Machinima controversy and why it matters

MachinimaIt recently became public that the FTC was investigating and taking action against Machinima for deceptive practices related to YouTube campaign videos for Microsoft. In the same day the news broke a settlement was reached that requires Machinima to implement a whole host of changes, review processes, and appropriate disclosure standards. To sum it up briefly, a handful of YouTubers were given large sums of money, the largest sum being reported at $30,000, to make videos, usually only one or two, that put the XBOX One in a good light. Obviously this is unsettling given how many videos were created (approx. 300) and how influential some of the larger YouTube channels have become. So what are gamers to do?

More accountability

Thankfully we have government agencies that protect consumers from deceptive practices and dishonest businesses. But to a point I think gamers need to demand more transparency and accountability outside of what the FTC catches and forces on companies like Machinima. I have a post forthcoming about how game companies and publishers need to establish relationships with streamers and content creators to make closed betas more effective, but I think something similar is needed here. There is far more to be gained by having relationships with YouTube channels and streamers that are open and transparent. People who are naive or not tuned into this probably won’t notice anymore than they are already have. But there is a good portion of the gaming community that has grown continually skeptical of many big streamers and YouTube channels, and the news about Machinima is pretty damning. The news may further the problem with trust and gamers putting much stock in YouTube personalities, streamers, and game reviewers, and especially if this type of thing continues. I’m worried this won’t be the last big corruption scandal in the game content YouTube arena, but hopefully it is.

Take Action

If you are subbed to anyone involved in the Machinima situation, I would leave a comment on their most recent video indicating you are un-subbing with your reasoning and then promptly un-sub. The amount of money some of these people made is mind boggling, and the last thing we should do is assist them in any way. The channels involved are so large that a few thousand subscribers leaving won’t matter much, but it’s a start. Gamers should also consider forming some sort of game review alliance that has a blacklist. Now I’m not encouraging witch hunts or personal attacks, but if enough evidence comes out about a channel or person not being upfront about sponsored vids or other issues of conflict of interest, those channels and persons should be blacklisted. And to be clear, I’m simply proposing a list of persons or organizations that have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. All we can do as gamers is band together, and callout the corrupt, the deceptive, and the unjust. And we shouldn’t do this as a malicious form of punitive treatment, but as a measure of protection for gamers and as a layer of accountability and motivation for content creators to be upfront and honest about their dealings.

It’s not that hard

Seriously, it is.not.that.hard… Letting your audience know that a video is sponsored or about a product that you have a vested interest in is the easiest thing to do. The views, likes, and comments may suffer a little bit, but overtime it would probably work the other way. Sure, on the outset many might think, “Oh great, here comes another sponsored video… skip!” But if the content is good, and the honesty is there, that is far more winsome and trust-building, which should increase viewership over time. The alternative is saying nothing, which, as the few recent news stories are proving, it will eventually catch up with you. I know it’s a lot of money to turn down, and I know another YouTube channel is standing in line right behind you more than willing to sign on the dotted line. I also know that it is scary to risk souring relationships with big companies that can serve as a source for early access to content and big gaming events that help garner views and exclusivity. Game companies and publishers need to work with content creators to promote a flourishing and honest community rather than scaring or bullying people into playing ball or risking losing access to important content and events that can be the difference between making money and getting forgotten. And honestly, as we are seeing, it just isn’t worth it, and can end up costing you more than money, it can cost you respectability, credibility, and relevancy which is the most valuable currency in a digital age full of so much deception and scams.

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