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From the Wire: A Major Video Game Critic Controversy

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire October 26, 2012 at 4:53PM

Writers are trading accusations and threats about their connections to various PR firms and game publishers.
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"Ratatouille."
"Ratatouille."

I was so busy reading "Cloud Atlas" reviews and complaining about the lack of John Hawkes' genitals in movies this week that I almost missed a massive controversy involving some critics over in Europe. It involves video game critics rather than film critics, but the issues at the core of this story are about more than any one particular artistic medium. I'm not exactly an expert on the world of video game criticism at home or abroad, so I'm going to give you the links here, say my piece, and get out of the way so you can read this stuff for yourself (and I can go play "Mass Effect 3").

It all began with a column on the site Eurogamer by Robert Florence, about what he saw as the overly chummy relationship between video game journalists and video game publicists:

"This club, this weird club of pals and buddies that make up a fair proportion of games media, needs to be broken up somehow. They have a powerful bond, though -- held together by the pressures of playing to the same audience. Games publishers and games press sources are all trying to keep you happy, and it's much easier to do that if they work together. Publishers are well aware that some of you go crazy if a new AAA title gets a crappy review score on a website, and they use that knowledge to keep the boat from rocking. Everyone has a nice easy ride if the review scores stay decent and the content of the games are never challenged. Websites get their exclusives. Ad revenue keeps rolling in. The information is controlled. Everyone stays friendly."

If you go to Eurogamer to read the full piece, the version you will find is not the original text; Florence's piece was edited after publication following threats from one of the writers he discussed regarding accusations that were, in her words, "libelous." That set off a chain reaction of outrage, thinkpieces, alleged coverups, and resignations (by Florence from Eurogamer). The whole complicated affair is covered extensively in a links-heavy piece at Wings over Sealand.

Just a few hours ago, Florence published a follow-up post on the fallout to his original article:

"This story... 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... 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."

For writers in any entertainment industry, that can be easier said than done. 

If you follow a lot of film critics on Twitter, you see them promoting movies; a whole bunch have been doing quite a bit of it in the last few days about "Cloud Atlas." Which is fantastic. Critics should be advocates for the things they love -- assuming they've actually seen them. If they haven't, be wary. Here are two important questions you should always ask: How informed are these opinions? And who informed them?

Read more of "Lost Humanity 18: A Tale of Doritos," "The Wainwright Profile," and "Guest Post: Robert Florence on the Eurogamer Incident."

[H/T Movies.com's Erik Davis and /Film's Russ Fischer]

This article is related to: From the Wire


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