The #Gamergate Post

It’s time to properly address something that I’m sure everybody and their dog has an opinion on, and that is the #Gamergate controversey – and more importantly, how driving games are affected by it. About a year and a half ago I wrote a widely-circulated piece on this topic, but since starting my own site and being able to see even more crazy stuff happening that’s just right there in front of me, it’s time to update things a little bit and churn out an all-encompassing post so that even idiots can understand that things aren’t right in the media surrounding video games.

For some relevant background, #Gamergate originally had nothing to do with video games. Eron Gjoni had been a victim of domestic violence and leaked the private details of his romantic relationship with indie game developer Zoe Quinn to the general public because this is what some abuse victims do. His excruciatingly long blog post about his former girlfriend, that was properly sourced to back up any defamatory claims he made, clearly indicated he had been involved in an abusive relationship with a woman most likely suffering from borderline personality disorder.

Throughout his blog post, Eron made several not-so-subtle hints that Zoe’s newest game, a text adventure intended to simulate depression that was not well-received by your average gamer, was receiving favorable coverage from mainstream gaming sites due to her sexual relationships with other journalists. While about half of the crowd following this bizarre case immediately began attacking Zoe Quinn for being a shitty girlfriend, the other half of the crowd wondered if this totally insignificant story would lead others to discover a much bigger problem in gaming journalism as a whole – they just had to dig for it.

With Jeff Gerstmann getting fired from Gamespot after giving a low score to a game that was heavily promoted on the site in the weeks leading up to the review, a strange push for feminist ideologies that has seemingly come out of nowhere, and 12+ different articles released on the same day claiming people who play games are misogynistic assholes, #Gamergate picked up traction as a legitimate quest to get all of these weird biases and agendas to stop. Sites that were once trustworthy resources that helped you decide what to spend $60 on are now saying that Grand Theft Auto V, a game where you can brutally murder large quantities of police officers and light dogs on fire with ISIS-like terrorist attacks, is offensive because a female character is referred to as a slut in one scene.

We here at PretendRaceCars.net cover driving games, a genre that sites like IGN, Gamespot, and Kotaku struggle with. When one of these sites put out a review for the Codemasters F1 games, we simply ignore it because you can tell the writers have no idea what the hell they’re doing behind the wheel. Driving games aren’t intended for the Call of Duty audience – driving games take several months (and in some cases, years) of practice to get good at and understand all the nuances of auto racing. As a result, several sites dedicated to only driving games have popped up in the past decade so people who know what they’re doing can take a proper look at each new game, from forums like RaceSimCentral and Blackhole Motorsports, online publications like VirtualR and TeamVVV, to YouTube talk shows like TheSimPit and InsideSimRacing.

And like Gamespot, IGN, and Kotaku, these small sites are affected by the exact same bias and manipulation as well. The stuff the #Gamergate crowd complains about doesn’t just rear its ugly head when Patricia Hernandez uses Kotaku as her personal soapbox to complain that she got trolled in GTA Online; it’s also more than prevalent when you’re trying to read or post about driving games as well.

RRRE 2015-05-31 17-08-42-67RaceDepartment

Before starting PretendRaceCars.net with my buddy, I wrote every now and then for RaceDepartment.com. The site functions as both a news outlet, message board, as well as a place to organize online races among serious driving game enthusiasts, which they do an incredibly good job of. In early 2013 I was tasked with reviving the Reviews section, which wasn’t too difficult as boredom and an influx of both new and old games made pumping out articles relatively simple and time consuming.

The first new game I reviewed would be iRacing. Mainstream gaming sites refused to cover iRacing at all, given the game’s expensive price range, hardcore physics, and steep learning curve. As someone who had won two championships in the game’s equivalent to a K&N Pro Series car, I felt I had more than enough skill to fairly and objectively review the current version of the racing simulation.

iR1I praised the game’s formidable online component, car roster, track selection, and graphics, but tore the game to shreds when it came to the physics model which even now is still largely work-in-progress, dubbed NTMv5, soon to be NTMv6. As you can see above, I complained that the traditional circuit racing cars seemed almost broken, and I would later learn through word of mouth that GT1 driver Xavier Maasen, who’s own car was available in iRacing, echoed my complaints about the physics. While the comments section exploded into the inevitable war between iRacing fanboys, and former iRacing subscribers who had left the sim out of disappointment, we received an interesting email from iRacing president Tony Gardner.

At the time, RaceDepartment was about to begin the SimTeamsChallenge series with the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 car. To broadcast the races, as is the norm with several other high-profile leagues, they requested a few broadcast accounts so they could cover the race with multiple users working the cameras for a truly world class stream of each race. 99% of the time, iRacing gladly accepts these requests as they realize it’s basically free promotion for their game.

Not this time:

Untitled-1Voicing concerns about unfinished physics, concerns that were backed up by a professional race car driver, was considered a “personal vendetta” and “a crusade to discredit [iRacing]” – and until I was kicked off the staff, they wouldn’t help them out.

I guess Dale Earnhardt Jr also has a personal vendetta against iRacing?

Glass

I didn’t get kicked off the staff.

iRacingSim64 2014-02-16 13-12-42-76We turned our sights to the upcoming Codemasters release, Grid 2. In the weeks leading up to the release of Grid 2, I went back and reviewed the original game, and clearly outlined what I was expecting from the sequel, so that nobody could misinterpret me or claim I was a snob who scoffed at everything that wasn’t a hardcore racing simulation.

Grid 2I got my hands on Grid 2 two weeks prior to the game’s release, and was shocked at how bad it was. The physics were a slight improvement and the cars had a bit more weight and character to them, but cockpit view was removed and blamed on the players, the previous game’s fantastic career mode was totally scrapped in favor of a cringeworthy YouTube-based storyline that should have never been approved, online was incredibly unbalanced, and the abundance of DLC announced even before the game launched was really disappointing. And my review reflected that.

Grid 3We were contacted by a rep from Codemasters shortly thereafter. A guy had found my Steam account, gone through my list of achievements, and found that I didn’t completely finish the game’s boring, uninspired career mode. The rep begged us to state in the review that I didn’t actually finish the single player mode, as if it would make some huge difference in how I perceived the game, stating: “he didn’t get the full Grid 2 Experience (TM)!In their defense, they used mainstream reviews to justify their point of view. Obviously, you can see the user review score closely aligns with how I scored the game.

Any individual who did not posses a thick skin would easily crack under this kind of pressure and change what they’ve written to prevent the conflict from escalating, OR simply not write anything that would cause a confrontation in the first place.

The icing on the cake? A year later they announced Grid Autosport in a really peculiar way:

AwareWhat do you mean you hadn’t achieved everything you set out to do? Your game got 80’s from all the mainstream sites! What’s there to worry about? Maybe all those other people complaining didn’t complete career mode and get the full Grid 2 Experience (TM)?

Fast forward a couple years later and we still find ourselves on RaceDepartment, discussing the release of Project CARS and the array of glitches and bugs the game shipped with. At some point in the thread, head of Slightly Mad Studios Ian Bell, the genius behind Project CARS, jumped in and subtly implied that Bram Hengeveld, the owner of RaceDepartment, should be silencing criticism over Project CARS, as their website was gifted ten free copies of the game. Bram has to open his Steam purchase history and prove that he did not accept the bribes from Slightly Mad Studios.

cSpeaking of Project CARS…

RRRE 2015-04-12 22-09-59-88VirtualR, TeamVVV, and Project CARS Shilling

VirtualR.net has been around since 2007 or 2008, and has exclusively covered racing simulations in a blog-like format that has made sites like Kotaku and Deadspin incredibly popular. Originally, the site was a home for rFactor mod announcements, patch announcements, and a way to cross-promote different racing sim publications to bring a bunch of fantastic content to a wider audience.

In September of 2011, owner Rob Prange announced he had been hired by Slightly Mad Studios.

apaAt the time, crowd-funded racer Project CARS had just began development, so nobody was quite sure what this would mean for the state of VirtualR, which by September of 2011 had turned into quite the resource for driving game enthusiasts.

Nobody knew it would look like this:

VirtualRSomeone opening a box is now considered sim racing news as long as it’s a box for Project CARS. Last time I checked, this is a type of video typically reserved for narcissistic teenage girls. The celebratory posts about fictional sales figures is also beyond ridiculous for a site that was once a highly trustworthy resource for driving game news.

However, nothing tops what happens when you use the site’s own search function to look up “Project CARS Nordschleife“, which reveals 50 identical articles – all of which feature slightly different videos where one dude makes a lap of the Nordschleife.

nordschelife

Better yet, this third-party ad campaign reached Kotaku, where the exact same article hyping the graphics in Project CARS was written over twelve times – sixteen to be exact.

pcarsTeamVVV, another once-profound site that did a fantastic job of covering as many different driving games as they could squeeze into their day, revealed that he’d once spent a sixteen hour day recording nothing but Project CARS videos, followed by a private video linked to Project CARS investors straight up asking them for money:

vvv

We have covered the cult-like atmosphere surrounding Project CARS in a separate article, but at this point, I think what I’ve been trying to present has been made very clear – shills are real, and this is what they’re shilling for:

iRacingSim64 2014-01-27 23-04-35-37InsideSimRacing

From around 2008 to mid 2013, InsideSimRacing was a weekly YouTube show hosted by longtime friends Darin Gangi, Shaun Cole, and some girl they may or may not have found on a sugar daddy site. While the show originally covered a multitude of racing sims in a way previously not seen before, gradually the show progressed to become heavily affiliated with iRacing.

At first, I enjoyed Darin and Shaun’s extremely deep reviews on the various driving games on the market – their review for Supercar Challenge on the PS3 was exceptionally well done and was exactly what driving games needed – people who knew what they were talking about to break down a game in the ways Gamespot and IGN couldn’t.

However, their affiliation with iRacing couldn’t be masked. Eventually, ads for iRacing, including promo offers, special events, and updates were hard-coded into the videos, breaking up the action with awkward we’re totally not sponsored by iRacing at all segments.

ISR2

The iRacing.com polo shirts, tutorials, and seminar coverage didn’t help, either:

isrisr

Unfortunately for them, we got to see their friendship, and the show, go down in a blaze of glory – the majority of which was broadcasted in a mess of forum drama that people seemed to eat up despite being so publicly against:

PHOTO1

Why Shill?

I actually listened to a YouTuber from my area talk about this during one of her streams on YouNow.

Websites and YouTube videos aren’t profitable on their own. The actual profit a YouTuber makes when they’re partnered with a decent company who pays them for simple views on their YouTube video, is anywhere from $1 – $3 per 1,000 views. A video with 60,000 views will net you around $60 – so in the land of pretend race cars, a video with a lot of hits will basically make you enough so you can buy a new racing sim to make videos about. As for websites, we don’t make anything with PretendRaceCars.net. Well, aside from that lonely Fanatec ad on the top right of the page, but we don’t even know how much that pays out, because nobody has ever clicked on it.

Shilling is a way to get stuff for free and pocket the money you actually do make. In the case of the YouTuber, she primarily does skincare & makeup reviews. Instead of having to spend the money she makes from views on products so she has new stuff to make videos on, she instead shills for stuff, essentially getting stuff she was going to buy anyway for free, and that allows her to pocket the $30 – $60 she makes off each video and expand her horizons – at the moment she’s branched out to podcasts and has several different content-specific channels. Given that she has a routine of uploading several videos per week, saving this money over a period of time has her sitting pretty comfortably, and I’d imagine once she graduates uni and gets herself a proper job, the additional cash from making YouTube videos will help her out in the long run.

And the same goes for video games. Websites aren’t profitable and you need products to cover somehow. Shilling for a game or a piece of hardware offsets the cost of buying it for the site, and you can pocket the miniscule amount of money the media outlet makes – which obviously pools over time.

And daring to shit on a game means this gravy train where you get a bunch of cool stuff for free comes to an abrupt stop, because as you can see above, most companies can’t take criticism and go through great lengths to attempt to silence you.

Too bad it makes things a total mess for the reader, and that’s how #Gamergate was born.

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25 thoughts on “The #Gamergate Post

  1. Excellent article. The current state of gaming media is just…awful. Almost nothing can be trusted. Last year we saw months and months of coverage for games like the order 1886 and project cars. So much hype and then they were released. The order got middle range reviews because it was so bad they literally couldn’t lie about it. To be honest it scored way better than it had any right to. Project cars on the other hand got great reviews despite not being very good at all.

    Its gotten to the point where buying a game based on a review is a major risk. Thankfully steam has instituted a refund policy.

    This article doesnt even talk about most of the behind the scenes bs going on it just focuses on shills which is fine and important but people need to understand it goes much deeper. Kotakuinaction on reddit is a good resource and so is deepfreeze (.net? .com?) For finding out info on the press

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL at complaining about the “current state” of gaming media. Gaming “journalism” has always been glorified advertising, and only a dumbass would think it’s ever been anything more than that.

      Like

      1. Because it’s too parasitic and relies on the industry to support it to survive. I doubt Roger Ebert got paid by movie studios to give good scores to movies; it’s pretty obvious to me that everything he wrote was purely based on his own opinions.

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  2. Hey, I clicked the Fanatec ad just for the lelz. Perhaps given that the admin here is active on /o/’s /ovg/, if the Fanatec ad doesn’t give enough money, you’ll put the infamous J-List ads like 4chan did 😛 /s( and for the unknowing, J-List is an online store for otaku things – sometimes the ads they run on 4chan are quite risque)

    I still remember my comment earlier about Capcom being butthurt with EGM because they gave average reviews to Super Street Fighter II. That was the 90s, you know.

    While GTPlanet has been a primarily Gran Turismo site, there have been some articles on rival games. The admin (Jordan) have kept them as a minor features because expanding coverage would be a major decision to fully cover it. (The weekly rewind feature does cover them sometimes too, but it is community-driven).

    And talking of Capcom (which made Auto Modellista)… there’s shitstorm on the webs recently about Mighty No. 9, a crowd-funded game by Keiji Inafune after he left Capcom. People have been seeing that the game will be inevitably reviewed averagely or worse after recent info about MN9. As a tangent, do you have any thoughts about Mighty No. 9, PretendRaceCars?

    Like

    1. How about thoughts on MN9 from a backer thereof?

      I am an absolutely MASSIVE fan of Mega Man. Capcom has been dead to me since the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3, Rockman Online, and Mega Man Universe within months of each other — they have absolutely no interest in furthering the franchise with anything but endless merch and re-releases. I invested in MN9 because I saw the potential to keep Mega Man’s spirit alive somewhere else. I’ve since been disappointed.

      Put aside the community drama for a moment. Ignore the fact that the community manager was a colossal SJW douchebag who banned people from the official forum for disagreeing with her or criticizing her in any way (forum access was a backer reward, by the way — those bans constitute breach of contract and can be sued over). Ignore the fact that the fanbase is basically dead now, thanks to that woman, and has been for some time. Let’s set all of that aside, even though it will have a very real impact on the game’s staying power. What is the game itself actually like?

      I had beta access during the entire beta testing phase. This is first-hand knowledge. The game couldn’t possibly be more mediocre. Comcept basically took NO player feedback, possibly thanks to the previously-mentioned community manager. Part of her job was the relaying of community feedback to the development team. By her own admission, she had NEVER PLAYED A SINGLE MEGA MAN GAME prior to being hired by Comcept. Think about that for a moment: a community chock-full of some of the most hardcore Mega Man fanatics on the planet, a community that undoubtedly has plenty to say about what makes a good Mega Man-style game, was forced to funnel all of its feedback through one individual, an individual that knows absolutely NOTHING about Mega Man.

      The UI is garbage-tier and feels like it was made in the Unity engine in maybe thirty minutes tops. The central gameplay mechanic is immediately obvious as a horrible idea to anyone with any Mega Man experience — if you’ve played Mega Man 5 and know how terrible Charge Kick is as a weapon, you know that designing an entire game to be played with Charge Kick v2.0 as the primary kill move is a godawful idea. There’s a score counter for some reason, because the Mega Man franchise totally didn’t ditch the idea of score after the FIRST DAMN GAME. The level design is frankly uninspired and bland (flashy visual appeal notwithstanding).

      MN9 is a disappointment in every conceivable respect. Being the crazed Mega Man fan that I am, I turned to 20XX on Steam for my fix instead. It’s a far better game in its incomplete state than MN9 is in its near-finished state.

      Like

  3. Great reading. That explains why Virtualr.net became the pile of crap of now. Had no idea they had been bought by SMS. And about ISR, despite their obvious affiliation with iRacing since I can ever remember, they still did reviews that sounded honest until December 2013. It was one of the very few from the sim crowd that didn’t bashed Gran Turismo 6 for being a console sim. After Shaun left, the show became stale and soulless. Really sad.

    Anyway, loving this blog and how independent it is. Hope nobody pocket you guys eventually.

    Like

  4. I agree with some points this article make, but do feel it’s biased in certain ways.. Virtualr might be owned by a sms employee, but it DOES cover other stuff as well.

    There has been a lot of complaining about the amount of Pcars coverage but if you search for onboard nords footage, how many are made in rfactor, or AC, why only show the amount of pCars videos? To me, this is a bit like baiting, you seem to want this to be bad, so you show half the story making it look worse than it is, in my opinion. I can’t count the number of onboard vids made for AC or rF, but you single out the Pcars footage making it seem like its the only vids vr puts out, which is simply not true.

    You guys seem to enjoy AC, but why are you not complaining about the millions of ‘x car for AC preview number 2000000’ that are posted on vr more or less daily? Or the track announcements, also for AC that are very numerous as well.

    As I said, I agree with some points in the article, but I can’t help feel like you are on a mission to discredit both virtualr and Pcars making them seem way worse than they are. This kind of inflammatory article only fuels the disrupting void that is ripping this small community apart. I can’t for the life of me understand why people spend som much time and energy trying to convince others not to enjoy a game/sim because the writer doesn’t like it, so nobody else should either? Any success, for any title, wether you enjoy it or not, should be considered good for this tiny community, shouldn’t it?

    Disclaimer: not trying to be a Pcars fanboy here, I just singled out that part of the article since vr is the site I know best, and I honestly don’t think they are particularly biased towards Pcars as opposed to AC(in particular) or rf etc.

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  5. Sorry James but not stating that you haven’t completed career mode makes your review less objective while readers are not aware of this reduction. Completing the game is expected from professional review.

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  6. Another thought provoking article. This is one of my go-to blogs, because I enjoy reading your unfiltered opinions. I don’t care which games you trash or which games you praise. I do care that you’re calling ’em like you see ’em! Someone’s got to.

    Like

  7. This has got to be the biggest wastes of time in the history of writing. It seems you actually have some talent as a writer too. Shame that you waste your time and effort to do nothing but bitch and moan. What’s the point in all this ? You trying to put the companies you slander out of business ? Maybe you’re jealous that they are successful and you will never be. Here’s a thought. You don’t like Sim Racing or what it has to offer. Get the fuck out and go do something productive versus being a total cunt. I guess misery loves company and you seem to be one miserable fuck.

    Like

    1. You gonna elaborate whats wrong with it? what exactly upset you about it so much that you had to respond to it like that if massive waste of time? most of what he mentioned valid concern, may only be games but doesnt excuse BS censoring and in ian bells case suing public blogs, why do you think keeping a spotlight on sim racing media and their potentiol BS, otherwise they are just enougher internet advert, thats fine but I dont want that kinda cheese nob behavior.

      blogs and you tube sites arent producing companies, there will be no starving babys or unpaid mortgages if some youtuber\blog site got outted as a shill , you comment is moronic, most articles Ive seen here is backed up with evidence with some opinion added, and is a refresher from being bombarded by cheese nob marketing every game site, sim or not.

      Any time this site puts a spotlight on pcars, some idiot always shows up and calls BS but doesnt elaborate on ONE SINGLE point that they find, a classic shill cock sucking response.

      Liked by 1 person

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