Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Ethics


It seems that a former RockPaperShotgun writer, Nathan Grayson - who recently made the switch to Kotaku - may have engaged in a personal relationship with the female developer of a game (Zoe Quinn, developer of Depression Quest) he wrote about professionally. It's not clear (a) whether this is true (although circumstantial evidence does seem to suggest that the dalliance took place - but that largely comes down to believing someone's word about it), (b) if it is true, that it happened before he started writing about the game or after, or (c) whether even if it took place, that the liaison influenced his coverage of the game in any way.

This is a story that you are not going to read on most mainstream gaming sites anytime soon because they do not seem to be interested in reporting it right now (you're certainly not going to be reading about it on Kotaku or RPS, and even parts of Reddit are censoring some links). Perhaps some of them are not reporting it because it's unconfirmed, or because it's too much like slut-shaming, or even that it perhaps shines a light on an aspect of the gaming press that they would much prefer you not to be talking about: that there can be some unhealthy relationships between writers and developers/publishers. I am also not going to post any links to the more salacious parts of the story; you can find that stuff by yourself if that's what you want to do.

What matters is this: ethically, something like this is a big problem. Even if the worst parts of the allegations are not true, and that perhaps these two people just fell into a personal relationship after the business relationship was concluded, it looks absolutely terrible from an ethical standpoint. It could taint any work Nathan Grayson has done in the past, as well as making it more difficult for people to trust his work in the future knowing that something like this has happened in the past. And that's all if it's untrue; if something more underhand did occur and it was proven that positive coverage was traded for, uh, "personal services", then his career as a gaming writer may well be over. Clearly, even if it is true then admittance of that fact would effectively be career suicide, and so that's something you are probably not going to see happen. The writer in question was listed in the credits of the game concerned under the "Special Thanks" section, that much is true and verifiable.

Ironically, if the sexes were reversed and it was a female writer and male developer, you would see this plastered all over sites such as Gawker's Jezebel. Given that something like this does not fit Jezebel's anti-men narrative though, Gawker sites will likely just try to let it blow over, and perhaps the writer in question will be quietly asked to seek employment elsewhere, or take a long break.

Ethics is not a small country in Eastern Europe, but something all of us should aspire to every day, whether we're a doctor, lawyer, writer, or a caretaker. In this case, even if the relationship took place under the most innocuous of circumstances, then Nathan Grayson still failed the ethical test that prevents the phrase "gaming journalism" from being something many people can take seriously.

No comments:

Post a Comment