Mail Implicates Unrelated Games In Tragedy?

Shaun C Green directed me at Nostalgia For Infinity picking up The Daily Mail reporting a story in a somewhat strange way. They report on the sad story of a woman apparently who neglected her children and let her dogs starve to death due to her obsession with the board-game Smallworld. Except, in addition to assets from the boardgame, they use an image of Warhammer Online, even seeming to add an URL to Days of Wonder’s site to the image.

There’s a twist to even this, however. As far as I’m able to ascertain, there’s no Smallworld game which you could receive a facebook invite for. It simply doesn’t exist. There’s some other games from Days of Wonder, sure, but unless something has changed suddenly, there simply isn’t a Facebook-integrated Smallworld game. In fact, there’s not even one you can play online. However, there is SmallWorlds – plural – social world thing which seems to fit the bill. This story’s been picked up by other newspapers today. We’ve contacted the Mail and all the developers for comment.

UPDATE: We may have reached the bottom of this, speaking to Roger Pearson who wrote the apparent origin-story up for Mercury Press Agency…

If you’re not aware, core stories are often sourced by agencies, then sold to newspapers who change them to their style and add elements of their own. I wrote to Roger, the writer of the original piece, which included the name “Small World” but no further details on the game, who responded…

I’ve already been contacted by the Daily Mail on this – indeed I did a check
with the reporter who supplied the story yesterday afternoon after a query
from The Sun.

The best I can tell you is that the judge and lawyers all referred in court
to a game called Small World – not Worlds. Whether they were wrong in the
way they were referring to it we cant say. Going on your comments it sounds
as if they may have been.

The reporter could only go on what was said in court though. That is of
course privileged, and if he had changed it to another name he would have
been laying himself open to trouble if he changed it wrongly.

He’s not a computer games player so he wouldn’t be up on the finer computer
game points you’ve mentioned.

Afraid that’s the best I can tell you.

In other words, if an apparent error in court filters down and everyone takes it on face-value, with the newspapers who buy the core story seeming to lack the knowledge – or failed in their research – to realise that it must be a mistake. Of course, this doesn’t explain the Warhammer image, so we’ll keep you up to date on that.

EDIT 2: The Warhammer image has been removed, apparently at the bequest of Games Workshop IP Lawyers.


  1. Azhrarn says:

    This certainly appears to be a case of terrible research on the part of the daily mail. Did the journalist responsible for the piece just google the words Small world or something to get the images without bothering to check the source of the images, or even their relevance to the story?

    Quite sloppy work in any case.

    • Michael says:

      “terrible research on the part of the daily mail”

      That’s a given, isn’t it?

    • says:

      Sometimes they don’t do terrible research!

      Sometimes they just steal stories from other terrible papers, or steal stories from better sources and make them crap.

    • Don says:

      @user: Sometimes they just steal stories from other terrible papers, or steal stories from better sources and make them crap.

      Like today, when they’ve made a splash about the expenses of execs at the CDC. You could have read all this and more in Private Eye over the last year or so. And the Eye was far more interested in the many millions of dodgy/unethical investments the CDC has made rather than relatively trivial amounts spent on expenses, though they’ve covered that too.

    • Navagon says:

      I’m sorry, Azhrarn. But I cannot let that comment pass unremarked upon. The Daily Mail in its long distinguished existence has never, ever once researched a story.

    • Azhrarn says:

      @Navagon: I’m not from the UK, so my knowledge of the reputability of your nations newspapers is quite limited. Although your comment makes the article in question much more sensible. =)

    • Shih Tzu says:

      As a typically xenophobic American, I only know the Daily Mail through previous disasters reported in RPS, as well as the delightful Daily Mail song. If you haven’t seen it, here it is!

    • sinister agent says:

      @Navagon: I’m not from the UK, so my knowledge of the reputability of your nations newspapers is quite limited

      To be fair, even if you knew a lot aboout our newspapers, it wouldn’t help, as the Mail is not in fact a newspaper. It is the edited highlights of therapy sessions of the residents of a psychiatric ward that are periodically published for consideration by medical researchers. Think of it as Nature for nutters.

  2. panther says:

    Daily Mail r gud jurnolism

  3. mandrill says:

    More idiotic journalism form the mail. It shocks me that people even read that rag anymore. I wouldn’t wipe my arse with it.

  4. Kast says:

    I sure hope someone sues them for all their bananas. This… this is just insanely, unbelievably bad work.

  5. Oz says:

    No matter what I put into Google, apart from “Small World” specifically, I get the Facebook game. And even when I get board game material, I get the Facebook game stuff, too.

    I am simply confused as to how they came to this, apart from… maybe… Wikipedia?

  6. Pandaemonius says:

    Another fine example of the high journalistic standards of that paragon of news outlets.

  7. Lambchops says:

    More Daily Mail related hilarity

    link to

    Bless ’em, they are entertaining. It’s just worrying that there’s a large section of the population who are happy to just lap up the Mail’s shite as if it actually has some value.

    • Sigma Draconis says:

      Delicious hypocrisy.

    • Xercies says:

      I’ve looked at the Daily Mail(i did scrub my eyes afterwards) and most of there headlines are

      “Ex wife of someone who was in the news maybe once so he must be a little famous right does something naughty”

    • sinister agent says:

      Try as they might, I don’t think they’ll ever top the “BAN THIS SICK FILTH” about Brass Eye’s Paedogeddon (aka the greatest piece of satire in living memory) directly opposite a “wahey!” story about how a schoolgirl’s tits were growing.

  8. Drexer says:

    Funnilly enough, judging from the story’s comments on the Daily Mail, the readers have at the very least some common sense. Except for under the tab of worst comments(where one says that he was addicted to MafiaWars for 6 months and that god saved him and that those games should be banned; among other less weird comments); most of the readers comments don’t minimally mention videogames.

  9. Will Tomas says:

    I wonder if anyone who has access to the court records (the judgements are usually posted online but often need a login) could tell what game the case actually mentions itself. That might clear up what the issue was actually about.

  10. Lu-Tze says:

    There /is/ a Vassal module available for Small World from link to but I highly doubt this is what they were getting at.

    Incidentally typing “Small World Online Orc” into GIS yields the World of Warhammer image used as the 4th image, so i’m guessing that’s where that came from.

  11. Thermal Ions says:

    Editor: “We need some pictures to go with this story”
    Assistant: “But the reporter has gone home”
    Editor: “Well it must be pretty popular, being a facebook game, just Google ‘Smallworld’ and pick the top few image results”

  12. Mark says:

    The Daily Mail – taking the ‘ournal’ out of journalism.

  13. Mike says:

    The journalism quality doesn’t seem the scary thing here. What’s worrying is that lawyers are using this as a defence for actions. Is this really valid? At all?

  14. Matlaman says:

    As ever with the Daily Mail, I am saddened but not surprised.

  15. Malibu Stacey says:

    I guess if she’d been obsessively watching TV or reading “celebrity” magazines or something similar it wouldn’t even show up in the Daily Heil.

  16. Shimmer says:

    I’m a pretty big fan of SmallWorld the boardgame, and I’m pretty sure I’d know if there was a digital version other than the iPad one…

    Especially since DaysOfWonder have their other four online games all in one place on their site, and SmallWorld isn’t there…

    • Lu-Tze says:

      As I mentioned, there is a Vassal module for it… link to

    • Tei says:

      I have played a few games of it, and is pure awesome.

      I am a totally newbie, and I played with MunchkinMunchkinMunchkinMunchkinMunchkinMunchkinMunchkinMunchkinMunchkinpeople.

      My ex-friends.

  17. Sigma Draconis says:

    EDIT: Metro’s Tom Phillips’ says the original error seems to have come from the Mercury Press Agency’s copy.

    So while the Daily Mail isn’t entirely at fault here, they still should’ve done at least the minimal research to avoid printing a article with errors. Am I getting this right?

    • Xercies says:

      Research? Don’t make me laugh most newspapers like the Daily mail just copy the Press Agencyies stuff put there little opinion on it and have done. They don’t really care to actually do any journalism anymore. in fact journalism for newspapers has probably been dead for awhile now.

  18. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I read the comments of the story on the daily mail site (mainly just to see bible bashing nutters claim how god saved them from mafia wars – I had to see if they exist outside of texas you see..) but it seems the children were 13 and just let the dogs die and didn’t feed themselves… wtf… I was raiding the pantry when I was 6-8 years old, and got the wooden spoon a few times for emptying the cupboards of anything remotely good tasting =).
    sad story never the less..
    Human stupidity/selfishness never ceases to amaze me

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Corrupt_Tiki –

      Bible-bashers* aren’t restricted to Texas, as Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana have more than their share.

      *Some synonyms, just for variety’s sake – Foot-Washers, Snake-Handlers, Pulpit-Thumpers

  19. Bhazor says:

    I think this is a good time to plug one my favourite blogs. A celebration of British Journalism link to

    Y’know, sometimes I think print media isn’t dying fast enough.

    • The Hammer says:

      Oh wow, Enemies of Reason. One of my favourite blogs, that!

    • Dao Jones says:

      What I got from that link: does every British paper offer something free on the cover? Fireworks, food, dvds, etc.


  20. plugmonkey says:

    The most distressing thing about this story is the number of people from other countries who appear to read the Daily Mail.

  21. ChaosSmurf says:

    So the epitome of fact-checking journalism is The Sun?

  22. pipman3000 says:

    the people who run the daily mail should be forcibly migrated back to their native luna. earth is for earthlings only not space immigrants trying to destroy our earth culture with their foreignness.

    • psyk says:

      Strange comment considering the site you link to in your name.

  23. dalziel86 says:

    Shoddy reporting in the Daily Mail? I AM SHOCKED.

  24. Navagon says:

    The Daily Mail just make it up as they go along. I still remember laughing at their bullshit Carmageddon article.

  25. Dreamhacker says:

    Wow, just wow…

    No offence to the RPS Hivemind, but some “professional” journalists deserve to be crushed by citizen journalism and new media.

    When a media outlet gathers a large enough audience, they should have to take some f-ing responsibility for what they write in order to avoid this kind of shit.
    What if a news outlet published an article about… say, a named sex offender but they accidentaly use the picture of an entirely unrelated person with the same name? A simple “sorry” isn’t enough, that persons life has now been ruined forever.

    Well done, “professional” journalists!

  26. Tom O'Bedlam says:

    Ooo Smallworld looks goooood.


  27. Freud says:

    So basically we have a computer game to thank for revealing a severely mentally disturbed mother and thus having her children taken away from her and placed in a better environment?

  28. corbie says:

    This is just tragic.

    Big deal they got the game wrong :this lassie had her life fall apart, developed what I could only call a serious mental condition and it lasted for counless months before anything happened yet the majority of the article is about the game she was playing? If it was alcoholism she fell into would their be comments calling for cheap gin to be banned? Of course not. then they’d spit on her instead, sympathy and compassion being the undiscovered countries of the internet.

    I know I should be used to it by now (especially from the mail) but I find this brand of ghoulish parasitic axe-grinding by the mail utterly repulsive.

  29. gumbomasta says:

  30. gumbomasta says:

  31. Morph says:

    Small World is great! It’s twelve hundred times better than Settlers of Catan.

    But in other news, what a terrible attempts at reporting such a sad situation.

  32. Psychedelic Squid says:

    Free newspaper with every newspaper!

  33. tstapp1026 says:

    Another thing to consider is the web technology available to advertisers these days. There dynamic banners that generate links based on the contents of a page. This would be my first guess at how the Days of Wonder link makes it to the page. Also, as a genre related item, the Warhammer Online photo could have been generated as well. Id say a key element in cracking this nut would be to find the source and ask if they did indeed include imagery. My bet would be that they did not. Amazing how a typo can cause so much trouble, eh?

  34. Logan says:

    Initially thought a woman let her dogs starve to death because of Dink Smallwood.

  35. brog says:

    Days of Wonder (publishers of Small World, the board game) respond: link to

  36. ALEX OGC says:

    to days of wonder/ small world

    what a lier he says youc ant connect with facebook, not an online game????LIES!!!

    link to

    link to

  37. Mitch says:

    What do you expect from the Daily Fail? Accurate reporting? Get real.

  38. PsychoDan says:

    ALEX OGC –

    Congratulations, you took a screenshot of the Small World page, and of the page to sign up for DoW’s site, which you can connect to via facebook. If you’d bothered to actually look at the site, instead of just digging around until you found a facebook connect logo, you’d find that you can’t, in fact, play Small World online. And you might be just a tiny bit biased in this, since the photobucket account you’ve linked to is almost entirely Smallworlds screenshots.

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