Geoff Keighley appeared in an interview with PixelPerfectMag on YouTube and talked a little bit about some upcoming games…especially Halo 4 and its partner programs with Mountain Dew and Doritos. And boy did Mountain Dew and Doritos get some play. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sponsorship in gaming, but that should be between the video game publisher and the product maker. When gaming journalists step in and decide to take part in that relationship, everybody is going to cry foul.
I don’t have any doubts about Geoff Keighley’s ability to do his job well. I don’t think he’s been dishonest in the past, but when you see him, or anybody else for that matter, sitting in a room surrounded by promotional material, it’s not a stretch to start thinking that their viewpoint might begin to skew in favor of those sponsors just a little bit. Take a look at the video below, and I’ll give my reaction and explain why this could have been approached in a much better way.
Geoff is seated around a bunch of promotional material. That’s the first and last thing you’ll notice when watching this clip. It looks bad. The thing is, if Geoff agreed to talk about the Dew/Doritos XP program, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t have disguised it as a simple interview. They should have presented it as a sponsored segment. Secondly, it could have been presented in a more detached manner. Remove the marketing materials. All they’re doing is evoking thoughts of Wayne’s World’s sellout bit. They look cheap and forced. Talk about the program, be upfront that a deal has been made to promote it, and don’t try and act like you’re just interested in talking about Mountain Dew and Doritos because they’re such fine products.
When talking about Halo 4 or the Dew XP program, all Geoff would have said to make this go down easier would have been, “and I want to talk about this DewXP and Halo 4 stuff. I’ve been lucky enough to be asked by Mountain Dew and 343 Industries to discuss it with you.” Doing that, it would have been received so much better. By disguising it as a journalistic segment between an online magazine and a journalist, this whole segment comes across as gross, insulting, and kind of sad.
Let’s not move this direction, people. Let’s learn from this misstep and separate coverage from promotion with clear, bold lines. When we neglect to do so, especially with a respected member of the games journalism community, the reactions that arise are damaging to our industry and to our attempts to be taken seriously by the gamer community.