Over at Gamer Zone, there’s a piece by Michael Lafferty about “swag”: freebies handed out by game companies to reviewers. It’s an old practice.

Back when I was writing for CGW, an occasional “extra” would show up with the review copy. T-shirts were popular then, and I gather from Michael’s article they still are.

It’s difficult now to recall most of them. There was a pair of sunglasses with red LEDs across the top frame that blinked when you pushed a button. The game it arrived with, however, is long forgotten.

The one that stands out, though, is the dragon egg soap. As you might guess, it was soap in the shape of an egg, with a miniature dragon inside. I still have it, sitting untouched in the original box. It came as an advance notice of the Dragonlance gold box series from SSI.

All those things were cute but trivial. I sometimes wondered why publishers sent these little items with the games. T-shirts were understandable: they were publicity (although I wore mine around the house, not in public).

As for the rest, they really had no useful function. And they couldn’t be thought of as “bribes”; they were too cheap for that. Would anyone really consider that giving a bar of soap would engender a positive review?

Maybe things have changed since those days. Michael’s concern is that some people want to get into reviewing for the “free stuff”. He mentions E3, and certainly we’d expect that a lot of “swag” would be handed out there.

He also talks about one person who gave a list of the swag picked up at the convention (it must have been pretty good “free stuff”), and thinks this is a bad thing: bragging about the goodies one gets just for being a reviewer makes others to want to do it, too.

Well, maybe. But is that really going to incite lust in the hearts of wannabe journalists, who will then flood in and write puffs just to get that swag? I have my doubts. After all, you have to be associated with a magazine or big site to get freebies. Just putting up your own site doesn’t mean a lot these days.

Anyway, read the article and see what you think.

To Swag Or Not To Swag on Gamer Zone