When word got out that accredited game reviewers would be receiving their PS4s from Sony, nobody really made a sound because there wasn’t much news about it. But when Sony gave game reviewers their PS4s at a special pre-launch event with piles of swag that included their newly and personally engraved PS4, the internet exploded.
Cries against reviewers for letting their ethics be compromised because by accepting these gifts they were essentially selling their opinion for a custom engraving.
But let’s think about this for longer than it takes to pound out three poorly written sentences with an abundance of obscenities and exclamation points (!!!!!).
To me, the outrage is less about the integrity of video game journalism, or in this case, opinionated editorial, and more about the fact that a select group of gaming writers were invited to a media only event, given some free swag and given their (media designated) PlayStation 4 console. In essence, the public is angry that game reviewers received their shiny new (and custom engraved) PS4s free and early.
But did they really receive these units for free? How much actual work goes in to writing a review? Truth is, a lot.
I was news and editorials editor for my college’s newspaper, which was not a volunteer position, it was paid. Not only are you drafting, editing and retooling your own work, often you still have other tasks to oversee including story meetings, features development, video production and in my case, working on simultaneously churning out articles for print (where length of article is critical) and developing for web. Add in the time needed to properly play and review a game, notes in hand and reviewing takes a significant amount of work (and lost sleep).
Believe me, after years of climbing the ladders of their respective publications, these writers and reviewers have certainly paid for their consoles. Maybe not in money, but in absolute hard work. Because as much fun and challenges journalism brings, it has never been a lucrative career. And gaming is an expensive hobby.
Unfortunately, what sparked the initial discussion is that many of these reviewers took to social media or their own blogs at the publications and shared pictures of their new engraved PS4s, the stack of games and a pile of swag. They should have known better than to put themselves at the disadvantage of having their ethics challenged, their biases shifted and their audience questioning any positive review of a Sony product for the lifespan of the PS4. It certainly doesn’t help having editorial staff snap a picture of themselves bedding a console.
I understand where they are coming from however. At the end of the day, they’re like you and I. They are gamers who are in the fortunate position to be doing what they love, with all the perks. It is certainly an advantageous and enviable position to be in.
Ethics and media is something I’ve always followed very closely. Sure I’ve attended my share of early screenings for films which I would immediately turn out a review for. Hell, my office even received copies of the sixth Harry Potter movie for review, which we all watched in our office one night prior to publication day. But at the end of the day, these are tools that are necessary for the job that we did. Likewise, if game reviewers did not have a PS4, they would not be able to review any games. Games that Sony wants to have reviewed
At the end of the day, I believe a good reviewer is able to filter though the BS, and review a product accordingly. Because if they don’t, the audience will find a way to call you out on it.
They are not gifts. They are not handouts. They have been earned. Everything except a little engraving (which is admittedly cool).