Recently, I was giving some thought to book reviews and then noticed a new Game Informer sitting on my desk. I opted to put aside my own thoughts for a while and dive into the latest issue of GI to see what the world of gaming could anticipate over the next few months. As I thumbed through the magazine and checked out the various game reviews and previews it contained it made me reflect back on my time at Midway Home Entertainment and some of the conversations I had with people there regarding game reviews, magazine covers, and more.
It kinda made me sad.
While working for Midway was my most favorite job ever, there were some eye-opening discoveries about the game industry. I remember talking with someone from one of the other departments, I worked in game/tech support, and they talked very candidly about how game companies would compete to get their games on magazine covers. Now, I'm not talking about competing in a game of Scrabble with the winning player getting the coveted cover. No, I'm talking about boozing up, partying, and other salacious things with reps from the magazine. If they liked how you partied with them more than the other companies then they would give you the cover. It was less about the actual game and more about the investment the game company made in the review magazine, or at least the magazine rep.
Now, I don't know how much truth there was to that back then or if things are any different today. It has been 2 decades since I worked there and such conversations were had.
But it did get me to thinking about all of the many emails I get from people asking me to pay to participate in interviews. Usually interviewees don't have to pay the interviewer, or at least that's my understanding. But reflecting back on how it was described to me how marketing people for game companies had to wine and dine the magazine reps to get cover stories and whatnot it does make me wonder if that is truly the seedy underbelly of the review world.
If journalistic integrity can be purchased with alcohol, drugs, or hookers then is there really any purpose behind dedicated review journals? It makes one question if the reviews found in such publications are little more than paid advertisements and not actual honest reviews of the content experienced. What hope does one have of getting attention to their product if they can't compete with others who are so willing to corrupt the institution either for personal or professional gain?
I'll admit, it is a little disheartening to think that some, probably many, of the positive reviews we see each day for a variety items come from such attention having been purchased by the manufacturer and not a true reflection of the consumer. I give books away for free to people who might be willing to read them and leave a review but at no point do I stipulate that their review must be positive or that they will be assessed some type of fee or penalty if they leave anything negative. Now, I have had people leave negative feedback in retaliation for my reviews but that's a different topic all together that shows someone's pettiness .
I continue to get the Game Informer magazine though I don't put any stock in the reviews and articles any more. I get it more for the announcements. It is a good place for me to get a concentrated list of upcoming and recently released games. I know what kind of games I like so simply by knowing what games have come out or will be coming out I can better do my research to find the games I want. I don't rely on the words of others which is somewhat contradictory considering I want others to buy my books based on the words of others.