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Breeding ball

Do you know how the world’s heaviest snake, the green anaconda, mates? Just imagine a dozen of these huge serpents all coiled so tightly together that you could hardly tell individuals apart. This mass of writhing flesh, the breeding ball, can last up to four weeks. Well, now you know and knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

And now for some miscellaneous links …

4 January 2013
The State Of Games Journalism

There are three fundamental problems around the business of games media – they are all intertwined, and they’re not going to go away anytime soon, sadly.

First, readers and viewers are distrustful of sponsorships and advertising, and the impact that they have on the media that is being created. It’s a valid concern, and requires more transparency from everyone concerned, but it’s intrinsically linked to the second point – that the creation of content needs to be paid for, and sponsorships and advertising are currently the only reliable way to generate the necessary revenue. Meanwhile, the intrinsic value of the content – a video view, or a page view – is diminishing constantly because of the volume of media in play.

A solution is that we return to some form of paid content model, but that relies on loyalty – something that contradicts the behavior that is already predominant. Giant Bomb is an anomaly, not necessarily an example that everyone else can follow.

22 October 2013
Game Journalism: Stepping Stone to PR?

A former long-time journalist who worked at a variety of outlets agreed that people are more deliberate about getting into games journalism specifically, but questioned their motives.

“A fair amount of the people who get into journalism view it more as a stepping stone to something else, which is very different than a lot of people one or two generations back,” the former journalist said. “People come into journalism now with an agenda. And it is either to get into development, to go into community, or just to go in-house for something. And there’s nothing wrong with going to chase your [goals] and make it all happen. But when you come in with that mindset, the work suffers. Because you worry about doing content that’s going to get you hired some place or make a name for yourself so you can leverage that to go someplace else. And it becomes less and less about serving the audience.”

“From a career path standpoint, there’s nowhere to go,” the ex-journalist said. “Journalism has quickly become a dead end. It’s dying. The stuff journalists did just a couple years ago is no longer viewed as an important part of a business model. For better or for worse, the window of time that somebody with a gaming journalism background was viewed as having a unique skill set has closed.”

9 August 2007
PR And The Game Media: How PR Shapes What You Think About Games

“It’s a business,” says Tricia Gray, Marketing and Communications Director for developer Flagship Studios. “…The good of my product comes before all other considerations. And if I deem Magazine X is the best option with the most numbers, I go with it. There’s no sinister plot, no conspiratorial agency, no bribes, buyouts, threats, or clandestine operations.”

Todd Zuniga, a writer who served a stint in PR with publisher Rockstar Games before returning to journalism, had experiences to the contrary. “In part, it’s a numbers game,” says Zuniga. “Otherwise, it’s history. Who wrote negatively about the games, and who hasn’t? We never worked with [gaming website] GameSpot while I was there because ‘they just didn’t get it.’

“I think PR can influence scores, definitely,” says Zuniga. “At least by a half point (in a 0-10 scale).” It sounds like small change, but for Zuniga during his tenure at Rockstar, every half-point counted. The company, he says, put heavy pressure on their PR department to deliver stellar scores. “At Rockstar there was a fear factor,” says Zuniga. “Our bosses tried to intimidate us into doing everything we could—it was total mental warfare. The big guys knew in their hearts that we couldn’t change a journalist’s mind, but they still pushed hard for us to try, just in case we could.”

As part of the effort to personalize, Rockstar’s PR department tracked scores for reviewers on a person-by-person basis, often hoping to influence which writers were selected to review their games. “Rockstar was big on trying to get specific people to review specific games,” says Zuniga. “But it’s a fine line—you can’t just come out and ask, because it seems like you’re trying to take away editorial control.” They went so far as to track seemingly pointless personal details of some writers. “Hilariously, we even had a list of journalist preferences: Likes cake, married, went to school at Indiana U. Shit like that,” says Zuniga.

16 March 2012
GameSpot’s acquisition of Giant Bomb explained by Gerstmann, Davison

In 2007 GameSpot had a new management team in place who hadn’t worked closely with an editorial team before. At the time, Gerstmann was editorial director with a primary responsibility for reviews, and he and his team had just rolled out a new review scoring system. There was a noticeable effect on GameSpot scores, which dropped about a full point on average from what they had been before. This didn’t really come to Gerstmann’s attention until he was called into a room to discuss the low scores for the latest Ratchet & Clank game, which had occasioned angry comments from the publisher. That created great concern among management about possible loss of revenue, but Gerstmann refused to change the review.

The issue seemed settled, but then Kane & Lynch: Dead Men came up for review and received a 6/10 score. The publisher of the game threatened to pull their advertising money, which happens from time to time in the business, according to Davison. In this case the publisher (Eidos) had been advertising the game heavily on the GameSpot site. Davison noted that the standard response to circumstances like this is to make sure there are no inaccuracies in the review, and just move forward and eventually it will blow over. In this case, the management team was not used to the standard operating procedure for game reviewers and thought that this situation represented a major crisis. The review went up, and things were tense around the office; multiple discussions took place about the review, but Gerstmann didn’t budge.

There were no management moves immediately, but not long thereafter Gerstmann was taken by surprise when he was called into a room and terminated, effective immediately. The reason expressed to Gerstmann was that management felt they couldn’t trust him in his role. “The management team buckled when faced with a lot of advertising dollars walking out the door,” said Gerstmann.

29 May 2008
Low Metacritic Scores Cause Game Publishers To Withhold Developer Royalties

One developer, who asked not to be named told me about an instance in which their company didn’t receive royalties for a game that sold more than a million copies. The reason was because — as had been stipulated in a contract with the publisher — the Metacritic score for the game was too low.

Does a developer with a million-seller deserve royalties? I asked some other game creators and reviewers about this practice.

Former GameSpot reviewers Jeff Gerstmann (Giant Bomb) and Alex Navarro said they’ve not only heard of this practice but even know developers that were caught up in it. “I’ve gotten e-mails from developers over the years who have said, ‘I don’t think you realize what you’re doing to me with this review’ because my review knocked them out of the range of some bonus that they were up for,” Gerstmann told me. That’s something that really troubles me… When I’m sitting down to write a review I’m never setting out to think: ‘I am taking food off this guy’s table.'”

14 November 2012
Metacritic Refuses To Pull Negative Review That GameSpot Admits Was Factually Inaccurate

Last week, GameSpot reviews editor Kevin VanOrd pulled his site’s review of Natural Selection 2. The review, scored 60/100 and written by a freelancer named Eric Neigher, had been eviscerated by readers and commenters who pointed out a number of mistakes—for example, the review said the recently-released indie game was $30, when it actually costs $25. Other errors involved the game’s engine and load times.

So VanOrd removed the review, citing “several inaccuracies” and apologizing to his readers. Yesterday, GameSpot ran a re-review by a new writer, Ashton Raze, who scored the game an 80.

But the original review is still on Metacritic. A big yellow 60 sits right on Natural Selection 2’s front page, warning readers that “disappointing execution holds it back.” Clicking “read full review” will take you to a broken link.

So why hasn’t the review been replaced? I asked Metacritic head Marc Doyle, who told me that they have a one-shot policy for all reviews and all gaming outlets. (Kotaku is not listed on Metacritic, as we do not use review scores.)

“Yes, the critics we track know—and I spoke to the GameSpot team about this this week – that we only accept the first review and first score published for a given game,” Doyle told me in an e-mail. “I’m explicit about this policy with every new publication we agree to track. It’s a critic-protection measure, instituted in 2003 after I found that many publications had been pressured to raise review scores (or de-publish reviews) to satisfy outside influences. Our policy acted as a disincentive for these outside forces to apply that type of inappropriate pressure.”

(Note: GameSpot and Metacritic are both owned by the same parent company, CBS Interactive.)

2 September 2010
Greg Kasavin Joins Supergiant Games

We’re very pleased to announce that Mr. Greg Kasavin joins us today as Creative Director. He’ll be writing all the words you read and hear in our games, in addition to conjuring up our gameworlds, characters, and stories, among many other things. Greg is best known for his years working as Editor-in-Chief of GameSpot, though he’s been quietly making a difference in game development since 2007.

3 September 2010
Kasavin parses press, publisher, developer relations

As for industry relations, Kasavin said that the press and developers are often on the best of terms between the three factions. This is because of the admiration that the press often feels for the people who make their favorite games, and the appreciation developers have for the attention they get from people who write about their games.

However, this bond can be a cause for concern, he said, due to the possibility for a conflict of interest that exists. Kasavin said that he intentionally segmented himself off from the development community while at GameSpot, because it is much more difficult to give an honest assessment of a game when the writer is friends with the developer. He noted that the press’s first responsibility is to its audience, not the development community.

26 October 2010
“Building the Bastion” on Giant Bomb!

On behalf of all of us at Supergiant Games, we invite you to join us at Giant Bomb this Friday, October 29 at 3:30pm PST for the premiere episode of Building the Bastion. This live show will take you behind the scenes of our up-and-coming studio while providing an in-depth look at the making of Bastion and insight into life at a small independent game developer.

5 October 2010
Interview: Greg Kasavin, Supergiant Games (Bastion)

It helped that Giant Bomb and Supergiant Games have some common ground as independent companies that split off from much larger ones, plus I have a long history with Jeff and the team from our days at GameSpot so we have a lot of built-in rapport.

19 July 2011
A Look Back At Building The Bastion

As soon as we went ahead with Building the Bastion, I knew we’d end up seeing too much of that game and that running an actual, scored review would be right out of the question. Rather than hem and haw about that end of the coverage, I said up front that we wouldn’t review the game. And I’ll say again, right here, that I recommend you seek out various reviews on the topic before making a purchasing decision rather than just taking what I’m saying here on faith. Better safe than sorry, right?

That said, we talk about the various aspects of the game on this week’s podcast, and I recommend you check that out when it runs later today. The short version, however, is that I’m pretty blown away by how enjoyable Bastion is.

30 December 2011
Bastion Wins 100+ Awards, Sells More than 500,000 Copies

First off, this week marked a major milestone for us when Bastion sailed past half a million copies sold.

Recent holiday sales on Steam and Xbox LIVE Arcade put us over the top. We’re happy to have this many people playing and to be in a position to make more games on our own terms. When we set out to make Bastion, a sales number like that seemed astronomical to us, so it feels great to have hit that mark.

30 October 2012
RPS’s Position On The Eurogamer/Florence Debacle

Of course this is an ongoing subject, and has raised many questions about journalistic ethics amongst the games industry. Those debates have raged since the 1980s, and they will continue forever and ever. As well they should. Scrutiny is a good and vital thing, and the perception of poor practice should always be questioned.

25 January 2012
Interview: Jim Rossignol On AVSEQ

RPS’s Jim Rossignol: So, Jim, how long have you been a games developer?

Jim Rossignol: A what? I’m not playing your “marketing” game, Mister. I know all about journalists and their tricks. You’re owned by the system, and I want no part in it.

30 March 2012
Interview: Jim Rossignol On Sir, You Are Being Hunted

RPS: Hey Jim, who I don’t know, tell me what on Earth Sir, You Are Being Hunted is all about.

Rossignol: Good morning, strange journalist. Your questions are very clever, but I shall attempt to answer them all.

25 November 2012
An Essay About Sir, You Are Being Hunted, Kickstarter

WARNING: Blatant self-promotional post ahead. Love you!

As many of you will doubtless be aware, I’ve spent the last couple of years dual-classing as journalist and game developer. I’ve worked with two friends – Tom Betts and James Carey – to create the indie studio, Big Robot. We are currently Kickstarting our third game, Sir, You Are Being Hunted. With just a week to go, I wanted to talk plainly about why we’re making it, what the game is, and what it means to us. Specifically, what it means to me. Because this whole gaming-making business is a complicated, tricky thing, and worth talking about in some detail.

2 December 2012
Thankyou, Everyone!

The Kickstarter is complete. We’re funded, and we’ve been able to unlock a whole bunch of brilliant stretch goals. It’s been an amazing experience.

We’re leaving the Paypal page up for a while longer, in case any late-comers still wish to pledge. We’ve raised an additional £1100 via Paypal so far.

21 December 2012
Finished! AVSEQ At 50% Off On Steam!

Wow, thanks to everyone who bought AVSEQ on Steam! That’s raised enough money to keep Tom and James going for another couple of months. Thanks so much.

7 March 2012
The Competition: The Story Behind The IGF’s Critics

The controversy is summarised thus: In 2008, Fez won in the Excellence in Visual Arts category at the IGF. It certainly is a lovely looking game, I can personally testify to that. In 2012 it remains unreleased and subsequently re-enters the IGF for that year (and is eventually nominated for both the Technical Excellence award and the Seamus McNally Grand Prize).

Noting that Fez has previously won an award and judging its re-entry to be unfair, a Twitter mob forms, led by developer and vocal IGF critic Anna Anthropy.

“The fact that Fez can have already won an IGF award and now it’s nominated for – what is it? – I think two awards, including the Grand Prize? I think it’s a really good reminder that the IGF is all about cliquey-ness, the scenesters that I yell about.”

25 August 2014
Gaming journalists Patricia Hernandez of Kotaku and Ben Kuchera of Polygon have published articles in which they have a conflict of interest

Twitter conversations here, here, here, and here show that Patricia Hernandez, a Kotaku journalist, and Anna Anthropy, an indie game developer, are close friends who have lived together in the past.

Despite this, Patricia Hernandez has written positive reviews of Anna Anthropy’s games and book for Kotaku here, here, here, and here.

24 October 2012
Lost Humanity 18: A Table of Doritos

This club, this weird club of pals and buddies that make up a fair proportion of games media, needs to be broken up somehow. They have a powerful bond, though – held together by the pressures of playing to the same audience. Games publishers and games press sources are all trying to keep you happy, and it’s much easier to do that if they work together.

30 October 2012
The players and the game

Games journalism is terrible because gamers are getting what they’re prepared to pay for. As we said a year ago, games journalists are merely serving the people who pay the bills, and that isn’t the readers any more, because they demand all their journalism for free. If you’re not even prepared to pay peanuts, you’re going to get something less than monkeys. Though on the upside, you’ll at least get a near-infinite supply of them, prepared to hammer away at their infinite typewriters for the sheer thrill of a review copy and a free t-shirt or two until they either get their own PR job or burn out, to be replaced from a willing cast of millions of fresh faces.

20 March 2013
Conversation, Curation, and the Problems Faced by Games Media

Editors have great access and are, by and large, superb generalists, but rarely have the truly specialized knowledge increasingly craved by an ever-growing number of insatiable players.

At the same time, the tolerance for lengthy explorations of topics, either written or in video form, is dwindling. Many of the methods for communicating information that editors traditionally have at their disposal are becoming unpopular. Reviews no longer have the kind of influence that many critics would like to believe. It’s been a long time since any single review has really swayed the tastes or purchasing behaviors of gamers. They are well-considered expressions of taste that serve very ably as conversation-starters, but increasingly it’s the qualitative snapshot that’s more important than a well-constructed piece of written criticism. People increasingly seek out the opinions of their peers over all else. These peers can include friends, acquaintances, critics, pundits, and even creators of other games – but it’s the form that these opinions take which is increasingly so important. This stuff is far better received as part of a conversation, than as a lengthy proclamation. This is why a lot of gamers are increasingly drawn to different types of media such as livestreams on Twitch, podcasts and YouTube videos where multiple tastes are expressed, or forums where the conversation is both candid and fast-paced.

16 May 2013
The story of NeoGAF part two: scandal and control

There’s always a potential for conflict of interests, right? It’s happened in the past. For instance, one of my admins works for a game studio, and it was standard practice for major gaming threads at the time to be stickied on the gaming side for clarity purposes. The Turok game official thread got stickied as well, and people were like ‘Er… we don’t really know if this is major enough’.

So there was a potential conflict of interests there, so we decided to just do away with the concept entirely and set the line pretty clearly.

11 July 2014
Pay for Play: The ethics of paying for YouTuber coverage

“There’s a motivator for the content provider to be transparent, and if they’re not transparent, that could come back and bite them in the butt at some point, because the audience is going to feel tricked or duped. That’s the motive — to be credible with your audience. They really wanna know what your motives are for providing this content, and if you’re getting paid for it, that’s certainly relevant to how they judge the information.”

28 July 2014
Are developers actually paying for YouTuber and press coverage?

I asked developers whether they have paid for written press coverage, and 4.7 percent told me that they have indeed paid for coverage.

This is slightly higher than the number who have paid for YouTuber coverage, but barely. How many are planning to pay for coverage from the written press? 13.9 percent said they are considering it for the future — again, roughly the same as those considering paying for YouTuber coverage.

But here’s where the obvious difference occurs — 29.0 percent of respondents said that they have been asked for payment from a traditional written press website for coverage of their game.

That’s nearly a third of all those who responded, and eclipses the number of developers who have been asked for payment by YouTubers.

Charging Developers for Reviews is Bad. Mm’kay?

Charging for reviews (or for ‘consideration’, or to cover ‘administration’ fees) is a tactic that raises our hackles, gets our goat, boils our blood and generally makes us want to shout. So, rather than shouting, we thought we’d create a permanent (and often updated) list of these websites.

26 March 2012
Why Reddit banned influential moderator Ian Miles Cheong

So why did it take Reddit so long to ban chronic spammer Ian Miles Cheong ,the news editor of gaming site Gameranx and a top Reddit moderator?

Under the psuedonym SolInvictus, Cheong had inserted himself as a moderator at many of Reddit’s largest forums, including r/AskReddit, r/Politics, r/WTF, and r/TodayILearned, all of which boast more than 1 million subscribers.

Meanwhile, he relentlessly promoted content from Gameranx and other sites, including news site Global Post, and Web culture site Uproxx. It’s not clear what formal association, if any, Cheong had with the latter sites, though they comprised an overwhelming majority of his submissions.

30 March 2011
GamePro, G4TV and VGChartz GamrFeed have been abusing multiple accounts to spam and manipulate /r/gaming for months

I noticed quite a while ago that there were several accounts spamming GamePro, GamrFeed and G4TV articles in /r/gaming, but it wasn’t until last night that I realized exactly how bad it had become. Last night, an absolutely terrible article about a 22-in-1 3DS accessory kit somehow shot immediately onto the gaming frontpage, due to suddenly getting about 10 upvotes shortly after being submitted. At almost the same time, the exact same thing happened with two other GamePro articles, a video card review and a horrible “top games” list.

30 March 2011
A Statement From GamePro

The reality of the situation is pretty straightforward – Reddit can be gamed, it was gamed by people on our behalf, and those people got busted. We take full responsibility for engaging those people. And yes, we’re apologizing because we got busted. Damn you. We’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids.

30 November 2011
‘GamePro’ shuts down print magazine: Farewell, childhood

As reported by Industry Gamers, the print edition of GamePro has ceased to exist due to low advertising revenue. According to a message on GamePro‘s website, will be absorbed into The name will live on in international print editions, but after 22 years, the U.S. version of GamePro is functionally dead.

We’re about a quarter-century into the era of videogames, and it’s still unclear exactly how journalists should write about videogames. Heck, it’s unclear if the videogame industry even needs journalism: No other medium has been so inextricably tied into the rise of social networking. (For that matter, no other media industry is so shrouded in secrecy.)

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