Have you ever wondered if some of the reviews you’re reading are influenced by outside sources? Do some alleged AAA titles get preferential treatment in the media? The answer to both could be yes, depending on where you go to read your reviews, but not here. Part of our mission statement reads: “The Adrenaline Vault (Avault) was launched on November 1, 1995 with the goal of becoming an independent source of unbiased information about video games.” And our team here at Avault takes that very seriously.
Earlier today many of us in the media entered our virtual and physical offices and were confronted with a bit of a scandal that we’d only been mildly aware of surrounding the recently released Duke Nukem Forever game. Now before I begin my rant (yes, I borrowed Alaric’s rant pen for the day), Wired‘s Joel Johnson had this to say this morning about the fine PR folks that we all deal with daily.
“A large part of my job is dealing with people who work in public relations. The vast majority of those whose do PR for video game companies are polite, well-intentioned, and extremely professional. They need us to get their games coverage, and we need them for access to the developers and early code to review in a timely manner. The press and PR relationship may sometimes be strained, but it’s rarely adversarial.”
With this, I have to agree. 99% of my communications with the gaming PR community are friendly, professional, constructive, and enjoyable. There are even a few I game with and with whom I have cordial social ties. Last week our Avault team was wined, dined and schmoozed by reps of publishing houses both big and small, but at the end of the day, none of that affects anything but the timeliness of our coverage (I’ll get to the why for the timeliness in a bit). This is because anyone that has ever dealt with us here at the Adrenaline Vault knows up front that neither our coverage nor our ratings of titles are for sale, and cannot be influenced by shiny baubles. We don’t even let our reviewers keep anything (except for review product) more extravagant than a t-shirt.
Recently, the Redner Group’s official Twitter account posted the following tweets concerning the first wave of Duke reviews, the text of which awaited me when I checked in this morning.
“Too many went too far with their reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom.”
“Bad scores are fine. Venom filled reviews…that’s completely different.”
Now, I’d like to say that this was a first for me, but it’s not. Usually, when we give a game a poor score, we simply get a thank-you note for the coverage from the PR rep. Sometimes we hear nothing until it’s time to request the next upcoming game, and then we get nothing. (If you’ve ever wondered why some of our reviews come out later than others, this is why. We have to wait for release day to buy it.) But on rare occasions, we get hate mail, forum rants, and threats. After Ed Humphries made an innocent remark about how he was afraid to look forward to BioShock 2, we were bullied and denied a copy. We actually didn’t receive another 2K game for almost a year, when the rep moved on to another position and was replaced by someone who had no knowledge of our “history.” Ubisoft, a company with which we’d enjoyed a wonderful relationship, at one point remanded us to their blacklist, and while they never said it was due to anything specific we’d said, the event occurred almost immediately following something negative we’d said about a sequence of their titles. That relationship has also been repaired, but again, only following the departure of the PR rep involved.
In fairness to Jim Redner, he deleted the above tweets and issued a mass apology via email. In it, he admitted that he overreacted, and was guilty of issuing a response that was both overly emotional and unprofessional. Unfortunately, only time will determine the sincerity behind it.
Our review of Duke Nukem Forever goes live tomorrow night. I’m not going to spoil you on its contents, but I can tell you that none of the above has any bearing on the score the reviewer issued. Reviews are subjective, but they’re based on a reviewer’s personal enjoyment and experiences with a title, and factor in its overall production quality and polish. We will continue to provide you the most unbiased coverage that’s possible under the human condition, and continue to ignore any bullying that may occur behind the scenes. Those PR guys have a job to do, but so do we: To bring you the most honest information available on the Web.