The Lies We Tell To Those We Love
Oh what tangled webs we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!~ Sir Walter Scott: Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17
I'll admit it right now to everyone. I've embellished the truth from time to time. I've lied. Was it a point in my life that I'm particularly proud of? No. If you're proud of yourself for deceiving friends, family, or people you know, then there's something wrong with you. And attempting to do so to a very large and, at times, very vocal audience is not only wrong, it's despicable. No matter how much good you attempt to do, there's always the specter of your deception resting on your shoulders for the rest of your life. And people, by and large, never forget. Especially when you're a professional journalist.
Part 2 of my post looks at some of the more....shall we say....controversial moments in video game journalism. And how that cloud of lies still haunts the people affected by it.
On October 26, 2011, IGN (there's that dreaded 3 letter site again) Senior-Editor Daemon Hatfield was called out after his less than stellar score for q-games' PixelJunk SideScroller in which, after officially stating that he had played the game on Normal, "the last stage and defeat the final boss and what is your reward? A swift kick back to the title screen with no more than "congratulations."" Which then prompted Dylan Cuthbert, creator of the game, to cry foul, stating that in a Twitter to Mr. Hatfield, "You didn't play it on normal (as is obvious from your review) - completing it on casual doesn't unlock the last epic stage."
Mr. Hatfield shot back with a terse, "Rest assured I did, Usually a big fan of your games, sorry this one didn’t click for me.” Mr. Cuthbert then shot back with "It’s obviously completely rushed by an intern.” This back and forth verbal assault finally culminated in what appeared, at first, to be a cover-up of the review, after Mr. Hatfield then edited and removed the above statement. “That’s really unprofessional,” Mr. Cuthbert then responded via tweet to the Mr. Hatfield claiming, “You removed the section from your review showing clearly you rushed through the game in casual.” Mr. Hatfield later went on to clarify that the reason he did so was because "Tweaking articles is common practice on the internet. Should we notate every change to an article we make? Perhaps, but IGN doesn't have a standard in place for doing so."
It's interesting to note that Cuthbert wasn't upset over the score (6.5 by Mr. Hatfield), but rather the last minute hocus-pocus on the site's official review post. So the question is, should a reviewer note every last tweak, fix and clarification that they do to their bodies of work? No. But should they actually note that they removed posts that seem to be, shall we say, less than truthful about their game experience despite actual fact (by the game's own creator no less)? Oh, without a doubt, Yes. And being less than truthful about the reason why just compromises your integrity on so, so many levels.
Mr. Hatfield later re-edited his review back to its original after fans began to call him out on his...."untruthiness." Still didn't change the score, however.
Kane and Lynch-gate
And now we get to the heart of the post at hand. Being less than truthful on a corporate level. On November 28, 2007, Gamespot came under critical fire after their termination of site editor and critic Jeff Gerstman after his less than stellar review score (6/10) for Edios Interactive's Kayne and Lynch: Dead Men. Now at the time, Edios was paying Gamespot considerable advertisement money to basically splash page every available area on their site (see above image). Allegations that Gerstmann was fired due to threats that Edios would be pulling their ad pages (and deny the site possible income) began to circulate across the internet. Gamespot went on to deny repeatedly that this was the case, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.
Mr. Gerstmann went on to develop his own little video game site most of you may know as Destructoid.com (correction: Giant Bomb.com). A site that was, on March 15, 2012, purchased by CBS Interactive, who subesquently also owns Gamespot. Which means that Mr. Gerstmann would again be working alongside his former employer. The upside of the deal meant that the non-disparagement agreement between Gerstmann and CNET had now been nullified, which finally allowed Mr. Gerstmann the opportunity to finally shed light on the matter of his firing, which was, according to him, "the result of long-standing tension between the editorial staff and the new marketing staff that had recently been put in place." Gerstmann stated that this new marketing staff "wasn't familiar with video game journalism or how to deal with annoyed publishers."
Gerstmann goes on to say that the tension first started when the site reviewed Sony's Rachet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and rated it 7.5 (a "Good" rating) back on October 23, 2007. Sony, who were "less than pleased" with the review, threatened to pull their advertisement money if the rating wasn't "properly adjusted." Gerstmann was then "called into a room" where "the marketing team [was] freaking out over Sony's threats and didn't understand how to handle threats like that." Tensions between the two finally came to a head after Gerstmann published his review for Kane and Lynch and scored it a 6.0 (a "Fair" review). Echoing Sony, Eidos Interactive also threatened to pull said advertising money. Gerstmann was, once again, "called into a room" where he was sternly admonished over the review by the marketing heads. Two weeks later Gerstmann was informed he was being officially fired on November 29, 2007. He said they "essentially caved to advertiser pressure despite vehemently claiming they didn't just days after the firing."
And therein lies the rub. People, despite their ability to want to be truthful to the viewing audience, being stymied and ultimately punished for being honest. For being "blacklisted" in the very profession they've known and loved for years. Over money. And then watching companies they once worked for sit there and lie to the public stating that this wasn't the case. These people not only discredit honest persons who try to maintain some modicum of integrity in a field that has, and probably always will, come under fire for being less than genuine at times, or even biased in their personal review of games, they also discredit the very people they work for. Practices like this need to stop. They must.
But until they do, incidents like this will, sadly, continue to happen. Because it's this "punish the right while rewarding the wrong" mentality that paints all professional reviewers out there doing honest work in a universally negative light. And that is ultimately shameful.
To be Continued....
Worry Not The Artist, But The Author - Part II
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Jul 8, 2012.