Lance Moody
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Kickstarter projects have brought us some amazing games. And many many more creative and innovative games pop up on Kickstarter every week.

But as the platform has grown for board game creators, some bad practices seem to have become a part of the Kickstarter culture. Some aspects of these practices came to light for me after the recent Overturn fiasco.

Here I will focus on one particular issue: transparency in relation to board game previews and reviews.

Many board game enthusiasts have enjoyed watching YouTube videos that explain gameplay, display components, and discuss upcoming games. Some games are reviewed by content creators,offering critical discussions of the merits and shortcomings of upcoming games. Indeed, some board game
"personalities" have built a reputation for providing reliable evaluations of games. Enthusiasts often turn to these thought leaders for their(presumably honest) opinions. Many of these reviewers do this solely for the love of the game (perhaps receiving a review copy of the game).

YouTube now also seems to have fostered the growth of channels specifically designed to create paid preview videos for upcoming Kickstarters. These channels take payment from the Kickstarter publishers and then create videos that present the game in an enthusiastic light, extolling the features and production of the game. Essentially these are paid promotions or commercials for the game

This is all well and good as long as it is properly labeled and disclaimed. Unfortunately this is where some bad practices have crept in. While many of these Kickstarter previews do present a disclaimer, disclosing that the video is a paid production, many do not.

Even worse there are now many creators who present their videos as "Reviews" instead of "Previews" (implying a critical component) and often do not display a disclaimer that the "review" was bought and paid for by the game publisher. Sadly some formerly reliable reviewers now seem to only produce paid content (some of them reveal this, some don't). So they started as honest reviewers and now are solely paid shills, squandering whatever reputation they may have built up as a reliable source.

Sadly, many Kickstarters publishers play along with this bad practice, labeling these paid productions on their project page as "Reviews" and pulling quotes from the videos, displaying these quotes as though they are rave reviews from independent reviewers. It's all so obviously dishonest:

Quote:
"The food here at Burger Chef is the best I have ever tasted" --Guy Paid to Say That


As I started to examine this situation, I began to look through various Kickstarter projects and posted complaints and questions about them on their BGG pages.

On some posts I got a lot of pushback. Many folks didn't see any problem with such practices, offering a blanket Caveat Emptor. I was surprised about that and still am. Pedantically, many responses mentioned that everyone has biases. That is true but irrelevant.

Most folks understand that the worst violators (paid-for reviews with no disclaimer) are in the wrong. Indeed this practice can get you fines at the national and state level. It is seen as a huge consumer protection issue.

The other stuff, calling "Previews", "Reviews" and displaying those sham rave review quotes (from guys you just sent check to!) is more of a gray area. But shouldn't those of us who support the industry advocate for more transparency and less grayness?

I should also mention that many great Kickstarter projects are completely up front and either disclaim paid content or simply don't use it. I hope we can see more Kickstarter producers work towards better and more honest practices like that.

I should also mention that many YouTube reviewers do not take money for their reviews, perhaps understanding how doing so destroys all of their credibility as a reviewer.

Unfortunately, the less scrupulous, "reviewers" are raking it in to deliver their "unfiltered" opinions while Kickstarter publishers are every bit as complicit in this sham.



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Tim Earl
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I have a feeling this could get interesting...

You get a thumb for the Burger Chef reference. I have fond memories of that place.
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Thomas Elder
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Though somewhat limited, there are many consumer protections set up in the traditional retail world. Kickstarter "disrupts" the traditional retail model by being outside of it. Therefore, traditional consumer protections do not apply. Welcome to the disrupted, techy, modern world.
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Olli Juhala
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Could you name some names, please. These complaints are usually too vague otherwise.
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Lance Moody
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You can start by looking at the OverTurn Kickstarter.

I don't want to name names necessarily because the very worst of the bunch (paid "Reviews" with no disclaimer)are the hardest to prove. Rest assured that the Kickstarter publishers know who is who.

Overturn called their paid "preview" a review and used the sham "quote" trick.

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Richard Jones
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I agree completely with that not having full disclosure on a video is a bad practice.
Any opinion in any media should have these disclosures, not only for Kickstarter related videos.

I think that Kickstarter is too often confused with a consumer site. It is not, and that gets a lot of people upset and in trouble. One does not go there to buy a product, it is for backing someone's venture.
Anyone using Kickstarter should go into the transaction with the knowledge that it is possible that you will get nothing or get it delayed or different from what was stated.

I feel that Kickstarter is an excellent service and it has provided an avenue for many people to produce amazing things, but it is not a store. I almost agree with the general Caveat Emptor when dealing with Kickstarter.

I think that your concern about unscrupulous videos being portrayed as unbiased reviews is a valid and important issue. We should definitely continue to call out these videos and producers. However linking the issue to Kickstarter dilutes the argument and risks distracting from the main issue.
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Matt Brown
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There's only one video for Overturn not done by the publisher. It is done by Nick of Board Game Brawl. In the very initial part of the video he has a full screen disclaimer that it is a paid preview. In other words, I have no idea what your complaint is about in terms of his video. The publisher calling it a review? Sure, but there should be little blame going Nick's way.
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Adam Brocker
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It feels like anyone that takes payment for creating a video should not be able to post it under the Review section on BGG. There should be a specific paid section that users should be able to filter like any other ad on the site.
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Shader10 wrote:
Could you name some names, please. These complaints are usually too vague otherwise.


Let's not turn an interesting thread into a witch hunt.

@OP KS sells. It sells games, but it also sells views. Since previews are the only way many backers will get to experience a game before they back a campaign, they become more popular and, as with anything popular, draw less honest and enthusiast folks who are after the bucks and just the bucks.
We saw that when e-cigarettes started appearing. It was an onslaught.
It's more concerning when established reviewers become previewers, paid or not, because previewing the hotness, brings more views. I've experienced this myself when I reviewed The 7th Continent during the second campaign and Unbroken just before the campaign: my stats absolutely exploded like never before.
Since I don't care about views I left it at that. But someone wishing to be popular clearly knows what to do.
It doesn't help that publishers fork their new offerings to previewers either. When you're a nobody you have to get the games yourself...

Long story short: back only reprints and established publishers and you should avoid most of the pitfalls of paid previews, or overhyped previews from games clearly not played enough. Hype sells.
The consumer's responsible. Don't consume previews, and paid previews will stop growing.
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SIMONE DONNINI
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I agree 100%

I think every game should be easily aware of this practice, and judge a game by acquiring information from many different sources
 
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Matt Brown
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abrocker wrote:
It feels like anyone that takes payment for creating a video should not be able to post it under the Review section on BGG.


matthean wrote:
In the very initial part of the video he has a full screen disclaimer that it is a paid preview.


If you can't figure it out, maybe you shouldn't be figuring out if you should be buying games.
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Colin Nordstrom
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Yeah, let's not beat Nick, the dead horse.
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Adam Brocker
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matthean wrote:
abrocker wrote:
It feels like anyone that takes payment for creating a video should not be able to post it under the Review section on BGG.
matthean wrote:
In the very initial part of the video he has a full screen disclaimer that it is a paid preview.

If you can't figure it out, maybe you shouldn't be figuring out if you should be buying games.

I understand what's going on and would prefer that this garbage not be posted on BGG unless specifically in a paid commercial category with a way for me to filter it out.
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Colin Nordstrom
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I don't mind paid previews like MvM. But at least they play the game. Nick didn't even play the game; he read from a damn script.
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Rocco LaRocco
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The onus is on you as the investor to do your due diligence. Are some practices murky or even reprehensible, sure, but no one is forcing you to give them your money. There are some basic human necessities that should have regulations placed on them but do we really need to regulate board game kickstarters?
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KC Schrimpl
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I agree with the OP 100%. But you're basically asking the board game community to practice business at a higher standard than the rest of the world.
 
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Mark Jackson
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dont back kickstarters

there problem solved
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3 Minute Boardgames
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As a reviewer, a reasonably new one, I look at a lot of what is being done in the field and shake my head.

There are a bunch of channels who seem to exist, just to get payment for a preview, hark on about how its the best game ever made, and they somehow manage to keep a smile on while lying about the garbage fire in front of them.

Yet people keep paying them to make them, and people keep watching them.

The guy who did Overturn rising sands has about 30k subscribers, so clearly, thats what people want. MVM are another huge channel which is mostly paid adverts.

When I brought up, in a reviewers group, the idea of forming a charter/agreement around being ethical, I was met with some serious resistance. All i was suggesting was signing up to a group that said "when I make paid reviews, I make that clear, and when I get a promotion copy I make that clear", and virtually no one wanted to touch it.

My advice, learn which channels just pump out previews for cash and don't actually want to inform people about games, and which ones do. And follow the good ones, and call them out if they stuff up.

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Colin Nordstrom
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Ithkrall wrote:
As a reviewer, a reasonably new one, I look at a lot of what is being done in the field and shake my head.

There are a bunch of channels who seem to exist, just to get payment for a preview, hark on about how its the best game ever made, and they somehow manage to keep a smile on while lying about the garbage fire in front of them.

Yet people keep paying them to make them, and people keep watching them.

The guy who did Overturn rising sands has about 30k subscribers, so clearly, thats what people want. MVM are another huge channel which is mostly paid adverts.

When I brought up, in a reviewers group, the idea of forming a charter/agreement around being ethical, I was met with some serious resistance. All i was suggest was signing up to a group that said "when I make paid reviews, I make that clear, and when I get a promotion copy I make that clear", and virtually no one wanted to touch it.

My advice, learn which channels just pump out previews for cash and don't actually want to inform people about games, and which ones do. And follow the good ones, and call them out if they stuff up.



I really enjoy the Chit Chat series on MvM. That's the main reason I follow them.
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At this day and age, it can be expected that many reviews for up-and-coming product have been... pre-selected, if not paid entirely.

I mostly use reviews to see a breakdown of the components, an explanation of the gameplay, and a review of the rules.

I have enough games as it is - having lots of positive reviews may persuade me to try a game; not even necessarily purchase it.

Everything on Kickstarter is a preview - not a review. This is fine, as long as it gets acknowledged. Plus, no two people are the same; different games for different folks, even if there is often overlap.
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Mark Watson
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schrimpl wrote:
I agree with the OP 100%. But you're basically asking the board game community to practice business at a higher standard than the rest of the world.


Marketing hype is marketing hype. I suspect the only actual difference when it comes to Kickstarter is the money involved.
 
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Lance Moody
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matthean wrote:
There's only one video for Overturn not done by the publisher. It is done by Nick of Board Game Brawl. In the very initial part of the video he has a full screen disclaimer that it is a paid preview. In other words, I have no idea what your complaint is about in terms of his video. The publisher calling it a review? Sure, but there should be little blame going Nick's way.


Seems like I was laying the blame mainly on the Kickstarter publisher.

1. Called a paid preview a "review"
2. Used the sham "quote" trick.


This whole thing is all about pretending to get an independent third party opinion while actually paying for essentially an advertisement.
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Lance Moody
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Ithkrall wrote:


When I brought up, in a reviewers group, the idea of forming a charter/agreement around being ethical, I was met with some serious resistance. All i was suggesting was signing up to a group that said "when I make paid reviews, I make that clear, and when I get a promotion copy I make that clear", and virtually no one wanted to touch it.



Yes, I have tried to ask various reviewers/previewers about their policies... There are some really good guys who do not take money for previews or reviews (for instance, Rahdo publishes his policy on this). I asked one very large channel about their policy. At first they were willing to reply but when I started asking about finer details, radio silence.
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K S
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Actually, this is about ethics in boardgame journalism.
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Lance Moody
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Well, yes, that is one side of it. But the publisher side is part of it two.
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