capital, a conce
pt used by game scholar Mia Consalvo which can be seen as a “
fluid andalways changing currency held by those who have gained knowledge and information aboutgames and game culture and are able to voice their opinions or relate their experiences to
(Nieborg & Sihvonen 2009), and is the commodity which game journalists communicate,and sell, to the gamer. The industrial actors, however, distribute promotional material to giveextra flavor to a game and pay for trips to let journalists experience what it is like to be shootingat each other, in, for example, a paintball session (see Nieborg 2010b). This, however, mightaffect the writings of a game journalist.Thus, it seems that game journalists are caught in the middle, between the industry on one sideand the gamers on the other. Heavily dependent on the information that is provided by theindustry and also restricted by it, since the industry is able to regulate the practices of the journalist. On top of that game writers are being bribed with free, promotional stuff and tripswhich might further affect their work, maybe in a positive way for the industry, but murky anddoubtful considering the gamers. From an ethical point of view promoting can quickly turn intodirty bribing, leaving game journalists having to choose between economics and ethics.
The problem and resistance of bribing
Although the dependence of information provision clearly remains a form of influence exertion,the question whether the bribing on top of that really has that much influence is an interestingone. Do bribes directly cause positive writing? To answer this question, quantitative, empiricalresearch would clearly not be the best choice. Bribing is a social phenomenon and itseffectiveness would only be properly measured
if it even can be measured
when taking allvariables into account. When looking at bribing in practice, all kinds of aspect matter: the form ofthe bribe, the value of the bribe, the actors involved, the individual gain from social, political andeconomic perspectives, the mutual benefit, etc. To gain more insight in the matter, I suggestlooking at statements of journalists.The interpretations of doling out promotional material are often opposed: Some game writersthat receive swag and other forms of funding such as free trips do not care about the ethics ofthese practices. Why be bothered when someone is offering you some extra cool stuff? In theeyes of mainstream journalists, however, those writers are seen as enthusiast press which is
“positioned over time primarily as a marketing venue, with a clear hand in encouraging
consumers to buy a
nd play the games that benefit the press‟s relationship with gamepublishers” (Carlson 2009), and are often labeled as not “real” journalists.
The problem, according to game academics David Nieborg and Tanja Sihvonen, is thatpractices such as offering trips and swag
“undermine journalistic integrity and neutrality,
arguably leading to an attitude of
do not bite the hand that feeds you
(Nieborg & Sihvonen2009), and
, as video game production scholar Rebecca Carlson puts it, “a dismi
Although this statement describes consequences of these
practices, Nieborg & Sihvonen do not dive intothe ethics of the matter. However, albeit not very explicit, the article hints their pessimistic stance towards thesepractices.