The ‘enthusiast’ press–think video games and gadgets!–must always work around the fact that its advertisers are often also its news sources, and can control access to review gear, etc. Dan Rutter explains the problem–and a solution–with game theory.
The game-reviewer situation displays one of the many ways in which real-world situations don’t map perfectly to the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma, because it makes another situation possible, in which the reviewer says the crummy game is great, but the readers, out of native cynicism or because this reviewer has lied to them before, don’t believe a word of it and so don’t buy the game.
The best solution is the obvious one: always do what’s right, until someone burns you. Then you burn that person in return. This same principle, by the way, is how good journalists treat anonymous sources: never expose them, but do so at once if they deceive you. Otherwise, you expose yourself to the public awareness you will hide liars behind your byline.