Dear Mr. Redner:
Thank you for the apology. I must admit that I was slightly concerned when I saw your tweets, suggesting that you would withhold review copies of future games in retaliation for negative reviews of Duke Nukem Forever. This especially worried me because, as you most likely know, our own review was quite negative. But then, I genuinely believe the game deserved it.
It’s a relief, then, to see that this morning you’ve recanted your harsh words. I had sincerely hoped that you were being disingenuous when you wrote your tweets. I don’t ever like to think anyone is being untruthful, but in this case I would have preferred to believe that you were. I couldn’t imagine waking up to a world in which representatives of Publisher PR attempt to manipulate the review process. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in that environment, and I suspect many of my colleagues might feel the same way (although not all of them, surely).
As you know, videogame-related publications like Escapist Magazine rely on having good relations with publishers and their PR representatives. Videogames take time to play, and having access to pre-release review copies of those games is what makes it possible for sites like ours to be able to publish our reviews in time to be of use to readers. We rely on a certain amount of transparency and trust with companies like your Redner Group, to ensure that the information we are receiving is accurate, and that we are not being given only half of the story or that other websites and publications, who may be more willing to mold their reviewers to your preferences, aren’t getting preferential treatment from you in return. If someone like you were to genuinely feel as if it were appropriate to blacklist certain websites because of a negative review (for example), we know full well how damaging this could be to our ability to do our jobs and remain competitive with our peers. I’m very glad to know, then, that this is not something you would actually do.
You see, when I or other members of Escapist Magazine‘s editorial staff write a review of a game like Duke Nukem Forever, we are writing to our audience, attempting to give them our honest opinion on whether or not the game in question is worth their hard-earned money. When I write things like, for example, “As a game … [Duke Nukem Forever] simply fails, sinking under the weight of its literal and figurative baggage,” our audience knows that I am sharing my honest assessment. That I genuinely believe that Duke Nukem Forever is a failed game. They know that this is my own opinion, based on my experience of playing the game. They can trust that my opinion is my own and not being influenced by any one person or company.
This trust is important, Jim. Without it, the audience would have no way to judge the accuracy of our statements, and therefore no context within which to place our criticisms. Without the trust of our audience, our reviews would be meaningless, as they would be just as likely representative of what publishers would like us to say, as what we actually believe. At that point, we might as well give up on attempting to be objective journalists and write press releases instead.
This trust is hard-won and fragile, Jim. It is built over years of writing honest reviews and having the integrity to refuse payola, or cave to pressure from Publishers and PR firms. I know that you understand where I am coming from. I know this, because you have said so. I know that when you wrote that twitter post about retaliating against game reviewers, you were not being truthful. I know that what is actually true is the apology you wrote afterward, in which you express remorse and regret and respect for game reviewers. I know that even though you accept money to write positively about games you may have never played, that when you do so, you are being truthful. I know that you are expressing what you genuinely believe and not attempting to spin or manipulate when you write things like:
Duke Nukem Forever is the high-octane video game equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster. Starring the legendary lady killer and alien slayer, Duke Nukem Forever introduces gamers to a blastastic time filled with head-popping, bone-rattling action, brazenly crude humor, impossibly statuesque women dying for affection, and catchy one-liners that will have you laughing out loud.”
I know this, because I trust you Jim Redner of the Redner Group on Behalf of 2K Games, and because you have told me that this is the case.
Therefore, again, I must thank you for your apology. I was at risk of questioning my faith in you before, when you were threatening me and my colleagues. I was not looking forward to seeing more and more honest press outlets squeezed out of the traditional industry review process. I was despairing, somewhat, of attempting to keep up with the videogame release cycle and publish reviews at Escapist Magazine in time for them to be of meaning to our audience in spite of being strong-armed by publisher PR. I was anticipating difficult days ahead as you and I jockeyed for control over “the message,” and sparred over our proper roles. I am glad that this will not come to pass, and relieved to hear from you that you did not mean what you had written. That you were being untruthful that one time. You know, when you said that one thing. The one that “came from me,” and had nothing to do with your “clients.”
Now that we’ve established this basis for trust, I genuinely look forward to hearing more of what you have to say. After all, trust is important. Wouldn’t you agree?