Hairy-balled egomaniac, Rob Florence, the (probably) self-proclaimed architect of online games media and comedy writer stepped down/was sacked from Eurogamer today over his opinion piece about a recent interview, with industry name, Geoff Keighley about the upcoming Spike TV Video Game Awards (or, "how viacom has their cake and eats it") in which many gamers passed criticism about the glaringly obvious product placement around him. Which is nothing major, as Spike TV would have insisted Geoff was sat next to a big fat-bastard bag of Doritos, while he talked about the future of games journalism. But still a depressing visual metaphor on the state of games media as it stands.
He then talked about his observations in UK games journalism -and the mutual masturbation of egos that is the GMAs- and relationship between games journalists and games publisher's PR people.
"I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won’t name them here, because it’s a horrible thing to do, but I’m sure some of you will know who they are"Except, rather hysterically, he went ahead and named two journos in particular who had won PS3s by using a # to promote a game (published by a company that also sponsored the pre-award show drinks at this years GMAs) on their twitter feed. Which instantly got heat from one of the journalists mentioned, who cried foul, prompting Eurogamer to remove the offending passage. Which we're about to quote, for your convenience.
"One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: “Urm… Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that’s a bad thing?”
Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: “Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider pic.twitter.com/VOWDSavZ”
And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist’s apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she’s in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I’m sure she isn’t, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?
Another journalist, one of the winners of the PS3 competition, tweeted this at disgusted RPS writer John Walker: “It was a hashtag, not an advert. Get off the pedestal.” Now, this was Dave Cook, a guy I’ve met before. A good guy, as far as I could tell. But I don’t believe for one second that Dave doesn’t understand that in this time of social media madness a hashtag is just as powerful as an advert. Either he’s on the defensive or he doesn’t get what being a journalist is actually about."
Pretty strong words from a guy who's games media credentials include a short-lived video series on Xbox LIVE and a TV show nobody saw. And pretty surprising Eurogamer published the original article in the first place, seeing as they're very careful of anyone making personal digs. Especially at other people in the business. I guess being a internet darling really does carry some weight? But the plot thickens.
As soon as the offending section was removed, people assumed that Lauren Wainwright's employer, MCV (an industry news site) had threatened legal action over Florence's allegation that Wainwright's journalistic integrity (if there ever was any) had been compromised for the sake of a free games console. Which MCV editor-in-chief, Michael French denied on twitter. Although Florence's twitter suggests different. I don't see what the fuss is all about. All Wainwright did was mention the new Tomb Raider in a positive manner. It's not as if she ever worked for Square Enix, like say...in between jobs for Playboy and News International?
At the time of writing Wainwright has removed Square Enix from her journalisted.com profile and has made her twitter private. Meanwhile, award-winning games journalist (I think the award is for swimming), gave a back track on his twitter that the console he won was for a competition, and has now been given away to charity. Well god bless your finely kept beard, Dave. That would be my excuse too!
Now, Rob Florence has always been a smug prick, who's only real contribution to games journalism is that he inspired a whole generation of talentless idiots, with camcorders to film their own gaming videos and stick them on youtube. Which, in turn, inspired people to make online videos about games that were actually good. And the Doritos next to Geoff Knighley was just Viacom swinging it's corporate dick about. But regardless of Florence's misplaced sense of importance, he does make a very good point, in that many gamers are becoming more and more suspicious of the legitimacy of the journalism they read. Granted, that's always gonna happen if you -as a reviewer- commit the crime of under/over-scoring a game. But when your job is to write about and critique video games, yet work for game publishers or out and out promote a game (that clearly isn't some obscure indie game that could do with some extra attention) it's clearly creating a conflict of interest. See also, Julia Hardy and the Outside Xbox lot.
The other, more important point is that a journalist-or rather their employer- silenced another journalist because they didn't like what was said about them. Florence didn't make any personal on either Wainwright or Cook. He made an observation on their public (in the sense that anyone could of seen their twitter feed) behaviour. If Wainwright or MCV had a serious problem with it, why didn't they write a rebuttal piece, explaining the situation? Instead of threatening another writer with the UK's libel laws? Or maybe think that openly accepting gifts from the very companies that you're supposed to be subjective about, raises serious questions about your credibility as a games journalist? Oh wait... if you're a UK games journalist, you have no credibility. Never mind, carry on an enjoy the free booze and t-shirts