wordplay into the main title. Some of the worst titles that do this are pushed to the point that it is impossible to discern what game is even being talked about without opening the article. Opening paragraphs can be the same, where the writer has decided it would be an appropriate time to inject some story about their childhood or what happened during their commute rather than mention the game. While I understand there is a person behind the writing, and some articles would be very dry without a personal touch, a lot seem to feel that they are more important then the game. At least some articles I have seen spent up to three full paragraphs “setting their scene” before getting to the actual content. This actually ties into basic “clickbait” without being so obvious (there are no “secrets they don’t want you to know”).
The re-wording of articles from other sites and announcements should be looked at. I think most people would be understanding if sites just ran a section dedicated to other site’s coverage, or straight press releases. I doubt even the writers are satisfied with the idea of regurgitating someone else’s text. I feel it is better to provide a direct source rather than having to read a short bland article with a hidden link at the bottom.”
@bkiffter: “(Assuming Videogames): Everything the authors want to do. The articles should just be identifiable as to what they are (news review op-ed), preferably before opening them.”
Anon2: “clear notation to separate news from blog or opinion content”
Anon3: “All of those! But mostly? Honesty, press releases, sales numbers, companies forming/mergers/disbands, etc. Sure yea you might say “then why are you relying on game sites for that kind of stuff, can’t companies just announce those things themselves?” yea well, you aren’t exactly going to go to the Federal Reserve yourself to find out what their policy on interest rates is and what that means to you. You’re most likely going to read the Economist or something. Another really important thing is indie game releases, though. These are small devs that have even more limited options than the big studios to engage with a potential audience. It’s understandable and great that journalists want to help their friends in dev get the word out but let’s keep conflicts of interest out of self-labelled “news” articles, please.”
Anon4: “Same as before, but no favouritisim towards particular developers or peers, or political ideologies. OP-eds are fine, but should not be beating the same drum over and over, and certainly should not be attacking their audience. Also note, journalists should be aware that posting an Op-ed should invite discussion, appropriatly moderated of course.”
Anon5: “As a casual gamer whose only regular exposure to games websites is GameFaqs for walkthroughs, I would be happy so long as newbies weren’t treated with contempt. So I would like to see all those categories (with op-eds being clearly marked as such) plus beginner’s guides to both games, systems and hardware, walkthroughs, etc.”
2. What sort of games would you like to see focus on, and which would you not like to see featured? (ie, early access or not, etc)
Anon1: “A number of sites have already expanded their review processes to early access, or mobile gaming. I feel that as long as the state of the game is made clear, and a second full review given at release, there is no problem with this. The mobile market itself is fair messy, with numerous clones and very basic shovelware being pushed out almost daily, so there is probably a need to limit coverage to the “top” games (even mobile-specific sites would struggle to put out an article for every entry).
As a PC gamer, I find a number of general sites (i.e. ones that do not limit their content to a single platform or region) have an astounding lack of PC coverage, and often very little understanding of the PC market at all. My list of known PC specific sites can be counted on one hand.”
@bkiffter: “(Assuming Videogames): No preferences.”
Anon2: No answer given.
Anon3: “I’m actually more interested in the eSports scene right now. League of Legends, etc. but I do still play a good amount of games by smaller studios and AAA titles as well. I personally don’t really like early access too much, but whatever a site covers is up to them. I personally would like to see more material on MMOs, though. As it’s a genre that I really used to enjoy but moved away from. Now I find that sites don’t really cover MMOs too much anymore (Archeage I think was a weird exception), so I kind of want to get back to playing a couple but don’t know where to start because I lack information.”
Anon4: “Same as usual: All. Early Access should be done on the basis of preview, rather review though. ”
Anon5: “I’d like to see all games focused on, if possible. I would see it as the job of a good games website to reflect the breadth of titles and types available. I’d also like to see more historical coverage of old games for those of us like me with old consoles, but that’s just me. As for early access, this is only an issue in so far as it is open to corruption. If all game websites (and print media and online reviewers) refused to co-operate with producers who made positive reviews a condition of early access, producers would be forced to drop the condition or choose to lose an important exposure. One of the goals of transparency as I see it is to curb the power of the AAA producers in this.”
3. What sort of areas would you want to covered as ‘news’? (ie, game date releases, studio shutdowns, etc)
Anon1: “I am happy to see announcements, and understand that a lot of news articles are regurgitated from press releases (needing to separate that to its own section). I think it’s valuable to report on companies closing, though I would question the need to report on new companies until they have actually done “something” more than that. Award events and winners, conference timetables are other things I would consider to be news. Crowdfunding campaign launches can be part of “news” but should not feature the writer’s opinion, or actively encourage backers.”
@bkiffter: “(Assuming Videogames): Everything with a strong tie to videogames. Example: Jack Thompson blaming videogames for violence: Yes, VG news. Armored up police in Ferguson (http://kotaku.com/soldier-cops-are-giving-games-like-battlefield-an-image-1620511782): Nope, not VG news. Heck, not even a VG op-ed as there is no close tie to VG. “
Anon2: No answer given.
Anon3: “Yea generally anything that would generally qualify as ‘news’ in the business world. Specific events that affect the industry with a start and/or end date. Important figures resigning or being hired, game releases, sales numbers, company ownership changing, etc. Things like that.”
Anon4: “Anything industry related, good or bad. With multiple sources to verfiy claims of course.”
Anon5: “I would not want to dictate that and would leave it at the discretion of those running the website. Specifically, there is a place for social news when it is actually news as opposed to commentary bemoaning the state of society.”
4. What sort of comment policies would you want them to have?
Anon1: “I do not believe comments should be closed if comments are allowed in general. Internet comments do tend to be messy or aggressive, but this does not mean all of them are. A number of sites have taken this into consideration and moved comments away from the articles (pushing them into the site’s forums, etc) as a way of discouraging the casual “nastiness”. I think comments should never been removed but “collapsed” (i.e. the content is hidden unless a reader clicks to expand it) as this gives other community members the opportunity to see why it was moderated, or the person banned (bans on an account should link to the post and reason for the ban). People should never been immediately and permanently banned unless they’re obviously spambots. A “three strikes” rules (not necessarily 3, and good behaviour should remove some) should discourage most people who want to be part of the community even after a few slip-ups.
Directly attacking a person is probably cause for moderation, and parties on both sides should be moderated if a conversation has become heated to a degree. The community itself should be encouraged to report things for moderation instead of responding, but moderation should be reviewed by a human against the publicly stated rules for moderation rather than simply counting up “reports”. There should be no “unspoken” moderation rules that the community is unaware of. Things like shadowbanning (a user can make posts, but nobody ever sees them) should not be used as it does not provide the community useful feedback on what is or isn’t tolerated.”
@bkiffter: “-Removal of illegal/restricted material (e.g. pornography), personal information (of the poster as well as others) and insults against others which would be against the law. Nothing else (untill served with a cease and desist note).
-No banning on first infraction unless extreme case (like CP). Something like “three-strike” model.
-Comments are always enabled.”
Anon2: “comments sections that aren’t moderated echo chambers”
Anon3: “If you can probably get arrested for saying it on a busy street in real life, you shouldn’t be allowed to say it in a comment section after a review. Anything is fair game as long as it’s not clearly racist/sexist/death threats/etc. I do think it’s important for places like 4chan where literally ANYTHING can be said to exist though, but a game news site should not allow hate speech. It shouldn’t be closing comment sections and banning people for not agreeing with the writer’s opinions either, though.”
Anon4: “I prefer self-moderated up/down votes. Trolls get buried quickly. Whatever rises to the top, that’s your audience. Abuse/harrassment should be deleted, however.”
Anon5: “Ideally, the comment policies I like to see are ones that encourage open debate and discourage troll behaviour and flame wars. In reality, without commitment of resources to careful moderation, the choice is between getting either both or neither. My preference in that case is both as I feel that open discourse is the more important.”
5. List three things you’d want to see in an ethics statement from them?
Anon1: “Listing the conditions under which a product was reviewed or an event attended. Review/purchased copies, who, when, where, how. Refusal of large value items (i.e. flights, hotels, free hardware). Items like collector editions are part of the company’s property, not individual members of staff (items after use may be sold, returned, or donated to charity).
Reviews, interviews, etc should not be done by people with ties to the interviewer or developer. This includes living in the same place, paying or receiving money, crowdfunding, etc. If the company does not have a single member of staff who would not breach those ties, then the company needs to not proceed with those articles. If they feel they need to make a public statement to that effect (i.e. “we have nobody who can review this product because of X”) in order to ensure their readers understand then they should do so (i.e. everyone at PC Gamer had directly worked with Tom Francis, so they put out an article saying that not a single member of staff could proceed with a review), and they can simply direct to similar articles on other sites.
Breaching the rules should lead to some form of punishment, suspension from writing duties, or firing. This is both an issue with the readers, as well as the business itself. If a writer cannot follow the rules a business as stated then the business should properly follow its own rules in that regard. The ethics statement should be prominently available in such a way that new readers can make a judgement call on whether they feel it is strict enough for their own tastes. Changes to policy should be announced, and explained. Any articles effected by those breaches should be prominently noted. The more extreme punishments (e.g. firings) should probably be publicly announced, though it might be a bit harsh in that it would sabotage further jobs for that person.”
@bkiffter: “-Applies to all content published in the name of the site (including op-ed, only excluding external advertisement).
-If author would be unfit for jury duty on the topic: recuse or, if no alternative author available, disclaimer detailing all reasons for being unfit clearly readable at beginning of article (If video: Disclaimer has to be spoken in the same tempo/loudness as the rest). If in doubt, disclaimer.
-On breach: three strikes resulting in firing or never again publishing.”
Anon2: “relevant disclosure at the top of every article. or a link to said disclosure. a revisions page that shows any redactions made on the site….and as an aside; rules of engagement for publication employees on social media? i’m really surprised these don’t already exist. don’t put them on a lease, just show them where the yard ends.”
Anon3: “1. “We will disclose all potential conflict of interest clearly.”
2.”We will do our damnest to verify claims and have not-shitty sources before publishing.”
3.”We will not publish obvious clickbait regularly to the detriment of the quality of writing and investigation.”
I realize that it’s hard to run a newssite without clickbait nowadays. Even some respected publications are resorting to it. But loyal readers are going to use the site because they care about actual games, not whether or not some writer thinks Nintendo should “Move beyond a white Mario”. If you’re publishing so much clickbait that the frontpage is barely actual news and reviews and you’re getting most of your clicks from alarmist mothers who don’t even play the games you’re complaining about, then maybe you should tone it down a bit.
The Escapist I think honestly did a REALLY good job of addressing #GamerGate concerns. They have a new policy and it’s pretty much what I would want to ask for, if you wanted some sort of more concrete answer. Needless to say, I think I’ll be reading them more often. Before I just checked them for the week’s Critical Miss (a comic strip), but I think I’m going to take a gander at their articles now. Their policy is outlined here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/editorials/12223-The-Escapist-Publisher-Issues-Public-Statement-on-Gamergate.”
Anon4: “Just copy/paste the Escapist one.”
Anon5: “I would return to my definition of an “objective” review: An objective game review is one that is honestly reached (ie. not influenced by those in whose interests it is for the review to be positive or negative) after thorough research to which is applied expertise in games and reached in acknowledgement of and, if necessary in declaration of, the reviewer’s own biases.
So, boiling that down to three things in an ethics statement, they would be:
a) When presenting opinion, this will be clearly marked and we will strive to present honest views that are not influenced by those in whose interests it is for such views to be positive or negative. To this end, we will not accept payment or favours from producers of games and we will demand our writers declare any relationship, personal or commercial, with material on which they are asked to write.
b) This website commits to minimum standards of expertise of its writers in the fields in which they are published. To this end, all writers are expected to display a wide-ranging knowledge of the subjects in which they are published. For game reviewers, we promise that the reviewer will have experienced the game to a reasonable extent.
c) Everyone has socio-political beliefs through which they see the world. When such beliefs may impact on the reporting of any matter, including opinion, we will strive to identify and declare such beliefs.”