It’s not an uncommon occurrence for a gaming news outlet to be blacklisted by a publisher. You can hear Jim Sterling talk about blacklisted regularly on The Jimquisition. Destructoid was blacklisted by Konami. At one time or another, EGM was reportedly blacklisted by numerous companies including Sony, Midway and Ubisoft. Jeff Gerstmann infamously lost his job at GameSpot over a poor review of Kane & Lynch that resulted in Eidos Interactive threatening to pull ads from the site.
The latest publication to take their blacklisting public is Kotaku. Editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo took to the site to reveal that the company had been cut off by the PR branches of both Ubisoft and Bethesda. While some in games media are standing up for Kotaku, those content consumers that Kotaku are supposed to be producing content for aren’t on their side. When you’re as divisive as Kotaku, there isn’t much sympathy for the devil.
Two big Triple-A games had their review embargoes lift on Tuesday. One of those was Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game that game out a week from this Tuesday, which already has the overwhelmingly positive reviews that you’d expect from BioWare of old. The other game was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game that came out on Tuesday with some early and midnight launches but had a Noon EST review embargo.
In the latest of a series of avoidable gaffes, Ubisoft has again insulted the consumer. This time, they embargoed their top franchise’s annual offering’s review until after the game was released in an abuse of the system.
Did I miss the memo? I’m convinced that there is a missive sent out to video games writers with talking points that we’re all supposed to stick to for a year.
Last year, it was that the vision of a developer should never be questioned. Look at the uproar over Mass Effect 3’s ending. Despite the plot holes and inconsistencies in the ending sequence, many members of the media defended BioWare by saying that this was BioWare’s vision and it shouldn’t be compromised because we shouldn’t compromise the developer’s “artistic integrity.”
This year, artistic integrity is no longer an applicable concept when talking about the contents of a game. Now, if a writer feels that the majority of people should be offended by something, it should be changed. In twelve months, we’ve gone from a developer having unassailable artistic integrity to a press corps getting dangerously close to censorship.
The weekend’s big gaming news story wasn’t about a new game or another major announcement but a feud between two gaming personalities.
On one side was Marcus Beer, GameTrailer’s Annoyed Gamer, who criticized prominent indie developers Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow for not commenting on Microsoft allowing indie game self-publishing on the Xbox One. On the other side was the aforementioned Phil Fish who didn’t take kindly to Beer lobbing personal insults at him on video.
However, I don’t think that the takeaway from this feud should be anything about either Beer or Fish. I think how this feud started says more about how this gaming journalism works and why it might be irreparably broken.