Forgets To Source Another Exclusive, Remedies Mistake

It wasn’t too long ago that IGN received quite the critique from 1UP.com’s News Editor Luke Smith over IGN’s editorial policy when 1UP broke the story that the Stamper brothers were leaving Rare. (IGN originally didn’t link to 1UP’s story.) IGN later tossed a link to 1UP’s story in the news story. However, it wouldn’t be the last time. Now its happened again, as a VGMW reader pointed out to me yesterday.

Both Cubed3 and Sp0ng produced similar exclusive interviews this week with Square-Enix’s Hiromichi Tanaka this week, and many sites (1UP, Game|Life, Detructoid, Joystiq) sourced one of these publications in their stories. However, when IGN ran their story, they sourced no one (see below).

The story said “In a recent interview,” but then failed to provide a source for the quote. Usually you’d see “In a recent interview with [insert publication name here]” or “When talking with [publication name], Tanaka had the follow to say.” Or when citing your own publication, there should have been at least been a self-referential citation (”When speaking with IGN, Mr. Tanaka…”). Yet there was nothing.

I contacted IGN’s Editorial Director Tal Blevins for clarification as to why there was no source attributed to the quote. He told me he would be looking into the matter, and then restated IGN’s policy on citing sources (”However, it is always our intention as reporters to cite relevant sources.”).

A few minutes later, Tal got back to me and said, that after talking with the editor who wrote the story, that the lack of attribution was incidental and an “oversight.” He said that the article would be amended, and it indeed has, with a link to Sp0ng’s interview with Tanaka.

This might come across as petty, but imagine how you’d feel if you were a writer for Cubed3 or Sp0ng, sites with readership much smaller than 1UP, IGN, or GameSpot. Scoring an exclusive are lofty dreams, and then it happens and people don’t source you? That’s a crappy feeling, and ultimately not fair to the sites who originally broke the story.

Let me make it clear that I’m not trying to vilify IGN here. They admitted it was an oversight, corrected the problem, and now the source gets their due. However, proper attribution is becoming an increasing problem because as writers, especially those for internet publications, rush to post stories they sometimes can’t peel back through all the layers of the onion to find the story’s original source. Let’s all make a concerned effort to help curb this problem by taking an extra few minutes to properly cite our sources.

Gaming’s Foreign Media Masters

Editor’s note: The following article is an opinion editorial piece. It does not necessarily reflect the views of VGMWatch.com’s staff team.

Perhaps this concern is just mine. But I doubt it. I’m no blanket big business hater. I understand the role many of them play in helping our country (they can ail it at times as well). However, I am growing increasingly concerned over the feasting of the game media of which non-gaming media corporations are taking part.

MTV Viacom. Most know them as a major media conglomerate. We know their spotty track record in quality media from CBS to MTV content. They’ve recently gobbled up GameTrailers.com. Yes, they’ve made good in-roads at producing fancy coats of paint and expanding its mainstream appeal. And that’s all good. But the executives that ultimately make the decisions for this property are not known gamers or even gamer-centric in their concerns.
Their main concern with a property like GameTrailers.com is demographic expansion into the young male electronic media consumer.

News Corp. They’ve consumed the massive IGN Network and its GameSpy.com sibling. In case you haven’t noticed, IGN/GameSpy pulls a lot of weight in the game media. They have the power to shape opinions via editorial content (some would say in their news articles as well). And they do. Should we be comfortable knowing such a massive, dominating Internet source of gaming information is also owned by a non-gaming centric corporation? News Corp, like Viacom, has concerns about grabbing the young 18-24 male demographic. They see the gaming media as just another pawn in their expansion into that demographic and the Web 2.0 (consider their MySpace purchase).

AOL. They’re not quite the best company for keeping consumer needs first and foremost as we’ve seen with their ISP services. But aside from that, there’s more to look at here. They’ve consumed Joystiq.com (a leading game blog) and GameDaily.com (an up and coming voice in the game media). It doesn’t matter what “gamer guys” they place in content editor roles, the real business decisions are carried out by a company that’s simply not focused on what gamers care about most.

I’m not saying the concept of a major non-gaming focused company swallowing a game media outlet is completely negative in and of itself. After all, it is a promising sign of mainstream interest in gamers (at least in a bottom line business sense). However, it becomes an issue of concern when much of the game media landscape is radically transformed from a diverse array of independent gaming-focused companies to mass media conglomerates. And again, let’s be honest. The three companies listed as examples don’t quite have a stellar track record in deep, quality media information. Trends show they tend to focus on superficial Hollywoodization elements. Style over substance. “Babes” over serious issues concerning this industry.

Though not a perfect analogy by any means, consider the “Walmart effect” on independent quality craftsmanship. Many people believe that having the retail industry almost completely owned by corporations like Sears, Target and Walmart has all but eliminated the era of fine quality trade focused stores (and customer service as well). There was a time when independent quality-driven stores were the dominant force in the retail industry. Take shoes for example. Customers could expect to find shoemaker (or at least shoe focused) stores that would treat the consumer with utmost quality and patience. They knew their craft. And it showed in the product. The mainstream of that market has been radically changed with the advent of retail giants. Now the trade has become a pawn to further increase the big tent profits of corporations who could care less about that particular craft. And maybe in the end, that “jack of all trades, master of none” revolution was exactly what mass consumers needed. But the shoe enthusiast (regardless if he exists or not) has been largely neglected in the grand scheme of mainstream shoe service.
And that is the root of this modest analogy. The true gaming enthusiast must be vigilant about the game media market’s status, lest he/she is left in the dust for the potential mainstream mass audience that considers gaming information an afterthought.

That’s the path many of these non-gaming focused conglomerates are heading towards. Has anyone seen Viacom’s Spike VGA Awards show lately?

There’s a place for outside gaijin* media conglomerates in the game industry. But while the glitz of their flashy lights may be alluring, we must remember our roots. Gaming enthusiasts are best served by gaming-focused companies. In quality. In substance. Ultimately, the balance of the game media’s voice will be determined by the game consumers. Will they sit idly by and let the industry’s information gatekeepers slowly be diluted in the name of big tent mass media? Or will they seek to keep a healthy, balanced presence of both gaming-centric and mass media companies in the industry? Time will tell.

Call me crazy. And perhaps some would call this the ramblings of a delusional ol’ purist gamer. But I believe there’s at least an element of truth to it all.

*The term gaijin is a Japanese word for “outsider” that has stealthily slipped into America’s lexicon.

David Gornoski is the Site Director of VGMWatch.com. In addition, he serves as Editorial Director for the E-mpire Network.

Sloppy Reporting 101: 1UP Bought By Dell?

While its been reported elsewhere that that Ziff-Davis is looking to sell the Game Group (1UP, EGM, GFW), three writers took things a little too far after seeing the Dell logo on a dell.1up.com page, branded for a Dell homepage/portal site. Check out this page to see a Dell branded Google page — did Dell buy Google too?!

I first spotted the particular story over on Destructoid, where writer Ishaan Sahdev stated:

No, I’m not kidding. A few days back we reported Ziff Davis was selling 1UP and EGM. Well, it looks like the site’s already been bought and is now within the unforgiving claws of Dell. Notice the new logo in the top left corner of the site.

There’s no attempt to at least work with a little discretion other than some italics tags around ‘looks’. If Dell really, really had purchased 1UP, don’t you think there would have been a tad more press about it? An editor’s note was added to the Destructoid post later, stating: “While everything so far indicates that 1UP has been bought over, it hasn’t been confirmed.” Um, what exactly made up the “everything so far,” Mr. Editor? A tiny advert not even featured on the main page, eh? That’s just jumping to conclusions when no evidence really existed on a subpage.

Later I saw the story pop up on Joystiq, but the story has since then been deleted… but not by my RSS feed reader! Blake Snow penned the extremely open ended piece stating:

Sensational headline aside [”Dell to purchase 1UP, EGM?”], something fishy is going on at 1UP. The site is now sporting Dell branding only days after both it and EGM were put on sale by Ziff Davis. At the time of posting, random refreshes of 1UP.com yielded the above results. Dell.1up.com consistently yielded the above results. So is Dell — who has recently started selling gamer specific PCs — buying or have bought 1UP/EGM? We’d assume a company wouldn’t update an acquired site without striking a deal a first. That is, if a deal wasn’t already struck behind closed doors… 

The Joystiq story is a little more open-ended in its reporting, leaving the possibility that this deal might actual not be anything substantial. However, the sensationalist headline was accompanied with some sensationalist text — “something fishy is going on at 1UP?”

However, that wouldn’t be the last time I saw this non-story reported on, as Kotaku’s Flynn De Marco got in on the action. However, his is the one story I didn’t mind in the slightest. Why? Because he entitled the story “Rumor: 1up Welcomes New Dell Overlords.” Even if the story turned out to be false, he made sure to indicate to readers the actual content of his post might be a little suspect. He also make sure to tempers the piece and throws out the fact he actually put a little research into it:

I immediately started messaging around and asking people to check it for themselves. Oddly, some see it and some don’t. It’s all very mysterious. It seems people using Firefox can see it, while IE users don’t. It is possible that this is some sort of ad branding, but odd that it would look like this and come at such an inopportune time what with all the news of 1Up being up for grabs.

While Kotaku did the best job (with Destructoid doing the worst and Joystiq being somewhere in between the two), the way this story progressed through the series of tubes and pipes that make up the Internet is just kind of embarrassing. I feel that this story wouldn’t have been picked up at all if not for the GameSetWatch piece making the rounds, but it’s up to each site and their writers to report situations responsibility, and not just grasp at straws — which is exactly what this looked like to me.

Eliminate the Positive (or “The Only Negative Review of Halo 2 You’re Ever Likely To Read”)

“Halo 2 isn’t a perfect game.” (9) It “is still a linear series of shootouts,” (5) that is “cowboys and Indians from the get-go,” (2) and features “annoying graphical hiccups” and “team AI [that] isn’t always perfect.” (6)

“Some will undoubtedly say that the graphics have come up a bit short.” (6) “There are occasionally some graphic hiccups, such as when a far off texture doesn’t fill in as you approach it.” (1) or when “the ground sometimes has an unrealistic ripple effect and some characters you come across look blurry.” (4) One other “noticeable ‘problem’ is when the graphics mip-map at the beginning of nearly every scene, meaning that you first see a placeholder graphic before the more detailed version pops into place.” (2) “Brutes have a very plastic appearance, and one character in particular is sloppily designed.” (9)

In addition, “some of the in-engine cutscenes are kind of ugly,” and “you’ll actually see a little slowdown, pop-in, and LOD issues during cutscenes.” (5) In fact, “you’ll wonder what’s going on in the cutscenes.” (7) “It does detract.” (8)

Besides the graphics, Halo 2 has “a surprisingly disappointing story.” (5) “The first game had a cold sense of mystery and a striking sense of loneliness that shadowed Master Chief wherever he went. This time around… Halo 2 feels a little bit more Hollywood, a little less underdog.” (2) “You spent the first game indiscriminately killing these fiends — yet now you’re expected to be sympathetic to them and their hatred for humankind.” (5)

“The second half tends to drag on a bit,” (3) but “easily the worst part about the story is the way it ends, insofar as it doesn’t.” (5) “The final battle is neither interesting while you’re in the thick of it nor fulfilling once it concludes.” (9) “You’ll run into this game’s cliff-hanger ending like a compact car into a brick wall… There’s little satisfaction to be found in the ending here,” and “there’s a good chance you’ll feel emotionally betrayed by the story.” (5) “More than a few people will find Bungie’s segue to Xbox 2 more than a little irritating.” (2)

“I still see a bit of repetitive level design in Halo 2.” (7) “Halo 2’s campaign… frequently boils down to straight-up run-and-gun corridor crawls, one after another.” (5) “Bungie’s ship and interior designs are almost as repetitive in both architecture and texturing as before… Given no map, you will find yourself wondering where the hell to go more often than not… More distinct texture work and asymmetrical ornamentation would’ve helped.”(8)

“The AI has a few weaknesses, especially when it’s in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, where it has trouble steering around obstacles.” (5) In addition “many battles turn into strike-and-hide exercises where you take a few shots and then sneak away to let your shield recharge.” (6) “It certainly doesn’t help that the campaign is “rather short” (5) and that “able-bodied players will probably finish the game on Normal mode in around 15 hours.” (2) “I somehow expected it to take much longer.” (8)

“There’s no… system-link cooperative mode.” (3) and “you can’t play co-op online.” (4) That’s right, there’s “no co-op play for Xbox Live or through system link.” (9) “I’d have loved to see a working online co-op mode.” (7) “It would have been great to play co-op online.” (8) “My dream of online co-op with the Master Chief has been dashed.” (7)

“Halo 2 is not perfect.” (4) “You could argue that given all the hype, Halo 2 is disappointingly more of the same.” (3) “I can’t really say that the engine has been vastly improved for the sequel,” (7) “every now and then, the game goes a bit overboard with the technology,” (4) “and well, could there have been more maps?” (8) “A surprisingly disappointing story and a fairly short single-player portion are noticeable shortcomings.” (5) “After all of the time we spent waiting for this product, the developers owed us something better.” (9)

EDITOR’S NOTE: If it’s not apparent yet, this “review” is simply an amalgamation of bad points from nine other mass-market reviews of Halo 2. All the words inside quotes were copied directly from the numbered source in parentheses immediately following (links to source material available below.) These quotes were deliberately purged of any positive context or mitigating conditionals through judicious snipping, but it should be made clear that I believe every one of these points was intended as a negative in the original review. I did not just take random words to make it look like the reviewers found flaws that they didn’t, but rather I separated out the middling negatives from the overwhelming positives and grouped them into a semi-coherent whole.

Anyone who’s still ready to flame me after that should consider that it took the relatively minor nitpicking from nine separate reviews to construct one average-length, overly-repetitive negative review of this game, and the negative review still isn’t very convincing. If this doesn’t speak to the obvious quality of a game, I don’t know what does.

So why do this at all? First, to show that quotes taken out of context can be highly, highly misleading (important to remember the next time you see a quote on the back of a game box). Second, to show that although it might seem like Halo 2 is God’s gift to video gaming, it is not perfect. None of the nine reviews I read (some of which were quite lengthy and gave the game their highest score) claimed that it was. Some explicitly said it wasn’t. Media frenzies like this tend to encourage hyperbole, so this is my attempt to keep the effusive praise down to a realistic level.

Thus begins what is turning into Halo 2 week at the VGO (what can I say, I was feeling left out). Look for reviews of some Halo 2 reviews tomorrow and an overview of Halo 2 news coverage on Thursday.

Review sources:
(1) http://xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/564301p1.html
(2) http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3136245&did=6
(3) http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=2005815&did=2
(4) http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3136252&did=1
(5) http://www.gamespot.com/xbox/action/halo2/review.html
(6) http://www.g4techtv.com/halo2day/features/50249/Halo_2_Review.html
(7) http://www.ugo.com/channels/games/features/halo2/review_1.asp
(8) http://xbox.ign.com/articles/557/557509p1.html
(9) http://microsoft.gamerfeed.com/gf/reviews/520/