Game Journalism Code of Ethics

As a game journalist, the ethics code by the Society of Professional Journalists still applies. However, the particular instances, where reporting about the gaming industry and the games themselves, require a code of conduct of their own.

The SPJ Code of Ethics:
I will remain accountable, honest, independent and will continue to minimize harm to anyone I encounter. These basic principles are applicable across the board, and also fall into many other professions. Accountability means I will take responsibility for my actions - regardless if there is conflict or not. Honesty, and also transparency, is the best course of action when it comes to disclosing, obtaining, and using information. Independence means I minimize the chances of a conflict of interest. I don’t want to fall into a situation where I “owe” something to someone because they gave me something I didn’t need in the first place. Lastly, I don’t want to hurt anyone. It’s as simple as that. You don’t want to risk peoples’ reputations, jobs, well being or their entire life. These are principles that I tend to live by as well.

Code of Ethics applied to Game Journalism:
Just like any other journalistic beat, I want to show that I’m independent, so if I were to review a game, I won’t accept free copies direct from the developer. I will pay for it just like any other consumer and review it independently. If I have no other choice, for instance, the game was not released yet, then I will disclose that I received a free copy. Another way to minimize conflicts of interest and remain honest would be to not discuss games with developers prior to reviews. I don’t want their biases to rub off on me, and I don’t want to accidentally disclose how I feel about the game before publishing my work. Developers can justify their choices after the review, once my initial comments have given a differing perspective and a more unbiased one at that.

When it comes to sources or products in development, the idea of anonymity becomes an issue. My policy is to minimize the amount of anonymous sources and withholding of information about products. The story loses credibility, and it doesn’t help the sources or the companies if they hide too much from the public. This all goes back to honesty, both from my end and from the sources. But it is also a matter of minimizing harm. The instances where a source’s life or job may be at stake will be weighed heavily based on the need of that information or what they have to say. It will be required that the sources still give all of their personal information to me, though I may not disclose that in the story - it all depends on the topic at hand.

As most game journalists form relationships with their sources or get to know the people of the industry better, I too have close friends and family in this industry or the tech industry. It is my policy to not use them as sources or cover their stories. This is an honesty issue and a conflict of interest issue. I don’t want to do any favors for people in this regard, and it offers too many outlets for bias.

Lastly, in terms of accountability, if I make mistakes, I will own up to them. Corrections will be set forth as soon as mistakes are brought to light, and they will be attached to the original story at the bottom. This shows I’m still putting the effort to be credible, and that the fact-checking process never truly ends.