On Patreon, Ethics, Internet Jerks, Etc:
I’ve been so frustrated by some of the things I’ve seen said about us over the last day or so, by peers, friends, and people I respect. Any time people I respect come after Kotaku this hard, it’s a good idea to listen. So I have been and still am.
I also want to say something about it all because dang it, I have a keyboard and I do occasionally use it to write, so:
Patreon/Kickstarter/Indiegogo are not the same thing as buying or even preordering a game. They just…aren’t. They’re different. They should be taken on their own terms. I think Patreon is a brilliant idea. I still use it to support writers, etc. If I write about an indie developer/creator whose work I like, I'll certainly link to their page and mention that readers can pledge support.
I’ve backed 1 game dev on Patreon and one game on Kickstarter. I eventually felt a little weird about both. A lot of today’s discussion of financial backing is prefaced on the idea of writing reviews, but the issue, for me, is reporting news.
Ebert said he’d happily give a friend a negative review. So would I. But if a friend was accused of a crime, or of ripping off a game idea? I haven’t been at this THAT long, but long enough to know that eliminating potential conflicts of interest can make our jobs as reporters much easier.
Say you write for Kotaku. You get a private email tip. A friendly indie dev is accused of something awful. You’re the only one who knows. If you befriended/backed/pledged $$ to that person, would you feel comfortable covering a horrible accusation against them? If the answer is “maybe not,” it's probably best to re-assess.
What was the thing that left you feeling uncomfortable covering the story? It's usually difficult to say. There probably wasn't any one thing. But it isn't a bad idea to remove things that may contribute to discomfort down the road, especially if it's as easy as pressing a button to cancel a small financial pledge.
There is another truth behind all of this: That the entire question of ethics has been raised as a smoke-screen for a misogynist hit squad. Fuck those people. But many/most of those who have been questioning us on perceived journalist/dev cliquishness aren’t those people. They’re regular readers.
Kotaku will not stop supporting the work of independent creators and pushing for a more inclusive gaming community. Of course we won’t. But it is never a bad thing for journalists to re-examine our process, and to try to do better by those who read and trust us.