By Elliot ‘Theodore-Rex’ Adams
I’ve got a buddy cop movie pitch for you. As for setting, any generic not-quite-noir city will do – what’s import is our lead characters, PR and Journalism. Yes that’s right children, it’s time to crowbar in an overworked metaphor!
One of them an uptight manipulator who will do and say anything – regardless of how true it is – to help his shadowy client get ahead, the other a gruff maverick who isn’t above biting the PR hand that feeds him and wants to get the truth from PR’s client and loathes that he has to go through him to do so.
Forced to work together by circumstance and a temporary common purpose, they fight crime and save the world as a team, but they sure as hell ain’t happy about it.
Okay, they don’t often fight crime together or save the world you smartass – do I come round your house and deconstruct your convoluted metaphors? No.
For once my ramblings aren’t completely irrelevant, because boys and girls – this shit just got real.
A few days ago Duke Nukem Forever‘s PR drone had a minor meltdown on twitter over the terrible reviews the game was getting.
Threatening to blacklist journalists and critics from receiving review copies of future titles if they didn’t provide a positive review of the apparently execrable Duke Nukem Forever – I’m not entirely convinced that it isn’t secretly a work of genius, maybe more on that later. He later tweeted that he was irked by the game’s Metacritic score, saying that “for a game with such a large marketing budget and name recognition, [it was] shockingly low.”
To be honest, despite the fact that the PR drone has clearly misunderstood the function of reviews – they are not a measure of marketing wankery spending – those who were outraged by this are fundamentally misunderstanding the function of PR.
PR is not a friend of quality journalism, PR is a temporary ally who would prefer if the quality gaming press was declawed entirely and by some accounts has been trying to do just that.
By the industry’s own admissions PR doesn’t have a duty to tell the truth, PR doesn’t have a duty to get their client’s games fair coverage in quality publications. PR’s only duty and purpose here is to gain it an mild first reception in the press, as such, review copies serve the same function as NDAs – to give exclusivity to publications that will not harm sales.
If you are a proper journalist and could potentially give that game a range of evaluations – positive or negative – then why should the PR goblins take that chance and give you a review copy. When they could so easily give one of their limited supply of review copies to an amateurish operation they can manipulate, or media giants like Sky that can likewise be manipulated because they are so out-of-touch with technology they still preface everything with ‘Cyber-’, e.g. ‘Cyberhackers’.
The only thing that is surprising about what Redner said is that he said it in the first place. Several people over the years have told me of similar blacklisting measures – it is rarely talked about in print, but apparently a commonplace practice regardless. This is why so many online reviewers rarely score anything outside of the 60% – 95% range; a larger scale gives the illusion of range, while pressure from PR is limiting evaluation to a narrower spectrum.
But my feeling isn’t that games journalism necessarily needs to shake off PR involvement, nor that PR should be attempting to do the same to journalism. They need to work with their respective buddy cops(just reminding you of my shaky premise for this post) to learn to better deal with each others foibles and
clean up this city one scumbag at a time provide fair and insightful reviews.