Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Corruption in gaming journalism and other rants

If you have been keeping an ear to the ground recently in gaming circles you may have heard about the ongoing saga regarding one Zoe Quinn, a female indie game developer who made a game called depression quest on steam.  It's free to play but honestly who the fuck wants to play a game with that name?  That aside the interesting thing about this Zoe Quinn situation is the corruption allegations surrounding numerous journalists around the Internet.  The allegations basically say that she fucked a bunch of guys who at one time or another wrote for sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Kotaku, Neogaf and more in an effort to promote her game via glowing reviews from her fuck buddies.  She essentially has a trump card that says if you try to face her down she can draw upon these people to attack you online.  Since none of these men want their careers ruined by having her reveal this information she has a high level of protection from the gaming journalist sector.

It's weird to think of corruption in something like game development and journalism, I mean it's a medium that every child grew up with in the last 20+ years and is largely viewed by the older generation as being a waste of time and mind numbing and gamers in general these days are a mixed lot who are capable of amazing acts of altruism and charity, along with titanic sized amounts of selfishness.  It's hard to imagine the journalists out there who write about games, interview developers and engage with their communities could be corrupt.  It's not all writers of course, not every one is some kind of stooge for the gaming developers and publishers of the world who take money to write glowing reviews and promote titles regardless of the products failings.

Accusations are thrown out regularly by players of corruption through popular websites like IGN, Gamespot, Gametrailers, Eurogamer and many, many more.  I couldn't help but feel this way when the original Battlefield 4 launched last year and was filled with game breaking bugs, crash issues, glitches and more through every facet of that title.  However if you were to read the reviews of the game at launch you would never think this was the case, in fact you would be led to believe the title is near perfect with the score the websites gave the game.  Now was it a case that every single writer for all of those popular websites just got lucky and never encountered an issue during their review time?  Or did they perhaps gloss over certain issues because EA gave incentives for a positive review score.  Take into account that Battlefield 4's competition Call of Duty Ghosts was given a much more balanced review treatment and that game was fine by comparison to Battlefield 4.

In fact we know that websites like Gametrailers will take "bribes" by looking at past product placement.  Seeing popular Gametrailers personality Geoff Keighly surrounded by Mountain Dew and Dorito's packaging is pretty much confirmation that these major gaming websites are more than willing to sell out for some revenue.  It pretty much compromises the integrity of people like Geoff due to his acceptance of the deal made and his unflinching disregard of peoples criticism for it.  These kinds of deals are regular and it's hard not to think that people are being manipulated to give a game a good score because of this. 

At one time you had a safe haven from the corporate shilling and bullshit in the form of youtube.  A site that allowed people who didn't work in the industry to play games and give honest feedback and reviews of their own.  Angry Joe is someone I would highly recommend you check out since his reviews are not only entertaining but he has the level of integrity many of us would like to see in professional gaming journalism today.  But even this bastion has since been eroded with the corporate entities now approaching these people and offering them money and other items to do the same thing as the big sites.  This isn't to say all of them do this, Angry Joe is one example with another being TotalBiscuit, another reviewer who has openly talked about the Youtube situation, admitting that yes he has promoted games in the past after being contacted by publishers.  The difference is that he will make it known that on those video's he has been asked to do it and if you watch it then keep that in mind.

I don't begrudge these youtube personalities from accepting the fame and money from these deals.  For a lot of these people it was life changing.  They don't work a regular job, stay at home, play games, make videos and get invited to big events by the publishers.  It's a very tempting offer to say the least.  I don't know if I would personally be able to keep my head above it all if I had that kind of attention on the likes of youtube.  I produce videos for a few games and they lack the same level of quality and production but if I were to be approached hypothetically I could see the difficulty of the decision.  Accepting is easy money for me and my family but I risk compromising what I started with my channel.  So for the youtube people it's a personal choice and how you view them after that is based on your own view of their situation.

Professional journalists however are paid by a company to write material for a specific field of media and if they allow themselves to be compromised through things such as sex in the Zoe Quinn sense, corporate promotion or flat out bribery then they don't have the right to call themselves gamers let alone journalists.  I expect the people who write about games to impartial, to be fair and give a balanced judgement to us the consumer.  A review is only an opinion of a single individual obviously, but these opinions count for much more than that when you see how many people online actually believe what they read.  I hope that these people do not have a hand in muddying my favourite hobby and that anyone who reads this just remember that games journalists are people who are just as prone to stupid decisions as you and I.  Don't take everything they say at face value and use your own best judgement when purchasing games.  I like to think my reviews are more balanced and not influenced by money from a publisher like EA or Ubisoft but it doesn't make my opinion infallible just a little clearer, like Angry Joe and TotalBiscuit and the millions of other independent gamers who give a game a score.

To people like Zoe Quinn, fuck you.  To those "journalists" who fucked her and now live in fear of her spilling the beans, fuck you to.  You people are more of an issue with gaming than anything Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo could ever do to the industry.  You drag us all down with your actions and for that you should be punished.  And for anyone who thinks I am targeting a female gamer/developer because of gender you are blind to what's going on and need to read up on the actions of the few who are slowly eroding our hobby with their lies about the industry being anti-feminist and sexist.  Gaming is not gender specific and yes it could do with a few changes to the old gaming stereotypes but I have never for one second felt that women are victimised in games and I have played a lot over the last 25 years from the ZX Spectrum onward.  If you want to swallow the bullshit and believe the industry has some kind of agenda against women, then you're fucked in the head.


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