On Being A Hobbyist Game Critic

It’s a little ranty.

I’ve written about my methods for game reviews and even posted on the Falcon Game Reviews Patreon page about why I write in the first place. I try to make it obvious that I really enjoy what I do here. It’s something I find to be rather fun, and I love the community that I’ve become a part of. I love the sense of satisfaction that Jennifer gets as well when she writes a good post, and when I’m able to share that with you all. All in all, running Falcon Game Reviews is a good thing for me to have in my life.

While mainstream gaming media already has a rough time, I feel that is often deserved given the level of involvement they have with the games industry. Their first impressions and previews of upcoming games often portray titles in a favorable light, perhaps as a way to maintain amicable ties with PR firms. That’s part of the reason why I enjoy what I do here.

On the other hand, smaller sites (which largely consist of blogs with a handful of regular readers) have an uphill battle to fight. It’s tough to gain traction in attracting attention, affording games to be able to review (because they’re often too small to be considered for review copies), and turning out those reviews in a timely manner (since they have to wait for release day); all while doing it largely for free.

So when somebody comes along and marrs the already minor reputation of hobbyist games media, it bothers me quite a bit.

Acting Brashly

You might be wondering where I’m going with all of this.

Recently, Paul Ryan of Brash Games (a hobbyist gaming review site with a considerably larger audience than Falcon Game Reviews), has come under fire for some unsavory practices. Some have called the site owner out on not paying his writers, but given my own experience writing briefly for XboxOneUK, I can’t say that’s a bad thing. Like Brash Games, they’re a hobbyist site.

However, unlike Brash Games, XboxOneUK doesn’t advertise to potential writers that they can get you on the professional games media’s radar, only to later nullify any of their writers experience by attempting to remove evidence that they’ve written for the site. My articles on XboxOneUK are still all there, with my name attached to every piece I’ve written. I never got paid for my participation, but considering that I’ve met so many good people during my short time writing for them, I would do it all over again.

While what the Mr. Ryan did to his writers on Brash Games is despicable. However, what caught my attention is how he portrays himself to those that have discovered his methods of running his site:

I a, an extremely private person, I only tweet about reviews, i don’t post personal photo’s, events etc to social media so sending this email is not something I’ve done lightly. I have been running Brash Games for 6 years and the site is 100% self funded by me, out of my own pocket, I do not run any advertisements on the site so there’s can be no assumption of bias and i do not seek anonymous donations via Patreon or PayPal and we do not claim to have cheats or other content like many of our competitors just to get more traffic, we just publish reviews which is what we do best. I am not motivated by money i do this as a way of a release from all the stresses and strains of life … and to keep in contact with friends i have build up with over the years on the site.

-Paul Ryan’s reply to OpenCritic in regards to their investigation into his alleged changing of review scores and removal of author credit

Mr. Ryan claims that everything with Brash Games is on the up-and-up, and that all funding for the site comes from his own pocket.

Except one thing. Brash Games features shoehorned gambling site “advertorials”. Those same pieces seem to indicate that he’s receiving affiliate marketing funds in return for funneling traffic towards said gambling sites. Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to take part in affiliate marketing per se, but I do think it’s wrong to not disclose that you’re advertising when doing so.

Actually, at least in the US, it’s kinda illegal.

In A Nutshell

What Mr. Ryan has done is shady to say the least, and his actions hurt the reputation of smaller hobbyist sites. OpenCritic’s own investigation document makes the situation rather clear. Mr. Ryan appears to be receiving funds to make his living, all while not paying his “staff” a penny. When Brash Games’ staff end up leaving, or are removed from the site for whatever reason, the credit for their work they’ve performed is wiped clean.

I know that the folks I’ve seen around here put in quite a bit of work to make their content possible. The work involved in maintaining a hobbyist website is no laughing matter. Mr. Ryan’s actions are an insult to those that are trying to do similar work, and furthermore, the harm that he’s done to the folks that just want to break into an already tough to enter industry is deplorable.

As an open letter to those that want to be a game critic:

If you’re reading this, and you want to break into being a game critic, but haven’t started writing already, don’t write for someone else. Just start your own blog. There are plenty of websites that will host your blog for free, where you can make your own schedules, set your own agenda, and choose what you want to write about.

Don’t settle for writing for someone that will use your talents to further their own ends, unless they’re doing something to actually help you out in that regard (like paying or guiding you). Hell, I’m no professional, but if you want to pick someone’s brain, send me an email, find me on Twitter, or Facebook. I will help to the best of my ability.

To those like Mr. Ryan:

Just stop. Close down your site, or clean up your act. Don’t take advantage of people that are looking for a break. Be honest about where your money is coming from. Don’t change your writers’ review scores to keep them in line with aggregate score sites. In general, just have better journalistic integrity. There are too many people out there that are actually trying to make something of their work, and your antics make other writers, bloggers, and website admins look bad.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know below.

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6 thoughts on “On Being A Hobbyist Game Critic

  1. Not giving credit where it’s due is reprehensible. While no one can make a living on exposure, at least with the other site, you knew what you were getting AND they didn’t try to take the credit away from the writers. That’s nothing less than deplorable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Receiving credit for your work is important whether you’re trying to get into the industry or not.
    I personally don’t have a problem writing for other people (assuming you receive credit) if you’re writing simply for a hobby with no real intention of getting into the industry. If you want to make it big, doing your own thing is crucial. Tons of people review games, what do you do that’s different? And how do people know that it’s your thing that’s different if it’s on someone else’s site?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I agree with your advice to people who want to be game critics. It’s important to get out there and start writing, so if you do apply to a bigger-named organization you have a feel for what you’re doing. But of course, entrepreneurship is another option! Brash Games definitely seems like a shady organization, and as soon as you begin lying about your business practice you should be shut down. I think I’d rather be a part of a site funded by fans than a site sneakily being funded by, well, anything else.

    And of course, false advertising is never right. If it’s his site, I suppose he’s still within his rights to take down articles, but telling contributors they’ll be up there, help with exposure, etc etc, and then completely withdrawing your support is not ethical. He should be ashamed of himself, if nothing else.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had good experiences working under other people’s banners in the past but it can definitely be a sketchy process if you don’t check in to the site’s practices first. Working on your own is always an option but it is certainly a harder road to travel than finding an established editorial outlet (paid or not). As I try to restart my personal blog, I’m finding it more difficult to gain traction than I did 7-8 years ago writing on the IGN blogs. But I am also past the point of trying to break into the industry, I had my chance and its just not a feasible lifestyle choice for me, so everything I do is just for my own pleasure now.

    Liked by 1 person

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