What to Expect from Me, or The Ethics Manifesto

3 11 2014

I’m hoping (not at all promising) to write more frequently going forward. With #GamerGaters still insisting that their movement is all about ethics in game journalism, it seems appropriate that I set out my own code of ethics. I wouldn’t call myself a journalist – I’m definitely more of a critic – but it still seems like a good idea.

  1. I have never been given promotional material, gifts of meals or entertainment, review or preview copies of games or access codes for such, or sweaty piles of cash by any game developers or publishers that I can remember. Should any developers or publishers wish to offer me any of the above, I will accept them quite readily – contact me at your earliest convenience, publishers and developers! That being said, I will do my best to keep any such largesse from coloring my opinions, and I will disclose such gifts in any articles touching upon the entities that gave them.
  2. I will make absolutely no attempt at writing “objective reviews.” First off, unless you’re writing a spec sheet (“This game runs at 1080P as advertised. The multiplayer features listed on the box are indeed present.”), a review can’t be objective. As soon as you express any opinion, you’ve abandoned objectivity. Beyond the semantic silliness of the idea, I have no interest in writing what seems to be the goal behind the impossible banner of “objectivity,” a simple numerical grade that tells you whether you should buy a game or not, like the GamePro reviews of a bygone age. For one thing, I don’t know you. I have no idea what you like and don’t like. Given that I’ve recommended games to people I know quite well only to find that they hated the things, I certainly don’t think I should be telling complete strangers how to spend their money. Furthermore…
  3. I will not keep my politics out of my writing. Games are cultural currency, and they both reflect and shape the sociopolitical reality in which they exist. I’m going to comment on that. Games completely devoid of political content are vanishingly rare, even if their developers intended no political message. I will talk about issues of inclusiveness and representation when I see fit. I will apply my personal politics to the games that I examine, and I will express my opinions of the sociopolitical state of the industry when I feel it is appropriate to do so. If the fact that I am staunchly liberal and progressive is likely to bother you, the writing you find here is likely to bother you. Fairly warned be thee, says I.
  4. In criticism, authors assemble examples from the criticized text to support their thesis. They should at least acknowledge elements in the text that undercut the thesis, hopefully explaining how these elements are outweighed or are otherwise insufficient to prove their thesis wrong. There are plenty of valid reasons that such acknowledgements may not be included or may only appear in passing – this does not invalidate the criticism. It is not the job of the critic to present every possible viewpoint, and it certainly isn’t the critic’s job to undercut his or her own thesis at every turn. In my criticism, I will do my best to explain my opinion and how I came to it, citing examples from the text. I will try to acknowledge things in the text that don’t fit with my thesis, and I will welcome comments by people who see things differently. If someone points out that I’ve made a mistake in my citations or arguments and I agree that it is actually a mistake, rather than a difference of interpretation, I will write a correction if I feel that it is appropriate to do so. That being said, mistakes and omissions do not automatically invalidate a thesis, and I won’t behave as though they do. I am always interested in honest discussion of differing viewpoints, but discussion has to start from somewhere other than screaming “YOU’RE WRONG!” and nothing more.

I may add to this over time, but those four things are unlikely to change at any point in the future, so they’re a good start.

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