#GamerGate: IGN’s Code Of Ethics Is Now Public


IGN

If you were busy with new year’s festivities and all the FTC complaints about Gawker, the Game Journo Pros and other nefarious activities spawned from various media groups all throughout this #GamerGate scandal, then it’s no surprise that you probably missed a pretty big update that happened at the beginning of 2015 at IGN: they updated and released their code of ethics to the public.

Back on December 29th, 2014 IGN made an update to their Standards and Practices guide on the official website under their Wikis section.

There are detailed descriptions of IGN’s practices regarding NDAs, review policies, embargoes, previews, sponsorships, IGN deals, travels, meals and gifts, library policy, crowd-funding, relationships, plagiarism, licensees and non-IGN content.

This update flew well under the radar due to a lot of other happenings taking place at the time. Nevertheless, it’s great news to see the inner workings and disclosure regarding the practices and ethics principles under which IGN operates.

The most controversial aspect of IGN is addressed under their review section, where they state…

IGN's opinions are not for sale. They are managed entirely by the editorial teams and the review opinion is separate from publisher relations.

One of the interesting things mentioned is under the relationships banner, where they state…

“If someone at IGN develops a relationship with an industry contact that extends beyond a professional friendship, he or she must disclose that to the editorial managers, who will determine whether or not that employee should be permitted to cover their friend's projects. If we determine that employee can still cover the project fairly, that personal relationship will be disclosed to our users”.

Previously, some developers and journalists had been in relationships with each other without disclosure. Some of these incestuous relationships became dangerous for consumers when one journalist refused to report on more than 40,000 users being hacked in order to avoid damaging his relationship with Electronic Arts.

Another controversial topic is the ads and sponsorships affecting editorial content. According to IGN’s public ethics policy…

IGN's editorial and sales team are entirely separate and advertising does not affect editorial priorities.

It’s amazing that just following on their new code of ethics being made public, a handful of their staff up and left.

Previously, Defy Media had overhauled their code of ethics and disclosure policies for many of their subsidiaries, including The Escapist Magazine. Rumors floated around that some of the former staff at the Escapist felt that the policy overhaul was management conceding to the whims of #GamerGate, which caused Jim Sterling to part ways and take to Patreon to fund his content.

Some gaming journalists were angered that various websites actually altered and made public their ethics policies at the behest of consumers who staged a revolt under the GamerGate hashtag. Clearly, anyone who is opposed to disclosure, transparency and a code of ethics in which to adhere, obviously prefers the more loose and corrupt ways of doing business. And corruption has been the way of gaming media for a long time.

Nevertheless, Tal Blevins, the publisher of IGN, had previously mentioned that they would be disclosing their ethics policy to the public and make it widely available so people can see how they operate and help hold them to the standard expected of them from the gaming community.

It’s nice to see that Blevins held true to his word and followed through. This is a clear indication that the requests from consumers using the GamerGate hashtag are not asking for much. The equally clear indication of push-back from major media outlets simply shows that they have a vested interest in protecting corrupt behavior.

You can view the very detailed code of ethics policy that IGN made available for public viewing by paying a visit to their official website.



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  • Rangerage

    Good on IGN, nice to see they actually did put out a proper ethics policy.

  • welp i guess this means i can visit IGN again.. if i cant find enough news on techraptor or nichegamer

  • draconian139

    We’ll probably go down in history as villains but its clear that we’ll have had a positive impact regardless.

    • Jon

      If we go down in history as the villains, evil will win this day.

    • gigan

      Just like Ramza Beoulve!

      Except without, you know, murdering unknowning knights in cold blood for experience points.

  • anopolis

    I find it hilarious theres so much push-back in wanting “journalists” to practice ethics. #gamergate really does need to rename itself somehow though, it needs to be bigger. I would like to see the day when, I dunno, reporters did their job without such blatant bias. While I do love my games, when it’s all said and done, they’re pretty low priority. What about other Media outlets?..

    • While I do love my games, when it’s all said and done, they’re pretty low priority. What about other Media outlets?

      Hmm… what we really need is a governing body that can enact sanctions of some sort against these corrupt media outlets. Right now it’s sad that there’s no where to turn to when the media is caught being corrupt.

      It’s sad that the media is allowed to run as an unmonitored propaganda machine, but that was probably done by design.

      • anopolis

        Frankly I’m scared of anything with a governing body, it never seems to work out long term. I’d rather have an informed population that blasted these biased fools liberal/conservative slants alike..its all a joke. There is no integrity anymore, it doesn’t exist. Not all doom and gloom though, people are coming around….slowly.

      • cool_boy_mew

        The problem is that an “informed population” is … Well, that’s not gonna happen

      • Lord Darque

        No it is not. Sad but true.

      • dsadsada

        I guess that’s why a public code of ethics is something we ask for, that way we the readers can properly blast them when needed.

        But I think that there should always be somebody well versed in legal-fu to be able to identify loopholes just in case media outlets try to pull something funny.

    • dsadsada

      As long as it’s just videogames then I’d prefer sticking with the current tag. Mostly because I’m stubborn and want to ‘win’ while keeping the tag that the media has associated with the usual crap.

      But should the ideas start moving on to address other forms of media or the major news sites, I’m all for a rename. Until then, I’ll be as stubborn as an ass.

      • anopolis

        ha! keep it up my good man

  • Alex Murdoc

    I’m pretty happy about this, and I guess I’ll start reading IGN again, at least for now. People can claim that #GamerGate hasn’t had any tangible results or made a positive impact, but changes like this prove that’s not true.

    • That’s why it’s important to document all of this stuff. I get the feeling that after the landscape is vastly affected, we’ll have a bunch of history revisionists who will write of these events in a completely different light. At least there will be some archived documents proving them otherwise.

    • IAmDaedem .

      ” People can claim that #GamerGate hasn’t had any tangible results”

      They only say that, because to admit otherwise would ruin their narrative that #GamerGate is about harassment.

  • Cenobite

    Well, to those leaving IGN in the wake of this I wish you life, light, and distance. I hope you find something that suits you better, and you are happy doing it. IGN welcome back to my list of sites to read, and thank you for doing the right thing.

    To you others out there still; I say take note IGN, and The Escapist have cleaned up their acts, and I won’t be sending any handwritten letters to their advertisers. They now join Tech Raptor, Niche Gamer, and Gather Your Party as places I will look for news on games. When I am not doing that or working I will keep handwriting letters for your advertisers. Letting them know that I am a consumer, that I am boycotting your sites, and why. Spin all the stories to the rest of the world you want it makes no difference. Until you clean up your acts nothing changes for you.

    PS. Notice in all the links, and articles that no women were fired from jobs. People quit, but no one was singled out because of gender. Pardon me I have another letter to write.

  • calbeck

    Great to see IGN and #GamerGate mutually supporting the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics!

  • Jess

    This is an even more satisfactory response than the Escapist. Holy shit IGN, good job.

    “IGN’s opinions are not for sale”

    Halle-fucking-lujah.

  • Troushers

    Does this apply to affilates like IGNuk or IGNaus?

  • HouseOfBrick

    It’s really funny that out of all the places to have a comprehensive ethics policy and an implied promise to follow it is IGN, long-mocked for supposed biased and paid-for reviews. Anybody can be forgiven, though, and i will finally start visiting IGN.

  • CozyAndWarm

    Now the time begins to see whether or not IGN actually follows through with these policies, or just continues to treat ethics as a formality and continue business as usual.

    But, for now I’ll be optimistic. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

  • Fenrir007

    Sent them an e-mail with some questions (posted below – please, excuse my poor writing skills):

    Greetings,

    I decided to write this in light of your updated ethics policy. Before I dive into it, I will say right now that I had stopped coming to IGN because of certain things I saw over time that made me dislike it here. This was a long time ago, though, and websites, just like people, can change – and it seems like this policy is a step in the right direction. Because of it and the general professionalism exhibited by your staff in the last few months, I decided to include IGN in my newsfeeds again, and this time I hope to be a more active member instead of a passive reader.

    “Except for the Publisher, the Editor-in-Chief, and senior editorial liaisons who do not review products, no member of the editorial team is ever aware of the details of a sponsorship or advertising, including amount spent, the type of advertisement, or even the identity of the sponsor.”

    While these people do not write reviews, I presume they do have behind the scene access to what was written beforehand and can adjust content (or nudge the writer towards a certain angle) in the hopes of increasing the overall quality of the piece. How is it possible to ascertain these people will not steer the piece in a direction that would benefit a company that is currently in an advertisement deal with IGN? My apologies if I misunderstood the function performed by these staff members. I’m especially unclear on the “senior editorial liaisons” responsibilities.

    “Special exceptions are sometimes made for staff who have to prep sets or have access to sets that contain branded elements or for those who participate in product giveaways, which we see as a service to our readers.”

    Do you mean a certain company that is currently signed with IGN on some advertisement deal may supply you with, for example, game codes, and the relevant staff would be told about it so they could put the giveaway in practise? Also, in this case, is the deal disclosed to the public, or is it presumed to exist by the fact it is a giveaway?

    “but, at the discretion of the editorial managers, we may accept travel and meals paid for by the companies we’re working with as long as those arrangements are relevant to the content we need to cover.”

    Will this be disclosed in the article? If so, how detailed will it be?

    “No one on the IGN content team is permitted to accept any personal gift from a publisher, developer, or PR agency in excess of $60, the cost of an average game.”

    A gift is still a gift. If said gift is the game itself, this is understandable, but if it isn’t, I can’t see it as anything but an attempt at swaying someone’s opinion. How relevant is game swag, for example, to the ability of a reviewer to review a product? Gifts, especially game related memorabilia, can increase the perceived value of a game by improving the user experience with the content. This can obviously happen from a practical point of view (example: a beautiful cloth map, a companion book with useful information, amiboos etc), but it can also play with the emotions of the reviewer by creating a lasting attachment to it. Can you say for certain someone receiving a limited editon Hatsune Miku figma wouldn’t let this influence that person’s ability to properly evaluate the game Project Diva? This is even worse if the reviewer already has some natural affinity or attachment towards the product.

    Besides, there is the problem of determining the value of an item that simply isn’t for sale. If you receive a “chainsword” or a “bolter” replica over the mail that was made internally and isn’t for sale, how do you determine it’s value to fit into this rule?

    Marketing departments love to create these one-of-a-kind swag and send it to reviewers, and let’s face it – marketers would never do something out of the goodness of their icky, black hearts. They want you to generate them clicks with clickbait or unboxing videos/articles about the items sent (sometimes delivered in cryptic fashion to further up the hype and feed the speculation machine) OR expect you to look more fondly upon their product in case of reviewing it.

    Why not simply refuse said gifts regardless of the price and either raffle them or sell it and donate the proceedings to charity (or simply donate the item to charity to save you the hassle – they can ebay it themselves)? As I said before, though, review copies are fine (at least in my opinion).

    “IGN staff may accept complimentary accounts and in-game funds that are necessary for testing game features.”

    Is it safe to assume reviewers are never paying any sort of money on anything related to the game they are reviewing, and that the costs are being covered either by IGN or the game devs / publisher themselves?

    Depending on the answer to the previous question, this may be a moot point, but will these complimentary funds be disclosed? It would be a good piece of information to us, as the perceived financial impact of spending X of your personal budget on a certain microtransaction is certainly different from using “monopoly money”. In this case, we would be able to make a fair judgement on the reviewer’s stance on the game economy and evaluate if he was able to properly transport those actions to a real life scenario. Humans are fallible, after all.

    Those are all the questions I had about the updated ethics policy. I especially like the part where you will avoid having staff members reporting on games they worked on previously or have a friendly relation with the devs (and will disclose the relationship if given the go ahead to write the article).

    I look forward to becoming a regular once again!

    PS.: My adblock is off for you guys.

  • The_Last_Ride

    holy hell, this is why Greg Miller left IGN!

  • Cyberxion

    Great for IGN, but I’m vastly more interested in the sites that popped up in the wake of this controversy. Aint saying I’m gonna shit on anyone for choosing to visit the site, but I sure as hell aint going back.

  • Zanard Bell

    I love you, IGN. Still, 7/10 not enough water.

    Had to jab you with that one, though.

  • Dilly B

    I’ll believe when CoD gets a score under 9.0 this year.

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