[Update: Kotaku claims that they are now interested in investigating the allegations about the IGF being corrupt]
One of the big topics that came out during the early days of #GamerGate was two videos by CameraLady about the IGF, IndieCade, IGF chairman Brandon Boyer and Phil Fish, the lead designer of Fez, the game that was embroiled in a scandal that alleged that the indie contests were rigged in favor of Fez. Well, more news has surfaced as additional claims have come out pointing toward corruption involving both Phil Fish and Brandon Boyer.
Tech Raptor has a multi-part interview with former journalist and indie game developer, Allistair Pinsof. Pinsof discusses some of the behind the scenes events that some would consider taints the once pristine view people had of the independent game development scene.
According to Pinsof…
“Let’s talk about Brandon Boyer. He already cut me out so I’m going to speak honestly about this. Here’s a guy who runs multiple award shows, runs a game site that promotes indies, is friends with devs, PR, and all media types, and here he is on the Game Journo Pros group. If having a chairman of a judging committee running an indie game site that features exclusives from possible award show applicants doesn’t seem like a conflict of interest, it’s because you don’t have a say over how he runs the IGF or you are a journalist who doesn’t want to get on his bad side.”
Brandon Boyer was a pretty important figure on the Game Journo Pros list, a private mailing list for many of the top gaming media and tech websites. It was discovered that Boyer gave out benefits to journalists who were on the list, and was heavily involved with the in-crowd of the media scene.
Boyer was also a former games journalist himself, having worked as a news editor at Gamasutra (which is owned by UBM Tech, the same company over the IGF), was a contributor to Edge Magazine, and is still a current contributor to sites like Happy Mutants’ Boing Boing.
Boyer, the current chairman of the Independent Games Festival, wields a lot of power over the future of prospective possibilities of indie developers.
Pinsof recounts a story of a journalist who was friends with Boyer and they mentioned how someone they knew was a sure shoe-in to win the Fantastic Arcade. Sure enough, they won the award for Best Game Award. According to Pinsof…
“[Boyer is] not some guy who grew up in the industry. He’s a journalist who was suddenly put in this position to overlook all indie games, when at the time, no one could have known how influential and powerful that role would be as PSN and XBLA turned bedroom programmers into millionaires. I think Boyer is a good guy at heart, but money and power have a way of changing things.”
Pinsof mentions that a full investigation should take place into the IGF, Boyer and the clique within that circle. The call for investigation was previously mentioned by Team Meat in a podcast and reiterated by another developer, Slade Villena from Roguestar Games, who has a detailed account of the conflict of interests between the IGF, IndieCade and Polytron, the company behind Fez.
Pinsof also shared an image with Techraptor containing a conversation he had with one of the developers who worked on Fez, Shawn McGrath.
But McGrath wasn’t the only one burned by Fish. Jason DeGroot was another developer who worked on Fez who was also hammered by Fish. Both developers felt as if they couldn’t really get their story out there because of the close ties Fish has with the inner circle of the games media. Fish is well connected.
McGrath and DeGroot briefly have their story outlined in the Wikipedia entry for the development of the game Fez. But as the image above notes, McGrath didn’t really want to drudge up a lot of the bad blood getting into the nitty gritty details behind the events. I had reached out to McGrath and DeGroot months ago but never received a reply.
According to Pinsof…
“What makes this an industry wide problem is that the two were afraid to speak out because of Fish’s connections. Fish was friends with Boyer who ran the IGF, Fish was a social butterfly who knew a lot of gaming press (there were multiple videos of him casually hanging out with 1UP staff back on their video site in 2008) and had high level connections at Microsoft. Degroot & McGrath feared Fish would use his connections to ruin their career right as they were to debut their successful indie title Dyad.”
It is true that Fish has a lot of connections, but even the Game Journo Pros didn’t particularly care for him as an individual, as noted on Breitbart. They did, however, come to his aid to silence his critics, such as blacklisting any further mention of Kevin Dent or his associated products in public articles after he had a spat with Phil Fish. Additionally, Fish was regularly reported on in the media and Fez was especially loved, despite his inflammatory behavior.
But the connections were still imminent, and the bit about Microsoft is very true. One of the members of the Game Journo Pros was Will Tuttle, the current senior communications manager for the Xbox division. Tuttle was also a former editor-in-chief at GameSpy under IGN Entertainment, as well as a former editor-in-chief at TeamXbox.com. Tuttle participated regularly in conversations in the Game Journo Pros list and held a lot of power when it came to hiring, firing, and promotion, as evidenced below.
As mentioned by Pinsof…
“Would 1UP have reported on this if they found out, given how buddy-buddy they were with Fish? Would any game outlet report on Boyer given he is part of the Game Journo Pros group, gives them exclusive party invites, and is their source for the entire IGF world who could deny them access? Indie developers, like Degroot and McGrath, are afraid to step out and say what is going on is wrong and it’s a damn shame there is no media not under Boyer’s influence who could, in the very least, do an investigation into these matters.”
This is identical to another situation that occurred where 40,000 people who had their information hacked from a forum operated under the umbrella of Electronic Arts went unreported because the journalist was in a relationship with one of EA’s press representatives. They opted not to report on the story to avoid damaging their relationship with EA.
We’re kind of seeing the same thing with the IGF scandal, which is only being reported on by websites outside of the Game Journo Pros ring.
You can check out the rest of the interview with Allistair Pinsof by paying a visit to Techraptor.