Games Journalism And Ben Kuchera’s Lack Of Ethics

[Editor’s note: This is a guest piece from journalist and public speaker Robert Kingett. The views and opinions expressed by Robert are his own.]


 

Typing in “opinion journalism” into Google will reveal a ton of research. One of the top results is a shell of an article on Wikipedia, that has a note at the top of it.

“This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2014)”

The definition there is straightforward and direct if it is a bit, well, laughable. The entry is only two paragraphs long and attempts to describe opinion journalism. What it fails to mention, however, is that opinion journalists still should adhere to journalistic ethics and standards and guidelines.

Many are familiar with Ben Kuchera and his work of doing things such as comparing video game lengths to paintings and comparing a PS4 controller to “the best thing ever” without citing what “that thing” is.

For those who don’t know him, Ben Kuchera is a writer for Polygon who recently wrote an unethical piece about why he is taking a break from gaming.

In journalism, it is our job to present facts and cases. This includes sides of a debate, both sides in court cases, and evidence that cancels other evidence out. We are to be the one who parses through all of this information, splice it, research it’s accuracy, and then present both stances to the public. The public look to us to tell the truth when providing news, to showcase conflicting points of view, to be the source for events that will serve the people no matter how many people we have backed on Patreon or Kickstarter

The same is true for opinion journalism as well. While there isn’t any clear standards opinion journalists have, they still have to abide by basic, sometimes common sense, guidelines and ethics.

In fact, this is even more so for opinion journalists. Not only should they present all, and I mean all, of the counter arguments within their topic they are writing about, opinion journalists should operate as custodians of fact with a discipline of verification. Opinion journalists report and tell us what they think about what they report and why they think the way they do about what they report.

On Mar 30, 2015 an opinion piece went live entitled, “I’m taking a break. It’s not you, gaming, it’s me”

The title doesn’t necessarily scream a breach of ethics right then and there but the first two paragraphs do. The first two paragraphs, too, inform the reader exactly what this post will be about. It’s not a debate with links and facts and studies and different voices laying out an argument. It’s a sympathy seeking blog post which violates Polygons own laughable ethics policy, to boot.

From Polygon’s own horrific opinion dictionary, it clearly states that…

“Opinion pieces present one side of debates or issues that are often two sided, and will seek to begin a dialog with our readers and the industry at large. These pieces may be written by Polygon staff, freelance writers or industry professionals.”

While they don’t hold any merits against my stacks of guidelines and otherwise that say that an opinion reporter is to give their educated point of view while clearly displaying and demonstrating conflicting arguments or viewpoints, staff should at least follow their own policies. Ben Kuchera has not.

After the article opens up with a paragraph that begs for pity, the tone continues to rocket down the tone and voice of pity. Here’s just one example.

“This is actually a relatively common thing as I get older, and many industry friends suggested literally dozens of great games I should be playing. I was forced to admit that the problem wasn’t the selection of games on the market, but my own need to get away from playing games for a bit.

It seems like every year or two I hit a few weeks, or even a month or so, when gaming as a whole just doesn’t feel enjoyable.”

The article also vilifies gamers in addition to completely violating their ethics policy. Ben actually writes something as horrible as “What’s striking is that when I talk about these periods to people I know in gaming, they often admit the same thing, but the conversation turns to whispers, as if we’re doing something wrong.” I know that not all gamers are that hideous. Studies also back me up.

Journalists should never, ever, attack their audience. This is in direct violation of ethics such as SPJ’s ethics and the New York Times.

The complaint continues for almost a page with no points, counter points, arguments, justifications, dialogs, facts, figures, or even debates. Even though it’s called an opinion piece on Polygon, it would never be considered an opinion piece in mainstream journalism because there’s no argument to display. There’s just a wash of subjectively brass adjectives and metaphors

By allowing this to happen, Polygon has demonstrated that it will violate it’s own ethics policy to generate clicks and readers.

This shouldn’t be on a video game website that’s supposed to provide news and opinions, actual opinions with an equal demonstration of all parties involved, I meant. It is highly unethical and really illustrates just how lackluster their staff are when considering their work and guidelines..

This isn’t the first time Ben Kuchera has violated journalism ethics, however. This opinion by him is an attack, not an opinion, as well.

In fact, quite a bit of his opinions are in violation of journalism ethics. Polygon and others recently updated their policies and ethics, but it’s about time websites start actually taking journalism and reporting on a cherished industry seriously. It certainly can’t hurt anything. Hell, it may even increase site traffic once in a while.

Article by: Robert Kingett
Website:  Blindjournalist.wordpress.com
Twitter:  @theblindwriter

About

Staff/guest writers are content contributors who provide articles, news and editorials for One Angry Gamer.

20 thoughts on “Games Journalism And Ben Kuchera’s Lack Of Ethics

  1. Excellent article.
    “In fact, quite a bit of his opinions are
    in violation of journalism ethics. Polygon and others recently updated
    their policies and ethics, but it’s about time websites start actually
    taking journalism and reporting on a cherished industry seriously. It
    certainly can’t hurt anything. Hell, it may even increase site traffic
    once in a while.”
    They can’t. Time and again they proved themselves slaves to their agenda. Objectivity is neither a desired outcome nor deemed worthy by whatever audience they have left.

  2. While I agree that that piece was a cheesy personal blog post, I gotta wonder given the long brutal path of unethical and abusive destruction that Kuchera has woven through video games journalism for a decade or so, this is the one he gets called out for? I mean yes in it he’s a whiny man baby taking his ball and going home. He’s trying to break up with you and pulling the passive aggressive “it’s not you it’s me” routine to cause guilt and shame in the reader. It’s a lousy piece that never should have been published if the publisher had any actual professional standards. By I am not sure the problem with that one really come down to ethics so much as poor unprofessional low quality writing matched by little to no actual editorial oversight. Not all bad journalism is a matter of ethics. Sometimes it’s just really really lousy journalists writing crap. If anything the criticism there should fall to the editors and publishers who chose to spew out pointless crap under their masthead.

  3. I wonder if this wasn’t just his swan song in Polygon, and a way of laying him off without letting loose the socjus hounds on their own kennel. Regardless, you are 100% right, but this is hardly surprising, considering how unethical the Polygon staff is.

  4. Forgive me if I have misunderstood your argument, but it seems like some of the issues you identify with Mr Kuchera’s article are present in your own as well. You seem to make no attempt to present ‘both sides’ – you offer only attack, not balance.

    Not that I think that’s a problem; that’s what opinion journalism exists to do. But if you intend to label such pieces ‘unethical’ you might want to avoid violating your own cherished principle in the same breath.

    1. You are correct sir, but I would loosely call this activism journalism. I believe that if you tout yourself as a “journalist” then you need to be called out on it when you repeatedly violate ethics.

      Such as myself. When I make a mistake I let the public know. Polygon believes they are doing nothing wrong. While this was an attack, I would like to think it is an attac on the unethical practices and not character.

      I will also say that I am not perfect, and have to give myself a good scolding every now and then. Make that a hard kick in my own tush

  5. This is bullshit:

    What’s striking is that when I talk about these periods to people I know in gaming, they often admit the same thing, but the conversation turns to whispers, as if we’re doing something wrong.

    He must be hanging out with the wrong people (something I’ve always thought of most of these journalists that espouse misogyny in gaming), because no one cares if you take break. They might tease you in good humor, but you don’t get ostracized. This shows how out of touch he is with his readers.

  6. Have to kinda disagree there. Opinion pieces are just that and as long as its clearly stated that the article in question is merely the writers’ opinion, that can act as a “get out of jail for free”-card for a big amount of stupid and lies in whatever was written. The distinction is that opinion pieces can never instate its contents as facts. Of course an opinion piece that fails to mention it is one can be judged according to journalistic rules.

    Gamergate is not angry about journalists disagreeing with them after all, they’re angry because gaming journalists are not doing their jobs professionally.

  7. What even are you talking about?

    “What’s striking is that when I talk
    about these periods to people I know in gaming, they often admit the
    same thing, but the conversation turns to whispers, as if we’re doing
    something wrong.”

    Had absolutely NOTHING to do with game violence. It was about how sometimes he doesn’t like to play games because he feels burnt out. It is in no way attacking the readership AT ALL about game violence.

    I’s a COMPLETELY different topic. Are you fucking nuts? Do you not have any reading comprehension whatsoever?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Kuchera’s a huge fucking prick. But you’re reading “I don’t like Orange Juice on mondays” as “Anyone who drinks Orange Juice is a Rapist Murderer!”.

    That’s fucking delusional.

  8. “This opinion is also an attack” – – – -> Links to an article about a Game of Thrones comedy skit that in no way covers GamerGate or even videogames.

    WTF? Is this all just one giant troll to show GamerGaters as the delusional and paranoid?

    Because you’re linking to random things and shouting at them, and making no coherent point whatsoever.

    Get it together oneangrygamer.

    People like the writer are obviously completely insane if you do even a second of checking their facts or reading their incoherent ramblings.

  9. The best way to see Kychera is hes a firebrand attitude. it isnt sbout clickbait. Its not about being likable. Its about being the guy with the correct opinion about gaming

  10. “Journalists should never, ever, attack their audience. This is in direct violation of ethics such as SPJ’s ethics and the New York Times.”

    But gamers aren’t polygons audience.

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