#GamerGate: Kotaku Is Interested In IGF Rigging Allegations

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]

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38 thoughts on “#GamerGate: Kotaku Is Interested In IGF Rigging Allegations

      1. Oh, I was blocked by Ethical Ben a looooooong time ago. Also, Wu, Harper, ZQ, Alex Cuck, Mcinjosh & a bunch of the c listers. My aGGro Bingo Block card is almost full.

      2. I’ve noticed your tweets on Kotaku and Schreier. I don’t have a Twitter but I wanted to say something.

        Be careful with Schreier. It’s obvious Kotaku is trying to get info on the story so they can discredit all of it with their articles. Manipulate the info, control the message, and discredit GG’s claims. You can tell Schreier intentionally does this with the McGrath interview.

      3. It’s obvious Kotaku is trying to get info on the story so they can discredit all of it with their articles.

        Of course. But you have to ask yourself: is it better this goes completely ignored or get some kind of attention even if it’s just “discredited” by Kotaku?

        We’ve been sitting on this info more than six months and having buried hasn’t helped. Even if it’s talked about and “debunked” at least it’s going to be talked about.

        Additionally, Twitter leaves zero room for nuance: use the opportunity to send the info to Buzzfeed and other Gawker rivals. A good sex scandal is something most media outlets are interested in. IGF chairman caught in a sex scandal and Kotaku being interested in the story might be enough to get other journos interested.

        Don’t think that this is us trusting that Kotaku will do the right thing, it’s calling their bluff that they’ll actually look into it and aiming to get other outlets to potentially look into if Kotaku decides to take a look.

        Again, CameraLady stuff doesn’t do GG any good being buried; even if it’s brought up just to be dismissed, at least it gains some traction.

        Ultimately, what do we have to lose?

    1. “President Nixon, did you bug the offices of your political opponents?”
      “Nah.”
      “Case closed everyone, no conspiracy here.”

  1. I think Jason’s statement is just a CYA and they have no real interest in investigating. Anyway isn’t journalism about looking into the subtleties and nuances and not just passively waiting for people to hand the information to you? You start actively investigating in addition to asking for people for information.

    1. I think Jason’s statement is just a CYA and they have no real interest in investigating

      You can use Schreier’s statements to hold them to their claim that they’ll investigate if they have a tip.

      You can call their bluff, or, better yet, advise Buzzfeed about it and get them to beat Gawker to the punch.

      1. I’m not a big fan of buzzfeed either, but you’re right people could call their bluff, but they could always say that they didn’t find anything. I guess I’m just a pessimist when it comes to Kotaku, et al and their desire to investigate things like this.

  2. Schreier’s current favorite strawman seems to be “your argument is invalid because there’s more to it”. In the past day I’ve seen him use it three times, and this is while trying to avoid his drivel. I don’t buy his bullshit for a second.

  3. If you are an indie Dev who feels you have been defrauded do not go to Kotaku or Schreier. That will get you blacklisted from the industry. They will have your name.

    The mainstream media won’t be interested.

    Instead you should speak to GG.

  4. Kotaku is blowing smoke out their ass like usual. Don’t expect them to ever admit to finding out any proprieties because that would be admitting they’ve been wrong for months.

    And Schreier’s knee deep in it himself, so putting him in charge of the “investigation” is absolutely laughable.

      1. A competition is not the same as a contest. I’m not an expert but I used to enter a lot of sweeps and some contests. Contests are actually pretty rare, in favor of sweepstakes that rely on luck alone. “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.” (California BPC) Unfortunately the regulations are for a very specific kind of contest, not this at all. Think of the old contests to write a jingle. If there was a competition to play Fez and the winner got a prize, that would be a contest, but I don’t think this qualifies. As I said, I’m not really sure but usually there is someone in the state government who can clarify.

      2. A competition is not the same as a contest.

        This is incorrect.

        https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/77822/contest-vs-competition

        Additionally…from the page…

        . “Contest” does not include a sporting event, performance, or
        tournament of skill, power or endurance between participants who are
        actually present.1

        If there’s a prize to be won and there is a measure of skill involved (design skill, artistic skill, music skill, etc.,) then it’s a contest, even if the participants are not actually present at the event.

        In this case, does the IGF require some measure of skill to compete? Yes. Do the participants have to be present? No. Are there prizes? Yes.

        The only exemptions to this law are charities or tax-exempt businesses or operations such as churches.

        there is someone in the state government who can clarify.

        Of course, which is why there is a call for a full investigation.

        It doesn’t matter so much about semantics (which is what this is) but the fact that defrauding may be taking place. Don’t get caught up on the semantics, look at the result: people paying $100 to enter a potentially rigged competition. There is no justification for that if it’s true, which is why there’s a call for a full investigation. It would be up to the state to decide the fine, which is why the article says “if” there is some wrongdoing found it’s what could happen.

        Contest vs competition is just a grammatical difference.

  5. Billy, do you actually think Jason is being honest? Frankly, anything sent to Kotaku that smacks of gamergate is at best, a waste of time, and at worst a heads up for them to get their story together (just like the article you discussed above).

    1. do you actually think Jason is being honest?

      Nope.

      anything sent to Kotaku that smacks of gamergate is at best, a waste of time, and at worst a heads up for them to get their story together

      I didn’t explicitly mention it in the article, but anyone can take the information to any outlet. The smart thing to do is use Jason’s comment as a way to get rival outlets (like Buzzfeed) interested. Even if they do a half-arse job of it, some coverage is better than no coverage.

      I suspect Kotaku would likely try hard to bury all the sources and information and come up with a spin story for it all. If the info gets into the hands of those who would preferably do something more with it, good on them.

      Anyway, even if Kotaku does another spin-piece against GG… it’s in the news. I mean, better something than nothing.

      1. You do make a good point about coverage. I read your article here and then Jason’s article showed up in my Pulse feed, so I read it. Not only did it get coverage, but you get an insight into what they are thinking. They can’t just cover it without trying to debunk it. And that means dragging out more participants to speak on the subject and, possibly, trip themselves up.

      2. They can’t just cover it without trying to debunk it. And that means dragging out more participants to speak on the subject and, possibly, trip themselves up.

        Now you see how the game is played. Any news about this (even if it’s just a hit piece) fuels GG.

  6. Wait, you mean more can be done in investigating these allegations besides asking people for quotes which contradict Pinsof’s? Poppycock, that’s not how journalism is done, son.

    1. Actually yes…

      There are more indies and more judges that can be contacted. Some people have already come forward to talk about it in private or under anonymity.

      Yes, more can be done and simply asking someone with allegations over their head if the allegations are true is just going to lead them to say “No.”

      Could you imagine if that’s how an investigation was handled with Bob Bashara?

      Police: “Did you kill your wife?”

      Bob: “Nope.”

      Police: “Well okay then. I guess that clears that up.”

  7. So every thing Schreier said was basically him sticking fingers in his ears and screaming:
    “LALALAALALALALALALALAL!! IAMNOTLISTENING!! LALALALALALALA!!”

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