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Matt Barton's picture

Games Journalist Fired for Speaking Truth to Power?

It's taken me awhile to try to ferret out what actually happened here, but as far as I've been able to tell, one of Eurogamer's journalists has been fired over some vitriolic comments he made about high profile game reviewers being on the take. (A doctored, but still harsh version of his article is here. The journalist, Rab Florence, isn't someone I'm familiar with, but I gather from his description as a "comedy writer" that he's accustomed to shaking things up for the sake of attention. At any rate, his diatribe against game reviewers who blatantly promote products from the big companies...I mean we're not idiots here, right? We all know that the latest COD and Halo games are going to get four stars and the red carpet treatment on all the major sites. Meanwhile, anyone who dares question the superiority of the latest AAA darling gets (a) totally ignored by the mainstream and (b) bashed or looked at funny by everyone else. Apparently, the only thing it's safe for the mainstream journalists to bash are games like Duke Nukem Forever and Mass Effect 3. After all, standing up for games that are so reviled makes them "safe" targets, so naturally they go to town, making them sound like the Worst Games Ever. (Finally, we can take the gloves off! Now let's really tear into this one to prove we don't occasionally tear into one...)

What really seems to stick in Florence's craw is all the nice swag (read: bribes) that game journalists receive from major publishers. I have to ask myself, though--would I be totally objective reviewing a game after the publisher had sent me a free PS3?

While I agree with the overall sentiment being expressed here, I do find myself questioning the assumption that there is some kind of objective platform where a True Games Journalist could stand on. Unless you're talking about an old game whose market buzz has died long ago--and even there you might be dealing with nostalgia--there's no way to bracket out all the market forces surrounding a fresh release. Unless the product is so blatantly inferior that praising it would ruin the journalist's reputation--the temptation to get caught up in all the hype and glamor is simply irresistible. That's why you find games that really aren't that great being praised everywhere, regardless of a site's stature (and vulnerability to publisher bribes), but these ratings tend to decline over time.

In short, if you're reading a major review of a brand new AAA game, take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt.


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