Last night I logged into Facebook around 11:00 pm to find a newer board game reviewer posting in a couple of groups claiming to start a one man war to cure the cancer in board game journalism. I call this raging phenomenon the “Board Game Messiah Complex. Now, I am all for free speech, people having their opinions and such, but what I am not for is people coming into the community trying to create a division among reviewers or people who support reviewers by claiming that board game reviews are not “honest” if they get paid and that almost none of the reviewers who get paid for their reviews (I am not one) actually give unbiased reviews. What I found most disturbing is this person is a moderator for a review forum on Facebook who in their own words tell others looking for advice on their reviews that “the advice may be harsh but if you are open…etc” and then when I offered advice which was very mild and professional, they deleted all their posts and then blocked me on Facebook. Now I am not the only reviewer that offered him advice or disagreed with him but since I call him out on his BS every now and then I guess I got the shaft lol. Also this person previously claimed he was trying to get his site to make him enough money to not have to work at his day job so I smell a bit of a conflict of interest here.
In a previous blog I addressed this issue to some extent so please let me do so again. So if you will indulge me as someone who has worked in PR for over 20 years let me give my two-cents on this subject in a few talking points.
1. While I applaud and support people who work hard to promote board games, I cringe at people who have to constantly find something wrong to complain about. I don’t know what it is about social media, but people just love to tear others down, leave snarky comments for absolutely no reason and just spread anger to people who try very hard to give and support the board game community and I will immediately stop participating with or promoting those that try to segregate the community with rude, nonfactual, stereo-typing propaganda to get views and try to get viewers on their site. There is very little worse in our community than people who try to make a name for themselves by mudslinging directly or indirectly at other reviewers or by claiming “you’d be surprised at the reviewers I didn’t include in my list because they get paid” type garbage to generate some kind of authority on this topic. If you want to be a “Board Game Messiah” you sure as hell better have been reviewing games for more than a year before you start accusing people and trying to generate some kind of dividing line in the community. If you want to start a discussion of bias in reviews, that is fine, I am all for a civil discourse on that topic. Declaring a war that you are going to win against the board game journalism cancer is sad, pathetic and totally invalidates everything you have done to this point
2.. Bias – Everyone is biased period. Reviewers have their favorite types of games, favorite publishers, favorite mechanics etc… This will automatically bias a review. There are many different types of reviews, many different ways to interpret them and every one of them is biased to the reviewers disposition of likes vs. dislikes. There is no way to escape bias period. Secondly, it is extremely dishonest to claim that people will sell their soul and integrity for the extremely small amount of money they get paid in this industry to provide dishonest reviews for pay. I know well over 100 bloggers who get paid to review products and make a living at it. That’s right, they don’t have a “regular” day job.They get paid by companies really, really good money to review product honestly and they don’t face this “bias” BS I keep seeing among board gamers. I was recently approached by a major review site to participate in a discussion about bloggers/reviewers who make $1,500 or more per review as to my insights on this topic. I wish I made $1,500 to review products. That is all I would do all day long. As someone who has sent countless products to other reviewers for review, we never expected a “favorable” review for a paid review or a free one. We know that not everyone will like our product. We know that many will and as long as we have put out a solid product, we have nothing to worry about. Why? We are paying for the impressions that reviewer generates for us. The more our product is seen and is “everywhere” the more we will sell good or bad review period. It’s all about the “buzz,” not the review necessarily. Not only that, we know that the average person reading the review can make up their own mind when checking out a review favorable or not. The general public is smarter than this “Messiah” is giving them credit for.
3. Companies pay for advertising. Reviews are a form of advertising and those reviewers that have spent years, hours, money and built up an audience that is finally worth value monetarily have every right and should be paid for the value they bring. They have a dedicated audience that TRUSTS their opinion, knows their predispositions to board games and appreciates all their hard work to furthering the community. In my business, we get paid by the size of our influence or Rolodex to use on old school term. Companies are in the business of making money, hence they spend money to generate more money. They pay people who can help get the world out about their product. At this point the board game industry for the most part pays almost nothing for advertising compared to most industries because the bloggers do most of the work for free. No one has any reason to complain about anyone getting paid for anything in this industry period. Most of the people who do this still do it for the love of the games and the community. No one is getting rich or compromising their integrity for an extremely small fee for advertising or reviews. Before you go spouting what is acceptable business practice, you better learn how PR works. You only make yourself look like an ass otherwise.
4. Payment – Often I read or hear people say that reviewers shouldn’t get paid for their reviewers or the board game itself is more than enough payment and anything else is nothing but tantamount to bias. There is so much wrong here I don’t even know where to start but I will try so please bear with me here. I will break it down in terms I am used to and that board game community will probably face in the very new future if the popularity continues to increase. My hourly rate is $50 – $150 an hour for my work. If I decide to write a review for a board game and this game takes me more than 40 hours to review how much money did I just lose? Especially since I am using my very large audience across all mediums to promote it for free. This Saturday we spent about $150 on having a board game day at my place to play games so I can review them. I do this once a month, why? Because I work all the time so I don’t get out to all the local game nights. Many other can’t either and to be honest, many people aren’t interested in playing a game I have to review. They have their own they just paid for they want to get to the table. It costs money to review games. I spell it out much better here so please take a look. But essentially, I run social media 24/7 promoting other companies games for $0 dollars on almost all counts. I generate millions of impressions per week on twitter alone let alone all 35 of my social media sites, amazon, BGG etc. If you don’t think that is worth getting paid for then you probably won’t last long in this business. People who work hard to generate an audience, who promote board games, the community and have a good amount of influence most certainly deserve to charge for their services. This is how it has worked in any form of entertainment since day 1. This is only going to get more expensive the more popular board games get and the more we stay in the cult of the new as games have to separate themselves from all the noise. According to what I heard from Essen roughly 7,000 board games came out last year. How do you think companies are going to cut through all that white noise? On well-meaning but extremely small pockets of influence from reviewers who review for free?
Whether or not you agree with me is up to you about bias and payment for reviews. Some will, some won’t but I am telling you things are going to change greatly in the coming years or months based on how fast things are moving as things get more mainstream and if you have read my previous blogs, you will see that reviewers already treat Kickstarter and publishers differently then they used just like I said they would. There is just too much coming out, to little professionalism and too much work for no return and no appreciation not only from new game publishers but many of the board game forum asshats who think they know better and can do better (which they never do) with all this experience they don’t have in the industry whether it be crowd-funding, PR, publishing or designing.
As most of you who read my blogs know, I don’t pull any punches. I put it all out on the table, because this is how it really is. I don’t write this blog to blow smoke. To make any money in board games is a very, very challenging thing to do as a publisher. What we don’t need is people in the community trying to create a division and tearing down honest, hard-working individuals who pay their own money, take their own time from their personal obligations and give all they have to promote our wonderful community and board games. This does nothing but hurt a very close, loving and supportive community. What we do need to do is support everyone we can who busts their butt to help make board games a success for these publishers who take the risk, put in the hours, lose sleep and for the reviewers who provide the content and put up with all the BS that comes from posting that content to the internet. It’s a thankless job and no “Board Game Messiah’s” are needed to police it. We are quite capable of handling our own content, business and things we like to read, watch, share and promote from others. We all made it this far in life without getting hit by a train, I am sure we can handle dissecting a review for honest content paid or not.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program….
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