So, I’m browsing the forums over at NeoGAF and come across a thread related to IGN’s review of DJ Hero by Activision. The thrust of the discussion has to do with a blurring of lines between actual journalism and advertising.

If you check out the latest installment of the Out of the Game podcast, you’ll hear Shawn Elliot (former Games for Windows/1Up editor) initiate a conversation about a relatively new IGN page called the Music Hub. The page appears to have been designed for the sole purpose of promoting music games published by Activision and…well, IGN was reportedly paid by the publisher to host the page on their site. 

(pic by cbebop007)

An issue arose surrounding the presentation of the page; some folks argued it was being presented as a community driven experience, though most or all contributions were reportedly from people associated with Activision. A few changes were later made to better clarify Activision’s sponsorship of the Music Hub.

However, Elliot went on to speculate about the nature of IGN’s content on their official Music page (not to be confused with the Music Hub), hinting at the possibility of editorial space being sold to Activision. From what I heard, no clear accusation(s) was made; Elliot was simply bringing up the issue for discussion.

Ever since the whole Gamespot/Eidos fiasco concerning the review of Kane & Lynch, integrity in gaming journalism has been an issue on many people’s minds. Sure, it’s only gaming, but it’s still a matter of trust. I personally have a lot of confidence in the objectiveness of most reviewers. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that allowing advertisers to muck around with the journalistic side of things is sure to create a taint that will be really difficult to repair.

Now, I don’t claim to know all the facts about this one specific incident (if it can even be considered such). I’m not reporting this as news; it’s a blog, after all. But I am concerned about this sort of thing. Not because I’m worried about gaming. I’m just very uncomfortable with the idea that someone wants to lull me into believing I’m reading an editorial, when in reality I’m being advertised to.

As one last breath of commentary on the subject, I don’t think Daemon Hatfield or any other reviewer, for that matter, is getting paid to give out positive scores for games (I know I ain’t). No, the matter is much more subtle than that, and each individual, of course, handles certain types of relationships and situations differently.