Polygon

Major gaming website. Part of Vox Media.

 

Belated launch and Microsoft financing

Vox Media announced on January 2012 [1]https://archive.today/XFYBG that it would launch a website geared at videogames journalism, under the placeholder name of Vox Games, which launched in February of the same year [2]https://archive.today/9rYNF. Its name was changed to Polygon in April [3]https://archive.today/K2Lll, but the official launch happened only in 24 October [4]https://archive.today/BlSj0.

Meanwhile, in August 2012, thus before the official launch, Polygon start publishing a documentary called “Press Reset” about the history of Polygon itself [5]https://archive.today/033mr. Besides the oddity of a documentary of the story of a website that hadn’t even officially launched yet, there was the question of the source of its budget: Microsoft paid US$750,000 for its production [6]https://archive.today/Yfmti, ostensibly as sponsorship from its browser Internet Explorer which can be seen at the end of the videos. However, since Microsoft is also a console manufacturer and a major games publisher, this financing of a documentary goes beyond the usual publisher ads that are the major revenues of most major gaming sites, thus raising the question of conflict of interest even before the site itself launched. Added to this is the fact that Polygon already had US$40,000,000 raised in venture capital [7]https://archive.today/tqlZO.

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Halo 4 advertorial

On 30 October 2012, less than a week after its official launch, Polygon (among other sites) ran a loosely reworded press release of a Halo 4 ad campaign [8]https://archive.today/Tqi8X, a major game published by Microsoft. The first few user comments on the article were critical of this and were censored for a little while before being restored [9]https://archive.today/ZVzqf according to NeoGAF users. The following pictures are sourced from that thread.

It’s worth mentioning that this happened amidst the “Doritosgate” controversy, also surrounding the marketing blitz of Halo 4’s release.

Accusations of reviews biased against Sony and Nintendo

The aforementioned connections to Microsoft led some gamers to speculate on whether Polygon’s reviews unfairly favored titles for Microsoft’s consoles in detriment to those for Sony’s and Nintendo’s consoles [10]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIRNAQseuec [11]https://archive.today/heut6. However the evidence is circumstantial at best, seeing as several Xbox One releases received bad scores too. On June 2013, a user blog post on N4G showed that Polygon’s scores for Microsoft console titles tended to actually be lower than those for Sony console titles [12]https://archive.today/LEYMl.

Accusation of misappropriation of funds

A Reddit user [13]https://archive.today/heut6, along with accusing Polygon of possible pro-Microsoft bias by Polygon, also realized that the IMDB page for the “Press Reset” Documentary listed its budget as only US$75,000. The IMDB page has since been edited to show US$750,000 [14]http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2533830/business. The high possibility of a typo makes this evidence of bias seem circumstantial.

 


 

SimCity review

In its advance review, published 4 March 2013, of the remake of EA’s SimCity for PC, Polygon’s Russ Pitts gave the game a a 9.5/10 [15]https://archive.today/ab5ra.

Polygon_SimCity_Image

As the game was released the very next day, it was plagued by server outages [16]https://archive.today/1mJfh. Seeing as the game’s DRM included an always-on component, it was rendered unplayable to many people for large stretches of time [17]https://archive.today/ix3ey. In order to attempt to fix this, EA had to take servers offline as well in more than one occasion, further compound the problem [18]https://archive.today/cAOeK.

Adding to this were several bugs afflicting the people who did manage to get the game to start [19]http://imgur.com/f4PcBjb,3qnxoIs,o9F4MfM,cXirt8b,YeKbtxr,8uw8Mmc,54nSR0l. Besides common graphical glitches, the main issue seemed to be with bad pathfinding [20]http://games.on.net/2013/03/maxis-to-address-simcity-pathfinding-complaints-as-more-bugs-are-found/, a severe problem given the game’s design.

As the multitude of problems with SimCity cropped up, Polygon’s review drew criticism. Although they could be excused for not experiencing server outages as it was an advance review, they still failed to warn their readers as to the numerous issues with both design and execution. So on the same day of the game’s launch they updated their review, lowering the score to 8/10. However, this seemed to some as disingenuous [21]https://archive.today/RmYst and the score still seemed high considering the updated review itself admitted the reviewer couldn’t quite even play the game.

Perhaps more importantly, score aggregator Metacritic always keeps a publication’s first score as final, so the previous 9.5/10 remains on the site [22]https://archive.today/i3Rp7. As Metacritic’s aggregate score is the closest the videogame industry has to a standardized score, with several stores like Amazon and Steam featuring them on their games’ pages, the hastily-given initial score of 9.5/10 was effectively the only one that mattered. The days after release saw the bug reports and server outages mounting, and on 7 March Polygon again changed the score of the game to 4/10, before finally settling on 6.5/10 on 3 April.

Polygon’s glowing first review of the game and complete failure to warn their readers of the many flaws in the game that weren’t related to server overload, coupled with their strange first update to the score (mocked as “Literally unplayable. 8/10”), harmed the site’s credibility and fueled long-standing allegation of favorable reviews demanded by publishers.


Bayonetta 2 review

On 13 October 2014, Polygon’s Arthur Gies reviewed the WiiU title Bayonetta 2, giving it a 7.5/10 [23]http://archive.is/NhE84. Discussion about the sexualization of the title character takes up virtually half of the text.

A Reddit user [24]https://archive.today/A8FwK noticed that Gies had also reviewed the first Bayonetta game as well, altho for a different website [25]http://archive.is/kwlHD, giving it 8/10. For that first title, the discussion about sexualization is a brief mention, whereas for the sequel it’s a major factor in the review, and the game arguably lost score points for it.

Happening as it did amidst Gamergate, this raised the question of casuistry and the role of ideology in reviewing games [26]https://archive.today/LI9fP. On the other hand, overzealous Bayonetta fans have been accused of retaliating against an unfavorable score, which does amount to a stiflement of criticism [27]https://archive.today/gl3jo.

Suicide Girls mockery

Reddit users accused Gies of hypocrisy over his Bayonetta 2 review’s criticism of oversexualization membership in porno site Suicide Girls [28]https://archive.today/nEFHj.


Gone Home review

On 15 August 2013, Polygon’s Danielle Riendeau reviewed Gone Home and gave it 10/10 [29]https://archive.today/VpZTg (comments not available on the archived page).

It later surfaced that Riendeau was friends with at least two people involved in the game’s development: Steve Gaynor, co-founder of Gone Home’s devhouse The Fullbright Company, and Chris Remo, composer of the game’s score [30]https://archive.today/6bOmd [31]https://archive.today/pgrC3 [32]https://archive.today/ew6rL [33]https://archive.today/R1K4u. These relationships are not disclosed at all in Polygon’s review.

Riendeau had been a guest at Remo’s podcast, Idle Thumbs, a week before Polygon’s review was published [34]https://archive.today/HbDpZ. At about the 0:02:30 mark, they talk about being friends for a long while before. Additionally, Gaynor was a member of Idle Thumbs, once having been co-host of the main podcast, and in October 2013 returned to host his own show in the site, Tone Control [35]http://idlethumbs.wikia.com/wiki/Steve_Gaynor. Among the comments on Polygon’s review, a reader comments on these potential conflicts of interest, but is told by the site’s deputy review editor, Phillip Kollar, that a podcast guest appearance bears no problem. Riendeau’s friendship with Remo and gaynor which predates the podcast itself wasn’t brought up.

On May 2014, Riendeau became an occasional host on the same podcast [36]http://idlethumbs.wikia.com/wiki/Danielle_Riendeau [37]https://web.archive.org/web/20140702044028/https://www.idlethumbs.net/about [38]https://archive.today/tOLBC.

All the information regarding Gone Home’s review other than Riendeau eventually joining Idle Thumbs was sourced from an anonymous picture found below.

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Source: 8chan


Assorted

“Kissing vs Killing”

On 1 October 2014, Polygon published an opinion piece by developer Zach Gage about the game Shadow of Mordor [39]https://archive.today/XpO7f. He complained about the way the game introduced a stealth mechanic in a tutorial, as the player was taught to sneak to kiss his wife in the same manner as sneaking to kill an enemy. From that, Gage proceeded to pen a convoluted moral diatribe, including bringing up an issue of misogyny.

The article was mocked as inane, pointless and a cheap attempt to create a moral panic [40]https://archive.today/BzrQL [41]https://archive.today/72hb5 [42]https://archive.today/mcktO [43]https://archive.today/DVzFB. By contrast, Penny Arcade’s Gabe praised the tutorial in question, seeing it as a clever twist on the usually boring tutorial mechanics and it resonated on his experience as a family man [44]https://archive.today/N3sIb.


 

References

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1. https://archive.today/XFYBG
2. https://archive.today/9rYNF
3. https://archive.today/K2Lll
4. https://archive.today/BlSj0
5. https://archive.today/033mr
6. https://archive.today/Yfmti
7. https://archive.today/tqlZO
8. https://archive.today/Tqi8X
9. https://archive.today/ZVzqf
10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIRNAQseuec
11, 13. https://archive.today/heut6
12. https://archive.today/LEYMl
14. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2533830/business
15. https://archive.today/ab5ra
16. https://archive.today/1mJfh
17. https://archive.today/ix3ey
18. https://archive.today/cAOeK
19. http://imgur.com/f4PcBjb,3qnxoIs,o9F4MfM,cXirt8b,YeKbtxr,8uw8Mmc,54nSR0l
20. http://games.on.net/2013/03/maxis-to-address-simcity-pathfinding-complaints-as-more-bugs-are-found/
21. https://archive.today/RmYst
22. https://archive.today/i3Rp7
23. http://archive.is/NhE84
24. https://archive.today/A8FwK
25. http://archive.is/kwlHD
26. https://archive.today/LI9fP
27. https://archive.today/gl3jo
28. https://archive.today/nEFHj
29. https://archive.today/VpZTg (comments not available on the archived page
30. https://archive.today/6bOmd
31. https://archive.today/pgrC3
32. https://archive.today/ew6rL
33. https://archive.today/R1K4u
34. https://archive.today/HbDpZ
35. http://idlethumbs.wikia.com/wiki/Steve_Gaynor
36. http://idlethumbs.wikia.com/wiki/Danielle_Riendeau
37. https://web.archive.org/web/20140702044028/https://www.idlethumbs.net/about
38. https://archive.today/tOLBC
39. https://archive.today/XpO7f
40. https://archive.today/BzrQL
41. https://archive.today/72hb5
42. https://archive.today/mcktO
43. https://archive.today/DVzFB
44. https://archive.today/N3sIb
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GameJournoPros

A mailing list for several gaming journalism professionals. It’s membership and some conversations were leaked by member William Usher.

 

Reveal

On 17 September, Milo Yiannopoulos published an article about a mailing list of several gaming journalists called Game Journalist Professionals a.k.a GameJournoPros [1]https://archive.today/5iLCl, followed by another one the next day [2]https://archive.today/ypaNu and a dump of the e-mails corcerning Zoe Quinn [3]https://archive.today/u397Q

Yiannopoulos published two more articles in the following weeks [4]https://archive.today/TuCns [5]https://archive.today/EV7kl.

Accidental reveal of leaker

On 20 September, Yiannopoulos posted screenshots showing the membership list of GameJournoPros [6]https://archive.today/vXylK, accidentally revealing his source in the process [7]https://archive.today/4gDOM. He deleted the tweet about an hour later. On 22 September, the leaker, William Usher, claimed there was no harm done [8]https://archive.today/gTvlJ.

Former members

On 6 November, Usher revealed in his Twitter the names of four former users of GameJournoPros [9]https://archive.today/i6gNp. Among them were Leigh Alexander, who is on record as stating she wasn’t a member [10]https://archive.today/utUDS, altho she quit a few months before the “gamers are adead” controversy [11]https://archive.today/eGYk5.


Creation

All of the information in this section comes from a single article by William Usher, the leaker of GameJournoPros [12]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.

uP6HvaD

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.

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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 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 [13]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 [14]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.

Members of GameJournoPros defended the list as simple networking between colleagues [15]https://archive.today/LhhIT which might have been true for most of the list’s discussions.

The charges of collusion were further reinforced with another scandal, this one surrounding Allistar Pinsof.


Involvement in Allistair Pinsof’s dismissal

Please see the appropriate section in the Allistair Pinsof page.


 

References

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