A Storm In YouTuber Heaven

By Alec Meer on July 16th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

It wouldn’t be a Wednesday without a scandal in gamesjournalismland. Or a Thursday. Or a Friday. Weekends we tend to take off from shouting at each other. Or a Monday. Or a Tuesday. The latest debate around the many methods and moralities of talking about videogames on the internet has burst the confines of its usual teacup-based home, concerning as it is does the murky issue of prominent games YouTubers offering coverage in exchange for cash.

It’s a big and complicated affair, involving presenters with audiences consistently in the millions, game-makers who have seen the usual pathways to players’ wallets change dramatically – and in many cases lucratively – in a very short space of time, and old media (hello!) who thought until recently that they were safely new media, but now fear for both their own future and the future of relatively impartial games discussion. I’m not going to attempt too much summarisation because of said complexity, but also because as someone who’s been suffering sleepless nights about the sustainability of his career, I’m not sure I can realistically document what’s happened without sneering or sticking the knife in.

I’m working on coming to terms with the great shift from words to video, but in the meantime I shall pass you over to the sterling work of Mike Rose on Gamasutra and Simon Parkin on Eurogamer, who unwittingly published near-simultaneous and highly revealing investigations into the covert and lucrative operations of big YouTubers. In a nutshell: publishers and developers are paying them for coverage, and in many instances that they’ve done is not entirely visible.

Simon discovered in his piece that John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain was the only big video personality prepared to go on the record about the sorts of paid coverage deals that are doing the rounds, which perhaps says much about what’s going on behind the scenes on other channels. In response to Mike’s piece the day before, Bain also pledged to make disclosures about which of his videos are promotional much more obvious, with a pre-video splash screen instead of the easily-missed text disclaimers in video descriptions that are now the norm.

It’s reasurring that there’s been progress towards greater transparency, but it now seems impossible that promotional videos – whether overtly or covertly – will cease to be big business. Bigger business, I think, than traditional games journalism has ever managed to do. Quite a few of these folk make more in a week than I do in a year, and by God I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I’d encouraged RPS to try its collective hand at Let’s Plays a couple of years ago.

Just before all this kicked off, the more kid-orientated Yogscast network earlier this week disclosed ‘YogsDiscovery’, a programme whereby devs can have videos made about their games if they’ll provide a revenue share. Space Engineers is signed up, and despite the reveal causing an awful lot of grumbling about online ethics, I would be extremely surprised if other devs didn’t follow suit.

Then you’ve also got Simon discovering that a prominent YouTuber requested $10k in exchange for a public Facebook Like of a game, and the FTC telling Mike that disclosures about promotional content should “basically be unavoidable by the viewer” – thus throwing a very real legal question onto the activities on many channels. Simon’s piece also explores a key conundrum underpinning all of this – are YouTubers journalists, do they pretend to be, and if not should they be held up to the same standards as their keyboard-bound predecessors?

The debate will roll, and more distressing revelations probably await us, but I don’t imagine the business it concerns will adjust much. There will be minor mutations in order to stay on the right side of the law I’m sure, but I do believe that – as bitter a pill as this may be – we’re looking at the new normal for some time to come.

Oh dear, I tried to summarise (and indeed editorialise) anyway. Dammit, Meer. Old dog/new tricks is the problem really, isn’t it? Look, just go read this and this, because they’re both really important articles in terms of the future of public games discussion and coverage.

The future is here, and it’s full of people with shedloads of charisma and admirable dedication, but it’s really scary.

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138 Comments »

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  1. Winged Nazgul says:

    I require a $50,000 fee to write a pithy comment about this article.

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    Big Murray says:

    Seems to me that what they’re doing is no different to what gaming magazines were doing for yonks before YouTube was even invented, so any criticism of it has to take that into account. The possibility for corruption has simply shifted onto a group of independent content producers instead of bigger journalism companies.

    My biggest issue with this whole thing is the prospect of gaming journalism being somehow turned into a battle of charisma. Somehow this new landscape of YouTube gamers being the biggest voice in gaming journalism implies that you have to have a nice face/voice for your opinion on games to matter to a lot of people. And that’s screwed up on so many levels.

    • moocow says:

      With respect to it happening in gaming magazines in the past, I’d argue that if any of the big gaming outlets were caught or admitted to giving reviews or coverage for money or a split of the revenue there would be mass outrage. I think the current gaming press is largely very careful about disclosure and appearance when it comes to even review events, never mind advertorial content.

      What’s weird to me is many fans of LPers are not at all bothered about the pay for play coverage or are vehemently defending it, as if the medium is inherently just entertainment and not subject to the slightest requirements of journalistic integrity. The main defense is largely “Hey they need to get paid, making content isn’t free.” Many of these channels have built up large numbers of employees.

      My issue here is that your business model is not a justification of your actions. Using revenue as a defense doesn’t stand up to the slightest ethical scrutiny in my book, especially when plenty of great youtubers have come out against the practise.

      Maybe I’m just an out of touch old man yelling at kids on the lawn, but to me integrity is hugely important even if all you’re doing is playing a game and reacting to it, the incentives for what gets covered and how it gets covered will inevitably corrupt the style and output of coverage in a way that isn’t remotely in the viewers interest.

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        SuddenSight says:

        As a frequent viewer of YT LPs, I am not bothered by the idea of pay to play content – more so the idea of undisclosed pay to play.

        Many YTers (Total Biscuit especially, but also Zero Punctuation and others) have built up a persona as a connoisseur of games, with the idea that their good opinion alone means something. If that good opinion can be bought, it undermines the system.

        However, many other LPers (such as the Yogscast) have created a name as entertainers more so than as reviewers. Having these entertainers paid to play games by the game makers makes every bit as much sense as LoL players being hired by Riot Games, or the “Does It Blend?” series being supported by Blendtec. Provided, of course, that they don’t try to hide their connections. Not necessarily because they might dupe the public, but because you should never run a business in bad faith.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I think this is a good distinction to make. Somebody who lets plays a game is not providing critique of said game. I couldn’t care less if they are given some money to play game x instead of game y, it is their decision at the end of the day as they have to take into account viewer numbers at the same time.

          However it is different for channels such as TotalBiscuit who’s main output is video game critique, if someone critiquing games is paid by companies to just slide a review in there, minus any negative feedback, they are breaking the trust between content creator and viewer because they are then essentially falsifying information. This is why explicit, clear disclosure is important. Viewers need to know when something is an opinion piece and when it is a promotional piece. At the end of the day I don’t see how to make a ruling on this but review/critique channels should not be allowed to critique titles they do promotional work for. If they want to show other types of content that is ok.

          I think with the TotalBiscuit example the promotional stuff he’s done is for things like Guns of Icarus, Chivalry and it’s DLC, they were largely competitions between himself and other Youtubers and were not critical in nature, this divide needs to be kept in my opinion, however the difficulty is trying to enforce that across all of Youtube and make sure that people can’t just slide in some unreadable small print saying that they were paid by the publisher/devs before giving a game a glowing 5-star review.

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        I’m not sure if not being bothered by the lack of integrity is a Youtuber thing so much as a generational thing. Younger people (I can’t believe I’m using that phrase in my early thirties,) that I’ve spoken to about ethics in game journalism seem to be perfectly content to be cogs in the marketing machine, even though they’re writing for online or print publications.

        • newc0253 says:

          Yes it’s absolutely a generational thing.

          Why are videos popular? Because their audience is comprised of people who are both functionally illiterate and who have the attention span of a hummingbird with ADHD.

          They don’t see the ethical problem with undisclosed paid-for content because they are quite simply too ignorant to know any better and too incurious to think about why.

          On the other hand, there are those of us who are bored witless by watching some mouth breather opine on games. I’m happy to watch in-game footage or a game trailer on my own terms, without the shilling.

          • Archonsod says:

            “Because their audience is comprised of people who are both functionally illiterate and who have the attention span of a hummingbird with ADHD.”

            Ah, everyone under the age of 25 then. Are those considered people now? In my day you had to wrestle a bear naked and steal it’s teeth just to be able to call yourself a pre-teen.

            I blame the parents. And the government. Probably immigration to blame too.

          • Fiatil says:

            Way to take a hard left into bitter old man crazy town! Plenty of us under 25s aren’t fans of watching some jackass act all hyper and enthusiastic about a game for viewership either.

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            Big Murray says:

            And I’m over 25 and am increasingly becoming more impatient and ADHD with reading large amounts of text. It works both ways.

          • newc0253 says:

            For the record, I did not say “everyone under 25 years has ADHD”.

            And it’s heartening to find kids who still know how to read.

            But, yes, the rise of video reviews more than coincides with a younger cohort that favours video over text because reading = hard.

            And yes I blame the parents for not loving the written word more.

            And yes I blame the government who don’t invest in decent state schools because they’re horrible fucking tories and spineless libdems.

            But, no, I don’t blame immigrants. I like immigrants. There should be more immigrants.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Adolescents today are:

            1) More literate than any generation previous
            and
            2) Better read

            So you must find nearly every under 25 “heartening”, which is nice!

          • fatgleeson says:

            “Yes it’s absolutely a generational thing. Why are videos popular? Because their audience is comprised of people who are both functionally illiterate and who have the attention span of a hummingbird with ADHD.”

            Please everyone, don’t think every person of newc0253’s generation is as vapid as him/her. Most of us aren’t this bitter about growing older

          • newc0253 says:

            Under 25s are “better read”?

            Really? Define “better”?

            @fatgleeson, for the record, ‘bitter’ means ‘angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment’. I’m at a bit of a loss, therefore, to understand why you’d think I’m “bitter” about video reviews since i’ve had no bad experiences of them nor do I consider myself the victim of unjust treatment.

            It’s possible, though, that you just don’t know what the word means. Like ‘vapid’. My advice? Stick to video.

          • Lanfranc says:

            I’m imagining newc0253 sitting around in the late 1920s, fulminating about the growth of spoken word radio and how the kids are just too ignorant to read any more. I found that pretty amusing for a while. ^_^

          • fatgleeson says:

            ‘Kids these days’ etc. etc.

        • MisterFurious says:

          Yeah, I’ve noticed that kids today seem to be bred to be corporate shills and will vehemently defend corporations like Microsoft of Sony with utmost passion and have no trouble throwing money at them. I find this very odd as my generation had a very strong distrust for corporations and we didn’t really feel any kind of devotion to Sega or Nintendo or Microsoft or whoever. It’s quite scary, actually. It’s like the corporations have figured out how to brainwash these poor kids and turn them into the Perfect Consumer.

      • Baines says:

        Print mags weren’t going to admit to what they were doing. Most had some questionable moments, and attempts to sling mud often splashed more on the slinger than the targeted unnamed-for-legal-protection competition.

        As is, there were anonymous claims. There were veiled allegations that competition did it. There were acknowledgements that publishers tried to buy favorable coverage. There were repeated defenses that “this mag” wasn’t influenced by all the non-cash payola, like physical goods, expensive dinners, expensive trips, exclusive early access, or influenced by threats of losing future ad revenue. Highly questionable reviews, heavy coverage of certain games, keeping quiet about bowing to publisher demands, public statements that didn’t always mesh with what readers actually saw… (The big difference with YouTubers is that YouTubers have power over the publishers, while publishers held most of the power over print mags and regular game sites. The corruption itself is probably about the same.)

        All sorts of circumstantial evidence that both print mags and later online mags weren’t on the up and up. And people did get upset. Didn’t change that readers didn’t really have much choice. Just as readers got upset when it was blatantly obvious that a reviewer had barely if at all played the game that he trashed. It didn’t change anything in the long run.

        Weren’t there claims that Polygon was funded by Microsoft, with Microsoft giving Polygon $750,000 for Polygon to make a documentary about Polygon? Microsoft’s support of Verge might even have helped Polygon get the backing that it needed to exist at all.

      • Sigh says:

        “What’s weird to me is many fans of LPers are not at all bothered about the pay for play coverage or are vehemently defending it, as if the medium is inherently just entertainment and not subject to the slightest requirements of journalistic integrity”

        I would argue that these YouTube channels ARE entertainment, or at the very least, position entertainment as the principal priority.

        Even TotalBiscuit goes out of his way to say that he doesn’t “review” games and he refers to himself as “Enthusiast Press”. Most of the big LPers are not journalists and I think many of them know that and possibly even openly state just that. So they are perfectly situated to make these monetary deals with developers/publishers.

        I think the discomfort comes from realizing that the enthusiast press is surpassing the older model of gaming journalism in terms of popular appeal. That is a discomfort I share, but that is because I am the same age as most of the RPS writers.

        • kalirion says:

          The only reason TotalBiscuit “goes out of his way to say that he doesn’t “review” games” is because he only does “first impression”, and considers a “review” only valid if the reviewer has played a substantial portion of the game. He is still a game critic, even if he doesn’t actually “review” the games.

        • thebigJ_A says:

          Splitting of hairs.

          I show a bunch of a game and say a bunch of good stuff about it, that’s fine and I can cash that check… just so long as I don’t call it a “review”? pshh.

        • solidsquid says:

          Kalirion’s right, TotalBiscuit at least calls his videos first impressions rather than reviews because they generally don’t go with having played the entire game, so it can’t be reviewed as a whole. He still explicitly puts them in the same category though, they’re not just pure entertainment (some videos he does *are* pure entertainment, but generally are described as such)

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      J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      It’s video killed the radio star all over again.

    • Reapy says:

      How is this any different from big media? Do you get to broadcast the news when you are ugly or uncharismatic? What is interesting is the power individuals are accumulating to reach large audiences. It is no longer in the hands of a few companies, which is great I think.

      Though it makes total corruption at a single point much easier, it is not like this is something new in the world. People pay everybody in broadcast for the ‘correct’ opinions and products to be displayed or placed around.

      We just need to do our best to ensure our eyes are open to the financial relationships that exist.

      I guess thing is we don’t seem to find it reprehensible for big media to get payed for their content delivery and advertising spots, why suddenly are youtubers unable to do the same? There is real value in the audience they have built, they should be allowed to sell it for what is is worth as radio, tv, and newspapers, etc have done for years.

      It is not like payed advertising disguised as stories is something new either, I guess people just forgot for a bit to put their skepticism goggles on when hitting youtube.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      If I were a wordsmith games reviewer, I’d be mighty jealous too. Some of those Youtubers are living like rockstars, basking in the adoration of millions.

    • P.Funk says:

      “My biggest issue with this whole thing is the prospect of gaming journalism being somehow turned into a battle of charisma. Somehow this new landscape of YouTube gamers being the biggest voice in gaming journalism implies that you have to have a nice face/voice for your opinion on games to matter to a lot of people. And that’s screwed up on so many levels.”

      This is like MTV all over again.

    • Deadly Habit says:

      TotalBiscuit brought up a really good point in his podcast here https://soundcloud.com/totalbiscuit/yogola-nope-thats-the-cleverest-title-i-can-come-up-with

      Basically he points out that they’re not tracking the sales through a click through referral link so they are just getting a cut in a jump of sales even if it’s not necessarily the yogscast generating the interest, ie. I run a smaller youtube channel, I do a vid on Space Engineers during the same time this yogdiscovery thing is going on. If my content generates interest from some viewers who purchase the game, the yogscast will get a cut from the sale my content generated, rather than just the developers and my normal ad revenue via youtube.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      But isn’t that just our beloved hobby finally catching up with the rest of human society and nature? The problem you describe is all-pervasive, except maybe in theoretical sciences or something along those lines.

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    RobF says:

    “I would be extremely surprised if other devs didn’t follow suit”

    …and I know you’re right and that REALLY depresses me because it’ll be alright for a bit but it’s going to really screw things up over time. It’ll mean a higher bar for people just coming into games without a warchest to throw cash around from and getting access to coverage becomes about finance. The Yogcast discovery bullshit addresses this loud and clear, they don’t want to “take the financial risk” of playing games that don’t get good views. Which is a bullshit sentence if ever I heard one. Just gross.

    And, of course, it’s as sure a sign as any that people want publicity over criticism and that’s awful for people buying games in the long run because who knows who’s even vaguely honest anymore under a system like that. Ads may be awful most of the time but the separation of content is an important and valuable one. Sad that devs and YT’ers would be willing to piss that up the wall for a quick few quid. And sad that they’re doing everything print/web journalists are accused of but don’t actually do and people aren’t really angry about it.

    • MOKKA says:

      I completely agree with this.

      This development was to be expected. Over the past two years YouTube has repeatedly been advertised as a perfect platform for developers to ‘market’ their game. Very rarely has anyone spoken about the importance of YouTube as platform for consumers. It was just a matter of time until people on YouTube decided to become what they apparently already are: Advertisers.

      I’m also making videos on YouTube. My Channel is tiny in comparison to the bigger ones and the videos are in German, so I’m very niche in General. But this whole affair convinced me that I need to give myself a code of conduct in which I publicly state, what kind of content I create. This at least gives my viewers, as well developers, a way to know what they can expect from me. I don’t really have to do that, and there’s no one who can control whether or not I’m actually following it. But i feel that it’s necessary to take clear stance in this context in order avoid any potential confusion in the future.

      Personally I would never do any kind of promotional content as it would more or less destroy the thing I’m trying to sell: Honesty.
      I still think promotional content in general is acceptable, if it’s disclosed. But it still leaves a stain on the people who do this kind of stuff in my opinion.

      • DrManhatten says:

        I am just buffled by the naivety of people’s remark here. Just think about which company Youtube belongs to. Yes Google. Google doesn’t give a rat’s ass about consumer concerns its main and only concern is making profit however it achieves as long as it is inside the laws it is okay. People really should wake up that a so-called free service never means free.

        • MOKKA says:

          You are aware that Google does not control which kind of content gets uploaded to YouTube right? I’m not speaking about the fact that people earn their money with ad revenue, I’m speaking about how game developers and the industry as a whole is more interested in PR-content than in actual criticism.

          And yes, this might be naive and idealistic, but I don’t care.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            Actually they do.

            Google has created a system that caters to big multi channel networks. Sole YouTube channels are at the mercy of digital takedown requests and Google’s three strike policy. This fosters a system where devs don’t even need to pay hush money, they can broker deals purely on the fact that favourable media gets less take down requests.

            YouTube channels that are part of MCNs not only get afforded better protection but also better discoveribility as well as other perks. That pushes YouTubers too strike deals for exclusive content to get this extra coverage.

          • DrManhatten says:

            Well you couldn’t be more wrong in your assumptions. As someone already mentioned. Google / Youtube is actually directly involved in the production of high profile channels.

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          RobF says:

          Right but not at any point is it Google asking developers for money to feature content is it? Yes, they’re quite happy to nudge people towards being, for want of a better phrase, Youtube superstars because they get a nice slice of that revenue themselves and it suits them to encourage people to stay within YouTube as a system BUT it’s a few choice YouTubers who are happy to gather cash from every last corner they can scrape some together from.

          Google didn’t make Yogcast or anyone else invovled in this whole pay for coverage stuff start sending out mails offering coverage for cash, they didn’t post Yogdiscovery. They didn’t make networks tuck warnings out the way at the bottom of descriptions and rarely if ever mention them in the videos themselves.

          Christ, there’s many things to cast a beady and suspicious eye at Google for, this isn’t their doing. This is a group of YouTubers and complicit developers who’ll happily shit things up for everyone to line their own pockets.

          • Grygus says:

            Indeed; this whole phenomenon was actually born in the early days of YouTube before Google even acquired the service.

          • Premium User Badge

            RobF says:

            What I find most interesting about it is it’s sort of the inverse of what happens in videogames writing.

            In YT, we’re seeing a top tier of casters and networks trying to scavenge money from anyone and everyone at every turn and ethics be damned. In writing, despite rumours and myths to the contrary, most of this goes on with no mark blogs and at a much lower level because publishers, advertisers and marketers generally know they’ll have no truck with those who’re tending to major sites. It’s an interesting, if kinda awful, switch. There’s a level of jiggerypokery in both mediums but where the power lies and who’s going to be more careful around who is different.

            Yes, there’s the odd exception here and there but still, worth noting.

  4. psulli says:

    If youtubers are journalists then does that by extension mean that Google and the legal fiction DMCA are respectively de facto and de jure editors? Because in my opinion journalists require editors for their work to be journalism.

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      SuddenSight says:

      What an oddly arbitrary distinction. What is an editor? Must it be human? Must it be a different person from the author? If the editor does a bad job, does the work lose its status as journalism?

      I’ve always considered journalism as investigative reporting. Distinct from research in that no new information is created, merely coalesced, summarized, and perhaps editorialized.

    • Herkimer says:

      “Legal fiction DMCA”?

      It exists — it was passed by the 105th Congress and signed by President Clinton. It’s right there, in scattered sections of title 17 of the US Code.

      You might not like it, but clearly it’s not “fiction.”

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Most gaming Youtubers belong to networks who give them certain benefits such as increased protection from copyright claims, in return the individual channels give the networks a portion of their ad revenue and have to follow guidelines for the content they upload. These networks (IGN, Machinima, Curse, Polaris etc) are essentially playing the role of editors in this youtube space. Those unaffiliated Youtubers I guess can be seen as freelance journalists.
      Calling Google the editors in this situation is silly tbh, they merely provide the platform for the content. Would you call the company that makes the printing press for a newspaper the editors? They are essentially doing the same thing Google do with Youtube.

    • P.Funk says:

      So without a middle yes man to shape one’s words to suit the message parameters of a particular news outlet’s biases its not considered news?

      You basically just said that if something isn’t passively censored it doesn’t count.

      There are many good reasons why they’re not journalists, this isn’t one of them, however pithy.

  5. araczynski says:

    i’ve always viewed these youtubbers video review shops as nothing more than cockroaches eating shit out of the publisher’s ass. i’d never consider any of their efforts as anything constructive/useful, just merely lucrative for them.

    i don’t blame them for being greedy shills, i blame idiot kids who eat up the shit that these cockroaches regurgitate thinking its cheetos.

    • trjp says:

      I have a low view of humanity – you appear to be the person who’s head I’m standing-on tho and that’ makes me happy.

      Seriously – get out and meet some real people, you life will change ;0

      • FrumiousBandersnatch says:

        How is your hobby of feeling superior to strangers on the internet working out for you?

    • Baines says:

      That description sounds more like the traditional games magazines and sites. The ones that will praise press releases and “exclusive” coverage for months… The ones that will happily sign agreements to not say negative things about a game before release, so as to not interfere with all those pre-orders and day one purchases…

    • Frank says:

      Why blame anyone? RPS is not on the brink of closure; they’re even hiring a new junior writer. And we, its audience, are not exactly close to our death beds (being almost entirely under 50). What’s the problem with this transaction between idiots, shills and publishers?

    • Excelle says:

      You’re entitled to your own opinion of course, but, in mine, that is a pretty wide brush to tar people with.

      There are shills and idiots in all segments of the media – print, website, video, audio. You just have to be smart enough to take your information from a wide variety of sources and then you stand a better chance of getting a rounded picture.

      I personally value video content quite highly when eyeing a product for purchase. I value written reviews, but I probably value seeing someone actually use the product just as much.

      You just gotta be careful out there, kids.

  6. bleeters says:

    It’s definately something I’ve noticed happening with creeping regularity to many of the channels I used to follow quite devotedly, mostly ones who were affiliated with the Game Station (now Polaris). My response has basically been the same across them all: I just don’t watch them anymore, or nowhere near as often.

    Personally, I feel like the whole idea of paid promotion just misses the point of why youtube channels and let’s plays took off and carry weight when making purchasing decisions in the first place: percieved authenticity in their reactions, and fatigue with more traditional media that, whilst mostly unjustified, has gained a reputation for dishonesty as a result of the same paid promotions and backroom deals we’re dealing with here. I mean, if I’m watching a youtuber I’ve been following a while and have a general feel for what kinds of things they like and they’re having a good time playing a game of a genre that interests me, chances are I’m going to be more likely to buy it. Which publishers (or whoever strikes up these deals) obviously know, or else this wouldn’t be happening. But when you throw in paid promotions and bought praise, all that is ruined.

    • kael13 says:

      Agreed. This has been my problem with a lot of Youtuber content and one of the reasons why I watch less and less. I started noticing that a number of channels would pick up on the flavour of the month beta, get everyone hyped up and bought into the early access and then immediately drop the game to move on to something else.

      As to Alec, if you look at viewer numbers, they’re not accelerating anywhere near as much as they used to. I’ve popped back to channels I was, in the past, subscribed to, and they’re not picking up the same number of views per video as they were in 2012 or 2013. There’s still a place for intelligent thought and criticism of games on the internet.

  7. newguy2012 says:

    Always be sceptical. Big sites like IGN and Gamespot are also full of this crap. Studios pulling advertising money if their games does not get 9/10.

    Mr. Biscuit is about the only one I trust nowadays. And user forums to a degree.

    • Informative says:

      I just look at each and every review as like a puzzle piece to a complete picture of what the game will be. Since every review person has likes and dislikes and from what I’ve seen over the years, it can be frustrating to buy a game only to see items, levels and etc. omitted only to find out another reviewer cover in their review.

      • Baines says:

        You can’t even blame the reviewer, some times.

        I’ve talked to freelancers who have had their reviews rescored, edited, or even chopped up to fit some editor/magazine stance. I recall hearing one instance where the freelancer had apparently been too positive about a Nintendo console game, and those more positive sections were removed from the printed review. Scores would be changed to match either the editor’s view or some consensus score of full-time employees. Reviews might be edited to more closely match the pre-determined score or predetermined opinion.

    • Excelle says:

      There’s others. People like Nerd Cubed and Northern Lion are pretty respectable too. But TB is my first port of call generally.

      • Acorino says:

        Nerd Cubed is the best, he’s hilarous and has a positive, uplifiting attitude.
        He also recorded a video in which he shares his thoughts on YogsDiscovery. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t like it.

  8. serioussgtstu says:

    I hate seeing writers freak out because of youtube, there’s more than enough room for both types of content in an industry where demand for games coverage is continually growing. I also have to imagine that many people like me are never going to start watching endless youtube coverage en masse, because a lot of people just don’t have the time to spend the better part of an hour watching a video just to get someones impression of a game. It’s not even a comprehensive review it’s their impressions of a game they’ve spent an hour playing. It took me 15 minutes to read Richard’s review of Quest For Infamy and that told me more about that game than any half-arsed impressions video could ever hope to.

    I would encourage the editors at RPS to adapt as best as possible to these changes in media coverage, like what Graham has been doing with his coverage of Watch Dogs, use video content to better illustrate a point rather that making all of your points in a video. Also, yes at the end of the day it is all about where the money is, and the Yogscast are probably filthy fucking rich off of a bunch of twelve year olds who’ve likely never read a book in their lives. Who cares, work with what you have. RPS has a massive community and many of us would like to be more proactive in supporting you guys directly, so why don’t you make a push to start getting more people to use your subscription service? Then use that money to pay your editors.

    There, I’ve fixed games media. You’re welcome.

    • Reapy says:

      I agree here, I think it may be a generational thing too. I have always had the view that the majority of RPS readers seem to be on the older side, so we tend to like calmer, rational coverage of games. Kids love watching and making videos of EVERYTHING. I can’t stand the stream of conscious rambling videos that are 10 minutes long yet could be read and executed in < 1 minute.

      Best judge of a game has always been to read about features, and witness a video of the game being played that shows a standard play session rather than a scripted play through. Not to mention it is not convenient to watch video all the time such as when browsing on a smart phone with limited connectivity or in a place where you can't hear the video.

      All this said, I feel as though the up coming generation is really on board with streaming voice and video chat, and pretty comfortable chucking donation money to streamers, it really is not something to ignore at all. Odd but people are much more comfortable chucking money at pro gamer streaming than at a FAQ writer who put in 10x the amount of information out there.

      I guess RPS is feeling bitter they aren't all millionaires, but that is an illusion that building a youtube audience is easy. It isn't. Many people try to do so all the time and fail. Sometimes it is lack of skill or charisma, but sometimes it is just that you weren't in the right time at the right place doing the right thing.

      • Premium User Badge

        SuddenSight says:

        I am young (ish? mid twenties? I don’t remember snes?). I read RPS for the witty, pithy news and excellent (or at least thoughtful) opinion pieces. I also watch youtube LPs for the better view of how things play I real time, and for the entertainment of watching entertaining people play games in an entertaining way (Game Grumps and Day9 are on the latter list).

        It is a big world. These YTers are just catching an early adopter bonus (except for the ones that also get nothing at all – easy to miss the amongst the overnight millionaires, but it’s not all success stories). As competition increases the system will even out. The value of well written printed word will always be around.

        • Frank says:

          Yo kid, get an emulator. The SNES Zelda and Metroid hold up very well. (Late 20s guy here.)

          • Premium User Badge

            SuddenSight says:

            Oh, I have done so. Many old games are very excellent. But these are modern memories, played on an emulator and compared against modern games. The games are still excellent, but the context is different.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Here’s a shiny groat, my good lad.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I’m not fan of video coverage (for video games, love it for board games for some reason) but I hate the ADHD complaint leveled at people that do. The reason I don’t watch TB’s videos is they are too long. If I’m going to devote 45 minutes to watching someone play a game… well I’d rather actually be playing it. If I want to know what it’s like, I’ll spend 10 minutes reading a review.

      • fatgleeson says:

        That is a funny point, how video fans are called ADHD when in most cases reading a review is much faster than a video review

      • Zekiel says:

        I simply don’t understand the whole video obsession. I can read 400 words far faster than a YouTuber can say them… and I can scan-read or skip paragraphs if I get bored, something that is much harder to do with video.

        I realise I am an Old Man but I simply don’t understand why video is so popular as a medium for talking about games. Sure, I can see some benefits, but to me they just seem to be hugely outweighed by the downsides.

        That is to say – hurrah for RPS. Keep up the good work. I for one am glad you don’t spend lots of time on LPs that I’d never watch.

        • Emeraude says:

          My understanding/observation is that most of the consumers for that kind of content tend to do with it as with radio: leave as background noise while doing something else and only specifically go back to it when when it sounds something interesting is happening.

          • Zekiel says:

            Thank you, that is a helpful explanation. I can’t do that kind of thing myself (have never listened to radio, and if I have the TV on its because I’m watching it, not as background noise). But that does help me understand what others see in video.

            Like I say, I’m an old man :-(

  9. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    About the only thing I watch on YouTube is the odd pop video and film or TV show.

    Maybe I’m just too old for it, but I have no interest in subscribing to a YouTube channel. I have precious little time to watch the good stuff on TV let alone some ultra low budget amateur YouTube video show. Especially since most of them just seem to consist of watching some teen sat in his bedroom playing a game. Why the hell would I want to do that. I’d rather be playing the games myself.

    I’ve watched a few of Scott Manley’s how to Kerbal videos, but I’m sure that’s not the same thing being discussed here.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jalan says:

      Gadzooks! You mean to tell us there are people who still watch music videos?

  10. Neurotic says:

    Charisma and dedication don’t mean a thing if you can’t write and speak well. I’ll take the printed word over the moron in a t-shirt with a video camera any day.

    • Shooop says:

      To many, many, more people whose numbers grow by the day, how anyone can write doesn’t matter to them in the least.

      YouTube is becoming the new television – just as brain-dead.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Lacero says:

    So, the article on eurogamer says this is an offence under the CPR, which it clearly is, but it’s not clear to me who exactly is offending. Is it the media outlet, the game company or both?

    I guess I find it easier to believe in trading standards cracking down on EA and Ubi than a bloke in sweden called pewliedie

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      I’ll tell you who it offends! ME!

      Well, it doesn’t, not really, but it certainly has removed my interest in watching video games stuff on the Tubes of You. Aside from a few weirdos playing Baldur’s Gate and the like.

    • Frank says:

      I’m betting the publishers are not legally at fault. As you say, they’re better targets for a lawsuit, and they probably know how to be careful about paying for promotion, since they’ve been doing it forever.

  12. WiggumEsquilax says:

    I know that this is a slight derailment, but it’s pretty easy to find out which reviewers have been bribed, or comped, or who caved when threatened with having advertising pulled.

    First find a game that is quantifiably sub-par. Then look at it’s Metacritic critic reviews. Remove all reviewers that gave it top marks from your trusted list.

    My own measuring device is the almost universally glowing Total War: Rome 2 review list. Only a handful of sites/reviewers rightfully threw that flaming bag of poo under the bus. RPS, Angry Joe, and hilariously the The Guardian newspaper all made the cut. Very few others did.

    • Grygus says:

      It depends on what they liked. If you are a big fan of autocalc, Rome II was pretty good right out of the box; it had problems for sure, like the ridiculously long AI turns, but virtually all the big ones were in the tactical battles. For me, and presumably you, that’s pretty much the whole game, but it was possible to enjoy Rome II at launch, depending on your playstyle and luck and how picky you are. If what you’re after is truth, then I think it’s a lot more important to read why a reviewer disagrees than to simply ignore them because they do.

  13. DiamondDog says:

    “should they be held up to the same standards as their keyboard-bound predecessors”

    What standards would those be, then?

    I don’t think a year goes by without the games press rounding on itself over dubious ethics, or fighting over what is or isn’t acceptable. In all honesty there are only a few sites I trust that I like reading/watching. And they’ve earned that trust through their actions. I don’t for a minute think that everyone outside that are corrupt bastards out to get me, but the reality is I feel it’s worth sticking with writers I trust.

    My point being that while it’s good to know about the business practices of these channels, for me it still comes down to what I read or watch, not just hoping they have standards. If a dev pays for coverage, do I trust the people making the video to still give it a fair assessment? In the same way as a writer disclosing that they played the game under certain conditions, and therefore asking me to trust that this hasn’t altered their opinion. Developers have been paying for coverage for a long time.

    Unfortunately, all this means is I have to continue being as cautious as ever.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      “should they be held up to the same standards as their keyboard-bound predecessors”

      Standards such as creating feminist issues out of thin air in order to get hits? I’m sorry but it’s laughable that he would type this with RPS being one of the worst websites for this kind of dubious “reporting”.

  14. alsoran says:

    “Here you are, have all this cash and say what you like! We really don’t care.” Financed reviews are adverts. No-one will pay money to have their product trashed.

  15. cHeal says:

    Sounds like growing pains to me, but just as gamers wouldn’t put up with under the table promotional deals 10 years ago, they won’t put up with it in years to come and as the industry becomes more professional (inevitable with the money involved) these practises will become far rarer. Those now pioneering in this industry will be those who make the most money, easiest but that is the same of any industry, ever.

    Don’t car for videos myself, prefer a good read but they have their place and are obviously the preference of the next generation of gamers.

  16. JFS says:

    Aw damn, them Youtubers again. I thought we were over that… Do people really care about Youtube channels and LP’s these days? Am I, at 28, a dinosaur skeleton that hasn’t yet noticed a meteor dropped and mammals took over? Or is this more like a storm in a teacup, or however the saying goes?

    • BooleanBob says:

      Can you remember Compuserve? Ezboard? X10 camera pop-up ads? If so, it’s off to the glue factory with ye.

      And me.

  17. DarthBurrit0 says:

    I think what we are eventually going to see is a lot of developers and publishers hiring internal video teams to make their own youtube and twitch channels. Mostly, those things will be geared towards fostering community, however there is room for them to net a larger audience as well. Nintendo killed it at E3 with their Treehouse stuff and Twitch having their own E3 stream probably cut into other sites live show traffic at least a little.

    Also I know a lot of sites were pretty angry a year or two back when EA self published a BF trailer on YouTube when the press was in the middle of watching the same trailer at an event. A pretty bold move and the first shot fired in an oncoming war where publishers seek to eliminate the ‘middle man’. Now that they have the distribution tools publishers are not afraid to go the distance to improve their own click rates etc. That’s what is scary to me. When publishers decide the press is no longer needed at all – video or otherwise.

    However, I think there will always be an audience for objective(at least in terms of employment) coverage provided by experienced and knowledgeable personalities.

  18. trollomat says:

    I’m surprised no one seems to be bothered by the fact that in this case, even the medium itself isn’t free and independent anymore. The idea that the better part of games journalism is being hosted by and hence dependent on Google (as opposed to paper, radio waves, www) is immensely frightening by itself.

    • Koozer says:

      Well if we’re being completely honest Google holds an effective stranglehold on accessing webpages too.

  19. Horg says:

    I haven’t used youtube videos to make purchasing decisions for a long time now. The over hyping, lop sided reviewing and blatant corporate promotion have been evident to the attentive viewers who don’t get swept up in the hype. As with any medium that goes from home grown success to corporate mouth piece, it will be killed off in time by the degradation in quality and integrity.

  20. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I only pay attention to one type of source for trustworthy gaming views and reviews: a few selective gaming forums which are completely neutral to everything (no affiliations) and that I’ve been a member of for a long time.

    I pretty much don’t ‘trust’ any gaming publications, blogs, youtube channels, etc. All of them seem to have an agenda of some kind, or at the very least seem driven artificially towards one particular way of appreciating certain games or another.

    The old-style forum seems to be the last bastion of reasoned gaming reviews and debate these days. Honest commentary from people you know and have liaised with over a long time.

  21. SwiftRanger says:

    It’s good to see this getting covered, especially if YouTuber-pro streamers don’t mention this clearly in their video/description.

    That being said, I recall PC Gamer UK sometimes doing likewise advertorials (bundled with the magazine). It was clearly stated every time these were in fact adverts. I didn’t mind them or regard them as unethical as they could sometimes provide info on games that I liked. Too often it was about some free-to-play Asian MMO though…

  22. meepmeep says:

    it’s really scary

    This isn’t scary. It’s just gamesland, where the worst that can happen is some people waste some money on a game that wasn’t quite as good as they’ve been led to believe.

    What’s scary is that this is directly analogous to the situation in general media and reportage, where long-couched vested interests we only occasionally glimpse funnel their money to affect not just how people spend their cash, but also how human beings see other human beings, how they feel about important matters that affect our collective futures, and how they distribute their voting power within a democracy.

    • gi_ty says:

      You hit the proverbial nail on the head here good sir. This is just a microcosm of the larger issue, that being that vested interests use money to buy influence over people who take “news” at face value. In the states opinion news, and entertainment are largely the same thing now. journalistic integrity is functionally absent from the larger providers. With a video game I feel its a none issue as that is something that can be reliably critiqued by the user since your own opinion is the only one with value when it comes to entertaining yourself. When you consider something like economic policy it falls so far out of the understanding of the majority of people they become easily manipulated. You have a populace with all the political power but since the majority are largely ignorant they are happy to be spoon fed opinion as fact and turn the world into a black and white battle.

  23. wodin says:

    I choose words of video any day of the week.

  24. Deano2099 says:

    Is it just me or is the defense here utterly at odds with the defense from the last YouTube Let’s Play controversy about nine months ago? This time around, they shouldn’t be seen as reviewers or critics, and subject to the same kinds of journalistic scrutiny and standards, because they just provide entertainment. That’s fine.

    But a few months ago, when games publishers were serving takedown orders on Let’s Play videos, they claimed fair comment, and that showing a portion of the game was necessary to provide valid criticism. I can’t see them managing to get it both ways. If genuinely all you are doing is creating entertainment, and you’re using footage of a game as a major part of the entertainment you’re creating, then it seems perfectly valid to me that the creators of that game would want a share of your entertainment profits.

    • Frank says:

      Based on what you have written, I can offer this explanation:

      Months ago, publishers were against Youtubers; now they’re on the same side. Tada. No one’s there to sue them for inconsistency.

  25. P.Funk says:

    This is only scary if people have some misunderstanding about how all product based culture is subject to the misleading nature of advertizing. The whole point of marketing is to manipulate consumers into making irrational decisions. If it were anything else an advert would just be a list of features, or ingredients or something, instead you get buttered up with exciting ideas that don’t strictly apply to the game, or any product.

    And are we going to kid ourselves that soon as someone takes your money the vast vast majority of people will be very reluctant to piss off the source of that money? Most youtubers didn’t get into it to have integrity. They’re lucky minor celebrities in a very money corrupt niche industry. All these people went looking to find money, get enough subs to be able to live off their *ugh* “craft” and so we shouldn’t be dismayed when they take the money greedily and pretend they have integrity about what they’re pitching.

    They want this, this was their goal, always, so we shouldn’t be dismayed because if anyone thought these individuals on the internet making stupid videos were in it for anything but their own self aggrandizement its our fault, not theirs. I think legitimate keyboard warriors do themselves a disservice by implying there’s anything similar between an RPS writer and someone who makes stupid faces into a camera while yapping in a stupid voice at a bunch of 12 year olds clutching mommy and daddy’s credit card.

    Lets not go looking for fallen heroes when its quite obvious we’d be the idiots for thinking they were anything but would be shills in the first place.

  26. P4p3Rc1iP says:

    As a developer, taking ethics out of concern, I am sort of in a split over all of this. Basically, you want 2 things for your game out of the press: Marketing and critique. Marketing because it helps sell your games. Critique because it’s often much more clearly formulated than what players say and helps you make your next title better.

    Normally, these goals go hand in hand with what the press does. However, paying for YT putts these somewhat at odds. One one hand, you get much more marketing out of it, and if some of the big YTers make your game popular, you’re bound to get the critique you want from the “honest/old” media anyway. There doesn’t seem to be a downside….

    …On the short term (until the “old/honest” media dies and you’ve made your fortune), if you can pay for it.

    Yet for me personally, all of this is really scaring me. How am I (as an unknown, nearly-broke) dev ever going to get anyone’s attention without handing them a huge pile of money up front? I guess I won’t have send anything to the big YTers now… Lets hope RPS will see my emails…

    I guess over time, there will be niche “old-skool” channels for folks like me, but it seems I’m in quite rough weather for now…

  27. mattevansc3 says:

    For a period I stopped going to game sites and watched YouTube reviews, such as AngryJoe instead (I don’t care if they want to class themselves as entertainers or some other PR bullshit, if you are expressing an opinion on an item that will in turn affect another person’s decision to buy said item you are reviewing it). It was that whole fresh, everyman attitude to reviewing, gamers like me and not your paid journalists with their vested interests.

    I’ve stopped watching those videos now because the novelty has worn off and more importantly while the production levels have increased the level of professionalism hasn’t. There were glaring errors, poorly researched reviews, the reviewer’s bias was self evident and any form of impartiality or objective thinking had gone out the window. Not only that but they were creating echo chambers, tweets or forum posts that matched the reviewer’s opinion were retweeted or favourites and any form of valid criticism or factual corrections were ignored or shouted down.

    The YouTube network is growing as a medium but not maturing as a medium and that’s pulling other more established media sites down. You only have to look at the Verge, a respectable tech site that has now started throwing objectivity out of the window and purely catering to its editors preferences for Google and Apple products.

    • Grygus says:

      Angry Joe doesn’t claim not to be a reviewer. He does claim that, if the video is just him playing the game without commentary on the game, it isn’t a review. Seems reasonable to me.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        At least AngryJoe is honest about his position as a reviewer but you’ll get some who will do reviews but because they use skits, jokes, etc they class themselves as “entertainers” which they feel makes them exempt from journalistic integrity or basic fact checking.

    • P.Funk says:

      I think the gaming culture in general isn’t maturing much. Its still subject to a lot of extremely bad consumer decision making and that only encourages the big names, and now small ones with all this youtuber nonsense, to pander to that.

      Basically if the gaming public wants to eat up stupid “reviews” by biased people who have no credibility then thats what we’ll get. If Total Biscuit weren’t British people probably wouldn’t find his mock disinterested dead pan irony charming at all. I honestly can say that I never ever watch any North American youtuber of any renown, because they all adopt that morning TV voice that I cannot stand.

      Perhaps thats the problem with so much of the youtube thing, everyone on there imitates the vacuous and moronic daytime TV attitude which even now infects American news networks too. Honestly I CANNOT STAND that horrible daytime TV voice, why the hell does every american youtuber adopt it? That over inflected MTV VJ goddamned asshole voice. UGH.

  28. gi_ty says:

    When you look at regular news media and any other critical media for products there has always and likely always will be people that get paid to present positive opinions. These can still be valid opinions due to the fact that the presenter relies completely on their reputation. If Yogscast promoted a game that was total garbage encouraging many fans to buy it that would make a lot of people angry. It is in the presenters best interest to promote quality items otherwise they wouldn’t have much of a fan base and therefore no revenue. This is especially true when referring to entertainment as the reception can be made and or ruined by PR, and one person can feel completely opposite from another and they’re both right. So using your entertain value and large audience to mutually benefit with a dev by bringing any game to a wider audience seems good all around. There will be the outliers but there always are and always will be.
    As to Alecs angst of the future of words-as-review I say only look at other written word based media that has survived and thrived even with the explosion of video media. This site is already rather niche and provides a service I and many others appreciate regardless of other options. I am sure there are plenty of the younger generation that prefer reading to watching as well.

  29. CaptCrunch says:

    When I was young I didn’t have much of a choice of games coverage. Nintendo Power for obvious Nintendo hype, the video club and the back of the box for info, friends in school or in your neighborhood for word to mouth…

    With time I was able to have enough pocket money to afford “professional magazines”, I chose PC Gamer over Computer Games Monthly because there seemed to be less fluff and I liked their coverage better.

    When Gamespot and IGN came on the scene, I saw them as free PC Gamer alternatives. Their review approach were often similar but the online websites tended to be console heavy. I still bought PC Gamer for more PC focused coverage but slowly found myself less and less interested as the coverage became progressively thinner and focused on hype and on how lucky we were to be pc gamers,

    Now I’m a licensed adult with too much disposable income and not enough time to play all the games I’d like. I get my coverage from various sources. I read Gamespot to get the mainstream view. I read GiantBomb because I enjoy the personalities that give their opinions, I enjoy their broadcast and I like their video content. I read rockpapershotgun because they cover more of the pc indie scene and sometimes make me aware of titles I didn’t know to look for. I look at lets play sessions and quick looks to get a sense for the look and feel of a game.

    One thing I never, ever took for granted when gaming magazines & website were concerned is journalistic integrity.

    I wasn’t surprised when the Gamespot controversy happened. I still think there are shenanigans. The best I can do is focus on the games I enjoyed and try to see through the reviewer’s eye if the same elements I enjoyed are there and remember the reviewers who gave me puff pieces filled with lies. I’ve been doing this all my life. That’s all I can do.

    I don’t care what journalistic background Arthur Gies from Polygon has or the extent of his editorial support Diablo 3 is not 100%. I know, I’ve finished the game. Carolyn Petit from Gamespot, I don’t care if you are the future Martin Luther king of feminist gaming, Diablo 3 isn’t 85% either. That’s bullshit and you know it.

    However, Kevin VanOrd from the same magazine (Gamespot) was right about Path of Exile. It is what Diablo 3 should have been.

    I never bought battlefield 4. I know, however, that it was a gaming experience that was closer to Big Rig than anything else during its launch. It didn’t receive reviews similar to Big Rig though. A big fat 90 from GamesRadar, 85 from IGN, 80 from Gamespot and Eurogamer. Yes. I remember those.

    I’ll do the same thing with Lets Play and Youtube reviewers. I’m sorry to say that but there are no, and has never been, any Edward R Murrow in gaming journalism. I don’t see you as journalists. I don’t see you as editorialists. I see you as reviewers. I don’t care for your genre preference, your prefered medium, your social preference, if you prefer beer or wine… with each year that there are subpar or broken game you fluff you prove to me that you are no better or no worse that the youtube reviewers. Sorry.

    And, for the record, I hope youtube casters get a piece of the publicity pie from their youtube stream. They deserve to be paid for the work they do and I’d rather be the one doing it by submitting myself to a chrysler commercial. I will consider it the same thing as the Dieselstormers ad that borders this article.

    • Moraven says:

      D3 is 100% to me. Probably helped I never got into the 1.0 end game, which was pretty much like a WoW gear grind with no weekly lockout from raids. I got many fun hours out of it. Revisited for 1.5 (great changes and additional content) and again for 2.0.

      For the infinite grinder that the super fans of D2 are (and minority), D3 was not 100%.

      • CaptCrunch says:

        I truly have a hard time understanding how you can give 90%+ to a game that isn’t creating a new genre (i.e.: Dune II/Warcraft 1, Castle Wolfenstein, Sim City, The Sims, Ultime Online, ect) or isn’t providing a new level of excellence to the genre to the point that it has become the golden standard (Halflife, WOW, Grand Theft Auto 4..) I get that you could be enamored to the point of making a mistake but if being a professional reviewer doesn’t help you develop a sense of perspective then god help you.

        Its funny to see how reviewers talk about using “the whole range” but the minute a big triple A developer release a big title it all goes through the window. Then its usually 80% and up.

        As for Diablo 3 more specifically, its really telling that most fans talk about subsequent patches or extensions to justify the score given at launch. Its not only the raw score but also the deceiving reviews that concerns me. I bought Diablo 3 at launch without looking at reviews on the strength and faith I had in Blizzard and Diablo 2 alone. I played it, finished it quickly, and decided to look at reviews to see if I could have known the experience was so ordinary by reading them. Think of my surprise when I found gushing praise like (and I’m quoting the Polygon review):

        *”Diablo 3 is the first game to render Diablo 2 obsolete”
        *”With Diablo 3, Blizzard has taken the fundamentals of the franchise, broken them apart and rebuilt them into an action RPG so refined and compulsively playable that it’s done the unthinkable: It’s finally rendered its predecessor a footnote.”
        *”It’s no secret that Diablo 3’s launch night went rougher than anyone would have liked…. But Diablo 3 is different. It’s different because Blizzard has a track record spanning almost two decades of games that have become institutions…”
        *”But all of that would crumble if Diablo 3’s combat wasn’t so goddamned satisfying”
        *”It feels scientifically designed to keep you playing until two in the morning. That’s dangerous, given how huge Diablo 3 feels.”
        *”DIABLO 3 HAS SET AN ABSURDLY HIGH BAR FOR ACTION RPGS”
        *”Diablo 3 is almost evil in how high a bar it’s set for every PC action RPG to follow, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that bar remain for a very long time.”

        All that gush for a forgettable experience that was easily overshadowed by Torchlight II. At the end of the day, even with the two big action RPG title being released at the same time, I had to wait for path of exile to have a true successor to Diablo 2 in look and feel and story.

        I haven’t bought the Diablo 3 expansion. I don’t really care what reviews or friends say about it. I’m more interested in starting a second character in Path of Exile than revisiting that title. Maybe I’ll get to it eventually… or I’ll just watch the CGI cutscenes on youtube to get to the best of it without sludging through the gameplay.

        All in all, I must repeat my point. What Alec is seemingly fearing has already been happening for a long time.

  30. davemaster says:

    Honestly I don’t care, if its good coverage. I know TotalBiscuit was a totalw***e but he made some great Planetside 2 videos, and seemed to enjoy himself enough. Hope he’s doing OK after the C risk. BuzzCutPsycho on the other hand… there is absolutely NO WAY SOE was paying him – in fact the CEO of SOE made pretty thinly veiled threats clearly aimed at Buzz, not unlike G.Bush Junior talking about terrorists. So the secret to authenticity is to be as loud a character as possible. Preferably without the racism.

    Now when people are paid to SLAG OFF games, that shit does NOT fly.

  31. Frank says:

    I like ZeroPunctuation, but only watch those for games I’m interested in already… and he puts so much work into each one that I only see a few a year. Minecraft feats are also fun to check out. And pro-game commentary can be cool (for TF2, Starcraft). None of those involve ethical quandaries.

    What’s this let’s play thing and why should I join everyone in watching them again?

    • Premium User Badge

      SuddenSight says:

      You don’t need to watch let’s plays if you don’t want to. They are basically the reality TV of game-related videos, not really “worth” anyone’s time. However, here are two reasons I enjoy let’s plays:

      1) Playing vicariously through others. Sometimes I am too lazy to play a video game myself, or am eating dinner, or something like that, but I still want to watch a video game being played (because I am weird like that). Sometimes I just want to see someone play the game better than I could. Let’s plays are great for that.

      2) Some let’s players making funny and interesting commentary during their play sessions. My personal favorites are Game Grumps (who make constant jokes – to the extent that some of their later stuff can be treated as a low-key improv podcast) and Day9 (who likes to take extended breaks from game playing to tell extended humorous tales). In this case the video is sold by how much I like listening to these people talk as opposed to the actual game they are playing.

      If neither reason sounds good to you, then don’t bother watching let’s plays. There is more intelligent, enriching stuff to do with your life.

      • CaptCrunch says:

        I also like to get a better sense of the look and feel of a game. You find a caster that has a similar play style to you and you watch them play. Hopefully it gives you a better sense if you will like it or not. I would never have bought Dominion 4 if it weren’t for lets plays.

      • Frank says:

        That makes sense; those are pretty good reasons. Thanks!

        These grumps are pretty funny. I’m looking at them playing Duke 2 (which is perfect for a vicarious play, since I’ll never go back to it myself).

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        I’ve watched a few Let’s Play videos where people just actually play the game without incessantly talking over it as pseudo-experts. The best ones they gave honest reactions to stuff but not all the time, and did a lot of thinking and playing.

        For me it was fun to look at people playing through games I personally wouldn’t enjoy that much, but could enjoy vicariously.

    • Shooop says:

      A Let’s Play is pretty much just a video walkthrough with commentary.

      The quality of them varies wildly based on the quality of the commentary – some people are only funny in their own sad, lonely heads and others have a knack for it.

  32. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    are YouTubers journalists, do they pretend to be, and if not should they be held up to the same standards as their keyboard-bound predecessors?

    Yes. No.

    Seriously, Youtubers are just a subtype of internet streamers/moviemakers. It only says something about the media they use, not what they do with it or how they go about doing that.

    I doubt there are many (if any) Youtubers actually desiring to be a proper journalist using Youtube as a medium. TotalBiscuit goes out of his way to not have people call his criticism of games ‘reviews’.

    Moreso, there’s no freedom of the press on Youtube (afaik) and as said most people don’t actually know about rights, obligations and practices which are very common in other media. I think many Youtubers don’t even consider these things much (just like how people just use copyrighted material). TB has studied law so he’s more aware of such things.

    This speaks less of the medium, but more about its youth and that the people on it could use some guidelines and education on this. Google hasn’t been the best supporter of such things, though.

  33. MkMax says:

    let me get this straight, so viewers left the old media because they were bloated and untrustworthy, so the answer of the new media to that is becoming bloated and untrustworthy, glwt

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      Close, they left the old media because they were convinced they were bloated and untrustworthy where really, the vast majority of people working in them and the outlets they wrote for were actually pretty honest all told.

    • CaptCrunch says:

      More like: the old media thought the viewers watched them for their integrity when in fact the viewers never had that illusion in the first place.

      • Premium User Badge

        RobF says:

        To be honest, I don’t think people have “left” old media in any sort of great hurry anyway, I couldn’t resist that piece of snark.

        The idea that this is an either/or thing is quite boggling.

        • CaptCrunch says:

          I agree on that one. The pond is bigger. That’s pretty much it.

  34. tom_trottel says:

    So scarry. For everyone with a brain and selfrespect, it will be soooooo scarry.

  35. cylentstorm says:

    Damned whippersnappers and their crappy flash videos. Now they’re giving journalism a bad–I mean worse reputaion. Make the horror stop.

    Seriously, though–shady is shady, but I tend to seek out alternative sources of news on any given subject. Pop media outlets have always been choked with corruption and garbage–it’s just easier and faster now.

  36. Tei says:

    Somebody have to buy and play all these 9.99$ games on Steam new titles, find the gems from the shit, and tell the world about it. Just call attention over the good games in there.

    The “new games” section has become a stranger to me. I use to be able to know each title by name and surname, and now is a endless stream of stranger faces.

    I don’t think is much different the media that only report AAA titles, to the youtuber that only make videos of Minecraft or other hugely popular games. I understand why they do it (Its a obvius equation: writting/talking about popular stuff: more pageviews, more videoviews ) but is not what the world need most. So, really, the world only need one or two Total Biscuit / Yogcast, and need a lot of smaller people checking on smaller games.

    Its painful to see journalist, that are the guys that work harder than everyone else, and produce the highest quality, are not paid enough. While people that only have for them a nice face and some magnetic charisma gets a nice bounty. But I suppose life itself is not fair, some people are born rich and pretty, while other people born with aids in a assbackward place in africa. Life is everything, but fair, life has not meaning, and theres nobody to judge if you cut a tree in a forest, and theres nobody to see it. Except yourself.

    The ethic side and the economic side I think will balance itself. Us gamers hate to been suggested to buy a game that is ultimatelly shit. If Yogcast or somebody else, are not 100% honest about their dislike of a game or their love of a game, …they will ultimately fall. So, basically, honesty is the framework where you build, if you product lack this quality, it will finally die. Or so I think, maybe they can be disingenous to viewers and win more viewers every day than the one they lose.

    I think I am going to renew my subscription to RPS. This is my stance and what I think my support should be doing just now. I want game journalism to be more like RPS than the other types. And I think monetary rewards should be more fair to the people like RPS writers.

  37. drinniol says:

    So, what is RPS paid in for all those exposure-getting backgrounds on the website? It doesn’t explicitely tell you it’s an ad, either. Same with those F2P ads that are always in the sidebar, and that Promoted Stories nonsense that is underneath each article. Why are you insisting that be the case for YouTubers?

    Has every feature by every RPS writer ever had a full disclosure that a review copy was provided/a trip paid for/lunch was bought/developers letting you stay at their house (hey, it’s a service!)? If not, why are you insisting that be the case for YouTubers?

    Are you bloggers, critics or journalists? All three? It seems that the hat changes with every post so why do you want to deny this option to YouTubers?

    I’m being somewhat silly because this whole discussion is somewhat silly and reeks of a holier-than-thou attitude.

  38. statistx says:

    Most of the decent youtubers would disclose it or don’t take it at all.
    On that note, the most popular ones are usually also not the most decent ones ;) (with a few exceptions)

    There needs to be a difference between reviewers and let’s players. A Let’s player basically just showcases the game, but doesn’t really tell you outright if it’s a game you should get or not, while a review’s goal is to give people who consider buying some pointers if it’s for them.

    I am totally fine if a let’s player doesn’t have to disclose anything, while with a reviewer it should be mandatory.
    Same goes for printed media, though I’m pretty certain that some sites don’t disclose anything, even though they are deep in the pockets of some companies.

  39. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    I think there is a fundamental confusion at the heart of this whole thing that is not the responsibility of either journalists or youtubers, but of audiences. If people take youtubers’ opinions during LPs as the most reliable judgement (there’s a certain logic at work that considers the empirical as inherently stable) then the problem is not one of the ethics of journalism (an LP isn’t, unless you consider it a form of documentary, which would be very forced) or consumerism (it will always tend to contradiction), but one of general culture, in the sense that a guy talking to “you” while he plays the game appears to be more immediate, much more like yourself, and apparently judging without mediation, while a review is based on something that you cannot ‘see for yourself’. So, what is in first instance completely separate things come to be seen as overlapping, and people take decisions based on LPs as if they were reviews. The industry has known that for a while now, so it’s swiftly taking advantage of that confusion by buying its way through youtube stars in the same way it’s always done with gaming magazines.

    In a way, I think youtubers have an even better chance at being forthcoming with their audience than gaming journalists, but since they’re also confused about their role in gaming culture (which I guess should be, on one side, as ‘spokepersons’ of large audiences before companies, and on the other as simply an enthusiast’s way of learning more about a game without the scope and analysis of a review) they think, like journalists, that accepting money to talk about their stuff is wrong. Gaming journalists, as is shown by this article, also seem to think that youtubers are a kind of journalist, but if you stop and think about it this is really, really not the case, and it’s almost silly to think them as such, unless your definition of journalism also includes cooking videos and the like. That audiences believe that a LP is a review is a problem with the audience, not with journalism itself, and perhaps the task of those who take this job seriously is perhaps to unravel this confusion as much as possible instead of feeling threatened or scared. After all, new media didn’t kill old media, but threw a wrench into all sots of convenient, conventional, and traditional definitions.

  40. Sidewinder says:

    I figure that the more urgent things have already been said, so I’ll just point out- the word is ‘oriented’, Alec. Oriented.

  41. Shooop says:

    This was inevitable for YouTube. It’s becoming more popular than TV with younger audiences so companies would be stupid not to try to make money from it somehow.

    Even when Let’s Plays started, it was obvious to me they weren’t reviews. They’re just video walkthroughs of games with commentary. Publishers were already making money off them just because their games were getting attention. It’s just the next logical business step to pay people who would already buy and broadcast their games over the internet to do it and say nice things about them.

    In fact, I’d prefer they would do that instead of bribing so-called reviewers. Because only a truly ignorant person mistakes a Let’s Play for a review.

  42. electron105 says:

    Don’t worry RPS dudes and dudettes. I will always be here, reading your words – I can’t stand video ‘journalism’ (in fact it even annoys me when you guys do it, cos it means I’m missing out on some RPS goodness when you don’t provide a text alternative).

  43. MisterFurious says:

    I used to be subscribed to Angry Joe’s channel because I liked his reviews and he was a funny guy that seemed to speak his mind and gave honest opinions. I didn’t always agree with him, but I liked his honesty. One day, though, he puts up a video encouraging his ‘Angry Army’ to go see “Man of Steel” when it comes out to support the movie. I didn’t like this at all. I felt it was very unethical for him to encourage his viewers to support a movie that he hasn’t seen. Still, Angry Joe is a Superman fan. His trademark look includes wearing a Superman shirt, so, I let it go as being a Fanboy letting his love get the better of him. He’s young and impassioned and probably didn’t think much about the ethics of using his power to generate income for a movie that could quite possibly be terrible (and from what I heard, was).

    Not long after that, though, he did the same thing for ‘Kick Ass 2′, this time in a video also featuring Dodger, another YouTuber. They both tell people to go out and watch ‘Kick Ass 2′, a movie that hadn’t been released yet. Now, this smells more than a little fishy to me. When the movie comes out, Joe reviews it and gives it a bad review. His review was honest (and accurate). Still, there was something foul about the fact that he had made that video. After a while it gets out that both he and Dodger were, in fact, paid by the studio that made ‘Kick Ass 2′ to endorse the movie. Now, some may say “So? What’s the problem?”. Well, the problem is that neither one of them stated in the video that they were being paid to promote the movie. It just looks like they liked the movie and they were promoting it because they loved it, even though neither had seen it. It’s a commercial that doesn’t tell you that it’s a commercial. I don’t know how much extra money ‘Kick Ass 2′ got from this video, and I doubt that it amounted to much. Hell, they probably didn’t make back what they paid Angry Joe and Dodger. Still, it’s that thought, that icky ‘1984’ vibe, that you have no idea if the person you’re watching on YouTube is endorsing something because they like it or because they’re being paid to say that they do. You just don’t know. I find that very disheartening. I unsubscribed to Angry Joe’s channel, by the way. I had no trust in him any more.

  44. heyhellowhatsnew says:

    I really want TotalBiscuit to die in a drone strike. He is racist and sexist and before he got famous, on Something Awful forums, he was a terrible human being.

    Then someone said, oh, you have a great voice! You should make videos! And then he was born… famous only because of his accent.

    He did of course, apologize for his bigotry after getting internet famous and getting money, so you know he totally meant it.