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Subject: Table Talk - Show Me The Money! (Paid Reviews) rss

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Patrick Carkin
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IME the paid previews/reviews that are not related to a KS campaign have been far higher quality than those directly connected to an ongoing one.

I fully expect a paid reviewer to not fully trash a game. I'm not only fine with it, I expect it from most reviews. Elitism peeves me in this hobby. Most games have some redeeming qualities even if I or most serious gamers will hate the game.

But what I've noticed on the KS campaign reviews that they are mostly tutorial and any comments about the game are 100% positive. I often don't even hear something as basic as, "If you dislike x you might not like this game," which is an extremely important part of a solid review. I want to know who the intended audience is for a game and who isn't the intended audience. I've looked at the profiles of some of these reviewers and they clearly state that they do marketing.

When I see these marketing type of "reviews" on a KS campaign I automatically distrust that publisher. Because I'd like to know why they aren't honest enough to have a review that clearly states who the audience is for a game which by defintion means admitting something negative.

But in general, I think the whole paid reviewer thing is at least for now a tempest in a teapot. I myself am an Amazon Vine reviewer which means I also get games for free. It doesn't alter my opinion of a game. I've given a number of negative to mediocre reviews of games.
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Evan Cole
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I completely agree, Rodney. I have been aware of both problems you cite in your video. But I have seen enormous negativity towards the paid reviewer and the "possibility" of bias in their reviews, yet nearly nothing about how to actually compensate that reviewer fairly for their time and energy.

This is a crisis of not only board gaming. Youtube, Spotify, etc. have all conditioned their users to EXPECT free content. For years we have all been happily consuming tons of content for 100% FREE with no consideration of the time, energy (and sometimes even significant money) the content creators are consuming to give us the wonderful content we happily digest.

I don't mean to sound mean or condescending - I'm just as guilty. Only recently have I started realizing which podcasts, youtube channels, etc. that I regularly consume and tried to give something back (usually via kickstarter/patreon contributions or even just a positive review of a podcast). I think we all need to take a hard look at this problem. I think everyone would at least somewhat agree that it is incredibly hard to "make a living" as a youtuber/musician/podcaster/etc - especially in the realm of board gaming. If we value this content as much as our views/listens say that we do, we should consider giving something back in return (according to what our wallets can afford, of course).

Ultimately, I think WE are the solution to compensating reviewers instead of through publisher payments. Bias is inherent in a review - its an opinion of someone with specific tastes that might not match our own. But adding in paid reviews complicates things further. If we all want the least amount of bias in our reviewers' videos then we must contribute.
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Donald Walsh
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What game did that money come from, Rodney? It looks incredibly realistic.
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Nelson Cox
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Canada and Australia have really pretty money.. US/UK.. not so much..
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Raymond Haaken
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Well said Rodney, I couldn't agree more. I also do reviews, and have never got paid for doing them. I don't expect a publisher to pay me for a review either. The most I get is a free game to review, or a discount. I don't consider that to be "payment" for the review, as the time and effort and gear used to make a review far exceed the cost of one game (in most cases). I see it as a company supporting my channel by providing content, so I have something to review.
Without that, I would have significantly less content to post, as I'd have to buy all of the games I'd like to review, and you can only buy so many (and you'll be biased towards liking them too).
So I tried what many others have also tried: I set up a Patreon page, hoping that my viewers would support my channel. As a reward, they'd get their names in the credits after each video, for as long as they are patrons. But maybe most viewers think: "Hey, this guy has been doing reviews for over 3 years now, and it looks like he's still making them, and they even got better over time (I got better video and audio recording gear, a banner, better editing software, and other things to make my videos look a little more professional), so why would he need my support? He was obviously able to afford those things without my support. And should he stop, there are hundreds of other reviewers to choose from."
In essence: Why pay if you can get literally dozens of reviews for any game for free?
The answer is: A reviewer usually starts doing reviews out of passion. A hobby. But at some point, the money's spent, and the hobby stops. So without support, your favorite reviewers can't keep doing this forever.
There are of course a handful of very popular reviewers out there, that have so many fans, they can get support by means of crowdfunding. They raise enough money to be able to live from that for a whole year, so they can spend all the time they'd normally need to work a job on doing reviews. After that, they do another crowdfunding campaign for another season, and as long as that generates enough income, they're all set. But this doesn't apply to the hundreds of other reviewers with a much smaller following of course.
Do those reviewers expect to be able to raise enough money to do the same? Of course not. But even with as little as, say, $50,- per month from supporters (50 people donating just $1,- per month for example), would keep a reviewer in the saddle a lot longer. But for that to happen, you need followers. And for that to happen, you need to make good content first.
So, realisticly, in the end it comes down to the reviewer him/herself: if you invest enough time, money and effort in your content, you might get a good following, and if a small percentage of that following is willing to support you financially, well, then you're doing it right. But it can be a bit demotivating.
The thing that keeps me personally going, is first of all still the love of board games, the willingness of publishers to send over a review copy, and the fantastic community. It's always fun to go to conventions, talk to fellow gamers, play some games together, speak to designers and publishers, do some quick interviews and do reports on conventions. Designers and publishers at conventions are always very happy to spend a little time for an interview, and are appreciative of your work, and will gladly share your videos too (obviously).
Like I said, I don't expect more from publishers. As you said, they aren't the ones that should be paying reviewers for their work. But since Patreon doesn't seem to be the best way to gain financial support or compensation for most reviewers, I'm always open to other ideas
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Albert Jones
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I have been reading all these comments and a few thoughts jump out:

corn Far too many people claim that they are mostly unaffected or make up their own mind about the game when watching the review. These people are forgetting that exposure to the review (ie/ that it exists to help you be informed) is its own bias.

As Rodney explained, his bias comes in choosing which game to show his audience. Games that don't have videos get noticed less, learned about less, and subsequently bought less, regardless of the content of the video.

indigo Shut up & Sit down, Tabletop, Heavy Cardboard, Rhado and Dice Tower are great examples of people being paid for their hard work by content consumers, and each sometimes gives negative reviews, but they are the exception rather than the rule and they have their own problems. These reviewers dominate the conversation and their beliefs and subjective taste have measurable effects on board game purchases and hence board game funding. Secondly, they, generally, promote the cult of the new, consumerism side of the industry that has also alterered, generally, what games are made.

For example, the word replayability, which has come to mean variable set-up, and the number of different things you might see in each game (aka/ Dominion having many combinations of starting cards). If chess or Go was realeased today, the reviewers and commentators would say, after one of two plays, the game is "samey" and dismiss it entirely because of its lack of replayability.

sugar unpaid reviewers have as much, or possibly more, incentive to write positive reviews than paid reviewers. If you've ever written a negative review in a game's forum you know what I mean - that people will be mean and tear you down. My most recent negative review I was questioned whether or not it was even a review, told I was far too wordy, told I hadn't played it enough, etc etc (to be fair I was also defended by many other users). Negative reviews are not often thumbed highly, rarely make it to the 'top reviews' section and will not help you get an audience if that is your goal.

Writing a review, whether you admit it or not, is a request to be heard by others and usually to have others agree with you and validate your feelings. It takes time and effort. If you didn't care if anyone read it, you wouldn't bother doing it. Negative reviews get less attention and most of it is negative. Human nature pushes most of us to write positive reviews. If I had to guess, I'd wager 80% or more of people who've written unpaid reviews have only written positive reviews. Sure, they picked what games to review, but so do the paid reviewers; the paid reviewer is much more likely to pass on a game they didn't like than write a 'fake' positive review.

Paid reviewers, to counter the notion they're biased in favour of the companies, need to have at least some negative, or at least neutral, reviews to create the perception of their being unbiased. They have a branding need to appear unbiased, something unpaid reviewers don't have.

How many unpaid reviews have "CONS: none" = lots. How many paid reviews have at least one small CON = most.

tobacco We, as people in this age of history, want our music, news, information and entertainment for free, but also to be of the highest quality and integrity. This is an unsustainable dichotomy.

coffee This 'comment' will be seen by very few people, read by fewer, because it is on page 3 or 4 and it is very long (maybe subscribers will notice it?). I am happy Rodney is moderating our discussion so that a consensus can emerge, but it begs the question, is there much actual discourse happening on BGG or is it just a bunch of shouting into the void? I feel like BGG is a place to grow our confirmation bias around our feelings, rather than a place to become informed or be challenged and grow?
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Jim Leesch
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Haakon Gaarder wrote:
I know it's hard to pull off and all that but imagine this:

a monthly magazine with high quality independent reviews written by full time employees. Paid for by subscription, mailed home every month. I would easily pay 10$ a month for that, or even more. It could even be done through Patreon. Perhaps someone like Jamie Stegmaier could help getting enough patreons early, without getting involved in the actual product later.


Aren’t you just describing Spielbox?
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There are so many reviews, typically, of the same game, it's pretty easy to watch a few and get which reviewer is being forthcoming and honest about the product. I think the viewer has the smarts to ween out the "paid reviews" hype from the rest. Rodney has staked out sacred ground because his videos are 99% pure tutorials (whereas Vassals are 40% opinion) and therefore pretty immune from publisher demands. This is why I go to Rodney first...thanks Rodney!
 
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Patrick Carkin
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Quote:
If you've ever written a negative review in a game's forum you know what I mean - that people will be mean and tear you down. My most recent negative review I was questioned whether or not it was even a review, told I was far too wordy, told I hadn't played it enough, etc etc (to be fair I was also defended by many other users). Negative reviews are not often thumbed highly, rarely make it to the 'top reviews' section and will not help you get an audience if that is your goal.


Most games have an audience, however small it may be. Negative reviews here often suck because they are almost always insulting to someone.

If you don't like a mechanic and find that mechanic in a game explain that this is one of the reasons you don't like that game. Instead we get faulty logic; "this game is bad because it's another deck building game" instead of "I don't like this game because it's a deck builder."

For example, I don't like games where I have too much to do and not enough turns to do it. This means I generally don't like Uwe Rosenberg games. That doesnt mean his games are bad, it just means I'm not his audience. A good negative review explains why someone is not the intended audience while not sounding as if their opinion is the word of God.
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Juego Dios
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Furey wrote:
realfen wrote:
MvM are doing mostly PAID reviews or KS ... I do not understand why and how their channel exists.


People can be suckers for that stuff



That is all


A preveiw is not a reveiw. Apples to oranges
 
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Albert Jones
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HereSince2010 wrote:
Quote:
If you've ever written a negative review in a game's forum you know what I mean - that people will be mean and tear you down. My most recent negative review I was questioned whether or not it was even a review, told I was far too wordy, told I hadn't played it enough, etc etc (to be fair I was also defended by many other users). Negative reviews are not often thumbed highly, rarely make it to the 'top reviews' section and will not help you get an audience if that is your goal.


Most games have an audience, however small it may be. Negative reviews here often suck because they are almost always insulting to someone.

If you don't like a mechanic and find that mechanic in a game explain that this is one of the reasons you don't like that game. Instead we get faulty logic; "this game is bad because it's another deck building game" instead of "I don't like this game because it's a deck builder."

For example, I don't like games where I have too much to do and not enough turns to do it. This means I generally don't like Uwe Rosenberg games. That doesnt mean his games are bad, it just means I'm not his audience. A good negative review explains why someone is not the intended audience while not sounding as if their opinion is the word of God.


This is a very strange comment. It is insulting to me , a person who writes negative reviews; the justification for Heresince2010's insult is that I am part of a group that is "almost always insulting" others.

I feel quite confident that my logic in each of my negative reviews is as sound or more sound than the positive review that directly precedes it, and yet, I am also sure that it received much more criticism, personal attacks and derogatory comments than the positive review that directly precedes it.

I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.
 
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Erik R.
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JuegoDios wrote:


A preveiw is not a reveiw. Apples to oranges


I have seen many paid previews include opinions like "it looks awesome" which is effectively a positive impression/review, and that does influence consumers
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Mads Fløe
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Let's look at reviewing from a different lens:

The Spiel des Jahres committee is seen as maybe the most unbiased and objective/independant influencers of board game purchases by the general public. There's no one else, that can make a game destined for a 3000 copy print run, get pumped up to 300.000 copies in print runs over a year or so (if that's even enough?).

So, I think it's natural to examine this committee, in order to investigate the illusive "objective" opinion of a "reviewer" (because that's essentially what they are, just on another level in another context).

Are the Spiel des Jahres committee paid? Yes! But not by the publishers, distributors, authors or anyone else directly, economically involved with the games they are reviewing. The payment they get, they get for being great at their day jobs of reviewing board games for media (probably among other things/tasks).

But they do VOLUNTEER for their work for the Spiel des Jahres (no payment), and it is considered and honour to be asked to join the committee.

The work IS done for FREE in their OWN free time.

So...

As long as there is a Spiel des Jahres, the biggest and most influential board game award in the world, that operates under these terms, the general public might have trouble to accept paid reviews, as that seems to taint the "standard" set by SdJ.

On other words: The SdJ might set the bar for expectations of unbiased reviews very high, and I think that is something to consider in this debate!
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Thanks for the interesting topic Rodney!

For my own part, I generally approach the average review with a healthy dose of skepticism. Over time though, I've found particular reviewers whose tastes align (for the most part) with mine, and I've come to trust their opinions. I don't know whether their reviews are paid, but they usually include solid criticism, so I tend to doubt it - I may be wrong, but I believe they are presenting their honest thoughts on the game at hand. Usually they have a patreon or kickstarter to raise money to support their videos, and I contribute to support them.

Crowdfunding in general seems to be the current working answer to the problem of unpaid reviews - these reviews are ostensibly paid for by the people who watch them (whether they watch to inform their purchasing decisions, or for entertainment value - some reviews from reviewers like SUSD and NPI are fun to watch in their own right, and even if I know the game is 100% not for me, I still watch the review and enjoy it).

The question this raises though, is if an independent reviewer has a source of income via patreon or kickstarter, is this enough to actually support them?

Part of that will of course depend on the size of their following. Which makes it harder for new reviewers to jump in - the cost of making reviews would definitely outweigh the revenue that could be generated via crowdfunding, when you're starting out and only have a handful of followers. In general what I've seen here is that, what begins as a passion project, grows into sustainable work once the reviewer hits a certain critical mass of followers, and via crowdfunding can generate enough income to support the actual time and effort of making reviews.

(All this is leaving out publishers sending reviewers free copies of games. I think that is negligible enough support to not warrant much discussion - as long as, by receiving a free copy, the reviewer is not under any obligation to review it - that's when it would enter 'paid review' territory.)

Is there another solution besides crowdfunding for independent reviewers? I'd love to see one - a way reviewers could more directly receive income based on the usefulness and quality of their review. As opposed to once a year, or every so often, including as part of their reviews an ask of watchers to support them via crowdfunding.

What would be especially cool is a way that, once you've bought your game for $60 - if you love it, and you're able to pinpoint the one or two reviews that really convinced you that you would, there was an easy way to give those reviewers a couple dollars as part of a comment. Or conversely, if I was going to buy a game for $60, and a certain review helped show me very clearly I would hate it - here's $1 or $2 as thanks. This may even be possible now, but there is no culture / custom around it.

In general though, besides watchers paying reviewers via crowdfunding, I don't know of another system that would work, and also avoid entering the 'paid review' territory.

I'll be curious to see your talkback video on the subject!
 
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First of all let me say that I really like and respect you, Rodney. I've watched your content for years and I've met you at conventions. I like your positive attitude, and when there's a "Watch It Played" video available for a game I'm considering purchasing, I'll likely watch it.

I am a bit disappointed by this video, however. I believe you bring up some valid concerns, but it seems like this discussion needs to be widened beyond the vary narrow scope by which you've portrayed the situation. Not only is the scope defined too narrowly, but you use some logical fallacies to reach your conclusions.

At 10:20, you say: "We value our time and money, but by saying that reviews should be unpaid, we're kind of communicating that we don't value the reviewer's time and money."

I disagree with this conclusion, because it is set up with a false premise. No one is saying The argument is not that reviewers should be unpaid, only that reviewers receiving compensation *from game publishers* creates a conflict of interest that casts serious doubts on the integrity of the reviews that they produce. This statement should be framed not as "reviews should be unpaid," but rather: "reviewers should not receive compensation from the producers of a product they are reviewing." Then, I think the conclusion that "we're kind of communicating that we don't value the reviewer's time and money" falls apart. That's clearly not at all what is being said or even implied.

At 10:45: "I just want this, the unpaid review, to also be seen as an equal, if not bigger issue. If we value our money, and we feel that losing our own sixty dollars because of the potential bias in a paid review is not great, then a reviewer losing more than sixty dollars to create that review must be really not great."

Your fundamental assumption seems to be that reviewers are somehow unequivocally entitled to financial compensation for their work. I disagree that someone who is voluntarily creating and posting content is somehow entitled to remuneration for that content, and I certainly don't see that sense of entitlement as a bigger issue than the problem of reviews being bought by publishers.

You then go on to complain that our hobby is not talking about this "problem" of unpaid reviews. I can see that this is a perceived problem on the part of *some* reviewers. But I don't think that means that it's a problem that the hobby as a whole needs to be discussing. It's a manufactured problem at best.

At 11:52: "The reviewer can't pay their bills with a copy of a game. And I understand many people do start reviewing as a passion project. They aren't looking to turn it into full-time work, but here's the thing: we don't expect the publisher, the distributor, the marketing person, the artist, the kickstarter creator, or even the consumer to do their jobs for free. We expect them to be paid."

But the producers of games are selling a product. People can choose to buy it or not, and the producers will be compensated accordingly. Reviewers are voluntarily releasing *free* content. They are leveraging platforms (youtube, podcasts) that are free by design. They are welcome to lock their content behind a paywall if they choose to do so. No one is stopping them. Equivalently, if I release a game as a free print-and-play, what right do I have to complain that I'm not making any money from it?

I'm not unsympathetic to reviewers wanting to receive financial compensation for the content they produce. I just don't think that they are automatically entitled to it when they use free platforms.

I'm also uncomfortable with remuneration being framed strictly in financial terms. There's a ton of people producing content out there who never expect any financial compensation for it, because it truly is a passion project for them. They get their remuneration through the satisfaction of producing the content itself.

Having said that, there are plenty of options for funding review content that don't include the unethical practice of receiving direct compensation from publishers:

-youtube ad revenue
-kickstarter or gofundme campaigns
-patreon or ko-fi patrons
-selling exclusive content
-selling merchandise
-using content as a means to generate popularity for a commercial venture as mentioned above. Shut Up and Sit Down and Dice Tower both leverage their popularity of their content to hold conventions and cruises. The Dice Tower also uses their popularity to promote CoolStuffInc.

Personally, I have used and continue to use several of the available platforms mentioned above to support content creators whose content I consume. The criteria by which I support a creator of reviews (reviews specifically) are:

1) I listen to their content regularly
2) They don't receive money from sources that create an obvious (to me) conflict of interest

Some examples of content creators I currently donate to:

Shut Up and Sit Down
Rahdo
So Very Wrong About Games

There are other content creators that I've donated to in the past, but won't donate to in the future because they violate my #2 rule above. I won't mention names of any of these. In fact, if they violate rule #2 above, I won't even view/listen to their content anymore. I've given up a few podcasts that I really enjoy because of rule #2. I missed them at first when I decided to filter my listening habits by this rule. But the truth is that there's a ton of good content out there, and cutting out the ones that I felt had a conflict of interest just forced me to expand my sphere a little, and start accessing new (to me) content.

edit: Thanks! I appreciate all the thumb's up, but where's the geek gold? These forum posts aren't gonna pay for themselves!
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Certainly the donation option has some mileage, and if implemented in a high volume small cost way (e.g. if this review was useful, click here to donate $1 or 50c or 20c, then people might be more inclined to donate 'little and often', rather than having to justify an annual donation of (say) $30.

I'm not sure such a mechanism exists for cost-effective micro payments, but I'm rather intentionally luddite in the ways of the internet, so it might already be an option.
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It's hardly changed over the years as advertisers/sponsors/donators have always driven review scores, but the current race for youtube supremacy does mean there's a lot of sloppy hyped content out there with everyone 18 year old 'choober' pulling down their trousers to get a foot on the advertising ladder. Years ago in UK print journalism you'd have to declare anything over £5 to a UK editor (newspapers and less so magazines) as it was considered bad practice to take anything for stuff you have to write about.

I think SUSD is closest to the old model and it's no coincidence that those boys are from ex-UK videogame magazine and web stock (stands and salutes). They run on donations, yes, but they apply quality over quantity with content that simply oozes contextual comparisons and honest judgement.

Also, irrespective of any additional payment or incentive, you're essentially getting paid for a boardgame review by being given a $100 game that you don't have to send back. This immediately creates a skewed perspective.

Also, Kickstarter 'donations' from publishers also counts for paid for reviews. On top of the value of games 'donated' to the large reviewing sausage machines I love to know how many noughts are on the KS support from big pubs to them. I know it won't be stratospheric but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The good news is that Bgg is the worst, and best place for reviews as it contains hours of promotional videos that are misleadingly labelled as 'reviews' which only serve to create an unhealthy hype about everything, while the site also contains PRICELESS geeklists and game comments from amazingly generous and intelligent users such as jeremy review, sharon khan, james fallows, neil thompson, larry rice (man, that guy knows his games - check him out on opinionated gamers' website when you get time), pfctsqr ... - I could go on and on.

I do think bgg has a responsibility to curate content in a clear way, and on limited resources it does a great job, but it is hard for newbies to avoid the endless dice tower hype train of everything is 'nearly' awesome with the odd small publisher whacked to give the illusion of balance. It's because the industry is so small that boardgame 'reviewers' need to be everyone's friend. Rahdo has carved out a niche for independents on Kickstarter but even I'm getting tired of seeing his quotes saying everything is 'sharp and great' on those banner adds for another bloated $100 box of bits.
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Good table talk Rodney.

I think the onus is on the consumer. Access the review/preview/marketing content and decide for yourself. Consumers aren’t entitled to unbiased reviews. But on the flip side I’m not going to worry about how unpaid reviewers are being compensated for their hard work.

All reviewers are compromised. Whether because they got paid a lot to do a preview, a little bit, a free game, no payment but they’re hoping to get free games in the future or get paid doing reviews, they want to make their KS/Patreon backers happy, because they like the games they like, they made a rules mistake, didn’t play it enough, played it too much, etc etc.

Personally I don’t really discriminate between previews, reviews, whatever. You can call it whatever you want, but ultimately I need to watch/read and assess for myself if there’s anything of value to me. I don’t care if you tell me you got paid or not, got the game free or not. Don’t lie to me and say you bought the game and are not paid when you actually are paid to review a free copy, but omission is not a lie, and it’s an irrelevant fact whether you tell me or not. I dislike this expectation of full disclosure culture. The content of what you say is how I assess how off-base your review is or not, not whether you tell me you got paid or not.

If you want to make a living doing reviews, great. Try to get paid for it in whatever form you can and churn out your previews/reviews/whatever, that I will assume are no more compromised than some fan doing a review of their favorite game for no compensation.
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Brant Benoit
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spanna wrote:
Certainly the donation option has some mileage, and if implemented in a high volume small cost way (e.g. if this review was useful, click here to donate $1 or 50c or 20c, then people might be more inclined to donate 'little and often', rather than having to justify an annual donation of (say) $30.

I'm not sure such a mechanism exists for cost-effective micro payments, but I'm rather intentionally luddite in the ways of the internet, so it might already be an option.


If you check most YouTubers 'About' page, they will have a tip option with which you can donate to them via PayPal.
Patreon is also an option if the creator has set up a page, that will allow monthly support for a creator.

I myself being a content creator, it's really difficult to make any money at all, let alone a living from creating content. After 3 years, hundreds of videos and over 7k followers, I can still make 4x as much by getting a minimum wage job.

Being a content creator is hard work and thankless, and the expectation is that anyone and everyone should be doing it for free. If one can make any money at all from creating content, good for them.

The fact that there is so much animosity for folks making money by turning a hobby into a full time job is both surprising and sad.
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Ghool wrote:
spanna wrote:
Certainly the donation option has some mileage, and if implemented in a high volume small cost way (e.g. if this review was useful, click here to donate $1 or 50c or 20c, then people might be more inclined to donate 'little and often', rather than having to justify an annual donation of (say) $30.

I'm not sure such a mechanism exists for cost-effective micro payments, but I'm rather intentionally luddite in the ways of the internet, so it might already be an option.


If you check most YouTubers 'About' page, they will have a tip option with which you can donate to them via PayPal.
Patreon is also an option if the creator has set up a page, that will allow monthly support for a creator.


Paypal is not an effective micropayment system, because the transaction fees make micropayments unfeasible. Paypal links are also a pain to use, because you have to click the link, log in, then specify and approve an mount. Contrast that with something like the geekgold system at bgg, where a simple click allows you to give someone some of your geek gold.

Flattr (https://flattr.com)is a good example of a micropayment system. Unfortunately, micropayment systems have not had widespread adoption. And I don't think any of them are particularly ideal.
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Michael Steffens
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When I'm considering a game, I look it over on BGG, check out the forums, etc., but I do best at experiencing the game, even vicariously through a review or a how-to-play. My main issue with paid reviews is that big publishers can pay much more and take up a lot more air.

On the other hand, I know a number of content creators, and the only way they get by is by getting paid, at least in some small measure.

I think on whole, I am fine with paid reviews, etc. if they provide me with useful information, such as what librarians would call readalikes, or a mini-playthrough. I may not agree with Vasel all the time, but even seeing the component dump gives me information I can use, because I know I am going to have to organize and make sense of all those components.

If I want to see how a game works, I look first for your videos. I almost never watch the vids from Ant Lab (waaaaay too long) or the amateur ones, because a super-dull presentation can kill my enthusiasm and interest faster than anything.

IMO, reviewers who accept some form of payment are doing what they need to in order to keep the lights on and the content coming.
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Mark Foret
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Does anyone have an idea of how much money we're talking about here? I'm curious and I think the relative amounts make a difference regarding how I feel about it.
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What this video misses, for me, is how current reviewers are getting paid. Different biases exist depending on where the money is coming from.

Who is paying matters. So several reviewers, most notably Vasel & co, are paid by stores. This does give them a bit of a bias, but it's an overall bias towards positive reviews. And I think we see this with Vasel - even his more negative reviews tend to be sure to mention positive elements.

Reviewers on youtube are also paid by youtube. That also creates its own biases (click baity titles, certain length of videos, etc). But it probably doesn't create bias towards positive reviews of particular games.

Then you have reviewers (like SUSD) who are paid in part by patrons. That creates its own set of incentives, towards consistency of content, and also towards self-marketing (and SUSD content is more personality driven than many reviews, which I think is probably important for getting patrons).

So I guess I'd say paid reviews are super common, anyone on youtube is likely at least getting a little bit paid. Here you seem to limit "paid" to "paid by game publisher", but that's not the main story.
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About paid reviews:
"It can get messy." is said several times, and for good reason, as it sums up the whole topic.

Can a reviewer that is paid by a publisher deliver a somewhat "neutral" and "fair" opinion on one of that publisher's games ? Yes, it is absolutely possible.
But. People are of course automatically sceptical for the very obvious reason of conflict of interest.

The best solution would be a whole team of professional reviewers that have a broad knowledge about the hobby (not just their favourite genre), have no personal ties to the industry and are paid anonymously by the readers/viewers directly. It's not perfect, as corruption can still crawl in behind the scenes and reviewers in the end still always have their own subjective opinions, but this format could provide valuable information if a concept is defined that buffers subjectivity:

With enough different and also arguing voices per review, the reader/viewer would be left to make up his/her own mind, instead of being spoon-fed or brainwashed with a single person's opinion. Hearing different and even clashing perspectives can be very valuable, because what reviewer A dislikes could be just as irrelevant to me personally as what reviewer B likes and praises about a game.

Continuing that thought, I would zoom out on the question even more: What is the actual value of reviews ?

For anyone who's interested, I wrote a blog entry about the topic some time ago: A review on reviewers
 
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I have mixed feelings on this topic too. But in general, I'm not sure there *is* much of a problem. I know a few 'professional' game reviewers - those that review board games as a full-time job. And in those cases, they are not getting paid by publishers - at least, not a significant amount.

I think we all know some of these folks: Dice Tower does not get substantial money from publishers, do they? I know now they do post paid previews from independent KS publishers. This is always explicit. But the majority of their money does not come from this at all. MvM also does their work full time. Again, they do paid previews (always explicit), but that is not a substantial amount of their income (as far as I know). SU&SD does their work full time too I believe. Again, as far as I know, they get little if any money to do their work from publishers.

All of these cases have other sorts of income - sufficient to do the work full-time. So is there a problem here?

If there is a problem, it is much more subtle. I am more concerned about the way these reviewers lean toward certain publishers and certain types of games than whether they get paid to do so or not. I do get concerned if they are 'favoring' certain individuals over others - and I do think it is at that level. This is a small industry and friendships are involved and favoritism is involved. And how could it be any other way? Reviewers are people and of course they lean one way or another. A bad review is one where the reviewer does not know their biases - or worse, have no idea they are biased! Those reviews are poor because they are not insightful and not helpful, but slanted and one-sided - beyond perhaps having a nicely shown review of the rules. A biased reviewer ignorant of their bias is certainly 'not great'. The best reviewers are very self-aware and freely expose their biases in their review. The best reviewers are experts at explaining why a game is appealing to them and in doing so, they may not agree with a viewer, but you know where they are coming from and they detail this. They help you understand not only the game, but also help you understand their feelings and reasoning behind liking or disliking it. This makes a great review!

Unfortunately, it is rare that we have great reviews still. This too is expected - we are a small industry with many unprofessionals (unpaid reviewers) participating. And this is fine too! They are 'paying their own way' because they want to.

So is there really a problem here? One starts with passion and 'pays your own way'. If successful and good at this work, you can get paid through various means. You can choose to be paid by publishers to do 'paid previews' or 'paid tutorials'. You can choose to go after subscribers and get advertising revenue. You can choose to gather money from fans through various means - a Kickstarter (several do this) or Patreon. I don't see any of these as a problem.
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