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A Table Of Cowards

Posted on October 25, 2012 by RevStu

Below is the originally-published version of an article entitled "A Table Of Doritos", which appeared on Eurogamer this week, before being censored by the site following a complaint from Lauren Wainwright, who was mentioned in the piece. Lauren Wainwright is a journalist whose entry on Journalisted includes Tomb Raider publisher Square-Enix in the roster of her "current" employers.

WoSland republishes the article here, without the permission or knowledge of either Eurogamer or the article's author Robert Florence, in the interests of news reporting. It is unedited save for the fact that we've highlighted in bold the passage that Eurogamer removed. If it's libellous, as Lauren Wainwright claims, we invite her to sue us.

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A TABLE OF DORITOS

There is an image doing the rounds on the internet this week. It is an image of Geoff Keighley, a Canadian games journalist, sitting dead-eyed beside a garish Halo 4 poster and a table of Mountain Dew and Doritos. It is a tragic, vulgar image. But I think that it is the most important image in games journalism today. I think we should all find it and study it. It is important.

Geoff Keighley is often described as an industry leader. A games expert. He is one of the most prominent games journalists in the world. And there he sits, right there, beside a table of snacks. He will be sitting there forever, in our minds. That's what he is now. And in a sense, it is what he always was. As Executive Producer of the mindless, horrifying spectacle that is the Spike TV Video Game Awards he oversees the delivery of a televisual table full of junk, an entire festival of cultural Doritos.

How many games journalists are sitting beside that table?

Recently, the Games Media Awards rolled around again, and games journos turned up to a thing to party with their friends in games PR. Games PR people and games journos voted for their favourite friends, and friends gave awards to friends, and everyone had a good night out. Eurogamer won an award. Kieron Gillen was named an industry legend (and if anyone is a legend in games writing, he is) but he deserves a better platform for recognition than those GMAs. The GMAs shouldn't exist. By rights, that room should be full of people who feel uncomfortable in each other's company. PR people should be looking at games journos and thinking, "That person makes my job very challenging." Why are they all best buddies? What the hell is going on?

Whenever you criticise the GMAs, as I've done in the past, you face the accusation of being "bitter". I've removed myself from those accusations somewhat by consistently making it clear that I'm not a games journalist. I'm a writer who regularly writes about games, that's all. And I've been happy for people who have been nominated for GMAs in the past, because I've known how much they wanted to be accepted by that circle. There is nothing wrong with wanting to belong, or wanting to be recognised by your peers. But it's important to ask yourself who your peers are, and exactly what it is you feel a need to belong to.

Just today, as I sat down to write this piece, I saw that there were games journalists winning PS3s on Twitter. There was a competition at those GMAs – tweet about our game and win a PS3. One of those stupid, crass things. And some games journos took part. All piling in, opening a sharing bag of Doritos, tweeting the hashtag as instructed. And today the winners were announced. Then a whole big argument happened, and other people who claim to be journalists claimed to see nothing wrong with what those so-called journalists had done. I think the winners are now giving away their PS3s, but it's too late. It's too late. Let me show you an example.

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.

I want to make a confession. I stalk games journalists. It's something I've always done. I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won't name them here, because it's a horrible thing to do, but I'm sure some of you will know who they are. I'm fascinated by these creatures because they are living one of the most strange existences – they are playing at being a thing that they don't understand. And if they don't understand it, how can they love it? And if they don't love it, why are they playing at being it?

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. It's a steady flow of Mountain Dew pouring from the hills of the money men, down through the fingers of the weary journos, down into your mouths. At some point you will have to stop drinking that stuff and demand something better.

Standards are important. They are hard to live up to, sure, but that's the point of them. The trouble with games journalism is that there are no standards. We expect to see Geoff Keighley sitting beside a table of s***. We expect to see the flurry of excitement when the GMAs get announced, instead of a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. We expect to see our games journos failing to get what journalistic integrity means. The brilliant writers, like John Walker for example, don't get the credit they deserve simply because they don't play the game. Indeed, John Walker gets told to get off his pedestal because he has high standards and is pointing out a worrying problem.

Geoff Keighley, meanwhile, is sitting beside a table of snacks. A table of delicious Doritos and refreshing Mountain Dew. He is, as you'll see on Wikipedia, "only one of two journalists, the other being 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, profiled in the Harvard Business School press book 'Geeks and Geezers' by noted leadership expert Warren Bennis." Geoff Keighley is important. He is a leader in his field. He once said, "There's such a lack of investigative journalism. I wish I had more time to do more, sort of, investigation." And yet there he sits, glassy-eyed, beside a table heaving with sickly Doritos and Mountain Dew.

It's an important image. Study it.

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21 to “A Table Of Cowards”

  1. Alex says:

    Thanks for republishing this Stu.  Can't believe the way this has gone down, and so sad (but totally understandable, and honourable) that Rab has had to make the decision to stand down.  He's such a brilliant voice amongst increasingly sterile games writing.

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    Absolutely nothing wrong with the highlighted section. Yes, he names her, but he doesn't actually accuse her of anything. All he's saying is that certain actions lead to suspicion of being in the pocket of a PR team, before saying "I'm sure she isn't", which is explicitly NOT accusing her of anything, other than perhaps careless tweeting.
    To quote the opening sample from the Manic Street Preachers' third album: "YOU CAN BUY HER, YOU CAN BUY HER. THIS ONE'S HERE, THIS ONE'S HERE, THIS ONE'S HERE AND THIS ONE'S HERE. EVERYTHING'S FOR SALE"

  3. K says:

    Any thoughts on how this battle is to be fought? How do we create a space (or more space) for dissatisfaction and antagonism from within games journalism (as opposed to having our own small blogs –  or whatever –  that don't contest the space), and not simply concede the mainstream to the compulsorily-positive shills, etc…

  4. RevStu says:

    “Any thoughts on how this battle is to be fought?”

    I fear this battle, and the war, was lost a long time ago.

  5. Bob says:

    http://www.laurenwainwright.com/?p=2790 write frothing love for tomb raider > job at crystal dynamics LIVING THE DREAM

  6. Justin says:

    Twitter is free and open to the public. If you think something could be taken the wrong way, DON'T POST IT THERE. And if you do post it there and someone does take it the wrong way TOO FUCKING BAD because you know what? You were the one who said this in a public forum. Now the public is free and open to comment on it as Rab did. Bravo to him because it at least gets people thinking about how the appalling system works. She should've responded with her own article defending herself instead of rushing for the lawyers, ultimately a coward's move and one that clearly lets us all know just how right she thinks he is and how ashamed she is that she was called out on her behavior. THANK YOU for republishing this article in it's true form.

  7. Pierre says:

    Good grief, she has now removed Square Enix from her Journalisted entry.

  8. RevStu says:

    That is cosmically stupid. Half the planet has already published pictures of the first version. Is she deliberately TRYING to look suspicious now?

  9. Lacero says:

    Thanks for fighting on this.  It's so sad it needed to be written about, let alone what's happened now it has been.

  10. Pete says:

    Right now, I'm seeing Wainwright at the top of the "Recently viewed" list of profiles on the Journalisted homepage. And this very URL is listed in the "Blogposts about Lauren Wainwright" on her profile page itself.
    That's quite a mess she's making.

  11. grumpysmurf says:

    As an ex-games journalist, I can vouch that everything in that article is true. 99% games journos consider PR their close friends, and their readers annoying twats. 

  12. Marc says:

    Stu, was this your article in Amiga Power?
    http://i.imgur.com/Ur6Ot.jpg
    Reddit thought it was relevant to the Robert Florence situation.

  13. Lacero says:

    While it's odd for a games writer to work for a games firm and review their games, all games sites work for games companies as advertisers and then review their games. 

    This perspective to me was the entire point of Rab's article and I think it was a very clever way of making that point, and also I can see why he'd feel his message was compromised by the edit.  He was using an individual's behaviour which some would find odd to show how odd the entire industry was (or was very, very lucky with an arbitrary target.  I choose to believe he was being clever). 

    This doesn't seem to have been explicitly described by anyone, and in fact I now see some people are using the behaviour of game news sites to defend having full screen adverts on twitter (by choice or not).  The war is indeed lost.

  14. RevStu says:

    “Stu, was this your article in Amiga Power?”

    No, that looks like the work of J Nash and/or Cam Winstanley.

  15. marc says:

    He's had to fucking what!?
     

  16. Drew Peacock says:

    Stu, was this your article in Amiga Power?
    http://i.imgur.com/Ur6Ot.jpg


     
    "Having some sort of obvious gimmick (for example, a stupid bandana)…."
     
    Zing!

  17. It needed to be said. It needed to be said so hard.

    I can't claim to be completely innocent of the muddy waters (I worked for a year as Microsoft's Xbox.ca community blogger), but holy shit you hit the nail on the head. I feel so grateful now to live in a time where I can crowd-fund my work, taking the need to pander to advertisers, cooperate with PR people, and bend over backwards for anyone but my readers to make a story happen.

    I've been through it all; had review scores changed by editors, had reviews pulled when PR put pressure on the outlet, even been fired from one job because I got blacklisted for being negative about a game we'd been given special access to. This industry may be pixel perfect on the outside, but I encourage everyone, reader or journalist, to seriously think about what's being written, and more importantly why.

  18. Ash J. Emmes says:

    Excellent article and absolutely true.
    I've seen the picture plenty of times on the internet recently, however, I never really stopped to think just what this really implies about the state of game journalism.

    Sad how this all went down…

  19. Truth says:

    And she still doesn't get it.
    Wainwright's Facebook status today is that she doesn't understand why she gets crucified for tweeting about Tomb Raider, but other journos are tweeting about GTA without getting any flak.
    Unbelievable.



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