This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.
For many things in life there is a simple saying that a wise old sage on twitter told me. It’s called “DoJ” or, don’t be a jerk. Want to harass someone on the internet because they differ in their viewpoint? No, don’t be a jerk. Want to proclaim that a group is (insert buzzword here) because of a small faction within it? No, don’t be a jerk. It’s simple and easy to remember. Why am I telling you this in an article about #GamerGate? DoJ is an easy solution to prevent sane people from living in a bridge. It is simple, effective, it and works – most of the time. Unfortunately, solving the problems of journalistic integrity that is central to the #GamerGate movement is not.
The problem with creating a solution to #GamerGate is that #GamerGate is abnormal. Usually, movements will have a group or a leader; #GamerGate only has individuals. Sure, there will be famous individuals like Adam Baldwin but there is no true leadership here. This increases the difficulty substantially as more voices will lead to more petty disagreements over the solution. This is what I would have said had I not been a part of #GamerGate. Gamers in general, for the past 2-3 weeks, have shown that they can band together for a cause. Obviously, the vitriolic trolls cursing like a sailor and screaming misogyny will still exist but we can just ignore them.
The solution to #GamerGate is paradoxical in a way, simple yet difficult. It is simple because the long sought after solution was probably linked by almost ever supporter. This is the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) code of ethics. The solution isn’t to fire every single journalist or to solely read smaller sites like ours. It is to create a code of ethics specifically for games journalism. The SPJ code of ethics will serve as the skeleton of this new code of ethics, but it needs to be tailored specifically towards games journalism.
I will not claim or profess to make the final version of this new code of ethics. I will, however, showcase a rough draft that showcases the right direction for #GamerGate. We must make our own ethics policy the standard for future video game journalism.
#GamerGate Code of Ethics
To be ratified immediately by any serious games media site on any side of the spectrum. If at any time these rules are broken and punishment is not given according to these rules, the site will be blacklisted by the gaming community. To add an article, as all modifications to this ethics code after finalized will be known as, the article will have to be approved by 7 appointed gamer representatives, and 3 appointed journalist representatives.
Must be truthful
- All information must be sourced and verified of validity. No misrepresentation of information will be tolerated.
- All information must be free of personal bias and political bias unless otherwise stated.
- Article headlines must summarize the headlines without oversimplifying or “click baiting” .
- Article images must always be relevant to the topic at hand. No exceptions.
Must Maintain Transparency
- Any and all relationships between the subject matter of the article and the writer must be disclosed. This includes personal and monetary relationships. Failure to disclose this could lead to corruption charges.
- Journalists must not write about subjects that they are close to (i.e. writing about a developer who you are in a relationship with (this includes monetary, personal etc.).
Must be well mannered
- Journalists must always have a professional appearance even while being harassed.
- Journalists must not insult (i.e. trolling) their audience in any manner.
For Reviews, Journalists should
- State where the game came from (i.e. provided by the developer, purchased with own money etc.) Failure to disclose this could lead to corruption charges.
- Refrain from reviewing games from developers they have close relationships with. Any and all relationships with developers should be stated at the beginning of the page. If they are not disclosed there may be corruption charges.
- Should not accept bribes in the form of money, food, etc. in exchange for positive review scores.
- Maintain a fair perspective in the review, i.e. not letting political or personal bias change judgement.
- Provide reasons for the score in a clear manner.
For Editorials / Opinion pieces, Journalists should
- Clearly state that the article is an opinion piece / editorial before the beginning of the article.
- Have information to back their claims.
- Provide sources for any information used to justify their opinion
- Treat the audience with a degree of respect. No journalist should disrespect their audience and base it purely on opinion.
Failure to obey the Code:
The punishment will depend on the infraction. If a minor infraction occurs, i.e. forgetting to source information, then a writer will be put on probation. During the probationary period, after 5 more occasions of infractions, the journalist will be ousted from the site. The probationary period will depend on the site’s own discretion.
If a major infraction, i.e. a journalist is found receiving money in the form of bribes, then the punishment will be more severe. Many of these charges will fall under the category of Corruption Charges.
These are the highest charges against Journalists. If these charges have been found to be valid, the representatives will vote on the incident. If a majority vote of yes has been reached then the representatives will decide the punishment.
The representative system:
7 appointed gamer representatives and 3 appointed journalist representatives will be chosen in order to moderate inquiries about infractions, specifically major infractions. A majority vote is needed in order to approve of any decisions. A new representative will be chosen every 3 years. Voting will be cast on the internet.
This is just a draft. Not even a draft, this is a skeleton. It’s something to get ideas flowing. What we need to do now is create an actual ethics code so that we can stop the corruption in the industry. Until then, just read smaller sites I guess.
Editor’s Note: Satya does not harbor an unbiased or neutral opinion on #GamerGate. He has been following and actively participating in #GamerGate. This article was made on the assumption that the reader has a basic understanding of #GamerGate. If not, you can get a quick rundown via our friends at Gamesnosh here.