It seems every 3 to 6 months the discussion of paid previews vs. reviews comes up. This time I decided that it’s a good idea to lay out my disclosure policy and be transparent on how I interact with publishers with regard to my reviews, and compensation.
First and foremost, some definitions. A review is an honest opinion of a product. Sometimes a reviewer may receive a gratis (free or without charge) copy of the product from the publisher or designer for the purposes of review. A preview is marketing, content created specifically to highlight certain aspects of a product and should be free of opinion. A critic should never take money from the creator of the game they’re presenting to their audience, especially if they’re presenting their opinions as unbiased and honest. In simpler terms, a review should not be bought.
There are a lot of discussions and arguments about what constitutes a payment and what introduces biases, and everyone will have a different opinion of what they constitute as OK. Things like personal friendships, collaborations, if a game was received for free, or other kickbacks will colour a person’s opinion of a game. All of these potential sources of bias should be disclosed to the audience before the audience consumes the content. In my reviews, right under the title of the post, I put a disclaimer disclosing my potential biases where they may exist. For games that I bought with my own money, or played a copy that my friends have purchased, I feel there’s nothing to disclose. For a game that a publisher sent me free of charge, you’ll see that disclosure before reading my review.
I don’t get many solicitations for reviews, nor do I reach out to many publishers asking for complimentary review copies. If a publisher emails me first, I generally look at what content is already available for a game, and read through the rulebook to decide if it’s interesting to me. I’ve gotten several TTRPG review requests, to which I generally reply “Thanks for reaching out, but I don’t play TTRPGs”.
By far, the most common way that I’ve received review copies of games comes from a Facebook group “Board Game Reviewers and Media”, where publishers solicit for reviewers to express interest in their game, then, will send out review copies to the outlets they choose to work with. Some outlets may offer their services that come at a cost, like, producing a play through video, a how-to-play video, a featured slot on their live stream, an opportunity to sponsor a giveaway, whatever. The publisher and the interested outlets are now in touch with each other and can decide how they want to collaborate.
Myself, I offer no paid services. I review the games that I like to play and don’t want to feel forced to produce content. This website is a hobby of a hobby for me, and I have no interest in cultivating paid relationships with various publishers. When a publisher solicits for reviewers and the game looks interesting to me, I reach out to the provided email and provide links to this website and my social media channels. I also attach this media sheet outlining my stats:
I have accepted some prototype copies of games prior to a crowdfunding campaign (Earth, Draft & Write Records, Familiars and Foes, and Rogue Angels are all times when I received a prototype of the game ahead of their respective Kickstarter campaigns), but only when I’m actually interested in the game. It turns out, reviewing prototypes is not something that I particularly enjoy, so I don’t seek out this work very often. In the case of prototype copies, I offer to send on the prototype onto another content creator, or, back to the publisher, but I generally request a final copy of the game to be provided to me, should the crowdfunding campaign be successful. This allows me to update my review with the final, retail product.
As I said before, this blog is a hobby for me. I do not have any monetization paths, but I don’t begrudge those who do. Running ads on a website, affiliate links, and direct sponsorships are all different ways that creators can get paid for the work that they do. And running a board game media channel is work, make no doubt about that. I believe in being forthcoming and open about my relationships with publishers. While I currently don’t have any plans for sponsored content, I’m also not inherently opposed to it. But any collaboration or sponsorship will be clearly stated, so that you as a reader can decide for yourself if my words are worth influencing your opinions or not.