Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Price of Play

Time for another one of THESE posts.

Here's an interesting bit of news, you can tell it's interested by both the places choosing to cover it, and the places that decidedly aren't. This story might mean nothing to a lot of people. I can understand that, but when I read the details of everything that happened, I couldn't help but be disgusted. I can't help but wonder if the path I'm on right now is even correct, or tenable. I still love and play video games. But if to be a video game journalist is to have something like ...

Something like THIS. Happen to you?

Then is it really going to be ultimately worth it?

But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. There's some explaining to do.

To make a long story short, recently a Eurogamer journalist, Robert Florence, stepped down from his job. His crime? Wondering aloud if a fellow journalist, Lauren Wainwright, might be biased towards the upcoming Tomb Raider release. You can see the article he wrote here. Originally spurred by the ridiculous image of Geoff Keighley sitting between a Halo 4 standy and table adorned with Mountain Dew and Doritos, Florence mused that now more than ever game journalists might be too close to companies for their own good, and for ours.

I'm a bedroom blogger, I'm not someone important in the scheme of things. I can understand that. What I can also understand is that a thing like journalistic integrity actually exists, or rather it damn well should. We're all human, I can understand that. I've made some biases of mine incredibly clear. I will be the first person in line to dance on Zynga's grave if (more provably when) the company goes under. If anyone approached me to review any games by Zynga, I would have to decline, regardless of the sums involved or any other promises, especially because of any other promises. And yet, am I, a person sitting here typing merrily away on a homebrew blog, really showing greater discernment then some people who have actually worked for big name publications?

If these recent happenings are to be indicative of anything, then the answer is unfortunately, yes.

I say that because the article that Florence wrote isn't even the original one. The original one included the musings on Wainwright, which is present in the Forbes article. Here is the segment that was edited out:
One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: “Urm… Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that’s a bad thing?”
Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: “Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider pic.twitter.com/VOWDSavZ”
And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist’s apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she’s in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I’m sure she isn’t, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?
Another journalist, one of the winners of the PS3 competition, tweeted this at disgusted RPS writer John Walker: “It was a hashtag, not an advert. Get off the pedestal.” Now, this was Dave Cook, a guy I’ve met before. A good guy, as far as I could tell. But I don’t believe for one second that Dave doesn’t understand that in this time of social media madness a hashtag is just as powerful as an advert. Either he’s on the defensive or he doesn’t get what being a journalist is actually about.
Wainwright's response? To threaten to sue Eurogamer for libel. Rather than even attempting to defend her actions, she moves to silence any source that would call her integrity into question. Keep in mind that Florence did nothing but post Wainwright's own tweets, along with his own comments that he wonders (key word there) whether or not she can be considered unbiased with such an obvious affinity for the Tomb Raider franchise. He even concludes, perhaps not in good faith but still, that she's probably not.

Still, considering that Wainwright was listed under the Square Enix list of employees is far from comforting, even if her name has since been removed. Still, because of this, Florence decided that along with editing the article, that it would also be the best to step down. Now, arguably part of the problem is the fact that the UK libel laws are different from the ones in North America, and more often than not err on the side of the plaintiff. But the real problem here is that this is a person that is pointing out a problem, and was attacked for it.

Of course, not everyone has remained silent about this, and that's where this conversation will continue on, tomorrow.

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