John Walker's Electronic House

Guest Post: Robert Florence On The Eurogamer Incident

by on Oct.26, 2012, under Rants

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.

:,

106 Comments for this entry

  • Xercies

    Good post I think your right at the end when you say that you just do not go to these parties, those people saying “oh we shouldn’t be partying with PR your silly” yes you shouldn’t they will exploit your position to sell their games that is their reason of being. But i think it probably is harder then it seems since all news and games and previews come out of these people.

  • @BenjaminHowie

    Great response.

    But what’s wrong with going on the trips, getting the exclusives, or making friends with PR? In fact, forget “PR”, how about just making friends with people. If writers start avoiding PR because they feel they’ll be seen a certain way, it becomes unfair on the decent people working in PR.

    I’m not sure if you’re simply suggesting that the beast of PR should be avoided, but it is only natural for writers to meet PR, and for some of those people to get along. After all, they all work in games and most likely share a similar interest.

    My experience in this field–and all the bad things that may live in it–is extremely limited. So I can appreciate if I come off as naive or misinformed.

  • Tom O'Bedlam

    Well said, Rab.

  • Charlie

    Great piece, as heart felt and probing as the original that started the entire fiasco.

    Gamers have your back on this one Rab, and I suspect a large portion of game journalists do to.

    up eh road ^_^

  • MrWolf

    Rab Florence for President!

  • Stephen Chapman

    Well said, this whole thing has put unwarranted stress on all involved and has reversed the very aim of the original article. Games Journalism/writing looks like a bloody stain on a beautiful tapestry right now. PR are crucial to allowing us to get the early info the public desire, and they are good people, but everyone has an agenda. They have to sell. I completely agree that first and foremost it is about the games. When starting writing I pledged never to write an untrue word through fear of being cut off. I thought after these events I may have to at some point to avoid such situations, but this article has reconfirmed that I need to stay true to myself and my pledge. You are an influence and a great writer, hope things work out for you Rob.

  • Synaesthesia

    hear, hear, rab. It’s absolutely infuriating how the focus has shifted. It’s now a name calling flamewar, including that very particular, nauseating form of violence the internet saves for women.
    The point has been lost in the cacophony, and i hate it. Let’s hope the media centers that can actually make a change (in the short term) step up and voice their concerns. -I’m looking at you, john!-
    Anyways, i hope everything turns out well for you, and Lauren. I hope the PR sharks get called out soon, and a change comes. Can’t wait to read your next column, wherever it may be. Keep writing. Writing is always important.

  • Coccyx

    Well said. I’m glad to hear that there are people supporting you with reassurances rather that levelling insults at the other parties involved. Thanks to John as well for hosting this; an appropriate platform for a deserving piece.

  • Gomu Gomu

    It fucking saddens me that this guy is without a job for a noble message, that will go without being heard by the people who should listen to it. At this point gaming PR’s power & influence on the system is WAAAAY too strong. And the fact that no major website is talking about this story or this matter in a serious way is a pretty telling evidence.

  • Dan Whitehead

    My big fear in all of this is exactly what has happened: a very important debate has been stifled because the industry loves a juicy drama more than it loves credibility. The wrong points were seized upon, the wrong people were focused on and now everyone is weary and angry and jaded and just wants to forget it ever happened. And they will. Most already have. I’m glad you wrote your original piece, and I’m glad Tom published it, just as I’m sad it led to your leaving Eurogamer and Tom was forced into a horrible decision. It’s a sick, sorry and shameful business and all the wrong people – yourself, Eurogamer, even Lauren to a certain extent – have suffered for it while the real manipulators get to shuffle back into the shadows.

  • Gomu Gomu

    Also, Robert you might want to check the neogaf thread about your article: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=497024

    There is a lot of support and admiration for what you did. Just wanted you to know that.

  • Alex

    What an absolutely pointless hand bags at ten paces this all was. It IS only games and yes ONLY writing about games. They are fun, scary, frivolous and many other things but mainly they are entertainment. You are NOT brave investigative journalists bringing the next phone hacking scandal to the public’s awareness. Stop it with the complete onanism. Grow up and move on.

  • Danny O'Dwyer

    Just wanted to say that this was very well said and that I, like so many others, am disgusted with what’s happened these past 48 hours and wish you the best.

    If anything good comes of this mess it’s that some of the shitmunchers may think again before wasting their time at circle-jerking PR events. And perhaps that time will be spent making compelling content. I also hope it will make some of my peers reconsider attending PR parties that offer no journalistic benefit. I’m glad this is being talked about – I honestly didn’t know if many others felt the same way as me about it all.

    Oh sorry – Shitmunchers is the word some of us use for that awful clique that attend every single event. Try it; “Shitmunchers”. It has a nice ring to it don’t you think?

  • Jim Bob

    Rab Florence is a genius writer, so insightful and always on the money. I totally back Rab and tonight my thoughts are with him….

  • Kadayi

    Yesterday you tweeted this: -

    “I work in the supposedly cut-throat TV industry. But today I was effectively put out of a job by another writer. Holy shit, games writing.”

    and this: -

    “I lost some substantial earnings today. It’s hardly “butting heads”.”

    Which kind of implies you were fired/told to pack your bags by Eurogamer (and is what I lot of AIM seem to believe happened). Yet today you’re saying you stepped down? I think it’s all very well to take issue with being censored (that’s your prerogative), but there’s a big difference between being thrown out the club Vs choosing to walk out of your own accord, and implying the latter vs the former.

    Also given around 70 journalists of various denominations did tweet the hash tag, why name one who apparently didn’t?

  • Farangoutan

    PR, Embargoes, Freebies and general back-scratching is such a shit stain on an otherwise great industry.

    “As someone on the press side, we’re friends with PR but then on the British side at least, we’re all incredibly friendly to one another which is why I love this industry so much.”

    My friend who is a games journalist posted this on my facebook. I don’t even think he realises how wrong that statement is.

  • GoingPostal

    Thing is, there was no need to mention names at all and this would all be a distant memory.

  • Spottswoode

    Brilliantly said Rab. Thank you for this, and the original piece – I’m sorry it’s caused you so much trouble, and I know it’s no real consolation, but it’s an important issue that more people should be aware of.

    Thanks to John too, for this and yesterday’s articles. A lot of people (both in the industry and the readership) have behaved terribly throughout all this, and it’s reassuring when writers like the two of you stand up and reaffirm why they’re worth reading and respecting in the first place.

  • Kami

    Hey Robert, Kami from EG here. I just want to say you are an inspiration, and that’s not blowing smoke – you have handled this exceptionally well.

    I thought long and hard about what happened, and for me the fallout was not really the worst part about it. What worries me more than anything is how everything is being cleaned up, held back. Twitter accounts are going private and others are going silent. The internet, as you and I both know, is eternal. Not immortal or literally eternal, but mistakes and comments and events are cached and screenshotted. It’s the Streisand Effect, trying to make something invisible or ineffectual and yet in the process drawing more attention to it than it would have otherwise had. We can’t help but notice now. It’s happened and the frantic race to clean up whilst we’re all watching just emphasises the point that something happened, something we’re supposed to not pay attention to and yet we are all the more exposed to it.

    It’s a curious PR thing, this, and no company is immune to it. I can’t possibly comment on Lauren and her reaction, but I do find it sad that two grown adults in a journalistic arena all about communication and relaying information couldn’t just sit down and talk it out. I find it sad there is the idea that legal threats were issued. Of course you can win with legal threats, but really at that point it appears as if the person has already lost and to cover up their tracks is napalming the evidence. Again, drawing more attention to what they said and suggesting they have something to hide than if they had just let things run their natural course, or communicated their position more clearly.

    But it happened. The images are now out there and we can all draw our own conclusions from them. There are no winners, and I feel terrible that you lost a fantastic gig for effectively hitting a nerve. And we need to. If we can’t point out the hypocrisy in ourselves and others, what is the point? Aren’t we all just glorified PR middle-men at that point, paid and/or unpaid? We want things to be better, right? Sometimes, that means telling the truth. The problem is it appears the adage of the truth hurting is now being volleyed back at those seeking the truth, and that concerns me. And it is good men like you who and Tom who are taking the explosion head-on. It begs the question… can people like me, who write for the love of it, and want to somehow maybe move beyond that, ever survive in this market? I’m not sure compromise is really a word I can live by…

    Anyway, this has been too wordy. I thank you for the articles you wrote on EG, and wish you all the best of luck for the future. It was a pleasure to be reading you, watching you and I hope to keep reading and watching you long into the future.

    Totally not stalking you honest :P,
    Kami

  • Koroviev

    Hey Rab,

    I’m glad to have found this post. Watching events unfold I’ve wanted to write and thank you for the work you have done with Eurogamer, but not being a twitter user, I was unsure how to do so.

    Your column always seemed honest, and when not railing against stagnation in the games industry, seemed to come from an unabashed joy of gaming. It was refreshing and I very much enjoyed it.

    It is deeply saddening to me that you lost your job over an article that was calling for a higher ethical standard, and I’m sorry to hear that you are questioning your future as a writer.

    I hope that you find solace in the fact that you are coming out of this mess with integrity. I am not a writer, but have always felt that without integrity, a writer is nothing, and their words hollow. I hope to read more of your writing soon.

    I know that this is a public comment, and hope that others do not find it simplistic or cloying, but I wanted what I wrote to be from a place that would usualy contain unabashed joy for games.

  • Joe

    I don’t write anymore, but I got a journalism degree from University and it’s good to see the breed hasn’t completely died out. Keep up the good work Robert, and know there will always be people out there that appreciate and respect a frank and honest opinion, no matter how hard those in control try to obscure it

  • Dxaniz

    Please get this article everywhere, its so important!

  • 8.ph

    A massive sea change is required to eliminate the influence of games PR from the equation.

    But until it happens, there’s no way to take a single word from any industry publication seriously, and the last few days prove it.

    So time to eat your vegetables. All of your vegetables.

  • Tiq

    Well said, that man.

  • Corto

    Godspeed Robert! Your passion is much needed. Now more than ever. I confess I wasn’t a follower of your writings and, unfortunately, this all ruckus was what brought you to my attention. Good luck and glad you still have the desire in you to write for us.

  • Pod

    I hope you bounce back Rab and that this crap doesn’t somehow bleed over in to your other work.

    It’s a shame this kerfuffle with Wainright has overshadowed your original peace. I doubt it was the deliberate work of some PR genius attempting to deflect the spotlight you shone on them, but I reckon they’re glad that it happened.

  • pupsikaso

    This whole thing reminds me of this image I visualized a few months ago. Not sure what prompted it, probably some other article about “corrupt games journalism”.

    What I saw was a TV Show, kind of like a newscast, and it was probably on CokeTV or something. And in it, the hosts were discussing a Top10 list. And the whole list were the products of their own company. And so they were sitting there, on CokeTV, discussing Coke’s Top10 products, awarding CokeAwards to their own products!

  • Fee

    Hi Rab,

    Didn’t know your name before this whole mess, although I was aware of your columns over at EG.

    Just wanted to chime in to say you’re good people. Skimming through a number of forums, it’s also transparent the overwhelming majority is clear on that.

    It sucks these events cost you your gig at EG. Hurry the fuck up and find another place to write.
    I’m looking forward to reading you.

  • Martin Coxall

    It’s a small mercy that, despite the fact he could have been seen as a bad guy, everyone is smart enough to realise that Tom Bramwell is still one of the Good Guys, and haven’t inundated him with abuse.

    And yet, only you and John emerge from this with marks in your plus columns. Which is not a good sign for the ethical health of the games journalism industry.

  • BooleanBob

    Nice one Rab. My love for your work is strong and abiding, like a fossilised ox. Games writing would be much, much worse off without you around. As for Lauren and Dave, well – forgive them father, yeah?

    Can’t wait to see what you’ll pop up with next, wherever it ends up getting put out. TEAM!

  • Greets from Novy Urengoy

    Good read, Rab.

    – here comes the *but* -

    When Obama makes a controversial decision that a portion of his electorate do not like, do the journalists, writers and broadcasters focus on the ignorant minority that reduce him to a racial slur?

    It does not happen there and it should not happen here. Ignore the sexists and the bigots. Give them no wordspace whatsoever.

    The furore is not about them.

    Apologies for bad english.

  • Edd

    This whole issue has been completely blown into a apocalyptic proportions… Just to see it evolving as it did was completely incomprehensible. You were right the first time with the article and you are just as right again here. Sadly the biggest loser, apart from Robert, is everyone who reads his writing on Eurogamer. Please start the column again somewhere soon…

  • Tom

    Though this has all been an unpleasant situation, some necessary truths seem to have been uncovered about the industry, writing and PR.
    One thing I sincerely hope emerges from the ashes like a gloriously incandescent Scottish phoenix is an additional Rab column at RPS.

  • TypoFaery

    Excellent article and also very sad that you had to be the one to come to the defense of the very person who caused you such ill will. I admire you for stepping up and saying what a lot of gamers have been thinking and it saddens me that instead of being the catalyst for a debate about perceived corruption and integrity ( and a possible movement to fixing it)it turned into a massive drama bomb.

    Now as to Lauren, I find what she did to be reprehensible and showing a shocking lack of class and professionalism. Not to mention her current attempt at white washing has only gone to make what was only a citation on the attitudes towards gifts from PR to a complete delving into her character, which I am sad to note has some discrepancies. I honestly wonder at who is giving her this amazing amount of bad advise. I am also finding it incredibly hard to feel sorry for her. I mean she is a big girl and should know how the internet works by now. I thought everyone knew about the Streisand Effect. But I commend you for coming out and trying to stop the perfect storm that is the Streisand Effect, you get major class points in my book.

    I wish you luck in any future writing and hope you find a home soon because we need more people who are willing to say the unpopular things.

  • Martin Coxall

    And yet, and yet.

    It’s obvious that PR types are vile, voracious cancer that is eating games journalism alive from the inside, and keeping it the foetid, worthless cesspool of corruption we’ve all so long allowed it to be.

    And despite the fact that the actions of the last couple of days having led a few of the more community-minded journos to realize that maybe systemic corruption isn’t *that desirable*, I’ve still heard not reasonable explanation for how games journalism extricates itself from its sordid prison.

    So, yes, games journalism is a purulent and disreputable art, poisoned beyond acceptability by the virulent pathologies of games PR. But how to purge the body of their febrile tendrils?

    Maybe it’s not possible. Maybe you guys just don’t want it enough because, HEY! FREE HOVERCRAFT RIDES!

    Who knows.

  • Ace

    Excellent article. Really clears up this whole mess. You’re completely right about PR of course, and it reminds me of this that I read a couple of months ago about movie PRs which also caused a sh!tstorm http://www.mpshaw.co.uk/2012/06/10/prs-are-screwing-themselves-and-clients/

  • ClarkeyCat

    As my man Ace says, great article.

  • Mike Platt

    Great piece Rab. I just hope the rest of the industry has learned something positive from all this.

    All the while of course, the REAL culprits behind all this seem to have walked away completely unscathed: Doritos and Mountain Dew!

  • MC

    I was just remarking to someone on twitter that if the story that has unfolded thus far had happened in the world of film criticism, that this story would have received a lot more media coverage than it has, because it seems like many of the bigger game sites have been conspicuously silent about this particular story.

  • Stephan

    If it makes you feel better, you have a new reader in whatever you publish in the future.

  • Bob

    I think the argument for her being an innocent naive young girl who didnt know what she was doing ends with this

    http://i.imgur.com/QwWqp.png

  • Jambe

    This won’t be an “end to it” at all — this debacle is but one rancid pustule growing from a wider subcutaneous disease. If laws which engender such circumstances go unchanged, similar events will definitely continue erupting (if not in games journalism specifically then certainly in the broader field of “writing”).

    If anything I think this issue highlights the inanity of zealous commercialism as manifest in a society hamstrung by egregiously inept defamation law.

  • Bian

    I have stopped reading eurogamer just as I had with the Gerstmann shit on gspot. this is the same level of shit. the only way eurogamer can redeem it self is by hiring you back. I understand the pressure that it was under, but it caved. that = shit! now I need to find a new, hopefully clean, home.

  • tome

    You’re a soldier, Rab. Sorry about what happened.

    As far as the industry goes, well – that’s bad taste for you. It’ll always prevail, more or less.

  • Kikifre

    I agree that we’re in danger of not seeing the forest for the trees. Still, it’s hilarious that the random example you pulled from Twitter turned out to be a shill.

    Some people have to be sacrificed in order to make the others pay attention. They have to be pushed out of their comfort zone. I was willing to forget Lauren’s idiotic response, presuming she’s just young and naive. But the things Internet Detectives brought to light paint a very ugly picture.
    If her entire generation thinks like her, game journalism is already dead.

  • orbital10

    too easy to just blame the PR. The environment makes it a cinch for them to ‘manipulate’ people in the way that you allege they do. Games journalism never have been the best paid career in the world, and you can’t even blame fact that every man and their dog can set up a games site these days; most journalists I’ve known through the years have been paid sod all because it all starts with them doing it, ‘for the love of it’. And games are fun! and going and doing these things is fun! everything is fun when you’re that young.

    And not much offence meant to one of the starry-eyed journalists named in the original article, but judging by certain pages on their site, they certainly made a, ‘thing’ of all the freebies that they received – I think that they genuinely believed that people would be jealous of the haul. A grown up, posting about a t-shirt that they received in an excited manner. Maybe I’m simply too old, (relatively) to understand what’s happening here.

    What I’m saying is that they’re a symptom, certainly, but not the cause.

  • AB

    Hey Rab – been a fan ever since the Consolvenia days, and wanted to say thanks. You’ve consistently produced some of the most thoughtful games criticism out there for years, and its enriched my appreciation of the medium tremendously.

    This event is horrible, but as a small bit of consolation, it just makes me respect your work more.

  • Dr Evanzan

    That the result of this is that there will be no more ‘Lost Humanity’ column is a great loss for all of us. I’ve found the ‘Lost Humanity’ posts to be so very entertaining; I was in hysterics after reading the ‘Dishonored’ post last week, this is something that doesn’t happen often (with anything). Yet it goes beyond this as with each post, Rab has managed to touch on some really good point that often leaves me reflecting on the article for some time afterward.

    I’ve loved ‘Cardboard Children’ since it started and it has been a big influence in getting me into boardgames. As such I look forward to continuing to read Rab’s thoughts on boardgames for a long time to come. Yet I can’t help but feel so very sad that I won’t get anymore of Rab’s incisive commentary on the games industry.

    I really just want to encourage Rab to write more of these great opinion pieces despite how this has all turned out. I hope he gets the opportunity to write for another site in this capacity soon. (It would be great to see ‘Lost Humanity’ effectively continue over at RPS though I realise this may not be feasible.)

  • Chris Wild

    Well said. This whole incident has been so unfortunate. I’ll remember these wise words for the future, and I look forward to reading more of your games writing in the years to come. BIGHUG!

  • Jes Ferrier

    Thanks for confirming for me that you’re a great bloke. Hopefully good will come out of this and people will know better when they’re getting played. Don’t be a sucker – love games for their worth and not the window dressing. Have a great w/e!

  • GameBoar

    Rab, I admire your decision to take the high road on this.

    I think it’s very telling how quiet the larger gaming sites have been on this issue.

    “You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money… and you don’t know where the f*** it’s going to take you.” – Lester Freamon, The Wire

    Those with the most to lose in this situation aren’t the website owners, the journalists or even the PRs but the corporations that have green lit the use of these methods to enhance the profile and ratings of their products in the marketplace.

    A full blown exposé of that could kill off multi-million dollar franchises overnight and more than likely damage the companies beyond repair. Companies shitting on their customers has never been a sound business strategy.

  • George

    What I couldn’t believe, and this is from your original article and not the aftermath, was how oblivious Lauren’s tweets made her out to be. If she honestly doesn’t see anything wrong with journalists receiving gifts for promoting companies, then she must not understand some of the most basic journalistic ethics.

    I don’t think journalists everywhere should completely disassociate themselves from PR folks or mindlessly throw away their free swag. There’s story potential in both. I do however think that journalists should know the ethical questions behind conflicts of interest and payola.

    Wainright seemingly doesn’t. Or didn’t. Maybe she’s learned since then. Her blog is silent and her Twitter has been locked down.

    -G

  • Jaz Rignall

    While PR looks like it might have a stranglehold on the games media – it does not silence its voice.

    The fundamental issue is two-fold:

    First is the issue of blurred lines. We can argue the vagaries of schwag and freebies, but if you’re being paid by a company, you need to disclose that. While I think Rob has a point about the hashtag-for-PS3′s issue, I believe that ultimately, that issue is more about general behavior and standards than anything else. To me, the real problem is the fact that if Lauren was indeed paid by Enix, and then writes about their games as a journalist, that really is a conflict of interest. It’s not if there’s full disclosure, but the problem is that there wasn’t. And indeed on the face of the evidence I saw, it looked like there was an attempt to cover up the truth. That is definitely a Very Bad Thing.

    The second issue, which I think is a far bigger problem: writers’ self-censorship and fear because of PR. Like with my first issue, if we’re honest, if we have full disclosure, there is no problem. But the problem is that many writers are scared of burning bridges, of being blacklisted. The perception is that the closed-shop of information tightly controlled by PR can result in situation where if you toe the line, you’re in. If you don’t, you’re out. And that’s a leash that PR uses to try to control the industry – because that information gives you hits and readers, and not having that information results in a loss of that.

    But the reality is, it’s a thin veneer of control. If journalists had the balls to call it out, to make a stink, consumers would side with the writers – because they know that while games journalists are simultaneously industry advocates AND watchdogs, they serve their readership first and foremost – and not the business interests of the industry. But sadly, while this could easily be a reality, it likely will never be. There will always be willing participants in the PR-Games Media lockout, companies willing to do what they’re told for exclusives and deals, backed by business people who support that behavior so they can boost their bottom line. And that is a big problem. It’s the age old-story: the business side of the games media interfering with the journalistic side. It’s supposed to be church and state, but it often isn’t. And to me, the more the line is blurred, the less you can trust the outlet.

    It’s an endemic problem, and what it really needs is an industry games media body to at least watch over it, make recommendations and point out those issues. An independent body that isn’t in the industry’s pocket – but does represent its interests and makes recommendations, whether they’re palatable to the industry or not. Fat chance it’ll happen, but it’s something I’d love to happen: clearly, recent events have shown the games media is not really capable of looking after itself.

  • steveee

    You only have to look at the free Press Pack of Forza Horizon and compare it to what we got in the £60 Limited Collectors Edition of the game that we actually paid for. Which was nothing by the way. It came with nothing. Not a single collectible. Not even a proper steelbook case.

    And then the press pack that lubes up the press folk contains all sorts of goodies.

  • jalf

    Sure, it’s about PR, but it’s also about how so-called journalists deal with it.

    It’s kind of obvious that PR people want to make themselves and their product look good. It’s their job to sway the opinion of “people who matter”.

    Sure, it is tasteless of them to try to manipulate “journalists” into events like this, to try to put them in a situation where their integrity is going to look questionable.

    But it’s also their job to do more or less that.

    I think the real story is not “PR people will go to great lengths to generate PR for their product” (although that is true, it is not news), and it is *certainly* not “games journalists are corrupt” (or, specifically, that Wainwright is corrupt. I see no reason to believe that she is).

    The problem is much simpler than that: “most games journalists aren’t.” They’re not journalists, they don’t know how journalists should act, they don’t know what the difference between “games journalist” and “freelance games PR” is. They are oblivious and don’t know that they *should* resist these PR machinations, and they don’t know *how* to do so. And that, more than anything else, is what needs to change. I doubt Wainwright is a bad person, I doubt she’s corrupt, and I doubt she’s trying to “cover her tracks” (making your twitter account private to avoid vile abuse doesn’t mean you have anything to hide, and updating an outdated CV is also quite legitimate. But I hope a “real” journalist is going to take her under their wing and give her (and many others — it’s kind of unfair and missing the point to talk about her all the time. This whole debacle started because she *wasn’t* a lone voice defending these practices, because so many other writers agreed with her and saw nothing wrong in this) a crash course in what journalism means.

    Sure, disciplining the PR people would be nice, but it wouldn’t be a lasting solution (next month, they’ll have forgotten it, and are going to see how far they can push things again because that’s basically what they’re being paid for). The only real solution is for games “journalists” to be better journalists, to learn to say “no”. To understand that trading their influence for personal gain is bad, that conflicts of interest are bad, that surrounding yourself with swag from a game company is bad if you want to appear unbiased.

  • Sam

    Well, Rab, in your first Lost Humanity column you promised us a fight. We certainly got one. You went on to declare to your readers that “I love you, and would go to war for you”. You have certainly lived up to every part of that pledge.

    Well done.

    And just so you know, I would pay CASH MONEY to read anything you write – Cardboard Children and Lost Humanity are my two favourite internet columns by far. (Hell, I even signed up to a VPN service so that BBC iPlayer would let me watch Burnistoun in Australia!)

  • Bob

    I found your article on eurogamer quite insightful. But this one I can’t agree with at all. You push responsibility away, now it’s no ones fault. There’s “the system”, and those bad PR guys. Those guys are just doing their jobs too. They make PR. They are not controlling you like mindless puppets without a free will. They’re giving PS3s away for people who like them. Maybe they don’t see you as “real” journalists. But maybe it’s only because you (not you in person) don’t act like real journalists.

    This article here feels exactly like what was criticised in the article you wrote before. You try to make everyone feel nice and comfy now.

    No offense, man. Just my opinion on this. Best wishes.

  • Arvind

    You’ve behaved in a professional and calm manner, Rab. Hopefully you’ll move on to better things from here.

  • Martin Roberts

    Can someone explain why PR is to blame for Lauren Wainwright asking EuroGamer to take the article down!? That makes no sense to me.

    If it’s a specific PR person who helped her, fine, but don’t tarnish everyone with the same brush. Much like writers, there’s both good and bad in all roles.

  • Lincoln Thurber

    As they say, sunlight is often the best disinfectant. I hope some harsh light on this issue shows off the dark corners for what they really are…dirty business. We could all hope everyone grows and learns while things turn out well for all, but I doubt that is possible. Sadly, I think the likely outcome is some people will sit shamefaced for the next few weeks watching their foolish actions play out to worse and worse effect. Good luck Rob, you are so talented, I know you will land on your feet.

  • no

    “She’s faced nasty comments based on her sex and her looks, because that’s what some corners of the internet do to women.”

    Don’t give them that. That’s what the internet does to *people*. What are we supposed to do? Only air the dirty laundry of men, for being called out as a vile sexist? For being a big meany picking on a poor, defenseless, unethical little girl by correlating a bunch of public information she put out there on publicly available profiles clearly for self promotion? It’s not like anyone is doing nasty dirty-digging into private affairs and if she wasn’t one of the scum, I doubt people would be saying anything so negative.

    The idea that if it’s a woman who is scummy and you call her on being scummy, that’s somehow bad, because — it’s a woman… that’s just.. offensive.

    This should be about what her example represents, of course. Not about her individually. She was used as an example — along with Keighley, of the overall problem (because speaking in un-cited vagaries would end with an article that nobody really takes seriously).

    People need to stop letting people who are guilty of shady pay-for-journalism try and muddy the topic by turning it from “game journalism is filled with scummy unethical behavior” into “big mean sexists hurt a little girl, because that’s what internet does”.

    And… like they wouldn’t be berating her if she was male. Are you kidding me? If you’ve been online for more than a day, you’ve been ridiculed over your weight, or called homophobic slurs or any other number of things. If she was a fat male, being fat would be the object of derision, because it’s the easy low-hanging fruit. But she’s female, so female-oriented comments are used . . . because that’s the low-hanging fruit.

    And, overall, we shift the topic from what matters into another bout of navel-gazing “durp durp sexism”. And that’s exactly what the guilty want it to be. It’s like when a woman is sexually assaulted or compromised by a politician and she comes out publicly about it. To avoid talking about the actual vile actions of the politician, his handlers use the media to shove out the message that the woman is a horrid trampy slut with a criminal career. It doesn’t matter that it’s made-up. It just matters that it’s said enough. And that’s what they’re doing here, to this topic. To keep it from being about the truth. To keep it from being about the shady practices that Dan Hsu wrote about. Or the shady practices that Gerstman dealt with. Or the shady practices of almost all journalism on all subjects and in all forms of media.

  • no

    By the way, notice that nobody is attacking Rab or the article for outing Dave Cook. It’s ONLY Lauren. BECAUSE GIRL.

    Fucking revolting. I mean, it’s just so out there and nobody even tries to cover it up and the rest of us just fall in line. “Yeah boss. Durp durp. Mean to a poor girl. Durp durp.”

  • Durp.

    PR, publishers, and developers are certainly to blame for the stranglehold, but don’t you dare assert that the writers are somehow not guilty or that they’re even victims of the system. If the writer’s weren’t willing to be cowed and their publications weren’t willing to do it, then none of this could happen.

    “Well, gosh, sir — I didn’t have a choice but to be bribed, because it was offered”. No way.

    The whole system is corrupt and many of the journalists right along with it. Lauren and Dave and everyone else are guilty. Saying that they’ve been conditioned to think payola is okay isn’t an excuse. Everyone — even outside of writing — understands what payola is. Understands bias. Both real and perceived and why you avoid both. About why you *don’t have friends in PR for the companies you cover*.

    The description of Lauren, in particular, makes her out to be more of a clingy socialite than a journalist. “Ooh, I wanna go to the parties and be part of the stuff going on and have friends in PR and marketing and inside the companies I cover! I want to be accepted!”. (I’m only using her as an example, because she was an example — others are guilty of that, obviously).

    You are either a journalist or you aren’t. If you are, then you practice ethical journalism. If you aren’t, then you don’t.

  • sifuc2

    The point about this not being about games, rather it being about writing, and expressing a valid point of view is the important issue to be drawn from this. Increasingly, those with the means to do so, will choose the path of litigation when they feel aggrieved, or unhappy with criticism.

  • Morville O'Driscoll

    @ sifuc2

    I opened up the Guardian website yesterday and was greeted by a picture of Jonathan Aitken. We all remember him, don’t we? ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Aitken#Libel.2C_arrest_and_prison ).

    You could argue that the threat of libel (whether perceived or actual, since I’m still not clear on whether a libel case was officially threatened by Wainwright/Intent) is just part of the make-up of British journalism. That’s definitely true. But as the Aitken case shows, threats of libel have been around for a long-time. What is needed for gaming media is what has been around in mainstream journalism for a long time – an alernative revenue stream. And by that I mean a revenue stream that’s outside of the games industry. This would allow websites both to be able to more easily fund a legal defense, and to allow a more clear-cut perception of impartiality.

    It still confuses me – and I’m hoping someone here could explain this – why gaming websites are (almost) purely reliant on gaming companies for advertising revenue. As I pointed out in the comments of the original Eurogamer article, surely the key point is not that the people who visit game sites are gamers, but that they fit perfectly a key demographic (16-32, disposable income, willing to early-adopt technology). Am I missing something?

  • Aaron Conway

    When integrity and honesty force you out of a job in journalism, the point makes itself.

  • ReV VAdAUL

    While it is generally applied to economic and political journalism I’d be very interested to hear about what games journalists think of the Propaganda model: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_model in regards to their field.

    I’ll just point out here that obviously the fifth filter, anti-communist ideology, does not apply for very obvious reasons. Some idiot may try and make something of it anyway but such is idiocy.

    The other four filters seem to have been specifically identified by different people in this comments thread and in many other places regarding this debacle.

    1) Games Journalism Ownership: The majority (in terms of viewership and clout) of games journalist publications and websites are owned by large corporations which seek to maximise profit which is aided by the exclusives and general access leading to being able to offer more desirable content to consumers. Heck a large chunk of the most prominent websites are owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation and Games Informer is directly owned by Gamestop, a retailer with a direct interest in promoting sales over informing consumers. Finally one must of course mention the MCV and its’ owner Intent Publishing were the organisers of the GMAs which was the main focus of Rab’s original article.

    2)Games Journalism funding: Magazines and websites all rely on advertising to stay profitable. While advertisers will of course seek out popular websites or magazines that attract consumers with good content *cough*RPS*cough* it is undeniable advertising money will be a potential lever of influence and a potential motive for positive reviews to attract more advertising from a publisher. It may very well not occur much or at all but the temptation is there for journalists to be positive towards big advertisers and for advertisers to be miserly towards those who are critical of them.

    3)Sourcing of Gaming News: For apparently necessary reasons gaming news is often sourced from press junkets which may take place in exotic locales or contain fun activities alongside the previewing of the actual game. Which, regardless of the recipient’s claims, will have a positive influence on perceptions. One will always regard products one associates with having a nice time more fondly. Further due to the nature of games access is easily tightly controlled by developers and publishers and while this has to be balanced with the need to get information out there about a game it does mean the advantage is tilted towards the developers / publishers in that relationship. Thus PRs become substantial wielders of influence, they are gatekeepers to cool and exciting information and games which just so happens to also to be great promotional material for the PRs’ employer. Further when a PR gives a games journalist access it can easily be percieved as a favour, one that the recepient my be loath to respond to with anything but positivity.

    In addition news items at attract consumers to a news sight will often be straight up promotional material like trailers or screenshots or simply press releases drescribing features a game will have.

    4)Flak: The response Rab’s article and its’ ensuing censorship give us ample evidence of just how strongly gaming journalists and PRs will defend the status quo. Dissenting voices were repeatedly defined as bitter, self righteous naive or uninformed. However then MCV/Intent publishing, the organiser of the GMAs which were the main thrust of criticism in Rab’s article managed to get his article pulped, with the vague execuse of defending Lauren Wainwright, whose actions were both worthy of deep criticism and performed wholly in public.

    MCV did something deepy questionable in blurring the lines of PR and Journalism but in highlighting this and Games’ Journalist’s more general lack of ethics it is Rab and not the bad journalists that have lost their jobs. That MCV will likely keep Lauren Wainwright on staff, she has after all shown herelf to be a loyal company woman, just adds insult to injury.

  • Matt L

    I have to admit I’m a little baffled. This is the first I’ve heard of this mess (not usually a Eurogamer reader) so that may explain my confusion. Bare with me though…

    First of all, doesn’t Eurogamer have a legal department? If what you said wasn’t libelous, and certainly based on what I’m seeing here it wasn’t, why did anything happen at all when you got threatened? Shouldn’t the response simply have been, no, you’re wrong…go ahead and sue if you want? Any good journalistic outlet ought to strive to protect its writers when claims of libel are thrown around.

    The reason for this should be clear. Journalists, even games journalists, are sometimes going to say things that hurt people. It’s part of the job. They NEED to be able to say those things to do their job properly. You can’t have a newspaper where every single time a hurt entity yells “LIBEL!” the newspaper edits out the offending material and disciplines the writer. Such action UNDERMINES the entire purpose of journalism and erodes the very foundation of the newspaper itself.

    The chilling effect, where journalists become afraid to speak the truth for fear of legal attack, is incredibly dangerous and I almost can’t believe that any outlet…even one that only covers video games…would not fight to avoid such an effect.

  • Matt L

    Ah…okay…this makes it all much more clear http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9356522/Libel-laws-I-could-still-be-sued-and-lose-everything.html

    Thank you Penny Arcade. I’d completely been forgetting that we were talking about Europe here. Yes, the stupidity of that is not lost on me. I also was unaware of just how ridiculous libel law was over there. My american journalism ethics and law class never covered european law…

  • Rachel

    I’m sorry but, as much as I support you in almost everything in this sorry mess, I can’t support your statement that “it’s not about the writers”.

    It absolutely IS about the writers.

    The writers are the ones cozying up to the developers and publishers for the ‘freebies’ just as much as the developers and publishers are trying to buy them off.

    News flash — if, as a game developer or publisher, you cannot find a writer willing to take your ‘bribes’ you’ve suddenly lost a whole lot of power. And, thus, the information the public gets about a game is honest information.

    As for the writers, if they start to accept free stuff from companies in exchange for doing something a company wants them to do, yes, it’s morally repugnant. And they are as much to blame as the companies themselves as without them it wouldn’t be happening.

    You think journalists in the news industry do this? If they do and are discovered, their career is over. Simple. So why do gaming journalists think this is acceptable? It isn’t and it shouldn’t be.

    I run a gaming website and I made a decision when I started it that I would not accept free copies of games or anything other ‘perks’ from developers or companies. I do occasional free game giveaways for my readers, games I choose myself and pay for out of my own pocket. And I don’t accept advertising from game companies either — Google AdSense takes care of that, let the publishers pay off Google.

    THAT is how you become an ethical writer and run an ethical website and, with those types of sites (and there are others out there), as a reader you may not agree with everything the writer says, but you can be darned sure it’s her honest opinion.

    Oh and btw, I’m not attacking Lauren because she’s an “Um GIRL” as someone so ridiculously stated above. I’m a woman too. I do however think she showed incredibly poor judgement and is so tied up in the ‘glamor’ of the gaming industry she’s lost all focus. When you make such stupid decisions, it doesn’t matter what sex you are. I WILL have the same opinion.

    And no, nobody threw her under a bus. She made the decision to hurl herself under it all by herself.

    Personally, I don’t give her career in the gaming industry long before it collapses completely. She’s lost all credibility.

  • UnSubject

    I strongly disagree that Florence didn’t throw mud at Lauren Wainwright, mentioning “doubts” and being “suspicious” about if she was “in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team”. “I’m sure she isn’t, but the doubt is there” is a way of trying to have your cake and eat it too.

    Phrased differently, or not mentioning any names, there wouldn’t have been an issue.

    And if no names had been mentioned, then the actual focus of the article of how tightly gaming PR and the gaming press are intertwined would have been kept.

  • Robin Burks

    Great post, Robert. I love this: “It’s not games. It’s writing. And writing matters. Writing always matters.” THANK YOU for saying that.

  • Sol

    I have nothing but the upmost respect for Rab and everything he has done over the years, however I must disagree with one point in his post here.

    “She’s faced nasty comments based on her sex and her looks, because that’s what some corners of the internet do to women.”

    That is what some corners of the internet do to PEOPLE, any people, who they disagree with.

    They have no problems in basing similar attacks on a man’s looks and things like his sexuality, lack of sexual experience and so on.

  • Morville O'Driscoll

    @ Unsubject

    Anyone who’s done any academic writing knows two things – reference your work, and use specific examples. The former is bleeding obvious, the latter is apprently less so given how many people have said he shouldn’t have named Dave and Lauren. Why is it a good thing to give specific examples?

    It brings reality into the situation. By naming names he does not talk about some nebulous problem that may or may not exist, but says “Here! Here is this thing that is wrong. This is what I am drawing your attention to, and here is what is wrong with this situation.” Having done a (non-journalism Social Sciences) degree, having produced First Class essays, I can tell you now that it would diminish the power of the article if names had not been mentioned. Not by much, granted, but certainly it would have been less powerful, and less convincing.

  • Gavin

    I like this one too. I also feel that ‘no’ said a few things that maybe needed to be said, while at the same time being a bit wrong and inaccurate.

  • Jarod

    @No

    They aren’t attacking Lauren because she’s a girl, They’re attacking her because she tried to BLACKMAIL HIM TO CHANGE HIS ARTICLE. Instead of asking him nicely, she threated with Libel, which is dead serious in the UK. Unlike the male who said nothing and didn’t even respond to the criticism, Lauren, male or female brought it on herself, and as a feminist, who is supposed to stand up for equal rights, you should feel ashamed for trying to bring sex into this.

    wannabe extremist like you disgust me.

  • Kitten

    @ Morville O’Driscoll

    **By naming names he does not talk about some nebulous problem that may or may not exist, but says “Here! Here is this thing that is wrong. This is what I am drawing your attention to, and here is what is wrong with this situation.”**

    That all well and good, except Rab Florence doesn’t name names. He refuses to name “the very worst of the bunch” because “it’s a horrible thing to do”.

    Apparently Florence thinks it’s enough that “some of you will know who they are” despite the fact that we live in a world where gamers decide who is corrupt based on whether or not they agree with their review score.

    Apparently naming those who are corrupt would be horrible but naming those you think are suspicious but you’re sure aren’t guilty of corruption is… okay?

  • Richie

    I am fascinated by this drama. So many singular personalities, so much idiosyncratic yet oddly universal posturing and pain and support and attacks and… Well, it made me want to go to the fount of all this drama and play some games. Where I can smash some boxes or shoot some humanoids or try not to crash some vehicle or… Actually that’s pretty much it. Games are for children. Imagine if they could contain a tenth of the nuance this real-life story does without even meaning to. Yet they never will; the form doesn’t allow for it; it remains fundamentally as primitive as it was in the days of Nintendo Prime. Given which, why not tweet for PS3′s? Well, you might end up with one, mainly. If you are old enough to care about the issues at play in all of this then you are old enough to put down the controller and look around. Life started happening while you we’re preoccupied with infantile nonexistent nonsense; dive in.

  • Random Gamer

    Naming names was absolutely the right thing to do. People need to own up to what they do and what they say, and tiptoeing around the issue does nothing.

  • Richie

    I have belatedly put my finger on what was bugging me about all this: Another piece I had read on a different (yet not) piece and subject entirely that hit all the same notes; “Carles” of Hipster Runoff recently posted this:

    http://hipsterrunoff.com/2012/10/how-indie-finally-officially-died-broken-indie-machine.html

    Now he is notoriously not serious about anything he says, yet I believe he meant everything here. And if you listen closely as you read you can hear all the same notes being hit. PR taken over the thingt we love. That fact may even keep the thing we love from maturing into the limitless, endlessly evolving art form we always knew (or hoped) it would. We must not let it yet it feels unstoppable.

    The reason, both there and here, is that the thing in question revealed itself to be less supple and full of potential than anyone who ever loved it more than anything dared imagine.

    Music — and video games — are everything, when you are 13. And 14, and 15 and even in college. It seems then like they always will be. The adults don’t agree, but nor do they matter. But then time passes. We evolve and mature and music and games do not. Rock is four chords in myriad (but hardly infinite) variation. Eventually you hit your head on the ceiling of what artistically it is engineered to provide. The same is true in different ways for games. Yes they seemed like they were going to evolve with us for a time, but that time ends. They are a few simple actions repeated endlessly. Dressed up in different skins, yes. Increasingly impressive technologically, sure. Yet they are not art in the most adult sense. Like pop — even alternative pop — you can, you must outgrow them.

    Not entirely, don’t get me wrong. I”m 50 and I still play games and listen to new music. But there simply is a difference between rock and classical; between games and movies — let alone books. Games are a simple form and always will be, sadly. Given that, it is not exactly a scandal that most games are guaranteed an 8 out of 10. The fact is an 8 isn’t that wily a target. And a 10 isn’t that much better than an 8. Now try rating Shakespeare, and Tom Stoppard, and even Sondheim on scales of 1 to 10. Therein lies my thesis.

    Carles wants to blame the system, but the (sad? Not really) truth is he is getting too old for this shit. There is a pack of youngsters behind him who feel no such malaise. If they stay too long at the party they too will. Their instinct may then be — as was Carles’ and as was yours — to blame the system. If only those PR bastards could be held at bay then music or games would never come to seem as trite as they have for both of you. Eventually. I predict with the wisdom of too much age that both of you will come to understand that barely anything was ever at stake. Your turn was up, that is all. The good news is, there are far more rewarding experiences on the other side of the door you fear opening.

  • Morville O'Driscoll

    @ Kitten

    “Apparently naming those who are corrupt would be horrible but naming those you think are suspicious but you’re sure aren’t guilty of corruption is… okay?”

    His decision to name Lauren and Dave, even though they’re not the worst cases, is entirely fine by the standards of the article, and the case he’s making. They illustrate the point he is trying to make, which is that journalistic standards – and the perception of those standards – are not as high as they should be. It is the written equivalant of saying “For instance, David Cameron’s decision to give a work experience place to an acquaintance is one of the worst examples of cronyism shown by this government.” The fact is that, whilst it’s not the worst situation I can give, it illustrates the point I’m trying to make (that cronyism is rife within the UK government).

  • Morville O'Driscoll

    @ Richie

    There’s a drastic difference of opinion I have with what you said, but rather than rant on massively (if nothing else, this whole situation has given the internet something to rant about), I’ll just make a simple point or two.

    You say “Games are for children.”

    “Washington independent studio Bungie will be rewarded with $2.5 million if its first game published by Activision receives a score of 90 or higher on GameRankings.com, according to terms of the original contract between the two companies.” ( http://www.develop-online.net/news/40872/Activision-to-pay-Bungie-25m-if-Metacritic-hits-90 )

    $2.5 million dollar bonus (I’ll say again, *bonus*. Not the initial contracted pay). There is nothing about that that is childish.

    People spend their hard-earned cash on games. They deserve to be told the truth about their quality, and they deserve to know that the people who type out a few hundred words for a review, or regurgitate a press release, actually have morals and standards.

  • Koroviev

    @Richie

    As you point out, video games were just the context for a larger, more universal argument. It wasn’t the “Art suffers through commercialism” one though. If you go through his previous articles on Eurogamer you’ll find the author is more interested with social concerns than artistic ones. He wasn’t an overgrown kid bemoaning outgrowing his hobby, he was asking people to behave with the appropriate responsibility to their station – professionals to adhere to ethics, and consumers to treat their peers with respect.

    So no game ever made holds a candle to Bergman’s Persona, or Slaughterhouse 5, or namiest namecheck, but then artistic merit is not the sole measure for how an adult human being should spend their day. Oh, and social issues are not, as some have been suggesting this last week, a band-aid for covering the huge hole in our souls we wish were filled by high-art games. Unlike the fine arts, the video game industry is large enough to have large scale social ramifications. If you are old enough to notice these then sure, put down your controller, and then start discussing them with other people. Are we too old to play games? Should so many people who identify as “gamers” be abusing people based solely on gender? Should people on two sides of a potential quandary in professional ethics be that close personally? Those were the questions that the author was asking (though he framed them better, which presumably was why he was the one doing it), and asking those questions cost him a job. One of the questions I asked myself since reading about the whole thing was “Am I too old for this shit?”, but I found the answer to be “I’m here now, so I can’t just ignore it.”

  • YA

    The people showing up here to tell us that “gaming isn’t serious anyway, grow up” are obvious industry plants.

  • Richie

    I hear you @Koroviev and that point too was meant to be implied in my post. Certain subjects and forms develop standards (journalistic and otherwise) around them that prevent equivalents of what went on here regarding Doritos and free PS3′s, while others do not.

    Jonah Lehrer was recently drummed out of science journalism for inventing half a quote. Talk about zero tolerance, but science is nothing without total accuracy so it makes sense. Movie critica are maybe the middle ground. They have junkets, and certain reviewers are in PR’s pocket, but the public and their industry alike punish them for it and you will never see AO Scott or anyone at the Guardian pimping raves for early access.

    And then ther is the free-for-all of gaming journalism. The suggestion here seemed to be that if only we raise our standards somehow the thing we are writing about will rise to (retroactively) warrant it. I am suggesting that the more likely truth is that lax standards of this sort emerge around things that warrant no better. Who reads music reviews? Kids. Who reads game reviews? Kids. The audience is going to move on every four years so integrity is not essential. And what is at stake? Knowing whether an album sucks or the camera system in a shooter is fluid enough. Helpful to know but when the same handful of observations come up with game after game, that tells you something about the depth and ultimately the worthiness of the topic at hand.

    And so we get the situation in the Doritos photo. Wouldn’t it be great, the author essentially wondered, if games warranted the same reverence and strict protocols as science writing? I guess, maybe, for some. But what that photo was actually telling him could hardly be clearer if only he were willing to hear it: They don’t.

  • sweetjer

    Mr. Florence, this is the kind of writing that elevates you above the hacks and sets a penny on the track of the PR spin machine. Keep writing about games, and I will keep clicking and reading. Bravo, sir.

  • bill

    Well said. I hope you know that most readers respect your writing because you say what you feel.

    That said, I do think it’s too easy to blame the PR. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. It’s more of a case of bad judgment on behalf of some of the journalists.

    That that said, I still think most games journalists are a lot more decent than people think. (said as a reader not a journalist).

  • Sam

    Game journalists should stay neutral, they shouldnt promote anything. Promoting a game and getting money from it, however hidden it was, is still corrupt.

    If game reviews promote games, you would wonder why ?
    A news journalist reporting about politics do not write in their articles of what political party she likes and want to promote because obviously that would be a conflict of interest.

    The same applies to game journalists and any other kind of journalists out there.

    The one thing you do not do is abuse your position to in any way such as do PR.
    Its immoral and i think should be illegal.
    Journalism of all kinds are expected to be impartial and provide an objective opinion.

    Censuring an article due to threats and bullying is even worse. By censoring the article you have become partial and corrupt. (The laws and the people would have protected you). You have also shown the corrupt parties that threats and bullying works so they will now do it more often.
    In other words the editor have made it worse for everyone by being a coward, protecting his own worthless ass.

    Corruption is a crime. Allowing it to prosper is also a crime. Called accessory to the crime.

    What is so wrong about booth babe’s ?
    Is it some kind of american christianity thing ?
    You can’t see some skin because you get “bad thoughts” or something ?

    To people whining about booth babe’s i say: Grow the fuck up and take your head out of the gutter !

    It’s art, not porn. Because you saw a porn video of people in world of warcraft costumes doesn’t mean everyone in a game costume is related to porn. FYI that wow porn video was supposed to be a joke.

    Booth babe’s consists of both men and women. It is not sexist at all. People saying its sexist do not even know the meaning of the word. They are probably frustrated about something else and booth babe’s was the first thing they found they could misdirect their frustration on.

    I don’t know what is worse. People having bad mental health and misdirects their feelings or the morons that listen to these mentally disturbed people.

  • YA

    “Certain subjects and forms develop standards (journalistic and otherwise) around them that prevent equivalents of what went on here regarding Doritos and free PS3′s”

    And what do you think you’re seeing happening here right now, industry plant? This is development.

  • Koroviev

    @Richie

    No, I think the writer was aware of the aging demographic of his audience, and was trying to leverage social pressure for change.

    The average age of a regular Eurogamer reader is late-twenties to mid-thirties I believe.

    I don’t see the direct comparison between games and rock music. People don’t play games for an edgy sense of rebellion and the poetry of “three chords and the truth”. Games are recreational in the main, and increasingly social, which is gradually leading to a wider audience and more varied demands on the industry, and by extension, the games journalism industry.

    I don’t think anybody thinks games merit the exactitude of scientific journalism, unless somebody wants to make the claim they are forwarding the cause of humanity, but perhaps some standard higher than “lowest common denominator” might be appropriate.

  • Rory

    I just wanted to say that you should be proud of your original, un-edited article, and the way in which you’ve handled this whole debacle. You’ve always been one of the few good things about this whole business, and I hope you continue to be.

  • Kami

    @Sam

    On ‘Booth Babes’; I think the problem as I see it is we’re stuck in a situation where with media pressure, we’re seeing Feminism and Chivalry collide with arguably traditional values.

    It’s quite easy to get too in-depth over it, but in its most basic form; they are doing a job, they get paid and a few guys and girls get some eye candy. It’s no different from any other modelling contract. I can’t see the difference between selling the product or selling a magazine a model is appearing on. Their job is to sell their image, their likeness, their persona. And anyone who makes it more complicated than that is perhaps either looking for a fight or projecting their opinions in a pretty major way.

    Like journalistic corruption, sometimes people see shadows where there are none. We need to be vigilant, of course, but we also need to believe that for the most part it’s all mostly innocent with no real malicious intent behind it.

    Otherwise what is the point of even reading anything on these sites? Let’s pull up the weeds when we spot them. Tarmacking over the whole garden just to keep them down is just overkill…

  • Drake Sigar

    The Internet is a blunt instrument, however there is something to be said for the effectiveness of naming and shaming those involved and pilling on more humiliation than any sane human being can take. It’s nasty, vile, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I promise you it gets results. Direct your anger at the system and you might get the support of a few conspiracy nuts, direct your anger at specific writers within that system and suddenly everyone gets on the hate-train.

    I might be slightly more pessimistic.

  • Stiv

    It is all a bit much to be honest. All this WE MUST NOT BE SILENCED, THE PEOPLE HAVE TO KNOW. Take it easy and have a bit of a sense of humour.

    The drama isn’t really as massive as is being made out. A bit of a slap fight more than anything.

  • Wulf

    It might have had the potential to be a good article.

    Sadly it wasn’t.

    The main problem with it was that it was tainted with puerile sentiment and sensationalism, and ultimately, all it ended up doing (pre-edit) was to say that, essentially: “Us guys is better than dem guys.”

    Because what was it, boiled down? It was the Eurogamer & RPS coalition versus the world. And it read that way. It was brown-nosing at its worst and it reminded me more of schoolyard drama than a mature look at what’s wrong with the games industry.

    Name-calling and hurting people, especially people who might have been innocent (as Kadayi noted), was completely unnecessary. And it was that that made it ultimately read more like something that the Daily Mail would write than anything else.

    You could have written the article without naming names, and even without using that picture. And it would have been an intelligent article, an article which would have perhaps had some people re-evaluate the way they look at things. At how PR may have permeated games journalism, providing a corruptive influence.

    Instead, all it’s done is solidified an us vs. them playing field. But with some of the Eurogamer/RPS ads and accompanying reviews/impressions I’ve read, I can’t exactly think that those guys are innocent, either. And that’s why this reeks.

    “Don’t look at us. Look at them. Us guys is good. Us guys is clean. We’re on a high pedestal of cleanliness. Look at them. Not us. Them.”

    And it reeks.

    What you’ve written here, Rab, is much better than what you wrote over on Eurogamer. And I think you were complicit in what you wrote over there, you knew what you were doing. You must surely have recognised that it would have been puerile misdirection, and that it would have created sensationalism and scandal. But you were hoping that that sensationalism would work in your favour.

    Sensationalist writers tend to hope that.

    I think you learned an important lesson from this. And that lesson is is that it’s better to not be intellectually dishonest in games journalism, if you’re going to choose to be a part of that.

    And I hope people don’t forget what -should- have been the core of your argument, even if it wasn’t presented as such: That anyone can be guilty of being corrupt. That includes Eurogamer and RPS.

    And I hope that everyone will keep in mind that misdirection doesn’t make any group more clean or less corrupt than any other.

    It’s just a shame that–what was essentially a good message at its core–was marred by the schoolyard nonsense of one site being so much better than another site. Of RPS being so much better than VG24/7. That saddens me.

  • John Walker

    @Wulf – Thanks for the entirely unevidenced accusations of corruption! More than a touch ironic bearing in mind the rest of your argument.

    Want to back up your claims about RPS, so you can at least not appear like the world’s most wretched hypocrite?

  • Jack

    @wulf: I’ve respected many of the posts you’ve written at RPS over the years, but I have to disagree with you on this point. Regardless of Robert’s original intentions and motivations, I really struggle to believe he was trying to incite anything.

    The way I see it, too many bloggers have convinced themselves that they are journalists, despite having no formal background. Having previously worked with men and women who take a camera into a live warzone (and a dire few who never come back) in an effort to try and bring some reality into people’s living rooms, and now writing a games review website myself, I see both sides of the coin.

    This is a very real problem, which Robert has deftly brought to light, at the cost of his fucking job! Who else has sufferred? Sure he named names, but so what? Those people got a bit of flak in the short term (which, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, one would assume could not have been predicted), but in the worse case they’ll lie for a while, and in the best case, maybe they’ll think about how they do things.

    Robert has started a widespread dialogue on the nature of the relationship between games publishers, reporters and everybody in-between. I’m extremely grateful to him for doing so, and it has strongly influenced me to make Mac Gamer much more transparent, by publicly declaring everything we receive from publishers (and on the flipside, anything we request but don’t receive, as spite can be just as potentially motivating). It’s a small thing, but doing so has made me feel much better about the sometimes questionable relationship we have. No writer wants to have their integrity questioned, but sometimes it’s best just to prevent all the facts.

    So I hope you’ll reconsider your position on this, because it would be a shame after all this, to have more readers feeling that they can’t trust the writers than there were before.

  • John Gordon

    @Wulf
    So your problem is that you (without citing examples) don’t think that EG/RPS are perfect and so they shouldn’t throw stones?

    Your argument seems to be that people should be guided by this principle: just in case you’ve ever done anything wrong – never point out issues you have with the behaviour of others.

    A large part of what John Walker (and Robert Florence) are saying is – let’s have the conversation. Maybe that way we can dig into some detail and get beyond the ‘well you’re not perfect’ arguments too.

  • Stefan

    The reason a lot of people are ripping into Lauren is because she’s a hypocrite (She’s quoted tweets in her blog before) and a liar (she said she’s never reviewed Square Enix products. She has, a LOT, and all of them were glowing). She may not be corrupt, but I think being a hypocrite and a liar is a pretty good reason to call someone out.

  • zipdrive

    Well said, Rab. While I don’t think we can (or should) cut out PR completely, as it will realistically prevent journos talking to developers, I agree that we should keep high standards and not buddy-up too much with our sources.

  • Olly

    Keep up the good work Rab, and ignore all this “it’s only games” crap. It’s only a multi-billion pound industry which should aspire to the same basic moral ideals as any other industry.

  • Asimech

    @BenjaminHowie – The problem with accepting trips and making friends is that a lot of “corruption” that happens is the subconscious going “hey, that’s a nice person, ease up on them, it’s not that bad”. We’re social animals, most of us forgive subconsciously people close to us of things we wouldn’t forgive a stranger.

    And even if that’s not a problem personally, as there are people who won’t favour their friends at all, there’s the appearance of corruption. If you’re given free stuff and then you make a glowing review of that company’s products, it’s going to look bad regardless of what has actually happened.

    One might scoff at the importance of appearances, after all you’re supposed to just focus on the news and articles. But the real focus is on spreading the truth, yet how can you do that if no-one believes you?

  • Tired old ultima iii player

    The misogynist remarks towards Wainwright are infuriating not just because its inappropriate, but because its a blatant red herring distracting from the issue…. Yet when you look at the usual suspect 4chan, the internets village idiot, the only organized effort uncovered was one furious about the distraction of the issue, and conspiring to get the sexist pricks banned. Apparantly, even 4chan knows not to crap in their own yard. That yard being something important to them, their hobby. Yet…. Neogaf and 4chan were instantly accused of ‘making an organized attack against wainwright’. How….. Conveniently distracting. I cant help but think otherwise, doubt is in the air.

    Most of us capable of dressing and feeding ourselves know you said nothing defamatory, and accused her of nothing. We also know shes not ‘on the take’… Under the context of two people willing to aggree to some scam.

    However, the simple fact of the matter is, her inability to seperate her personal life from her professional life left a trail of increasingly unacceptable behavior. Not malicious, or scheming, or scamming, but unacceptable and clearly compromised, and i am certain she was completely oblivious to it, and in no way shape or form was ‘on the take’ in the conventional sense. However, she was, and this is just the straight facts, being paid by square enix whilst reviewing their games. And i believe the realization of this trail of naive unintentional mistakes, a realization i honestly dont even think came from ms waynewright herself, but someone(s) more aware of situations of this nature, who i believe set into motion this course of events, the streisand effect, in order to protect her from her naive, innocent mistakes.

    But innocent or not, the mistakes were made. The articles, interviews and reviews, as well as her blog about how she gained her employment frkm square eenix by being a wonderful fan are uncovered and all over the internet. And she very clearly wrote reviews for square eenix while being employed by them. Yes, we perfectly understand this was the pr department working towards its own ends. But thats what they get paid to do. They are professionals at what they do. Whether a game is awesome or bogus they should, and do, do everything in their power to convince us to buy it, because us buying their products, good or bad, pays their salaries. Thats where game critics, and the game media come in, in a perfect world. They impartially show us which games are actually worth our limited time and money. They, by their professionalism should be able to cut through the pr, not get swept up in it like us. Its what they get paid for. If i stopped doing what i got paid for, my employing company would sustain hundreds of thousnds of dollars to timing failure in our circuits. They trust me to do what i get paid for, because i am an expert and a professional.

    So why arent they taking this seriously? Is my money a joke to them? Is my sixty dollars for my hobby less valuable than the seven dollar price of a movie ticket? Less than a 15 dollar dvd or blue ray movie? Why is the fact i want to be treated with the same respect in regaurds to my money being spent on my hobby as someon who watches a ball get thrown through a hoop. Has the sports media ever blatantly disrespected their audience like this? what about book critics? Why is my sixty dollars a joke because my hobby is in the form of a videogame? Why do i get told to shut up and my sixty dollars is not important because my hobby is a different form of entertainment than just a book, or just video, or just audio, but all of them combined and interactive? when i raise concerns that i dont feel my money is what game journalists are concerned with, why am i ridiculed and told to shut up instead of being reassured that my trust is important?

    Where is my damn respect?

    yeah, they get paid by ad revenue, but without my money potentially being spent on tje product in that ad no one would be interested in buying that ad space, so where is the damned mutual respect?

  • Kami

    @ Tired old ultima iii player

    I personally don’t like the idea she was being attacked because of her gender. As you said, who the person is and what their gender is is missing the point somewhat; the facts are she was being paid by Square-Enix. Whilst being paid by Square-Enix, she was reviewing their games in a professional capacity. Was their ill intent on her part? Perhaps not. But it certainly in terms of just basic wording looks at the very least a bit dodgy.

    As for so many outlets not taking it seriously, I found that very sad. Because it’s a really serious issue, as trust is a lot of what this industry is founded on. That whole thing involving Kotaku demonstrated quite clearly that there IS an issue in these circles and though it may not be intentional, it can certainly be construed towards there being an inherent bias.

    I think the issue is becoming that as the industry gets bigger, the need for funding becomes greater. And when you rely on the industry you are criticising to effectively give you a free review copy of the game, or news directly, the more danger there often is of getting too close. Or exacerbating prior issues (I still joke about Eurogamer’s Wii headline back at the E3 reveal. “Nintendo Concedes Defeat!” Orly? *strokes chin*).

    Human failing is part and parcel of the world. Respect can be ignored by so many who are not in our shoes, who have to pay actual money for our games. But remember if they bury their heads in the sand, that also means they are defenceless when the time comes to kick them up the backside. And we should. Because it will teach them that actions have consequences, and hopefully lead them to the betterment of their standards.

    But it isn’t everyone. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Otherwise we’re going to end up tarring everyone with the same brush, and I fear that may make them MORE inclined to be on the take, rather than less, because hey. What else do we expect?

    Wainwright should not be a target because she is a woman. She should be a target because she got caught out doing something really unethical. That’s the distinction. It’s a shame some have boiled it down so far the original problem is unrecognisable…

  • Jorendo

    Words can not describe what i feel after reading this. I have said for many years now that the game journalism has become a joke (and mainly because of the PR peoples work it seems). I seen a well respected dutch game magazine becoming a terrible fanboy-ish writer magazine. More and more space given to write about parties and such. And now i know why.

    Publishers (who have these PR people) are so greedy, so obsessed with money and we allow them too. They control the industry, where once creative games where made, now one after another look alike game comes out and hit series every year cause its big money. Creativity and selling less than a billion profit is a no go for most publishers. And to ensure that they bribe…no control the game press like some freaking mobsters (mafia). We the gamers can’t do much. We can choose not to read the websites who support it and the magazines, but sadly enough people will continue to do so. The game journalists need to stand up. They need to learn who is the boss. Publishers should fear the journalist, not the other way around. Publishers should need the journalists, the journalist shouldn’t be worried they won’t get the games to review or those awesome goodies cause they dare to write honest reviews instead of praise articles. Or maybe its rather fault of those with the final say on gamesites/magazines for letting their media being controlled by others.

    @Rob, i can understand you don’t wanna blame this Lauren person. But i do. And for the reason that she has forgotten the basic rules of journalism (but my bet is that she never done journalism school like many other game writers haven’t but really should). As journalist you need to be neutral. You need to go in with a able mind to write unbiased articles. Sadly Lauren and many others can’t. They are under influence of their “friends”. And writers like yourself sadly get punished for it by these mafia PR people.

  • steve

    if eurogamer werent such a bunch of spineless pricks there is no issue here. really the idea that what you said had to be removed is just nonsense.

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