A couple of days back indie developer Adam Saltsman tweeted out that he wanted his followers to remind him never to allow TotalBiscuit or any other dismissive reviewer to ever review his games.
remind me to never let totalbiscuit or any other dismissive bullshitter ever review any of my work
— Adam Atomic (@ADAMATOMIC) August 19, 2014
This was coming on the end of an online argument about allegations of a certain indie developer sleeping with reviewers for better coverage. The accusations levelled at Zoe Quinn are quite severe but unfortunately, or fortunately, there is no real hard evidence so we really don’t know exactly what is happening; nor is any developer’s personal lives any of our business.
Either way, paying for a good review in any way is a bad thing and simply should never happen. Though it unfortunately does. But let’s get back to Adam’s point where he is going to deny certain people the chance to review his game. Unfortunately for Adam this is not only very immoral but it is also not possible. The developer/publisher of a game has no say over who or how their product is reviewed.
Reviews are covered under fair use, freedom of expression and freedom of speech and while they may own the rights to the images, gameplay and audio they can’t demand a review is taken down since they didn’t agree with it or license it.
Much is made about the fact that gaming media get given free games to review with people claiming this skews the process. And yes sitting on the other side of the keyboard you can see why some people think getting a brand new game for free would give the reviewer a sense of euphoria that will result in a higher score even if it isn’t planned. But the reality is that it doesn’t work that way.
Reviews are hard work and most reviewers I know shy away from reviewing the games they are excited about simply because they want to take their time and enjoy the games instead of it feeling like a job. Even when we get whisked away to a hotel half way across the world to review a game it really doesn’t feel like a holiday.
We are away from our comforts of home, friends, family, everything costs a fortune and the free food we get is normally pretty crap. Add on top of that we are working 18-20 hour days and it is no longer the paradise it once appeared to be. Don’t get me wrong though, this industry is awesome and we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love games but it also isn’t all roses.
We have never once been asked to remove a review and the absolute majority of publishers and developers want us, and every other site, to review their games as it gives them coverage.
Indie developers however are a weird bunch. You get some who are in it for making games that people enjoy and they love the coverage. Then you get the ones who have this weird attitude that their game is above reproach and is more artistic and intelligent than anything you’ve seen before. I avoid those ones. They look down on gaming journalism and seem to think they are above the industry. For those games I’d love to see a professional art critic review their games and then they’ll truly understand what a mauling feels like.
In a nutshell, we will review whatever the hell we like and no publishers/reviewers/distributors have any say over that. Also reviews are simply opinions and you have the right to ignore or disagree with them.