By John Walker on March 2nd, 2011 at 10:40 pm.
When Rock, Paper, Shotgun is asked to name its games writing influences, only a few names come up. They include Amiga Power, Your Sinclair, early Gamer, and perhaps most noticeably, Old Man Murray. The influence that site had on games writing has influenced just about everything else anyone’s enjoyed since. RPS writers lived and breathed OMM at the time. Every time I read the archives I’m reminded how poor a job I’m doing, and what it is I should be striving for. Not to mention that it was written by Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek, who now work at Valve, penning mighty words and ideas for the likes of Left 4 Dead and Portal. And today their entry has been deleted from Wikipedia, on the grounds that it’s “not notable”. We’d like to object.
And we’re not objecting on the grounds that our own site was described by Wikipedia editors as being, “generally trivial, tangential, or otherwise not substantial enough to grant notability.” We’re objecting because one of the finest sources of games writing of all time is being ignored for extremely spurious reasons.
The criteria for an article on a website on Wikipedia are detailed here. The crux is, it has to have been written about elsewhere in a “non-trivial” way. Which gives a lot of room for interpretation.
It demonstrates one of the key flaws in Wikipedia’s criteria for inclusion: the dependence upon secondary sources beyond an object itself. It’s obviously a system that often works – if something is notable, it’ll likely have been mentioned by other sources thought to be notable. The issue starts when something was notable in an online form, but in the past. There aren’t so many contemporary pieces being written about a website that ended in… oh, hang on, I can’t check Wikipedia. I’ll just email one of the site’s writers, the notable writer behind Portal and Portal 2, Erik Wolpaw.
“The last news post is dated 01-31-2002. That sounds about right. Though now that Serious Sam 3 just got announced, it might be time to update again.”
And it’s even harder when the primary purpose of a site is humour. Humour – an extremely serious business – is all too often not taken seriously.
But like so many of the disputes that rear up on the encyclopaedia, this could be a personal matter. The initiative to have the entry deleted was started by user “SchuminWeb“, one Ben Schumin. He’s a fan of the defunct comedy cartoon website, Homestar Runner, which has an entry on Wikipedia that he links to. It is claimed in the discussion page on Wikipedia that Schumin has a long-running dispute with OMM. Chet Faliszek expresses his confusion about the matter here, saying he remembers helping Schumin set up his site back in the day. So what does Schumin have specifically against Old Man Murray? We’ve contacted him to find out. (Edit: Oh, he seems to have deleted my question, which seems a bit rude.)
Edit: While Schumin is declining to give a reason behind his choosing Old Man Murray (and only a week before, Portal Of Evil) for deletion, it’s hard to understand how this didn’t mean the Conflict Of Interest rule didn’t prevent his nominating.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of anger about the decision – a lot of it unsavoury – all over the place.
You can read the deleted Old Man Murray Wikipedia article thanks to the Wayback Machine. Amazingly, references to Old Man Murray, even without a link, have been removed from Erik Wolpaw’s own Wikipedia entry. (It has since been restored. And it seems someone also tried to do the same to Mark Laidlaw’s page.)
For a primer in why we care about OMM, here’s a guide the late Kieron Gillen has put together:
The shame of many developers,
The first people to use that puzzle as an example of how the genre was fucking apeshit.
The popularisation of Serious Sam.
Basically, every internet kid who is snarky is pretending to be pretending to be pretending to be people who were OMM.
5. 5 would be this
If you’re a developer or games journalist who was inspired by Old Man Murray, or perhaps you threatened to sue them, we’d really love to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories.