Critical Distance Has More Than Two Dozen Conflicts Of Interest With Silverstring Media
(Last Updated On: May 19, 2016)

A number of conflicts of interest have been explored and exposed by some of the anonymous diggers who have been working around the clock since #GamerGate started to put certain poor practices of video game journalism front and center for everyone within the community to see. The latest foray into digging centers around a lack of disclosure between Critical Distance and one of their patrons, Silverstring Media.

On Twitter, Maximus Honkmus tweeted out a pastebin file containing a number of linked citations where the video game media outlet, Critical Distance, wrote about or referenced material or individuals from the consultancy and PR firm Silverstring Media without disclosure.

As pointed out at the start of the pastebin file, Silverstring Media is a Patreon supporter of Critical Distance.

An alternate archive of the Patreon page shows that they have at least been supporting Critical Distance financially through Patreon since mid 2014.

If you attempt to access Silverstring’s Patreon page as of the writing of this article, it states that the page is private, so the public is unable to see who they contribute to financially.

More than a dozen conflicts of interest are listed in the pastebin, where various members of Critical Distance have written about products or individuals from Silverstring Media without at least disclosing that Silverstring Media has financial ties to Critical Distance.

As for the examples of conflicts of interest… an archive of Silverstring’s project page shows that one of their projects includes a game called Glitchhikers. The game was mentioned in a piece on May 25th, 2014 where they link to an extended blog about the game.

In another instance, on April 17th, 2015 Zoya Street, Silverstring Media’s editor-in-chief, joined Critical Distance to discuss the history of Everyday Games. Neither the intro article or podcast disclose that Silverstring Media has financial ties to Critical Distance.

Critical Distance also brought on Zoya Street as their senior curator in 2016, and further promoted Silverstring’s employees in a round-up piece on March 20th, 2016 by linking to content produced by Street without any disclosure of financial ties.

It’s very interesting because after #GamerGate took off in the late summer and fall of 2014, even Game Informer started posting up disclosures in their articles whenever they would write about or mention GameStop, their parent company.

In this case, Critical Distance seems to have made no effort in making disclosures a primary goal of their endeavors.

Ironically enough, Twitter user nuckable linked to a discussion from back in 2013, where Critical Distance was criticized by Dan Cox from Video Games and Human Values Initiative in a Google Group discussion where contributor to Critical Distance, Cameron Kunzelman, wanted to start a new feature where they would discuss the things they liked and didn’t like about Critical Distance in the previous week. Cox responded with…

“While I think this has the potential to generate discussion, it also opens the doorway to complain about Critical Distance itself. For example, I have already seen “Cameron Kunzelman’s game got linked to? Doesn’t he contribute to Critical Distance?” as a response to this latest post.”

The issue of disclosure and conflicts of interest were shutdown in that thread by Zach Alexander, who was the deputy curator at the time, who replied with the following…

“[…] please please -please- start a separate thread about CD’s selection bias. it’s a discussion, but it’s different from talking about the cool things that WERE linked.”

The pastebin also reveals that articles published by Silverstring Media employees promoted Critical Distance content without disclosing that they financially invest in the outlet.

#GamerGate essentially blew up over the fact that game journalists and game developers had become so close as friends that some game journalists were wistfully writing about their “friends” without any sort of disclosure. They were effectively using their media platforms to help push specific people into the spotlight, unbeknownst to the average reader.

Most gamers don’t mind if a journalist is promoting a friend, lover or financial investor’s game, but they do mind if it’s not disclosed. In the case of the last example, the FTC certainly cares if a financial investor’s product is not disclosed.

I informed Critical Distance about the conflicts of interest. Hopefully from here on we’ll see disclosures when they cover products from those who are financially invested in the outlet.

(Main image courtesy of Mangy Black Sheep)

Ads (learn more about our advertising policies here)


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • Tony Stark

    Silverstring Media handles the PR of certain advocates of progressive change in the games industry. Astroturfing is their specialty.

    • Yep, Jonathan McIntosh’s profile said as much. It was funny because he had the same sort of description in his profile that described Gawker’s initiatives back in 2012 to capitalize on the “emotions” of visitors with transmedia content. It was working out well enough until #GamerGate punched them in the nuts and Hulk Hogan dropped them for the three count.

      • Celerity

        So I seen this auditing site used and finally found it. I’m really not sure how well it works though, given it IDs various people known for lots of fake follows as 75-85% legit.

        I also have 2 bot follows, apparently.

  • Celerity

    So here’s a quick exercise for everyone:

    Open the enclosed pastebin.

    Ctrl+F Darkest Dungeon.

    Spoilers: There’s hits. There’s also hits on Crypt of the Necrodancer (Klei Entertainment) who did their cutscenes.
    Just one more rock in the mountain of evidence this is all one big clique. Which I find hilarious given that:

    1: I first fought this by accident when looking at general #GamerGate stuff, and was not investigating that corruption specifically.
    2: I’m an autist troll shitposter and I’m far better at the whole investigative journalism thing than many of those who are actually getting paid for this.

    The only way it could be better is if I had directly discovered that information myself, but no I am not one of those anon sources.

    • giygas

      “19th COI:

      Kris Ligman promotes an interview with developers from Crypt of the Necrodancer, a game Silverstring helped produce.

      Lastly on the subject of design, here is Kitfox’s Tanya Short together
      with a panel of other developers on their experiences designing
      procedurally generated games (video) such as Moon Hunters, Dwarf
      Fortress, Crypt of the Necrodancer and Darkest Dungeon.”

      Following link chain, they were on a panel about procedural generation at Pax Prime. There’s no doubt about Silverstring’s involvement with Crypt of the Necrodancer but I can’t find anything that suggests a COI with Red Hook.

      • Celerity

        Klei worked on their game. Implicating them implicates Red Hook, especially when they’re very buddy buddy and actively promote each other constantly. Particularly when combined with all the other evidence against them. Some of which Billy has already done an article about:

        Aside from what’s listed there, I have since caught them manipulating votes a third time (right now), providing favorable reviews for their own game without disclosure, a high volume of suspect yellow flag reviews in general in the week prior especially and overall in general, and using their country literally being on fire as a promotional outlet.

        If evidence manifested this week proving they were somehow responsible for the Holocaust (despite not being alive then) I wouldn’t be THAT surprised, so connections with a corrupt promotion outlet, who is also connected with countless other members of the same clique? Completely believable and within the realm of reason. I’m being mildly hyperbolic here, but only mildly. That itself is telling of the sort of people I’m talking about.

  • Ajt

    I seem to recall that we had figured out back in 2014 that there was no so much an undisclosed patron conflict between Critical Distance and Silverstring. It was more Critical Distance was in fact an internal propaganda arm of Silverstring. It was a shell outfit specifically for getting Silverstrings loopy pop culture sociology published to gaming sites.

    Getting their ideas published was the goal. The entire purpose of it all, going back to some of Zoya Streets plans, was to do an end run around academic peer review for their crackpot theories, by getting them published in accepted sources for Wikkipedia. Thus they could be seeded as common knowledge and show up high on search results without all that messy science and academic review. It was never about video games. It was simply that the video games media conveniently had a low (ok no) bar of entry for writers, low editorial standards, while at the same time they were acceptable by Wikkipedia rules.

    And before you ask. The reason we knew this is up until late September or October 2014 Silverstring actually had a white paper happily published on their web site, on the subject of “Eliminating the need for oppressive Academic Peer Review” which spelled it all out like a manifesto from Dr. Evil. At one point it was linked in one of The Escapists infamous mega threads, at which point Silverstring nuked it. Somebody might still have an archive of it. It was written by one of the major players, possibly Zoya Street, and seemed to dovetail rather explicitly with Samantha Allen’s infamous “open letter” from June 2013 that outlined the “Gamers are Dead” articles fully a year before they were published.

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

  • C G Saturation

    I’m still seeing tons of corruption everywhere, every day. Literally everything is layers and layers of corruption. It shows that if humans go unpunished, they will continue to enact greedy misdeeds for self gain at everyone else’s expense.

  • scemar

    this is some real investigative stuff
    the things the media would usually do if it wasn’t too busy measuring the depth of polygon assholes