[Update: N4G’s administrator made an update in a blog post regarding #GamerGate submissions following the publication of this article]
Corruption is what gave #GamerGate purpose. The “Gamers Are Dead” articles is what gave it rage. Censorship is what formed it in the first place. So to no one’s surprise, we’re seeing the ugly head of censorship crop up once more in the news aggregation space, this time on N4G.
What is N4G? It’s supposed to be a community-curated news aggregator covering gaming news, culture and the industry. It’s like Reddit, Digg or other news aggregators out there, except it’s specifically for games.
Previously people suspected something was up with N4G when it came to the topic of #GamerGate, but they didn’t know how to address it. Well, one of the administrators for the site finally addressed the issue of censorship, corruption and #GamerGate in a lengthy blog post on the gaming news aggregation site back on January 15th, 2015.
“As it stands, our policy on GamerGate news is that if it is not directly about video games, it does not belong on N4G. This is the same as our policy on TV and computer hardware news. While they are utilized and related to video games, all of them, now including GamerGate, are more than just about video games.”
Christopher mentions that issues relating to feminism, social justice warriors, and he-said she-said from Twitter can clog up the news with social culture drama.
The above makes sense, but what about news about the gaming industry that affects the kind of news you receive about your favorite titles or how you receive the news?
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it was recently discovered that PC Gamer’s executive editor Tyler Wylde was involved intimately with a PR specialist at Ubisoft. While in the relationship, he actively covered Ubisoft games without disclosure.
After the conflict of interest was made public, PC Gamer decided to issue an apology and an update on their disclosure policies regarding journalists being in relationships with those working on the design side of the industry.
One user submitted an article about the PC gamer issue, but it was failed for not being gaming related. It was failed by N4G administrator, Christopher.
According to Christopher, he mentions in the blog post that submissions about #GamerGate will be addressed on a case-by-case situation, stating…
“If you see a submission on GamerGate that you don’t think does anything to provide news as it relates to video games, please report it. If you think it needs to be addressed sooner, submit a ticket about the submission. We will look at it and do our best to make sure that it meets our guidelines.”
Well, what do the guidelines say? Are there any rules specifically about these kind of submissions? No. Ultimately it’s left up to the mods and administrators to decide what they allow on the site, even if it fits within the general guidelines.
I addressed the power of the community curation process on a Reddit thread, and purpose of a community driven site about games that limit the discussion about the important factors that affect the industry. According to Christopher…
“Saying it’s curated doesn’t mean that whatever users submit and approve goes. There are rules and guidelines to the site. They are supposed to be followed and moderators are there to try and make sure they are followed.“
There’s nothing in the guidelines that detail the types of articles not allowed on the site. In fact, I inquired about this very topic several times over the past couple of months but haven’t received a response from the administrators about this topic.
Moreover, how does a site being involved in an ethical conflict of interest that affects how gaming news is delivered – and then making changes to their disclosure and ethics policies that continue to affect the way you receive gaming news – not related to video games?
Essentially, if a site is plagiarizing news, being bribed to alter the news or partaking in any other kind of conflict of interest, shouldn’t it be in the community’s interest to know if a gaming news website is compromised in some way?
When asked about this very topic, Christopher commented on the blog post, saying…
“You can discuss the gaming industry here. But, gaming journalism != gaming industry.” … “It’s not about being important or not. It’s about being about video games.”
Essentially Christopher argues that the people who dictate the news you receive about video games shouldn’t be news on a site that is called “News 4 Gamers”.
In regards to where corruption in the industry can be discussed, Christopher states…
“Where can it? On our forums? On reddit? On twitter? On NeoGaf? On sites that don’t have a direct focus as N4G does.“
Reddit has banned #GamerGate from the main gaming channels. It’s right there on the sidebar of the /r/Games sub-Reddit. NeoGaf doesn’t allow open discussion about #GamerGate. Twitter is not a platform for discussion. GiantBomb, GameSpot and most other top gaming sites have also banned or locked discussion about discussing corruption by games media. Only a few large gaming communities actually allow unfettered discussion on the topic.
The only viable solution Christopher mentions is the N4G forums. But essentially, it’s keeping the news about corruption outside of the news sphere and only in the forums, away from the general view of the public.
According to Christopher…
“N4G isn’t supporting anything but their direction to be about video game news. GamerGate has stepped outside of that. It is more political and social than anything else now.”
Citation needed. Dictating what news people are allowed to see about a topic based on subjective biases – especially when purposefully censoring topics related to an industry that the site is designed around covering – fits the very definition of corruption.
When asked why articles about journalistic impropriety by games journalists are being failed, Christopher states…
“And that would be fine on a site that discusses journalists as it relates to this topic. N4G is not about discussing journalism, but about video games.”
“I can understand you think they are one and the same, but we have decided they are not. Why? Because it greatly detracts from the direction of providing video game news and strays into what we have had, which is social media.”
Discussing the impropriety of journalists isn’t even a topic news outlets are willing to discuss. As admitted by a reporter from the ABC, they purposefully chose to ignore corruption and run a harassment angle on #GamerGate. And as stated by David Pakman, corruption in games media just isn’t that important a topic to pursue as other world events, which is a fine stance to take if you have no vested interest in the $86 billion dollar gaming industry… but then where does that leave corruption in games media?
If you can’t talk about corruption in games media with mainstream media or on video game forums or on video game aggregators, then where can you?
Added to this, why is it that issues about games journalism couldn’t be allowed in the industry or culture sections of N4G? This aspect of the topic was never addressed nor discussed. If you look at the culture and industry sections of N4G you’ll see that some of the articles are not directly gaming related, but they are still allowed up on the site. As evidenced from the screen captures below.
The above image is from the industry section. One article discussed how to write for video games, while another asks users if they like the Nintendo Direct. The very top article actually on the page is about a man dying from playing too many games. How exactly is that more game related than PC Gamer and Ubisoft being in a conflict of interest? Well, the article was submitted after Christopher’s blog post. So maybe that explains it?
In the culture section we have two articles back-to-back that deal directly with social issues. Something Christopher mentioned that was a problem with #GamerGate submissions.
Even more than that we see that the culture section also had two articles at the top that dealt directly with the sociological aspects of gaming and another that is literally about politics.
Now I understand wanting to limit posts about Twitter twaddle and pointless bickering, but articles pointing out corruption in the games industry seems about as important as telling the government to “keep out of our games at all costs”.
Now some of you might think that corruption in gaming can be discussed and propagated through N4G’s news cycle if it’s at least related directly to games. This is not the case.
“No gamergate articles unrelated to videogames. This clearly has nothing to do with videogames and is simply an agenda piece whose purpose is to attack industry figures. These are no longer allowed as per the admins as the are not gaming related.“
N4G moderator cl1983 concurred with darkride66’s summation, failing the article before anymore users could have a say. His reasons? …
“While it does discuss a few games the heart of the piece isn’t the games but gamer gate.“
The article never mentions the word “GamerGate” once, but highlights corruption in the games industry and the similitude to the corruption featured in the three highlighted games.
I decided to ask cl1983 why he mentioned “GamerGate” as a reason to fail the article when the topic was never brought up or mentioned in the article. According to cl1983…
“Relation ships between devs and journalist is gamer gate, whether you call it that or not either way your submission wasn’t about games but the other aspects.”
So even if #GamerGate isn’t mentioned, any kind of topic broaching the subject of corruption within the games industry dealing with developers or journalists is not allowed on N4G. Hence, if a site is known for corruption, they can still make use of N4G, and even if they’re caught doing something unethical in how they cover gaming news, you can’t bring it to the attention of the community by submitting an article about it.
This is somewhat striking given that the mods allowed another article through detailing Five Gaming Trends You’re Likely To See In 2015 from ABC – yes, the same Australian Broadcasting Corporation that’s been running hit-pieces on #GamerGate. Conveniently enough, there’s an entire section of the article dedicated to the social and cultural aspects #GamerGate, which is precisely what the admin claimed they wanted to avoid.
This isn’t the first time cl1983 has committed to this kind of behavior. Previously he failed Milo’s Breitbart piece exposing the Game Journo Pros list, saying “This isn’t gaming related.” Another administrator reversed cl1983’s decision after being notified about the article being failed. Here, he’s actively trying to cover up a secret cabal of journalists who run a monopoly over gaming media. Is that not something gamers should be made aware of?
One user, SilentNegotiator, replied in the report section against cl1983 saying…
“How game news is handled is not game news?”
Now, to cl1983’s credit, he did recently fail an anti-#GamerGate article that was promoting professional victimhood.
As for Christopher, he previously failed an article back in mid November, 2014 about former Bioware developer Damion Schubert calling out Kotaku for their poor journalistic ethics. He stated that it was a “compilation of old news”, even though the apology from James Fudge at Game Politics was published on November 11th, 2014 and Damion Schubert’s apology was published on October 21st, 2014.
Christopher and cl1983 also didn’t allow for multiple interviews from The Escapist regarding #GamerGate interviews. Cl1983 submitted the base article from The Escapist as an “opinion piece” to prevent anyone from submitting individual interviews from the collage. According to Christopher, The Escapist interviews about #GamerGate can’t be submitted as interviews because they are classified as “opinion pieces”…
“It’s not really an Interview so much as just a sharing of opinions on a single item. That’s why it’s an opinion piece. An Interview would entail a more personal series of questions aimed at one specific person or group of people specific to a single game/company.
“This is done all the time, oftentimes a site will take opinions from their users and post it as its own opinion piece.
“It’s also the fact that it’s an opinion and not fact-based info being shared.”
You can read the entire feature on The Escapist with interviews from various developers and decide for yourself if it’s a single opinion piece or multiple interviews.
[Update:] Also, one of the most infamous article failings dealing with corruption is the article that kickstarted the community involvement to start digging into the media’s dirty laundry in the first place. The article regarding Kotaku’s “sex for favors” from GamesNosh. Failed and re-approved and failed again multiple times.
Furthermore, I asked some of the mods what they thought about their jobs as mods on the site, with one mod, coolbeans, stating…
“I was warned it was thankless work before accepting to volunteer so I guess I have no right to complain when that’s often, not always, the case. There are times I’m disappointed in myself for not being quicker in moderating guideline-infringing comments–who knew time management between RL life, fun, etc. would be so tough?–and hope that with this new year I’ll be able to do better in keeping…some semblance of what “peace” on the internet might be considered and encouraging more civil, well-rounded discussion around here.”
I also asked about the way the site is handling some of the news, rules and politics of how information is allowed or disallowed for community curation. Coolbeans offered his take on the recent changes at N4G regarding news centering entirely on games and not the industry attached to it, saying…
“I guess the most succinct way of unpacking that would be as follows:
“When seeing the numerous amount of submission-oriented tickets and further discussions had by certain members of mod/admin team, I’m always left with the impression that they’re driven for the betterment of this site.”
Another mod disagrees with this sentiment but did not want to go on record to say anything, due to the risk of losing their position.
Essentially, critics can’t claim that Twitter is a bad place for discussion and that it fosters negativity and “toxic” behavior from the consumer revolt, yet opt to censor or ban discussion regarding the topic on their own sites. That only perpetuates the “yelling” and “screaming” on Twitter. You can’t have it both ways.
If N4G’s administrators are serious about not being corrupt, they will at least try to adhere to making a public ethics and guideline policy for mods and users regarding what submissions are allowed and which ones are not… and stay consistent about it.
For those of you who would like to further discuss the issues of N4G’s policies and guidelines, be sure to contact their parent company, HAVAmedia, at the following address: hello(at)havamedia(dot)com or reach out to the CEO of HAVAmedia, Vegard Aure, at the following address: vegard(at)havamedia(dot)com