N4G has always been a hotbed of controversy surrounding gamers, gamer culture and fanboy wars. The news aggregator was supposed to be a site dedicated for all things gaming, with news submitted and curated by the community and overseen by a moderation staff. However, as times have gone on the staff have been inconsistent in their duties, some have exploited their positions to fail articles they don’t agree with, and others bend the rules or create their own to maintain whatever agenda fits their whim.
There have been a number of links shared from various gaming publications explaining how inconsistent and sometimes unprofessional the N4G moderators can be in regards to content curation.
To avoid creating unneeded animosity between website publishers and the N4G administration staff, some of the real names of the individuals who shared the links and some correspondence between N4G staff won’t be named. However, they did provide plenty of links and examples upon request, showing vastly inconsistent moderation from the staff regarding what gets allowed, what doesn’t, what gets re-approved and what gets instantly failed.
Now take note that not every moderator on N4G is bad at their job and not every moderator abuses their position.
Nevertheless, one of the most egregious moderators on the staff is cl1983. He’s been mentioned previously in other articles about N4G failing in one capacity or another when it comes to fair moderation.
In one case he failed an article posted as a rumor by VGChartz, citing that the content was “old”. Before the article could be approved fully, cl1983 failed it, stating…
“We know the xb1 numbers already and they #’s from from the 360 at the same time already.”
User Spectator1 one disagreed with the auto-failing of the article, stating…
“Not a duplicate and not identical content – XO numbers were in the other article but the comaprison with X360 was not at all. When I spoke to the Admin Christopher yesterday he allowed the USA one that you deleted through because it DID include new content. Same rule should apply to these.”
I reached out to Spectator1 to ask if the moderators at N4G frequently auto-fail articles from VGChartz, and Spectator1 replied, stating…
“Yeah [cl1983] always does it – its the same mod. The other mods don’t have a problem with my submissions.
“His actions have been overturned several times when I’ve appealed to the admins. Annoying that I have to do that to get them published, but at least there’s something I can do about it.“
Not every website owner, publisher or content creator can do something about it, though. Back on July 4th, 2014 there was an article by The Tech Zealot submitted to N4G as an opinion piece. It was auto-failed by cl1983. His reason for failing it after it received 3 out of 10 votes from the community to approve it? Well, he states…
“This isn’t an opinion piece, it’s a recap of things that have happened and then askeds for others opinions.“
Actually, it’s a 363 word editorial covering the very factual instance of Sony beating Microsoft in sales; it finishes on the statement that Microsoft is too far behind in sales to pose a threat to Sony. It’s not an article just asking for users’ opinions.
The article was not reinstated and the community was not given an opportunity to voice their opinion as to whether or not it should have stayed failed.
For those of you unfamiliar, N4G requires 10 community votes – from basic users – before an article can be approved. If an article is not approved for any reason within two days of being in the pending system, it’s automatically failed. Users can report articles for a variety of reasons, ranging from grammar mistakes to wrong citations to just being lame. If an article is reported, sometimes the submitter has the option of making the changes and re-submitting for approval. Moderators have the ability to auto-approve or auto-fail an article, completely bypassing the community approval process.
It’s interesting because we’ve seen many moderators across various gaming websites enacting extreme policing on content that they don’t agree with. In fact, Reddit’s /r/Games moderators recently came under fire for not allowing the community to talk about John Bain, better known as TotalBiscuit, having to battle against cancer. The issue was brought up on Kotaku In Action where the /r/Games moderators made the excuse that TotalBiscuit wasn’t a developer, therefore a thread shouldn’t be allowed on /r/Games.
NeoGaf has also often enacted a lockdown on topics as well as regularly partake in thought policing. This also recently included instant-banning users for expressing positive interest in the game Omega Labyrinth. Why did they ban users for liking the game? Well, the mods labeled it as a pedo-bait game.
But previously, N4G came under extremely heavy fire due to instituting measures that protected various gaming websites from being called out for corruption, this included attempting to cover-up a case involving a clear-cut conflict of interest between the staff at PC Gamer and Ubisoft. After a lot of hoopla the N4G administrators partially overturned aspects of the measure they put into place concerning corruption and exposing unethical behavior by gaming journalists.
The excuse for the measure was that discussing corruption and ethics in games journalism was #GamerGate related, and therefore not allowed on N4G.
At least in the cases of articles submitted in relation to #GamerGate there were reasons given why the articles were failed. In some cases users have no idea why an article is automatically failed. An article about XCOM 2 supporting mods was failed after users approved it to appear on N4G, and for no reason at all the mod failed it.
In other cases an article can be failed because it may not have enough info, even when the website details every bit of available info about the product in their article, like iRobotGaming’s piece about the Delta Six Sniper Rifle.
Another article from iRobotGaming covering the content ID issues surrounding YouTube Gaming was failed because it wasn’t “gaming related”. According to moderator Lt. Skittles…
“Not really gaming related, yes a majority of the people complaining about it right now are people who review games, or let’s plays.”
So Let’s Plays aren’t gaming related? And reviewing games isn’t gaming related?
Unsurprisingly, moderator cl1983 backed up Lt. Skittles, agreeing that the discussion surrounding the YouTube Gaming content ID issue was not gaming related.
Keep in mind that there’s nothing in the N4G guidelines about not being able to do articles surrounding policies of Let’s Plays on YouTube and Twitch.
And speaking of policies… one of the biggest issues surrounding N4G’s administrators stance on prohibiting #GamerGate content was that there was nothing amended in the site’s policies regarding the measure. It was all handed out in a blog post that most average users would never see.
Just recently some Halo 5 articles were failed for containing spoilers. According to Christopher, the N4G administrator…
“Spoilers in title and description are not allowed.“
However, there’s nothing in the N4G news guidelines that states spoilers aren’t allowed or must be tagged, etc., etc. You can read the most recent archived rendition of the N4G News Guidelines, which was saved just today on October 28th, 2015, and there’s nothing in there about how to submit articles that may contain spoilers.
In one case an article was in pending for nearly 24 hours and no mod mentioned anything about the title or description containing spoilers and it was only failed after it was approved, so no changes or modifications could be made.
I attempted to reach out to Christopher to ask about N4G’s moderating policies and how they establish requirements for users to become a moderator and what policies they have in place for moderators to abide by. However, Christopher declined to answer any questions, stating…
“Sorry, I will not answer such questions since you have a history of publicly maligning me as well as N4G. I see no reason to inform you on this information, what benefit it would be to you, or why you would even need to know any such specifics.
“If you have an issue with a moderator, like any other issue on the site, submit a ticket from here: https://n4g.com/tickets/ I, or if appropriate for a moderator to handle, will review the ticket and handle it as necessary.”
I had also reached out previously to another administrator named Cat, but the only thing she linked me to was the outdated N4G guidelines.
That certainly didn’t answer any of the questions surrounding why moderators and administrators are able to dictate what content gets through without even letting the community attempt to curate, such as moderator Emelio Estevez auto-failing content from the website GameSkinny, stating…
“Anyone can sign up and write for GameSkinny, therefore it’s considered a personal blog and opinion pieces are not allowed.“
Technically, according to the rules personal blogs are allowed if they’re by a professional. As noted on the N4G Guidelines…
“The opinion piece should be well written and be of interest to the community. Personal blogs do not qualify as a legit source for opinion pieces unless the author is an industry professional.”
At one point they would also auto-fail submissions from Forbes for the same reason. I reached out to the submitter of the GameSkinny article, Pozzle, and asked if they had this problem before when submitting content from GameSkinny. According to Pozzle…
“I’ve submitted Gameskinny articles to N4g in the past and they seemed to get through fine back then. It only seems to be recently that they’ve been getting auto-failed. I tried submitting a few last week and they were all failed within minutes. Though I’m not sure why the sudden change”
While Christopher, Cat and some of the other moderators were unwilling to discuss the moderator practices and policies, one moderator was willing to discuss how they were promoted to the position, stating…
“Publicly, I’d typically act kind of chill, silly, or dull between forums and main site, sometimes trying to find small mistakes in Cat’s contest submissions. Privately, I’d sometimes bring up site improvements I’d like to see with Cat and others. Just doing the same old same old until I was just asked out of the blue if I was interested in being a mod on here. I thought “now’s my chance to make user LostDjinn my footstool” so of course I said yes!”
I also inquired as to whether or not N4G had any rules in place to reprimand or de-mod someone from their position if they repeatedly stepped out of line or broke any of the modding rules. According to the moderator, it was stated…
”As far as specific rules to get de-modded, I can’t really recall aside from a hypothetical case of one disregarding N4G TOU/Guidelines (comments/harassment part in particular). There’s also some level of participation needed on their part. I don’t want that to sound like some kind of quota, just an understanding that with power comes responsibility. Gotta try to keep active and spend at least some of your time moderating comments, submissions, etc. Can’t just hold the title and the vast majority of your activity is just submissions and comments like when you had the Contributor title.”
However, some people do spend an inordinate amount of time submitting more than moderating. Such as JamieReleases.
If you check his N4G profile he has more than 3,600 article submissions as of the writing of this article. He’s also an N4G network administrator. If you check his profile you’ll notice the submissions are from the website Game Watcher and previous to that, many of the submissions were from Strategy Informer.
One site owner commented that this appeared to be a conflict of interest, stating…
“[…] the thing about JamieSI is that he either runs or writes for StrategyInformer and is a mod at N4G. Isn’t that a HUGE conflict of interest, especially since he’s able to push other articles out before they gain any traction?”
Well, it’s true. N4G’s network administrator is Jamie Davey, and he’s also the managing editor at Strategy Informer, which is now known as Game Watcher. Jamie Davey previously went by the N4G handle JamieSI and now goes by the handle JamieReleases.
Given that Jamie is an administrator at the site it gives him special privileges over other users, especially when submitting content to N4G. And yes, the administrator can submit content from their own website.
Now, just to clear something up: working at N4G and submitting content from Strategy Informer/Game Watcher in itself isn’t bad, but the fact that Jamie Davey can bend the rules, bury other articles and promote his own articles is what creates a conflict of interest.
Remember how Christopher failed the Halo 5 articles for containing spoilers?
Well, Jamie Davey was able to spoil that Jill Valentine was in Resident Evil 5, and did so with the spoiler being in the headline and in the article description, even though others aren’t allowed to do the same thing.
User Trevor Phillips even calls Jamie out on this, stating…
“JamieSl why on earth did u post a spoiler dont do that again geese in this site we dont post spoilers just articles and etc”
What’s more is that N4G administrator Jamie Davey approved his own article, as evidenced in the screenshot below.
Administrators at N4G also have the power of 10 approvals, so they can auto-approve anything. In this case, Jamie auto-approved his own spoiler article to beat the competition to the punch, even breaking an un-cited spoiler rule of N4G in the process.
A couple of months ago I did attempt to reach out to Jamie, but I didn’t receive any response from him.
An owner of another gaming website discussed how frustrating it is that their site is being penalized thanks to the star system but the administrator can promote his own website for his own benefit, saying…
“[Our site] is rated at 1 and a half stars, and has always been rated as such on N4G. Our articles that aren’t news or image posts have no hope of hitting the front page, ever. I reached out to N4G awhile back about it and they said to be patient because a “new system” was coming into place that would reset ratings. That was 3 years ago.”
PlayStation Lifestyle also drilled into N4G a few years ago, mostly for problems of quality control but they didn’t really touch on the subject of moderatation.
YouTuber HipHopGamer did a rant on N4G that spans more than 40 minutes, discussing how he ended up getting the runaround as to why exactly he was banned from the site and how he was never given any clear answers about aspects of the ban. Of course, keep in mind that HipHopGamer has been a very controversial figure in the world of gaming news so you can decide for yourself how you feel about the decisions N4G enacted against him.
Even still, users were frustrated with the fact that websites like Polygon and Kotaku are able to maintain their star ratings and that the sites can’t be hidden or downvoted from making the front page. It was explained by N4G’s staff that the people who like Kotaku and Polygon simply outweigh the users on N4G who don’t like the sites and that the supporters keep the sites voted up.
In the end, users tolerate N4G because there aren’t any other large-scale gaming aggregators around. After sites like Digg imploded and Reddit started locking down content and thought-policing its users, a lot of gamers had to settle for N4G as a default. Gaming websites are beholden to using N4G to get the word out about their content and gamers themselves are forced to rely on it to get the latest news about new and hotly anticipated games from a single source.
On the upside, there are a few up-and-coming aggregators looking to get turn things around and remove the corruption and politics from getting gaming news out to the public. GameWires has been doing a great job of establishing page rank and building a some social media presence, while Video Gamez Network is also working hard to grow its user base as well.
However, until N4G cleans up its act or other gaming aggregators grow larger, both content creators and gamers alike will have to deal with the inconsistent moderation and uncouth behavior from some of the staff at N4G.