John Walker's Electronic House

A Bit Of Perspective

by on Oct.25, 2012, under Rants

People like a fuss.

Clearly I’ve been provoking a lot of that fuss in having written frankly about the last two days’ activities, but things have gotten a touch out of hand. So…

First thing I want to make clear: My concern and the anger behind my two posts has not been based on the actions of one or two people, but on wide circles of the UK games journalist/PR industry and their behaviour in reaction to the events. The shock, disgust, flippancy, sarcasm and straw-manning that has been exhibited from so many who don’t want questions asked, don’t want certain behaviours challenged, and don’t want their boats rocked. It’s abysmal, and it’s what drove me to write about it.

This afternoon’s post was more immediately about Lauren Wainwright’s successful censoring of Robert Florence’s article, and my fury at a journalist who would seek to use legal threats to silence another. But further, it was once again about so many in the business leaping to defend her, throwing around unsubstantiated allegations of libel where there was none, and besmirching a journalist who asked awkward questions to defend another who deserved awkward questions to be asked of her. The cowardice implicit in this is like a plague in the industry, and it deserves to be called out.

But perspective is also needed here. Here’s what Lauren Wainwright – in my opinion – has actually done wrong:

1) She foolishly defended clearly improper actions by journalists. She didn’t actually commit the action she was defending – she never tweeted to win that PS3. Whether Wainwright was supporting the GMAs out of a sense of loyalty to her employer, MCV/Intent Media, who are the organisers of the awards, I do not know. Or maybe she genuinely cannot see why the actions were improper. All that she had done at the time of Florence’s EG piece, was loudly and repeatedly condone it, in public. And she did this, to her own misfortune, on a personal Twitter page that one could easily mistakenly believe contained a takeover advert for Tomb Raider. This, Florence observed, could be misconstrued, and her fervent defence could lead a reader to suspect her of other actions one might see as corrupt. Which of course it could – I had wondered the very same myself earlier that day.

2) She took actions that meant Eurogamer removed the lines referring to her from Florence’s article.

Those are the two things she did wrong. Both, I believe, were stupid. The latter, I believe, was despicable.

And now, thanks to the magic of the Streisand Effect, which Wainwright undoubtedly brought down on herself, means things have gotten a touch out of hand. People are now digging through her trash, attempting to expose every possible scrap of poor behaviour or possibly dubious action. Silly things she’s done, like leaving Square Enix listed as an employer on a public page, and apparently denying that she reviews Square Enix games while she reviews many of them, get highlighted and declared across Twitter as evidence that she’s a flagrant criminal – rather than someone who sometimes does silly things. I suspect what Wainwright actually did for Square was write a mock review of one of their games, which she has described as being a consultant. I’m not sure why a rookie games journalist would be a consultant on a game, and I very much doubt that happened. But a little CV tweak has now meant the rope is getting pulled tighter.

This led, with depressing inevitability, to a torrent of abuse heading her way. A section of the gaming audience leaps on any opportunity to abuse and insult any woman in the industry who steps out of line, and these wretched people pour down vile insults and threats, then followed by the “but you wouldn’t say that if she was a man” vultures who love to come and shit their pro-misogyny agenda on any argument corpse they find. And I’ll merrily delete every one of their comments that will inevitably appear below.

After Florence’s article was published on Eurogamer, those in the industry who shifted uncomfortably at the sight of their boat being nudged immediately began shouting “IT’S A WITCH HUNT!” It was not. It was far easier to shout that and pretend that it was, than to actually take on board the arguments being made by the article. Now, sadly, it has become a witch hunt, and that needs to stop. Wainwright absolutely should be condemned for her actions this morning, but that’s where it should stop. She’s young, she’s inexperienced, and she’s fucked up. She has the right to apologise for that and to be forgiven. An angry mob acting like pricks provides an unhelpful perspective when trying to highlight issues that need changing.

And most of all, the noise is providing exactly what many want – a distraction from the core points of Rab’s article, thus allowing it to all settle down once the big fuss is over, letting everyone carry on just as they were.

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70 Comments for this entry

  • Matt

    You’re a smart, smart man and you’ve lobbied both sides of the argument in this article. Good reading.

  • Michael B

    Have to agree with you John. You’ve put it better than I could. It completely detracts from rab’s argument when commentators resort to vicious insults. It also makes wainwright into the victim instead of the instigator of this mess

  • RevStu

    “She has the right to apologise for that and to be forgiven.”

    And maybe if she exercises that right, rather than running around the internet frantically trying to erase her trails, making herself look worse and worse every minute, people will. Until then, no sympathy.

  • Kieran

    I posted this a little earlier in a forum, seems appropriate for here:

    The whole debacle has left me a bit cold towards the wider industry, and the actions of a certain number amongst games writers were awful. At the same time, I have to put myself in the shoes of a very young writer who just saw herself in an article loosely discussing corruption in games writing. She did something wrong, stubbornly refused to admit the mistake, and then made a rash decision to try and get that off the internet. Her actions were wrong and the proper response would have been a written response, with a request to publish it on EG. Instead she panicked, saw her future being threatened and did a dumb thing. I guess I can understand that.

    Lauren Wainwright still has a bunch to learn, and mistakes are a part of that. Unfortunately for her, her mistakes became part of the wider conversation about the problems in games writing and it all got linked to her. Most of us get to make our mistakes without a gigantic public audience. I have sympathy for that. If she had owned up, I would have more respect for her. Instead she will likely continue to believe what she did was right, because so many people are telling her it was. And she will likely label the response from the internet as more of a notoriously vitriolic audience attacking another writer, instead of perhaps seeing the value in criticism.

    Ultimately I’m more sad on how this turned out, for her and for the industry. The older, more experienced writers don’t have the excuse of youth to hide behind and the numbers that came out to defend their shitty behaviour were disheartening. Wainwright has cast doubt on her own credibility, and the wider industry has revealed how insidiously it is run. Rab lost a fucking job.

  • Joe

    Jon – Thank you. You are the only person who seems to be talking common sense in all of this. To see some games journalist acting the way they have been over the last 2 days is setting a bad impression for aspiring journalists like myself. However we need to move on from this bickering on sites like Twitter but the internet being the internet it’s going to drag on. The industry needs to put its hands up and admit it screwed up then learn and move on. No progress will be made make snide tweets.

  • Alex

    You and RF have been a beacon of light in all of this mess, big reapect to both of you.

  • James

    She should be ashamed of what she has done to Rob who is now out of a job at Eurogamer.

    How pathetic of her. But my God the way people have personally attacked her…the gaming community really does disgust me.

  • Slums

    An apology from her would have fixed everything. What she instead did was tweet with glee at Eurogamer amending the article and now instead of confronting her mistakes, she’s running off and deleting whatever can be construed as incriminating, which naturally only serves to make her look guiltier.

  • Stellar Duck

    “And most of all, the noise is providing exactly what many want – a distraction from the core points of Rab’s article, thus allowing it to all settle down once the big fuss is over, letting everyone carry on just as they were.”

    This is the worst part, really.

    There’s an interesting/needed discussion to be had but it got drowned out.

  • Arthur

    But can I still dislike her for her twitter handle?

    The part of any Internet fight where assholes decides to start calling a woman gendered insults is always the low point and it’s always reached. There has to be a way to change the trajectory of conversations on the Internet, but I just can’t figure out what it is.

  • Martin Coxall

    Not sure if this a very unpleasant event or just a very stupid me.

    It would be very easy and very wrong to write this all as one very poorly advised young journalist who’d never been given a “journalistic ethics” talking to by a concerned editor.

    But it’s not, us it? This is all fallout from the desperately tainted GMAs, which despite being obviously and publicly tainted is still regularly attended by many journos who think themselves respectable. No.

    Game journalism ethics is a cesspool of poor behaviour, and this is an expression of that widespread corruption.

    Hopefully, some of your colleagues will get the message that this unpleasantness could avoided if they give the GMAs a miss in the future.

    It’s good that games journalism, that most tainted of professions, is finally talking about journalistic ethics, but it’s sad that until yesterday wanting to avoid the perception of corruption was seen as a radical position.

  • Bob

    “I’m not sure why a rookie games journalist would be a consultant on a game, and I very much doubt that happened.”

    She says herself she was hired as a consultant for Final Fantasy 13-2

    http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/atheistium/the-lauren-chronicles-a-few-life-updates/30-91806/

    While I do agree this is largely about the wide industry and widespread ingrained problems I also think there’s something to be said for making an example of someone too, especially when they havent exactly been chosen at random.

    The pointless misogynistic comments are awful though and really deflect and distract from dealing with the actual problem

  • Sean

    A very well written article, that accurately sums up your argument and the proceedings of the last 24 hours. While we both have differing views on this whole saga, I would not wish to rehash them on here as frankly it’s all gone on for far too long.

    If you are truly concerned with Rab’s original point fading away after everything dies down, then may I suggest your next blog should be comprised of what changes you think would benefit the industry that both yourself and Rab have a problem with. I’m sure Rab would also be open to penning his thoughts in this blog as well if you wanted to co-write it. It would be a great chance to show yours and his opinions in an environment where the commenters and readers will not immediately jump on the abuse bandwagon, but will consider your proposals.

    This industry is indeed not perfect, so if you’ve thought of things that will benefit journalists, PR’s, publishers and the like both ethically and in terms of standards, please do write them down for everyone to enjoy. :)

    Sean

  • chris

    As I see it, one of the significant problems is that gaming publications (whether web or paper based) don’t attract much (any) advertising outside of gaming circles and have to rely on a comparatively small base of advertisers/publishers that *do* pay.

    It’s a closed loop, and affords a totally disproportionate amount of influence to those holding, by proxy, the purse strings — which in this day and age are tight enough as they are.

    It doesn’t take much to set off some kind of imbroglio involving just about every negative stereotype attached to the industry.

    And the worst of it? It’s all just part of the game, and the vortex feeds itself.

  • Alex Bakke

    I don’t agree with people who are attacking Ms. Wainwright for ‘What she’s done to Rab Florence’. She may have been rash in seeking a redress of grievance by getting EG to take down the page, but it was Rab’s decision to resign from EuroGamer.

    I respect his decision, and perhaps admire it, but there’s a vilification of her for someone else’s actions.

  • RevStu

    Her actions would have been just as despicable if he hadn’t resigned.

  • an

    She should not be forgiven. She censored criticism. She should be fired and never work in the industry again.

  • Alex Bakke

    For sure. But user James in these comments posted “She should be ashamed of what she has done to Rob who is now out of a job at Eurogamer.” – Which I’ve seen posted elsewhere. I don’t think it’s right to blame someone in that way for someone’s decision.

    He’s out of a job because he thought it right to quit. He wasn’t fired, made redundant, etc.

  • chris

    Seriously, she’s a star of the future. There cannot be a sliver of self doubt in her body.

    Give it a couple of weeks, nobody will remember/care about this.

    10/10.

  • Friend of old Eurogamer

    The GMA awards are decided by the staff at MCV.
    Lauren Wainwright works for MCV.
    Michael French is editor at MCV.
    MCV chose Eurogamer to win the GMA best website award.
    MCV editor Michael French put pressure on Eurogamer to edit their article.
    Eurogamer, not wanted to be blackballed complied.

    This is so wrong.
    Michael French has demonstrated a conflict of interest.
    He should be fired.

  • Zeliard

    Alex,

    Rab Florence was essentially left with no choice. He can’t remain with a company that has censored one of his articles. It would be an untenable situation. At the same time, Eurogamer had little choice in the matter as they were left with a Morton’s Fork.

    The fault ultimately lies with those who threatened Eurogamer with legal action; those same people essentially forced Florence out through their actions.

  • Pete

    Bit this is still missing the point. That an earnest, well written, and well-meaning article was quickly mutilated – using the blunt force of legal intimidation no less – to save industry face is the sort of financed misdirection and manipulation Rab’s article was protesting in the first place.

    That is why Rab quit–he had to. If he hadn’t, if he chose to stay, he would then be complicit with the deeply unpleasant ‘behind closed doors’ nature of this industry that he put into the spotlight.

    I’m glad John and RevStu are trying to keep this fact in perspective. I have absolute nothing but disgust for the personal abuse Wainwright is suffering though, however foolish she is.

  • Nico

    Thanks for the write-ups John.

    It’s ironic that the ones whose moral will be affected the most by this story won’t be the guys Rab wrote about, but rather those who see the big picture and actually care about the industry and game writing.

    I do think the daily work on sites like RPS is the best response you can give to the nasty side of games press. It seems there’s actually quite a bit of support for Rab, so I hope it means a good amount of writers and readers care about these matters.

    Keep up the good work in any case !

  • drewski

    Eugh. As soon as it was a woman trying to get the article pulped, you just knew it would inevitably end up at misogyny. As much as the games industry disgust me sometimes, gamers often seem even worse.

  • Gavin

    I like this one a lot too.

  • Rygar9

    It’s a Witch-hunt because Gamer’s are extremely frustrated with the State of the Industry, and with the “Journalists” contribution to it’s decay through unethical practices.

    Gamers are trying to tell the Industry to turn course, both with the actual quality of games, anti-consumer behavior, and with Journalism. It demonstrates the very high level of distrust the consumers have with the Industry overall. It’s the same thing that resulted in the ME3 debacle.

    It’s not going to take too much longer for distrust to turn to disgust, and when that happens, it’s likely going to be an Industry crash as Gamers give up on Gaming.

  • Patrick

    While I wholeheartedly agree with this article, I’d like to repeat what I’ve written in longer words in the infamous’ EG article’s comment thread:

    In my opinion there has to be a distinction between the work done by some (among them the RPS guys) and the hobbyist writing by amateurs that just like to write about the stuff they spend most of their free time on.

    It’s not journalism. And while I wholeheartedly agree that it’s desirable to establish true journalism in games writing, most of the stuff being consumed is not it.

    Most of these people have neither true journalistic knowledge nor do they uphold the values that go along with it.

    But this isn’t news. This is a topic that has been debated so often now, that all these commenters and readers claiming to be suprised by this lack of professionalism are either naive or (worse) hypocrites.

    Rab’s original piece was good and sincere, but the ensuing shitstorm in the community is anything but.

  • Chris Wild

    This article and the two before it have been fantastic John. You’ve certainly given me and most likely many other people a intellegent perspective on this whole thing. I feel like I’ve been a very angry internet man today mostly because Robert Florence won’t be doing any more Lost Humanity articles. It’s a disgrace he has to suffer for this. A few bad days for games journalism certainly and worse that it’s become so much more than what it originally was. We’re all lucky to have you and your writing though, without people like you John I feel we would be lost.

  • Chris Wild

    and by more than it originally was, I was referring to the misogynistic hate that has befallen her.

  • Dex

    “People are now digging through her trash, attempting to expose every possible scrap of poor behaviour or possibly dubious action.”
    This might be something, after she had already removed the “Square Enix” job description from her profile people apparently uncovered this:
    http://n4g.com/news/282228/so-you-want-free-games
    http://uk.linkedin.com/in/korinaabbott

    As for the “misogyny defense”, I’d like to point out that this is largely your fault for framing it that way and constantly and reliably falling for it over and over. It’s your sensibilities that are being used against you to frame it that way, as for instance EA did with both Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3.
    Imagine if say a political candidate did something wrong or wanted to pass an outrageous bill and among the masses of people commenting on it and getting outraged there are 10, maybe 20 people, maybe more that would use the b- or the c-word and from that point forward the media stopped reporting about what the actual issue at hand was and let it slide and concentrated wholly and specifically on those few people, derailing the entire issue and letting said bill pass. *You* are more often than not that person, amongst others.

    For instance very early on Ian Miles Cheong brought this up: http://i.imgur.com/E86d5.png
    He specifically said something about an “attack” and called out places like NeoGAF, Reddit and 4chan.
    Now for instance, the NeoGAF thread is open for everyone to peruse and there is very little of any of that going on: http://neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=497024
    Similar with Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1227qi/robert_florence_just_stepped_down_from_eurogamer/
    And even /v/, in a rather uncharacteristical display, what did they have to say about the issue? http://i.imgur.com/K7GsE.png

    It is in *your* hand if you want to actually want to report and talk about the issue itself, or if the very few people that are doing such things are going to prompt you to blow it out of proportion and frame the entire issue on “gamer misogyny”, derailing it entirely, and more often than not in the past you have done exactly that.

  • Maz

    @Alex Bakke: Better to quit than to be fired. Unless he impressed that this action was not due to internal pressure (and even then, I am skeptical) I am going along the route I have seen play out and again. Leave or be fired.

  • Tom Hatfield

    John, I think the problem here is that you’ve taken any criticism of Rab’s article as an endorsement of corruption. That is neither true nor fair. There are many other reasons people may not like that article, just because you do not share them does not mean that it doesn’t exist.

    As I said before, if Rab’s article had been your first article on the subject, everything would have been hunky dory. But it was not. A legitimate point, the hashtag itself, was used to take a vague swing at games journalism as a whole, and to bring out that whole chesnut about how we should be uncomfortable around PRs, like they might suddenly smother us with bribery chloroform.

    Rabs article was one of broad sweeping generalisations, written by a self proclaimed outsider, with none of the moderation and background information you own post provided. It reduced the whole thing to pantomime heroes and villains, and plucked a couple of junior journalists at random to play the villains. Worst of all he did the whole thing in the most public way possible. Personal blog posts like yours generate discussion, sticking the whole thing on Eurogamer just stokes up the readership. Your own first post explains that most of what people read is fundamentally honest. That point has been completely lost in this flare up, instead the audience his simply seen it as vindication of their pre-conceived, and false, ideas.

    You may not agree with my criticisms of him. That’s fine, I don’t insist that everyone does. But to paint me and other journalists as complicit in, or dismissive of corruption purely for the crime of not liking Rab’s style is not on.

    Oh, and did we not establish that it was MCV that complained to Eurogamer? Not Wainwright herself?

    Either way, I think you too lightly dismiss the damage that Rab potentially did her reputation, there was an implication there, and it was not a nice one. Would I have asked for it to be taken down? No I would not. But I understand her frustration.

    Also I doubt she was trying to hide or censor the thing, as the repeated mentions of the Streisand Effect imply. I’m sure she knows as well as anyone you can’t make people unsee something on the internet. No, she wanted the retraction and the apology, she wanted them to admit it was unfair and over the line. Eurogamer agreed. Rab apparently did not.

  • John Walker

    @Dex – The reason your argument is so suspect, and so clearly one of wishing to endorse and allow misogyny, is because your claimed consequence of acknowledging it hasn’t and isn’t happening.

    To suggest that I have been derailed by the subject, below a post in which I detail and condemn her actions, is idiotically transparent.

    I was inundated by similarly dubious tweets today from those suggesting that I have inhibited discussion because I condemned abusive attacks. Since that’s obviously utter bollocks, since I’ve clearly been in the front lines of demanding discussion, you’re of course left to wonder what the true motive is.

    And that’s even ignoring that these morons either openly or tacitly defending vile abuse are the ones who are derailing the discussion, by making it valid for people to change the subject.

    Your agenda is obvious, and your argument is transparent.

  • John Walker

    @Tom – Since Rab’s article didn’t do most of the things you claim, I only feel more confident in my belief that people want to parody it rather than do any introspection based on it. He observed a serious concern that most hacks don’t want discussed.

    We absolutely have not established that Intent made the claim. Eurogamer made it quite clear in their initial statement that it was Wainwright who complained, and Intent have since done a good job of sewing confusion about that.

    Once more, quoting things someone said in public, and pointing out valid concerns, is not damaging her reputation. It’s pointing out how she’s damaged her reputation.

    And OF COURSE she was trying to censor the article. Because she demanded that the article be censored!

  • stupid_mcgee

    It blows my mind that people can be so babying about this. Wainright violated core ethics of journalism. Think about that. CORE ETHICS. She should be fired or resign immediately. Instead, it’s the opposite. The one asking legitimate questions regarding impartiality is asked to be removed. This doesn’t put forth trust, it implies complicity.

    As a journalist, you do NOT hide information or request censorship. Coming from the USA, maybe I have a different perspective on this, but I cannot imagine what would have happened if this type of censoring and info hiding/altering took place between William F. Buckley Sr. and Gore Vidal. Instead, they took on the feud as they should; by repeatedly debating and publicly corresponding with one another.

    Christopher Hitchens is another good example. Whether you like the man or not, he never silenced other’s words or opinions. Instead, he openly and directly responded to them. He may have marginalized them, but he never censored or tried to hide information. If Hitchens could be caught flat-footed or in a lie, he was willing to let that be his fate. Rightfully so.

    Now, does this make Wainright a horrible person? No. But I think it does speak volumes about modern journalism.

    Jonah Lehrer. Stephen Glass. Jayson Blair. Mike Daisey.

    What do those names have in common? They have all been exposed as deliberately lying or misrepresenting facts to advance their career and/or to proffer a better story. All except Daisey were journalists. I’m sure I could dig up more, but those are the ones in the past 10 or so years that stick in my head. And that’s just people caught in major scandals.

    It’s not like ethics aren’t being taught for journalism degrees. Ethics are taught for MBAs as well, but I think we all know how well that’s done over the years.

    The fact is, this isn’t something that can be simply excused or marginalized. This is a deep-rooted and very serious problem. Without integrity, a journalist has nothing and is worthless. When the members of the industry repeatedly lose integrity, the entire industry loses integrity because it becomes representative, rightly or wrongly, of the whole. If numerous and different fast food chains had E. Coli breakouts, you can bet (rightfully so) that people would begin to look at the entire fast food industry with trepidation.

    I know many will say, “it’s just video games,” and so forth, but the problem to me is a slippery slope. I don’t care if you’re a journalist for a publication about chewing gum, I expect a certain degree of integrity from journalism. Period. Whether it’s foreign affairs or celebrity gossip is irrelevant. The fact that some journalists think they don’t need to worry about such integrity, even more if they try to excuse a lack of integrity because of a less-serious topic, is horribly worrying.

  • stupid_mcgee

    One last thing; if any journalist thinks they’re underpaid and overworked, try taking up a job directly cooking in a restaurant for 20+ years.

  • Tom Hatfield

    @John And there we have it. If you don’t like Rab’s article you’re covering for corruption. There can be no legitimate criticisms of it because you have none. How ridiculous. You can’t demand people agree with your opinions and claim they’re corrupt if they don’t. That’s just juvenile.

    Again, we’ll have to agree to disagree on how harmful his words are. I think lines like “I am suspicious of this journalist’s apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she’s in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I’m sure she isn’t, but the doubt is there.” are pretty loaded.

    Neither of us know her (or MCV’s) motivations. But we all know you can’t really censor the internet, and I’m sure she (or they) do too. That’s not what retractions are about. They’re about getting the publication to admit they were wrong.

  • grumpy

    @Tom: you didn’t actually understand what Rab wrote, then?

    How is it harmful to point out that when a journalist behaves in a way that creates doubt about her integrity, then people will question her integrity?

    That is all Rab pointed out: if you publicly defend journalists using their influence for personal gain, if you not just surround yourself with products from the products you’re supposed to review, but brag about it, and show it off at every opportunity, then people are going to question whether you are capable of writing about them fairly. Maybe you should re-read his article? He did not say Wainwright is corrupt, he said that she (and many others) act in ways that calls her integrity into question.

    If you don’t agree with the opinion that “journalists should act as if they’re not corrupt”, which was basically what Rab said, then you sure as hell don’t get to complain that “wah wah, you’re painting me as if I agree with corruption”. Because, well…

  • Pod

    People need to forget Wainright and her cowardly actions. She’s a drop in that corrupt ocean, and was only one of three people named in the article. Interestingly she, at the time, appeared to be the least corrupt, as her only crime was to show her ignorance and naivety by saying “why is getting a free ps3 bad?”. DaveCook and that Dorito guy seemed to have taken no flak from the article. I don’t know if it’s because they’re male (probably) or because their bosses didn’t threaten Eurogamer. (though DaveCooks name was removed)

    We should instead focus on:
    * Why Eurogamer, a place staffed with intelligent people and has ACTUAL LAWYERS thought she was a threat and edited Rab’s piece in the first place.
    * how we’ve gotten into the state where people can actively be saying, and actively defending, “why is tweeting advertising a bad idea when I get a free ps3 form it?”

    I don;t know what a beefjack is, but the guy commented on this blog yesterday and I saw his post via reddit, but he’s on the right lines.
    http://beefjack.com/news/games-journalism-ethics/

    He’s realised that most of his staffers haven’t got a clue and that he should fix that. It’s a pity many other people haven’t taken this time to be introspective, as John said, but instead to fling shit at some relatively unimportant journo. (hopefully MCV _do_ take a look at her suspect actions, though I don’t know if they’ll fire her or pat her on the back for it)

  • CFIT

    The more I see of it, the uglier the story becomes. Wainwright didn’t understand the problem with journalists serving as part of the PR machine probably because that was in large part how she managed to “break in” to the industry. I assume she desperately wanted to be a professional in the video games world, and the first concrete recognition she got, like so many others, was from the game companies themselves. That part-time blog hobby slowly grows into something serious, and at, every step, the purveyors of the games she love are helping her along. But, in an industry where the vast majority of money spent on journalists comes, directly or indirectly, from the companies they cover (and only the top guns are lucky enough to have Doritos sponsorship), the ethical challenges are difficult even for journalists trained in the art.
    Now I’ve never had the desire to go to any trade “events”, but reading various descriptions of “journalists” screaming, hooting and hollering for their favorite games leads me to understand that the world is full of young people desperate for that job who haven’t gotten past the giddy joy of being told by Company PRs that they matter to the self-reflection of what it means to matter.

    So, was there anything wrong in RF’s piece? In retrospect, he could have picked on someone his own size. Singling out a couple of hacks from the crowd, and pointing to their public ignorance, well, it’s a tactic that works better when you know your adversary is capable of defending herself. Clearly, he picked a particularly un-clued target, and she (and MCV) showed herself completely incapable of handling herself. Nobody ever expected her to have any idea of journalistic ethics; from her own statements it was clear that she “didn’t know what the fuss was about”; and she didn’t have much of a readership to defend her.

    But for that ignorance, now every part of her digital life has fallen under scrutiny by folks eager to one-up each other in discovering some other way to attack her. This would have happened even if RF hadn’t quit; thankfully nobody called in the lynch mob (à la Penny Arcade/Ocean Marketing) to make it worse.

    So, as others have argued elsewhere, the chief problem here is one of power: an established veteran publicly singles out an incompetent newcomer; incompetent newcomer does something really incompetent, and gets smote by divine retribution. It’s like walking into the Medal of Warfighting announcement ceremony, picking one screaming teenage boy with a press pass out of the crowd, and publicly executing him to appease the Gods of New Game Journalism.

  • John Walker

    @CFIT – she has a large number of the UK games industry supporting her. That is the problem.

  • Xercies

    i’m sorry but it doesn’t take at all one braincell to think that maybe tweeting something that some publisher has given me to get a PS3 might be a wrong thing to do, I have no idea about journalism or games industry but I know that would be the wrong thing to do. So to say they need training and ethics is a bit silly, the employers need to hire people with more then one brain cell.

  • Paul Moloney

    “Wainwright didn’t understand the problem with journalists serving as part of the PR machine probably because that was in large part how she managed to “break in” to the industry.”

    http://www.mcvuk.com/user/read/45746

    “25-year-old Wainwright has just finished a Games Studies & Journalism degree at London Metropolitan University.”

    Ms. Wainwright is neither a child not an unqualified journalist. At 25, I had both finished college and was 4 years into my career, where certain ethics are meant to be upheld. The utterly disheartening thing about this whole episode is that, honourable exceptions aside (and I’m especially delighted to be a RPS subscriber) is the low expectation that games journalists have of their professions. (To be fair, this isn’t specific to games journalism, but to the profession as a whole. Let’s not even get into property “journalism”).

    P.

  • Optimus

    Wainwright opened her blog with a piece titled ‘Swag Slag’ that details the goodies and night-out-in-Finland she got while previewing Alan Wake for Remedy.

    http://www.laurenwainwright.com/?p=71

    The resulting preview closes with

    “Alan Wake is back on the radar after a long wait and not only is it looking to be one of the most promising Xbox 360 titles to release this May, it is also looking at being one of the most exciting titles to release this year. An intriguing story with breathtakingly visuals and clever scripting, Alan Wake is a must have pre-order for 360 owners this year.”

    Which is quite possibly what she felt (heck, AW was a decent game, so it’s entirely likely). But I guess if I had read her little swag boast first, I, like Florence, might *wonder* if the free vodka and t-shirts had any sway over her subsequent opinion.

    Remember how Rab mentions he stalks journalists? Perhaps he knew all too well that Lauren had a bunch of skeletons – well, not in the closet, more like spread all over the room – that people would easily find and dig up to help add weight to his argument.

  • Sylvia Danaan

    Hate to be a snob but isn’t London Met just a degree factory?

    Otherwise, good points.

  • Sylvia Danaan

    Also, there is a comment on her feed that runs along the lines of:

    “That media law course has now come in very useful”

    I think that sheds light on who initiated the threat of legal action.

  • Mike Grant

    @CFIT

    I don’t think that Lauren can be described as an unqualified newcomer. She writes for The Sun and MCV, her blog won a GMA a year or two ago, and she’s done a journalism degree which included a module on media law.

    If anything, this means she would have been more clued up than most, which makes her naivety about the blurring of the lines between journalism and PR more difficult to understand than it would have been if she was just a 17 year old with a blog.

    Incidentally, I’m wondering whether the main reason she defended the PS3 hashtag debacle was because her boyfriend was one of the people who tweeted it from the GMAs, and not because she thought there was nothing wrong with it.

  • TruthWillOut

    And on Facebook in response to the shit eating ‘Well at least I know who my friends are…’ post she gets this.

    Johnny Cullen We <3 you, Wainwright. Don't ever forget it. <3
    23 hours ago · Like · 2

    Amanda Porrelli Weird fucking day on Twitter. Glad to see your name removed from that article, even if it does mean the Twitter dogs are after me. :P
    23 hours ago · Like · 2

    Neil Castle Weird fucking week…
    23 hours ago · Like · 1

    Lauren Anne Gavin You're an awesome person. Don't let the jerks get you down!
    22 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Nick Akerman Keep smiling Lauren! :) x
    22 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Ricky Marino I think I spend far too much time playing games and not enough time watching the industry, dunno what went on but hope youre ok x
    22 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Chiara Woolford Ignore and chin up ;)
    21 hours ago · Like · 1

    Colette Bennett *hugs*
    20 hours ago · Like · 2

    Gav Stone You'll always be one of my bfffffffs :)
    19 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Ron Workman I heard you got in trouble for having sex with a cosplay Tomb raider person in a church. Is this TRUE!
    18 hours ago · Edited · Like · 4

    Vaneet Mehta Hey what happened? You ok?
    18 hours ago · Like

    Malcolm Lavery …hope your OK though. People can be twats at times
    18 hours ago · Like

    David Anthony You're good. Simple as.
    17 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Phillip Miner Hey, you gotta do what YOU feel is the right thing. I learned that a long time ago. Sorry I didn't respond earlier…I just didn't quite know what to say or how to support you. But I learned you can't please everyone – you shouldn't aim to please everyone either. ;)
    16 hours ago · Like

    Miguel Rial NOW I know what this is about. I hope all is well lady, keep your head up! :)
    16 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Alexandra Sim-Wise Fuck Eurogamer man, bunch of bedwetters.
    16 hours ago · Like

    Mark Lawson I hope you're doing alright with all this. Hopefully the internet hate train will have a short term memory as it usually does, so it will be over soon.
    14 hours ago · Like

    Debra Wainwright Lauren one of lifes little ups and downs – he cant cope with your success that is all that needs to be said xxxxx
    13 hours ago · Like

    David Boles I R Lauren friend…
    11 hours ago · Like · 1

    Roxana Etemad I luff you x
    11 minutes ago via mobile · Like

    Nice to see Sim-Wise and Cullen joining in alongside Porrelli and none of them can see what was wrong UK games press is doing well.

  • StupidHumanTricks

    @Tom – Eurogamer did not agree that it was unfair and over the line. The paragraphs in question were removed not retracted, and there is a huge and relevant difference there. They expressly do not admit any liability and there was no liability anyway. Commenting on accurate quotes of remarks she published online is in no way libel. Stating an honestly held opinion, based on provable fact (published comments), that a reasonable person may have held is in no way libel. What has happened here is that the threat of libel action – which is very expensive and difficult to defend – was used to suppress criticism.

    Lauren Wainwright has been badly let down by her bosses if she was encouraged to pursue the threat of legal action. Given that she was tweeting about how her media law module would come in handy, it may well all have been her own idea. Regardless of whose bright idea threatening Eurogamer was, someone around her should have cared enough about her to take her aside and talk her down from the ledge.

    It’s a shame that this has become all about her, but in truth she made it all about her when she used threats to suppress free speech. The personal abuse is deplorable, but it is an inalienable fact that her actions were unethical.

  • Arthur

    @Tom

    You’ve fundamentally misrepresented what was being stated in the article Mr. Florence wrote. The statements he made are not about whether he actually did believe those things, they were a test. Could a regular person reasonably assume that she was not being paid for the advertisement of the game. Since companies pay for full site takeovers constantly, it makes her look bad, and things such as this stupid “Hey games journalists, advertise our game to twitter followers who trust you to win a PS3″ make her more suspect. The look of impropriety is bad. This isn’t libelous, it is an outlining of how words have meaning.

    As far as the argument that that people only sue so that improper statements get removed, surely you recognize that that’s a a bit beyond the pale? The UK’s libel laws are renowned for being terrible. IGN didn’t pull the statement because it was improper, they pulled it because they were afraid of being sued.

  • Savage Henry

    John, you are once again the voice of reason. My fear regarding the whole brouhaha surrounding the last two days is that Rab Florence, a man who was beginning to dip his toes back into the water of videogames commentary after a long (and well-missed) absence, will now retreat away from the medium again to disassociate himself with the negativity surrounding the article and its subsequent shitestorm (Rab has previous form in this respect – he sited his percieved negativity in Consolvania’s games reviews as a reason for ending the series).

    The way things are going, I can’t see myself being wrong either.

  • Paul Moloney

    For people not familar with UK law; for an example of just how ludicrous the libel laws, the British Chiropractic Association almost successful sued a science journalist:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BCA_v._Singh

    The practise of pursuing libel cases in England & Wales, knowing they are more likely to be successful there than anywhere else in the world, led Geoffrey Robinson to coin the phrase “libel tourism”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel_tourism

    P.

  • Paul Moloney

    “Lauren Wainwright has been badly let down by her bosses if she was encouraged to pursue the threat of legal action.”

    I wonder about this. The only concrete statement I’ve seen was that no legal action was _taken_. But noone has cleared stated that no legal action was suggested or threatened. Has there been anything further from MCV on this?

    I don’t know whether Wainwright contacted EG on a solo run or whether MCV was responsible, but either way she was poorly served rather than – like Dave Cook – jumping into comment threads and both defending themselves while offering mea culpas. If that had happened, the story would be today’s fish supper wrapping and wouldn’t have gone Streisand.

    P.

  • Savage Henry

    Too true Paul. Windmilling into the comments thread if something about you has been brought into question rarely seems to be an advisable thing to do, but this time round I can’t help but think that in doing so Dave Cook has come out of this a lot better than both Rab (who lost his job, regardless of whether he jumped or was pushed) and Lauren (whose professional reputation would appear to be in tatters), and also to a certain extend Eurogamer (who are now being levelled with insults and accusations of cowardice by their readership).

  • Erron Kelly

    I just don’t understand how she — or any of the other press who participated in the contest — couldn’t see how, just maybe, what was going on was some sort of ethical quandary. Our industry might be relatively young, but comparable industries aren’t.

    We’re an industry that constantly, CONSTANTLY faces criticism of being bought by whatever company happens to have a big title coming up. How big a rock do you need to live under to have never seen any of that and thought, “Well, at least I’m not being bought.”?

  • Tom Hatfield

    @ Grumpy

    You’re reducing the argument to black and white, which ironically enough was my criticism of Rab in the first place. I can dislike his article, his tone, the way he riled up the audience, his assertion that he will not name names immediately after naming names, or many other things. This does not make me complicit in corruption. It just means I don’t like his writing. This apparently is not allowed, and will result in John claiming you are defending corruption.

  • StupidHumanTricks

    It seems unlikely to me that no threats were made. Michael French on twitter has been quite specific in his denials. He could just as easily have said that no threats were made to Eurogamer. If you’re going to go online, deny that legal action was taken and say that no threats were made while your boss was talking to them; why would you not say that Eurogamer were not threatened by your company or people connected to it? Why wouldn’t you say that while you were issuing denials unless you can’t deny it?

    I couldn’t agree more about Dave Cook as well. He’s handled it well just by writing replies, and come out of it with his stock higher. Writers write.

  • Frater

    Good point about the blatant sexism and a good read.

    I totally agree with both you and Rab that anybody who resorts to crass generalisations in this industry should have their podium taken away from them and silenced forever.

    This includes the spastic that thought it would be funny to upload to youtube a video named “Wow players are losers” and in this video she laughs at wow players, calling them virgins, etc.

    Like everything else, she has deleted this video but it’s been mirrored a few times.

  • seridras

    There is a lot of fear evident in the behavior of alleged professionals the world over, and it’s not limited to PR, journalism, or the games industry.

    We could do with a lot more upstanding behavior in all quarters, starting with the kind of honesty found here and in Rab’s last Eurogamer article, which led to this.

    It’s bad enough when someone can’t handle the truth of their own mistakes, but when people’s lives are affected by drastic action taken to try burying the truth for the sake of saving a little face, there is little expectation to find reason or professionalism anywhere near the issue.

    I’d like to thank John and Rab for managing to be both reasonable and professional with their statements here. It reassures me that there’s more than just petty, selfish people out there.

  • John

    Hi, John!

    I’m curious about why this incidence don’t deserved a post in RPS. And why all the major websites haven’t whispered a word about it (except Penny Arcade). Some people are talking about “corporativism”. You work for EG as a freelancer. Maybe is for that? What you have to say about this “major” silence and all the fuss coming from comments, blogs and tweets?

  • John Walker

    @John – Many sites have posted about it. Probably dozens by now.

    But it’s nothing to do with RPS. RPS is a site about games and the games industry. We don’t write about journalism or the journalism industry. And as such it’s not relevant to us or our audience.

  • John

    As a humble part of your loyal audience let me contradict you, John.

  • Matt L

    “But it’s nothing to do with RPS. RPS is a site about games and the games industry. We don’t write about journalism or the journalism industry. And as such it’s not relevant to us or our audience.”

    That’s bullshit. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is. Game PR and their relationship with games journalists IS a fundamental part of the games industry that RPS covers. I’m not sure how you can argue otherwise.

    For you to say otherwise is absurd and strikes me as being a part of the problem.

  • Ryan

    @Tom Hatfield

    I dont see how you dont get it. Even in your original response, you make comments to essetnially denigrate the idea, that PR people are a problem. Then you go on to talk about the 2 people he used to give an example, without ever touching the main point of his article.

    Your post comes across as obfuscating the actual issue, to defend people who did, infact do something wrong. Apparently in the world of journalism, being a “junior journalist” means you get a pass at being called out for things. I wish I knew that when I was younger as a CPA, I would have started calling myself a journalist instead.

    The funny thing is, you are saying you dont like that the issue is being treated as black and white, but I’m sorry, that is a big horsecrap, becasue your statements are pretty black and white, and I would argue that Rob’s post is a hell more grey. His whole premise is one of preception, it doenst get much more grey then that.

    As someone who has been a CPA for around 12 years now, imo, nobody deserves the benefit of a doubt, when it comes to given trust, it is earned. And your post, denouncing Robs article, comes across as someone who thinks journalists deserve the benefit of the doubt, when it comes to trust, and that earning it isnt a must.

    Your post also comes across as nieve. Just because Jon or you, or anyone else in journalism says the majority are honest folks, in no way proves the reality of the situation. I’m a CPA, every new client I go to I have to prove I am not corrupt/dirty/dishonest. IT is facinating that you seem to not have a problem with other people in your field, that quite literally make your job harder by giving people material to work with.

    IF you truely have a problem with the perception Rob painted, ironically, his article should be the one thing you cling too. There is no better way to earn trust, specially as a jorunalist(or in my line of work, as a CPA)then transparency.

    One last thing: “like they might suddenly smother us with bribery chloroform.”

    Corporation’s PR will infact try their best to smother us(jounalists are not the only unique snowflakes thath ave to deal with this, I know, disapointing, huh?) to be less focused on certain…misgivings. If the PR people I have to deal with are anything like what you guys have to deal with, it is very concerning that you can treat it so lightly like that.

  • John Walker

    @Matt L – And how much we pay our freelancers and when we pay them is fundamental to RPS. And how we manage company shares. And all manner of other behind-the-scenes, nothing to do with what we writer about matters are. This is one of those.

  • Locksmith marietta

    Really awesome reading. John, you are the only person I admire the most for this incredible blog.

  • ssue

    What will be the next revelation? Website competitions ‘won’ by PRs? Who then provide a company supplied prize for another competition and a bit of publicity through being named in the new competition.

    The big problem is that some journalists and PRs have very unhealthy relationships and it has become ‘normal’ for gifts, lunches and favours to be exchanged for favourable words, or not publishing unfavourable words. It is an issue affecting journalism, business and politics – not just gaming.

    I’m sure most journalists have desks and homes full of freebies, many that came without having to advertise or promote a hashtag. Do these freebies need to be declared or refused?

    It is common in business for those in a position to award contracts or who are involved in purchasing to have clauses in their employment contracts that forbid accepting gifts.

  • The woodlands pest control

    Really awesome reading. John, you are the only person I admire the most for this incredible blog.

  • zipdrive

    Excellent points all along, John. Keep at it and we might have a proper journalistic profession yet!

    :)

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