Opinion: DoritoGate – storm in a tea cup or valid concern?

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This past week marked DoritoGate, a shitstorm on freebies from PR companies to games writers and the nature of relationships between them. It stemmed from an article on Eurogamer (unedited version found here) and it blazed across the internet like a brush fire.

The image that started it all

Initially, I had no intention of weighing in on this. To me, it’s just the latest thread in a string of attention grabbing opportunities in the games industry where every man and his dog (or lady and her dog) jump on the media bandwagon. First were cries of supposed racism after actually having black characters in Resident Evil 5, even though the freaking game was set in South Africa. Outrageous!

Then the alleged misogyny in the Hitman: Absolution trailer because the lead brutally dispatched several female characters trying to kill him. What? He can’t hit a lady now can he? No, no, we won’t have any of that. It was also labelled sexist due to the spandex clad nature of the attire his female assailants were garbed in. Mother of god! Are you trying to say our industry is using sex to sell a product? Surely it’s the only industry guilty of such a charge, right?

Then followed the kerfuffle about the skill tree for the new Borderlands 2 DLC character  the Mechromancer, in which a developer’s momentary lapse of judgement  caused him to dub it “girlfriend mode”. By the beard of Zeus! How dare he! After all of these attempts at changing the course of history and mankind with such outstanding examples of “journalism” in our industry I’ve had an absolute gutful. Why is everything so over-scrutinised, dissected and shot out as cannon fodder? Are these the real issues that merit and warrant concern?

While the author of Eurogamer’s article Rab Florence (original article here) does bring up a valid point with known games writers using publisher hashtags across Twitter in an attempt to win competitions, I don’t agree with his idea that PR and writers should have an almost adversarial, at arm’s length relationship.

I’ve been writing in the Australian games industry for ten years now. I have had dozens of press trips, stayed in many fancy schmancy hotels, accrued a mountain of swag, been to countless booze-filled launch and gaming events and am friends on a personal level with most of the PR representatives I deal with.

I even switched sides and worked in PR for six months to see how the other half lives. You may be wondering what kind of influence this has had on my review scoring, feature writing or previewing process? None. Nada. Zip. Bupkiss. I never coerced or influenced a favourable article in my PR days with trinkets or promises, nor have I ever been moved by such gestures as a writer.

Do you know why? Because I am a fucking professional.

The most precious commodity I have in this industry is my name. It is my brand, it represents my opinions and it is my livelihood and I will defend it to the death. Those who follow my work know what they are going to get from my articles, listening to my podcast or seeing me up on video. I may argue points you don’t agree with or have opposing views to industry counterparts but I always back-up my arguments, and my articles read as such.

I have never, EVER been swayed by a trip, piece of merchandise or figurine. Anyone who would trade their integrity and good name for some shiny baubles or beads has no business in this industry, or any other I might add.

Many other entertainment industries thrive on relationships with PR and even, shock horror, strive to test their so-called “adversaries” sitting on the other side of the fence and work together to raise the bar for both. Shouldn’t a PR company be able to show off their product in comfortable surroundings? Shouldn’t the writer sent to cover such an event be able to remain objective and write a fair and balanced article? Yes, on both counts.

I understand it’s all about perception and the mere hint of impropriety calls out anyone associated with the site/publication in question, but it’s an editor’s job to check these articles and make sure they ring true. Your readership can easily smell a phony a mile away and will call out the offending parties if they smell something fishy.

In the fallout from this week’s events VG247 has taken extreme measures to ensure its credibility is beyond reproach by refusing to take anything, be it a press trip or a drinks night, from publishers (article found here). While part of me applauds the lengths this website is taking to maintain its independance, an equal part shakes its head in disbelief at the incredulous lengths taken. Is this level of distancing really necessary to remain “true”? I don’t think so, but every site or publication has to do what they consider appropriate to maintain objectivity for its audience.

Will I continue to go on junkets? Every chance I get.

Will I wear kit and collect swag? You betcha.

Will it influence me in any way, shape or form? Not a fucking chance.

Now can we get back to just talking about video games again now, please? Please?

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.