Below is a guest post from Robert Florence, comedian, RPS columnist, and author of the Eurogamer article at the centre of the scandal of the past couple of days.
Okay. I feel I have to say something about all this mess. It’s difficult to know what to say, and how to say it, because there are good people I don’t want to put under any more pressure. I’ll be brief.
First of all, I think it’s important to explain how my Eurogamer piece came to be. On Wednesday morning I sat down to write a column about that fascinating image of Geoff Keighley beside a table of snacks. When I opened up Twitter I saw that there were some games writers having an argument. Another games scene drama. This time it was about games journalists tweeting promotional hashtags to win prizes – something I think is wrong. I saw a parallel between games writers’ casual acceptance that they can happily take a role in these silly PR stunts and Keighley’s weird buffet. That was why those particular games writers, Dave Cook and Lauren Wainwright, were referenced in my column. On another day, it could have been another two games writers, another drama. But on Wednesday, unfortunately for many of us, Lauren Wainwright had made a public tweet about those gifted PS3s.
I want to clarify here that at no point in my column did I suggest that either Dave Cook or Lauren Wainwright were corrupt. Their public tweets were purely evidence that games writers rarely question what their relationship with PR should be. In Lauren’s case I made the point that her suggestion that it’s fine for a games writer to tweet a promotional hashtag for personal gain could make everything she tweets and writes suspect. I was saying – “Folks, be careful what you say. You might make yourself look bad.” There was nothing libellous in that column.
Yesterday, Eurogamer removed a section of my column. Tom Bramwell, my editor, is a good man. Believe me when I tell you that the 24 hours that followed the publication of my column were horrendous for Tom. In all my time writing for Eurogamer, Tom Bramwell has never asked me to change a word. Even when I wrote about Eurogamer’s acceptance of Booth Babes at the Eurogamer Expo, Tom Bramwell had my back. When Tom emailed me telling me that the column was going to be amended, that it HAD to be amended, you can believe that it wasn’t a decision he took lightly. I can’t share everything about my exchanges with Tom, but I ask that you don’t see him as a villain in this. His attempts to defend my position were, if anything, heroic.
I have to talk about Lauren Wainwright. Her first reaction after the column went out was to claim the piece was libellous. Lauren is clearly a writer with many friends in the games press and in games PR. I think it is shameful, and very telling, that none of them talked her out of a course of action that could only end horribly for everyone involved. The internet is a savage thing, and these friends let her fling herself into its jaws. I feel for Lauren in a way, because I don’t think she’s corrupt. I said as much in my piece. I think that she’s behaved how she’s been conditioned to behave by her fellow writers and by her PR friends. I think she did one of the worst things one writer can do to another, but I don’t think she’s “on the take”. And her actions since, supported by people who know better, have made her a focal point for a piece that was never about her. She has faced the ugly side of these internet dramas, where people dig into your past and highlight all your mistakes. She’s faced nasty comments based on her sex and her looks, because that’s what some corners of the internet do to women.
And it has to stop.
Because here’s the thing. This story – my column, Lauren’s reaction, Eurogamer’s edit, my stepping down, the whole aftermath – is not about writers. It’s about PR. It’s about these marketing people who have a stranglehold over most of the industry, and control the narrative of the whole scene. They’ve even controlled the narrative of this disaster.
Do you think Lauren acted entirely alone in pressuring Eurogamer to change my piece? Do you think she has that power? I don’t. Who do you think MIGHT have that power?
Today, I saw another games writer (a former PR) brutally attacking me for not stepping in to do something to stop what was happening to Lauren. How could I step in and do anything? I’m not even comfortable writing this, in case I get someone I respect into trouble. The threat of legal action, even a carefully worded threat, makes you second guess everything you write. That’s the power of the thing. What I want to ask is this – why were other parties involved in this mess happy for Lauren to take all the heat? Why were her friends happy to let her take the heat? Is it the job of the guy who just had to quit his job and has been threatened with legal action to work out how to stop all that from happening?
I am furious. I am furious because yesterday the games PR and marketing men flung a few people under a bus, and today they’re probably sipping drinks at the Golden Joystick awards. I am furious that some people think we should all just “move on” from this, allowing the PR people to get back to their narrative. I am furious that some are saying that it’s “just games”. It’s not games. It’s writing. And writing matters. Writing always matters.
But I am also heartened by the response of many people out there. I’ve had messages of support from the writers I respect, and from many fellow gamers. I want to thank everybody for their kindness, because it has been a pretty awful week. Awful, partly, because I’ve discovered that the games press is controlled by PR to a greater extent than I had ever dreamed – and I’m a pessimist.
Those who have been angry about all this – don’t investigate the people, investigate the system. Please write about games. Don’t go to any parties. Don’t go on the trips. Don’t care about exclusives. Just write passionately about games. You can contribute hugely to the scene without ever once speaking to a PR person. Cut them out of the equation.
I felt like giving up writing about games yesterday. Today I just want to get back to it.
So please, let this be an end to it. And please let this be a start to something better.