Kotaku recently ran an article attempting to debunk some of the claims made by a former journalist and current indie developer, Allistair Pinsof, about corruption happening within the games industry. The article is called “GamerGate’s Latest Conspiracy Theory Doesn’t Hold Up”, and it breaks down a number of claims made in an interview by Pinsof about Brandon Boyer, the chairman of the IGF, and Phil Fish, an indie developer who used to run Polytron, the company behind Fez. While the article attempts to break down and dissolve a push by consumers using the GamerGate hashtag to expose corruption, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has admitted that more could be done when it comes to investigating the corruption of Brandon Boyer and the IGF.
Things originally kicked off when Pinsof – the same journalist that was fired from Destructoid after competing journalists from other outlets colluded in the Game Journo Pros list to have him ostracized from the games industry – came forward to discuss some of the perceived issues of corruption within the games industry with the website Tech Raptor. The claims of corruption centered around two important facets: Brandon Boyer and Phil Fish.
In the Kotaku piece, Schreier attempts to absolve Boyer of any potential wrongdoing or perceived conflicts of interest by asking him about claims of impropriety regarding some of the award shows he hosts. Boyer only offered an explanation about a single awards show that he claimed was not handled with any indiscretions, however opted not to comment further. According to the Kotaku article, Schreier writes…
“Pinsof’s interview—and subsequent Twitter rants about the issue—allege broader, more subtle collusion between Boyer and members of the gaming press, which is difficult if not impossible to prove or disprove.”
However, Tech Raptor recently published another article detailing multiple conflicts of interest between Brandon Boyer and one of the subjects that Pinsof brought up in the Tech Raptor interview. It turns out that the developer was very close to Boyer. In fact, Boyer had even managed to spend the night over at the developer’s house in addition to writing multiple articles about the developer’s software title without disclosing it in the articles.
It was mentioned in the previous article that the IGF chairman wields a lot of power over the prospective success of indie developers, and Pinsof proposed that perhaps a thorough investigation should take place into Boyer and the IGF, especially after the videos by CameraLady surfaced that outlined a scandal in the IGF indie scene.
Schreier wrote off any further mentions of the allegations on Boyer’s behalf, stating…
“Boyer was a member of the oft-cited “Game Journo Pros” message board—a list I was also on—and although that group was mostly used as a forum for members of the press to swap 3DS codes and commiserate about industry issues, there’s certainly a whiff of appearance of impropriety there.”
The group was allegedly responsible for firing Allistair Pinsof from Destructoid, which is an unlawful cross-state misdemeanor. Ben Kuchera and others allegedly used the list for cronyism, and the group was also responsible for allegedly blacklisting industry professional Kevin Dent, which could be an antitrust violation.
Nevertheless, one indie developer, E., McNeill the designer behind Darknet, came forward to debunk the CameraLady videos in an IAMA on Reddit, stating that they were salacious, scandalous and untrue. However, they did mention…
“I guarantee there are a ton of indie devs who think that the IGF needs reform, or that there’s too much cliquishness in the scene, but many of them are the outspoken artistes that now feel like they’re under siege. There are lots of people who are concerned about payola or coziness between media and devs/publishers, but you’ve attacked the outlets that would normally do the best investigations. I’ve seen you guys complain that the crowd at XOXO was not at all diverse, but all your natural allies on that issue have been pushed away.”
However, the cliquishness being used to potentially rig or alter the outcome could violate federal trade regulations and rules regarding contests and competitions.
According to the California legal guidelines for contests and sweepstakes (since the IGF is held in California)…
“Misrepresenting in any manner the odds of winning any prize is prohibited. Representing directly or impliedly that the number of participants has been limited significantly, or that any particular person has been selected to win a prize, is prohibited unless that representation is accurate.”
The bolded part points to the $100 entry fee for the IGF, in which contestants may be entering a competition that already favors a specific individual. If the allegations are true about developers having connections to Brandon Boyer raises their chances of walking away with the award and industry connections that come with the win, it could be classified as fraud.
And, as stated on the IGF’s own page, the IGF is a competition…
“These fantastic Audience Award finalists – which span all Main Competition finalists for this year – have been picked out of over 650 games.”
What does this mean? It means that if there are those competing for a prize, then it falls under the category of a contest, as described on the legal guidelines page for the California business and profession code 17539.3(e), (f), which states…
“A “contest” is any game, puzzle, scheme, or plan which offers prospective participants the opportunity to receive or compete for gifts or prizes on the basis of skill or skill and chance, and which is conditioned wholly or partly on the payment of some value.”
After bringing this to the attention of Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, he stated…
“If there is fixing or rigging in the IGF then yes, that’s certainly something I’d be interested in hearing more about. But from what I’ve seen, issues surrounding that community — like most ethical questions — are far more subtle and nuanced than that.”
It’s true that any act of impropriety on this scale would be subtle and nuanced, which is why Pinsof and other indie developers called for a full investigation. Simply asking someone if they are guilty of an alleged defrauding practice and having them say “No” is not a thorough investigation.
Schreier further stated…
“…anyone who has allegations or tips they’d like Kotaku to look into is welcome to e-mail me any time.”
Well, there you have it. Information regarding the allegations of Brandon Boyer using his position as IGF chairman to pull favors for friends is something Kotaku is interested in looking into. You can contact Kotaku – and I’m sure other interested media outlets – and forward them the necessary conflicts of interest and available information highlighting the potential corruption of the IGF.
If you’re wondering what sort of sanctions or enforcements come along with a guilty party found to be fixing contests, it’s stated in the California legal guidelines that…
“Depending on the nature of the action, remedies may include civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation, injunction, and restitution. A contest or sweepstakes which violates these provisions also may be subject to an additional civil penalty of up to $2,500 for each violation as an unlawful business practice.”
If you’re an indie developer who feels as if you may have been defrauded via the IGF, it may be time to speak up about it with a reputable media outlet.
As for the rest of the claims and allegations going back and forth between some parties involved in the events mentioned in Allistair Pinsof’s interview with Tech Raptor, Pinsof made a Twitlonger post to address the issues brought up in the Kotaku article that followed the interview.
[Disclosure: I was a former member of the Game Journo Pros e-mail group]