Bottom Line: Gaming Journalists & Crowd-Funding: Cool or Conflict?

Bottom Line: It’s a simple question, more about ethics than about statistics. Is it acceptable for journalists that cover the games industry to contribute to crowd-funding campaigns for video games? Or does it create the appearance of a conflict of interest that their outlet will then provide favorable coverage to said game? My thoughts below.

Crowd-funding is still a big deal in the world of video game development, and overall it’s a good way to both gauge public interest in a title and a way to raise funds to aid in producing it especially for smaller teams or experimental projects. But with the popularity comes responsibility on behalf of the media, and in my opinion I think gaming journalists should abstain themselves from participating in crowd-funding games.

Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and recently Fig (which offers an equity ownership option as opposed to strictly donations) are popular platforms for developers to use for these crowd-funding efforts. For perspective, the following shows video game projects last year that raised over $20K. Note that Kickstarter is obviously still the most popular of these platforms based on stats from ICO Partners:

 

GamesIndustryBiz

 

And from a games perspective overall, the following are the most contributed games ever based on stats from both providers:

 

Top Crowd-Funded Games

 

Knowing that many smaller or “indie” games wouldn’t be made otherwise if it wasn’t for donations from supporters, it’s tempting for journalists covering the medium to turn into a fan and donate. But that presents a conflict of interest in my opinion, where it gives the appearance that their outlet *could* provide critical coverage that is more favorable than usual. I understand gaming journalism is inherently flawed; it walks a fine line between unbiased coverage and being occupied by downright fans of the industry its covering, but either way it needs to recognize potential conflicts in this age of moneyhatting and pay-for-play YouTubing.

I think that all such cases of journalists donating need to be explicitly stated to the market and fully transparent. And it’s the responsibility of the outlet to acknowledge this and separate the individual from any and all coverage of the title in question. It’s similar to an employee donating to a presidential campaign, which companies require them to report and distinguish the individual’s opinions from that of the firm.

I’ve heard various cases of members of the gaming media donating to fund-raising campaigns, but not much discussion on the conflict that this presents. I believe the journalist should not donate overall, and if they do, their outlet needs to be transparent and remove them from any coverage of the particular title. Do you think I’m overreacting, as games are normally covered by fans that are a part of the media? Or should journalists in general not financially support the companies, items or services that they are covering?

Sources: CrowdFunding.com, GoFundMe.com. Kickstarter, Fig, ICO Partners, GamesIndustryBiz

-Dom

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