Save for a number of snarky comments on Twitter, and last week’s “Are you a true games journalist?“, I’ve tried to directly stay out of the whole MCV and Square Enix debacle. It pains me that a lot of readers now just take it for granted that shoddy journalism is how the games journalism space works, and discount those of us trying to make an honest living out of it as a result, but there’s not really a lot else I can add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said. You’ve most likely already read John Walker’s write-up of the whole debacle, but it’s here if needed.
This morning, however, things have changed for me with this post on MCV. It’s an article about how critics love the new Hitman game, and are giving it 9 out of 10s across the board, all except for that one “grumpy” outlet that gave it a 7. It paints a picture that tells its readers to go out asap and grab the game, because just look how great it is.
A quick Google, however, shows that this really isn’t the full picture. A 66 percent from PC Gamer. An Edge 7/10. A 7.5 from GameSpot. 6.9 from GameTrailers. Either everyone’s being a little “grumpy” this morning, or the article isn’t as reliable as you might first believe.
Of course, games journalists all piled on, as we do. MCV first put out a snarky update about how people were “up in arms” about it, yet still kept the “Critics delighted” headline. Then another update after even more pressure, in which they quickly note the negative reviews in a single sentence, while also rectifying the article’s positive angle by adding more high-scoring reviews just below, along with the Metacritic scores. The headline still read “Critics delighted.” A final update altered the headline, after even more pressure and complaints.
I haven’t played the new Hitman. I honestly couldn’t care less whether it’s good or not. Whether Hitman is an enjoyable game isn’t the point here. The issue that people are driving at is that MCV has told its readers that the game is reviewing incredibly well, when in fact they simply failed to list the negative reviews. It’s a false article. It does not hold the full truth. And in turn, it is lying to its readers.
The reason I wanted to say something today is because, for the first time, I’m not even sure if it is shoddy journalism anymore. Up to this point, I’ve been telling myself that all this MCV and Square Enix buddying up malarkey has simply been a result of naive, silly journalists not understanding the gravity of the situation.
I believed that MCV hasn’t officially responded to what happened because it’s acting like a teenager, and when a teenager has done something wrong, they just bury their head in the sand and try to brush all the complaints off. It’s far easier to do that on the internet, where you can simply just not mention it.
After this article today, my opinion has completely swayed, to the point where I now believe that I may have been duped. Maybe it isn’t MCV that is naive – maybe it’s me.
Let’s cut the situation down to its fundamentals. One of the following must be true:
1) MCV has been writing shoddy pieces about Square Enix games, and simply not realizing it. Even after being at the centre of such a wide discussion, MCV continues to write these articles that paint Square Enix games in a hugely positive light, accidentally leaving out whole chunks of fact
2) Square Enix is paying MCV to write positive articles
Again, one of these two things must be true. Now, up until this particular article, I was certain that number one was true. With this latest development, however, I have now swung partially into number two territory. That’s not to say that number two is definitely true – rather, this Hitman article puts enough doubt in my mind such that I can’t help but consider it.
Which is exactly what Rab was saying in his Eurogamer piece. Doubt is the real killer. If I doubt that a journalist or a news website is completely impartial, then how can I trust a word that they write? Whether it is the case that MCV is being naive or just plain devious with the facts, there’s no real way to know unless someone speaks out. But the doubt is now there, and I can now no longer read an MCV article without wondering if there’s someone else pulling the strings, or throwing cash about.
Again – there’s no hard evidence to suggest that anything untoward is going on. But doubt doesn’t require confirmation – it just needs a two to put together with another two. And doubt can be the true killer of a reputation.