Vindictive game company invites employees to pan reviewer's novel after bad review

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118 Responses to “Vindictive game company invites employees to pan reviewer's novel after bad review”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s hardly accurate to say they are a major video game publisher.

  2. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Once upon a time, there was a commenter here who had some unspecified grudge against one of our guest bloggers. So he went to Amazon, made a bunch of sock-puppet accounts and wrote a bunch of negative reviews of the guest blogger’s latest book. Then he came to the comment thread here and pointed out that the guest blogger’s book (and thus opinion) was obviously crap since there were so many negative reviews at Amazon.

    I ate his liver for breakfast.

    • travtastic says:

      Was it obvious, or did you use secret mod powers to find out who it was?

      Seriously, I mean. Unless it’s some kind of trade secret.

    • emmdeeaych says:

      Someone was doing that to Bob Harris a couple years back. He gave up and shut down his previously thoughtful and pleasant comments section.

    • OrcOnTheEndOfMyFork says:

      I ate his liver for breakfast.

      Could you recommend a wine for that, and were there fava beans involved?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Even if the game was good I wouldn’t buy it, or anything else that High Voltage release, because of their immature actions.

  4. dculberson says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t post this sooner:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6cake3bwnY

  5. Anonymous says:

    Maybe people should actually read the review before passing judgement on the people at High Voltage. Their retaliatory behavior probably wasn’t the best idea, but Mr. Murdock’s review isn’t exactly a shining example of literary integrity. It reads more like a 15 year old’s rant than professional journalism.

    http://www.joystiq.com/2011/05/03/conduit-2-review/

    It is also one of two outliers on the metacritic score which averages at 63.

    http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/conduit-2/critic-reviews

  6. Anonymous says:

    See, where the creative director went wrong – other than committing to an e-mail what should have been a frustration-venting ‘wouldn’t it be funny if?’ at the water cooler – is attacking the reviewer’s work as a novelist, which is completely unconnected to the poorly-written and completely unprofessional review that he wrote.
    There’s legitimate criticism written in a humorous tone, and then there’s trying to get laughs by just being flat-out mean. This review largely falls into the latter category.

    The odd irony of this whole thing is that the reviewer’s book now has oodles more publicity than it ever would have got before, while what is by most other accounts a half-decent game is getting panned because of something a handful of people at the company did. Looks like writing a mean-spirited review really paid off for that guy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe the people saying this “revenge reviewing” thing is okay. Reviews are written FOR OTHER PEOPLE. They are supposed to help others decide if they want to spend their hard-earned money on a book/game/album/movie/play/restaurant. Reviewing something is actually a service you do for complete strangers, a kindness, really. Other people do not care that your itty-bitty feelings were hurt by a bad review of YOUR work and that you want to get some sort of adolescent, passive-aggressive revenge on said reviewer. Most of us grew out of this kind of behavior and find it unattractive in anyone over age 17 or so.

    Well, at least we now know why the game was bad. Lots of employees completely lacking in people skills and any understanding of adult behavior are bound to turn out crap.

  8. teapot says:

    You’d have to be fucked in the head to trust amazon reviews. Am I the only person who buys books based on actual reviews and suggestions from people whose opinions matter?

    While I think that High Voltage are being underhanded, dirty fucks with this move, I also think that people should always keep in mind that the internet is full of lies and marketing.

    Doesn’t matter to me in the end.. My review process involes pirating both works and seeing if either of them is worth actually buying.

  9. Anonymous says:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2QQFZCGDP6TSD/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1596635886&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=

    Amazon is allowing this review to stand–note the title:

    17 of 193 people found the following review helpful:
    1.0 out of 5 stars

    gayer than aids, May 20, 2011
    By
    readeth of books
    This review is from: The Dragon Ruby (Paperback)
    worst book ever dr suess books have more depth .After the first chapter of it i threw it out my window.It was a good chew toy for my dog.

  10. hiro luigi says:

    the writer deserves what’s coming to him. i hope he gets slammed in amazon reviews, cracked in half. critics, like sports referees, are under the impression that they are immune from reproach or, oddly, criticism. live by the pen, die by the pen.

    why is everyone on here so pro the writer? ridiculous. seriously

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure if my schadenfreude is stronger for a critic or a video game company, so I’ll just comment that they’re both kind of dicks and Solomon should order their baby to be sawn in two.

  12. ackpht says:

    Logically refute an opinion? Only if the opinion itself is based in logic. Clearly my blogging fu is weak.

  13. Ronald Pottol says:

    I worked for a video game company about 15 years ago, and it was well known then, that if you wanted a good review in a magazine, you had better buy advertising to match from the magazine.

    So they probably expect the same sort of thing. Perhaps they thought he should have asked them to plug his book in exchange for him saying nice things about their game.

    Personally, I prefer the approach of people like England’s Car magazine, who brag about advertisers who have pulled their adds (sometimes for years, companies as big as major car makers (I am not certain about the names at this point, it’s been years)), they say they get readers because of their journalism, and that gets the eyeballs that the advertisers cannot live without. They also are always at least 50% editorial content.

  14. Sparrow says:

    @Antinous

    Did you eat it with potatoes, or fava beans and a nice chianti?

  15. signsofrain says:

    Yep, feelin’ no pity. Turnabout is fair play.

    • Muneraven says:

      How is it “turnabout” OR “fair play” when the initial reviewer crafted an honest review with no personal malice intended and the dorks came back and used the review process as a tool for passive-aggressive revenge? That’s like saying “the doctor stuck me with a needle, so I turned around and stuck her with a needle, too, because turnabout is fair play.”

      Motive matters.

    • princeminski says:

      Even eBay stopped allowing sellers to give vengeful negative ratings to buyers who gave neutral or negative ratings to their products and services. There’s an obvious chilling effect. As someone else said, reviews are supposed to help other people decide whether they want to do business with a particular vendor.

    • Jake0748 says:

      No… there’s nothing fair about it. The reviewer actually PLAYED the game, and then wrote his honest opinion. The people at the game company just wrote bad reviews because they were encouraged to by their boss.

      Its a bullshit move.

      • signsofrain says:

        Nothing in that e-mail encourages the writing of negative reviews. it even says to read the book. If some devs felt that Mike’s review of their game was unfair, wouldn’t it be fair for THEM to post unfair reviews on HIS baby?

        I mean, the whole thing is very schoolyard, but a pan for a pan seems like a fair trade to me. Everyone’s like “Oh poor Mike” but what about the hard-working devs at High Voltage?

        • Gunn says:

          Get real, @signsofrain. The developer is putting everyone who reviews its games on notice that they will publicly and anonymously troll anyone who gives them a bad review.

          They may find, however, that this means no one with any credibility will review their games.

        • Jake0748 says:

          “I mean, the whole thing is very schoolyard” -I heartily agree “…but a pan for a pan seems like a fair trade to me”.

          But if the basis of a review is tit-for-tat, doesn’t that kind of invalidate the whole concept of reviews?

        • wrybread says:

          When people have so little grasp on ethics as you do, honestly I fear for the human race. How on earth can you possibly call this fair? If this sort of thing were common it’d be impossible, or at least really dangerous, to write anything negative (but honest) about anyone. And its an issue we’re going to have to deal with more and more in the modern world.

          • signsofrain says:

            wrybread: I’m not saying it’s RIGHT for people to go and pan Mike’s book in response to a negative review. I disagree with it! I’m just saying that when you write on the internet, you should expect and be prepared to deal with this sort of dickery. Expecting other people to fight fair is just naive. So, basically, I don’t feel sorry for Mike. He wrote a negative review that angered people and they did angry things. If he’d written a kinder (not dishonest but perhaps not as harsh) review maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

            I also think it’s a stretch to say they’re “attacking his livelihood”. Is he attacking theirs? You could argue it either way.

            My final words on the matter (this I promise to you, Rob) are:

            High Voltage did a stupid thing, but I’m not angry or surprised about it and Mike Murdock shouldn’t be either. For better or for worse, people can say what they want on the internet and we all have to learn to deal with it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Indeed. One of the ways of dealing with it is criticism, which is what you see here.

          • bill says:

            “I’m not saying it’s RIGHT for people to go and pan Mike’s book in response to a negative review. I disagree with it!”

            So, pray tell, why are you defending it? Everyone else is like, “That’s a dick move!” And you’re all, “Sounds fair to me! Wait, I’m not saying it’s not a dick move, I’m just going to argue myself into a corner telling all of you that you shouldn’t say it’s a dick move because my knee-jerk reaction was stupid and I can’t admit that I am wrong! Don’t tell me what to do, Rob!”

            Oh that’s right, because as you stated, “For better or for worse, people can say what they want on the internet and we all have to learn to deal with it.”

            I’ve heard that you’re a rapist and you abuse animals and you’re a stupid contrarian to boot. Deal with it. Dipshit.

          • signsofrain says:

            You should actually read my comments bill. I never defended the act of posting retaliatory negative reviews, I merely said that when I read the story I thought “Fair enough!” In a sense I’m defending High Voltage because I can understand why they might have done what they did. Everyone’s saying “It’s so unfair! Mean unwarranted reviews in response to a fair unbiased one!” but who is to say Mike’s review was fair, or unbiased? Maybe he twisted the knife a little too much and got his just desserts? I’m just saying there’s more ways to look at it than demonizing High Voltage for something all of us have done from time to time. Say a mean thing to me, I’ll say a mean thing to you!

            This does not mean I AGREE with posting negative reviews on Mike’s book, I just don’t think it’s really a very big deal.

            Also, I can admit I’m wrong. Everything I stated as fact is fact, to the best of my ability to check. The rest is my opinion, and opinions can’t be “wrong”. Though I think you and Rob might disagree with me on that one :)

          • bill says:

            “My final words on the matter (this I promise to you, Rob) are…”

            And, you’re a liar who’s word is apparent worth as much as his reasoning ability. What a surprise!

          • TooGoodToCheck says:

            wow, settle down there Bill. no need to act like a dick.

            that way lies madness, and asking your friends to write nasty reviews of signsofrain’s work. . .

          • Anonymous says:

            Everyone’s saying “It’s so unfair! Mean unwarranted reviews in response to a fair unbiased one!” but who is to say Mike’s review was fair, or unbiased?

            And if it was, two wrongs make a right? Because obviously providing information to customers about whether a book or game is any good at most incidental to the purpose of a review, so lying to them is fine, so long as the author deserves it.

          • wrybread says:

            That’s like saying its completely expected for someone to punch someone for disagreeing with them, and thus completely forgivable.

          • spriggan says:

            “That’s like saying its completely expected for someone to punch someone for disagreeing with them, and thus completely forgivable.”

            No I think it’s more along the lines of, ‘If you punch me I will punch you back. And my fist may be bigger. And oh yeah, I fight dirty. Too bad you punched first…’

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, but putting something out for review is like asking someone to punch your rock-hard abs and see how spectacular they are. At that point, punching back because you don’t hold up is poor conduct.

            …Is this analogy dead yet? I liked the needles better.

          • spriggan says:

            my analogy wasn’t meant to be perfect it was a response to someones else’s imperfect anaolgy. That was sorta the point. I guess people misread things implied in text? Oh wait there’s an example of that at the top of the page. wow.

          • andrei.timoshenko says:

            No I think it’s more along the lines of, ‘If you punch me I will punch you back. And my fist may be bigger. And oh yeah, I fight dirty. Too bad you punched first…’

            That would be true if Murdock got a bunch of his friends together and they all went on Amazon to spam Conduit 2 with negative reviews without playing the game first.

            On the other hand, creating something, voluntarily sending it out to professional reviewers, and then getting pissy and lashing out when some of them don’t like it makes you a dick. An insecure, talentless dick.

          • Anonymous says:

            Did anyone here actually read the review? I don’t own a Wii and I’ve never heard of this game, the first one, or the game studio in question but I do play video games. I never read Joysiq but do occasionally read game reviews, have heard of the reviewer, or care about another young adult fantasy book floating in the current glut of them. But when I read this post I when and read the article, the response, and a few of the in question Amazon reviews from both sides.
            I still say there is a clear difference, when being a professional reviewer/critic/writer in general between writing something snarky and funny and something just meanspirited. Usually talent more often than not taste. But it was a video game review so perhaps juvenility was his intended audience. Both parties crossed the professionalism line here, but if anything this guy got free publicity for his book. I think rational people can wade through the crap normally calling itself a review on Amazon. I’d be wary about hiring either in the future though.

          • TooGoodToCheck says:

            people can say what they want on the internet and we all have to learn to deal with it.

            I think we _are_ dealing with it. Someone said something stupid, someone else called him out for it. That’s how the best parts of the internet deal with mean and stupid shit – by calling it by its proper name, and righteously condemning it. I like that we retain some capacity to be appalled by juvenile vindictive behaviour – it’s a triumph of hope over experience.

            Having this publicized is probably the best recourse for the reviewer – his book may still get panned, but it will also be widely known that the reviews may not have been responses exclusively to the quality of his book.

          • signsofrain says:

            You’re cool TooGoodToCheck, I like you. I agree! People should post “hey look at those stupid fake reviews from pissed off devs, haw haw haw!” right alongside said stupid fake reviews. That’s what the internet is FOR! :) And why this whole thing is just NOT that big a deal. People post stuff. Some of it’s true and some of it’s not. BFD.

            I apologize if I stepped on anybody’s toes in this thread. The totally inaccurate post title designed to drum up sympathy for Mike is what got my goat, and when my goat gets got I post harsh comments on blogs. You should see the crap I write to the TSA.

            And wrybread, punching someone and posting something mean online are two very different things. You can’t compare physical violence to a negative amazon review.

          • Tdawwg says:

            Quit it with the oh-so-careful FUDsy handwringing. The email was pointed, the post title accurate, and you are a tool. Abandon the field to the victors, and come back to fight another day.

        • the Other michael says:

          upvoted

        • Anonymous says:

          its the fact that its in retaliation is what’s wrong. the initial bad review was because he geuinely felt he didnt like it, not because h had a grudge against the maker of the game.

          bad game reviews happen. this is the WRONG way to handle them.

          as for those poor developers, maybe they should’ve worked for a boss who’s less of an asshole. or maybe the boss should’ve hired better people so the game wasn’t such shit.

  16. g0d5m15t4k3 says:

    That’s a little childish from a large company.

  17. Freek says:

    Yeah, it’s not a verry good game at all. But you should watch the ending cinema on Youtube. That is absolutly amazing for all the wrong reasons.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foaxsBZIAZ0

    It’s mostly a boring fight against a giant monster but skip to about 7 minutes in and watch the “magic” unfold. ;)

    • Anonymous says:

      about the only thing I think positive about the end video of Conduit2 was the voice actor of Adams. Everything else was just wrong.

  18. Gamith says:

    An effective response would be for other parties, friendly to the author, to also add their thoughts on the authors book.

    I wonder how the company operates if this is it’s behaviour? could a reason for the poor game be because the internal dynamics of the company are based on attacking scape-goats rather than dealing with matters in a more mature way?

    Oh yeah – twitter just reminded me that that’s it’s all rather pointless anyway since the rapture is happening tomorrow, so I’ll be too busy being ‘not-in-heaven’ to care about it.

    ttfn

  19. signsofrain says:

    The developers of the game probably feel exactly the same pain Mike Murdock does. If you’re a reviewer expect whatever you author to come under intense scrutiny. At this point Mike Murdock ought to mobilize his legions of fans to positively review his book. He does have legions of fans, right? Or can the negative reviews of one dev studio crush his writing career?

    This isn’t a story, it’s a bunch of whiners whining at each other.

  20. YarbroughFair says:

    It’s not “his” book; He and J. Herschel Jeffrey, co-authored the novel.

    Facts please.

    I mention this because J. Herschel Jeffrey would be unjustly effected too by this company’s babyish mewings.

  21. Anonymous says:

    It’s the kind of thing I expect from people who made the Conduit and then made Conduit 2. Next they’ll canvas this article and internet detective every poster in the hopes they have accounts at porn websites.

  22. knyghtryda says:

    A pretty slimeball move for a dev to do. Good luck getting any further purchases from the gaming community anymore. This hasn’t yet popped up on joystiq (or Kotaku) yet, but once it does… yeah, this doesn’t end well for High Voltage.

  23. ackpht says:

    I don’t see anything in the email about the nature of the author’s review or suggesting to employees how they should review the author’s work.

  24. bob d says:

    I have to say, it’s quite a stretch to call “High Voltage software” a “major developer.” Based on their output, I’d say they’re a small to mid-size developer, forced to make licensed property games to survive. Someone at the company suggested that employees read and review their reviewer’s book? He specifically tells people to read it, not to go and simply trash the guy’s ratings. Yeah, it’s childish and petty*, but it’s hardly outrageous and terrible. The four negative** book reviews are pretty terrible, but suggesting that people actually read and review the book? Not so much.

    * Game developers get too emotionally attached to the games they make; I think it’s a coping mechanism to survive the horrible working hours and conditions.

    ** It’s only four freakin’ reviews, hardly a behemoth crushing a poor defenseless author.

  25. Talia says:

    If you read the “updated” link there’s commentary and apologies from the game company’s main guy and the fellow who sent out the e-mail. Sounds more like it was a poorly thought out impulse e-mail than something meant to be malicious.

    • Jerril says:

      Sounds more like it was a poorly thought out impulse e-mail than something meant to be malicious.

      Most poorly-thought-out things are malicious. Lack of planning for your malice doesn’t make it any less malicious.

    • Gloria says:

      I think it’s naive to say that the original email wasn’t encouraging negative reviews. It came from a source of wounded pride. If it’s such a kindness to be reviewed (as said in the email), why not look at other reviewers’ work? “Remember this guy who panned our game? Please note that I have singled him out and make sure to review his game fairly and squarely.”

      Ah right. The email doesn’t say anything *either* about not just making up a review after reading the book anyway, or letting your personal pride colour your impressions, or writing anything fair.

  26. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of dicks. Unfortunately I won’t be reading, or reviewing, The Dragon Ruby as it’s not my type of read. And I will be steering clear of any software from High Voltage. Best of luck Murdock.

  27. Rob Beschizza says:

    signsofrain, you are being deliberately stupid and should cut it out.

    • signsofrain says:

      Deliberately stupid? In stating my opinion? Just because I don’t agree with the rather sensationalistic (and inaccurate) post title and feel compelled to defend the “big company” instead of the “poor little author” ?

      Well gee Rob, BAN ME then, I wasn’t aware we had to agree with the editorial slant of every post here in order to comment.

      • emmdeeaych says:

        I have a plan, and it’s exactly the same as what you suggested the Author himself do.

        GO WHINE ABOUT IT ON YOUR OWN BLOG

        and mobilize your fans…. surely SOMEONE appreciates your work?

        • signsofrain says:

          Some people appreciate a little dissent in the comments emmdeeaych, I guess you’re not one of them! I hoped to prevent this thread from becoming a Mike Murdock pity party and I feel I’ve done my part for that.

          And for those of you that posted some (pretty mean!) comments disagreeing with me, I love you all to death. It wouldn’t be the same internet without you.

          Once again, apologies if I offended anybody! I just… I’m sorry. I don’t feel bad for Mike Murdock.

          And that, I promise, is my last post in this thread. :)

          • emmdeeaych says:

            Dissent is appreciated man, mindless repetition that insults other commenters points while parroting what you’ve already said.

            Man, that shit ain’t appreciated anywhere.

  28. MacBookHeir says:

    This sort of thing has has happened always throughout the history of industrialized Civilized through poison pen letters, negative anti-advertising and such. Also I don’t see that “Matt” is encouraging negative reviews. I say this is much ado about an email.

  29. Salviati says:

    If this email was leaked from a employee at the game development company (perhaps offended by the action), I hope his cover wasn’t blown by publishing the ‘To’ field of the email above. I will avoid typing his name so that it doesn’t become a searchable part of this email, but perhaps Boing Boing should re-crop the above image to hide the source.

    • Chris says:

      I’m the author of the original article on Marooners’ Rock. The “To” field is a large group email. The individual who provided the image of the email was not worried about the group identity.

      Thanks for your concern, though!

  30. CANTFIGHTTHEDITE says:

    We all know that the correct response to the critical review of Conduit 2 would be to sue everyone who wrote critical reviews, and their publishers, and their publishers’ dogs, and the bar association. I know a lawyer who’s looking for work.

  31. Anonymous says:

    While i have purchased C2 and found it “so-so,” the game is enjoyable. The problem w/ Michael Murdock is that he’s coming across as innocent of any wrong doing towards HVS.

    Additionally, the HVS email doesn’t actually state to go out and give Michael a negative review, but its clear it was sent to “remind/inform” internal empoloyeesof the authors other literary works.

    Clearly the review was bunk, but HVS retaliating in such a matter is quite unprofessional. Clearly a written response from HVS to Joystick would’ve been more classy.

    Additionally, if you look in Michaels review its says he never played the original and it basing is impression on his first play through of C2. Well….if you want to take that analogy, based on the review he wrote for C2, I clearly DO NOT want to read any of his novels or literary works. So people giving him negative reviews is fine by me. People can easily review his thought process and in-depth (or lack there of) evaluation, to make a clearly defined decision of the type of “novelist” he is.

    If this “sensationalist” type of journalism is what Michael practices……a word of advice from the backlash he’s getting…..”prepare to lye in the bed for which we lay.”

    As stated by a previous poster, whether its acknowledged by “game reviewers” (a term used loosely in Michael’s case) does affect the company by which is affected by the review. My advice is for any of his future reviews,to establish some “street cred,” don’t come off as some “angry video game nerd.” You’re the last type of person that I want any professional advice from.

  32. Ambiguity says:

    Here’s a review for you:

    This comment thread is probably the most juvenile I’ve ever seen on BB. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many likenings to male genitalia in such a small place. Seriously, a lot of these comments belong on Youtube, not here.

    Seriously, what is it about the situation that’s getting so many people’s kickers in a knot, and causing them to act like children?

  33. JohnnyOC says:

    On one side you have High Voltage software. From what my friends told me in the industry it’s really not the most classy place to work, sort of a sweatshop, and have of their titles are shovelware.

    I agree that they do make pretty mediocre games at best in the past couple of years (check metacritic).

    On of the other side you have a reviewer from Joystiq. Don’t know the reviewer honestly, but given the nature of video game critiques on those kinds of blogs (very few are actually even handed), they can be downright nasty for nasty sake just to drum up eyeballs and cater to a clientele that can border on the trollish.

    Underhanded and self-serving on both sides, IMO. Have fun!

    • johnLongview says:

      Joystiq, as a whole, is known as a rather fair site, when it comes to their reviews. I’m a regular listener to their podcast, and the guy in charge of reviews (Justin) is pretty serious about giving praise where it’s due, and likewise scorn.

      The reviewer in this case was a freelancer (not one of the regular review team), and so might be “more likely” to try to attract eyeballs with particularly scathing commentary, but the site rarely (if ever, imo) does that sort of thing.

      My understanding is that one of the Amazon accounts that originally gave a poor rating to the reviewer’s book also gave quite high marks to… Conduit 2. Hrrm.

    • kspraydad says:

      Joysitq is run by AOL…have you read the manifesto? Evenhandedness was thrown out for eyeballs. I read Joystiq and the lot for the humour in the comment section only.

  34. Rider says:

    If they put out a good game the gaming community won’t give a shit. people love to imagine that we live in a world where people care about morales when making a purchase. The truth is people talk a good game but rarely if ever protest with there wallet.

    The bigger issue is that it’s increasingly easy to commit slander with the endless variety of free review sites. The vast majority of reviews are 100% fake. Getting real customers to leave reviews is net to impossible since most people don’t take the time to go through the registration processes required, which leave fake paid reviews and slanderous reviews from competitors.

  35. emmdeeaych says:

    Fucking Narcissists, how do they work?

    no, i mean really, how do they keep their jobs?

  36. Anonymous says:

    As for the great job conditions at certain Video Game companies … I think this says it all. :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVQM6RJfK4U

  37. MacBookHeir says:

    This sort of thing has has happened always throughout the history of industrialized Civilized through poison pen letters, negative anti-advertising and such. Also I don’t see that “Matt” is encouraging negative reviews. I say this is much ado about an email.

  38. Mockiavelli says:

    Reading the four puerile, transparent reviews that High Voltage put up on Amazon, I get the impression of a company that places very little emphasis on subtlety, storytelling or craftsmanship. I’m sure their work on these games faces some serious hurdles in compressed schedules and resources, but I fear a corporate culture that celebrates rushed, slipshod work has emerged. It must be tough to work there.

    Of course, we only see the 4 reviews of the people who heeded the email call-to-arms. I don’t know how many people work there, but everyone else restrained themselves and could be a totally upstanding citizen that puts up with those 4 people every day at work.

  39. dragonfrog says:

    I’m not sure how to put this without sounding like I’m being insulting, but – is English not your first language? Do you have a neuroligical condition that interferes with your understanding of implied communication in language? In mafia movies, when the large men in dark suits say “Nice shop you have hear. It would be a real shame if something happened to it,” do you understand them to be honesly expressing concern that an unfortunate coincidence might take place?

    I mean, to me, the writer of the email could hardly have been more obvious if he had actually salted his email with “nudge nudge, wink wink”s.

  40. kickabear says:

    Hi Folks,

    I thought you might like to know that game developer High Voltage Software has a game they have written available on Amazon. It looks to have decent reviews based on 15 players’ feedback.

    High Voltage was kind enough to recent provide Michael Murdock with a series of reviews on The Dragon Ruby. And so in turn you all should feel at liberty to (of course play it first) and then return the favor by writing a player review for High Voltage’s game for them.

    Have fun folks!

    Take Care,
    John

    http://www.amazon.com/Conduit-2-Nintendo-Wii/dp/B003GB4UXI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305918913&sr=8-1

  41. Vorteks says:

    I’d like to join the other posters in pointing out that the e-mail didn’t necessarily call for negative reviews (although it certainly isn’t hard to read that undertone into it).

    But setting aside the issue for the moment, I actually find it kind of sad that so far NOBODY has submitted a review for the book with any real detail in it. At the moment there are 14 reviews and they’re all pretty much one of the following:

    1. This is an awesome book
    2. This is a terrible book
    3. This is an awesome book and HighVoltage is evil

    A couple reviewers elaborate a little on their feelings (such as the review by Timothy Murray “Vulash”), but not enough to really help me make an informed purchase. So, although HighVoltage’s e-mail may have been sent with Malice, I find myself with the same request: would somebody please read this book and then post a [helpful] review?

  42. Anonymous says:

    So… first off:
    Yeah, this was an immature thing for the creative director of a company to do. It was poorly thought out and should not have happened.

    Regarding Murdock’s statement:
    “The issue is not that it’s a cute back and forth between a major video game developer and a lowly reviewer, but moreso that a major company attacked the livelihood of the reviewer because they didn’t like the review, and they’re acting like that’s ok.”

    First, the reviewer seems to think that his review doesn’t affect the livelihood of the developer, when that is simply not the case. Publishers are generally risk adverse with most external developers. Extremely negative reviews tend to hurt the ability of a third-party developer to secure future work. Third-party developers are freelancers too… just on a corporate scale.

    Second, the rating system for games as a whole — given their importance in the developer/publisher relationship — could use some sort of common language. Saying that Conduit 2 deserves 20/100 (1/5 stars) — making it functionally equivalent to Jenga World 2 or Pong Toss: Frat Party Games per Metacritic — is not particularly fair. I’m not saying that Conduit 2 deserves 4/5 or 5/5 stars, but that it was not, as implied by a 1/5 review, one of the worst games ever developed.

    Third — and this is important — Mr. Corso simply asked that people read and review the reviewer’s book. Was there a tacit implication that people should review it harshly? Most likely. However, he did _not_ explicitly encourage readers to give a negative review of the novel. He probably felt the book in question would be considered worthy of such a review on its own merits.

    I can’t say whether or not that’s the case because I haven’t read Mr. Murdock’s book. Heck, before this I hadn’t _heard_ of Mr. Murdock’s book… and now I’m actually curious about it. If anything, he should be at least minimally grateful for the free publicity.

  43. david85282 says:

    Certainly this type of retaliation is unethical, but is there not also an ethical duty to provide an accurate review? How can Murdock claim the graphics on N64 are better when that statement is objectively false? Nearly every response I have seen from those who have played the game say it is not great, but not horrible either.

    • Tdawwg says:

      Hyperbole and irony, yer doin’ them rong.

    • grimc says:

      Setting aside that the N64 comment was at the very least tinged with sarcasm, just because the Wii has better technology doesn’t mean anything on is “objectively” better. It’s not the tools, it’s what you do with them. Michael Bay can jam frames full of CGI vomit all he wants, but he’ll never be David Lean.

      • david85282 says:

        Below is a link to the review from IGN. Unless IGN was hired by the developer, I would say that is objective proof that the graphics are not “a mess” as Murdock writes in his review.

        9.0 Graphics – The High Voltage team excels at getting the most out of Wii. Great texture work and world design here. Some framerate issues.

        http://wii.ign.com/articles/116/1162746p2.html

  44. ackpht says:

    Think what you like about the intent of the email- but the text says what it says, and all else is inference.

    What I personally think is that all these people should be thankful that they can make a living by creating video games and fantasy novels instead of working a regular job.

    • Tdawwg says:

      Indeed. The text says in its subject line “We Heart Joystik,” something that reads strangely given the shitty review given them by Joystik. Willing to infer along with me that the subject line isn’t entirely sincere?

      The text also makes liberal use of passive-aggressive business-speak, in such phrases as “was kind enough to recently provide us” and “you should all feel at liberty.” Want to infer, along with others, that this language is the company schmuck’s unfunny way at implying that the review was unkind, and that employees might “feel at liberty” to trash his book?

      The closing statement, “Have fun folks!” seems a bit pointed, too: do you think it’s possible to infer that the company stooge isn’t merely wishing his employees an enjoyable experience in writing those reviews, but to actively delight in trashing the reviewer’s book?

      Bonus round: care to infer what I think about your close-reading skills and your credibility?

      • ackpht says:

        Infer your little heart out, Tdawwg. It’s not in the text.

        • Tdawwg says:

          Refute my arguments attesting its presence, then. Do so successfully, cogently, and quickly. You have ten minutes, after which it’s pencils down and bluebooks to the front. Negating an argument without counter-arguing your own point earns you little more than a D, and you’re in danger of failing Not Being Obtuse 101.

    • Talia says:

      News flash: creating video games and writing novels ARE regular jobs (alabeit the latter requires luck – sometimes skill, but not always – to succeed at). Perhaps you meant menial, blue collar or minimum wage?

  45. GreenJello says:

    Haven’t cared much for High Voltage since they dicked a friend of mine over. I’m not surprised to find them in this sorta drama, seems par for the course.

  46. gwailo_joe says:

    bill -1 for being insulting.

    -1 for the game that, indeed (from the promo) looks unimpressive.

    -1 for so much bad blood over supposedly free speech.

    Minus ones for Everyone!!!

  47. Anonymous says:

    Much as it’s a petty thing to do, maybe if the writer didn’t write such an utterly insulting review it wouldn’t have happened? You can be truthful and fair without being disrespectful — they’re not mutually exclusive choices.

    Also, being a critic is much easier than being the guys that actually spend the year+ producing a game (yes, even a bad one). For every games journalist that I actually admire, there’s many more that trot out lazy, overly abrasive, disrespectful articles.

    The Consolevania guys put it perfectly when they bowed out for just that reason — they felt bad about being rude (and they actually were creative and hilarious when scything down crap games: “fuck off, batman.” — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2PtFGO0g-4 )

  48. YarbroughFair says:

    I smell Steampunk fish;

    The book was published August 21st 2008. It had NO reviews on Amazon until December of 08′ and holds the disrespectful selling spot at #1,485,071. This book had only received 3 reviews between its release date and March 27th, 2009 and nothing since till this charade. Is this a case of negative advertising? Have sells increased for these two authors?

    However, Amazon has a great feature called “verified amazon purchase” and only two of the reviews are verified as being purchased through Amazon and they are both 5 star.

    Most reviews are fictional. The writing is perfect in syntax, punctuation, and clarity; it;s just too perfect.

    Trust only those two.

  49. mrclamo says:

    I’ll never buy anything from that video game company ever again. Heckovajob, Matty.

  50. kspraydad says:

    I really don’t see the issue here. Conduit didn’t force employees to do a review. Conduit encouraged them to read the book first (how do we know the 6 that have already reviewed the book did?). Conduit didn’t suggest whether the review should be positive or negative.

    So if this novelist ends up getting crappy reviews…perhaps it is because he has written a crappy book.

    • dculberson says:

      So you think the email was intended literally? I’m amazed anyone could be that naive.

      Read this comment:

      http://www.boingboing.net/2011/05/20/vindictive-game-comp.html#comment-1116565

      despite using the wrong one of the here/hear homonyms, Dragonfrog accurately sums up the situation. The email was not instructing people to go out, purchase the book, read it, cogitate on it, and give it a fair review. It was instructing people to go post negative reviews on Amazon without reading the book. If you can’t see that, maybe you’re an aspie? No problem if so, but neurotypicals have a way of communicating you may not be grasping.

    • bob d says:

      Actually Conduit (I assume you mean “High Voltage software”) didn’t do anything. One particular employee sent out an email to other employees. In that email he made a childish suggestion. Period.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I find it amusing that some hipster douchebag lackey has to spend his day making sure that Anon commentators don’t call his hipster douchebag bosses hipster douchebags, you wannabe hipster douchebag.

  52. Anonymous says:

    For me, the only surprising part is that anyone is surprised at this.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Matt Corso, trying to defend himself:
    “… In fact I seriously considered buying the book myself. I wanted to know how good it really was that this guy felt so in the right to trash our game and give away the ending like he did. And then post a plug to his book at the end, implying that we suck and he is totally great. …”

    Illogic. Weird. Implausible. God how lame is that. What on earth does “how good (the book) was” have to do with “feeling in the right” to have an informed opinion as a reviewer? Both things are completely unrelated! What a terrible, stupid, feeble attempt at backpaddling. The knee-jerk reaction and argumentation of a 15year old.

    I have to admit I didn’t know the game nor the company before this. Now they’re both well etched into my mind, attached to an inherently negative impression, and I’ll avoid them and their products like the plague. Way to do publicity, guys!

  54. Soliloquy says:

    I never would’ve heard of this book if someone up at High Voltage hasn’t been feeling scandalous. And if Boingboing didn’t feel the need to point it out. Hey, any publicity is good publicity. If it’s truly a good book, then a few fake negative reviews shouldn’t matter.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Reviews should be based on experience of the item being reviewed. Expert reviews then rely on the reputation and experience of the reviewer.

    There is a strong underlying tone in that e-mail suggesting that the writer wants the reviewers book reviewed based on his panning of their game, not on the strengths/weaknesses of the book (sure, read it first, but…).

    That is not “reviewing”, that’s revenge. Revenge on an honest (and probably fair) review of a product that has not really gotten that favorable reviews from others. That’s kind of “shit, we made an awful product. Let’s attack all those who say that out loud, especially those whom others listen to”.

    Even I can see that undertone, and I have Asperger’s, how limited then is someone who can’t see that (and I point up this thread for examples)

    • Anonymous says:

      Except that the product in question (Conduit 2) has received at least some favorable reviews… enough to merit a 64/100 aggregate on Metacritic (http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/conduit-2).

      That would put it around 3/5 stars using Joystiq’s review scale, versus the 1/5 awarded by the Joystiq reviewer.

      I don’t think the product is unequivocally crap in the eyes of all 40 reviewers who rated the game, and it doesn’t help your argument to claim otherwise.

      It’s still a dick move by High Voltage, and it reflects poorly on them.

  56. quori says:

    Look, we all know full well the game company was encouraging a tit for tat mentality “He trashed us, so feel free to trash him”.

    Its childish and immature. Especially for professionals.

    Having said that…we all have known for years that reviews expressed on sites like amazon can be manipulated very easily; and they should be taken with a grain of salt.

    When it comes to a tangible or non-objective item (like a tv or appliance) its easy to look at the “It is a piece of junk” and learn when to steer clear. A pattern develops in the commentary on such things.

    When it comes to objective things, like a story, video game, movie, etc…just watch it, read it, or play it and determine for yourself if you like it or not!

    The company should be ashamed. Their job is NOT to review some writer’s story. The writer in this case did HIS job of reviewing the game created. His writing outside of his reviewer position for Joystiq should not have been a target. AT ALL.

  57. Dyser says:

    A video game company that doesn’t understand how the Internet works deserves whatever failures lie ahead. More people will read the negative review, and the author’s book, than they otherwise would have if only the game company had kept their mouth shut.

  58. Freek says:

    I geuse some people here are massivly surprised when the villian tells his henchmen to “take care of our guest” and find that they are infact not bringing the good guy tea and cookies…

  59. Anonymous says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foaxsBZIAZ0&feature=player_detailpage#t=575s

    Heh. Abe Lincoln and George Washington, walking thru a “stargate” in techno-armor spacesuits. Ha ha ha ha.

    If Conduit 2 weren’t such utter crap otherwise, this part would be legendary.

  60. rtresco says:

    I have a biased take on this matter, but that’s cuz I know to take Amazon reviews with a grain of salt. A friend of mine had a job once writing Amazon reviews. I don’t remember if they were paid by a marketer or a vendor, but they reviewed a variety of things that weren’t inter-related. But of course, very gushing reviews that read like common joe reviews – not like copy.

    It’s been said before but the email doesn’t say that Murdock gave the game a bad review, and they in turn point out that people should read his book. I GET the nefarious undertones, but this email doesn’t cross any lines.

  61. zorro869 says:

    Well, thats all I need to NEVER buy a Sega product again.

    What jerks.

    Hey guys- how about spending some energy on making a good product and less on criticizing an unrelated product. You guys suck. This is what’s wrong with the world today. People so dumb, they think we will let crap like this fly. Yeah-just because you are too dumb to understand what you did here, doesn’t mean we aren’t. And in my life at least, Sega is gonna pay.

    • TooGoodToCheck says:

      Sega’s just the publisher. And they agreed to be the publisher long before this tempest in a teapot.

  62. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe the company is seriously trying to claim there was no foul play intended. What a bunch of assholes.

    I also can’t believe there are people here who call this par for the course. It’s not. It’s hilariously unprofessional, immature and petty. If this is the level at which this company does business, I’d stop colaborating with them right away because they’re a risk to my reputation.

    I also can’t believe there are seriously folks here who come up with this “nowhere does he say ‘give bad reviews’” bullshit. Of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t have to. How frigging naive are you people?

  63. rrh says:

    Boss – It’d be a real shame if Jimmy were to have an accident.
    Underling – Actually, I’d kinda like that, since he’s snitching on us and everything. Also, maybe we could kill him ourselves.

  64. manicbassman says:

    things would be a lot more transparent on Amazon re their reviews if you actually had to have purchased it first before being able to add a review…

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