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Subject: Full Disclosure when reviewing games? rss

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Jason Miller
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I've been watching and reading a fair number of reviews ever since I got onto the geek. They help me quite a bit when it comes to choosing something I might enjoy.

I realize that game publishers, in an effort to increase sales, will often send free copies of some of their products to reviewers. I presume they send them out to apparent impartial 3rd parties to increase "genuine" buzz and interest. Otherwise, they'd just do a review on their own website.

I can't help but think that some reviewers may be swayed towards one publisher in order to continue getting their free copies. It would increase a reviewer's credibility if they were a little more transparent about their own self-interest.

I'd really prefer it if reviewers stated that they received a free copy from the publisher in their review.

Thoughts?
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Jeff Wolfe
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Movie reviewers get free screenings of the movies they review. Book reviewers get free copies of the books they review. Why would board game reviewers be any different?
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Mark Crane
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Nobody is saying they shouldn't get free copies. They're saying they should disclose the fact.
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Dave Kudzma
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I think they should disclose that they got a free copy, that's it.

Otherwise read their review, compare it to others, and I'm certain you can judge if it's "objective" or not. More times than not it's easier to pay attention to their likes and dislikes here on BGG rather than their reviews.
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Arianna Tyler
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I think full disclosure would be nice. I think one might "judge" a game more critically if one has to pay for it as oppose to getting it for free. People may argue that point but we will never know unless the disclosure is made and allow people who read reviews to compare.
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I'm not sure what that would achieve. So a reviewer says "i was given this game for review", you think, "well I can't trust his review". ( otherwise, why ask the question )

What have you gained?

I think your better off following reviewers and deciding if you like their opinion or not. Just like you would with film reviewers, you just have to find some that you share a tastes with, and that can only be found over time.




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Jason Miller
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FNH1 wrote:
I'm not sure what that would achieve. So a reviewer says "i was given this game for review", you think, "well I can't trust his review". ( otherwise, why ask the question )

What have you gained?

I think your better off following reviewers and deciding if you like their opinion or not. Just like you would with film reviewers, you just have to find some that you share a tastes with, and that can only be found over time.


I would hope that if they disclosed that they received a free copy, that it would make the reviewer provide a more realistic review. In turn, I might be more willing to believe his review is an honest, non-rose tinted view of the game. What happens when people know they received a free copy, and they don't disclose? That's even worse.

BGG does not appear as a printed publication or on a mass market news site. Because of this, I'd say more people would assume that the articles and posts here are genuinely a reviewer's own, unbiased views. To not tell your audience that you did not personally profit from a relationship with a publisher taints those who have paid for their own game.

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James Ludlow
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Kestril wrote:
Because of this, I'd say more people would assume that the articles and posts here are genuinely a reviewer's own, unbiased views.


I assume that all reviews are loaded with bias. Otherwise, what's the point of writing an opinion?

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Jason Miller
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jdludlow wrote:
Kestril wrote:
Because of this, I'd say more people would assume that the articles and posts here are genuinely a reviewer's own, unbiased views.


I assume that all reviews are loaded with bias. Otherwise, what's the point of writing an opinion?


True, bad word choice there, a review isn't a review without an opinion. 'Influence-free" would be better.
 
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Andreas Krüger
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OK, I'm new here, but I think biased reviews will soon be corrected by a vast amount of proper reviews which get a lot of thumbs.

If reviews are so important for you that you find disclosure necessary, please read many of them and ask people here about the games. For my tastes, an enforced disclosure policy is too much.

It is just too bad that games from small publishers will not get reviews from those famous ;-) reviewers who get all those free games that need their attention. Disclosure won't help that.
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Brad Tritone

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Should you disclose that you got a game free for Christmas or as a gift before you review it? Or perhaps, if you're playing a game that belongs to a family member, maybe you should disclose that? Or for that matter... should you even be allowed to review a game you don't physically own, regardless of how many times you've played it?

How about... if you bought a game for 50% or 75% off at a Barnes and Noble sale? What if you bought it at Thrift shop? Online? Tanga?

Circumstance of ownership is the least of my concerns when reading a review. I think I'm a pretty good judge of whether a reviewer told me what I wanted to know. If not, I move on to the next review. I'm not really interested in how the reviewer acquired the game.

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jeffwolfe wrote:
Movie reviewers get free screenings of the movies they review. Book reviewers get free copies of the books they review. Why would board game reviewers be any different?

Well, it would depend if you are talking about professional or amateurs. The overwhelming majority of board gamer reviewers here on the Geek are amateurs. Professionals can escape bias because there is usually no perceived conflict of interest and the value of the product being reviewed is not a concern given that the professional is being otherwise compensated.
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James Ludlow
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tritone wrote:
Should you disclose that you got a game free for Christmas or as a gift before you review it? Or perhaps, if you're playing a game that belongs to a family member, maybe you should disclose that? Or for that matter... should you even be allowed to review a game you don't physically own, regardless of how many times you've played it?


Do you really see no difference between receiving a game as a Christmas present and receiving it directly from the publisher? Seriously?
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Jason Miller
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tritone wrote:
Should you disclose that you got a game free for Christmas or as a gift before you review it? Or perhaps, if you're playing a game that belongs to a family member, maybe you should disclose that? Or for that matter... should you even be allowed to review a game you don't physically own, regardless of how many times you've played it?

How about... if you bought a game for 50% or 75% off at a Barnes and Noble sale? What if you bought it at Thrift shop? Online? Tanga?

Circumstance of ownership is the least of my concerns when reading a review. I think I'm a pretty good judge of whether a reviewer told me what I wanted to know. If not, I move on to the next review. I'm not really interested in how the reviewer acquired the game.


Really? It doesn't concern you that someone is being compensated for marketing a product to the rest of us when it appears that they're acting on their own behalf? I'm not calling for a complete ethical conflict of interest disclaimer before a review begins or ends, but I would like to know if someone has an interest in seeing a game do well.
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FNH1 wrote:
So a reviewer says "i was given this game for review", you think, "well I can't trust his review". ( otherwise, why ask the question )


Accepting gifts and/or sponsorship isn't a problem, but hiding a conflict of interest is an ethical lapse. Good journalists deal with this problem by noting something like "Full disclosure: XYZ is a sponsor of our program".

(I want to make it crystal clear that I think FNH1 is an ethical person; I'm merely responding to his post.)
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Ernesto Cabrera
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I sometimes think about this whenever I see a review from Tom Vasel... have you ever seen a "real" negative review from him? I mean there's a few games he talks about in his podcast that he says he doesn't like, but how musch trust should we have in someone who gets tons of games for free?... Well, we shouldn't, it's been said that we shouldn't trust in a sigle review, made by anyone, even Tom Vasel, Scott Nicholson or Michael Barnes, but it's not because we know they have the games for free, it's because their opinion it's not our opinion.

So no, I guess I don't trust in anyone's interest or bias towards a particular brand because of the free games they get, so I don't care if they tell me the game was for free or was fully payed. What I do care is that they give me an insight about the rules and overall of the game they are reviewing.

For example recently I saw Tom Vasel's review on Dominion, and what I got from watching the video is that I won't like the game, not even if he tells me it's a sing of the second coming of Jesus because he wants to get all the expansions for free...

It's time people start worrying about their own lives, let reviewers live their live... it's their conscience they'll fight against if the only thing they want is more free games...
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C Chandler
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This discussion is bigger than debating the generalizability of other media and venues. The larger issues here are the expectations and ideals surrounding reviewers and reviews.

The Internet is replete with all manner of opinions. You can't swing a cat on the Internet without hitting someone opining about their roommate, their favorite caliber, or the fate of the stimulus package. And while there are indeed many trustworthy information sources out there, there are scads of sites that gush biased, uneducated swill. The crowd can be wise but not all crowds are wise.

So, I would ask what makes BGG different. To be sure, the expert and even the amateur gamers at BGG lend much credibility to a review (believe it or not amateurs have been shown to create superior reviews than many experts). However, experts are no less susceptible to bias than any schlub off the street. Bias is insidious and not always evident to the reviewer or the reader. This is complicated by Bias' ne’er-do-well cousin, reciprocity. It has been shown again and again that gifts unequivocally influence perception and future action. That is why many health care organizations recently banned _ALL_ gifts from pharmaceuticals. If something as trivial as a free drug pen can unconsciously affect physician prescribing practices (a high-stakes endorsement if you think about it) then I would argue that getting a free copy of the thing I'm about to review has more than a reasonable chance of biasing my review.

So again, what distinguishes a BGG review from anything else you’d find out there? Does the BGG community desire a higher standard for its reviews and reviewers? Do you?

Among the many ways to improve review quality, full disclosure is relatively easy to explain and implement. Readers appreciate it. Reviewers are simply asked to disclose any potential conflicts of interest - many industries already do this. Questions could include: "Did you get a free game? Are you being compensated? By who? Did your spouse help create the game? Do you stand to benefit in any significant way?" Of course you can take this to the extreme. Don’t take it to the extreme.

As a human endeavor, peer review is an imperfect process. But creating a few rules of the road such as full disclosure will take us a long way from the time that Ug wrote a scathing review of Og’s depiction of horses at the Chauvet Cave. (Turns out Ug was denied tenure by a committee that Og chaired.)

I for one would be in favor of adding this to the BGG posting guidelines.

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Brian Morris
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craniac wrote:
Nobody is saying they shouldn't get free copies. They're saying they should disclose the fact.


There's a difference between a professional book reviewer getting a preview copy of a book or a film critic getting to see a critics preview of a film and someone getting a copy of a $50 game and writing a review on BGG. For one we know up front the book reviewer and the film critic got their's for free. The person posting the thread here is simply saying the same should be expected here. Simple disclosure.
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Oh no...not again.
If you are such a prolific reviewer, that publishers send you copies of their games for you to review, you will not feel compelled to write a goood review.
Why? Because you...
a) ...already know lots of games and have a lot of experience in writing reviews. You can form an opinion and can put it to words - thats why you are regarded as a good reviewer.
b) ...will not feel any thankfulness towards a publisher who sends you a game that is pure crap.
c) ...will become kind of jaded about the whole thing very quickly.

Remember that not just everybody gets free copies to review. While it sounds cool to get a free game, you have to put a lot of work into your reputation to get publishers to do this. Do you really think, that Tom Vasal jumps around in excitement everytime he receives a free game to review? Most of the time he propably just thinks "Oh no! More work...and normaly I wouldn't even have considered buying this thing.".
If he really makes mostly positive reviews, he propably just choses to only review the games he actualy likes - after all he is just doing this as a hobby.

As a comparison: Bookpublishers send out hundreds of review copies to journalists, booksellers and reviewers (these don't have to be professionals but can be blog-owners for example). These people just take it for granted, that they get these copies for free! They feel no special loyalty to the publisher for giving them these "gifts".
Believe me - I am a bookseller and I never felt obligated to sell books I didn't like because I received a free copy of them. It just comes with the job. If the book sucks, I will not stock or recommend it. Period.

Honestly I believe that this is just a big case of being jealous of the other kids toys. shake
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Brian Morris
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Tanakor wrote:
Do you really think, that Tom Vasal jumps around in excitement everytime he receives a free game to review? Most of the time he propably just thinks "Oh no! More work...and normaly I wouldn't even have considered buying this thing."


If Tom thought this was work he probably wouldn't be doing it so I'm finding it just a little hard to feel sorry for poor Tom Vasel and all the free stuff he gets.
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I'm NOT even 'concerned' about THAT 'crasspect' What anyone "dispenses" with their 'perspective' about these is mainly the GIST of the matters. I could P-U-L-L 'one' out from MY "posterior orifice" and make this into oh, I don't know, it's ALWAYS 'something'! As long that I've provided EVEN "a 'modicum' of an 'iota'!" for what this involved, then why not?
cool
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jeffwolfe wrote:
Movie reviewers get free screenings of the movies they review. Book reviewers get free copies of the books they review. Why would board game reviewers be any different?

But it is different.

For one thing, few board game reviewers do it for a living, so if they get anything out of it financially, it's from the companies that send them free board games. Whereas movie reviewers are doing it professionally, and need to maintain their credibility to keep their jobs, because they get their money (indirectly) from the readers. If where you are getting money from isn't a difference, I don't know what is.

And board game reviewers probably value the free copy of board games much more highly than movie reviewers do with the free screenings.
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lestat2099 wrote:
I sometimes think about this whenever I see a review from Tom Vasel... have you ever seen a "real" negative review from him? I mean there's a few games he talks about in his podcast that he says he doesn't like, but how musch trust should we have in someone who gets tons of games for free?...

For example recently I saw Tom Vasel's review on Dominion, and what I got from watching the video is that I won't like the game, not even if he tells me it's a sing of the second coming of Jesus because he wants to get all the expansions for free...

It's time people start worrying about their own lives, let reviewers live their live... it's their conscience they'll fight against if the only thing they want is more free games...


Hooray, the good old "Tom Vasel does no negative reviews" argument again! Always glad to see that one around. Interestingly enough, I paid full amount for Dominion, though - it wasn't a review copy.

I won't get into this conversation again, I just was amused that the one game example picked was NOT a review copy. But review copy or not - I call a bad game a bad game, and a good game a good game. You can doubt my integrity all you want, you can be "jealous" of the free copies (really, if I wanted free games, getting a second job and earning the money might be easier), go ahead and complain all you want.

You can doubt my integrity, but as for me - I sleep well at night. That's my disclaimer for you.
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Brian Morris
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TomVasel wrote:
You can doubt my integrity, but as for me - I sleep well at night. That's my disclaimer for you.


It's your refusal to disclose that obviously brings your integrity into question. You could pretty much quash a lot of that by simply being open and saying what games you were gifted and which weren't when you review them. You can't complain about people questioning your integrity when you review games and make a point of not disclosing that the game was gifted to you by the publisher. One has to assume at that point that you don't want people to know. That in and of itself opens yourself up to questions of your integrity.
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ukihunter wrote:
I think full disclosure would be nice. I think one might "judge" a game more critically if one has to pay for it as oppose to getting it for free. People may argue that point but we will never know unless the disclosure is made and allow people who read reviews to compare.


Actually, cognitive dissonance theory in psychology (which is well-supported by experimental evidence) would say that people are more likely to be biased and rate something better if they paid hard-earned money for it.
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