Gaming journalist, current senior editor of Polygon.
Participation in Brad Wardell’s slandering
When Kotaku published its one-sided article accusing Stardock’s Brad Wardell of sexual harassment https://archive.today/JTUza, Kuchera, then at Penny Arcade Report, “signal-boosted” Kotaku’s article https://web.archive.org/web/20130827020524/http://penny-arcade.com/report/article/brad-wardell-of-stardock-sued-for-sexual-harassment-with-some-pretty-damnin. As the URL shows, the original name of Kuchera’s link was called “Stardock CEO Brad Wardell sued for sexual harassment, with some pretty damning evidence”. The latter part was soon edited to “some heavy allegations” as it became clear that Kotaku’s article was heavily flawed, drawing all its accusations from one side of the litigation, namely that of Wardell accuser, and had never sought Wardell to hear his side of the story. Eventually, the case against Wardell was dismissed with prejudice by the courts.
Participation in GameJournoPros
All of the information in this section comes from a single article by William Usher, the leaker of GameJournoPros https://archive.today/aIteI.
Started on 31 August 2010 by Kyle Orland, senior gaming editor at Ars Technica, and was ostensibly modelled after JournoList, the controversial Google Group which had been closed down a few months prior due to evidence of collusion between its members, American liberal reporters, to push specific narratives.
A little less than a month after the list’s creation, Ben Kuchera, then senior editor at Penny Arcade Report, joined it. Orland spcifically mentioned that Kuchera’s recommendationis what caused him to land his job at Ars Technica, which goes a long way towards explaining the influence Kuchera had on GameJournoPros.
According to Usher, kuchera utilized this influence unduly on several occasions in the list’s discussions:
You see, this explains why Kuchera had such pull in the Game Journo Pros, why fellow member Ryan Smith was nearly kicked out of the group for snidely putting Kuchera in check on one occasion, and why Kuchera was allowed to bully Greg Tito in an attempt to close down the The Escapist’s #GamerGate discussion thread – a thread, I might add, that only stayed open thanks to a lot of intervention from The Escapist co-founder Alexander Macris, the same man who completely reorganized all of Defy Media’s ethics policies following the early days of #GamerGate.
The attempt to get Greg Tito to censor discussion of Gamergate on The Escapist is mentioned in more detail below.
“Quinnspiracy” narrative collusion
Yiannopoulos’ articles revealing the exitence of GameJournoPros claimed that several members of the list used it to practice collusion, by planning concerted narrative efforts between supposed rival publications. The focus of Yiannopoulos exposé was a thread about the “Quinnspiracy” controversy, where some of the journalists, most notably Ben Kuchera, argued about penning “signal boosting” articles on Zoe Quinn’s support or if they should just ignore the issue. Kuchera himself had financial ties to Quinn in the form of Patreon support dating to early January 2014 https://archive.today/48pVJ. In that thread there was an attempt to pressure Greg Tito, editor-in-chief of The Escapist, into closing down discussion of Gamergate on its forums https://archive.today/u397Q. It should be noted that The Escapist was one of the very few of the big gaming sites that did not ban discussion of the topic.
Other members voiced their worry at the ethics of this and chose to stay away.
Cronyism within GameJournoPros
In addition to being responsible for Orland’s job at Ars Technica and his undisclosed financial tie to Quinn, mentioned in the sections above, Kuchera was also friends with his future employer https://archive.today/XwEK1 thanks to GameJournoPros. Chris Grant, editor-in-chief at Polygon, offered Kuchera a job less than a month after he had left Penny Arcade Report https://archive.today/aIteI.
Undisclosed conflict of interest
As mentioned above, Kuchera has a financial tie to Zoe Quinn in the form of Patreon support since early January 2014 https://archive.today/48pVJ. In 19 March 2014 he penned an article about Quinn without any disclaimers https://archive.today/iuDHi.
Minor disclosure of Patreon support
Between 25 and 27 August 2014, as a consequence of the discussion within Gamergate, Polygon ammended their ethics statement in regards to Kickstarter and Patreon contributions by its journalists https://archive.today/uZe1b https://web.archive.org/web/20140827204741/http://www.polygon.com/pages/ethics-statement. The additions were:
Polygon staff are permitted to back video game Kickstarter campaigns at the minimum level necessary to acquire the game or hardware. No disclosure is needed.
Polygon staff are permitted to contribute to Patreon campaigns for members of the video game industry, but need to disclose the details of those contributions on their staff page as well as on any related coverage they publish on the site.
Consequently, Kuchera updated his Polygon user profile to disclose whose Patreon accounts he contributed to https://archive.today/UCzqx https://web.archive.org/web/20140829054155/http://www.polygon.com/users/Ben%20Kuchera. However, his previous article about Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest remains unaltered.
Accusations against Erik Kain
In 27 January 2013, Erik kain, a gaming blogger for Forbes, posted news about the imminent release of an old 16-bit game https://archive.today/iAta9. Altho only then receiving a physical release in the form of Super NES cartridge, the game Nightmare Busters had already circulated among the emulation scene for a while before this, and to demonstrate that the game itself wasn’t new, Kain linked to a browser-playable version of this ROM. However, due to the less-than-clear legal status of emulated games, his post drew criticism https://archive.today/aj7W2, and he has since edited it to remove the link, apologized and clarified that he mistakenly thought that emulation of a previously unreleased game wasn’t considered piracy.
Ben Kuchera took the opportunity to accuse Kain of advocating piracy https://web.archive.org/web/20140919211214/http://www.giantbomb.com/forums/general-discussion-30/ben-kuchera-starts-twitter-smear-campagin-against–576873/ [note: the thread went for longer than the 9 pages, but there isn’t a better archived version available]. In the ensuing spat, he started responding to criticisms simply with “Deal with it.” and changing his Twitter avatar to the same message https://archive.today/Q2OAu https://archive.today/qMgzk https://archive.today/2bBaF https://archive.today/QpAYG https://archive.today/g5AoJ https://archive.today/HLzOM https://archive.today/VCT19, to much mockery from the internet https://archive.today/5wXdD https://archive.today/6CtZa.
Kuchera gets caught advocating piracy twice
On August 2014, Kuchera wrote an article for Polygon arguing unequivocally for the piracy of Star Wars movies https://archive.today/KpeYt. When called out on the hypocrisy, he again chose to react in an unprofessional manner https://archive.today/aW1KO.
On January 2015, he again advocated piracy, this time in regards to the movie The Hobbit https://archive.today/qfpju.
Attacking Forbes’ ethics policy
On 30 March 2013, there surfaced a rumor that another Forbes blogger, Jason Evangelho, was making a profit by selling review copies of games https://archive.today/yuGAV. Likely because of his previous spat with Kain, Kuchera used the opportunity to passive-aggressively criticize Forbes’ supposed lack of ethical oversight or even an ethics policy, despite he himself admitting that he never had one for the Penny Arcade Report https://archive.today/OkX20.
Using other press sources without citation
On 15 January 2015, Kuchera wrote on Polygon about a developer of Hotline Miami 2 giving his blessing for Australians to pirate the game after it was banned https://archive.today/STgri, without giving credit to the article he cribbed, from Australian site OXGCN https://archive.today/aHw7J. OXGCN had gotten the information itself from Reddit. Four days later, Kuchera’s article was edited to add Reddit as a source, while still ignoring OXGCN https://archive.today/O0TJr. On 22 January, he confessed and apologized on Twitter https://archive.today/onG35 https://archive.today/2jyyN https://archive.today/Rhui9 https://archive.today/BL2Wn and the Polygon article was further ammended https://archive.today/MkMHS. This is a rare instance of Kuchera admitting to a past mistake.
Penning articles without any fact-checking
On 9 February 2015, Ben Kuchera wrote an opinion piece questioning the profitability of Xbox One title Destiny https://archive.today/g5U64. NeoGAF users spotted how flawed the premise of the article, as the question posed could be solved with simple Google searching https://archive.today/AGNkN, making the whole article moot. The opinion piece has since been edited https://archive.today/mm8op. This complete lack of fact-checking also demonstrates hypocrisy, considering Kuchera’s past diatribe against Erik Kain.
“Tetris is Soviet propaganda”
In a glaring display of ignorance of the subject matter of his job, Kuchera defended the opinion that Tetris as Soviet propaganda https://archive.today/EJsiu https://twitter.com/Rock_DS/status/549024559928983552, defending his point by stating the music and themes as extremely political https://archive.today/APLQY, the government owning the rights to the game https://archive.today/cY2oE and that its unending gameplay transmits the message that http://archive.is/pIA0Q, all while insulting naysayers and bragging about having read about the game’s history. When faced with evidence contrary to his statements (Tetris at its start didn’t have graphics or music, and what little it did come to have weren’t Soviet in nature but Russian; the aforementioned music and graphics pre-dated the Soviet union by decades or centuries; the original version and several of its port and remakes do have an ending; the Soviet government owned the rights to virtually everything within its borders etc.), he chooses to react with more derision.
- ‘Miss America, bigot shaming, and the media’s vile attraction to the worst in America’ (a political editorial in Penny Arcade Report, a website dedicated exclusively to videogames)
- ‘Game of Thrones has burnt down most of its own structure, and that’s a risky move’ (an article with nothing to do with videogames in Polygon, a website dedicated exclusively to videogames)
- ‘The PlayStation 4 controller is just slightly better than the best thing ever’ (an excerpt: “It felt like the first time I touched a girl’s breast in the backseat of a car with fogged up windows, scared that her parents were going to fling the door open and start yelling at me.”)
- ‘I’m fixing Twitter, but that means leaving nice people behind‘ (bemoaning the fact that Twitter seems to encourage harassment and uncivility, despite being an enthusiastic user)
- ‘Video games are too damned long‘
Defends firing people on their opinions
On 31 January 2014, Kuchera had a minor spat with a Gamergate supporter on Twitter https://archive.today/l2aHJ https://archive.today/I5rhw, and followed it up by trying to get him fired over it http://archive.is/TRe1C https://archive.today/eZ9Gh.
A common theme in Ben Kuchera’s career in gaming journalism is the contradiction between his opinions and actions, or between opinions themselves.
On social justice
In his old posts at the Ars Technica forums, he often defended opinions that directly stand against his current stances with regards to social justice. While it’s perfectly understandable that a person can change opinions as time goes on, there’s a distinct lack of cognizance of this particular reversal. This dovetails with Kuchera’s habit of almost never apologizing or even acknowledging his mistakes https://archive.today/Vmowh#selection-3232.4-3232.8 https://archive.today/js8dA#selection-1348.3-1348.4 https://archive.today/5IwkK#selection-2956.33-2956.34 https://archive.today/fHVzH#selection-1190.11-1190.12 https://archive.today/FMsQ2#selection-866.3-866.4 https://archive.today/MckAf#selection-3740.0-3740.1 https://archive.today/kEg1U#selection-671.0-671.117 https://archive.today/rEa2p#selection-448.7-448.8 https://archive.today/zmfv9#selection-1057.1-1065.10 https://archive.today/GdFI1#selection-2799.0-2837.32.
During the “Doritogate” controversy, journalist Lauren Wainwright threatened legal action against Eurogamer for publishing an article by Rab Florence where he named people involved in malfeasance in gaming journalism. Ben Kuchera added his voice to the chorus that criticized this form of censorship, while also making clear that he thought that close relationships between publishers and journalists was a problem https://archive.today/bLphH. The last paragraph is particularly pertinent:
We need to be more willing to report on the mingling of marketing and reporting in the video game industry, not less. There needs to be more instances of disclosure, not fewer. The common industry practice of sticking our heads in the sand and dismissing these stories as “drama” won’t work anymore. Lauren Wainwright is finding that out, to her detriment.
As Gamergate demonstrated, he owes part of his career thanks to cronyism within the GameJournoPros mailing list. He also used it to further collusion regarding a proposed media silence surrounding Zoe Quinn after the publication of The Zoe Post. This is documented in the previous parts of this article.
As discussed elsewhere in this page, Kuchera once used a possibly spurious charge of advocating piracy as an opportunity to attack Forbes’ gaming blogger, Erik Kain. After that fracas, Kuchera fomented piracy twice.
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