Accountability in Games Press

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#1 Edited by JasonR86 (10259 posts) -

Hey everyone, I recently went down an Internet hole when I realized I hadn’t heard from Phil Kollar. For those that done know, Phil was, I believe, at 1up before moving over to Game Informer and finally ending up at Polygon. I knew Phil mostly from the videos he did at Game Informer, which I thought were really good. But I sort of lost track of him when he went to Polygon. It turns out, he was involved in some form of sexual harassment, seems to have been quietly let go from Polygon, and now looks to be doing some form of consulting, away from public view.

This led me to consider accountability in games press. I remember having a similar thought when all the Nick Robinson stuff came out. He was discussed by the press, but if you were to compare the coverage of his actions by the press to, say, Alison Rapp, I don’t think there’s even a comparison. Or to, now, Randy Pitchford.

There are exceptions to what I’m about to say (ex; Filip Miucin), but it feels like the games press either has more freedom to talk about the transgressions of folks outside of the press bubble or simply don’t give the transgressions of fellow press as much attention as those who work in development and/or publishing. Do others out there have a similar impression? Should the press be more public with airing the transgressions of fellow press with the same vigor as they do of those in development and publishing?

My personal take is that I don’t think they are as vocal as they should be and public accountability should be had for those that have a public persona. If, say, Phil did transgress as it seems he has, that should be made as public and as easily accessible as his videos on Game Informer. Accountability is one of the best ways to curb bad behavior.

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#2 Posted by csl316 (14981 posts) -

It does feel like the press is more hush hush about discussing their peers. But there isn't much discussion value in saying "this guy creeped on Twitter."

The thing with Nick seemed to get shut down around here whenever a post went up. And while I liked Phil a lot at GI, I too was surprised to see how quietly he faded out without too much coverage. It's industry news, although maybe not as high profile as Pitchford (nobody seems to hold back on that guy for some reason).

Off the top of my head, the only press guy that was discussed recently and openly was Miucin. But I guess the discussion there goes beyond "this guy did a bad thing" and moves into press integrity.

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#3 Posted by Humanity (18864 posts) -

The accountability is there but for the most part when things get dire, but whether it should be brought to life in a very public manner I'm not so sure about. Each outlet should handle it's own affairs in their own way. I don't really see the point in making a spectacle out of all transgressions that crop up.

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#4 Edited by JasonR86 (10259 posts) -

@humanity:

I guess for me the difference is the public persona surrounding some of the press. It feels weird for a person, press or otherwise, to have a public presence one day and then seemingly disappear the next without any coverage for the audience to know what happened, if that makes sense.

The other part is that it feels like there’s a discrepancy between the weight given to the transgressions of developers/publishers and the press. It gives the impression that the press protect their own.

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#5 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1377 posts) -

"American journalism was always 

better at defining others' foible than its own." --Randy Shilts, "And The Band Played On"

I literally just heard this line in the book I'm listening to right now, then saw this thread.

It's an interesting question, but I don't think there's any sort of coverup going on. It has the potential to look petty, with every video game site talking at length about the shitty behavior of someone at a rival site. I also think it's a question of scale. An editor at a video game review site might have an audience of a few hundred thousand with an employee base of 20 people. The behavior of a game company CEO could affect hundreds of employees, with a potential audience of millions.

If this ever happens with someone affiliated with Giant Bomb, I suspect that they would make a statement. We saw this with the Palmer Luckey Hottest Mess thing a couple years ago. He was given prominent coverage on this site. The site responded in a way that makes it clear that they do not condone his shitty behavior.

I think there is more value for the members of a community (like Polygon) to deal with that sort of thing amongst themselves. I'm not sure what value they could get from it being discussed here, other than that airing that sort of thing could be seen as a public service.

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#6 Posted by FinalDasa (3218 posts) -

An editor at a video game review site might have an audience of a few hundred thousand with an employee base of 20 people. The behavior of a game company CEO could affect hundreds of employees, with a potential audience of millions.

I think there is more value for the members of a community (like Polygon) to deal with that sort of thing amongst themselves. I'm not sure what value they could get from it being discussed here, other than that airing that sort of thing could be seen as a public service.

This sums up my feelings. Robinson and Kollar's actions affected their coworkers and their victims but outside of that they aren't apart of the typical coverage you see from gaming sites.

There is no cabal keeping everything quiet, it's just a matter of what is proper to report on and what isn't.

And sites that do cover video game culture more often do report about these incidents.

Moderator
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#7 Posted by JasonR86 (10259 posts) -

Thanks for the takes all. Just for clarification, I don’t mean to imply some sort of cover up. When I mention that press may not be able to talk about some issues, I was thinking more legally, or due to a parent company, that they can’t talk about this or that.

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#8 Posted by devise22 (738 posts) -

Aye I tend to agree with those stating that it is really less about the transgressions, or the moral right/wrong of them and more about just kind of standard protocol. As has been said there isn't some mandate that states sites can't talk about these things. But that doesn't mean you should also go the opposite and cover every transgression like you would typical news.

I think in the Pitchford example as well, there is already so much spotlight/coverage that they were putting on themselves that happening upon coverage it as your even attempting to cover in this case Borderlands 3 is necessary. When asked about it or the topic comes up in conversations I'm sure GB/other press outlets would happily add some nuggets about the Polygon situation, while still respecting that it is their issue to deal with.

Basically though, someone acting shitty doesn't always deserve to be news in that traditional sense. I think it's easy to forget that when we treat it that way, over cover all the shitty things to try and call out everyone who is shitty, that shitty people see that as a chance to get famous/coverage, so they act more shitty.

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#9 Posted by Humanity (18864 posts) -

@jasonr86: I guess it's more about protecting the face and value of the people left behind. Some of that dirt is inevitably going to rub off on the site itself and lower it's standing. This guy was sexually harrassing his coworkers at website ABC, and it comes out this has been happening for months or maybe longer. What do you think of a site that lets that sort of thing go so far? What about the other people working there that had no control or knowledge of the situation? Now they're probably getting dragged through the mud as well.

Thats the way I can kind of rationalize it I suppose. Depends on the transgression really. Some things I would want to go public so the person in the wrong is not able to quietly enter the work field at some other publication - you want it to be so public as to burn all their bridges. Some stuff you just want to quietly go unnoticed. The Miucin thing is a good example of something that should have gone out in the public because that guy absolutely needed to get outed in the most public way possible. In the field of writing there is nothing worse than plagiarizing other peoples work and worse still knowingly denying it when the proof is so easily attainable.

As a side discussion, I really wish something similar would happen to DrDisrespect who recently got suspended from Twitch for streaming in a public bathroom at E3. Sadly I doubt anything serious is going to happen to the guy. Twitch will most likely reinstate him after a week or two because they can't afford to lose someone with his viewership. In the unlikely scenario they actually man up and permanently ban him from Twitch, there are plenty other outlets that will take him in with open arms and his numbers will probably go up as it will be the "return of the controversial streamer" or something stupid like that.

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#10 Edited by tds418 (496 posts) -

Whew, when I saw the topic title I feared this was going to be some GamerGate nonsense but thankfully not. I guess I generally agree with OP, but I think it's just a matter of a games journalist's misconduct just not being as notable as the misconduct of someone actually making/publishing games. I'm sure a lot of (most?) people that go to game websites don't even read/recognize bylines, and as others point out, it would look a little unseemly for competing publications to jump on the transgressions of an employee of another site (assuming the site/publication acted appropriately once aware of the misconduct).

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#12 Posted by JasonR86 (10259 posts) -

@tds418: @devise22: @finaldasa:

You all make good points. It certainly doesn’t seem like a black or white issue. There are websites that do cover the misconduct of press, you would think the first line of defense would be a statement made the outlet in question, and it would be difficult to talk about the business of fellow colleagues from other outlets.

Also, to note, my perspective is of a consumer of video games and video games press. I don’t know the ins and outs of any aspect of games business or the press that cover it aside from what I hear from places like Giant Bomb.

I guess I’m particularly sensitive when it looks like things aren’t fair and when victims can be impacted by systemic problems. I listed Alison Rapp, Phil Kollar, Nick Robinson, Filip Miucin, and Randy Pitchford in the first post. They all had one big thing in common; an online presence with an audience. They all had different reach, differing amount of influence over the industry, and all had different controversies surrounding them. But, only Filip was really put up as an example on the press side. Folks on here are right that a lot of press are interchangeable with minor audiences. But I can’t help but feel like the ones who have reach and an audience should be held as accountable for misconduct as developers and publishers. A lot of systemic problems, like harassment, take root when those who have transgressed have their actions swept under the rug and forgotten. Just like bad workplace practices in game development need a spotlight on them for change to occur, so do problems like sexual harassment. I suppose for me, that’s where this ultimately becomes ‘black and white.’ I’ve only named a few press who have transgressed, and I’m sure there are more known and unknown, but I guess I’m less concerned with specific individuals and more with systemic problems.

I’m sure the answer isn’t simple, as who, for example, wants to be the press person who calls out their colleagues? And who knows how much of a problem things like harassment, or other issues, are in press. But I guess I’m of the perspective that if a spotlight on an issue saves only one victim from mistreatment, that spotlight should be placed. Also, and this might be more a ‘me’ thing then actually reasonable, but I guess I’m really all about fairness and it bugs me how little Phil and Nick were discussed by the press.

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#13 Posted by MrGreenMan (225 posts) -

I have many issues with the games industry and press as a whole. One feeds the other to promote it's own stuff and expect fair coverage, the thing is, often the industry itself is filled with so much shit these days that it's gotten political because that's how capitalism and businesses work. I love video games, but the drama, the non stop greed from these companies, and just overall general shadiness from the games industry as a whole makes me feel ill supporting any of these game companies by buying any of their games at this point. At this point I just can't care anymore.

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#14 Posted by thievingsince95 (20 posts) -

Part of this seems inevitable, and certainly isn't unique to games journalism. People in media tend to have a hard time being media critics, partially because the circles are so small and so the people they'd want to cover are their friends/ ex-coworkers of the companies they could be criticizing they could very well work for someday. However, there is also something to the way the scenarios were handled and that affecting the coverage. In general I think the media companies are quicker to let go of those that could be in these situations than developers/publishers are (Randy Pitchford is still employed, Robinson was shown the door quickly).

So I would say that you're right that the coverage of these issues when they happen inside the media fraternity is maybe not as strong, but that's kind of to be expected.

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#15 Posted by FreakAche (3087 posts) -

@bladeofcreation said:

If this ever happens with someone affiliated with Giant Bomb, I suspect that they would make a statement.

You say that, but Nick Robinson effectively got his start in the industry as a Whiskey Media intern.

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#16 Posted by TheRealTurk (552 posts) -

Some of this is probably a desire to not get sued, too. The last thing a corporate legal department wants is for an already bad situation to be made worse by having the guy turn around and launch a defamation lawsuit. So instead they encourage him to leave quietly in exchange for them not making a thing of it.

For Polygon specifically it would also be a bad look to call attention to it given they aren't that far removed from canning Nic Robinson for the same sort of behavior. Even if they are being super pro-active about sexual harassment, they probably know the message most likely to come out of the Twitter-sphere would be "Polygon serially enables harassers, rabble rabble rabble rabble!"

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#17 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1377 posts) -

@freakache: I didn't know that. I'm not sure it was GB's responsibility here, though. He stopped being an intern at GB five years before his behavior came to light. Ben Pack and Matt Kessler had a podcast with him, but it seems that Ben and Matt at least made statements about this.

If Robinson was doing this stuff while working for GB--ESPECIALLY if he was using his position at GB as a means to gain access/contact information to these women--GB should've absolutely put out a statement. If he continued to be a regular on the podcast or had a regular GoTY column, GB should've absolutely put out a statement.

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#18 Posted by schizogony (1010 posts) -

I wish I could unknow all the personal stuff I've ever learned about game journos.

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#19 Edited by deactivated-5d1d502761653 (305 posts) -

The one area where I hold them accountable is working conditions and working enviroment.

Pretty much all gaming media fails hard in providing better working conditions than the gaming industry which they themselves (rightfully) call out for that reason on a frequent basis.

Just look at the amount of content those sites generate by excessive use of freelance writers.

Waypoint in particular was/is very vocal on that front, while at the same time Klepek complained numerous times on twitter on the amount of unpaid extra hours he sits on.

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#20 Posted by dudeglove (13768 posts) -

Funny you should bring this up, because about two weeks ago there was an article on more or less this exact topic.

https://www.dailydot.com/irl/nick-robinson-matt-conn-sexual-harassment-abuse/

As to what you initially wrote.

Hey everyone, I recently went down an Internet hole when I realized I hadn’t heard from Phil Kollar. For those that done know, Phil was, I believe, at 1up before moving over to Game Informer and finally ending up at Polygon. I knew Phil mostly from the videos he did at Game Informer, which I thought were really good. But I sort of lost track of him when he went to Polygon. It turns out, he was involved in some form of sexual harassment, seems to have been quietly let go from Polygon, and now looks to be doing some form of consulting, away from public view.

Please bear in mind that there can be various reasons (legal, for instance, or the protection of people's identities or people's well being involved in such harassment) as to why the games press would discuss one instance over another one. I mean, you take a quick search to see as to why Kollar was let go? That's a y i k e s right there.

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#21 Edited by Gazoinks (109 posts) -

@wolfstein_3d: This is a really great point, especially in with people like Waypoint, that I hadn't thought about before. It also kinda shows how intrinsic this stuff is in larger systems, right? Like Waypoint can talk game about being woke, and I agree with a lot of what they say, but at the end of the day they're part of a big media company, Vice, which creates an inherent tension between their politics and the way the company functions.

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#22 Edited by deactivated-5d1d502761653 (305 posts) -

I really think these sites point out important social shortcomings at times but since they don't operate in a more ethical way themselves it's a bit like every commercial company that paints its icons in pride colors during June (without doing much beyond that).

If your mission it's only lip service and gets forgotten for as soon as it affects your bottom line I can't take anything of it serious.

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#23 Posted by Gazoinks (109 posts) -

@wolfstein_3d: Totally. And to their credit I think Austin and Patrick would probably both own up to that. Austin in particular has always struck me as very aware of the real complexity of these kinds of issues.

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#24 Posted by JasonR86 (10259 posts) -

@wolfstein_3d: It's hard for us as the consumer of this content to really draw many conclusions about the intent of a perceived lack of outward accountability by the press for transgressions made by other press. As @dudeglove: mentions, there could be a legal component and/or limits of other sorts we all here simply wouldn't know. I personally feel, though, that it's fair to point out the difference between how the majority of press treat developer/publisher transgressions versus the transgressions of the press. It can read as hypocritical and I do agree that it takes some of the punch out of comments made by press about ethics in video games. And, to be clear, I'm mostly looking at this from outward expressions of accountability. It sounds like there are plenty of internal forms of accountability. Like, for example, Nick Robinson being let go from Polygon. But, also, there are avenues for people like Nick, like through Youtube and Patreon, to continue without the support of a typical game press outlet.

Also, and I know we all know this, but this isn't just a game press/industry thing. Michael Vick kept playing NFL football after serving time for dog fighting. Mike Tyson was a heavy weight champion before and after his rape charges. I'm a mental health therapist, and for my own field, a regulatory ethics board was created specifically to stop transgressions and healthcare workers still transgress. I made the thread because it's a video game site and we can all speak to this as consumers of game content, but I suppose it's worth noting how regular these issues are everywhere. Which is a depressing thought.

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#25 Edited by deactivated-5d1d502761653 (305 posts) -

After past weekend I decided to not consume most gaming outlets content anymore going forward. Seeing a multitude of writers' responses to a journalist being assaulted in Portland was the final straw.
I simply can't support game journalists arguing against virtual violence and online abuse while at the same time playing down violent assaults in the real world or downright supporting such actions with the "he asked for it" argument which is literally the worst!

Either you have principles and act upon them on a consistent basis or you are competing in a form of "us vs them" tribalism where all bets are off.
That signal is: "We're all in tribes now, and protecting our tribe matters more than having a good hard look at facts, employing some critical thinking and accepting the possibility one of our own may have screwed up.

Edit: To be clear I don't have an opinion on the journalist track record, quite frankly most of his past work is unknown to me, but that doesn't matter. If you need to beat up a 5.5 foot Asian gay guy to fight racism you have obviously lost the plot.

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#26 Posted by Efesell (4541 posts) -

@wolfstein_3d: Okay but maybe actually do a little background checking on that guy before you feel too bad for him. The things you say and do as a matter of public record do matter.

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#27 Posted by deactivated-5d1d502761653 (305 posts) -
@efesell said:

@wolfstein_3d: Okay but maybe actually do a little background checking on that guy before you feel too bad for him. The things you say and do as a matter of public record do matter.

It's not about feeling bad for him - it's about having principles and following through with them. Drawing a line regardless of the persons involved.

If you are trying to justify physical assault as an appropriate action you are a lost cause to me and have nothing to contribute to the discussion on violence being it in online or offline.

We as a society should have agreement on that, people still arguing it in 2019 is beyond me!

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#28 Edited by Fear_the_Booboo (1088 posts) -

@wolfstein_3d: I’m afraid this will go off-topic, I’ll try to be concise and I don’t blame you to be recoiling at this situation. That said...

As a society we already accepted a certain level of violence. Prison are a form of physical violence, police force, wars and all. There wouldn’t actually be a society with some form of state-sanctioned violence.

The real question is what is acceptable, what is justifiable violence. Saying you’re against all form of violence is basically false unless you’re a pacifist anarchist. This is a rough question and I don’t claim to have the answer, but then I can understand someone having different views on that particular point without thinking they lost it.

But then maybe you just condone lawful violence, but let’s be clear it’s not because it’s lawful that it is absolutely morally right. The opposite also is true. I don’t have a particular fight in this situation because I didn’t know that particular journalist before, he got punched for being allegedly a hate-mongering journalist that uses disinformation. I don’t think law has been great at dealing with this recently, and it’s impossible to actually fight disingenuous information in a “fight of ideas” simply because it is in essence disingenuous. So what’s the solution then? Maybe you don’t think violence was right, I dunno myself, but defending it is not “losing your mind” or creating a slippery slope that would destroy society. Punching him is the equivalent of saying I think law should deal like people with you but it won’t.

Violence is “if all else fails” solution and for some people in America I can’t blame them to go there.

Edit: before I get pointed out as someone who condone violence here’s my answer: yes I do condone violence against people that willfully engage in hate-crimes including hate-speech and condoning outright racism. I said it.

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#29 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1377 posts) -

@wolfstein_3d: What does this have to do with gaming journalists?