Editorial: Game Journalists Are Anti-Consumer, Not Bethesda
(Last Updated On: October 30, 2016)

I did an article before covering all the ridiculous ways in which games journalists have devalued the industry and diminished the integrity of game reviews by focusing on political topics or injecting politics into gaming where none was required. This came after Bethesda announced that they were cutting out journalists from early review copies, and journalists responded by throwing a digital tantrum.

Unfortunately, the wily words of journalists were enough to work as a sweet sap to lure some gamers into thinking that Bethesda is the bad guy in this situation. The reality is that Bethesda is just being a corporation… trying to make money. They’re going to go to whatever lengths they need to (within plausible means and the law) to make said money. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but that’s what they do.

This is not an excuse to justify on-disc DLC, pre-order bonuses, retailer specific content, cut-endings or season passes. No, this is to say that we can expect corporations to push the limits against consumers, but it’s supposed to be the job of games journalists to inform consumers and, if necessary, hold accountable the corporations for the things that the consumers find unsavory.

The latter doesn’t happen within the gaming industry; and this push back against Bethesda for cutting journalists out of the loop of early review copies seems more like the game  journalists feeling entitled to early copies of games as opposed to feeling as if their pro-consumer activism is put in jeopardy.

In fact, even in the secret GameJournoPros group — consisting of major gaming media journalists — they couldn’t agree about whether or not they were serving gamers well by doing early access reviews of Simcity when EA’s review servers didn’t perform on par to the consumer servers, which resulted in game reviewers giving the game a much higher score than the average gamer.

That whole escapade was covered in-depth by a piece on Medium. This poses the question: how are early access reviews helpful when game journalists mislead people about the performance of the game due to the review sessions being different from the end-user experience?

Heck, when gamers felt as if EA and BioWare didn’t deliver on what was promised for the ending of Mass Effect 3, games journalists ran to the defense of EA and called gamers “entitled”. IGN even did a piece interviewing EA to dismiss claims about why people hate EA titled “Why Do People Hate EA”. I mean, promising different endings and delivering different colors wasn’t what gamers expected from Mass Effect 3. It’s still something that’s discussed on various game boards, and Deep Freeze has an entry about the debacle titled “Our enemy, the gamers”.

No Man's Sky

Just this past summer you had sites like Polygon and Vice running to the defense of Hello Games, saying that No Man’s Sky’s backlash was unwarranted, and that it was a “nasty” reaction from the audience. It was a spin on the fact that No Man’s Sky released with a lot of undelivered promises, still absent to this very day, prompting for an investigation by the U.K’s Advertising Standards Agency, as reported by Forbes.

Heat Street was one of the few sites that actually came to the defense of the gaming community.

How ironic is it that Polygon was one of the first to then criticize Bethesda about withholding early review copies of their games as if they’re the champions of pro-consumer activism?

Remember, this is the same Polygon who was first to defend Zoe Quinn during the #GamerGate scandal, despite having their own undisclosed ties to the developer. This is also the same Polygon who tried using a secret e-mail group for journalists to silence discussion across the web about the topic in order to protect a friend.

It sounds more like Polygon is in it for self interests and not necessarily because the gaming community deserves to be defended.

“But, but, but… there are others!” you say. Well, there are others sprinkled about the journalism space here and there, but the major mainstream sites are quick to run to the defense of publishers. Heck, CNET and Gizmodo didn’t hesitate to prop up the original Xbox One’s anti-consumer DRM policies against used games, saying that axing the policies made the Xbox One “way worse”. Obviously, it’s pro-consumer to attack gamers for wanting to buy used games… right?

VG 24/7 sided with Blizzard over their use of always-on DRM for Diablo III, penning a piece called “Diablo 3, You can’t log-in and you shouldn’t care”.

VG 24/7 wasn’t even the only one to take that stance. The professional Metacritic scores for Diablo III were glowing, despite a lot of gamers not being able to play due to the DRM. That didn’t stop Digitally Downloaded from calling gamers “entitled” for being angry at not being able to play a game that they paid $60 for. Crave Online was quick to jump on the bandwagon and also call gamers “entitled”. Or how about how EGM Now attacked the gaming audience for a 3.5 out of 10 Metacritic user score because a lot of gamers gave it a 1 out of 10 because the always-on DRM prevented them from playing the single-player mode offline?

These are the people you’re defending in the case of Bethesda axing early review copies? People who get their copies and then attack their audience for not buying into the corporate economy of increasingly anti-consumer antics?

“But, but, but… there are good game journalists!” and how many of them stood up for you when the media lied about the gaming community being a den of misogynists?

Only a few notable sites with any clout fired back. Erik Kain from Forbes called for reasoned heads, as did various YouTubers like TotalBiscuit, and TechRaptor, GamesNosh and Niche Gamer were very small at the time but were willing to throw their hats in with gamers. Were there any other larger websites that said “No, the media is lying… #GamerGate isn’t a harassment campaign”?

How many major websites jumped in to defend Sarkeesian after she lied about #GamerGate? Rock, Paper, Shotgun was quick to demonize their own audience and banned people who didn’t agree with them, even though the abuse organization that Sarkeesian funded, Crash Override Network, couldn’t find any evidence that #GamerGate harassed her!

So not only are they pro-corporatist but they also happen to be anti-facts!

It’s a perfect mixing bowl to diminish the integrity and quality of the gaming industry.

“But, but, but… what about the good ones?!” Yes, there are some good journalists out there, but the ones that go to bat for the consumer all small time. You won’t find good journalists at Newsweek, or the New York Times, or Time Magazine, or Gawker’s remaining subsidiaries, or Rolling Stone Magazine (because otherwise the latter two wouldn’t have been sued for sloppy journalism).

In fact, Gawker recently tanked due to the Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit. And just before that, their subsidiary Kotaku did an in-depth, one-sided hit-piece on a developer at Wildcard Studio that was used in a case to help cost that developer $40 million.

You’re defending these people? Why?

Kotaku was the one who levied unsubstantiated rape allegations at Max Temkin. Kotaku was the one who dragged Stardock Entertainment’s Brad Wardell through the mud over more unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations. Kotaku was the one who started the trend (that other websites followed) in the media where if you supported Dragon’s Crown you were labeled as sexist!

We now have the media to thank for all this “sexism in gaming!” nonsense that has managed to find its way all the way up to the United Nations, even causing them to come down against Japan. Thankfully, Japan told them to bugger off.

The argument I’ve been seeing from some people is that this is an anti-consumer move by Bethesda, and now games journalists can’t help gamers make informed decisions.

My question is: when did games journalists help gamers make informed decisions within the last few years prior to a game’s release? It’s either been aimless shilling, politically motivated posturing, or nonchalant talking-point-regurgitation.

Heck, the journalists didn’t even warn gamers about Aliens: Colonial Marines being nothing like its E3 demo even after they got hands-on time with it… before release! Eurogamer, Digital Trends and Games Radar all failed to mention in their hands-on sessions that none of the game resembled the E3 footage at all, and instead passed it off that it was still “in beta”.

When was the last time the journalists really actually went to bat for gamers when it came to the aggressive DLC or season passes? Heck, some of them even defended Capcom for taking steps to normalize on-disc DLC.

Has the media been defending gaming against charges that games make people violent and sexist? I’ve been seeing the opposite lately, where some of the media have jumped on board with saying that games cause you to become violent and sexist.

Where is this pro-consumer activism that people are saying is being stripped away from games journalism with Bethesda’s latest move? Where did it go? Where has it been? When – within the last few years – has it been so active in bettering and furthering the growth of the gaming industry?

For as far as I can see, games journalism’s pro-consumer activism is about as alive and well as Bambi’s mother.

(Main image courtesy of dogtown1)

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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.

  • FailDRE86

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t review copies freebies from the publisher? If that’s the case how is it anti-consumer to gaming journos?

  • Muten

    “calling gamers “entitled” for being angry at not being able to play a game that they paid $60 for”

    hehe i laugh so hard while reading this.

  • Jason Murdock

    Bethesda has earned the right to do whatever the hell they want.

    Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, and the various versions and off shoots of those games earned them the right to say “Nope, we don’t need you” to so-called games journalists. Journalists have lost the right to even think about saying they care about consumers, and I mean that as a blanket statement for all games journalists. So-called games journalist need to take themselves a lot less seriously. They seriously need to stop taking a swim in Lake Me. You want to be taken seriously again? Take yourselves seriously and do your damned jobs.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t need to a review of certain companies games. Nintendo, Atlus, Natsume, Blizzard and Bethesda, if I’ve decided I want to buy one of their games, I do not need to look at reviews. At most I want to see 30 minutes of game play footage from people I think don’t suck. Konami, Ubisoft, WB, Activision and Vivendi don’t deserve my trust and probably will never get it back. Can that change for any in either group? Maybe, but they’ve all got long, established records. Konami used to be firmly there with Nintendo and Blizzard for quality games. They’ve lost it.

    And one last thing, if any games journalist actually reading this, please stop putting your politics in your games journalism. We just want to know about the games you write about. That’s it. We, for the most part, don’t give two shits if a dev supports someone you hate. We care if they can write a line of code that doesn’t crash the game. That’s it. Keep your politics out of it and you’ll get readers back.

    • TBill

      I suppose you are right about Bethesda. You pretty much know the full list of expected bugs in their games on release basically because they are the same as in every game. Much like you know to never buy a Civ game until after the first major DLC. Except thanks to early reviews, Civ 6 apparently is the exception to that rule.

  • C G Saturation

    As far as I’m concerned, game journalists and Bethesda have both proven themselves to be very anti-consumer, or more specifically, anti-everybodyelse.

  • Kage

    Absolutely brilliant article. I’ve stopped visiting the major gaming sites ages ago, and it’s been fecking great. Besides, I already know what games I like to buy (I really don’t need some hipster twat telling me that the latest Mario or Zelda is good).

  • Marcus Lawshe’

    Masterful work as always good sir.

  • Toni Martins

    The main problem is that game jornalists are not gamers(and they don’t even try to hide this fact) anymore. Maybe it is because they got old,or have a family to care,less free time overall or maybe they came to the VG industry because it was the only place with low standards enough to accept them,but the point is they do not represent what the average gamer think,like or even care about on videogames. Thus, it makes no sense that we still listen to them and more important why do developers(mostly western developers) care about so much about what this guys have to say. It is just too much power for a group who doesn’t represent its own audience anymore.

    To me,bethesda and other developers should start giving early copies to e-celebs on youtube and twitch.This people tend to be gamers with opinions and tastes more in line with what the audience wants which makes their reviews much more reliable.

  • anopolis

    I remember wwaaaayyyy back in the day…shit…1998/99….egm got a new Editor in chief…who loved to refer to himself as a journalist, and was serious about his trade…I said it then and i’ll say it now…if you write about video games and just about video games..you kind sir are no damned journalist…go play your games.

    • C G Saturation

      I’d still prefer they write about just games than bitch about breast sizes and stupid shit like that. Either way, it doesn’t really make them “journalists”.

  • Alistair

    The turncoat TB is in favor of the press getting a review copy first,

    What if no mans sky got a delay review, no hyping up a game, no misleading lies. The whole fucking press loved it.

    & it turn out to be a turkey.

    Echhi games get reviewed or should I say nav reviews. Because of content not how it played.

    • Pesty

      TB isn’t a turncoat for being against Bethesda’s decision. If more of the journalists were actually pro-consumer like he is, then the justification for early review copies would have a lot more merit. TB really only spoke for himself, despite how generally he applied his reasoning.

      The problem is that the vast majority of the reviewer pool does not function the way that he does, nor with even half the integrity that he shows.

      • anopolis

        that my man, was a well spoken counter..i like your style..and agree with ya

      • Mr.Towel

        This might be a case of two wrongs don’t make a right. TB is speaking truth to the issue, if the world worked in a ideal way.

        The problem is: it doesn’t. It does not work in an ideal way. And the lesser of the two evil is not giving early copies, simple as that. Because early copies have little purpose other than day launch hype.

        • TBill

          The lesser of 2 evils is never a restriction of information. When a company intentionally restricts review copies to only their preferred reviewers, they could could easily be accused of buying reviews. Why? Everyone knows that if the company dislikes what you say, then you can be cut out from the review process, as well. After all, there is a precedent that the company will take such an action.

          • Alistair

            I see this a double edge sword, some press journalists are not bias above comments from me Don’t see all press journalists as bias.

            So journalists are gamers and some are not. I see why you think that devs be asscused of buying Reviews, but it could also be use to bash a game.

            While months the game hangs in the Air, before the release of game is not healthy for that game.

            We found out the game censored, the press doing the Moral judgement. Easily to put of gamers.

          • Mr.Towel

            Restriction of Information is the hell of an exaggeration. It’s not vital information for game itself, not even for the consumer. It’s only vital for Early Information, which is just a tiny bit of information there is regarding said game. Not only that but such information becomes obsolete very quickly.

            For logistical reasons it’s already impossible to send early review copies to all journalists, so a level of manipulation already occurs to early review copies, it’s just not as blatant.

            As I said, early reviews have very little purpose other than day launch hype, they are more of a marketing ploy. They’re not particularly reliable reviews, much to the contrary, they exist mainly to create buzz around the game launch to remind potential buyers, many of them impulsive, that the game exists. The marketing people get cheap advertising and the journalists get sure clicks, while the consumer is fed quickly parsed unreliable information which might very much misguide them, as it often happen. It’s a win-win situation for them and little of substantial for us.

          • TBill

            I would say that pre-release information is absolutely vital to the the consumer. Without this information, how will you know whether to buy a game or not? How can a consumer make any informed purchase decision? Several people would have to bite the bullet and buy the game in order to disseminate the information. Are you willing to spend money and write the reviews to inform your fellow consumers?

            It actually isn’t hard to send copies to major journalists, youtubers, and websites. We are dealing with digital copies, after all. Publishers use marketing companies to send the digital codes out.

            I disagree strongly with the value of early reviews. It is better to know the pros and cons of things prior to going on sale than waiting until after they are already being sold.

            Early reviews to work properly should be as close to release as possible. They are not alpha/beta tests, they are release copies so that the consumer knows what they will get on Day 1.

          • Mr.Towel

            People can buy their games after release, the game will not change for the worse suddenly some days after release, they can buy it after actual serious review have been done to it after release, these are the most reliable reviews, they’ll be supplied by more precise and digestible information with it. The need to have a bunch of impulsive buyers right on release day benefits the publisher, not the consumer. The consumer gains literally nothing from experiencing the game earlier than other gamer. If he’s a conscious pro-consumer gamer, he will wait for serious reviews be done to the game, not to buy early simply to be one of the first to play. If he chooses to do that it will be on his own risk for not waiting. The uncertainty risk is the premium price he pays for jumping first.

            Pre-release information doesn’t need to be an early hasted review, the marketing people will be pretty damn sure the consumer can get as much as good
            information as possible from when the game is announced till its release, the consumer can get a pretty good feel of the direction of the game if he follows these information. This kind of information is not particularly worse than early reviews even though they’re obviously manipulated to make the game look good, they’re promises, but unless they’re untrue (and that weights entirely on the publisher)they’re no more damaging and misleading than early reviews can be. Early reviews can completely set the tone for how the community will judge a given game and you just need one reviewer with an agenda on his mind to derail how the community will absorb that game. If the reviews come later, after many gamers themselves have tried the game on their own, through the suggestion of friends and their own decision based on pre-release information, based on those who pre-order, who the are the majority of pre-release sells, then they are much better to confront the quality of reviewers and their reviews.

            And I’m not talking to release early copy reviews before the game is finished, this is a ridiculous assumption. I’m talking about finishing a game months earlier than its release date, that’s the ideal way to work with art, That’s how many good artists, particular writers, produce their work. They finish it much earlier than its release and then just let it age in secrecy, to cure the work in their minds, they put in a drawer and forget about it, start working on other projects and just let the finished old alone, just so some months after they can go back to look at the finished piece with a fresh mind. That’s how the schedule of good game producing should work (some indies have done it this way), if publishers did not rush developers to meet badly calculated timetables based on maximum profit gain in short term. After that the game can go gold for reviewers to review it early, before the launch, without expecting day one patches or the like, then they can play the game on their own pace, according to what his readers demand.

      • Alistair

        Oh he isn’t like mundanematt not a shill for Candid, okay how about inconsistent then.

        We could accept the status qou, with devs continued to give out games months in advanced to press journalists.

        And continued the game bashing that Will effect sales. Or No-One will get a upper handed either gamer or journalists.

        I do not mind if journalist get the game few weeks before us gamers get a look.

        There noting wrong of having a level playing field ATM it isnt.

        Plus i never put TB with regression left, he entitled to his opinion. As of mine.

  • DDD-kun

    I challenge all journalists from all walks to read this list, click the links, and refute any one charge mentioned. And this isn’t even the lion’s share of the cancerous situation games journalism themselves have helped nurture.

  • Professor_Icepick

    You’re preaching to the choir here. The days when mainstream video game journalism cared for gamers in general has long since past. And while it truly is dire straits when I consider the publishers more trustworthy than the journalists, I can’t really call our current scenario a grave: it’s the future gaming journalists’ chose.

    One such argument I’ve heard against this new practice is that it will negatively impact the quality of the game’s criticism. Considering the current state of gaming criticism, that almost seems like a positive in my eyes — it’s so shoddy at this point, I’m just morbidly curious to see what “rock bottom” looks like. Like, we get reviews where points get taken off for female characters being too sexy; political discourse from talking heads so pretentious and shallow, even the stupidest high school freshmen wouldn’t buy into their bullshit and talk of making video games “a respectable art form” — by removing everything long-time enthusiasts hold dear. If this is the quality we’re supposed to protect, then frankly, I’d honestly rather see what happens when it’s stripped away.

    • Well said. I don’t think it can be stressed enough that game journalists turned the entire atmosphere into a toxic wasteland. They’re the ones who battled against their own audience, stuck up for publishers for actual anti-consumer practices and even fought against things like Steam’s user reviews and Valve’s forced implementation of a refund system after they lost the suit against the ACCC. It’s impossible for me to take them serious when there’s been nothing but a string of anti-consumer sentiment and now they’re crying when the publishers take away early access to the toys.

      As the once great and wise Justin Timberlake once said, “Cry me a river.”

    • Alistair

      That another good point, as it only echhi games or mainstream triple A titles that depict women charaters as sexy is a bad thing.

      & the reason the press is butt hurt is a dev got the gall to strip that away.

      TB is of course not in favour of this.

      As a gamer I don’t really fucking care what a game has adult themes. Is the game full of bugs. What the gameplay like. A week before the release review would tell me if the game is good.

    • C G Saturation

      Yeah, quality criticism like IGN’s God Hand “review” where they played it for about 10 minutes and quit because it was too hard.

      Or GameSpot’s Onechanbara R “review” where the female “reviewer” just kept bitching that the main character’s outfit included a bikini, because she didn’t like any other female showing off her body like she had a habit of doing.

      Or Kotaku panning Dragon’s Crown because big boobs = lolicon created by adolescent, and shirtless dwarves hanging out = homophobia.

      Anyone with a brain would immediately realize that none of the above actually helps people decide if a game is worth playing, unless you’re more concerned about social justice than actually playing games.

  • TT

    So it’s come to this huh…honestly, the media in general has shown themselves to be completely unethical lately, at best being paid shills, at worst smear merchant propagandists. It’s even more ridiculous that these are for gaming news no less…Bethesda is within their right to do so, may not be a great thing, possibly might even be bad, but considering how awful the main gaming sites have become(there’s a few good ones though), I could care less what they do.

  • Hawk Hopper

    I wonder if there is or ever will be a Wikileaks style organization for video games. Lets say that they get leaks of a game about to come out that shows it not working correctly but is still going to be sold to gamers. This Gamerleaks would then show the game not working to gamers before they buy it. They could even get hold of emails from devs and publishers acknowledging that the game isn’t working, but they’re going to sell it anyways and are going to rely on patches to fix its problems.

    That seems to be way more pro consumer than just saying “don’t pre-order games” or giving game journos early copies so that they have ample time to find something to form a crybully mob about.

    • Fenrir007

      I don’t think a wikileaks is needed for gaming. Anyone with insider info can drop by their favorite forum or, if they wanna go full anon, go to the nearest imageboard and drop all info they have there. Gamers are very internet-savvy, so it will spread very quickly.

      • Hawk Hopper

        But how many times has this happened? Did anything leak from Ubisoft showing that things like Watchdogs sucked, and more recently, was anything leaked from No Mans Sky showing it to be less than advertised?

        Instead of relying on some kindly soul to dump stuff onto a forum, there needs to be people actively finding evidence before a game is released showing that the product to be sold has problems.

        • Fenrir007

          You need insiders for that kind of info. Even if you assemble a team, you have to work with what is given to you by someone from the inside.

          • That’s pretty risky because what’s to stop the insider from leaking vital proprietary tech to rival companies for a price? That’s like one step away from corporate espionage.

          • Hawk Hopper

            Unless someone within the games industry is like Podesta and loses their phone while getting out of a taxi or if their servers aren’t as secure as they should be. What happened in the political space can also happen with the games industry. You don’t even need a 400 pound Russian hacker.

          • Fenrir007

            If that happens, anyone who gets a hold of that info can simply forward the material to a publication of their choice, or even post it in the wild in 8chan or so and let it be spread from there.

          • Hawk Hopper

            Putting the material on forums or imageboards is just passive aggressive. Why not actively put pressure on publishers and developers that are doing these shitty practices? Why not be in their face about them ripping off their customers?

          • Fenrir007

            Information put on forums or imageboards doesn’t stay there – that is the point.

          • Hawk Hopper

            …until shill mods and janitors wipe all discussion of it.

            But really, after how many years of shitty ports, poor optimization, bad games, etc, has any information hit forums or imageboards before the game was released and made gamers not buy the game and cancel pre-orders?

          • Fenrir007

            Mods can’t control imageboards. That is why they are always superior to regular forums. User uprising is real and feasible in there. Also, I find it hard to believe you would be able to censor this kind of information in a place without a central leadership like 8chan. If one board doesnt want it there, you can post on another.

          • Hawk Hopper

            Less about centralized control and more about OP never delivering.

            How many vague ass threads have been started by people insinuating they have insider knowledge about this year’s US election only for basically none of it to come true? OPs and anons have a real inconsistent record about producing evidence, whereas Wikileaks has produced all the evidence it has, including really mundane things.

            If someone starts a thread or a 8chan board about a particular topic and doesn’t produce any evidence, everything they said is useless. What is needed is whole databases of emails being leaked for everyone to see and search, and for those emails, videos, texts, whatever, to be confirmed to be real by the people who sent them.

          • Fenrir007

            The point is that you can dump evidence of anything in an imageboard, or you can just post your stories without anytrhintg to back them up to motivate people to dig in a certain direction, all in completely anonymous.

          • Hawk Hopper

            Few people have taken advantage of their anon status on imageboards to show the problems with games about to be sold.