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Why IGNs continued success is bad for gamers.

On 04/25/2012 at 11:00 AM by Angelo Grant

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OK, first, everybody expecting and uninformed rant, go somewhere else.  This isn’t a twitter account or a facebook blasting, this is a legitimate beef I have with how IGN conducts business, and why I strongly feel their continued popularity is extremely bad for gamers and other games journalists.  I’m not going to close this thing by calling for a boycott, or slam people for going to that website, I just want you to consider the reasons I have for no longer supporting IGN like I used to.

Second, this is my personal blog and my personal opinion.  I understand that I'm a staff writer for PixlBit, but I have my own feelings and ideas as well, and this is an expression of that.  I'm not at all saying PixlBit hates IGN, or even that my opinions match that of the rest of the staff.  This is how I feel and this is something that I feel needs to be said.  In other words the opinions expressed below are not necessarially the views of PixlBit, and PixlBit as a whole is not calling out IGN.

A couple of years ago, IGN was pretty much the only website I would visit to keep up to speed on what was going on in the world of gaming.  Previously, I had surrounded myself by gamer friends and really didn’t need to look up all the latest and greatest news because one of these guys in particular was so into games that he would consistently drop information on us way before others had heard of it.  He was even going to a local community college to pursue a career in the industry.  Well, as you can imagine, outside of retail there aren’t many careers for gamers in upstate New York and haven’t been since the 80s, so it was only a matter of time before he shipped off to the west coast, leaving me to find any information I needed on my own.  IGN became my source.

Since then I’ve discovered other resources including 1up, RPG Fan, and of course PixlBit, and I’ve discovered something else as well, IGN is doing it wrong.  Here’s why:

1: Open bias

Did you know IGN has a mission statement?  I didn’t until someone pointed it out to me.  Here it is, provided in all caps because that’s how it’s displayed on their site (emphasis added): “WE’RE IGN ENTERTAINMENT, A LEADING ONLINE MEDIA & SERVICES COMPANY OBSESSED WITH GAMING, ENTERTAINMENT AND EVERYTHING GUYS ENJOY.”

I bet this was a real eye opener for some of you.  They cater specifically to male interest.  I wouldn’t say they are positioned against females, but it’s safe to say they aren’t going out of their way at all to attract their attention.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say they might even alienate them.  Regardless, this is what’s known as a biased source people.  You can’t make a website to appeal to only half the population, and then expect people to consider you a reliable resource, yet it happens all the time.  People mistake IGN for, and expect it to be an unbiased, open minded, professional hub of information and it is not.  They don’t even pretend to be one.

Wordpress had an article on this, calling it outright sexism.  While I wouldn’t go that far, I will ‘borrow’ something they pointed out and argue that they are unprofessional. 

According to the Entertainment Software Association, “Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (20 percent).

2: Shoddy reporting practices and reviews.

IGN is just plain sloppy when it comes to reporting news.  You don’t have to look too far for an example of this.  Some time ago I was researching an article and happened across IGN’s coverage of the same issue first, but something seemed very wrong about it, and it took a little more digging to uncover it.  Despite whatever appearances, IGN is NOT the primary source of this article, rather WIRED, one of their competitors.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.  Honestly, if I had not been investigating this for a news article myself, I would have probably just read it, assumed the IGN reporter actually did the legwork for this, and moved on with my life.

People, this is stealing.  Even an amateur writing a research paper in high school knows you are required to credit your source unless you are the source, or the information is common knowledge.  That’s not the case here.  It’s no small matter either, it’s called plagiarism, and it’s actually illegal.

That’s not just sloppy, that’s dangerous to your employer.

Let’s look at another recent article on the website, their review for the recently released Jak and Daxter Collection.  I’ll not bore you with the details, just click the link.  As Jesse pointed out to a lot of us in the email that brought this to my attention, it won’t take long to read.  It sounds to me like the reviewer actually played through a lot of the game as well, and it was awarded a 9.0 and an Editors’ Choice award.  If I hired this guy and paid him to sit down and play this game, and he came to me with this as the result of that investment, he’d be job hunting pretty quickly.  That’s an opinion I suppose, but see for yourself if you don’t agree.

3: It indirectly encourages a poor and immature perspective of gamers.

Let’s face it; IGN is the most widely known gaming website, even to non-gamers.  Ask someone who has only a passive interest in games to name a popular gaming website and I’d put money on them dropping IGNs name fairly quickly.  I’ve even seen IGN’s page or name in a few news stories and on TV before, whereas I have never seen another gaming website referenced.  Ever.  Why is that bad?   Well, as a visitor to that website, that homepage could contain any number of things that could endanger how gamers are perceived.  Maybe a visitor will see a video featuring porn stars and the video games they enjoy playing. (I refuse to link to it, but a quick search on their website will bring it, and some other gems up.)  Perhaps they will be greeted by a feature on IGNs most recent ‘babe of the day,’ which is usually just a bunch of pictures of some model posing in their underwear.   In addition to all this, you will always see a link at the bottom of their home page complete with picture of something related to adult film “actresses.”  Always.  This may not bother you, but let’s face it, we as gamers already have a PR problem when it comes to how we view and treat women, and this isn’t helping.

Gamers are forced to fight the stereotype that we are anything more than overweight, repressed, single males living alone in our parent’s basements over sexualizing women.  IGN’s flagrant objectification of women and blatant fascination with adult entertainment, combined with their popularity, is making it difficult to shake that image.  Now it’s true as mentioned above, that IGN’s mission is to appeal to males, and this is certainly a way to do just that, but it isn’t something that any service making an attempt to project an air of professionalism should do. 

There are other things IGN does that simply ooze immaturity and tasteless.  I just made a quick trip there to see what I could find and it didn’t take long.  Under the “what we’re playing” banner on their home page I found a pink haired anime girl jumping up and down, causing parts of her *ahem* female anatomy to bounce ridiculously.  The text reads:  ShinigamiNeko

I am on the weird section of youtube again oh look it's a cat masturbating [link removed by me]

Now that might not be there on your next visit, but I bet you find something else that makes you roll your eyes a bit.

I’ll be transparent here, with any post like this, there’s a motive.  My hope is that as a result of people reading this, one of two things will happen: IGN will change its business practices and be more transparent about who they are and what their mission is (which is unlikely since they are absorbing other gaming websites on an almost yearly basis, like 1up, and making tons of money) or, gamers will wake up and try to spread awareness of other, more professional websites that, frankly, make us look better.

I want the same thing all the other gamers out there want:  Respect.  I don’t want people hating on my favorite hobby, I don’t want to have people look at me sideways when I pull out my 3DS to entertain myself on a break at work, even though everybody else plays Angry Birds on their tablets or iPhones, and I want people to think of gamers as active, mature, well-adjusted and productive members of society. In my opinion, IGN’s current tactics and practices are making that difficult.  Something has to change.




04/25/2012 at 11:38 AM

Excellent Post!!! :)

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

04/25/2012 at 01:08 PM

I don't want to be the person who stands here defending IGN but I guess I will. IGN isn't that bad. I personally think that they are a pretty good website that manage to get news, reviews and previews out quickly and effectively. They've managed to let the personalities of their staff writers shine (most of them anyway) and build a following (although I will say their community is less than mature).

Your argument about the open bias is interesting because from what I've read on the site, they don't actually do this. Now, to be fair, I asked someone else to read that mission statement and it pissed them off too. However, I think it's just poor word choice (and the confinement of 140 characters). IGN is pretty good when it comes to sourcing and the example you gave is either them dropping the ball on this occasion or they got their source from someplace else that wasn't possible to show in an embeded link. Too many unknowns.

I tend to like IGNs reviews because they are thorough and get to the point rather quickly (depending on who's writing it). However, the Jak and Daxter review was poorly done. They completely screwed up with that. Also, the Babe of the Month stuff and the like do need to be dropped from the front page, if not the site all together. I won't say that IGN doesn't have its flaws but to say that IGN is bad for the gaming industry as a whole is going too far. Of course, that's my opinion and you are free to have your own and disagree with mine.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/25/2012 at 01:36 PM

Yeah, it is opinion based, like I said originally.  Their recent work has actually showed some steps toward improvement in some of the ways you just mentioned.  I do place a lot of importance on sourcing, and I really feel it would have been increadibly easy to throw the guys at Wired a bone for their hard work.  They didn't do that.

They have, in the past, also defended their mission statement and choice of wording.  They stand by it very firmly, and even went so far as to compare themselves to magazines like Maxim. Unfortunately, I can't reference a specific source for this.  It was on a podcast they published over a year ago, and I was unable to find it when I was researching this entry.  

This is all well and good for a general website, but my biggest beef is that IGN is such a publicly regarded source for video games, and that bias casts us in a bad light.  It's very much in line with the recent editorials we've done about women in gaming. I really don't think it's fair to have a website with such a public and obvious bias be the go to source for gamers, and those looking for gaming related information.

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

04/25/2012 at 02:12 PM

I don't see this obvious bias that you see though. That mission statement is bad with using the word "guys" but the work on the site don't seem bias to me. I haven't seen anything on the site that shows that. Sure, they have Naomi Kyle as a host for several videos for most likely superficial reasons but I would call that objectifying per se. Nothing else even comes to mind.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/25/2012 at 03:46 PM

Well, I can't argue one person's perception over another's, but my wife was actually my chief supporter while I wrote this, and she did agree.  She also isn't really a "hardcore" gamer, although she does play video games quite often.  That's not definitive by any means, but it just goes to show that some people do see it, although it may be more subtle to some than it is to others.  I also have a theory that we've become so used to gaming media catered to males that we're actually conditioned to it, but that's just conjecture on my part.

Maybe bias is the wrong word.  It kind of conjures up images of prejudice, which isn't what I mean.  I just mean they cater to males exclusively.  I think that atitude is what is detramental to us as a whole, and I just wish another gaming website that better represents us would be the go to destination for common folk looking for gaming information.

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

04/25/2012 at 04:00 PM

Do you have some kind of contrasting example? Like an IGN article that's catered towards males as opposed to a similar article from another site that isnt? I don't see the difference that you and your wife are seeing but that's not to say I'm infallible in my stance. Am I missing something?

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/25/2012 at 04:34 PM

Sure thing boss! Check out their review of Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier Vs Kat Bailey's over at 1up.

I've personally played this game as well. Make sure you read 'em both.  It's very interesting to compare the two.

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

04/26/2012 at 12:31 PM

Okay. Got around to reading them both in full. The intro in the IGN review is being purposly brash about the content of the game and then continues to bring it up periodically throughout the review whereas in the 1up review basically says "lots of cleavage", describes what that means and then mentiones it one more time at the end.

I will say that the IGN review mentions this aspect of the game much more than the 1up review but that gives me the impression that this is because it is such a pervasive component of the game. Also, the IGN review was more positive than the 1up review so this translates as "hey, this game is pretty good but it has this one thing about it that will turn some people off regardless" and the 1up review is more like "hey this game is kind of boring so the fact that there's all these boobies talk doesn't matter because the game isn't really that fun."

Both are well written reviews though. IGN's does have that brash intro but after that, it's a good critique of the title. I'd say it was more effective. I want to play this game now. 1up's is well written and it's a different opinion, sure, but IGN's was more convincing as to why it's worth playing. I will say though that the focus of that review could've been done a bit better. The whole cleavage thing in the game may be worth talking about more in a review due to its (assumed) pervasiveness in the game but it could've been conveyed better. I can see how that could be misconstrued and viewed as alienating towards women.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

04/26/2012 at 10:26 PM

Here's what you didn't note: Angelo has played the game. Angelo's been able to judge the content of the game himself, and my guess is that he personally feels the 1up review is much more accurate, though I can't speak for him about it.

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

04/28/2012 at 12:37 AM

Fair enough. Is that true, Angelo? Do you agree with the 1up review more than the IGN review?

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/28/2012 at 09:58 PM

It's interesting.  At first, I thought maybe Kat was a little harsh.  In fact, while I understood why she would be offended, I questioned her objectivity and felt it insulting that she would mock some content I found funny, but the further the game went, the more I understood where she was coming from.

The issue with the game is it never lets up.  Ever.  An occasional T&A joke would get me laughing, but this was overbearing, and I ended up feeling sorry for the female characters in the game instead of finding humor in their catty banter.  Were I to review the game personally, while I wouldn't be as offended as Kat, I would most certainly not treat it as lightly as the IGN reviewer did.  At times, he almost seems to dig on people who were offended by the game's content, instead of understanding their perspective.

There's also one more thing that kind of bugs me, and it's subtle.  Kat's review at 1up was posted 4/29/09, where the IGN review went up in September of that year. That's a full 5 months after Kat's was available on the internet.  So when I read her review, then read a line like "Unless, like I said, male chauvinist humor and near-constant strings of slang terms for women's anatomy gets you seething with pent-up rage. In which case you might want to make a sign and start picketing in the parking lot of Atlus's localization team." I have to wonder if he's not responding how she treated the game's content.  Also consider that 2 years later, IGN purchased 1up, so while I have nothing concrete, it's not unreasonable to assume they were checking the place out at that point.

Matt McLennan Contributing Writer

04/28/2012 at 06:25 PM

All I can say is that I take pride knowing our work will never stoop to the level of IGN/(*whatever media site), because we don't have our heads shoved up our asses.

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