You may have already heard that Shawn Elliott is hosting a symposium on "the practice and politics of writing game reviews," and he's assembled a team of respondents including Leigh Alexander, N'Gai Croal, Kieron Gillen, Stephen Totilo and other notable game journalists.
Elliott is a smart guy, and he proves it by going about this the right way: 1) He's taking his time (the project will span months) to isolate specific topics like review ethics and casual/indie/user-generated games. 2) He's keeping the community on the sidelines. The critics will generate the conversation, and Elliott is encouraging them to engage each other vigorously as the discussion ensues. These email conversations will be posted online, and each will surely be met with a big response from the community. Opening the floodgates to all comers would have produced cacophonous chaos. I think Elliott will have his hands full with the ten opinionated writers already on-board.
Some have characterized the symposium as little more than self-absorbed navel-gazing. I think that's unfair. As I read it, the symposium is designed to encourage rigorous reflection on a fairly complex, non-standardized process with lots of moving parts - one that also happens to be the target of significant criticism from within the industry and from the gaming community itself.
If you're part of an organization, however loosely affiliated, that is routinely criticized for shoddy or unethical work, you basically have three options. You can defensively dismiss your critics as clueless or ignorant; you can acknowledge the problem and attempt to distance yourself from the "bad guys"; or you can stop and take a hard look at the situation (including your own possible culpability) in an effort to raise standards, identify problems, or otherwise address the situation in a positive way. This approach takes more time, requires more work, and insists on large doses of humility and self-reflection. This, it would seem, is the road Elliott and company have chosen, and I wish them well.
By the way, the ancient Greeks originally conceived of the Symposium as a drinking party, and the leader of the event determined how much to dilute the wine, depending on the seriousness of the discussion at hand. Like I said, Elliott has his hand full.