An Open Letter to the Game Informer Staff and Editors. - ejronin Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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An Open Letter to the Game Informer Staff and Editors.

Dear Game Informer Editors,

I can live with some of the flaws within Game Informer the website and the magazine. However, the one thing I cannot live with is the poor quality of information and slow abandonment of integrity noticed within the written articles of Game Informer magazine and website, specifically within the 'news' articles promoted to 'feature.'

Erudite, concise, and responsible are all terms closely associated with quality. By a degree, they are also associated with the term integrity. As trusted journalists, you are aware that your audience relies upon your methods to glean worthwhile information from your output. Solid fact is the basis for solid opinion and unfortunately, recent behaviors and thus written material, has fallen alarmingly short of containing true integrity, edging dangerously close to the type of "honesty" seen in a supermarket tabloid. Neither publications (supermarket tabloid or Game Informer) tell  an "outright lie", but the material omits easily resourced counter-facts, fail to provide a means to obtain balanced information, asserts itself as "the" place to seek information, suggests first-hand knowledge, or refuses to acknowledge alternative viewpoints fairly; it misleads,  I believe with intention to do so, or at very least, the result of repeated negligence.

The general context of behaviors demonstrated within the staff and editors, I believe, speaks volumes with regard to the level of respect they have for the community. The erroneous, misleading, and sometimes baseless assertions insult the intelligence by implying that readers should not search for verification of asserted facts by spoon feeding the information and providing the resources for a half of a full story that best fits the means of Game Informer or Game Stop. If this is not a problem and considered ethically acceptable for the staff and editors, then I feel as though they owe their readers enough to at least openly state their reasons for justification. 

The catalyst of this letter to this letter is Matt Miller's "Enemy of the State," an article I took a considerable amount of time to research and refute, but other recent instances include Bryan Vore's "Gaming Cheaper than Ever," which cites an Ars Technica article that fails to properly use the right economic formulas and eschews the distinction between inflation as buying power and dollar worth. It "forgot" GDP and CPI in the formulas and then overestimates by about $20 per game. Did Game Informer make the initial claim? No, but they did parrot false and skewed facts as though it was truthful and expects readers to assume Game Informer checked facts.

Then, with Meagan Marie's ( formerly VanBurkleo) "Rush Limbaugh Defends Games As Art," pundit Rush Limbaugh allegedly "defends video-games as art," when in fact the quote she used from Limbaugh states the contrary:

"Join me any time the government tries to impinge on anybody's speech," he said. "Join me when the government tries to tell you can't eat trans fat. Join me when the government gets involved in all these other behavioral and speech things that they try to tell you and control us we can't do: What kind of car we have to drive, whether or not we're responsible for global warming, the kind of lightbulb we have to have, where our thermostats are. Get on board, my buddy. If it's taken a video game to get you interested and have the light go off, to have you see what liberalism is all about, I'm glad to have you on our side, 'cause I agree with you. Leave your game alone. The people that put together these video games are artists in their own right. If you're gonna start saying that video games are raunchy, then how the hell do you leave cable television alone?"

The blue highlight is the only instance "art" may come from and it isn't used as a literal defense of "games as art."  I'm not going to make assertions toward Ms. Marie's ability but I'd like to think that in middle school she figured out how to identify a topic sentence just as everyone else; the blue highlighted sentence isn't a topic sentence,  the subject of the paragraph, or even an underlying point made. Tsk tsk, someone didn't do their research before parroting corporate agenda...shameful. Even if there could be any claim to "deadline," there's little excuse for taking something out of context when the majority of the piece is cut and paste from a secondary source; if it is worth the time to read to the author, then it's worth the time to research properly.

The yellow highlight is Limbaugh's main talking point and topic sentence; as evidenced in the transcript, Limbaugh is more concerned about defending Conservatism and defaming Liberalism than anything the GIO article headline asserts. The sourced Kotaku article titled "Rush Limbaugh Defends Video Game Free Speech, 'This is Where the Battle Is' states nothing about art, and denotes the importance of the Fairness Doctrine, the underlying point Limbaugh has been campaigning about. I fail to see how this can be considered any standard of honest journalism and the editorial staff of GI should feel shamed.

Ms. Marie doesn't alter the headline to reflect the content, cites a secondary source and the primary - which means she has access to the original material yet posted clearly misleading content and inaccurate headline, irresponsibly. She closes with an original entry pointing readers back to Matt Miller's "feature" for a 'refresher' on the importance of the case - but  there's no 'refresher' because Miller's "feature" doesn't clearly state what is at stake. In all, This is an example of content taken out of context, a misleading headline, and another citation of a second-hand source. Why do the staff attach their name to sourced material? Why not just "sourced news" persona for this and be done with it?

To expand that list, other articles that made me raise my eyebrow classified as "news," were:

 

Federal Court Hates on Used Software Sales

The court wasn't "hating" on anything - judges are ideally impartial. The author did not disclose without pressure GameStop / GameInformer stock in the case and did not represent the counter argument. If a user hadn't pointed it out - there is no reason to believe that the article would have been corrected.  It's good the concern was addressed, but a glaring mistake resolved with some backpedaling nonetheless. Currently the article fails to make distinction between the EULA in productivity software and game software. There is a huge difference between the EULA in  Adobe CS5 Master Suite or Native Instruments KONTAKT and EA's SPORE or Activision's DJ Hero. 

The Associated Press (AP) source used the title "Appeals court ruling threatens used software sales."

 

EA's Jeff Green calls Schwarzenegger "A Hypocrite."

This piece is a tough call, but what pushed it to raise my eyebrow was the statement that claims, "Jeff Green does an excellent job of explaining what is at stake in the impending case" (there were a few minor things, but they are too debatable for strict mention).  Jeff Green does not explain what is at stake in a factual manner, only an opinion using naturalistic fallacies and an appeal to fear. In fact, it didn't explain or quote any portion of the proposed Bill with exception of a single word: excessive. What Green did well, was project a very good straw-man argument. Subsequently, it was parroted by GIO as an enlightened view from the inside without mentioning the heavy bias and faulty logic; it promoted a hive mind approach in assuming that position of the author validates a claim - not at all true and a dangerous method of operation.

GIO ends up appearing to support fallacious arguments or can't see a flawed argument and blindly leads the blind and these kinds of article that crop up just as often as reprinted PR feeds are not very encouraging toward the claim by GIO as source of "information."


"SACRED COW"
In Issue 211, vol XX of Game Informer magazine, The "Sacred Cow" piece in print seemed to fly in the face of the reviews GI gave them for the very reasons high scores were given. Strange in nature and if it was a joke, thicken it with obvious sarcasm or save it for an installment of "game-infarcer." There is not a problem with changing opinions when the facts change - the facts in the game did not change, yet opinion did. It doesn't generally work that way, and it erodes "trust" when there's reason indicated for a change of opinion - it seems fickle or 'bought'.  I am left to think, "how am I supposed to look at these review scores and put stock into them at GameStop during a purchase when upon release they'll say how great this game is and then a month or two later express the contrary?"

Look at the glowing review of Medal of Honor one month and the condemnation the next...

Moreover, many might recall the whole cheating in Fallout 3 incident. Granted the staff ousted their colleague and lambasted him for it, but I still think it speaks to the character of individuals regardless of how finite the infraction. Lies are lies, cheats are cheats - there are no degrees of either. Fair?

Mock Trial Rules in Favor of Anti-Video Game Law

The presence of this is premature, and some degree of irresponsibility in the lack of verifiable source ensues. That aside, the law is not 'anti-video game' because no one opposes all video games nor was the bill about opposing video games. The bill, AB1179, is restricts sale of violent content in games to minors. Perhaps "Mock Trail favors California Assembly Bill 1179,"  or "Mock Trial favors content limitation to minors" is a more accurate relay of information and wouldn't make the author look as though they can't read properly.

Phil Kollar chimes in through comments and defends the 'credibility' by stating that the unnamed source is... second hand? wait - what? second hand sources are not credible sources. Then he states that there's a more in-depth article on the matter in the magazine (Enemy of the State). Enemy of the State was already vague, ambiguous, and misleading - to use it as a spinal column for any string of equally misleading "news" is like building a model blob - no structure, no fact, but lots of confusing and misleading.

Grand Theft Childhood author weighs in on Supreme Court Case

Cheryl Olsen is a co-author, not author of the book. Her husband, Lawrence Kutner, is the other author. In the link provided in the article (upon request), the source cites themselves a majority of the time. When avoiding self-plagiarism this would be fine, but as a viable source to support a claim, it isn't very solid. However, the source also argued counter intuitively in their book, specifically page 99.

How could that title look to be more accurate? "Grand Theft Childhood Co-Author Gives Professional Opinion on Impending California Game Law."

Maybe the suggestion is boring - but it's honest and allows the audience to draw their own conclusion via the content rather than instill a bias.

To go with all of this, none of the staff have felt much need to place links to anything that may get a reader to have an opposing viewpoint. There are links to a place where one may sign up to take action against the bill, asserted variations of what the bill allegedly means written by those who are anti-AB 1179, what is allegedly at stake in opinion form from people who oppose the bill, provision of all sorts of anti-Bill 'testimony' but few names sources - and no link to the bill itself. I would hope that this would seem strange to a professional journalist, because it seems strange to an average everyday person such as myself.

Perhaps readers are part to blame - it is partially their responsibility to investigate and seek answers However, the authors are making the claims and it is their responsibility to bear the burden of proof and not the responsibility of the reader to have to ask for the facts an opinion was based. 

Please fix this, if not for the sake of your readers and the culture supporting the magazine and retail chain,  then perhaps for the sake of the right to the title of "journalists" and your personal pride.

 

Sincerely,

 

Shawn K. Gordon

P.S. I cannot help but wonder if the staff is of such a poor quality, or at least the editors with such low a standard, that bait is required to manipulate interest. I've noticed that 'dry' pieces, that relay fact get low ratings (used as approval or agreement rather than something qualitative) but really opinionated and misleading pieces that play on the hopes and fears of the audience have higher ratings. I don't dislike the staff or editors as people - honestly, I have no vested interest in their well-being; I'm indifferent and impartial - but it is disappointing to see a self-proclaimed "most influential, most subscribed to" publication dive deep into the journalistic practices of a grocery store gossip rag.

 

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