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Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure

News.com.au tells the tale of Toby McCasker, a former deputy entertainment editor for the magazine ZOO Weekly, who claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on efforts by Rockstar Games to influence coverage of Red Dead Redemption. McCasker posted excerpts on Facebook of an email allegedly from Rockstar saying: "This is the biggest game we've done since GTA IV, and is already receiving Game of the Year 2010 nominations from specialists all around the world," going on to say: "Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here." The Facebook posting is now removed, and McCasker is no longer with ZOO Weekly. "I did not sign up to become a journalist to write advertorials masquerading as editorial," he says. "This 'cash for comment' culture that is fast becoming the status quo within print media bothers me a lot."

Kotaku has a response from ZOO editor Paul Merrill saying: "I would like to make it clear that at no time has Rockstar EVER sought a preferential review in return for advertising. In fact no games company has ever suggested this. And Zoo would never give a positive review to a game we didn't rate in return for ad dollars. Toby McCasker was sacked for a number of reasons, one of which was his decision to post a private email on his Facebook page. This email was not referring to a game review. He should not be considered a credible source of information on this matter." News.com.au also has a comment from Rockstar Games Australia: "We are not clear on what the story is here. We always try to present our games in the most compelling way to media and fans alike and of course we, like every other video game publisher in Australia or anywhere else for that matter, want to have our games seen in a positive light." The article also says: "It is understood McCasker had earlier received two official warnings about his behaviour."

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24. Re: Fired Editor Alleges Rockstar Review Pressure Apr 7, 2010, 13:36 Beamer
 
He's not saying no game company ever suggested this, period, he's saying no game company ever suggested this to him and his company.


Christ. You guys read every single thing in the worst possible light, deliberately turning off your own comprehension skills to try to find the worst possible explanation. You're all treating this like Slippery Jim treats the government.

1) The alleged email isn't awful. It's not good, but not awful. It's reminding them that it has received very positive reviews (that's underhanded but not evil) and asking him to treat it like an AAA title (ie with more coverage, not more positive coverage) and not like some shovelware (which it may or may not be.) It's a bad email as it's trying to manipulate, but not evil. Evil would be "remember, we're buying lots of ads with your company. We always have."

2) The email says "article," not "review," and the editor claims it wasn't a review.

3) There's no mention of cash anywhere.



I'm not saying it's good. Not by any means. Nor am I saying the industry is without sin. But I'm saying paid-for reviews and deliberate pressure is rare, especially after the Gamespot incident. What you have more often is the feeling that, unlike movie reviewers, game reviewers have no power. They're parasites that survive solely by the will of the creators. As a result they're easily swept up into hype feeding frenzies (positive and negative), easily swept into cult-of-personalities, and easily made to believe they're friends, all of which tarnishes reviews. But there's no money involved.

With other media, particularly movies but just about anything else, it's different. Most movie reviewers, at least the reputable ones, see movies on their own dime more often than not and, if they attend viewings, cover their own transportation costs. With game reviewers everything is handled by the publisher. With movie reviewers they avoid schmoozing with the celebrities. With game reviewers they split time between reviewing and writing articles idolizing. With movie reviewers that's their career. With game reviewers they're often trying to make contacts and eventually get hired inside the industry itself. With movie reviewers ad revenue from the movies themselves are negligible. With game reviewers they're everything.

None of that is evil from the publishers or conspiracy. None of that is weak-will of the reviewers. Just the way the industry is.
 
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