June 25, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless
So, I'd like to link to a neat little editorial that Dan Amrich of Future's Official Xbox Magazine wrote last week - it's called 'Is this editorial about ethics…ethical?', and it discusses a new EGM editorial by EIC Dan Hsu - which is actually incredibly similar to a similar editorial by Hsu in December 2005.
The crux of Amrich's point is: "Future has the same exact policies about this stuff as Ziff. We’re just not tooting our own horn about it. That doesn’t mean we’re guilty simply because we’re not the first to say “I’m innocent.” But that’s the implication, and that’s quite definitely the message that was taken to heart by the readers who left comments." And I think I agree with Amrich here - the 'den of iniquity' issue for the rest of the game journalism biz is a seedy and unnecessary road to travel down.
My personal belief is that Hsu is getting baited by fanboys - I've seen a couple of downright defensive editorials from him in the pages of EGM of late. I suspect that being constantly told by lots of people that you're a terrible paid shill for X - where X is Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo - is going to make you worried about how people perceive you and others. And really, I don't know anyone significant in game journalism who is affected by press event invites or free review copies of games. Maybe I'm naive?
And actually, this whole issue of impartiality is even more interesting since Ziff's officially Microsoft-sponsored Games For Windows magazine is doing such a good job of being independent that it's rapidly straying away from something that I think Microsoft would be comfortable with in an 'official' publication.
Jeff Green and folks are doing admirably in providing fiercely impartial editorial, but Games For Windows Live is (rightly) coming in for a major bashing in the pages of the mag - with Green's latest back-page editorial a tongue-in-cheek screed to Bill Gates, asking him to make the service free. Definitely Bizarro World.
In return, the clearly labeled Microsoft-written advertising pages in GFW are getting a bit closer to 'fake edit', with at least one opinion piece from a non-Microsoft writer in the ad pages this month (Kevin J Baird of VideoGameNews.com, talking about why buying Windows games at retail still rocks - it's not so much fun to read when you have to work out Microsoft's agenda for paying to run it).
It appears that 'edit-like' reviews and interviews about Microsoft games are becoming more prevalent in the special Microsoft advertising section, as opposed to the slightly more 'informational' text we saw earlier in GFW's life in that section. Are we heading for a showdown here? (Obviously, my tongue is in cheek when I'm saying too much impartiality is a hellish thing - but for an officially Microsoft-branded pub, it may actually be a problem in the long run!)
[And while we're on the subject of ethics and journalism, bigger scandals hit the non-game world almost every day - the latest, as blasted by Nick Denton at Valleywag, is a Microsoft campaign running on Federated Media sites that some claim has the bloggers associating themselves too closely with advertising and Microsoft products - FM's boss John Battelle has some interesting comments on the whole furore.]