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first of all, I'm no native English speaker so I apologize for any mistakes and/or poor explanations in my post.

Yesterday night I came across Botch Games podcast #77 (never listening to those guys before), where they talk about ethics in boardgames contents creators and paid review habits, and... bhoys, this podcast really elinghtened me.

For anyone how don't know what I'm talking about, here's a link to the above mentioned podcast
Episode 77 : Ethics in Journalism and Paid Reviews (ft. Chris Kirkman and Edward Uhler)
The part related to Paid Reviews etc starts at 45/50 min, more or less.

Short premise: I'm an avid boardgame related video contents consumer; I love Rodney Smith and Paul Grogan instructional videos, I also enjoy rewiews by ManVsMeeple, GameBoyGeek, No Pun Included, Actualol and Shut Up And Sit Down. Not much a fun of Rahdo Runs Through, maybe because I prefer the "British Style" of the formers.

That said, I agree with Chris and Edward on this part:
I got no problem at all with paid instructional videos; I mean, Rodney and Paul are veeery objective, never express personal opinions so what you see it's what you get in the rulebook, no more no less (of course those 2 guys are top-notch at explaining games), whether they're paid or not... I mean, I know they're paid by publishers but this doesn't impact on their credibility.

Things completely change when the paid content is a game review.
My budget on boardgames is quite strict (at least, compared to this hobby's standards), so I heavily weigh any purchase I make and I'd like to think that I'm not influenced too much by the above mentioned media review creators; also because, I have to admit, my skepticism about influencers "tout-court" is quite high.

But, and here's a huge but:
my approach to (and consideration of) those media creators would drastically change if I were to know that a boardgame publisher is paying them for a review. You know, I'd feel kind of... betrayed, you know what I mean? Surely their credibility would have to be at least reconsidered.

And here's the conclusion:
I think there isn't enough awareness about this matter from our part (I mean, us media consumers), and, on the other side, there isn't enough transparency from media creator (there are notable exceptions: I mean, I loved when Rodney clearly stated that The Godfather review and TabletopShowcase was paid by CMON).

So, in the end:
to fade my skepticism away and really enjoy and respect my favourite media creators, I'd really love to know wether they're tied to publishers in any ways, or are straight-edge independent: is there a way to do so?
For clarity, I would have no problem at all if they get review copies (that's where I'd draw the line), but I'd be really let down in case of cash transactions between the 2 sides.

I hope this thread will be highly constructive.
Thanks a bunch!
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Well I'm sure this won't prove to be a contentious issue.
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Olli Juhala
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GThreepwood wrote:

So, in the end:
to fade my skepticism away and really enjoy and respect my favourite media creators, I'd really love to know wether they're tied to publishers in any ways, or are straight-edge independent: is there a way to do so?


Unless you are willing to trust voluntary disclosure or lack thereof, then no, there is no way to reach an absolutely certainty that a board game reviewer is completely independent.

EDIT: That is to say, a reviewer can't prove conclusively they've never recieved money from a publisher - they can only say they haven't or that they have, and you have to take their word for it.
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The best way to judge is to read the rulebook yourself and decide if the game is worth pursuing further.


No reviewer is you with your likes and dislikes.


The videos can be entertaining but they are seldom anything more.


A video reviewer that bought their own game or hates a certain publisher or designer can be just as suspect as a paid reviewer.

Given the abysmal state of ethics in actual news journalism today, game reviews make no difference at all.
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DegenerateElite wrote:
The best way to judge is to read the rulebook yourself and decide if the game is worth pursuing further.


No reviewer is you with your likes and dislikes.


The videos can be entertaining but they are seldom anything more.


A video reviewer that bought their own game or hates a certain publisher or designer can be just as suspect as a paid reviewer.

Given the abysmal state of ethics in actual news journalism today, game reviews make no difference at all.


Did a board game reviewer kick your pet once? I mean, it's cool if you don't want to use reviewers as a tool, but it's bit harsh calling folks "suspect" because of it.
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Why is it that this topic keeps popping up?

I really struggle to see why people claim they have a "right" to objective content free on the internet. When has ANY journalistic/published content EVER been objective?
It really puzzles me that people somehow feel entitled to something that has never existed. Even NGO public service orgs acting in the "consumer rights" space are milling their own grain. They are managing their brand, maintaining interest, and in many cases their staff is on the payroll (which directly puts them on a financial dependency branch of the success of whatever "service" they provide).

Even in the utopic world where these guys are creating content for free without influence from publishers their motives will still be within the categories of "look at me!" or "I want to feel like I am adding something to the world". Otherwise they would just play the games like the rest of us and be happy about that.

Excuse the bashing, but discussing ethics in an "online content creation" context just exemplifies that consumers are dumb. No content is ever created with the sole purpose of entertaining you. When you are not paying for content, you can be certain that someone else is. Either by directly footing the bill, or by getting something out of creating the content that otherwise make it worth their time.
Yes, you can argue that they should put more disclaimers and be more open about their motives. But it is hardly unethical to leave out the obvious. You do not see the supermarkets putting up signs that says "we put the fresh milk at the back so you buy the older ones instead, that allows us to avoid wasting product and profit more". It would be the ethically correct thing to do, but consumers are not expecting it to be posted all over the place.

The only unethical element of paid journalism is when content creators contribute to a scam. If they hype something that never delivers. The fact that they praise a game and it turns out not to be fun for you is super subjective and hardly the content creators fault. If you do not have the consumer behavior required to evaluate what you need and what you are willing to pay for getting it, then that is your problem. There is an entire industry focused on getting your money, you cannot blame them for using tricks to get your attention. It is your responsibility to filter through the various impressions and make your own choices.
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Shader10 wrote:
DegenerateElite wrote:
The best way to judge is to read the rulebook yourself and decide if the game is worth pursuing further.


No reviewer is you with your likes and dislikes.


The videos can be entertaining but they are seldom anything more.


A video reviewer that bought their own game or hates a certain publisher or designer can be just as suspect as a paid reviewer.

Given the abysmal state of ethics in actual news journalism today, game reviews make no difference at all.


Did a board game reviewer kick your pet once? I mean, it's cool if you don't want to use reviewers as a tool, but it's bit harsh calling folks "suspect" because of it.



I didn't say that they are suspect, I said that they could just as likely be as suspect as a paid reviewer. There is a difference.
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aziras wrote:
The only unethical element of paid journalism is when content creators contribute to a scam. If they hype something that never delivers. The fact that they praise a game and it turns out not to be fun for you is super subjective and hardly the content creators fault. If you do not have the consumer behavior required to evaluate what you need and what you are willing to pay for getting it, then that is your problem. There is an entire industry focused on getting your money, you cannot blame them for using tricks to get your attention. It is your responsibility to filter through the various impressions and make your own choices.


that's why I was talking about transparence.

Example: if your favourite media creator makes an enthusiastically positive review, and he was paid by the publisher, a coherent, credible and respected behaviour would be clearly adding a disclaimer stating: "this review was paid by publisher XYZ".




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GThreepwood wrote:
aziras wrote:
The only unethical element of paid journalism is when content creators contribute to a scam. If they hype something that never delivers. The fact that they praise a game and it turns out not to be fun for you is super subjective and hardly the content creators fault. If you do not have the consumer behavior required to evaluate what you need and what you are willing to pay for getting it, then that is your problem. There is an entire industry focused on getting your money, you cannot blame them for using tricks to get your attention. It is your responsibility to filter through the various impressions and make your own choices.


that's why I was talking about transparence.

Example: if Rahdo makes an enthusiastically positive Final Thoughts Review and he was paid by the publisher, a coherent, credible and respected behaviour would be clearly adding a disclaimer stating: "this review was paid by publisher XYZ".
And my point being: Why would any consumer not automatically assume this was the case?
I know it is a touchy subject, but I believe it to be outright ignorant to not apply your own sense of reason when taking advice from free internet content. As a consumer you are not entitled to such transparency. It is nobody's responsibility to police the internet and make them state the obvious.

When you watch TV and they cut to commercials and you have David Hasselhoff present some product like the most awesome thing ever, you do not get a disclaimer stating he got paid, do you?

This world is breaking apart because not all consumers are capable of applying reason to what they see, regardless of where they are exposed to content. Quick-loans are running rampant and to sensible people it is a no-brainer that a 150% p.a. interest on a loan is a bad deal. But they somehow still have business. Is it unethical to sell such a product? Is it unethical to make a living off someone else's stupidity? Some would say yes, others would insist that it is not the world's responsibility to protect humanity against ignorance.
Guess which side I am on.
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GThreepwood wrote:
aziras wrote:
The only unethical element of paid journalism is when content creators contribute to a scam. If they hype something that never delivers. The fact that they praise a game and it turns out not to be fun for you is super subjective and hardly the content creators fault. If you do not have the consumer behavior required to evaluate what you need and what you are willing to pay for getting it, then that is your problem. There is an entire industry focused on getting your money, you cannot blame them for using tricks to get your attention. It is your responsibility to filter through the various impressions and make your own choices.


that's why I was talking about transparence.

Example: if Rahdo makes an enthusiastically positive Final Thoughts Review and he was paid by the publisher, a coherent, credible and respected behaviour would be clearly adding a disclaimer stating: "this review was paid by publisher XYZ".


Naturally. And if there isn't a disclaimer, then you have to trust it to mean there is no payment, because a reviewer can't prove they weren't paid.
 
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aziras wrote:
When you watch TV and they cut to commercials and you have David Hasselhoff present some product like the most awesome thing ever, you do not get a disclaimer stating he got paid, do you?


except that, when a tv spot is on there's a disclaimer (at least, it's mandatory for the Italian law).

Here, you have to admit, we have a grey zone: you're paid just like Hasselhoff and you're not informing your audience.

And this brings me to another aspect of this matter: DOUBLE DIPPING.
Some of the above mentioned reviewers run crowdfunding campaign, you know?

same example as before: how would you feel if you decided to fund a media creator's kickstarter campaign because you appreciate his competence and opinions, and you happen to find out that all of his Final Thoughts are paid by publishers?



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Yay, just what we needed. Another thread about paid reviews, which brings in all the extremists when the actual answer is somewhere in the middle. Yes, there are some that get paid by publishers. Mostly, this is Kickstarter Reviews. But for the most part I don't think this is an epidemic.

Reviewers/Playthroughers I trust are not being paid for reviews(not necessarily ones I watch/agree with):
The Dice Tower
Shut Up and Sit Down
No Pun Included
Rahdo
Actualol
Board Game Brawl

There are more that I probably would but I just don't know as much about them.

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GThreepwood wrote:
*stuff*



I'd like you to start using a generic example, and stop using Rahdo. He gets enough muck thrown at him, we don't need to use his name to discuss hypotheticals.
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aziras wrote:
Why is it that this topic keeps popping up?


Touchfuzzy wrote:
Yay, just what we needed. Another thread about paid reviews, which brings in all the extremists when the actual answer is somewhere in the middle.


honestly, I haven't had the chance to read other threads on this topic and that's the reason why I've decided to write mine.

and frankly, I can't quite understand your annoyance about this matter: I find it quite important for future development of our hobby.

 
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Shader10 wrote:
I'd like you to start using a generic example, and stop using Rahdo. He gets enough muck thrown at him, we don't need to use his name to discuss hypotheticals.


done
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GThreepwood wrote:
aziras wrote:
Why is it that this topic keeps popping up?


Touchfuzzy wrote:
Yay, just what we needed. Another thread about paid reviews, which brings in all the extremists when the actual answer is somewhere in the middle.


honestly, I haven't had the chance to read other threads on this topic and that's the reason why I've decided to write mine.

and frankly, I can't quite understand your annoyance about this matter: I find it quite important for future development of our hobby.



Had you read the other threads, you might understand - there's a lot of misuderstanding and misinformation thrown about on this matter, and very strong opinions with much excluded middle. Nevermind the rather troublesome history "Ethich in Game Journalism" has as a concept and phrase.
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GThreepwood wrote:
aziras wrote:
Why is it that this topic keeps popping up?


Touchfuzzy wrote:
Yay, just what we needed. Another thread about paid reviews, which brings in all the extremists when the actual answer is somewhere in the middle.


honestly, I haven't had the chance to read other threads on this topic and that's the reason why I've decided to write mine.

and frankly, I can't quite understand your annoyance about this matter: I find it quite important for future development of our hobby.



Because it is the same song and dance we had last week. And the week before. And the week before. Someone will come in concerned about proper disclosure. Usually pointing to a situation where we know it was an issue (a video that the person admitted was paid for, but they didn't mark it as such on youtube, stuff like that).

In most cases the person then goes back and marks it when they realize their mistake.

Then you get everyone coming in to way in. You get the "PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS FOR LISTENING TO REVIEWERS, I'M CLEARLY MUCH SMARTER THAN EVERYONE DUE TO MY CYNICISM", and the "ALL REVIEWERS ARE SHILLS" and a whole bunch of accusations tossed at a lot of people in the industry with zero proof to back it up.

Because it just gets nasty towards a lot of people who have done a hell of a lot of good for the industry, and who have never shown any evidence that they've done anything wrong.

And it is tiring, man. If people would stick 100% to evidence based claims, it probably wouldn't be. But everyone has an axe to grind cause Reviewer _____ shit on their favorite game, so clearly it is because their favorite game's designer/publisher was too principled to pay them, rather than the person just didn't like it.
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Touchfuzzy wrote:

Because it is the same song and dance we had last week. And the week before. And the week before. Someone will come in concerned about proper disclosure. Usually pointing to a situation where we know it was an issue (a video that the person admitted was paid for, but they didn't mark it as such on youtube, stuff like that).

In most cases the person then goes back and marks it when they realize their mistake.

Then you get everyone coming in to way in. You get the "PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS FOR LISTENING TO REVIEWERS, I'M CLEARLY MUCH SMARTER THAN EVERYONE DUE TO MY CYNICISM", and the "ALL REVIEWERS ARE SHILLS" and a whole bunch of accusations tossed at a lot of people in the industry with zero proof to back it up.


I'm sorry for your past experiences, but I haven't stated anything similar.

I've simply posted a couple of questions I'm intrested in (still unanswererd):

Quote:
So, in the end:
to fade my skepticism away and really enjoy and respect my favourite media creators, I'd really love to know wether they're tied to publishers in any ways, or are straight-edge independent: is there a way to do so?


Quote:
And this brings me to another aspect of this matter: DOUBLE DIPPING.
Some of the above mentioned reviewers run crowdfunding campaign, you know?
same example as before: how would you feel if you decided to fund a media creator's kickstarter campaign because you appreciate his competence and opinions, and you happen to find out that all of his final thoughts are paid by publishers?
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Shader10 wrote:
[q="GThreepwood"]
So, in the end:
to fade my skepticism away and really enjoy and respect my favourite media creators, I'd really love to know wether they're tied to publishers in any ways, or are straight-edge independent: is there a way to do so?


Shader10 wrote:
Unless you are willing to trust voluntary disclosure or lack thereof, then no, there is no way to reach an absolutely certainty that a board game reviewer is completely independent.


Wooops, sorry I've missed this.
Yep, a voluntary disclosure would be ok: is there any media creator that has affirmed this?
 
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I think it is amusing that people who say they are tired of a topic, click on it and then write 10 sentences about it.

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RE: Rodney Smith
I asked him once about how he chooses games for his videos, he said he has to like the game which is why some games that others like may never see him do it, if he doesn't like a game he won't do a video on it.

RE: Paid Reviewers
eh, so what? it matters not to me, there are plenty of games I like that most reviewers don't, so what? I'm gonna buy a game I like no matter what but to be fair, I have disposable income set aside for buying games.
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GThreepwood wrote:

Wooops, sorry I've missed this.
Yep, a voluntary disclosure would be ok: is there any media creator that has affirmed this?


Affirmed how? Either you disclose or you don't, you can't be forced to do it. I know few Youtubers who clearly acknowledge when they are doing Kickstarter previews.

But if there is nothing to disclose, what would you disclose then?
 
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I'm actually a billionaire that sends money to all the reviewers and tells them what to say for fun just to stir up trouble on BGG and other sites.
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All journalism is biased in favour of their sponsors.
1. In media paid by advertising there is a bias against bureaucracy in favor of private business.
2. In media paid by the government there is a bias in favor of the government and against opposition.
3. In media paid by subscribers there is a bias in favor of the opinion of their subscribers.

Doing quality reviews of games is work. Doing it for free is a labor of love. Doing a negative review of a game usually results in a lot of criticism from fans of the game (not a pleasant experience). You would need pretty thick skin to do unbiased reviews of games you don't like. To do quality reviews (including negative reviews) without some compensation is a lot to ask.

I am at a loss as to how to give game reviewers some compensation without introducing bias into their reviews. Free review copies of games is a bare minimum.
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aziras wrote:
Why is it that this topic keeps popping up?

I really struggle to see why people claim they have a "right" to objective content free on the internet. When has ANY journalistic/published content EVER been objective?
It really puzzles me that people somehow feel entitled to something that has never existed. Even NGO public service orgs acting in the "consumer rights" space are milling their own grain. They are managing their brand, maintaining interest, and in many cases their staff is on the payroll (which directly puts them on a financial dependency branch of the success of whatever "service" they provide).

Even in the utopic world where these guys are creating content for free without influence from publishers their motives will still be within the categories of "look at me!" or "I want to feel like I am adding something to the world". Otherwise they would just play the games like the rest of us and be happy about that.

Excuse the bashing, but discussing ethics in an "online content creation" context just exemplifies that consumers are dumb. No content is ever created with the sole purpose of entertaining you. When you are not paying for content, you can be certain that someone else is. Either by directly footing the bill, or by getting something out of creating the content that otherwise make it worth their time.
Yes, you can argue that they should put more disclaimers and be more open about their motives. But it is hardly unethical to leave out the obvious. You do not see the supermarkets putting up signs that says "we put the fresh milk at the back so you buy the older ones instead, that allows us to avoid wasting product and profit more". It would be the ethically correct thing to do, but consumers are not expecting it to be posted all over the place.

The only unethical element of paid journalism is when content creators contribute to a scam. If they hype something that never delivers. The fact that they praise a game and it turns out not to be fun for you is super subjective and hardly the content creators fault. If you do not have the consumer behavior required to evaluate what you need and what you are willing to pay for getting it, then that is your problem. There is an entire industry focused on getting your money, you cannot blame them for using tricks to get your attention. It is your responsibility to filter through the various impressions and make your own choices.
I love when someone goes on a rant about this and writes a ton arguing against the idea of disclosure but never manages to write a single reason why disclosure is actually a bad thing. Yes, we get it... everyone, except you, is "dumb" for not already knowing that they can't trust anyone, but what's the harm in wanting disclosure? Why not make it easier to know when someone has an agenda? What's the downside?

Honestly though, I think it's just as dumb to automatically assume everyone is untrustworthy, and tarring trustworthy reviewers with that brush, as it is to assume that they are trustworthy. There are plenty of reviewers who are simply expressing their heartfelt opinions and aren't paid shills. No, I take it back. It's dumber... because there's a lot more reviewers who aren't shills than are. You're not smarter for trusting no one, you're wrong most of the time. Sure, you eliminate the possibility of being taken advantage of, but you do so by distrusting good sources as well, and making more work for yourself by requiring verification of everything. You doubt 95% of the good stuff to avoid the 5% suspect stuff. If we required disclosure, and had good penalties for the lack of it, it would help you more than it would help the trustworthy people. Sure they wouldn't get taken in every once in a blue moon, but it'd open up a world of reviews that you'd no longer have to distrust, cross-check and verify.

So let's drop the "I'm smarter than you trusting fools" tired riff. Your cynicism doesn't make you smarter, it just makes you wrong more often, work harder to get the same information as everyone else and very occasionally it protects you from an undisclosed shill.

So yeah, if you want to rant against disclosure, give me some good reasons why disclosure is actually bad and not just your screed about how cynicism makes you better than others.
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