John Walker's Electronic House

An Utter Disgrace

by on Oct.25, 2012, under Rants

Yesterday, astonishingly, a number of games journalists defended advertising a game on their Twitter feeds in order to win themselves a PS3. This caused a reaction from others, me included, and I was quickly told to shut up and stop interfering by a number of those I had thought were colleagues. Robert Florence wrote an excellent article about this on Eurogamer, in which he quoted a couple of these people, and then pointed out the potential damage such statements could make to someone’s reputation.

He pointed out that when someone vociferously defends a journalist’s right to advertise a game for personal gain, and also has her Twitter homepage emblazoned in images from the forthcoming Tomb Raider game, it could make others ask questions. Never mind that it’s obviously massively stupid and inappropriate for a games journalist to smother an unreleased game all over their personal page – he simply pointed out that in doing so while so enthusiastically arguing that other forms of advertising are fine, people could conflate the two. That would be an entirely reasonable point. You’d think.

However, that point has now been removed, following a complaint from writer Lauren Wainwright, one of the people quoted in Rab’s article.

Let me categorically state that Lauren Wainwright certainly doesn’t have her Twitter page emblazoned in images from the forthcoming Tomb Raider game for any reason that could be understood to be corrupt. Yes, she vociferously defended a journalist’s right to promote a game for personal gain – in supporting the PS3 competition – on that Twitter page, and yes, if you were the sort of person who wanted to get threatened, you might mistakenly conflate the two. However, Wainwright states that she is simply a massive fan of this unreleased game, and with what I believe to be naive enthusiasm, hasn’t thought through the negative implications of making her Twitter page look like it’s sponsored. It isn’t. Even though Wainwright publicly lists Square Enix, publishers of Tomb Raider (screencap for when that inevitably gets edited out), as one of her current employers. However, don’t point out that possible confusion.

And what the above proves is not only just how moronic UK libel laws are, where someone can’t directly quote a person and then point out possible misinterpretations that could arise from it, but also how deftly our broken system can be used to silence not only discussion, but also criticism.

When a journalist feels they have been misrepresented, even if this so-called misrepresentation has arisen from their having been directly quoted, the response should not be to demand it be removed. The response is to offer to write a response column, or to publish a response in any of the public outlets to which they have access. To do anything else is to be an enemy of journalism, deliberately stifling discussion, and going out of one’s way to ensure further discussion is feared.

What will happen now is all manner of places will host the original version of the article, it will be far more widely circulated and discussed, and the reputations of those who have tried to silence criticism could be far more damaged than if they had just ignored it, let alone acknowledged they could do better.

I’m disappointed that Eurogamer edited the article, as I’m quite sure there was nothing defamatory about it – commenting on a person’s public statements is absolutely allowable, even if that comment suggests someone’s public statements put them in a bad light. I’m also dubious as to whether the angered parties would really have been willing to spend the massive amounts of money it would cost to make it a legal matter. But I’m also certain that Eurogamer knows just how screwed up libel laws are in the UK, and likely followed the advice of their lawyers. However, others are willing to test things in republishing the article. That won’t be the only one.

The last two days have been an utter disgrace for UK games journalists and PRs. I’m sick with anger about it. I’m embarrassed by my profession, and I’m once again reminded that even though being outside the cliquey circles can feel like you’re doing something wrong, it likely means I and others are doing something right. I implore young writers getting started in this business to avoid getting embroiled in the cosy world of PR-journo group hugs, and I desperately suggest to them that if you ever think you might want to prevent another journalist from publishing their thoughts, that you instantly quit and get a job where you won’t be a disgrace to our industry.

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90 Comments for this entry

  • Lewis Denby

    I’d be interested to know the extent to which you think editors and employers are responsible here, John. To my mind, if young and inexperienced journalists aren’t being trained in how to handle such ethical matters, then that’s where the heart of the problem lies.

  • Kieran

    It has been a disgrace. But I have also been able to see just who the very best of the industry are, people like you and Rab and everyone else who voiced similar feelings about the GMAs and the whole debacle.

  • citizen059

    You summed it up perfectly; well said.

  • Jim Caris

    So in Wainwright’s world, her “right” to free swag is more important that Robert Florence’s right to ask questions about it. A supposed journalist using these tactics to silence a fellow writer is completely disgraceful. It’s like a doctor deliberately spreading a disease, completely contrary to everything the profession is supposed to be about. It’s maddening that the interests of corporate shilling have squashed those of genuine journalism like this.

  • Pod

    Such a shame. Rab has lost a good position, all because Eurogamer are spineless. Maybe their hand was forced by a THREAT, but was it even valid? He quoted some quotes and said his own personal opinion of them.

    I believe Lauren Wainwright has forever ruined gaming.

    John, I hope you don’t get sued for me saying that.

  • Alex Battaglia

    I am reading up on this quite a bit and I could not agree with you more than I already do. This whole situation makes me feel sick

  • CalmDownTom

    I think more can be learned by amateur writers from looking at Robert Florence’s behaviour than Lauren’s.

    Naming and shaming is a calculated risk and can damage your own career as much as the person you direct it at. Most writers have the sense to be very careful about this kind of thing, especially because of the over zealous libel laws you mention.

    Could the points made in the article stand without mentioning by name the people he did? Probably. Should young writers aspire to create pieces like his? Probably not.

    The piece may have made good points but it was too close to the industry and too personal. A bit more distance would both strengthen the piece and move it out of the realms of angry bedroom blogger towards investigative journalism.

    Sometimes we all write something a bit too angry, push our points a bit too far and get a bit too preachy. Better to think on those pieces hard, like a text message you consider sending after 8 beers. And best to encourage young writers to be especially careful in such circumstances.

  • drewski

    Aaaaand this just became a “big story”.

  • mandrill

    Lauren Wainwright has not ‘forever ruined gaming’. Her behaviour points up aspects of the industry which need looking at and consideration, but gaming will go on. As long as there are games journalists with integrity, and a willingness to stand up and say what they think about the industry they work in, gamers will read them. I for one will make a point of spreading the word about writers I have respect for (such as yourself and Rab, John) and highlighting articles and reviews that don’t sit right with me. I can only hope that other gamers and readers of their work will do the same.

  • Thomas

    Really disappointing to see Eurogamer cut the article, although it was bold of them to publish it in the first place. I felt bad for Dave Cook because, judging from the dirty laundry aired on Twitter, he seemed genuinely upset, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t open to criticism and Rab had every right to say what he did. It should have never been censored.

  • NM

    CalmDownTom: what patronising wank. John’s not a “bedroom blogger”. He’s one of the country’s most renowned professional games journalists, and his Jeremiad is utterly justified.

    You say “Most writers have the sense to be very careful about this kind of thing”. Yes. That treading-on-eggshells pussilanimy is a bloody big problem! A *huge* problem. Ask those victims of a recently dead celebrity about whom journalists were being “very careful” while he was alive.

  • CalmDownTom

    Not John’s piece NM, Rab’s.

  • Michael Mc Donnell

    In a way I feel a tad sorry for Ms. Wainright and think she’s done herself a great dis-service. If instead of threatening legal action she had simply said she was preparing a response and then released a nicely written piece outlining and defending her position then she would have appeared professional and worthy of respect. But by hiding behind a legal defence she makes herself look incompetent, cowardly and frankly, rather stupid. Which I imagine was probably not her intnet.

  • Matt

    “The piece may have made good points but it was too close to the industry and too personal. A bit more distance would both strengthen the piece and move it out of the realms of angry bedroom blogger towards investigative journalism.”

    How does not providing specific examples of the thing one is writing about strengthen an article?

  • Baldulf

    Game journalism was always a poor joke (bare some exceptions here and there)

    Lies, brives, lack of integrity and objectivity, shameful sponsoring and of course the complete denial that something of that exists.

    As a videogame fan since the Atari years all I can say is: To hell with all of them!

  • Zorganist

    Could we all agree that twitter was probably the worst possible medium to use to play this all out? From where I’ve been looking, both sides of the argument have made mistakes in the way they’ve conducted themselves- even supposedly intelligent and not-at-all-interested-games Nicholas Mailer was trying to defend some frankly awful behaviour on twitter as both necessary and helpful.

    For what it’s worth I think you’ve done quite well to keep a level head during the whole affair- others don’t seem to be employing quite so much rationality.

  • Paul Moloney

    “Even though Wainwright publicly lists Square Enix (screencap for when that inevitably gets edited out) as one of her current employers…”

    I’m frankly astounded.

    P.

  • Fysantis

    Tom,

    With all due respect, Rab is more than a bedroom blogger. How is what he has written for Eurogamer any different than the opinion pieces that go out about people in the public eye in newspapers and journals every day?

    Ms Wainwright published those tweets publicly. All Rab did was to comment on those. If you cannot comment on the words and actions of others that are in the public domain – and while her Twitter may be protected now, her tweets were very much in the public domain – and name the names of those people whether you are a professional journalist or a ‘bedroom blogger’ (as you so snobbily put it) then what can you do? Continue the pat-on-the-back culture that pervades videogame journalism?

  • Tom Hatfield

    Perhaps Ms Wainwright should have written an article in response, that is probably what I would have done, but she was well within her rights to sue. The article implied corruption (in that weasely “I’m not saying she’s corrupt but… manner) which damages her potential for future earnings.

    Moreover, any response she could have written would have been on her personal blog, read by a handful of people. The Eurogamer article by contrast has an enormous readership. Any fight would be on an uneven footing.

    I know how angry and impotent I would have felt if someone who doesn’t even know me blithely used that enormous megaphone to libel me.

    Oh, and we’re not allowed to have game art on our twitter pages now? Unless it subliminally influences us? This is getting ridiculous John.

  • Geoff VDL

    Lewis,

    You bring up an interesting digression, but the point remains that Lauren Wainwright did not behave in a manner befitting a journalist. That was Rab’s point. What’s even more disturbing is how thin the line between “games journalist” and “games PR” has become, not in the sense of objective journalists being paid off for services rendered to publishers, but in how many “journalists” are paid to consult on games, write for games, and so forth. It says right in Ms. Wainwright’s profile that she’s done freelance work for Square Enix: even if she was tweeting for the game as a Square Enix employee(and I’m not saying she was; I have no idea), how are the folks who read her journalism work supposed to tell the difference? It’s a clear case of compromised trust. It’s endemic in the games space and in tech writing in general. It’s disgusting and terrible, and the fact that the profession largely can’t see it is disturbing.

  • KestrelPi

    I think Lewis is right. I don’t know Lauren well I’ve followed on the internet long enough to get a sense of what she is ‘like’ and I do think that it’s very unlikely that she’s much more than naive here.

    That’s not to excuse her from the big mess that is throwing words like libel around, but I think, from the little I know of her, that she is someone who could have very much been dissuaded from this course of action. It’s just a great shame that it came to this, how an otherwise (as nearly as I can gather) decent person can decide this was the right way to handle it.

    She’s not one of The Bad People, but nevertheless she’s done something in this instance which is impossible to defend. It’s worth thinking about how that can come to be.

  • SirDavies

    I agree completely.

  • NM

    “even supposedly intelligent and not-at-all-interested-games Nicholas Mailer was trying to defend some frankly awful behaviour”

    Please provide a specific example of this. Otherwise I might have to sue you for libel (or, given recent events, perhaps I should use those very examples as the basis of my writ ;-)

  • John Walker

    @Hatfield – No the article did not imply corruption. And saying it did doesn’t make it true. He did exactly what I’ve done above – he pointed out that people could see corruption even where there was none.

    I am certain that EG would have published a response piece if she had asked. But she didn’t.

    I keep asking people, Wainwright included, to point out where there was libel. They avoid doing so, then carrying on shouting about libel.

    Stop making lazy parodies of arguments – it’s tedious.

  • CalmDownTom

    @ Fysantis

    I like his writing and don’t think he’s a bedroom blogger. I just think this particular piece has that kind of tone to it. Just my opinion, but I think it could have been written better.

    And in a position of having to advise young writers about how to address contentious or potentially litigious subjects I always advise to avoid naming people unless its really necessary. Does it make your points stronger? Do you absolutely need to name the person? Maybe you think Rab needed to name people. I’m not so sure. Either way, young writers need to be very careful. That was my main point.

    Those with more experience know the potential repercussions of calling people out, whether you agree with them or not.

    @NM Yes, corrupt games journalists and paedophiles are the same.

    Isn’t Godwin due to arrive soon?

  • CFIT

    Ah yes, UK libel laws, where you can be fined for printing true statements. Kinda like how I imagine Italian transparency laws to be, where bribes are legal as long as they’re public.

    At least we know where Ms. Wainwright stands in the public discussion over journalistic ethics.

  • NM

    Tom Hatfield “angry and impotent”. Yes.

  • RevStu

    “Lauren Wainwright has not ‘forever ruined gaming’.”

    That was obvious irony.

  • Crock of light

    Tom Hatfield, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Even implying someone is corrupted, which they can argue damages their reputation, counts as libel. Some games ‘journalists’ need to learn their trade and properly. It’s astounding the number of games journalists who have no idea about media law and ethics.

  • Pod

    mandrill :

    I wasn’t being entirely serious when I said she ruined gaming. I said it purely so I could say “I hope you don’t get sued for me voicing my opinion, John”.

    Which is what happened with Eurogamer and Ron (ignoring the difference that Eurogamer _deliberately_ put up that article, whereas the software that runs John’s blog simply _allows_ me to type my terrible typings)

    I originally typed “…is a massive dick” but I thought John might delete my comment, as he’s quite a nice man that doesn’t put up with such hatemonging, no matter how fake it might be. (though its fakeness might only be obvious to me)

  • NM

    “@NM Yes, corrupt games journalists and paedophiles are the same”

    No. Don’t be silly. I’m not saying she’s a paedo: I’m saying that she’s abusing the same chilling tools of legal censorship that that provided such effective cover for a paedophile as long as he remained alive. Britain’s broken libel laws are a disgrace, and anyone who abuses them to threaten free expression is a disgrace in turn.

  • MJG

    “The article implied corruption (in that weasely “I’m not saying she’s corrupt but… manner) which damages her potential for future earnings.”

    The evidence she left is enough for it to be protected under “Fair Comment” under Libel Law. It’s arguably weasel-ish, it’s still protected speech as Florence’s comments are directly related to the evidence given and separate from the quoted facts given. Open any newspaper and you find a lot of implications derived from analysing comments from politicians and other public figures. Journalists are no exception to this rule, either nor should they get any special treatment to protect them from criticism.

  • BigDes

    John, I asked this question on the Neogafs but I figured I would ask you as well, since you’re an insider in this business

    But do you think a lot of suspicions and lack of trust toward gaming journalists in general would be alleviated somewhat if along with any review of a particular game there was a breakdown of whatever goodies the Publisher sent them along with the review disc

    So if say the reviewer was flown out to a foreign and was asked to review the game under controlled conditions like GTA IV (I think it was) then there would be disclosure of this somewhere in the article.

  • Zeth Ward

    I think something that has been missed here (during the past few days not your post John), and partly raised by Lewis, is the implementation of corporate ethics on “professional” journos.

    Cards on the table first off – I’m a freelance at best, in a harsh light I’m one step up from a bedroom blogger. I also think Lauren is NOT being a shill for Tomb Raider and that the Eurogamer article by Rab should have stood as was. The only thing Rab should have done, IMO, is check his facts on the Tomb Raider aspect. Even the most cursory look back in Lauren’s history will show anyone she’s been Lara nuts for years. It was used to make his point, but it should have been handled better – IMO. It still highlighted the converging clique culture that you mention also.

    Now, one thing I DO know professionally is the application of ethics. Journalists like Lauren, Dave, Guy Cocker, Ryan Davies, Greg Miller, Tom Bramwell (I’m guessing you John) etc work for large companies that will have an ethics policy – especially if the parent company is from the USA. This policy would categorically exclude these pros from entering in to a situation that would result in this sort of mess. Our corporate policy even runs to accepting cups of coffee from customers or interested parties they’re that detailed. If either of them were employed here, they’d both be on disciplinary actions at the very least. Perhaps this is also the case for them going forward.. who knows.

    To my point… There appears to be a lack of education in the games journalism arena on things like this. There is a responsibility to make this important set of principles known to all. In this case it was with Lauren and Dave’s employers to have laid down that groundwork. As for the non-pros like me, it comes down to “doing what’s right” I guess… but how many will? Can the non-pros have much hope of following the right path if these things are not screamed throughout the writing community?

    Nice article anyway John, it made an interesting read.

  • Paul Moloney

    “I just think this particular piece has that kind of tone to it.”

    Tone =/= libel.

    Your argument seems to be that Rab should not have rocked the cosy world of UK gaming journalism. I think this was precisely his aim.

    P.

  • Davs Howard

    @Michael_French: Some clarity: There was no legal action taken from Intent. We asked Eurogamer to remove cruel content about a staff member. They obliged.

    http://www.twitter.com/Michael_French/status/261464206883311617

    @BenParfitt: @BenKuchera @Michael_French Intent at no stage threatened legal action

    http://www.twitter.com/BenParfitt/status/261465931593678848

    Dose this change your views on anything John?

  • Mildness

    I’ve only just realized who this Lauren Wainwright is after reading her twitter name (‘atheistium’). She used to do a podcast with Jim Sterling back before he because famous for being, well, Jim Sterling.

    Maybe he taught her a few tricks about how any PR is good PR, and she just decided that ruining Rab’s relationship with Eurogamer was a good way to increase her profile?

  • CalmDownTom

    @ Paul

    I agree, I don’t think he should be libelled. I also don’t like the libel laws. I ALSO don’t like his piece. I think it alludes to a world of corruption that I have seen no evidence for.

    Cosy world of UK gaming journalism? In no other field does everyone get quite so worked up about everything. There’s a barely restrained constant state of self-righteous indignation that hangs over gamers at all times, waiting for something to trigger it.

    If I need to give advice to writers its to calm the fuck down, not shake things up more.

  • Mary Hamilton

    For what it’s worth – my media law training was a little while back, but in my line of work I do try to stay current – I believe Rab’s Eurogamer piece would have been fully covered by a fair/honest comment defence against any libel accusations. If it was a libel threat, I’m startled Eurogamer backed down so fast.

  • ASCII

    I’ll second the notion of interest in the responsibility of the higher-ups. Are the journalists themselves responsible for republish the article, or are people who run the sites themselves mandating or doing the changing in order to prevent publicity storms like these? Or are they too often the same people?

    Yeah. That’s so thoroughly troubling. It’s never just an internal thing. This kind of nonsense reflects poorly on both games journalism and games as a whole. If this is the sort of behavior that has come to be not only normalized, but criticism thereof is discouraged, then why would anyone respect the integrity of the industry? Not to imply that the games industry and culture is hyper-dependent on the approval of those outside of it, but rather that there is some movement towards public legitimization. Maybe even just “not being a scapegoat for bad things” would be nice. But no. We act like this.

  • Tom Hatfield

    @John

    I assume it was this sentence that caused the objection:

    “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.”

    He’s planting the idea, then walking it back with an attempt to disclaim. It’s “I’m not saying she’s corrupt, but…”

    Now if Eurogamer thought these claims were so insubstantial, why did they cave so readily to them?

    I’m not saying she was right to do this, but I can see why she considered it, and it was foolish of Rab to leave himself open to it (not to mention against the very standards he is championing for). Once a bell has been rung, it can’t be undone. You know as well as I how hard it is to walk back a public misconception.

  • Paul Moloney

    “I think it alludes to a world of corruption that I have seen no evidence for.”

    Caesar’s wife, and all that.

    Me? I don’t think – for example – I’d could be totally sure I could take a car review completely at face value if I found out the author had worked for the car firm.

    Is that unreasonable? If you think it is, then nothing I can can convince you otherwise. If you think it isn’t, then why is the games industry different?

    P.

  • KestrelPi

    @Tom I think that sentence was why Lauren might have had a case for objecting to being singled out as an example in this manner. Which she could and perhaps should have written about. But certainly not libellous. Suspicions and doubts alone can’t be libellous by definition, as they are, by definition, opinions.

  • RevStu

    ” I don’t know Lauren well I’ve followed on the internet long enough to get a sense of what she is ‘like’ and I do think that it’s very unlikely that she’s much more than naive”

    MINUTES OF ETHICS COMMITTEE INVESTIGATION HEARING:

    1. She works for Square-Enix.

    2. She reviews Square-Enix games.

    3. Okay, we’re done here.

  • Jes Ferrier

    I don’t understand why there’s so much resistance to an article that attempts promote change in what has obviously become an unhealthy situation.

    “In no other field does everyone get quite so worked up about everything….”

    Come on, do you honestly believe that?

  • Daddacool (@daddacool)

    Looking a the republished original article, she’s probably in breach of several OFT guidelines that come about as a result of the Handpicked Media case a couple of years back.

    Basically where a blog post, tweet or any other form of communication is deemed to be paid for (and the chance of winning a PS3 would classify under their guidelines), it has to be marked/differentiated in some way from the posters own personal opinion. Laura’s tweets clearly didn’t confirm to this, specifically:

    consumers should understand when they are reading paid-for promotional content.

    In practice we would expect there to be a degree of harmonisation in relation to how sponsored posts are disclosed on microblogs such as Twitter.

    (http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/consumer-enforcement/consumer-enforcement-completed/handpicked_media/q-and-a/#named5)

  • Zeth Ward

    @RevStu…. prob best not to jump to conclusions mate…

    She freelanced for SE awhile back… – I did some freelance for sites like BeefJack in the past doesn’t mean I’m going to plaster my twitter page with their logo – She also never reviewed the SE stuff she worked on….waters are muddy enough without hurling rocks blindly :)

  • Ahnold

    @CalmDownTom

    Did he imply corruption though? Is the implication in that text. The quote in question “I am asking myself whether she’s in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I’m sure she isn’t”

    Wait, he asks a question, and then says he’s sure of the answer. Doesn’t that imply that the answer to the question he asks, is that she *isn’t* corrupt?

    I can understand conservative lawyers saying it’s not worth the expense of defending. However I think a reasonable interpretation of the text makes it clear what the implication is. “She is innocent, but I can see how people might question that. Which is a shame, because she is innocent”. Ie. she is making herself look guilty even when she obviously isn’t. That is what the point seems like to “me”.

    That being said, I think your point that writers should know better is true. This is the obvious result of writing that. The system is what it is, and for Rob writing that piece probably wasn’t worth the end result. But I don’t think we can say he definitely shouldn’t have done it, as long as he knows the consequences. I can certainly appreciate the sentiment that sometimes you have to speak out, even though you know that it will have unfair consequences for yourself. Call it naivete, call it innocence, or call conviction.

  • KestrelPi

    @RevStu Fair point, fair point. Although we don’t have the full details of that, to my knowledge. (What was the nature of the work did she did/does for Square-Enix? Is she still doing it — how up to date is that page? What has she reviewed and was it before during or after the time she has been doing freelance work for Square-Enix?).

    The right answer, no matter what the answer to all those questions are is, of -course-, that she shouldn’t go anywhere near Square-Enix games as a journalist during and (context-dependent) after her work with them. But depending on what the situation actually is, it could still be down to naivety and foolishness, both things that someone can be cured of.

  • Davs Howard

    @RevStu 1) No she doesn’t, she consulted for them in a freelance capacity last year. 2) She never reviewed a game she worked on. 3) I think we are, but get your facts right before you act unnecessarily antagonistic.

  • John Walker

    @BigDes – Yes, I think it would be a good idea.

  • Tom Hatfield

    @Jes

    The problem is that most don’t see Rab as some crusader attempting to change corruption. They see him as someone waving vaguely at things he disapproves of but doesn’t really understand, and getting his audience riled up in the process.

  • RevStu

    “@RevStu…. prob best not to jump to conclusions mate…

    She freelanced for SE awhile back… – I did some freelance for sites like BeefJack in the past doesn’t mean I’m going to plaster my twitter page with their logo – She also never reviewed the SE stuff she worked on….waters are muddy enough without hurling rocks blindly :)”

    She lists them as CURRENT employers on her own Journalisted page. Whether she reviews the specific games she was involved with or not is totally immaterial. She wrote numerous extremely positive articles on Square Enix games without disclosing that she was employed by Square Enix. That’s game, set and match.

  • drewski

    There’s a massive appearance of bias inherent in a “journalist” positively commenting on a company she used to work for in an apparently unrelated, independent media.

    She may no longer be paid by Squeenix and she may not have directly reviewed anything she worked for Squeenix on, but it’s still impossible for her to appear impartial on the matter without declaring her MASSIVE conflict of interest.

  • Davs Howard

    @RevStu A page that has not been updated at all since June and listed under “Freelance” which does not equal “current employers”. Use some common sense or do some proper fact checking.

  • Davs Howard

    @drewski By that definition, almost all freelancers would be unable to remain impartial which is quite frankly ridiculous.

  • Paul Moloney

    “almost all freelancers would be unable to remain impartial…”

    Do “almost all freelancers” work for both (a) companies producing products _and_ (b) publications reviewing those products? Genuine question. I’m amazed if so.

    P.

  • Will

    The Tomb Raider/Square Enix connection is an unfortunate side track that should have been left out of Florence’s original article anyway, because it’s muddier than the original (and very strong point) he started with: journalists tweeting about an MMO to win a PS3 is ethically wrong.

    There should be nothing ambiguous about that statement, and it doesn’t get you into libel territory or anywhere close to insinuation. It’s suspect, sure, but the PS3 debacle is much clearer and directly supported by tweets and facts.

    The PS3 tit-for-tat is a clear ethics violation according to any corporation I’ve worked for and should be for any of these journalists, too. If they don’t understand that, then they shouldn’t be considered journalists and rather be relegated to the realm of fan bloggers.

    Since journalism has been opened up through new media, your credentials don’t speak for you as much as your methods, and these journalists’ methods are reckless at best and compromised at worst.

  • Davs Howard

    @Paul – Unlikely, but his argument was “She may no longer be paid by Squeenix and she may not have directly reviewed anything she worked for Squeenix on…” and that that is a problem.

  • RevStu

    If she hasn’t updated her Journalisted page, that’s nobody’s responsibility but hers.

  • Dick Socrates

    Never heard of “bedroom blogger” before. But even if Rab Florence was one, what would it matter? People in bedrooms have opinions about integrity. And he’s right.

    To even bring up the term is a form of character assassination, a tactic used only by those who don’t have a good argument to respond with; particularly popular amongst tyrants to discredit the people of the country they are about to invade.

    My experience of being a person who is alive tells me any time people get highly defensive about anything it’s when they know, perhaps unconsciously, that what they are being accused of is true.

    Any chance Lauren Wainwright’s name was removed simply because it was unfair to single her out while Rab says he wouldn’t name the other people? Name no one or name them all, don’t pick on someone who isn’t even the worst offender or a particularly evil person. It may be being presumptuous to assume she threatened to sue. Rab may simply have realised on reflection it wasn’t the right approach. Unless it’s a known fact she did, of course.

  • Mabans

    Thank you!

  • Bob

    she has also reviewed tomb raider games, thouygh the review has been removed now http://n4g.com/news/592765/incgamers-lara-croft-and-the-guardian-of-light-review

  • Morville O'Driscoll

    @ Dick Socrates

    Unsure if you’re following this as closely as myself, and therefore unsure if you know of this Twitter conversation.

    https://twitter.com/Michael_French/status/261464206883311617

    “Some clarity: There was no legal action taken from Intent. We asked Eurogamer to remove cruel content about a staff member. They obliged.”

  • Flownerous

    I didn’t read the TR paragraph as an allegation of any kind.

    I thought it was the royal I, an example of the uncertainty a reader might feel about the writer. A writer who defended publicizing a game in a way that could be confused for an endorsement.

    Just me?

  • Josh Holloway

    Looks like I picked a great week to try to break into videogame writing.

  • djbriandamage (@djbriandamage)

    Honest to goodness fans of games and games journalism know that we have to build a relationship with critics. We have to read them for a time, read their colleagues and competitors, and see what sticks. PC Gamer, RPS, Eurogamer, CGW, Gamespy, these are all trusted names that have earned my elusive trust.

    GMA, Spike TV, MTV, Geoff Keighley, these are not trusted names. I ignore their cacophonous parroting of journalism. These names are a hollow shell whose noise amplifies when you knock on their resonant exterior as you’ve done with this article.

    I guess what I’m saying is that no one who really matters cares too much about the back alley gluttony of me-toos. Lovers of the medium only have an appetite for facts.

  • Dick Socrates

    Looks like a lot more shit has been going on than I knew anything about. Disregard all my attempts to see a possible less corrupt side to this. >:(

  • Justin

    It is completely offensive of her mention how important truth in journalism is to her on her blog when this move clearly shows she has no interest in it whatsoever. She engaged in some questionable behavior in a PUBLIC forum and someone called attention to it and she then attempts to silence them by threatening legal action?? Absolutely abhorrent behavior from someone who should be on the side of journalistic integrity but who has really been living her life in a decidedly gray area between journalist and PR mouthpiece. Sickening behavior from her. She should be ashamed and should offer an official apology, but what would be even better is if she just became the journalist we all want her to be and got out of bed with the folks she is clearly sleeping with. In other words, she needs to grow up.

  • Gavin

    I just like this piece a lot. That is all.

  • LewieP's Mummy

    I’m not a games journo, I just play games. I work in the NHS. Part of my job includes procurement of training. I cannot accept gifts of any value over £10 from any of the companies I use, as these gifts could be construed as bribes. Even those gifts under £10 I have to declare – pens, post it notepads, to do pads. Yes, even post-it notes. I was once invited out for lunch by one company. I had to have permission off my manager, and was told I couldn’t eat expensive food nor have alcohol. I had to tell him what I’d eaten when I returned. I was once invited by another company to speak at a conference in Spain; my manager agreed I could go, but I had to take annual leave, pay for my own flight and hotel and meals. I went, as it was so worth doing, and happily accepted I’d have to pay if I wanted to go.
    These rules are there to protect me; to stop me tripping up or behaving inappropriately; to prevent anyone thinking my choice of service provider is influenced in any way by their gifts to me. I take for granted that no-one thinks I’m doing anything dodgy, as I’m fairly responsible. I have, however been offered stuff, including a weekend stay in London in a rather swish flat. I’ve always turned it down, as I try to operate ethically.
    Surely that’s not too hard to do in whatever industry you work in? All Rab has done is point that out, all John has done is support him. I truly don’t understand Eurogamer’s decision.

  • Arstan

    Regardless of Wainwright’s naive actions or poor handling of the response, Florence’s article was a bit self contradictory.

    In the paragraph immediately after he calls out Wainwright, he writes, “I won’t name them here, because it’s a horrible thing to do, but I’m sure some of you will know who they are.”

    He won’t call out the worst of the worst by name, but he will call out this other person by name. It’s a shame that’ll get buried, and that Wainwright probably won’t learn the proper lessons from this mess.

  • UnSubject

    @RevStu

    On that point…

    MINUTES OF ETHICS COMMITTEE INVESTIGATION HEARING:

    1. John Walker has written for a Broken Sword remake.

    2. John Walker has promoted the Broken Sword Kickstarter in his role on RPS.

    3. Okay, we’re done here.

    … if we’re reducing things down to minimalist bullet points.

  • stupid_mcgee

    As an uninformed American, are UK libel laws really that overbearing? In the USA it is very, very difficult to sue for libel or slander. So much so, that when people mention the idea of suing for libel or slander, it’s commonly laughed off and given a snowball’s chance in hell at success.

    As for the the actual topic on hand, Wainright acted in the exact opposite that is expected of a journalist. She chose to request for censorship and to hide the materials being questioned (putting her Twitter feed to private).

    Journalists are supposed to be about uncovering the truth and presenting matters in an equal-handed and factually-minded manner. That is what good journalism does. Shoddy journalism has an agenda and misrepresents elements to support it. Shoddy journalism cowers from threats of exposing and presenting the truth. Shoddy journalism covers up and hides information. Wainright may not be corrupt, but she certainly has all the hallmarks of it and her actions show her to be unbecoming of the field of journalism.

  • Tom Hatfield

    @stupid_mcgee

    Her twitter is hidden because she’s getting abuse from misogynist assholes.

  • stupid_mcgee

    @ Tom; I know that, but it doesn’t excuse hiding disputed information. And that’s the crux for me.

    It would be one thing if the citations in question were in articles alone and her Twitter account was being bombarded by jerks, but the relevant material is on her Twitter feed. I don’t think making her feed private was malicious or meant with ill-intent, but she, essentially, destroyed evidence by making her disputed tweets private.

    Yes, I understand her not wanting to deal with the bigots, but retracting into a shell and hiding away the materials in question does not abate the matter. It merely adds fuel.

    If a politician’s tweets were being investigated for ethic violations and then they came under the fire from the public, ergo being bombarded with irrational hate; does that justify them blacking out the relevant info that caused the original uproar? (aka: making that feed now private so that such info can longer be reviewed) No. It would be immediately viewed as a cover-up. While some (many?) will downplay this is, “but it’s video games,” it speaks volumes about the integrity of the industry.

    Just like when people say, “yeah, but name-calling is common for e-sports” to excuse abhorrent and obnoxious behaviour, all I can think is that these people don’t see that such displays only continue to marginalize and tarnish the professionalism of the gaming industry. There’s a reason why many view video games and the entire industry around it as childish, and excusing childish behaviour only enforces that viewpoint.

    Of course, this is juts as I see it. Whether anyone agrees or disagrees with me, I think having such debates about the societal acceptance and representation of gaming is only healthy. The industry needs to stop playing to this childish and pre-pubescent image. Especially given that the highest market for gaming is those in their mid-20′s to mid-30′s. Gaming has come a long way since Alex Kidd, Sonic, Mario, and Kirby.

  • mister k

    Little late to this party, but the facts of the matter (on just this journalist) appear to potentially be

    -Rab Florence chose to name a particular journalist on eurogamer. I actually agree that giving the identity doesn’t in any way strengthen the piece. I think they could have been given anonymously and it would have been fine.
    -Said journalist requested tweets taken down. Twitter being twitter, she may well have been suffering a fair amount of abuse for an ambiguous action. It seems that legal threats were not given.
    -The website decided to take the tweets down.

    Whether her original actions were unethical or not, this doesn’t seem to unreasonable. Twitter can be a brutal place, and not wanting to be targeted doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Yes, she has acted in a potentially unethical manner, and it would be ideal if she could acknowledge this, but a twitter based assault doesn’t seem ideal.

    All that said, this is just the impression I get. I don’t know the facts of the matter.

  • Pod

    @UnSubject

    You (intentionally?) left out that whenever John covered The Director’s Cut that he declared the conflict:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/09/03/broken-sword-directors-cut-on-steam/

    “A pretty major declaration of interests here: I worked on the Director’s Cut of Broken Sword, now available on Steam and GamersGate, from concept to release, and thus am in no position to tell you whether it’s any good or not. But it’s great. Especially the new diary and hint system – I mean, the quality of writing there is just exceptional. Really stand-out stuff, a league ahead of anything else that’s ever existed. Anyway, that aside, this version originally developed for Nintendo DS and Wii, then iPhone, is now available on PC. It has a whole new opening story, interwoven with the original beginning, this time giving a background to Nico and building on the main plot.”

    (though I don’t see such disclaimers on any interviews with Charles Cecil about the kickstarters.)

  • drewski

    @ stupid_mcgee – very easy to sue for defamation. Not necessarily easy to win, but British law is a lot less free speech tolerant than US law, so a lot of people and organisations will choose to remove material rather than risk an expensive lawsuit.

  • drewski

    @ Davs Howard – really? Is it so hard for a freelancer who’s consulted to say hey, Mr Editor, maybe I shouldn’t do that Final Fantasy 13-II review because, you know, *I worked on the game*.

    It’s very easy to deal with potential conflicts of interest – declare them, then don’t write about the subject matter contained in them. I’m sure Lauren could find an awful lot of material in the gaming world that isn’t published by Squeenix, and write about that instead. Maybe that means she gets a bit less work, but hey, that’s the price she pays for working for the industry she’s supposed to be an independent analyst of.

  • Chris D

    Because of her actions, this story has become so much bigger.
    Editing her Journalisted bio, locking her twitter account, these are not the actions of someone with integrity.
    I don’t see how it can be libel. Eurogamer have let Rab down in this case.

  • Chris D

    Hey! That’s my name!

  • Paul

    Hopefully some good will come from this utter shitstorm.

    The absolute lack of standards of which Robert wrote are now on the forefront of thousands of minds. I heard someone say by making a huge deal of his article, Wainwright has inevitably invoked the Streisand effect.

    What I pray is that it will prompt other games journalists to reconsider their actions. Especially when they see (who I consider the true) industry leaders, such as yourself, speaking out against the appalling behaviour and absolute lack of integrity displayed.

    Having said that, it’s more than likely I am just naive to the extreme, and that this will actually promote further stifling of journalists speaking out against the current trend. A precedent has been set by forcing Rob out. Threatening to sue works. It seems this country is slipping into an American-type view of the law.

  • Pete

    I have never understood how Lauren Wainright has become such a prolific games writer. I’ve read most of her work and it’s consistently poor. Her blog is an excellent example of her self-indulgent fluff.

    I’d never pay to hear her opinion on anything, let alone the subject she professes expertise in. I’m a weekly subscriber to MCV and when I heard she was the new staff writer my heart sunk. Inevitably, she continued her soulless copy-and-paste prose.

    Now that Wainwright has destroyed any credibility she may have once had (and another journalist’s job in the process), let’s hope MCV and any other publication with integrity drops her to make way for genuine talent.

    The fact that Rab is out of a job while Lauren continues to pollute the industry with her inane ‘journalism’ is an absolute disgrace.

    And she has yet to respond. Her silence is deafening.

  • Relephant

    Should just boycott MCV.

  • RainStorm

    @Lewis Denby, quotes within quotationmarks:
    “To my mind, if young and inexperienced journalists aren’t being trained in how to handle such ethical matters, then that’s where the heart of the problem lies.”

    Sorry, anyone who has – journalists more than any other since words are their trade of choice, regardless of “n00bity” – chosen a line of work should know that their view will be judged.

    A journalist is – by trade – someone that’s there to give an opinion on a matter, if that opinion’s as clearly biased as it’d be if you’re wearing a t-shirt with whatever you’re writing about, then it may be a good thing to not write about that specific subject.

    If a review starts with “I’m a huge fan of….” and then a positive review comes out, everyone reading it will know the basis of the review, if the part about being a fan is omitted then the same review could be considered a lie if the reader got to know the facts.

    In your point you say the problem is that they’re not being taught, in my mind the problem is that they don’t realize it by themselves…

    Do we have to pamper everyone into what they should do, are there no such things as taking the consequences of your own actions anymore, if I start a fight and get my head bashed in I only have myself to blame, I won’t be crying about that noone jumped in, why on earth should everyone has to be taught something as basic as that, why is there always someone else to blame for your own failures/faults/actions….? (less pampering and more of living with the consequences would not be a bad thing to properly teach everyone, regardless of occupation/race/origin and so on)

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  • Jorendo

    Lauren Wainwright did not ruin it, she is just a example of how poor it has become. I do hope though that Lauren Wainwright career is over and will forever feel stupid that her own ego destroyed her career. But she probably gets to move on with her life as journalist. She probably believes she is a journalist and i feel sorry for her that she thinks she does any good. People like her should get a reality check. Covering up evidence, feeling insulted when someone gives a opinion about your work/quotes/actions. I’m a movie editor, shall i threaten to sue everyone who thinks my movies aren’t good? My boss won’t have clients soon anymore that way, cause there is always something you can improve on. Lauren and others should learn from his article instead of feeling like they been treated in a cruel way. Grow up girl and get a life.

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