If there's one issue games journalists love to argue about besides the best scoring system for reviews, it's got to be press junkets. In case your not familiar with the practice, it's when a game publisher or developer pays for a journalist to go somewhere to see something. It could be as simple as the publisher paying for airfare, or it could be as extravagant as a trip to Hawaii - all expenses paid.
The Game Beat tackles the topic, using Capcom's Captivate event in April, where several prominent publications accepted “all expenses paid” trips to play Capcom's newest games at a resort in Hawaii for three days.
Journalists really are divided on the issue. Some see it as an acceptable practice that has no influence on what these journalists will be writing about, while others believe that the practice creates an "appearance of impropriety” or “undue influence” - real or imagined – and is not worth the hassle.
On the pro side is Figit's Tom Chick, who tells Game Beat that going to Captivate had no influence on how he felt about Lost Planet 2, a game that he genuinely likes:
"We are an enthusiast press, and as such, we work closely with publishers and developers," said Tom Chick, a freelancer who writes for Syfy's Fidgit gaming blog. "It's important that readers realize that, but it's also important that they know they can trust some of us. I spent two days in Hawaii looking at Capcom's upcoming game line-up. I really like Lost Planet 2. There is no causation between the former and the latter. That's where my reputation hopefully comes into play."
But journalists like Ars Technica's game editor, Ben Kuchera, sees junkets in a very different light:
"You can argue that you can continue to be impartial in that situation, but the company paid for your plane ticket and hotel room in an island paradise," said Ars Technica Gaming Editor Ben Kuchera, who does not accept paid travel from publishers. "They are paying for your food and your drinks. It is not the best circumstance for a sober, measured look at these games."
The article is a little deeper, but those are the best arguments for and against press junkets. You can read the rest of the article here. It also features extended comments from Kuchera, Chris Gant from Joystiq, Destructoid's Nick Chester and Gerasimos Manolato from Maxim.
One final note about this particular article - it was originally written for an unnamed publication, who ultimately passed on publishing it because they thought it would cause too much of a stink. That's a shame, but I have some free advice for the editor of that site: just publish another Top Ten list about Gaming's Biggest Boobs and forget about real journalism..