Late today Tim Schafer revealed that Double Fine and 2 Player Productions would be starting a Kickstarter fund to help cover the costs of developing a new point-and-click adventure game along with documentary videos covering the process. Immediately fans jumped on board and began to invest in the development of this title. As of writing, the Kickstarter has received just under $250, 000. It is quite clear that the gaming community is interested in this project and willing to help support it financially. Of course, many video game journalists fall into this category of fans that are willing to financially aid the development of a new game. But being journalists, does contributing to this Kickstarter create a conflict of interest? Below we have both sides of the argument and create an open forum for discussion on the topic.
A Big No-No
As Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb pointed out on Twitter:
Is it weird if members of the media contribute to Double Fine’s Kickstarter?
By financially contributing to a game’s development, the journalist is investing themselves into the final product. Although they don’t have a financial investment and they won’t make any money from the success of the game, by donating to a Kickstarter fund they are already showing bias towards the game. It is in their best interest for this game to do well, thus they are more likely to write favourable articles for the game. By financially contributing to the development of a game, a journalist is creating a conflict of interest.
No Problem Here
What’s the big deal? As Chris Remo, previously of Irrational Games responded to Mr. Klepek on Twitter:
@patrickklepek You aren’t an investor, so you can’t profit from it. And members of the media clearly preorder and buy games.
Whether it is in the form of a Kickstarter fund or by simply purchasing a game, journalists usually financially support the games they cover. Financially supporting a game does not equate to writing favourable articles about a game. Although many journalists are provided copies of the games they cover, what about the games they don’t cover? If a journalist pays for one game in a series, but is provided a copy of another game in the same series does that make them more likely to write favourable articles about that other game? What if they don’t even end up covering the game they are supporting? It doesn’t seem fair to black-list all journalists from supporting the development of games, whether they report on the game or not. Game journalists should be free to spend their money as they wish and that includes supporting the development of a video game.
Two very different opinions on the subject have been provided above, but what about your opinion? Do you feel by financially supporting the development of a game, journalists are creating a conflict of interest? Or do you feel their support creates no such conflict? Leave your comments below and the best from each side will be published in our follow up article.