Game writer out of a job after libel complaint

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A game writer who criticized his beatmates' journalistic shortcomings no longer has his job. Rab Florence, formerly with top gaming site Eurogamer, resigned from his position at after it received "legal threats" and gutted much of his scathing article.

"I am utterly staggered by today's events," Florence wrote on Twitter. " ... Today I was effectively put out of a job by another writer."

The imbroglio, barely a day old, began with Florence's broadside aimed at a "tragic, vulgar image": journalists who accepted gifts, participated in Twitter PR campaigns, and who pose with branded junk food for marketing set-pieces.

"I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch," Florence wrote. "The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. ... I'm fascinated by these creatures because they are living one of the most strange existences - they are playing at being a thing that they don't understand. And if they don't understand it, how can they love it? And if they don't love it, why are they playing at being it?"

Among those singled out was Lauren Wainwright, to whom Eurogamer soon issued a public apology: "Following receipt of a complaint from Lauren Wainwright, Eurogamer has removed part of the article Lost Humanity 18. We apologise for any distress caused to Ms Wainwright by the references to her. The article otherwise remains as originally published."

The deleted passage, reproduced below, quoted Wainwright on accepting gifts:

One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: “Urm… Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that’s a bad thing?”

Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: “Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider”

And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist’s apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she’s in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I’m sure she isn’t, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?

Responding to a deluge of inquiries, Wainwright's Editor-in-Chief, Michael French, claimed that that no legal action was taken or suggested: "We asked Eurogamer to remove cruel content about a staff member. They obliged."

Wainwright, however, tweeted that she considered Florence's remarks "libelous comments" — a phrase that no UK-based publisher can fail to pay attention to, given Britain's plaintiff-friendly libel laws.

"This incident ...shines a brighter light on the problems with journalism in the UK more broadly," wrote Forbes' Erik Kain, who pointed out that Wainwright's online biography listed her as a "Video Games Consultant" working for a game publisher about whom she writes in a journalistic capacity. "Imagine if every time Jon Stewart mercilessly mocked journalists on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC he could face a potential lawsuit – even for simply quoting them directly."

Florence, announcing his departure, asked his readers not to blame Eurogamer, as "the threat of legal action brings unbelievable pressure."

"In the UK the word “libel” is incredibly loaded, and libel suits can prove incredibly damaging to publications and individuals," wrote Ben Kuchera, editor of Penny Arcade Report, in another overview of the affair.

"Someone who works as a consultant for a company was criticized for promoting those games as press," he added on Twitter. "In response, her bosses at MCV tried to suppress the critical story, and succeeded. It's disgusting. This is literal corruption."

Rock Paper Shotgun co-editor John Walker, though, pointed out something else that's also true: by raising the specter of libel after the fight was already public, Wainwright could succeed only in placing herself under greater scrutiny:

"What will happen now is all manner of places will host the original version of the article, it will be far more widely circulated and discussed, and the reputations of those who have tried to silence criticism could be far more damaged than if they had just ignored it, let alone acknowledged they could do better."


  1. They never learn.   I wouldn’t have thought to et worked up about corruption in games journalism, since there’s a lot of corruption in journalism about much more important things, but bringing up libel like that (especially considering the general innocuousness of the offending passage), and making sure that the Streisand effect makes it so that this is the first thing that anyone will see if they Google her from now on, at least permanently stripped away any shreds of credibility she might once have had.   I wish I could say that I thought people would learn from her example.

      1. The Queen is one of the few people who generally just ignores things. It’s Parliament and the footballers that you have to watch out for.

  2. Hah! …And here I probably never would have even read that article. Oh well, guess now that I have I’ll go paste it onto all my networking sites…

  3. I think it’s important to note that Lauren wasn’t singled out as one of the “worst of the bunch.” Rab specifically said he wasn’t going to name those names, which seemed a bit odd considering he’d just named a couple of people in the previous paragraphs, but it makes me believe he wasn’t trying to single her out as anything other than someone who doesn’t see accepting gifts as an issue, and that’s certainly what she seemed to say.

    I have to wonder if what was written was genuinely considered to be cruel and libelous, or if she just didn’t want to run the risk of being on the receiving end of that delightful brand of hatred that certain sections of the gaming community always seem eager to dish out towards women. If that’s the case then a simple request for the quotes to be made anonymous probably would have been more appropriate than getting all lawyery, but for all I know she tried that first and it fell on deaf ears.

    It does seem incredibly stupid to be promoting Tomb Raider if she was previously employed by Square-Enix, even if she’s only doing so on her blog, twitter, or anywhere else. On the internet you’re potentially never more than one click away from anywhere else, and that can make it easy for the things you write as a journalist to become mixed up with the things you write as a fan. At the very least there needs to be a clear separation of the two, and there very rarely is.

    But this is hardly the worst example of the corruption in games journalism. I don’t know how anyone can take a review seriously when it’s surrounded by full page adverts for the game in question. Then there’s reviewers being flown out to stay in a five star hotel, where they’re wined, dined and assigned their own PR representative to hover over them as they play, eager to explain away all the flaws in the game. That’ll definitely be fixed in the final version! Or at least patched on launch day! Close to launch day, anyway. If the game sells well. Maybe.

    Something Rab said stuck out for me – that he doesn’t consider himself a games journalist, but a writer who sometimes writes about games. I think a lot of people labelled as games journalists could be more accurately described in a similar way. Not as writers who play games, though. They’re gamers who write. There’s a big difference.

    1. Kieron Gillen and Charlie Brooker being two very good examples of people who began their careers in gaming journalism that have gone on to have major careers elsewhere. 

      1. And deservedly so. They’re both of a different era, though. There are others from back before the internet took off who’re still around, as well as some youngsters who do a fantastic job despite not having experienced the more traditional workings of a magazine. Not that magazines are always the bastion of integrity. Nintendo Power was kind of absurd now that I think about it. Published by Nintendo, written by Nintendo employees, reviewing Nintendo games.

        But now there’s no entry requirement for writing a review. I don’t think there should be, but with the way Metacritic scores are given such importance by consumers, not to mention publishers who use the system to determine whether or not a developer receives royalties after years hard work, there needs to be some sort of filter beyond Marc Doyle’s opinion of a site, his interpretation of wildly different scoring systems, and how much weight each individual score should contribute towards the overall ranking.

    2. He said he wouldn’t name names of the people he considered corrupt, and then gave an example using a public Twitter feed of how corruption could be misconstrued on a “no smoke without fire” basis from innocuous tweets. He never said that she herself was corrupt, merely that the two tweets together could create an image.

      Irony is, since then, it’s pretty much gone up like a fuel tanker. Her profile on a UK LinkedIn equivalent listed Square Enix, publishers of Tomb Raider, as one of the companies she had done consultancy work for; she denied she had ever reviewed their stuff on her now-locked Twitter account, and then people actively Streisand Effect searched for evidence this was wrong – and found a newspaper review she did of one of their games, an online review (now pulled) of another, and from there it snowballed.

      Naturally, the discussion has got both heated and misogynist now, with “slut”, “whore”, and worse getting thrown about constantly.There’s some amazing white knighting on Twitter too, and through it all she’s offered no real comment or defence, nor has she stepped down from her post at MCV or any other place.

      1. Right, I was trying to clarify some things, since Rob omitted Rab’s declaration that he wouldn’t name names, and then says Lauren was singled out immediately after the quote about the worst of the bunch. I don’t think it’s deliberately misleading on Rob’s part, just that if someone were to read only this summary they might come away thinking Rab had called Lauren out as some kind of corrupt villain, which he clearly didn’t.

        As you say, she’s done far more damage to her reputation herself than the original article ever would have. Lawyering up and proclaiming yourself innocent of crimes you haven’t been accused of while apparently removing evidence which suggests otherwise does not help. It’s a bit depressing really, because while I’m not familiar with her or her work, I very much doubt she qualifies as corrupt in the way that some others do. It seems to be more about poor judgement or naivete than genuine corruption.

    3. You make some excellent points here! Although I don’t think her past jobs should affect her present, she shouldn’t be accepting gifts like that.  

      IMO, journos should be reviewing games in the same environment so as not to affect their opinions.  That way we might actually have reviews that are worth believing.  If I’m taken to a 5 Star Hotel in another country of course I’ll be more than happy to blog away about the brilliant game I hardly played whilst on a jolly with my Journo mates…  I’ve seen this happen first hand btw.  shameful!

      1. Yep. I still remember the controversy over the glowing review of the widely panned Phantom Menace game in the Official PlayStation Magazine. Turns out they were actually reviewing their visits to Skywalker Ranch.

  4. Gaming has never been high brow enough for anyone to act seriously on any conflict of interest. Combine that with a community of journalists that have been forced into a quid pro quo relationship with the game companies (being invited to see early betas, given pre-release copies so they can have something to review before they hit the shelves) and it seems corruption would be pretty much a certainty.

    Or in summary, Gamespot.

  5. Smelling a revolution… Mind you, maybe not, because if a game is not too good, social media and mass ratings let them know… Eventually… He wait a second… Hmmm… How this different from Hollywood, exactly?

  6. A big part of the problem here, as suggested in the writeup, is that the UK’s libel laws are stupid and ridiculous (see ), so a whiny little lamprey like Wainwright, who has been doing exactly what he says she’s been doing, can nonetheless send everyone into a tizzy and fleeing in all directions by having a fainting spell about being called out on it. And Eurogamer has never exactly been Edge, more like EGM.

    1. Note the connection between libel laws and Jimmy Savile. Everybody in the media knew the rumors and he silenced them all. At last count, he abused 300 children. Great laws those.

      1. As I’m reading comments at the Daily Mail, everyone is shrieking outrage about why didn’t anyone step up and do something. And the same commenters are rabidly demanding that schoolchildren be subject to the most draconian repression to turn them into little obedience droids who never make a fuss or challenge anyone in power. Cause, meet Effect.

      1.  Eh, I’d say the same thing about the BCA, except maybe I’d say ‘cracking spell’. I call offensensitivity.

  7. This is also an example of what you get when content wants to be free and writers want to eat. Unless publications are going to pay people to have the latest hardware and spend days instead of minutes or a few hours playing with the newest opus, they’re going to be effectively outsourcing their editorial budget to the people they’re covering. 

  8. “it’s a joke it’s all a joke mother forgive me”
    *Rab Florence is thrown thought a plate glass window & a 12 story drop*
    : )

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