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

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firehawk12

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the big difference was that when Shawn called Shane out on it, he sort of admitted it was stupid bullshit fluff meant to skew their perception as players, rather than call Shawn jealous and blow the whole thing off.
Hah, well, that's true. :p

And hey, at least Shane admitted that he couldn't review the game because he went to this event.

But it just goes to show how cozy PR/companies are with certain journalists anyway.
 

PetriP-TNT

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Jul 13, 2007
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The best part of this quote is that Gears of War 2 wasn't even that good. Campaign was fine but the multiplayer was a disaster.
The best part of that review is the jpeg with GEARS OF WARS RATING: 10: ALMOST TOO GOOD and then 100's of faults mentioned in the first passage highlighted


and 1up Show was the best games journalism. Perfect balance of fanboys for every platform
 

Sojgat

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Jan 29, 2012
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The best part of this quote is that Gears of War 2 wasn't even that good. Campaign was fine but the multiplayer was a disaster.
Eeehhhh campaign had some problems too. Most of the boss fights and vehicle set pieces were pretty bad. It's the worst game in the series IMO, I found the quote ridiculous even at the time.
 

NateDrake

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Dec 12, 2010
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Eeehhhh campaign had some problems too. Most of the boss fights and vehicle set pieces were pretty bad. It's the worst game in the series IMO, I found the quote ridiculous even at the time.
It is definitely the worst of the series. It was a disappointment coming off Gears of War to find the multiplayer to be such a mess and a forgetful campaign. Even so the game was fun but its lasting appeal was brief.
 

cameron

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Jun 11, 2010
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Relevant discussion begins at around 2:27:15
Seems pretty decent. The stuff about mock reviews was enlightening. They talk about trusting the site, but they do mention that you should bring up issues that seems to be fishy. 'Gross' and 'useless' are terms used to describe the swag they receive, but I have to wonder if GB has ever communicated their dislike for over-the-top swag to PR/Marketing? That is, tell PR that they don't really care for it, and the review disk is enough.

Also, I don't know if what Ryan said at the end is him being self-aware (i.e. interchange accusations of 'being on the take' with 'witch hunt' or 'message board conspiracy theorists'):
Ryan Davis said:
It's such an easy way to dismiss - if there's critical voices that you don't agree with, or you don't like - it's so easy to just wave the hand and go 'oh, they're all on the fucking take, anyway'
 

Dr Dogg

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Kotaku readers want a lot of content! It's our job to give it to them. I don't think that'll ever change. We *are* always trying to post more interesting things, and avoid the sort of filler press release rewrites that we've done in the past, but much in the way that I'm sure none of you are interested by every single NeoGAF thread, there's no way to get every single person interested in every single Kotaku article. I don't consider funny videos or crazy pictures or even insane stories about french fries to be "filler," but I get where you guys are coming from.
But does Kotaku have to be "all things to everyone"? I know the very fickle nature of new media and how people consume content that if you are not constantly updating, traffic will inevitably dip but surely can't a mantra of "If we build it they will come" be applied?

I'll admit the first site that comes to mind when I want to hear an insightful story is Kotaku, it might not even appear on my radar at all but your SK story made me reevaluate that stance. Don't see that as I'll sit on the front page constantly pressing F5 but I might feel it's worth checking in on from time to time. You never know I might be surprised.
 

Kintaro

Worships the porcelain goddess
Jun 10, 2004
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Yeah, I brought this up ages ago. In hindsight, it's unbelievable how fucked up it was to have Konami get journalists to preview their game in a special camp in Japan and basically focus group the game for them.
They still sort of do this.mfor CoD bloops 2 there is a "review event" for the game. That has always been fishy to me no one seems to care.
 

Sojgat

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But does Kotaku have to be "all things to everyone"? I know the very fickle nature of new media and how people consume content that if you are not constantly updating, traffic will inevitably dip but surely can't a mantra of "If we build it they will come" be applied?

I'll admit the first site that comes to mind when I want to hear an insightful story is Kotaku, it might not even appear on my radar at all but your SK story made me reevaluate that stance. Don't see that as I'll sit on the front page constantly pressing F5 but I might feel it's worth checking in on from time to time. You never know I might be surprised.
I'll be following that writer at least, article was great.
 

firehawk12

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They still sort of do this.mfor CoD bloops 2 there is a "review event" for the game. That has always been fishy to me no one seems to care.
Well, the difference is that Konami brought them on specifically to focus test. Even if you ignore the fact that they were all flown to Japan and had dinner with Kojima, the idea of using journalists as focus testers is kind of weird.

That seems to happen with a lot of games though, since reviewers play preview builds regardless, but the MGS4 story has always stuck with me because of how crazy it looked.
 

Dr Dogg

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I'll be following that writer at least, article was great.
If there is one thing I can take away from this is that this very thread has proved that people do want to see serious reporting and articles that weren't churned out on a whim. Yes they make take time, as does all good journalism but yet again this thread here and other discussion boards have shown that people are willing to wait on the good stuff.

I buy a newspaper everyday but don't read every column inch of it. If there is a constant source of good reporting and insightful journalism I will devote my time but if the balance is in favor with filler, regurgitated press releases and 'whacky' features I wouldn't give it the time of day so if something worthwhile does turn up I'd probably miss it .

Edit: Oh and whilst doing this mornings catch up on this thread happened to stumble upon this article from Edge way back in 2006

http://www.edge-online.com/features/gamings-top-50-journalists/

I do wonder what this would look like if this was complied today?
 

SolidSnakex

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They still sort of do this.mfor CoD bloops 2 there is a "review event" for the game. That has always been fishy to me no one seems to care.
Quick search shows that Ben actually wrote a story about the review event for the original Black Ops

When you work for a gaming outlet with a large audience, Activision can make your life very good. The publisher has made a habit out of offering posh "review events" for the press instead of simply sending out early code. When the reviews arrive, few discuss the free vacation they were given.
"Two weeks before the game's launch, I was flown from San Francisco to LAX; from there, I was driven to Santa Monica airport where I was given a flight helmet customized with my gamertag," Tae Kim wrote about his experience reviewing the game. "I was then put into a helicopter and flown to Ojai, California, a small town about two hours north of Los Angeles. After landing in a field, I was driven to the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, where I was given a posh suite to stay in for three days." The suite had a 360, a copy of the game, and a nice 3D television hooked up to a surround-sound system.

There was a separate area with 30 stations set up so reviewers could try the multiplayer portion of the game. "I was also given a Mad Catz Call of Duty Black Ops branded headset," Kim wrote. "At the end of the trip, I was allowed to keep the flight helmet and the Mad Catz headset. All travel and accommodations, including food, were covered by Activision."
Activision doesn't send out early code for these games, and it only invites certain publications on junkets. The desire for Black Ops coverage is insane, so decent coverage gets good traffic. An early review is worth a ton of readers, which are of course valuable to the sites, and if they can't afford the trip, Activision is happy to pick up the tab for them. It's a tough choice: stick by your ethics policy, or accept a free vacation, some gifts, and boost your site's traffic.

And let's be very clear: these events are designed to wow and impress the reviewer. It's not a matter of fighting piracy, because the game had already been leaked. It's not a matter of just controlling the setting, because that can be done without putting a reviewer up in a country club for three nights. Publishers like Activision spend the money in order to squeeze out the best reviews possible, and to send an implicit message: take care of us, and we'll continue to take care of you.
Do you wonder why no reviews have talked about the glitchy PC online play? Because online play was tested for a very short time, with consoles that were right next to each other. There was no opportunity for actual coverage of the product in a real-world setting, and certainly not on the PC.
It should be noted that some sites did try to mitigate the effects of the trip. I talked to Chris Grant, the Editor in Chief of Joystiq, and he explained that they did indeed go on the trip, although they declined the helicopter ride, handled their own transportation, and paid for their own, smaller room. "We follow the 'appearance of impropriety is as bad as impropriety itself' school of thought," Grant told Ars. "I trust my writers, but I would never expect readers to. We have to earn that trust with everything we write." He also expressed admiration for GamePro's full disclosure of the trip.
http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2010/11/call-of-duty-black-ops-review-event-press-gifts-detailed/

The GamePro writer (Tae Kim) actually included those notes about the press event in his review, but that review is gone now since GamePro went under. But I really can't remember many other sites taking the time to explain all the bonuses that Activision threw at them while they were on that trip.
 

sonicmj1

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0:30, Shawn reading from Konami's press guidelines: "Konami encourages the writer to frame the game experience in the context of the preview event, including the three day schedule, meeting Mr. Kojima, and how it was to finally get their hands on the game before anybody else."

8:40, Shane: "Late at night, at one in the morning, Kojima would show up and have a fireside chat, and if you were still awake, you could go, and like, talk to him, and like, it was really informal, it was just like..."
Garnett (laughs): "Shawn's face..."
Shane: "Yeah, so there were these 'fireside chats' with Mr. Kojima where the Europeans would ask amazing questions."

It really amused me how quickly that glowing appraisal got wrapped up after the laughter.
 

Ledsen

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Update: Added Giant Bombcast, Weekend Confirmed 3, Guardian funny thing, 1up Yours, Christian Spicer, VG247, Video Games Interactive, MaxwellGT2000, Kotaku, Dave Long


Current articles/videos/podcasts
Wings over Sealand (Stuart Campbell) articles (second article has early summary) 1 2 3
John Walker's (Rock Paper Shotgun) blog (start with Games Journalists, And The Perception Of Corruption, includes guest post by Rab Florence)
TotalBiscuit
Jim Sterling
Penny-Arcade 1 2
Gamasutra
Forbes
Worthplaying
GiantBomb
Jason Lauritzen editorial and GAF post
RPGCodex writes an excellent summary
Destructoid
BoingBoing
TheSixthAxis
EDGE article that was written a few weeks ago
PlayerOne Podcast
Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell (editor who edited Rab's column) about the last few days
Rock Paper Shotgun official stance
The Guardian and a funny thing related to the article
Giant Bombcast
VG247 on their new ethics statement
Video Games Interactive
Kotaku

Old (but still relevant) articles/videos/podcasts
Rab Florence (the guy who started all this) criticizing games writing since 2008
An old episode of CGW Radio discussing Gerstmann-gate
Old Gamasutra article on the influence of PR
Old GFW radio bits
1up YoursShawn Elliot and Shane Bettenhausen

Comments from the industry
Shawn Elliot - 1 (aegies is Arthur Gies of polygon.com) 2 3 4 5 6 on the psychology of PR etc
and some more Arthur Gies - 1 2 3 4 5 and some replies 1 2 3
Jeff Green on the way it actually works, and another post, an another
ShockingAlberto on his view as a former games writer
Jason Schreier (Kotaku) - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 and many more
N'Gai Croal initial reaction on Twitter
Chris Schilling (freelance) likes both people involved and so doesn't want to write about it
Danny O'Dwyer (Gamespot UK) on why his site won't cover this (audience is not interested) - 1 2 3
pastapadre on being shunned by the industry
Stephen Totilo (Kotaku) doesn't think this is an important story (has changed his mind about that part, read post 9). Wants to focus on good games journalism, this prompted a pretty funny picture and a comment about it, then Stephen Totilo enters the thread 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 (ignore the comment on 18, couldn't find a direct link to Totilo's comment) 19
Weekend Confirmed 1 2 3
Syriel on his experiences of PR
Jeff Gerstmann short comment on swag
Christian Donlan and Simon Parkin of Eurogamer want to change how they do things[/QUOTE]
Nert on his experience as PR in the tech industry 1 2
John Walker (RPS) on why the site won't cover it (they did anyway) like his blog did
Rab Florence tweets
Jeff Gerstmann 1 (1 is from Tumblr) 2 (2 via EternalGamer, highlights some other stuff) 3 4 5 (3-5 are comments by Jeff in this thread)
Christian Spicer
MaxwellGT2000 talks about his experiences as a writer for a small site that got bigger
Dave Long 1 2

Comments from others
GillianSeed79 and firehawk12 on how journalist do criticize their peers
voodoopanda highlights that the issue is not in any way black or white
Snowden's Secret comments on gaming press reactions
Zissou weighs in

Other relevant/interesting links and examples of PR
Examples of various press kits
The 3DS comes to GiantBomb
Letter sent to reviewers from UbiSoft along with their press copy of Assassin's Creed 3
How Rockstar handled the reviews for GTA4
Battlefield 3 review questionnarie
 

Dr Dogg

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Update: Added Giant Bombcast, Hardcore Gamer AC3 auction, Weekend Confirmed 3, Guardian funny thing, 1up Yours, Christian Spicer, EDGE
Cheers for keeping this updated although the Edge article is the same as their earlier one posted just the subheading updated to reflect it's nature.

Speaking of Edge many moons ago it was perceived that despite being a rather arrogant and aloof publication in contrast to the other print magazines at the time they were of a good ethical and journalistic standard. Most people either their readership or developers, publishers and PR people alike would always feel they were far too critical in there reviews, even to the tune of getting a 6 in an Edge review was considered glowing praise.

Over the last 6 or so years something has changed and this point is no better illustrated in that very few if any games achieved a perfect score. Mario 64 in 1996, Gran Turismo in 1997, Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998, Halo in 2001 and Half Life 2 in 2004. Just a quick count up that's 5 games in the space of 12 years (Edge was first published back in 1993). Then as of 2007 it seams to have lowered their standards; Halo 3 in 2007, The Orange Box in 2007, Super Mario Galaxy also in 2007, GTA IV in 2008, LittleBigPlanet in 2008, Bayonetta in 2009, Super Mario Galaxy in 2010, Rock Band 3 in 2010 and finally Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011. So from 5 in 12 we have gone 9 in 5 years.

Now I might be looking at this from the wrong perspective but a magazine that was once considered to be incredibly critical of the medium to the tune of reserving top score for something truly great to handing it out certainly more freely. Has gaming really come on that much over the last 5 years or are standards slipping? I'll let everyone else be the judge.
 

Dennis

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Hardcore Gamer is a straight up shill site.

Post super glowing reviews to make publishers happy, get free swag, sell swag on Ebay.
 

Fistwell

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So, who's this Christopher Grant character? Had never heard of him before the pizza hut / polygon cross-promotion. Google tells me he was the boss of the "12 days of joyswag" over at that site which I don't know if it's still banned. Any other information to help understand where this apparent love for all things censorship is coming from?
 

antitrop

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So, who's this Christopher Grant character? Had never heard of him before the pizza hut / polygon cross-promotion. Google tells me he was the boss of the "12 days of joyswag" over at that site which I don't know if it's still banned. Any other information to help understand where this apparent love for all things censorship is coming from?
http://www.joystiq.com/2011/12/27/this-is-a-goodbye-post/
That's a copy of his last post on Joystiq, before moving over to Polygon.
 

Fistwell

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Brashnir

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Just finished listening to the Giant Bombcast's take on this. It's over 40 minutes of discussion, and while the words "Witch Hunt" do come up a couple times, they don't simply dismiss the entire issue as such. They do use it to describe some of the overly-aggressive internet stalking of Ms. Wainwright early on in the drama, but they also go on to make several other points during the discussion.

I'm certainly not going to go back and transcribe 45 minutes of podcast, (some more enterprising listener might feel a need to do so) but here are some of the points they hit that I think people in this thread would like to hear. These are all paraphrased from my own listening, and are not direct quotes. If anyone feels I am misrepresenting their arguments, please let me know.

-They go on the record as saying that while they may not necessarily agree with the exact tone of Rab Florence's original piece, (I believe one of them also commented that "I guess there's no really nice or pleasant way to bring something like that up") they are entirely behind the message.

-They say that they frequently have discussions about the line between what's acceptable to publish and what isn't, and that the audience is correct to question these types of decisions when they seem to be on the wrong side of it.

-They discussed again the 3DS situation, and more or less echoed the comments Jeff already made in this thread. It's a weird crazy thing obviously meant to influence them and get posted online, but they thought it had value in a sense to show people just how fucked up the PR machine can be.

-They discuss the AC3 flag and other swag. They mention that most of it is just junk that nobody cares about, but that the AC3 flag did stand out because of the letter attached to it. They mention that they discussed making a video of them burning it and posting it, but the imagery of burning an American Flag was too much for them. Even a fucked-up, bastardized marketing version of an American flag.

-They discuss PR junkets and how they determine whether attending one is worth their time and or coverage. Specifically noted are the Starcraft 2 trip to Korea, (which tyey attended) and a Need for Speed trip to Germany (which they didn't.)

-Jeff directly addressed the questions about the Dance Central 3 review. He says that he is upset that he hasn't had time to finish it, and that allegations that it looks shady are reasonable. He went on to say that the first time he tried to play it, it flat-out didn't work. He played again under more favorable conditions (cleaned the Kinect lens, and played at night to avoid interference from ambient light) with friends and had a great time with it. The problem is, he was drunk when he had the good time, so it wasn't a suitable experience to base a review on. He vowed that he would get the review up eventually, and is upset that it hasn't happened yet. He also promise to finish DOA5 (liked it) and NSMB2 (hated it) reviews before the end of the year.
 
Nov 5, 2010
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VG247 article posted?

As a result, I’ve decided to put the following rules in place for our staff, effective immediately. I’m ashamed I didn’t do this last year. I would encourage other websites to follow suit. Several of the US games publications adhere to similar guidelines, but VG247 will be, as far as I’m aware, the first UK games site to adopt anything like this.

No flights or hotels. We’ll no longer accept flights and payment for hotels from third-parties.
No hospitality. No more free bars. I mean, I’m sure there’ll be free bars. But our employees won’t be drinking at them. This rule also includes food. As of now, VG247 staff will buy their own vittles when they’re “in the field” wherever possible. If, for whatever reason, a VG247 staffer eats or drinks at the expense of a publisher, it’ll be disclosed.
Any gift over £50 disclosed. We regularly get sent promotional materials by games publishers. From now on, all “swag” will be either given away on the site or through social media, or donated to charity. This doesn’t include games, or at least it doesn’t include all of them. We need to play games a lot, and the only way we can keep up is through promos.
No engagement in publisher-held competitions. VG247 staff will never again enter a competition hosted by a publisher or platform-holder.
Any coverage resulting from press trips to be disclosed. Self-explanatory. If we do decide that we’re going to pay our own way to attend a publisher promo event, we’ll clearly say so in any resulting copy.
Writers will never report on companies or products in which they have financial interest, or on companies which employ family members or close friends. Most games journalists have friendly relationships with some publisher PR. As of now, those friendships will prevent staff members from writing about any related company’s products. Similarly, our staff will now not write about products and companies in which they have a vested interest: this includes any crowd-sourced projects they may have backed.
We will always protect the identity of our sources. VG247′s sources will never be disclosed it they speak to us under condition of anonymity. It’s normal that VG247 journalists’ sources aren’t even divulged internally.
A note on advertising. VG247 is always likely to be primarily funded by video games advertising, for reasons I hope are blatantly obvious. We will never carry advertorial. Our ads our sold by Eurogamer Network’s sales team, which is based in Brighton, UK, and is independent to VG247′s editorial staff.
 

antitrop

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Finally, a big gaming website that is actually doing something to raise the professionalism & ethical bar.

This is what I was hoping for, big websites taking a good honest look at themselves, being open with readers about their practices and making changes to be better. In other words: Progress.
I completely agree, Admirable of them.


Wait, are we really calling it "Doritosgate" now?
No, absolutely fucking not. There is no way I'm going to listen someone say Doritosgate and try to take it seriously.
 

Victrix

*beard*
Sep 1, 2005
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Amusingly vg247 is the news aggregator site I use for my general 'what's coming out/up/etc' gaming news

I didn't know anything about their ethical standards, guess I do now!

edit:

This made me laugh

"Related posts

MoH Clean Sweep DLC explained in trailer"

Linking to the DLC for 2010 MoH.

Close, no cigar!
 
Feb 6, 2012
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Aside from that, well done to VG247.

It’s been a long time coming, but we now have to openly accept that cosying-up to the people selling the products on which we’re reporting is blatantly unethical.
I want VG247 to be trusted. We are not “bent,” and never have been. I do not want anyone to think we are.
The most crucial part. "What it looks like" is just as important as what it really is.
 

Brashnir

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Aside from that, well done to VG247.



The most crucial part. "What it looks like" is just as important as what it really is.
In a sense, yes.

The reality of corruption hurts the reader (especially when it's not perceived as such.)

The perception of corruption hurts the journalist/outlet.

For us, corruption is more important. For them, the perception is more important.
 

JebusF

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Jan 24, 2008
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Are they written for the readers to see? Actually, I don't think many websites even have anything written anywhere.
Ours isn't, but I don't really see that it needs to be.

I mean, most writers are on twitter, if anyone is interested, they can get a good gauge on their personality and ethics.

I could go and write up our ethics article right now, but what does it mean? It's just words on a page, it doesn't mean or prove anything.

It's a shame it's gone this far, that people feel the need to to do this.
 
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