Jorge Zhang

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Unpublished Posts and Ethics

Hey everyone, recently I was informed by a subscriber that a side effect of un-publishing posts is that you’ll get the email notification for a new post but not be able to access it. I try to avoid this as much as possible but just wanted to give you a heads up in case it happens again.

If a post contains an error, I will generally edit it. However, there are times when it makes more sense to unpublish a post. For example, sometimes I accidentally publish a post too early, and it is not finished. Also, in the case of reviews or previews, the designer may request that I withhold publishing a review before a certain date or time.

However, there are other times where it can be a tricky ethical question. I have begun reviewing board games, whether they are sent to me or if I am asked to review a digital PDF or file. I think it’s important to recognize the publisher’s point of view. They spend money, time, and energy to send me a product in the hopes that I’ll review it highly. While I can’t guarantee that I will like a game, I do my best to portray each game in a good light. That being said, what if this is not possible? Formerly, my plan was to simply publish a negative or lukewarm review. That being said, I don’t think this is the best option as it forces me to write about a game I kind of dislike, doesn’t service the publisher, and also isn’t super helpful for people looking for information on a new game they might want to consider getting.

Another very valid concern is the fact that I generally test the games I review by playing solo, even in a game intended for multiple players. I get around this by writing Rulebook Reviews, which don’t focus the gameplay but how well the rules explain the game. This is also much easier and faster for me than getting together a bunch of friends, and is what allows me to write reviews in a short period of time. I faced a bit of criticism recently for this when I made the mistake of writing a review for a game intended for multiple players without having played the game with another person. Reflectively, this was a mistake, as the game experience would be crappier and thus introduce a lot of bias into my review. A preview or rulebook review in those cases would be more appropriate.

I already do this, but I plan to only request games that I anticipate myself enjoying. If I receive a game and don’t enjoy it, I’ll let the publisher know in advance and offer them the choice between not having a review be put up, or having a potentially negative review be posted. These cases represent a time loss for me and a loss for the publisher that sent me the game but are generally rare, as I enjoy most games.

Anyway, in case it isn’t clear, I haven’t unpublished any negative reviews yet. In the past, it’s always been because I made a mistake by publishing a post too early. That being said, as I start reviewing more games, I think this may become a larger problem, and something I’ll need to have a clear policy on going forward. What are your thoughts on writing negative reviews? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang