Games Journalism! Wainwright/Florence/Tomb Raider/Eurogamer/Libel Threats/Doritos

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This notion that PRs DON'T influence stuff is nonsense. No-one is talking about brown envelope bribes. It's all about control of access.
That's what I was thinking, but then I look at that Ubisoft letter thanking their friends in the press for the good work hyping up the next Assassin's Creed, I hear the stories about PR people calling in press offices being flabbergasted by a less than perfect score "I thought we understood each other - I thought we were cool" - and we seem to be dangerously close to having those brown envelopes being publicly acceptable practice.
 
Stephen Totilo said:
Hi folks,

I do regret the dismissive tone of that comment Ben quoted. Calling it not very important was a miscue because, a) the incident in and of itself was interesting and should have been an item on our site and b) the larger issues of distrust of the games press that have flared up again around this certainly are important. Giving a damn about whether the press can be trusted is always important, and I didn't mean to belittle anyone's concerns about that.

I did clarify yesterday that I am in fact working on a story about this. I noted as much below the comment that Ben quoted, writing: "I'd not thought there was enough new or noteworthy here for a story, but reaction to my comments over the weekend has convinced me otherwise." ( http://kotaku.com/5955226/the-best-of-kotaku-this-week?tag=kotaku-round_up&post=53934128)

The proof's in the pudding, so feel free to reserve any further judgment until we actually run something, but I do apologize for making it seemed like I don't care about concerns about journalism ethics because I certainly do.

-Stephen Totilo
Editor-in-Chief, Kotaku
That was taken from the comments section of the piece Ben Kuchera wrote on The Penny Arcade Report, which can be found here.

Translation: "This story suddenly got big and it's not going away, and people are taking it seriously. We'd better get a piece up so we can get some of these hits."
 
The first thing that's needed for something like an independent site that is sustainable is some really talented writers who have worked in game design (preferably had part in some stellar ones).
I'm building a video game here at school, but only because I basically dragged the department into it. Everything fell apart on us. I won't be graduating this program able to make even the most rudimentary game or even art asset. I've spent as much time writing curriculum to help the department get back on its feet as I have trying to learn things.

I probably don't count, and that's assuming I'm a talented writer (I like to think I am).

That was taken from the comments section of the piece Ben Kuchera wrote on The Penny Arcade Report, which can be found here.

Translation: "This story suddenly got big and it's not going away, and people are taking it seriously. We'd better get a piece up so we can get some of these hits."
You're a terrible translator.
 
Rab's tweeting some stuff about all this atm.
Late reviews are totally fine and a part of why I like a lot of Giant Bomb's reviews. Likewise, for where I write a lot of our reviews are late purely because we all have other jobs and commitments, and we need time to actually finish games.

It's not that I think early reviews are inherently bad, but there's nothing wrong with "late" ones, either. If publishers/PR folks get pushy about getting them up fast, they can just not send Rab/whoever is doing these reviews in future games, if it's that big of a problem.
 
That's what I was thinking, but then I look at that Ubisoft letter thanking their friends in the press for the good work hyping up the next Assassin's Creed, I hear the stories about PR people calling in press offices being flabbergasted by a less than perfect score "I thought we understood each other - I thought we were cool" - and we seem to be dangerously close to having those brown envelopes being publicly acceptable practice.
You are mistaken, it isn't Ubisoft thanking their friends(which would be bad enough), it's Ubi thanking their partners(which is even viler).
 
That was taken from the comments section of the piece Ben Kuchera wrote on The Penny Arcade Report, which can be found here.

Translation: "This story suddenly got big and it's not going away, and people are taking it seriously. We'd better get a piece up so we can get some of these hits."
Petty much. Surprisingly people have not as has happened before drifted away and let the story die it's been an illuminating weekend in this thread lots of great points and the bigger sites saw that people were not going to be distracted and would keep on hammering this story.

It's interesting seeing people who were dismissive slowly coming round to at least discussing it maybe that will weaken the walls a bit..
 
Perhaps, but that's what it seems like to me. What's your take on it?
That, in talking with us here on GAF this weekend, Stephen realized that his audience isn't quite as vapid as he thought, and being a guy who genuinely wants to write stuff for his audience, he's changed his mind and is now looking into this issue.
 
You are mistaken, it isn't Ubisoft thanking their friends(which would be bad enough), it's Ubi thanking their partners(which is even viler).
I was thinking of going one step further and writing "their employees (in the press)" but thought that might confuse some. :p In any case, it's fucking gross.

the podcast I believe. Someone posted a whole list of damning quotes including the gold ol' "You're all just jealous of us".
You're probably thinking of the Weekend Confirmed podcast with Jeff Cannata (not Jeff Gerstmann).

This week's bombcast hasn't been uploaded yet.
 
From their podcast:
Yeah, but without any research into the ongoing saga they just assumed she was a naive rookie. From her tweets and posts here we know that to be not true now.

But they always shoot off on current topics with barely any knowledge of its context. Usually it's endearing, but in this case, annoying.

The amount of back-tracking from the enthusiast press mill is delicious.
This. Oh you guys are really pissed, oh..totally joking before. We really care. Gary hit the caring button and let's get to work...
 
From their podcast:
I can sympathize with where they're coming from, although the way they say it is really silly. Lord knows, we all did/do really dumb things when we're young, but that doesn't excuse threats of libel suits against a guy telling the truth.

If anything, though, it should have been Wainwright's higher ups who told her "no, you made a mistake, we're not going to do anything about it" and told her to write an apology, sever ties, or clear out her desk. However, that's not what happened, which is the bigger issue, and why this has gotten so big.
 
I don't understand the reviewers' argument that "if I score a highly hyped game below fans' expectations, I'll get slammed by (some of) my readership."

I mean, what's wrong with people disagreeing with you? If your criticism is well-substantiated/-corroborated by well-argued analytical observations, then I don't see why you need to care about what some fanboys think in terms of getting their hype rewarded. If anything, getting people's hype meter checked and pull it apart from the whole PR machine is exactly what critics do.

Don't pay attention to kids not being able to acknowledge that their fanboy/-girl dreams aren't necessarily true from a critical perspective according to (mature) standards.
 
That was taken from the comments section of the piece Ben Kuchera wrote on The Penny Arcade Report, which can be found here.

Translation: "This story suddenly got big and it's not going away, and people are taking it seriously. We'd better get a piece up so we can get some of these hits."
Let's not get too cynical about this. He may have been slow to hear what many of us are saying, but he ultimately seemed to understand. And now that more of the mid-tier press is picking this up, the big boys will probably run something, as well. As with any industry, the bigger the organization, the slower to respond. Which is why change invariably comes from the trenches. As TruthJunky has said (and, yes, I agree with him on this), I don't see the established large sites changing their policies or "flavor" anytime soon--if ever. But these small and mid-tier sites seem to be interested in this in a genuine way.

Anyhow, we should give Totilo credit for rolling around in the dirt with us and coming out of it with something worthwhile to tell his readers.

Late reviews are totally fine and a part of why I like a lot of Giant Bomb's reviews. Likewise, for where I write a lot of our reviews are late purely because we all have other jobs and commitments, and we need time to actually finish games.

It's not that I think early reviews are inherently bad, but there's nothing wrong with "late" ones, either. If publishers/PR folks get pushy about getting them up fast, they can just not send Rab/whoever is doing these reviews in future games, if it's that big of a problem.
Yeah. Smaller and mid-tier sites can't compete all that well with the big guys anyhow. Why not try a different approach? They're the best equipped for it. Run with this "late review" thing and make it a badge of honor rather than an unfortunate necessity or a personal preference.

Games aren't movies. You can't go to a pre-release press screening that lasts a couple hours, go home and write a good review by release day. Games take time to digest and experience. Some readers will appreciate this if you tell them that that's what you're respecting.
 
That, in talking with us here on GAF this weekend, Stephen realized that his audience isn't quite as vapid as he thought, and being a guy who genuinely wants to write stuff for his audience, he's changed his mind and is now looking into this issue.
After your first response to me I decided to look back through Totilo's post history to see if perhaps I was wrong, and this is what I found:

I have no idea why it hasn't run on various sites. I've explained why we have not yet covered it and that the discussion here has changed my mind. I've written quite a lot in this thread about the ethical standards at Kotaku about the specifics of stories people have brought up, such as why we did a Halo unboxing, why we didn't do anything (yet) on Robert Florence's thing, some of the background on the SK story and other stuff. I'm always happy to answer questions and have tried to answer them here. I started chatting here on Saturday. Robert's piece had run on Wednesday. Now it's Sunday, and I've been busy for two whole days playing a game for review and then have a pile of stories to edit and write, starting tonight. A massive storm is bearing down on my neighborhood so we may be without power and maybe I'll regret spending so much time taking gaming breaks by posting in here. So as for why, since Wednesday, we have run nothing, it's because I decided that we wouldn't on Wednesday, changed my mind yesterday and have had other things to do since yesterday other than drop everything and start reporting this out.
So perhaps you are correct, and perhaps the conversation here has changed his mind. I stand corrected.
 
I can sympathize with where they're coming from, although the way they say it is really silly. Lord knows, we all did/do really dumb things when we're young, but that doesn't excuse threats of libel suits against a guy telling the truth.

If anything, though, it should have been Wainwright's higher ups who told her "no, you made a mistake, we're not going to do anything about it" and told her to write an apology, sever ties, or clear out her desk. However, that's not what happened, which is the bigger issue, and why this has gotten so big.
Lawyering up for a frivolous case isn't a helping hand, it's practically abuse of legal process.
 
Don't be a bully? Don't be a dick? Did they miss the part where Lauren kicked all of this off by being exactly those things last week?
Again from their podcast:

> well in that one he was specifically calling out a specific journalist though
> Right, this girl Lauren.. who.. used to.. I know her, I mean I've spoken to her
> yeah we've talked to her
> but she used to work for Destructoid I remember, and I remember there was some discussion that super programmer John had with her of doing game reviews on CAG
 
Yeah. Smaller and mid-tier sites can't compete all that well with the big guys anyhow. Why not try a different approach? They're the best equipped for it. Run with this "late review" thing and make it a badge of honor rather than an unfortunate necessity or a personal preference.

Games aren't movies. You can't go to a pre-release press screening that lasts a couple hours, go home and write a good review by release day. Games take time to digest and experience. Some readers will appreciate this if you tell them that that's what you're respecting.
For sure. Like I mentioned earlier, I think that's the angle we're going to take from now on.

Lawyering up for a frivolous case isn't a helping hand, it's practically abuse of legal process.
Yup. That's what I mean. In theory I get where the CAG guys are coming from but it just seems like they're missing the forest for the trees in this case.
 
Hah, surprisingly enough, even RPGCodex has done an article on the games journalism scandal. It's pretty vitriolic.
Indeed. Reposting, and here's a quote:
This is the real, harmful, bloody-minded naivety of the gaming media community; a collectively-affirmed belief that their closeness with the industry makes them specially qualified to pass judgement upon it, without being able to accept that it might also have legitimately compromised their opinions - a little in the manner of a mother who believes it’s perfectly okay for her to be a juror at her son’s murder trial because she knows him much better than anybody else. And this translates into a defensiveness on behalf of the entire profession; Klepek's article, and to a lesser extent Sterling's, takes a moment to acknowledge the inexcusable (of course it isn't right to consult with a company whose products you're reviewing) before avoiding any in-depth commentary on this undeniable glimpse of an industry operating like a swingers' party - in which journalists are invited to become PR reps by PR reps at PR events, transform into creative consultants, then turn into reporters again, jumping back and forth directly between poacher and gamekeeper without ever having their credibility questioned until a bunch of internet detectives on Neogaf happen to notice their CV details - in favour of abstracts and private reflection; really, this story is all about trust between you and me. Really, it's all about how us critics sometimes can't take criticism. Even John Walker and Rob Florence themselves issued milquetoast oil-on-troubled-waters follow-ups to their initial condemnatory statements, urging the gaming public not to think too badly of gaming journalism as a whole, since from personal experience they can testify that most of the people they know are hardworking, decent, and trustworthy.
I realise RPGCodex is a hole, but dammit they hit it out of the park with this one.

At a fundamental level, the fact that there is a vocal minority proclaiming every last video game journalise as corrupt is a symptom that something has gone horribly wrong in games journalism. Frankly, with the rise of YouTube and the Machinima/TheGameStation/Curse etc networks on there, and with Giant Bomb doing YouTube style game commentary before people on YouTube got round to following likewise, I'm not convinced that non-personality driven gaming content will survive.
 
I also think this observation by TruthJunky needs to be brought up again:

I'm not invested in replacing the current facade with an actual gaming media. But if one wanted to take on that project, they would need to start fresh. And it would be exceptionally challenging. It's easy enough to create a blog that maintains the relevant critical and professional distance. But blogging, for all of its fine qualities, does not seem to be everything that you guys are after. If you want researched stories, and fact-checking, and interviews, and in-depth coverage of the games-development process, and the kind of critical analysis (in reviews and/or previews) that requires someone with some training, then you're talking about building an organization that requires paying people. And it is hard to see how you could hire full-time, well-educated, hard-working writers in that environment, while gaining a readership (via whatever product-niche you're targeted), and finding a way to commercialize the project, without dying. The existent (pseudo-)media and the games industry would both want nothing more than to sink you.
Everybody needs to be realistic about this. Is it even feasible to have several well-paid employees with the proper writing talents and analytical skills on a site dedicated to serve the need for proper journalism and criticism? How would such financing come about when the current salary for these people is not-very-good?

Is there even a large enough demand by consumers/surfers to financially maintain such an endeavour? We've seen how people don't want to pay subscription for such a thing, so already there you would have a challenge in trying to balance good writing with ratings/clicks.

Moreover, everyone in the current gaming media and industry would hate your guts.
 
I can sympathize with where they're coming from, although the way they say it is really silly. Lord knows, we all did/do really dumb things when we're young, but that doesn't excuse threats of libel suits against a guy telling the truth.

If anything, though, it should have been Wainwright's higher ups who told her "no, you made a mistake, we're not going to do anything about it" and told her to write an apology, sever ties, or clear out her desk. However, that's not what happened, which is the bigger issue, and why this has gotten so big.
It's worse when you consider it's a writer doing that to another writer.

DocSeuss said:
I'm building a video game here at school, but only because I basically dragged the department into it. Everything fell apart on us. I won't be graduating this program able to make even the most rudimentary game or even art asset. I've spent as much time writing curriculum to help the department get back on its feet as I have trying to learn things.

I probably don't count, and that's assuming I'm a talented writer (I like to think I am).
My point by bringing up experience in game design was because sustainability needs popularity right from the start, not necessarily because others couldn't offer good criticism.
 
Wombat @ Cheap Ass Gamer said:
Please show me the specific conflicts of interest. Not what she might have done, or where she might have worked. A link showing what job she did for Square, and when she did it. Also show me a review that she did that may have questionable content. Not for a game that has an 89 on Metacritic and I named my GOTY.

I still fail to see what his point is?
Link

Well, there you go guys - if a game is good anyway, nothing untoward can possibly have happened!

It's not like this is an industry where a single metacritic point can have huge financial implications or anything...
 
Everybody needs to be realistic about this. Is it even feasible to have several well-paid employees with the proper writing talents and analytical skills on a site dedicated to serve the need for proper journalism and criticism? How would such financing come about when the current salary for these people is not-very-good?

Is there even a large enough demand by consumers/surfers to financially maintain such an endeavour? We've seen how people don't want to pay subscription for such a thing, so already there you would have a challenge in trying to balance good writing with ratings/clicks.

Moreover, everyone in the current gaming media and industry would hate your guts.
This is barely feasible even for an area that actually generates a fair amount of actual news, i.e. non-specialist press/'actual journalism' [although their costs are probably higher]. I simply don't think it's possible for something so... minor.
 
Everybody needs to be realistic about this. Is it even feasible to have several well-paid employees with the proper writing talents and analytical skills on a site dedicated to serve the need for proper journalism and criticism? How would such financing come about when the current salary for these people is not-very-good?

Is there even a large enough demand by consumers/surfers to financially maintain such an endeavour? We've seen how people don't want to pay subscription for such a thing, so already there you would have a challenge in trying to balance good writing with ratings/clicks.

Moreover, everyone in the current gaming media and industry would hate your guts.
I'd be curious to hear how Kill Screen has done it. They were the first Kickstarter project I'd heard of (back in 2009, when Kickstarter was only a few months old!). They've been putting out a physical journal/magazine with pieces by high-profile writers (not just in games criticism), and they've converted their online presence into a blog-style feed with reviews, links, and original content. The only "revenue" they seem to depend on are subscriptions and their store merchandise. Many of their long-form pieces are from paid submissions, but they also have some staff writers. They also managed to swing a cross-promotion with Pitchfork (yes, that Pitchfork).

Not sure how financially viable they are, but they've lasted a lot longer than people predicted. And IMO they're the closest thing to what many of us would like to see. Doesn't seem to be a big hit on GAF though.
 
Didn't see this posted, so here you go, it's Jim Sterling's latest thoughts on the matter at hand:

http://www.destructoid.com/from-a-bag-of-doritos-to-a-bag-of-dirty-laundry-237619.phtml

While I don't care much for Jim Sterling the character, I'm starting to really respect Jim Sterling the writer.

Fake Edit: Mock if already posted.
Enjoyed this more than what he wrote at Gamefront.

Between the "gamers are SOOOooooo entitled" bullshit from Mass Effect 3, and this nonsense here...it really throws a light on who you should and shouldn't be reading and whose site is worth "clicking on".
 
It's worse when you consider it's a writer doing that to another writer.



My point by bringing up experience in game design was because sustainability needs popularity right from the start, not necessarily because others couldn't offer good criticism.
Eh, I saw an opportunity to vent for a second and I took it. I would love to write, seriously and intelligently, about games. I already do, all bloggy style, but I don't have the reach or influence that professionals do, and I don't have the income to sustain it.

Would that I could, but I also know I'm not enough to make it happen, and that's frustrating to me.

so going back to the GMAs that started all this, one of the GMA nominees was David Scamell, who is Wainwrights Boyfriend, who tweets things like this

https://twitter.com/VG_Dave/status/259010870137479169



and this one is just for aegies and such just in case they really want to rethink writing about this

I wanna make a joke about his name.
 
so going back to the GMAs that started all this, one of the GMA nominees was David Scamell, who is Wainwrights Boyfriend, who tweets things like this

https://twitter.com/VG_Dave/status/259010870137479169



and this one is just for aegies and such just in case they really want to rethink writing about this

Ugh

This is pretty damning. I wonder if saying things like this are normal conversations to have with other games "journalists."
 
I also think this observation by TruthJunky needs to be brought up again:



Everybody needs to be realistic about this. Is it even feasible to have several well-paid employees with the proper writing talents and analytical skills on a site dedicated to serve the need for proper journalism and criticism? How would such financing come about when the current salary for these people is not-very-good?

Is there even a large enough demand by consumers/surfers to financially maintain such an endeavour? We've seen how people don't want to pay subscription for such a thing, so already there you would have a challenge in trying to balance good writing with ratings/clicks.

Moreover, everyone in the current gaming media and industry would hate your guts.
There are some examples out there (good writing and analytical skill, don't think they are that much well-paid though hehehe). They won't be unanimous and please everybody, but they hit the mark for me and I think to many others. Kill Screen, NoHighScore, Gamers with Jobs, FlashofSteel. Kill Screen even has a magazine that I love and subscribed for the first year but the P&P fees made it difficult for me to renew for the following years.
 
I'm reading this thread and people are saying Giantbomb or better yet Jeff commented on it on their podcast. I don't think they've recorded a podcast since this news broke.

You're probably thinking of Jeff Canata who totally dismissed the issue on Weekend Confirmed and said people were just jealous.
 
Didn't see this posted, so here you go, it's Jim Sterling's latest thoughts on the matter at hand:

http://www.destructoid.com/from-a-bag-of-doritos-to-a-bag-of-dirty-laundry-237619.phtml

While I don't care much for Jim Sterling the character, I'm starting to really respect Jim Sterling the writer.

Fake Edit: Mock if already posted.
Self-scrutiny should be the beginning and endpoint of all good writing and journalism. Good to see. The end especially:

JimSterling said:
In any case, it's given me and others a lot to think about, and those of us who did not simply close ranks on this issue will likely continue to think about what we've done and how we can improve. Maybe Destructoid is doing something wrong. Maybe I'm failing you as reviews editor somewhere. I like to think about this, because I believe we can always get better.

And if you don't care about any of this stuff, and just want to talk about videogames? That's fine too. Unless you're a professional writer, doing this for a living. I don't think we get to not care. None of us have earned that kind of privilege.
 
Confirmed.

Just found Miss Wainwright on facebook. David Scammel is her beau.

This is hilarious. What a cluster-fuck.

so going back to the GMAs that started all this, one of the GMA nominees was David Scamell, who is Wainwrights Boyfriend, who tweets things like this

https://twitter.com/VG_Dave/status/259010870137479169



and this one is just for aegies and such just in case they really want to rethink writing about this

 
... but I think Wombat brings up a good point, she's a young girl, you know, she could use a helping hand, Ben. Don't be a bully, be a helpful man, a seasoned vet. Exactly, you're the elder statesman of this industry, if you want it to get better, don't be a bully help those that are new. There you go. Don't be a dick.
Young girl?! She's 25 and has a journalism degree.
 
It's really pathetic how some folks like CheapyD are trying to play this card of the naive, wide eyed, confused, "helpless little girl" who didn't know what she was doing when she threatened legal action, cost a guy his job and then brags about said legal threats afterwards. What? Should Ben and Robert help her pick up her Cabbage Patch dolls and have a tea party with her now, too?

I gotta also say, this has also been insightful regarding the UK's positions on free press and libel.
 
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