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Daily Reaction: The Difficulties in Keeping an Embargo

May 28, 2015 Written by Dan Oravasaari

DR Spy

With the speed in which information can spread in today’s world, and its ability to quickly become imprecise as it moves from person to person, there is a need to make sure it is handled in a controlled manner. This is where embargoes — the restriction of the ability to share information about specific material until a designated period — comes into play. With this being a major portion of what it means to work in today’s games industry, the Daily Reaction crew has decided to talk about the day to day issues with maintaining embargoes, and why they are important.

Dandy: One of the best parts of being able to work in the games industry is being able to find out some amazing things before anyone else. But, the worst part about working in the industry, is also that you can’t tell anyone what you know until your embargo lifts. Much like learning an amazing bit of information or a juicy secret, there is always a pull to share it with people you know would love to find out about it, but you simply can’t.

Generally, it isn’t very difficult to not write up a post to spread the word about X title coming down the line, or it having some great new thing. But, on the day to day aspect of your life, being a part of the industry can sometimes feel like you are living a double life. Having a conversation with your family or friends and listening to them bring up something you have a great deal of information on, but knowing that they are wrong or completely right without the ability to say anything can put you in an awkward situation. More often than not, I am only able to respond with, “wow, that’s interesting”, or “hmm, maybe” and then do my best to change the subject and hope they don’t pry before I have to say I can’t talk, or I have to go.

Thankfully I do have a great set of people I have surrounded myself with, so they do understand that when I clam up about something, I have my reasons and it’s best to just move on. For previews, and early hands-on events, I generally have to be gone for up to a week, so people in my life know that I am off doing something, but what, I cannot say. At first I think it was more odd for those around me, but over time, it has just become normal. For reviews, I have had the biggest difficulties keeping my mouth shut, mainly when it comes to watching a friend make terrible purchasing decisions, and not being able to do anything about it. But, I have been able to maintain my silence, and even though I have been blamed for letting it happen, there is nothing I can do. That is the job.

This is one of those things that I think people have a misconception about working in the games media, as much as it is about spreading information at the speed of a keyboard, it is also about the ability to manage information. Trust in this industry is a very difficult thing to earn, and an easy one to lose, so each person must find their own set of standards and adhere to them. While friends outside of the job may love you, and the internet will shower you with attention for a day for breaking an embargo, after everything is said and done, all you have done is broken someone’s trust for your own gain. To me, that is unprofessional, and unethical. So, while it may suck at times to act like the world’s lamest spy, I am happy to do it.

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Chandy: I’m lucky to have a wife that works with me at the site, as she is held to the same embargo standards as I am and I actually have someone to share things with. When either of us are reviewing games or heading off to an event, I have someone at home that I can talk to about what secret game I’m going to see, future announcements that I may know about, or just to talk about the game that I am reviewing. That provides a nice bit of relief so that I don’t have to bottle up all of this knowledge for the couple of weeks early that I may have it. I can’t imagine how it must feel for developers who work on games for years before revealing them to the world.

Dan, you and I also talk pretty regularly, and as a fellow PSLS editor, we’re both held to those standards. But the moment we hop into a party chat to play Destiny or something else with our friends, we have to watch everything that we say. Fortunately, as you mentioned, these people are very understanding the embargoes that we are held to, and outside of a few jokes about a super secret video games spy life, they don’t press us for information that we can’t give. You are absolutely right though. It can feel like you are leading a bit of a double life, even with things as simple as the planning process for getting Daily Reaction back up and running, which we didn’t tell our friends about.

I personally don’t even give the information to people that wouldn’t care about it. When I went to the Black Ops III reveal preview event, I had people asking me where I was going and what I was doing. Whether it was someone who couldn’t tell a health bar from a quest log or a fellow gamer, I stuck to the embargo and maintained that I couldn’t talk about it. Of course I had people saying things like “what am I going to do, go post it on the internet? You can trust me,” but the fact is that the developers and publishers are the ones trusting me with this information.

As we talked about when we covered the damaging nature of leaks a few weeks ago, keeping to an embargo is all about mutual respect. Getting into conversations with other gamers at my day job is tough, as you mentioned, because I either have to pretend I know nothing, or blatantly state that I cannot take part in a speculative discussion. I cannot talk about the particulars for the games I am reviewing. I cannot let you know what games I am checking out at events. I respect the developers and publishers for trusting me with the information too much to lose that trust because I slipped up to some guy at work. It’s not worth it, and to maintain that trust and respect, I will continue to treat my part in the games industry as if it is a position within MI6.

What do you think of embargoes? Do you think you would be able to keep the industries biggest secrets? Let us know in the comments below, send us an email at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or follow us on Twitter @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife as we keep our mouths shut.