This Dumb Industry: Plagiarism

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 11, 2018

Filed under: Column 194 comments

The story a couple of weeks ago was that a writer for IGN was caught plagiarizing his content. On July 24, Boomstick Gaming reviewed the game Dead Cells. Then on August 6, IGN posted their own review, which was almost a point-for-point recreation of the Boomstick review with some different phrasing. Boomstick noticed this and posted a side-by-side comparison of the two videos:

Link (YouTube)

IGN took down the review, investigated, and then fired the author after they concluded the reviews were far too similar to be the result of happenstance. The plagiarist then posted an apology to his personal YouTube channel that came off as a clumsy insincere deflection rather than as a true confession and apology. The apology got so much negative response that he’s since taken it downI didn’t see it before it vanished. I’m sure you can still find copies of it on YouTube if you’re willing to go hunting for them.. Once the story came to light, people looked at his back catalog of content and found that he seems to have plagiarized a lot of other content over the course of his short career. The Dead Cells review wasn’t his first act of plagiarism, it was just the first time he got caught.

This has gotten a lot of coverage, to the point where I’m kind of uncomfortable joining the dogpile. The plagiarist’s name and face have been broadcast all over the place for weeks now. His reputation is ruined and his career is over. Those are both appropriate responses to his actions, but after a certain threshold the whole thing starts to feel vindictive. It’s not that any one story went overboard. It’s just that the cumulative effect of so many articles has unintentionally elevated the response to extreme levels. It’s not like he killed somebody. Nobody was even really all that hurt. The main victim was IGN, who had to take down all of the plagiarists archived content and spend resources re-reviewing the affected games. That sucks and I don’t blame IGN for being upset, but I don’t feel any personal need to direct additional rage towards the guilty. He got caught. He got fired. Story over.

I want to use this story to talk about this style of “rephrasing plagiarism” in general, but I don’t want to add to the ongoing public shaming. So for this article I’m not going to use the name or face of the guilty. If you want to dig into that side of the story, other people have you covered.

Why Do This?

When thinking about videogames and terrible reporters, Piper always comes to mind. I can't imagine why.
When thinking about videogames and terrible reporters, Piper always comes to mind. I can't imagine why.

This is a strange crime, isn’t itWe’re using “crime” in the general sense as in “American cheese is a crime against the idea of food itself”, not in the specific sense of “criminal act that can land you in jail”.? Why would anyone go to all the trouble of becoming a reviewer and then copy the opinions of others?

Being a games journalist is not a glamorous job. The pay is low compared to other sorts of journalists, job security isn’t great on account of how quickly gaming sites come and go, there’s often a lot of travel, you’ve got to deal with harassment, the deadlines are tight, and you’re always being pushed to take a nuanced opinion and boil it down to a stupid number. If this job has anything going for it, it’s the privilege of inflicting your opinions on the world. This is like hiring a prostitute and then having a stunt double have sex with her on your behalf. Why are you outsourcing the only thing this transaction has going for it?

Sure, there’s the stereotype that games journalists “play games for a living”. Maybe that idea would draw in the unwary, who don’t realize the work involved until they’ve already committed to it as a career. Even then, doesn’t playing a game cause you to form an opinion on it? I just can’t wrap my head around the mentality of spending a few days with a videogame and then – when presented with a platform to speak to hundreds of thousands of people – expressing someone else’s opinion. Even ignoring that, I have to wonder what the typical long-term plans are for a serial plagiarist. You can’t expect to do this for an entire career, and the longer you get away with it the more it will hurt when you’re finally exposed and have to find a new career.

How Do We Prevent This In The Future?

There's only about two dozen people in this town. You don't need a newspaper. You need gossip.
There's only about two dozen people in this town. You don't need a newspaper. You need gossip.

Even in the internet age, detecting plagiarism is hard. Sure, it’s trivial to discover simple word-for-word copying once the Google crawler finds the source. But if the perpetrator is doing rephrasing on a semi-obscure source then to detect the crime you’d have to manually read everything ever written on the topic. That’s completely infeasible, even if both the source and the plagiarist are working in text. And if both are producing video content? Forget it. There’s no way an editor can catch that. You have to publish the article and leave detection to the crowd.

This doesn’t mean we’re helpless to fend-off would-be plagiarists. We can’t catch them before we publish, but maybe we can catch them before they’re hired. I suggest adopting an interview style similar to the ones used in the field of programming. Regardless of how impressive their prior work might be, how solid their education is, or how nice they seem in the interview, have them do some writing for you on the spot. Nothing will test their skills like asking them to use those skills during the interview. Put the applicant in a room with an obscure game for (say) forty minutes. Tell them you want a three-paragraph summary of their opinions when their time is over. Maybe they’ll play for ten minutes and write for thirty. Maybe they’ll play for twenty-five and write for fifteen. Maybe they’ll alternate between playing and writing until they’re out of time. They don’t need to give some definitive ruling on the game, they just need to be able to form an opinion and articulate it.

This is a task that should be trivial for someone with critical writing experience and incredibly difficult for a dedicated plagiarist. As a bonus, it should also give you a peek at their observational acuity and time management skills. Yes, often these kinds of tests are a little unfair to people who are bad under pressure. But when it comes to games journalism, time pressure is part of the job. If you can’t handle it now, then there’s no way you’ll be able to get it done while hungover and sleep-deprived at E3 next year.

So those are my thoughts on this. I don’t think it was a huge deal, and I think IGN handled it about as well as can be expected.



[1] I didn’t see it before it vanished. I’m sure you can still find copies of it on YouTube if you’re willing to go hunting for them.

[2] We’re using “crime” in the general sense as in “American cheese is a crime against the idea of food itself”, not in the specific sense of “criminal act that can land you in jail”.

From The Archives:

194 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: Plagiarism

  1. Daimbert says:

    I think the problem with your interview idea is that it doesn’t really give them the time to plan out how to approach it while adding time pressure which makes it really important that they plan out how they are going to approach it. What happens if they get engrossed in the game and don’t notice that their time is running out and so don’t have time to write anything? What if they spend their time playing the game watching the clock to make sure that they have enough time to write? Neither situation is conducive to writing a good critical piece on the game, but given the parameters both situations are more likely to occur than a calm, sensible plan.

    I think that to do this, you really need to give them set times for each part. Say “You will have 40 minutes to play the game, and then 20 minutes to write out your impressions of the game so far”. This means that while playing they don’t have to worry about writing since they’ll have plenty of time to write after their game playing time expires, and someone else will be keeping track of that game playing time so they don’t have to.

    1. Their ability to manage their time is PART of the test.

      I used to hire independent contractors for a transcription firm. Every time we’d put out a mention that we were hiring, we’d get GOBS of resumes. After I had eliminated the ones that were not even worth considering (way more than you’d expect), I’d send them our “test”, which was to transcribe a 10-minute file using our style guidelines and upload it to our FTL server.

      Well over 70% of the people could not figure out how to do this, and they always complained bitterly that the instructions weren’t good enough. But, see, THAT WAS THE TEST. You’re a stranger in a different state. Your main qualification for this position is that you’re capable of figuring out how to do this thing and getting your submission in CORRECTLY and ON TIME. The whole point of the interview is to *weed out* the people who aren’t qualified, not to handhold everyone to MAKE them as qualified as possible. It’s SUPPOSED to be demanding.

      1. If you want time to fumble around and figure stuff out at your own pace, you shouldn’t be applying for a job yet, you should be doing independent “hobby” style stuff to acquire professional polish.

        The bane of everyone who wants to turn a hobby into a paying job is lack of professionalism, and the professionals in the industry know it and HATE it. They deal with a constant barrage of amateur wannabes who just wanna have fun, y’know. If you walk in with the “oh, I’ll fumble around until I figure it out” attitude, you’ll be walking right back out in a minute.

        1. Daimbert says:

          But determining how to pace yourself to meet deadlines IS professionalism. If this situation was exactly what they were going to have to do in their job, you’d have a point, but it absolutely is not how game reviews work in general. Thus, trying to lock them into a specific way of doing things and then claiming that if they have a problem with it they just want to “fumble around and figure stuff out at their own pace” isn’t a good approach, since they can rightly retort that you’re just demanding that they do things in a highly artificial way because it’s convenient for you. To highlight this example, some people will indeed want to work in all of the different ways that Shamus highlights here, but the short time frame doesn’t allow them the time to plan that out properly and so they’ll by default be forced into a more chaotic approach than they’d normally have.

          Ironically, this entire solutions works against people who are organized and plan things out to ensure that they can meet the deadline, and can meet the deadline even if other things come up, who are certainly the ones who are more professional and less amateur wannabee. If you want to screen out amateur wannabees, this seems to me to be the absolute WORST way to go about it.

          1. ccesarano says:

            I’m in agreement with Jennifer here. If you can’t handle the pressure to determine how much time you need to write three paragraphs, then you probably don’t think enough about your approach to writing. Someone who is told they have a week to play the new Elder Scrolls, the new first-party Sony open-world game, the latest linear Activision blockbuster and by the way, on Thursday you’re being flown to Boston for 2K’s big preview for Red Dead is going to look at 40 minutes to write a three paragraph impression of just one game is a cakewalk.

            Remember that part of the test is in the ability to formulate one’s own opinion rather than grabbing someone else’s. As Shamus said, the goal here isn’t to get a definitive review, and anyone in the interview process knows this. When I’ve taken the hand-written code test at interviews, I’ve gotten the job where I didn’t even have all the correct syntax or command names for JavaScript functions. That stuff is easy to Google. What they wanted to know was did I understand the basic logic of the language and how to efficiently execute on even a simple command. You’d be surprised how many people go in to be programmers and don’t even know how to Hello World.

            It’s not about creating a minor simulation of the job. It’s about proving you got the basics down so that when you are really thrown into the stress blender you can hold yourself together.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Well, let me remind you of my preferred solution: We’ll let you play the game for 40 minutes, stop it, and then you’ll have 20 minutes to write up your impressions of it. My objection is not about having a short period of time to write, but instead about them having to decide, on the spot, without knowing that this would happen or what game they’ll be playing, how long they’ll want to play the game and how long they’ll want to write AND having to decide without their normal aids how to not blow their time limits for one of those parts. When the main goal is to determine if they can write on their own, adding all of those other considerations WITHOUT giving them the option to use what the best people will do to make the situation you describe work — planning and organization — doesn’t seem like a smart move [grin].

              It’s not about creating a minor simulation of the job. It’s about proving you got the basics down so that when you are really thrown into the stress blender you can hold yourself together.

              So what basics does my alternative not test? It’s not time management because the original is too short to actually demonstrate that and doesn’t give the initial prep time that is generally used to facilitate time management. At most, it tests your ability to not get wrapped up in a game, but I’m not sure that’s a benefit to a game reviewer [grin].

              1. tmtvl says:

                If the candidate can’t handle the pressure of keeping an eye on the clock so they can stop after say 25 minutes, then they might not be the right person for the job.

                1. Daimbert says:

                  Or, they might be, because they are never going to have to do that in their actual job without knowing about it ahead of time and being prepared for it, even at E3. So in trying to test if they can write without plagiarizing, they end up being tested on a skill that they have no real need of and in a way that could impede their ability to do what the test is supposed to actually test.

            2. benengr says:

              I don’t do games journalism but I think a key point is that you ask them to do something real that should be REALLY easy. For instance, I interview programmers and the one coding question I ask is for them to write a program to print the odd numbers below 100 in the language of their choice. This should be really easy and it weeds out a good 30% of the people I interview. It also gives good insight into how they work.

              1. guy says:

                for(int i =0; i < 100; i++)
                if(i % 2 != 0)
                //""+ probably unnecessary i forget

                Grr, comment field mangled my indentations.

                1. tmtvl says:

                  Java, my go-to language for big complex projects. Wouldn’t be my preferred language for something this simple. I’d prefer doing something like…

                  map { say $_ if $_ % 2 == 1} (0..100);


                  Or in Perl6:


                  1. guy says:

                    Java is probably not the objectively best choice for this, but it’s my preferred language and I know it cold, so I use it unless there’s some really compelling reason not to. I’ve used other languages, but I wouldn’t really trust I could get their syntax correct on demand. Particularly given that I pretty much find syntax errors either by letting the IDE do it for me or by hitting compile.

                    And I wouldn’t remember things like “concatinating the empty string in your print statements fixes problems”. I think it’s specifically that it makes 1 + 1 into 11 rather than 2, but generally it’s in the category of things where it’s easier to remember the fix than the problem.

                    1. guy says:

                      Also in that category: what is the result of this:

                      int x = 2;
                      x += 3 +7 * x – (x =7) +4 * x;

                      In the process of studying for my Java certification I learned that the answer is not “a compiler error” but I don’t think I ever did figure out what the 4 * x would be.

                    2. Daimbert says:

                      Yeah, I work and have worked with multiple different languages, and right now work with at least three on a regular basis: Java, Python and JavaScript. I’d hate for someone to not hire me because I’ve forgotten which language uses which syntax for a for loop [grin].

                2. Mephane says:

                  for (int i = 1; i < 100; i+=2)
                  std::cout << i;

                3. Zak McKracken says:

                  print(‘\n’.join([str(n) for n in range(1,100,2) ] ) )

                  Or, a bit easier to read:

                  for n in range(1,100,2):

              2. Cubic says:

                The next step is that Google notices that “fizzbuzz” is becoming a popular search term. But yeah, it’s kind of a stain on the educational system that you have to start testing at the very rock bottom, isn’t it? Like starting an engineering interview by making the candidate add some smallish numbers together. Ok great! Next, subtraction!

                1. guy says:

                  Programming remains heavily self-taught. And people can skate pretty far solving problems very badly, because there are many jobs where they report to people who can only tell if the output is right.

            3. EmmEnnEff says:

              You don’t hire a nurse by wheeling in a dozen patients and having him perform ER triage on them.

              You don’t hire an artist by making them speedpaint a Bob Ross drawing.

              You don’t hire a plumber by having them do a whiteboard interview on laying pipes.

              Programming is uniquely bad at hiring because it does not require formal credentials, and most people doing it don’t have portfolios of their work. (Because it’s proprietary.) No, not everyone has a GitHub account.

              Let’s not let the whiteboard interview nonesense spread to other industries. It’s bad enough in this one.

              1. guy says:

                Yeah, I don’t think whiteboard exercises provide a very good ranking and relying too heavily on them is probably a contributor to why big software projects are so notoriously bad. Pretty much all of the ones I’ve seen are basically in the realm of “if you can’t do this (assuming mercy on syntax errors) why are you even applying for this job?” But if you’re trying to infer which of two fractionally qualified candidates is actually better they’re not much help. I mean, you can be better or worse at writing a for loop that contains a single if statement, but that’s not a big deal compared to the horrific nightmare being bad at code reuse would result in.

      2. Daimbert says:

        Their ability to manage their time is PART of the test.

        But it’s mostly irrelevant to the sort of time management they’ll actually need to do on the job. Game reviewers are not going to have to play part of a game and then do part of a write-up in that short a time scale, but are instead going to have to balance multiple demands over a longer time frame, like a week or at least a few days. And in general what they’ll be doing is gathering a host of impressions of a game or various games and writing it up later. The people who will be best at this are the people who will make good plans on how to divide up their time and follow it. The test here, however, doesn’t actually allow for the sort of person who has the proper skills to actually do the job well, and so it DOESN’T test their real time management skills, and is designed in such a way that it impairs the primary purpose of the test, which is to see how well they can write on their own without having to rely on plagiarism.

        In short, Shamus is wrong to say that it tests how they will perform under pressure because it doesn’t test how they’ll perform under the sort of pressure they’ll be under in the actual job, and it impedes their ability to produce the writing sample that the test is really looking for.

        1. Ivan says:

          Actually, from what I have heard, that really is the kind of time pressure they’ll be under at E3. 10-20 minutes to play, 20 minutes to write, preview goes live immediately after. Or something like that. So, at the very least, this test would be applicable for someone applying for a job, where they’ll walk E3.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Well, except that that approach was what I was suggesting, while Shamus’ was “40 minutes to play and write” and forcing them to decide how they wanted to divvy that up WITHOUT giving them the time to plan that out and organize it beforehand.

            1. Vinsomer says:

              So you think that in journalism and publishing editors will always hold your hand and say ‘spend x amount of time playing, then give yourself y amount of time for writing, then z amount for proofreading’? No, they’ll give you a game or a movie or a book and a deadline, and expect the work to be done. If you can’t manage 40 minutes, then there’s no way I’m going to trust you with days or weeks.

              That is time management at its most basic. If you can’t accomplish that, or think it’s unfair, then you really have no business pursuing journalism as a career.

              1. Daimbert says:

                No, what I think they’ll do is give you a game to review and say “This has to be done by the end of the week”, and let YOU decide how to organize that time. 40 minutes is a VERY short time to play a game in and of itself, and having to split it with writing without having any idea of that beforehand and without having the opportunity to bring along some of your aids — like, for example, a watch with an alarm timer so that you know when you have to stop — only makes that worse.

                As Ivan pointed out, it COULD be comparable to what happens at E3 … except that there either you’ll get as much time as you want to play the game as long as you get the write-up out in time — which you’ll organize before even going to E3 — or else you’ll play it as long as the company will allow to get as much information as you can and so will have someone else decide when you stop playing. So, again, it doesn’t actually simulate what you’d be doing in the actual job. And since the main purpose is actually to see if you can write on your own and so won’t be likely to plagiarize, and since this makes just writing something creatively from your own mind harder, adding those conditions only makes it harder to find someone that can do what you actually want them to do.

                1. Erik says:

                  Again, you are missing the point. Yes, it’s a very short time, but *that’s how much time there is*. That’s how interviews work.

                  The concept of taking a small excerpt of your normal work (create toy program, analyze simple schematic, figure load factor on a given gear chain, etc.) and performing it under pressure is a classic interviewing approach. I’ve used it for decades. (Literally.)

                  The key is not “getting the right answer”, it’s to see how they approach the problem. If they start by figuring out the time management part, that’s what I’d want to see. If they just start playing and don’t think about what happens next, *that* is important interview information. If they overstress about only having a short time to work, they won’t be able to handle life at shows. If they play, but their comments are generic and don’t reflect any of the details of what they played, that’s another flag. But if they play for some amount of time, manage to say something relevant (even if trivial), and get coherent words on the page, that’s what a publisher needs.

                  I don’t expect them to produce finished or even useful work in an interview. That’s not what it’s about. It’s one of several mechanisms for sorting out candidates. To evaluate the quality of their creative output, I’d use their portfolio of past writing, not their interview. The interview is about the non-writing parts of the job, like time management and ability to see details in new content.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Again, you are missing the point. Yes, it’s a very short time, but *that’s how much time there is*. That’s how interviews work.

                    I get the point and nature of interviews. I used the short time frame to argue that they are normally not going to have to watch the block that closely or divide up their time so finely to argue that the test, with that added into it, was a bad test as it tested a skill they don’t need to have. That’s why my alternative, listed in the FIRST COMMENT, was to split it out manually so that they were given set times for each component, game playing and writing. The only reason to think that the original set-up was better is that it tests their time management skills or ability to work under pressure, and that’s precisely what I deny.

                    If they start by figuring out the time management part, that’s what I’d want to see. If they just start playing and don’t think about what happens next, *that* is important interview information. If they overstress about only having a short time to work, they won’t be able to handle life at shows.

                    Except that that short a time period doesn’t actually allow you to do any planning about the time management, because any time spent doing that is time lost for doing the other two things. People who normally would organize things that way will either get stressed out over that or abandon what they normally do. And people who just start playing might, again, simply be reacting to the short time frame. And on top of that, they’ll have to closely watch the clock when normally, again, they wouldn’t have to do that. Thus, them being stressed over being placed in this highly artificial situation when they know they need to give as good an impression as they can is pretty much normal; I’d be worried about someone who WASN’T stressed in that case. And it doesn’t even relate to shows, because in general they’d be able to plan out their approach to the show well in advance and not at the last minute.

                    So, again, I don’t see what interesting information it gives that my alternative doesn’t, and it impedes testing for ability to do original writing, which is what the test was originally designed to do.

                    1. Bubble181 says:

                      Just as a rebuttal, I could do this job perfectly fine in Shamus’ example, but your system would see me fail. I just don’t work that way – I write a basic outline of some things I want to say while playing (well, I usually review books these days, so reading, but still – I used to do games and the same applied), then re-work and re-write it afterwards; editing; rewording, moving, cutting and adding paragraphs. In Shamus’ example, I’d probably play 5 minutes, write 2 minutes, play 2 minutes, write 5 minutes, etc, then spend the last 10 or so minutes finishing up. In your example, I’d be playing 20 minutes and writing 20 minutes, then have 20 minutes for a 5 minute editing job…IF I’m allowed to write during “play” time. If not, I’m out.

                      Shamus’ system allows you to decide for yourself how to plan your time – if you want to play 30 minutes, then write 20 minutes, fine – if you want to do it in another way – also fine. In your system, people whose methodology aligns with yours will fare better, and others will do worse, while this has nothing to do with how well their work is.
                      I don’t know how much handholding you need to manage 40 minutes, but sheesh. I’m sure you can set an alarm on your phone or get a clock if you ask.Most of this type of interview tests allow you to ask reasonable questions/help.

                    2. guy says:

                      I think live interview creative writing tasks are a bad idea in general because people have very different processes and the performance of a given process under differing constraints is not consistent. And I think you failing Damian’s test is potentially useful information, because when you need to do a review in one hour it’s probably going to be like Damian’s test; the publisher gives you twenty minutes straight and then kicks you out of the chair so another reviewer can play.

                    3. Daimbert says:


                      Yeah, I thought about that (mostly in the context of people who simply like to take notes while playing), and so would like people who want to play and take notes/write to be able to do so. But, yeah, it’s not ideal for someone like you. However, what it would end up doing is essentially giving you less game playing time than you’d like and far more actual dedicated “writing” time, which could also be an issue for someone else who, say, writes faster, and is balanced by the other side of someone who needs more time to write and would rather do that earlier than play the time. In the original test, however, you run the risk of someone being unable to plan things out at all due to the excessively short time-frame but needing to do that to divide things up into the appropriate time, someone who happens to slip by 10 minutes because they got engrossed in the game having NO time left to write, or someone who spends all their time watching the clock because they want to make sure they leave enough time to write. I think those are going to be in a far worse situation than the others will be, and that’s speaking as someone who can write relatively quickly and so might want more game playing and less writing time … and also as someone who can always find things to write about and so might want more time to write it all down.

                      That being said, my goal is to make a test that doesn’t filter out or disadvantage anyone who might be a good fit, so I’d even be willing to say that if the distinction is that strong giving people the choice — 60 undifferentiated minutes to play and write or 40 minutes play, 20 minutes write with a reminder at 40 minutes — would be good. Or even the option of having them provide time updates, since the time is so short.

                2. The point of job interview tests isn’t to simulate EXACTLY what someone will be doing so you have an EXACT MEASURE of their likely on-the-job performance. It’s to RAPIDLY weed out the CLEARLY unsuitable. Heck, the interviewer generally doesn’t even go over really thoroughly what you did in the test, it’s more of a pass/fail thing. Can you demonstrate some BASIC competence or not? And if you can’t, it doesn’t matter that over a week or month with a better deadline structure you might manage to be acceptable. Everyone should know to bring your A game to an interview.

                  There are a ton of other criteria involved in any kind of job interview. Obsessing over a test that is focused on “do you have some kind of chops” vs. “are you failing to demonstrate any chops whatsoever”? is missing the point. You’re not running a simulation. You’re testing for the presence of basic skills, not advanced skills.

                  A lot of companies have you do this kind of screening on your own time before you even *come in* for an interview.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Yes, I understand what interview tests are for. I just think the one in Shamus’ original example is a bad one because it doesn’t test for any actual required skills, doesn’t properly simulate what things are like in the actual job at all, and gets in the way of what is supposed to be the actual purpose of the test, which is testing their ability to do original writing.

                    1. You keep repeating that this doesn’t accurately reflect the needs of the job, but what reason do I have to believe that’s anything more than an unsubstantiated presumption? At least one person here has already mentioned E3 and how the demands of this test accurately reflect the heavy crunch time it demands of games journalists and I have no reason not to feel it’s accurate. Do you have any evidence to back up this up?

                      That aside, you also seem to be under the assumption that this test would be sprung wholesale on the interviewee the moment they stepped through the door did not explicitly explained beforehand to be a part of the interviewing process. Why would you be making that assumption?

                    2. guy says:

                      For the first point, generally at E3 you have a strictly constrained time with the game which you are expected to spend entirely on playing it, so you cannot adjust your relative allotment of time.

                      For the second point, because that’s how these things work, more or less. Companies don’t usually give applicants warning about interview tests.

                    3. Vinsomer says:

                      Doesn’t test for any actual required skills?

                      To pass that test you have to be able to:
                      Play a videogame.
                      Write about that videogame.
                      Do it in a short period of time.
                      With no direction or guidance.

                      Seem like actual skills games journalists use every day.

                    4. Daimbert says:

                      Neil Polenske,

                      You keep repeating that this doesn’t accurately reflect the needs of the job, but what reason do I have to believe that’s anything more than an unsubstantiated presumption? At least one person here has already mentioned E3 and how the demands of this test accurately reflect the heavy crunch time it demands of games journalists and I have no reason not to feel it’s accurate. Do you have any evidence to back up this up?

                      I’ve gone over in detail why it doesn’t apply to the longer-form sort of assignments they’d get, and also how it wouldn’t even be a good simulation of most of what happens at E3 (because they’d be hitting multiple booths and so would have to plan for that). It might reflect some kind of “breaking news” situation, but I’m not sure that’s as common as people think (and, as I pointed out, good planners would take that possibility into account as well). So it would discriminate, as I said, against the very people who could do most of the day-to-day work the best, to at best select for the ability to handle one specific and not entirely common case. I’m not sure why I’d have to give more evidence that it’s not really testing what’s required than what anyone else has [grin].

                      That aside, you also seem to be under the assumption that this test would be sprung wholesale on the interviewee the moment they stepped through the door did not explicitly explained beforehand to be a part of the interviewing process. Why would you be making that assumption?

                      Because typically it isn’t, to avoid excessive preparation. That being said, it could be done with this as a “Be prepared to play and write on a game over 40 minutes”, which would help.

                    5. guy says:

                      I would go with “it doesn’t test the required skills applicants are likely to be bad at while also testing several they won’t need.” Yes, game reviewers need to do all the things on the list, but while I am continually surprised by what people fail at in interviews I don’t expect a noticable percentage of people applying to be game reviewers to be so bad at playing games and writing about it you’d be able to tell. Particularly because it’s introducing highly specific time management requirements that I would expect to be unusually difficult for the very people who are better at long-term time management. And I think the specific alternative proposed is a much better simulation of the conditions where they will have a time constraint; if I gave both to applicants, I’d rather hire the ones who pass Daimbert’s and fail Shamus’s than vice-versa. If I were hiring reviewers I expect to do time-sensitive E3 coverage I’d place a lot of stock in their performance on Daimbert’s as a predictor of their E3 performance. If I were hiring for a weekly gig that might cover a couple games each E3 I wouldn’t think either would be worth the time.

                    6. Daimbert says:


                      To be fair, I think that both my and Shamus’ test have a specific purpose that you want to test, especially for people who are going to get a couple of assignments a week at most: the ability to write original content without copying or plagiarizing it. Forcing them to write something where they can’t copy from anyone else does indicate how good they are at formulating their own ideas in their own words, and some of them might come out with really novel takes that you might find interesting.

                      So there is a point to a test like this if you think of it in the original context and not as a way to test time management or their ability to work under pressure, which to be completely fair to Shamus was only introduced as a defense of it potentially seeming a bit harsh and never as a primary purpose of the test.

                    7. Shamus says:

                      I should add:

                      Maybe it’s just that I’ve been doing this for years, but “play a game and write three paragraphs in 40 minutes” does not strike me as being asked to “work under pressure”. This is about twice as much time as I’d need to accomplish the same task. Maybe I’m just ridiculously fast, but I’ve been assuming I’m a typical writer and so this task ought to be child’s play.

                      For people saying this sounds like some sort of high-pressure test: Do you write for a living? Maybe I’m under-estimating my own speed, but maybe it only sounds hard because you don’t do it for a living.

                    8. Daimbert says:


                      I don’t do quick, off-the-cuff writing, but instead longer and more detailed thoughts on games, so from my perspective it’s hard to imagine playing a game for 40 minutes and having played it enough to say much interesting about it other than a simple summary of what I’d done. Most of that, though, might be because of the sorts of games I usually play, which are RPGs whose total play time stretches from 40 – 80 hours. I’d imagine I could say something interesting about, say, a game like Huniepop after 40 minutes play time, but with only 40 minutes to play and then to also write about it seems rather tight … and I’m not a slow writer (I can crank out a couple of thousand words easily in an hour).

                      With relevance to the job of game reviewing, I’ve written multiple philosophical essays at the graduate level with a lot of research on-time (often slightly early), so my finding this task daunting is not a good sign if you’d want someone who doesn’t even blink at multiple big tasks over a longer time period [grin].

                    9. guy says:


                      For me the pressure would depend on how the test is presented. I would have no difficulty with the challenge “play game, produce three paragraphs”. I would have great difficulty with the challenge “play game, produce three quality paragraphs.” The default assumption would be that the interviewer will judge the quality of the paragraphs to some metric. I don’t know that metric, so I don’t have any way to predict what qualifies as good enough, much less what qualifies as so good that I wouldn’t benefit from producing something better. So I wouldn’t be able to hit twenty minutes and say “okay, I’ve played enough to hit the quality goal, time to write”. The criteria are not usually disclosed to the interviewee, so they’re forced to assume the test is whether they can hit some quality goal in the given timeframe.

                      So from my perspective the goal would be to balance playtime and writing to produce the best writing possible. Which I’d probably screw up because I’d fail to leave enough time to write, in a failure mode indistingushable from not being able to write three paragraphs of any quality. You won’t measure the thing you want to if the time limit is tight enough the interviewee could improve their quality by spending more time. You’ll measure a different skill they won’t need.

                  2. guy says:

                    The other thing is that if this test is meant to detect plagerists it needs to be hard enough they fail. But many plagerists are at least somewhat capable of writing, so if the test is easy enough for non-plagerists to reliably pass, it won’t screen out many plagerists.

                3. Vinsomer says:

                  Very simply, if you can’t manage 40 minutes, you can’t manage a week or a month, If I’m hiring, I’d rather take the chance on someone who can pass such a simple test than maybe take the chance that the person who can’t is either not a plagiarist or will improve their skills.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Speaking as someone who writes both, this is completely false. Again, the issue here is not the overall time, but is about organization. Banging something out quickly is a different skill set than managing a number of larger things over a week or more. The longer time-frame benefits most from planning, and balancing differing commitments over a week generally involves planning. So if you want someone to do those things for you and meet deadlines, you want to prioritize people who can plan out and organize their time to meet those deadlines. That’s what this 40 minute thing doesn’t allow them to do, because if they stop to plan it they are taking up time when time is already in short supply, and them trying to rush it might cause them to do their writing far worse than they normally would.

                    That’s why I prefer my alternative, because it removes the time management aspect entirely because that’s artificial anyway, allowing a more fair comparison of actual original writing ability. Yes, it’s still potentially a bit too short, but it’s hard to have a controlled test in an interview that lets them take longer.

        2. Decius says:

          The goal is NOT to measure the quality of their writing. The goal is to test and see if they are even capable of actually writing to begin with.

          1. guy says:

            Problem is, what it’s testing is what will happen if you tell them they have 40 minutes to play a game and write a three-paragraph review. I am dubious that this will have a consistent relationship with what will happen if you tell them they have a week to write a twenty-paragraph review. In particular I’d probably be a ton better at the former and totally unqualified for the latter. And I think the former is unlikely to come up; when they really do have a forty-minute deadline it’ll be in a context where the publisher has set specific constraints on them and they’ll have to work to those.

            One approach in interviews is to give a hard problem and not enough time to solve it to see how they approach it, but for writing some people spend a lot of time planning and little time writing, while others just start writing and spend a lot of time thinking while they write, and others write a ton very quickly then revise it all. All of these work, and result in very different intermediate steps.

            Generally if someone is going for a weekly review gig, the best test is, before the interview, tell them to review a game in one week. Ideally you’d have a secret game that you send to applicants to make sure they haven’t played it or read other reviews first, but you could also pick a random indie title off Steam.

            1. Vinsomer says:

              That’s the point. You don’t have one week to write one article if you work at IGN. You have one week to write many. Some people spend a lot of time planning. And those people aren’t the ones you want to hire for a job where they have to often write content very quickly and at short notice. You think you have all the time in the world to plan when you’re at E3 or PAX or whatever convention? In an industry where new information is constantly being revealed and who is first to a story is the difference between getting a lot of traffic (your revenue stream) and getting barely any, you can’t afford to have the kind of writer who needs hours to think before even putting digital pen to paper.

              1. guy says:

                I generally think you’re overestimating how much overlap there is in the necessary skills to write a short thing in a short time vs. a longer thing in a long time. I can write comments like these in minutes, but am pretty bad at writing 2000-word papers and they take many hours.

                1. guy says:

                  Also, Shamus’s version of the test is going to be dominated by deciding when playing the game more will not benefit the review enough to take time away from writing. But since the timeframe is so short, thirty minutes will be a lot more informative than twenty, so the criteria you’d use to decide it in practice are inapplicable. So if someone does a fifty-fifty split, maybe they’re good at it or maybe they’re terrible and stopped at twenty because they seriously underestimated the utilty of stopping at twenty-five. And if you have to react to news or from playing an E3 demo, I think Damian’s test is a much better simulation. You get a fairly fixed quantity of information and write from that.

                  1. Shamus says:

                    Everyone seems to be assuming the exercise is the single deciding factor about whether or not you get hired, or that it’s supposed to be this perfect measurement of skill. It’s not. It’s just a way to filter out loonies and duds who review well. Some people are good-looking, smooth, witty, charming, and completely rubbish at the job. You want to filter those people out as soon as possible.

                    If you’ve honestly spent a few years playing games and writing down your thoughts, then this task should be trivial for you. You know how long it takes you to bash out a few paragraphs. Maybe you need five minutes. Maybe you need thirty. Maybe, like me, you do a lot of your “writing” while playing, so that by the time you open up the word processor you already know what points you want to make.

                    This isn’t a writing contest. You don’t hire the person with the best three-paragraph review. But if someone can’t bash out a couple of paragraphs of observations in 40 minutes, then that should be a huge red flag. Maybe this person is having an off day. Maybe this high-speed format is bad for their workflow. Or maybe they’re really good at crafting a resume and networking but horrible at writing. Maybe they’ve been half-assing their way through their career based on good looks, charisma, politicking, and ass-kissing. Check the work history, references, and work samples carefully to make sure this person is really everything their resume promises.

                    Honestly, it’s a really simple task. Hiring people is expensive, and whenever you hire a dud you’re depriving a more deserving person of the job.

                    1. Daimbert says:

                      Everyone seems to be assuming the exercise is the single deciding factor about whether or not you get hired, or that it’s supposed to be this perfect measurement of skill. It’s not. It’s just a way to filter out loonies and duds who review well.

                      Funny, because from my perspective most people seem to be assuming that my objection is to these sorts of exercises in general as opposed to it being that this SPECIFIC exercise is not a good one for the primary purpose you outlined, which is to ensure that they have writing skills and so are less likely to plagiarize. I think that giving them a very short time frame that they themselves have to split into gaming-time vs writing-time risks having a failure at that produce worse writing, while not allowing many people to have access to the tools and methods that they’d normally use to deal with that sort of time splitting (plans, alarms, etc). Thus I suggested making it fixed times so that this wouldn’t trap people who normally plan things out and yet wouldn’t get that chance. One person who objected objected strongly to the alternative and showed why the alternative itself was bad for some people. Others insisted that this sort of thing was indicative, which I still disagree with. But I was never saying don’t test at all, and many defenses — and yours seems to be as well — were just “We do these sorts of tests in interviews!” Yes. Yes we do. But that doesn’t do anything to dispute my point that this specific test is a bad one for its stated goal.

                    2. guy says:

                      I’m pretty much assuming that if two candidates are otherwise equally qualified their performance on the test will be used to decide between them. If it’s easy enough that everyone who is qualified can get a perfect score I would question its ability to reliably filter unqualified people with sufficent accuracy to be worth doing. It’s forty minutes of the interview period; it needs to be informative.

                      My personal recommendation is to just give an assignment to everyone who looks interviewable; it’ll tell you more about their practical performance, it screens out people with less time commitment from the company, and doesn’t take up a big chunk of the live interview. It doesn’t automatically prevent plagarism, but if you pick a sufficently obscure game there won’t be many existing reviews and checking if they did plagerize is practical. And it will pick up people who can bash out a couple paragraphs but plagerize long assignments if you do check.

                    3. Nessus says:

                      It’s not just you. I’ve never done any professional writing, but to me this feels pretty straight forward. Everyone’s got a timer on their phone, so just set it to 25 minutes, and when it goes off, close the game and start typing. If I’m not familiar with whatever WP app is on the computer I’ve been put in front of for the test, I can always just use a text file.

                      Of course I won’t be able to write anything meaningful in 3 paragraphs after such a small amount of play, and whatever I do write would likely be extremely “rough draft” in quality, but that’s obvious from the test conditions and therefore not what I’d be assuming the test is looking for. The point is not to write a good review, or to demonstrate proficiency with the tools provided. The point is to test your ability to perform in a binary sense, so as long as you’ve got 3 coherent paragraphs the interviewer can successfully relate back to the game, the rest is just sauce.

                      I would agree with the criticism that it seems like a very perfunctory “foot in the door” sort of test to be spending so much precious interview time on, though. I also don’t think it’s actually very good test for weeding out plagiarists. In my observation, the defining motive behind plagiarism is laziness, which is not really correlated to ability or lack thereof. A plagiarist might have a hard time if asked to do an actual, full-length in-depth essay, but at 3 quick paragraphs they could fudge through like anyone else and do just as well.

                      I mean, take the guy in question in the article. He plagiarized a lot over the years, but he probably did write a few of his own reviews mixed in there. And even the ones he plagiarized were salted with bits of his own writing as part of the laundering effort. The guy clearly could’ve written original reviews, he just could not be arsed. I think he in all likelihood could have passed this test.

                    4. guy says:

                      It’s obvious from the conditions of the test that you aren’t expected to produce three paragraphs at the same quality as if you had a week. It is entirely ambiguous what is “good enough”. Which is mostly a problem because if you give people a time limit and an ambiguous quality goal, it is reasonably likely to result in many people going through their standard process and ending up running out of time, while others will instead effectively abbreviate their process.

                      I should note that my behavior under such conditions is heavily informed by my prior experience in them, mostly on the AP test and college tests. The presence of a time limit in no way implies the quality of the end result is unimportant. How did I respond then? Well, I set to work writing a quality paper, then ran low on time and wrote a hasty conclusion. Which worked fine there, but if I did the same in Shamus’s test I’d probably end up scribbling out one paragraph as the time ran out.

                    5. Nessus says:

                      I actually remember having stuff very much like this back in school. Minor essay questions on larger quizzes or tests where you had maybe 20 minutes for the whole test/quiz.

                      Those parameters flat out don’t support the kind of structure or workflow you’d use on a full essay, so you don’t even try that. You just try to get the basic idea out clearly and concisely in one flat statement. It’s actually way more analogous to how you’d render an opinion in, well, a forum or comments post.

                      Imagine if someone here asked you for an opinion on the game you just played, and you know if you write more than 3 paragraphs they’ll just tune out and call your post “a novel” Write for that as best you can.

                      If the habits you learned in school conflict with real-world employer requirements, that reflects poorly on your school for enabling bad habits (and faulty expectations), not on the employer for not validating those at potential cost to their business.

                    6. guy says:

                      The AP test requires writing an analytical essay on a specific question. The most exact comparison is the document-based question, in which you recieve roughly ten pages of primary/secondary sources and are required to use them to answer a question in about forty minutes. I did this by reading all the sources, then writing the essay. This resulted in about six paragraphs.

                      This process has a fairly obvious problem when you cannot see all of the source material in forty minutes.

                      The other thing is, if you expect this to scale you’d expect being able to write a one-page paper in forty minutes to mean I could make a ten page paper in two months. I think I have literally never succeeded at the latter. Thankfully page count was not actually a grading criterion and my 7-8 page paper was all right, because if I’d actually needed to make it ten pages that didn’t suck I’d have been thoroughly screwed.

                    7. guy says:

                      The other thing is, if you told me to write three paragraphs on any arbitrary game I’ve logged more than ten hours on in Steam in twenty minutes I could probably do that. It is not the actual writing that would be a problem.

                    8. Vinsomer says:

                      Not only that, but it’s about mitigating risk.

                      What this entire affair shows is that letting a snake into your place of work can really hurt you if they’re exposed.

                      It’s not just ‘Journalist plagiarises reviews’, it’s ‘IGN Journalist plagiarises reviews’. IGN are catching flak for this and it has hurt their reputation.

                      But what’s even worse is that all the reviews he wrote had to be pulled. For a website, that means a huge time and money investment replacing a writer’s entire career of work. But it also means a large loss in monetary value because you rely on the revenue articles bring in. Sure, you made money, but you have to task your other writers with re-reviewing old games and that takes them away from their own routine. It’s kind of like a football team unexpectedly losing a player. It doesn’t erase what that player accomplished for you but other players now have to fill in, the team is weaker and you’ve lost something of real monetary value.

                      And you are right, Shamus. A lot of people successfully fake their way into positions they should never have. The only way to prove that someone isn’t a plagiarist is to test them in a controlled environment. And, as an employer I would absolutely rather risk missing out on someone who apparently has good time management and writing skills but can’t manage time and write in 40 minutes, than risk the public blowback (as well as time and money lost) from having another scandal like this.

                    9. guy says:

                      I don’t think you can usefully balance error rates using this to test for plagerism. It will miss two pretty big categories of plagerists: people who are good at writing but plagerise when they don’t feel like putting in the time, and people who write short things fine but plagerize long things. I think overlap in performance between plagerists and non-plagerists on this test will be so high that making it hard enough to reliably eliminate plagerists will eliminate so many good candidates that it will seriously impede filling positions and force the company to lower its standards on checking resumes and work history. And if it’s easy enough that 30-50% or more of plagerists pass, it’s actually worse than no test; it provides false confidence that will tend to make people not bother with checking their articles for plagerism.

                      My proposed alternative is basically to select candidates to interview by giving them a test assignment on a game where there’s few enough published reviews it’s practical to check if the applicant plagerized any of them. That’s imperfect but it still means anyone who passed provably can complete a review without plagerizing a published review, and anyone who fails cannot complete one standard assignment within the standard deadline, so they’re probably not suitable for the position; the only other possible explaination barring unforseen crisis is that they are very busy at their current job. Unsuitable hires will pass, because it doesn’t properly test balancing workload, but at least you can be fairly sure someone who cannot write one article in one week cannot write two articles in one week.

                      Also they could get someone else to do it for them, but that’s not likely to have serious adverse consequences out of line with just hiring an incompetent person. I expect it’d be rare enough and nonserious enough that it’d be a net losing proposition to specifically test for.

                2. Vinsomer says:

                  I’d say that being able to write short things in a short time is not indicative of being able to write many longer things in a longer time. But I would say that anyone who can’t write a short thing in a short time probably can’t write a long thing in a long time, and it’s safe to risk maybe losing someone good to cut out all the bad.

                  That’s the thing with time management. It only gets more difficult as it scales up. Managing an hour? Easy. As time periods get longer and more abstract – a week, a month, a year – they get progressively harder to deal with.

                  The test is not the be all and end all of hiring decisions. It’s to weed out the clearly unqualified, not the deciding factor between those who are.

            2. Decius says:

              Give them a week to plagiarize a review, to prove that they can write a review without plagiarizing it?

              You’re measuring an entirely different thing by trying to see if they can write a good review.

        3. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Game reviewers are not going to have to play part of a game and then do part of a write-up in that short a time scale, but are instead going to have to balance multiple demands over a longer time frame, like a week or at least a few days.

          Playing a game for x minutes and writing something about it for 40-x minutes is analogous to playing a game for x days and writing about it for 7-x days.If you cant manage the first,you likely wont be able to manage the second.The point of the test during an interview* is not to comprehensively judge your skills in a real life situation,but rather to get a snippet of your skills that are asked for by the job.

          Not to mention that there are such things as e3 where your journalist will most definitely be playing a game for short amounts of time and writing about it while in a queue for a different game.

          *Unless you are applying for a very high risk job,like neurosurgery,or being an astronaut.

          1. Daimbert says:

            The thing is, though, for the longer time period most people would plan it out and it wouldn’t be an issue if they run over by a few minutes. With the short time frame as suggested, it does indeed matter and the interview doesn’t give people the time to organize like they would over a longer time frame. For E3, again the best candidates would have a plan of attack on that and build in outs in case things run longer or take longer than expected, which are things that, again, the interview situation doesn’t allow for.

            Meanwhile, my suggested alternative of the interview being 40 minutes playing and then 20 minutes to write avoids all of those downsides and still seems to capture the main thing there, which was if they can write something without plagiarism, and is more in line with the actual time pressures they’d face.

      3. guy says:

        Unless the job is “have a new style guide and an unfamiliar network, upload within ten minutes, repeat” I would be dubious of the accuracy of that test in predicting job performance. People who wash out because it takes them twenty minutes to figure out a style guide could easily be much better once they figure it out than people who can figure one out quickly. The trouble with timed interview tests is that they rarely reflect actual timeframes or practical problems, and don’t necessarily scale.

        1. Redrock says:

          Isn’t that why we have probationary periods? Hell, when I worked in media most young recruits would do a couple of weeks of unpaid internship before they were considered for a full-time position. Than they got probationary periods with a half-salary and only then, if it was decided that they learned the ropes, they got an actual decent job (well, as decent as a low-level journalist gig gets). Trained quite a few of those kids myself. Most new recruits were still pretty clueless after all that process, but what can you do.

          1. guy says:

            Yeah, no one is ever ready to start their first job at 100% productivity, so you’ll never get entry-level people if you insist on them being totally ready right out the gate. That needs to be priced in to the hiring process for those jobs.

            Experienced people know how to do jobs in general, but they probably haven’t worked literally the same job before, so it takes a bit of time to get oriented. The bigger problem, though, is that a live interview has to test solving a simple problem in a short timeframe, and that’s a very different task from solving a complex problem in a long timeframe. And it’s the latter that requires professionalism; the former just requires speed.

        2. Vinsomer says:

          Problem is, nobody applies for jobs saying that they need time to get sorted, even if it’s true for most. People often say ‘proficient in x program, experienced with y program’. If they can’t then do it on the spot or demonstrate their skills, chances are their entire resume is bs, not that they’re secretly great workers in need of a little polish.

          And it’s transcripts. If you can’t quickly figure out a style guide, then you really are lacking one of the few skills that job requires.

          1. guy says:

            It is generally acknowledged that companies have individual variations such that even people proficent with a general topic are not necessarily proficent in its precise usage in a specific context. In the specific case of transcripts, proficency with one style guide does not indicate proficency with all style guides.

            Now, if they put “proficent with style guide X” on their resume, it’s reasonable to expect them to demonstrate that on the spot.

            1. You’re imagining that a style guide is an elaborate document with many exceptions, codicils, etc. It’s not. It’s a SINGLE PAGE that looks like this:

              Identify speakers by name if at all possible. If not use SPEAKER 1, SPEAKER 2, SPEAKER 3, etc.

              Put speaker names in all caps, followed by a colon and two spaces.

              Double space between speakers.

              If you can’t make out what they said, use [unintelligible] in square brackets at the appropriate spot. Don’t guess if you’re not sure.

              If someone is interrupted abruptly, use an em dash —

              If someone trails off, use an elipsis, …

              Check spelling on unknown words. Correct spelling is important.

              Don’t correct grammar. Transcribe what is actually said. You can leave out “um” and “er” sounds and quickly-repeated words.

              Capitalize sentences and use punctuation appropriately.

              I’m sorry, if you can’t master that in 24 hours, you’re worthless to any transcription firm. Heck, it shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes.

              1. guy says:

                Well, I had been proceeding on the assumption that since you mentioned it testing whether people could do things on time, you had set a time limit somewhat close to how long you expected it to take, where the variance between spending five and ten minutes figuring out the style guide would matter.

                If it’s a ten-minute task and they have twenty-four hours then it tells you very little about their ability to meet deadlines. I find it very doubtful that anyone who could send in a resume good enough to be worth interviewing would not be able to focus on the task for ten minutes. If they turn in something that’s wrong they probably aren’t capable of following a style guide. If they turn in nothing they probably can’t figure out the file transfer thing, probably because it pissed off their firewall. If they turn something in late either they had some unexpected crises or they don’t actually want the job.

        3. Decius says:

          Nobody can transcribe a 10-minute recording within 10 minutes. But the test is to weed out everyone who can’t do all of those steps with no time pressure.

          1. guy says:

            If they’re having trouble because of the instructions, that’s probably a sign they’re unfamiliar with the style guide. I don’t expect people replace style guides very often, so “learn a new style guide” is not one of the steps usually involved.

        4. It wasn’t a TIMED test. We gave them 24 hours in which to squeeze in approximately TEN MINUTES worth of work. I’m sorry, if you can’t manage to do 10 minutes worth of work in the next 24 hours when YOU contacted US looking for work, something ain’t right.

          The test was, “can you use a computer well enough to complete this task on your own recognizance”. And people failed constantly because they simply didn’t possess the skill set they claimed they did.

          1. guy says:

            That is primarily a test of technical skill and not professionalism, then, and it is highly unlikely anyone failed due to poor time management. They probably tended to get tripped up by some obscure setting somewhere in their networking, if they were using their own PC, because I have seen that take computer science professors literally hours. Windows makes many things easy and the rest stupid complicated.

            1. Well, this was back in 2007. Find me an “obscure” windows setting that prevents you from copying a net address from a text file and pasting it into the search bar of a browser, then, when the page comes up, typing in a username and password, clicking a button that says “upload file”, selecting the file, and clicking “okay”.

              They weren’t failing because of “obscure settings”. They were failing because they didn’t actually know how to use a computer. And many failed due to time management, because they would contact me and ASK FOR MORE TIME (usually AFTER the deadline had already expired).

              But, please, tell me all about how you KNOW I didn’t actually have the experience that I did when I was there and you weren’t. I’m sure you somehow magically know better than I do. I must have telepathically shot my memory into your head and forgotten it myself. :P

              1. guy says:

                Internet explorer security and compatibility settings. Certain security levels can break dynamic scripts, causing clicking an upload button to fail. Applicable to then-current internet explorer versions.

                1. guy says:

                  And yes, I have used a site where you cannot upload things with the default IE settings and need to go into the options menu.

                2. Nessus says:

                  And if it breaks in IE, you try it again in Firefox, or Chrome, or Opera. Honestly, if you’re using your home PC to do this (which I’m assuming would be the case, given the time frame), you’ll likely be using one of those instead of IE anyway. Only reason to be using IE in the first place, never mind being locked into IE so hard it could actually stop you, is if you’re using a company or library computer.

                  I’d just call this part of the test. I’f you’re not computer literate enough to get around such a tiny bump as that, you’re not right for the job.

                  I could pass Jennifer’s test with zero effort, and I know I’m not qualified for the job (I’m only quasi-computer literate, and not a fast enough typist for transcription work), so I feel little sympathy for anyone with better credentials on paper who couldn’t. It’s not a hard test, nor one with any real “gotchas”. It selects for an elementary school level grasp of English, and a Jr. high level of computer savvy, at worst.

                  IMO the only legit excuse for not being able to pass the test as described would be some kind of emergency that kept you busy and away from computers for that 24 hours. I’m kind of appalled that it’s actually functional (i.e. that it actually weeds out so many applicants).

                  1. guy says:

                    This was 2007. IE had a much higher market share, and many sites did not function in other browsers at all. At that time, if you suspected a browser issue you would resolve it by switching to IE.

                    1. Nessus says:

                      That doesn’t rebut what I said though, and even implies the opposite (by implied agreement that one wouldn’t be using IE as a first resort browser).

                      In 2007 I was using Firefox as my main browser, and I don’t recall having many issues with website incompatibility. I think in the entire 2000’s decade, I probably only encountered maybe 3 websites that didn’t play nice with FF. While the problem did exist, it was incredibly rare in practice (and given how many websites didn’t have such issues regardless of complexity, implied phenomenal incompetence on the part of the web designers IMO).

                      To be honest, I have way more issues with splintered browser compatibility today than I ever did back then. Mostly due to plugins and DRM rather than core browser behavior. Back then, FF did everything for me, and it did it well. These days I have to keep 4 browsers and switch between them for different sites or purposes, because some plugin will break a website on FF but not on Chrome (or vice-versa), or because some media site (Amazon video, Netflix, looking at you) will either only play or only deign to allow HD in one specific browser, or occasionally because some website is optimized so hard for mobile that it’s broken or unusable in any regular browser..

                      I feel like you’re bending waaaaaaayyyyyy over backwards to cling to your position.

                    2. guy says:

                      No, in 2007 a random person was most likely to be using IE for reasons discussed in the next comment thread. Wikipedia puts it at 68% of usage in 2007.

                      Browser compatibility wasn’t a hugely common issue, but it did occur and standing advice was that if you needed to be sure it worked you should use IE. My brother missed a college application deadline because he used Chrome on the Common App site and the submit button did not function.

                    3. guy says:

                      I would also note that those sorts of problems concentrate on sites used internally by corporations; it’s pretty easy to tell a big corporation to use IE because it was probably the only browser they had anyway. And I learned that thing about IE security policy in May 2018 during new hire orientation at the company that provides it; the IE dependency is broadly baked into the UI. It being 2018 of course we support new browsers, but only on our updated UI, and if you tell our clients to change their workflow they will ask if instead we could solve the Halting Problem. In 2007 the site only supported IE and no one cared.

              2. Daimbert says:

                Well, this was back in 2007. Find me an “obscure” windows setting that prevents you from copying a net address from a text file and pasting it into the search bar of a browser, then, when the page comes up, typing in a username and password, clicking a button that says “upload file”, selecting the file, and clicking “okay”.

                On Board Game Geek, I had to use the old image uploader for several months because due to my answering a pop-up question wrong at some point the new uploader couldn’t access my computer to give me a list of files to select from so that I could upload it. I to this day have no idea what actually fixed it.

                1. guy says:

                  My money would be something about Network Address Translation or firewalls. Many protocols, including specifically FTP in standard mode, depend on the server being able to open a new connection to the client on a specific port, and by default NAT doesn’t let you do that because it maps ports on computers behind it to different ports on the router when an outgoing connection is opened. So there’s no mapping for ports without an open connection.

                  There’s a ton of solutions to this problem, obviously, but many of them require fiddling with settings.

                  Second possibilty is there was a problem with their code or your browser they later fixed. If it was a while ago and you weren’t using IE all sorts of sites had dumb problems.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    I was using Firefox at the time, actually [grin].

                    I think the issue was the underlying security protocols. It kept asking me if I wanted to allow that thing to access my computer, and one time I answered “No”, and it never asked me again. Eventually, through upgrades and the like, that got cleared and it just started working again.

              3. guy says:

                I can’t really diagnose the actual issue without getting the 2007 version of the site, but generally if 70% of people fail the test you’ve described and complain about the instructions, they probably encountered difficulty following the instructions, and given how simple the task you’ve described is, I doubt 70% of people who use the internet would be unable to follow instructions on doing it. So if 70% of people couldn’t follow the instructions, there is probably a problem with the instructions. And the most likely problem with the instructions for the upload that would not be immediately obvious would be one where following the instructions will either work or not work based on a factor not listed in the instructions. I could keep enumerating things that could cause using a website to upload a file to fail, but probably there was exactly one such issue I’m unlikely to find by random guessing.

                I wouldn’t be surprised if many people couldn’t follow a style guide, but I would generally expect them to turn in something wrong under the presently described conditions.

      4. ElementalAlchemist says:

        our FTL server

        It’s impressive that your server could achieve lightspeed. That must have been quite the drive core you crammed in there.

        1. Eh, I haven’t used that kind of file sharing in so long I obviously forget all the details. From what I remember, in terms of difficulty for a user it was pretty much analogous to uploading a file to Dropbox, the only real difference was that you had to type some stuff in manually (which, the way it was given, you could just copy and paste).

          1. Amstrad says:

            The joke here is that you likely want the term FTP server, not FTL.

      5. Blake says:

        Hiring junior programmers at work last year, had a test to write a program that took senior programmers here 2-3 hours to complete and asked the juniors to find a 6 hour block during the week to take the test and do as much as they could.

        None of the applicants got in everything they wanted, but that wasn’t the point. It was to see what they could get done in the time-frame, how they approached the problem, and to be able to compare results.
        One of them however wasn’t happy about with their work after 6 hours, so they took another 7 and submitted it late.
        They did not get the job.

      6. Paul Spooner says:

        Yes! Exactly! One of the best jobs I ever had was test-gated. The objective demarcation is so useful!

  2. When I was still blogging semi-regularly, I noticed that I was getting a LOT of traffic originating from a site that basically sold writing projects to people. “Do you need a paper? A story? Tell us what you need and we’ll write it for you!”

    It makes me wonder if one of my stories wound up as somebody’s Creative Writing paper somewhere, and some teacher Googled it, found my blog, and subsequently failed that student.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen the point of plagiarism, particularly the ones who go to elaborate lengths to cover it up. If you want to make this your work and ultimately enjoy SOME success instead of being a nameless hack forever, then you HAVE to invest the time to LEARN THE SKILLS to do the work. So by farming out the work, you’re just hurting your own skill development. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll get caught.

    And once you have the skills, you can probably dash off a half-considered pile of hungover blither that will be more insightful than most of the “sources” you could find to provide for you. The amount of work that goes in to finding a source worth plagiarizing that is ALSO obscure enough not to be readily discovered is greater than just doing the silly job yourself.

    1. guy says:

      Very often people don’t plagarize all their work; they do some legit then plagarize when they feel time pressure or there’s a section they just can’t get to work. And in many fields they’d be reading the same sources anyways; the difference between a good research paper and plagarism can be whether or not it’s properly credited. That’s still extremely serious because it’s passing off the work of others as your own.

      It’s also probably easier to get away with in news and reviews; since everyone covering something is discussing the same subject under similar format constraints their work product is going to end up kinda similar.

    2. Joshua says:

      ” If you want to make this your work and ultimately enjoy SOME success instead of being a nameless hack forever, then you HAVE to invest the time to LEARN THE SKILLS to do the work. So by farming out the work, you’re just hurting your own skill development. ”

      Reminds me of a recent experience I’m having taking a Graduate-level Finance class. Instructor assigns homework, asks if there are any problems people want him to work out on the board. People are trying to get him to basically do all of the hard questions in that class*, so they can get higher grades on their homework. I’m in the position where I would rather have the teacher work over the problems that weren’t the homework (or not do any at all and let us leave earlier) rather than spoon-feeding the answers to the class. Sure, they’re more likely to get a higher homework grade, but by not doing the work themselves, they’re basically preparing themselves to flunk the exams.

      *To clarify, this is right after the homework is assigned. It would make better sense to review the problems the following week after the students have attempted to beat their heads against the work so they’ll have a better understanding of the solution.

      1. Steve C says:

        I’m going to strongly disagree here. Back when I was in high school (stay with me) I had a teacher that assigned homework at the start of class. This allowed me to work on the homework while in class instead of listening and taking notes. I would routinely get stuck on some minutia in my homework. Then I would wait until the teacher was covering that point or I would ask a pointed question about the problem I was having. It was wonderful. I ended up with a high 90s not because of the homework (which wasn’t graded) but because I understood the material so well. All due to that small change.

        People learn in different ways. Very likely I would have loved your finance teacher. I would have learned far more than I ever did from the awful finance teachers I had in university. And maybe I would have retained something.

        1. I had some school problems back around 4th grade because their testing determined that I was ridiculously ahead of my grade level, so they had me spend part of the day in a 6th grade classroom. However, this meant my day was screwy and I had trouble keeping track of my assignments.

          So my AMAZING teacher started writing the day’s assignments on the board for me in the morning. I’d have them all done and ready to go before I went home for the day.

          I’ve also seen this done in a software class–they gave us a book full of exercises to teach different parts of the program, and then the instructor went through the materials. Well, I already knew enough of the basics that I started working ahead through the exercises. I figured out how to do some pretty neat advanced stuff, and by the end of the class the instructor was showing off my exercises and having me explain how I’d done this and that to the rest of the class.

          So, I think there’s definitely something to the concept of giving people the exercises at the START of the class. It gives your advanced people and fast learners something to DO so that they’re not sitting there bored waiting for the slower folks to catch up. And that gives you more time to focus on the people who are having problems and need help. And your advanced people can actually HELP YOU TEACH via what they discover while they’re working the exercises.

          1. guy says:

            I tend to dislike that format because it induces focusing on the solution to the exercises rather than focusing on how to solve the problem in general. How much that’s an issue varies, but often you don’t need to understand 100% of the material to solve all the exercises when there’s a managable number of exercises.

            Bigger issue outside of mathematical fields, admittedly; they’re less interdependent and it’s harder to test a whole bunch at once.

            My general process in university was to spend the lecture taking thorough notes (I, uh, didn’t always actually do this step) then go do the exercises, referring to my notes and the book when I had trouble.

            1. Well, if your exercises don’t actually cover all the stuff you need to do, they’re not very good exercises, no?

              If people get finished, you can always give them some real stumpers of advanced exercises. But they can get the practice stuff done.

              It’s different when you’re not teaching a skill, I mean, what kind of exercises can you give people in History class?

              1. guy says:

                In math, I remember it mostly being an issue with integrals and related things. Since the difficulty of integrating a function could vary unpredictably in surprising ways it was easy to do a bunch of operations involving simple integrals and think you had it down, then fail on more complex integrals. And while teachers did try to assign a range of exercises covering every class of function, you could solve a particular exercise without knowing how to solve the overall class. So I’d never really trust I had a correct understanding until I tried it on a bunch of exercises I hadn’t seen when I developed my understanding.

                Exercises in history class are basically about testing that you can answer questions about a time period. They’re really likely to provoke this problem because obviously you can’t put literally every question about the period on the exercise sheet. So if you look at the exercises before you study the period, you know what subset of information you need to answer them, when what you want is to have a sufficient understanding of the period overall you can answer a broad range of questions. Study, then exercise, and the exercises are a random spot-check of how well you know the material. Start from the exercises, and they’re a de-facto test of how well you can look things up. Historians do need to be good at looking things up, but generally the difficulty is figuring out what book is appropriate rather than locating it within a book you know has the information.

                1. Decius says:

                  It’s much easier to test to see if you can solve a representative sample of exercises in a domain than to test to see if you have the general skill of that domain.

                  It’s also pretty accurate to measure the general skill that way, provided that you can actually develop a representative sample of exercises.

                  The problem is that you can’t develop a skill that is different from the one you are actually practicing, and often exercise work will have you practice “Use u-substitution” “Apply the quotient rule” and “Apply the product rule” and the skill that you want to develop is “Identify which rule(s) to apply on an arbitrary integral”. Practicing the former skill can make it look like you’ve developed the latter skill, when in fact you’ve merely learned to recognize the patterns that the author of the practice use for each subskill, and lack the ability to identify which methods to use to approach problems that look different from the exercises that you’re familiar with.

                  (I may have professionally tutored calculus at one point, and studied a bit of education theory).

                  1. guy says:

                    It’s been long enough since I’ve taken Calculus I can’t give specific examples, but basically I think often what happened was the textbooks did have a representative sample, but they were roughly ordered by actual difficulty in the expectation of starting at the easy end and working your way up. And pretty often teachers would use some of them as in-class practice problems in that order, and they wouldn’t hit enough of the top end to ensure you had to know how to solve all of the top end. Then they’d assign more as homework, and if you had figured out how to solve the specific integrals in the in-class questions, you would find out if that solution is generalizable when you hit the last ten exercises. Fairly often I realized I hadn’t really understood something and referred to my notes at that phase; if the exercises had been given to me before the lecture I think the utility of my notes would have degraded considerably.

                    1. Decius says:

                      That sounds a lot like “learn to recognize the conventions of the textbook author” or “reverse-engineer the problem-writing process”, which are both often easier than “See how to iterate through multiple legal operations to decompose this expression into one that can be integrated with existing rules”.

                    2. guy says:

                      If I’d been learning either of those things I’d have been able to use it to solve all the exercises in the textbook. The problem was that an individual expression can often be decomposed in more than one way, so successfully decomposing one expression doesn’t require knowing how to decompose all expressions of that type and it was difficult to tell without actually trying to decompose another expression of that type.

    3. melted says:

      Yeah, plagiarism is a total dead end for anyone who wants to be a writer and cares about their work.

      But, I would wonder how much of it is from people who want to be writers. At my college–and I think this is pretty typical–we had to take a couple of composition classes for gen ed requirements, regardless of major. So, it follows that just about every low-level composition class is going to be mostly filled with people who aren’t especially interested in writing, but who are taking the class because it’s required. They’re not there for the class; they’re there for the grade.

      So the plagiarism, while still wrong, is at least explicable.

      You can say it’s a shame to waste the opportunity to practice and develop a skill you might use later (at the least, that you’ll use in other classes) and, sure, it is. But it’s the same for, e.g. someone who wants to be a writer cheating in a math class because they figure they’ll “never use it” but they need the class.

      1. There is literally no profession that doesn’t benefit from having skill in organizing ideas and communicating them clearly, which (in non-fiction) is what writing is. Writing is one of the generic skills that EVERYONE in ANY profession should have, along with:

        Running a meeting
        Public speaking
        Planning a project

        No matter WHAT you do, at some point you will need to either explain to someone what you do or explain what you DID. You don’t have to be eloquent, but at least you should make some sense.

        1. melted says:

          It’s not a question of whether the class is (or could be) valuable to the student. It’s a question of whether the student believes it’s valuable to them.

          I think it’s (usually) less a matter of people thinking they will never need to explain something to someone else, and more a matter of them thinking they already can. They think they already possess the skill you’re saying they need to learn.

          Your sales pitch here is essentially, “it’s basic communication and everybody benefits from being able to communicate clearly”, but it’s easy for people to think they’re good (or at least, good enough) at communicating, even when they’re not. After all, they’ve been doing it almost their whole lives, right? If someone doesn’t understand them, it’s easy to blame the other person. (And even if someone’s a bit bad at communicating, the other person may bridge the gap themselves, so that they don’t know there was a problem.)

          I don’t know if the Dunning–Kruger effect is necessarily more pronounced when it comes to writing/communication, but I think it’s definitely applicable.

          1. Mr. Wolf says:

            An age old problem. The only people who would take this class voluntarily are the people who don’t actually need it.

          2. guy says:

            Much about human behavior as regarding work becomes explicable when you realize that many people are satisfied with being good enough at their job to get paid.

            And a smaller but still noticable fraction of people are satisfied with getting paid whether or not they’re good enough at their job.

  3. Chris says:

    I think he was afraid he wasnt good enough or was running out of time. So he basically did something he knew worked, rewriting someone else’s review. I mean, the chance of someone noticing this is pretty small. Like only when it was side by side does it seem obvious. And I think a lot of people aren’t just mad at the reporter for doing this, they are also mad that a smalltime guy who makes reviews in his free time is getting munched off by someone in a much better position. Namely being paid to do the same thing, and already having an established userbase to post their stuff on. That shotgun guy he stole from has to struggle to get to the position the journalist was in.

    Also don’t a lot of hiring for online platforms happen online? Like someone applies online and then has some sort of online job interview? I don’t know anything here but I always assumed they cut corners on stuff like an office to keep the costs low.

    1. I’ve worked some online jobs of that type, some of them “real jobs” (like Amazon customer service), and some of them a bit more free-form. So, yeah, all that stuff generally happens online and over the phone. They’re likely to make heavy use of video chats as well.

      In the larger companies they usually have a whole screening program that you do before you ever get in contact with a real live person for hiring.

  4. Fabian says:

    I suggest adopting an interview style similar to the ones used in the field of programming. Regardless of how impressive their prior work might be, how solid their education is, or how nice they seem in the interview, have them do some writing for you on the spot.

    That interview process is used in programming to determine if people can program at all. One of the popular problems is called “FizzBuzz”, where you go through numbers and print “Fizz” if they are divisible by 3, “Buzz” if divisible by 5, and “FizzBuzz” if they are divisible by both. It’s elementary stuff, easy to anyone who has spent a week or so learning to program.

    That’s not really comparable to writing, because I don’t believe the question is if they are able to write. There probably aren’t all that many people applying who can’t write at all, which is the equivalent to not being able to solve FizzBuzz.

    The question is if they will write. A test for that seems to be much harder to invent.

    1. Decius says:

      If x/3=floor(x/3) print “Fizz”
      If x/5=floor(x/5) print “Buzz”
      print newline
      next x

      1. guy says:

        I would normally recommend a modulo operation. Admittedly that was assuming “number” meant “integer” on my part. But assuming the floor operation outputs a floating-point value, your result is technically incorrect; due to precision errors your comparison operation may give the wrong answer for large X and fail on very large integers. Floor might give an int, but instances I’m familiar with give a floating-point representation of the int.

        More importantly in this context, if the interviewer thinks you don’t know that then you probably fail the test; if you forget it on the job you’re liable to introduce subtle errors that are annoying to test for and diagnose. Direct comparisons of floating-point representations are generally disrecommended.

        1. Decius says:

          Will modulo work ‘correctly’ on numbers large enough to have floating point errors when divided by one of their factors? What returns from 16777217 mod 5?

          Even if floor outputs an int, the divide operator cannot, but my understanding is that dividing one float by one of its factors never introduces floating point error, and that every natural number up to 16,777,216 can be exactly represented by a float (and some above that, but it’s complicated to tell which ones).

          1. Droid says:

            Int mod Int is a computation that requires no floating-point numbers in its algorithm (depending on implementation, that might be different, as always, but the std-lib modulo operations afaik never use floats).
            Anyway, you can use the “pure floor” or int division which I’ll denote by //:
            x mod y = x – (x // y) * y
            to get x mod y with values in the range from 0 to y-1. All operations were pure (Int x Int) -> Int operations, to use the mathematical domain -> range description.

            1. Decius says:

              …. It’s even easier. The DIV and IDIV instructions store the modulo in a register directly. I’d be disturbed if a standard library operation used something else, and panicked if there was a faster way except for modulo a power of 2. (A MOD 2^B is always equal to A AND 2^B-1),

          2. guy says:

            Modulo will work correctly for any value stored as an int. Integer operations are not subject to floating-point precision errors. However, 3.0 is an integer represented as a float; precision errors occur for very large integers represented as floats. It is therefore a very bad idea to use a floating-point variable if you know it will only store ints.

            Also, floating point precision errors happen for decimals very quickly; because it’s using a base-2 representation one-tenth cannot be represented precisely. This will usually be automatically corrected for, but errors accrue with repeated operations.

      2. Erik says:

        There’s also a clause in the description that says: “If it’s neither divisible by 3 or 5, print the number.” So your suggestion fails that bit, which is the part that actually makes it interesting. It forces the programmer to deal with two independent tests plus a result that’s dependent on both of them.

        It’s darkly amusing to see just how many ways candidates come up with to fail “simple” exercises like that. :) The good part about a test like this is that there are multiple valid ways to succeed… and even more ways to fail.

        When giving questions like that, I always encourage the candidate to muse out loud, and I answer almost any reasonable question they have. (Short of “how do you do this”.) For example, a good candidate will make a mistake, see and acknowledge it when pointed out, and understand quickly how to correct it. A bad candidate makes the same mistake, but denies it and argues about it when it’s pointed out.

        At the end of the day, you’re evaluating the person, not the solution.

        1. guy says:

          That’s not in this version, though. Anyways, still pretty easy; if-elseif-elseif, put the double condition in the first if. Had I been asked this in an actual interview I’d probably figure out a way to nest them to reduce the number of operations for most cases, but honestly the difference wouldn’t matter here.

  5. Redrock says:

    To be honest, the way the media covered this whole fiasco was more interesting to me than the crime itself. It seems that Gamergate left some deep, deep scars on the whole of gaming culture. No matter how much game journalists scoff at Gamergaters (and often rightly so), it’s telling how the whole industry jumped at the chance to expose an actual bad guy, to say “see, we’re the good guys! THIS is what a bad game journalist looks like and oh, how we hate him”. It’s amusing and just a little sad because, like you said, in the end the dogpile just started to look nasty, even though the response is understandable.

    As to why the guy did it, well … could be any number of reasons. It probably has to do with deadlines and, perhaps, the fact that he didn’t play the games. Perhaps the guy wrote his own reviews for the games he liked and just couldn’t be bothered with those he didn’t, who knows. What bothers me most is that he didn’t really bother to re-write the text he was plagiarising apart from switching out a few words. That’s what’s so odd about the situation. Say you can’t or don’t want to play enough of the game to finish a review on time. So you go out, read a bunch of reviews and write something similar. That sort of thing happens all the time, especially with film and game critics in media outlets that don’t specialize in gaming or movies. But to just copy-paste entire sentences? That’s sucking at writing and plagiarizing,

    1. Cubic says:

      Not to put a too fine point on it, GamerGate was about Depression Quest, a very crappy game by Zoe Quinn (Chelsea van Valkenburg*) that got some good reviews because the reviewers got to bang Zoe Quinn, right? Then her boyfriend found out. And then things kind of escalated.

      I see that the top ten or so search results, however, are about what a victim Zoe Quinn is. Well, what about those who read the reviews and bought Depression Quest?

      * LOL, I at first got a red squiggle when I misspelled Valkenburg, so the internet still remembers.

      1. Rack says:

        It was never reviewed, it’s a piece of free interactive media not a game anyone could buy. You might think it’s crappy but since you’ve no idea what it is I’m not sure what your opinion is worth.

      2. Viktor says:

        Amazing. Every single word of that was wrong.

        Gamergate was sexists trying to control the industry and any narrative other than that is intentional misinformation or willful obtuseness. This can be seen by the fact that Zoe Quinn sleeping with reviewers(something that was never proven, and in some cases wouldn’t have been possible/relevant) is seen as terrible, but somehow EA paying 6 figures in advertising to review sites that subsequently give their games a positive score is perfectly normal. Why is a tiny indie dev getting a few good reviews on release week automatically suspicious and worth hating on years later, but a Madden roster update getting a glowing review completely expected?

      3. aradinfinity says:

        I’ve played Depression Quest, and as someone with depression, it’s pretty good at what it sets out to be. Zoe Quinn was accused of having sex with a specific reviewer who, at that time, had not reviewed the game.

        That’s the facts of the initial thing that I heard. What’s important here is that Gamergaters harassed Quinn by sending a large quantity* of death and rape threats, and then turned their attention to other women game devs and game journalists, who they termed Literally Who in their inner circles to deny them name recognition. I suspect this was also to depersonalize them, but I’m not sure because I wasn’t in those inner circles- my information comes from people who were there, whose names I’ve forgotten at this point. But since it’s the Internet, I’m sure you can find the threads they posted on.

        Anyway, the issue with Gamergate is that it showed a lot of gamers to be perfectly fine with their friends sending death and rape threats to people they disagreed with. To this extent, Redrock’s right; the site probably cut the guy as fast as they could because they didn’t want people sending them any death threats if they could help it, and the dogpiling and subsequent villification of what’shisname is likely due to the same self preservation instinct. It’s interesting, I think.

        *I couldn’t find actual numbers with a quick Google search, but someone who cares more than me probably could

      4. kunedog says:

        Not to put a too fine point on it, GamerGate was about Depression Quest, a very crappy game by Zoe Quinn (Chelsea van Valkenburg*) that got some good reviews because the reviewers got to bang Zoe Quinn, right? Then her boyfriend found out.

        Close; it wasn’t a review, but simple one-sided (and repeated) glowing coverage (i.e. pure promotion). And whatever the guy’s relationship–talking about Grayson alone here–to Quinn, the important part is that it wasn’t disclosed at all.

        And then things kind of escalated.

        Oh yes. A failed cover-up, a failed news blackout, and then finally a coordinated smear campaign that continues to this day.

        1. Shamus says:

          I got a little nervous when Redrock brought up GG. Although, I was also kinda curious if tempers had cooled or if perspectives had changed. I see now that the conversation is still basically deadlocked in the same spot. To be honest, this is not surprising. Earlier this year I wrote about how the built-in tribalism of social media has distorted our perception of each other, and a lot of that thinking was a result of observations made during GamerGate.

          I doubt we’ll discover anything new this time around, so let’s just let the topic rest. Thanks everyone.

          1. Mousazz says:

            I doubt we’ll discover anything new this time around,

            To be honest, it’s rather interesting to poke the proverbial bear once in a while to see what reaction you can get. Who knows, maybe this topic won’t stay tense all the time, and might calm down at some point?

            Then again, such an action is also very dangerous, with the potential to disastrously derail the thread with inflammatory opinions, so… hmm…

          2. Decius says:

            I wonder if we’ll ever get an honest postmortem about what events actually transpired in what order. Even at the time a lot of what was being said about objectively verifiable facts was inaccurate, and I suspect that a lot of the original records were deleted, or at least “deleted”.

  6. Hal says:

    “Have you finished your essay?”
    “C’mon, just let me finish this level!”

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      “Five more minutes.”

      1. Cubic says:

        I guess that could be a pretty good review, though only once.

      2. Mr. Wolf says:

        “One more turn…”

  7. Mintskittle says:

    “American cheese is a crime against the idea of food itself”

    I take issue with this statement. Real American cheese is a perfectly acceptable cheese.

    If you’re referring to Kraft singles, those are cheese substitute, not actual cheese, and you may ridicule them to your heart’s content.

    1. Redrock says:

      Wait, what exactly is “real” American cheese if not those yellow squares of processed cheese? Because even the Wikipedia page defines it as such. That’s the whole deal, isn’t it?

      1. Mintskittle says:

        Did some looking around, and I stand corrected. Subway serves a white cheese under the American name that tastes quite different from Kraft Singles, and assumed there was an actual American cheese that wasn’t proccessed cheese, but a bit of google-fu says there isn’t.

        Kraft singles still arent real cheese.

        1. Redrock says:

          Kraft singles still arent real cheese.

          I doubt anyone thinks they are. They’re still nice on a burger. Although once you try to put a slice of actual cheddar or, say, gorgonzola on a burger, you never go back.

        2. I’d take Kraft singles (which are at least made of actual dairy) over some of the other “cheez” singles out there, *which don’t even contain actual dairy products*. They’re made of soybean oil and corn protein.


          The real weird bit is that Velveeta actually is REAL cheese (although if you’ve ever had any, it totally looks like plastic). It’s just had a chemical added that denatures the protein to make it silky smooth. There was an effort by cheese manufacturers to force it to be labeled as “embalmed cheese” (yum!). Much like chocolate processed with alkali (cocoa powder), it’s basically been chemically pre-digested so that it has better mixing properties and will keep better.

          1. Mephane says:

            They’re made of soybean oil and corn protein.


            It’s actually possible to make very decent cheese substitute from soy (but I have never heard of corn in that context), however then it’s just as expensive as the real thing.

            1. aradinfinity says:

              Corn is everywhere in the American food industry. Monsanto’s worked their way into a lot of pockets, among other things, and they’re lining pretty much everything with corn.

              1. Decius says:

                Monsanto has had a much smaller influence than the corn subsidy lobby.

        3. Erik says:

          There used to be an American cheese that wasn’t singles, just sliced. It was sold at least up to the 80s, because I used to search for it back then because Kraft Singles are an affront to nature. It was basically a very mild cheddar-y cheese that melted well. Kind of like Jack, but yellow.

          The notable difference in labeling: the Kraft singles are “pasteurized cheese product” or “cheese food product”. The old singles were just “pasteurized cheese”.

          I haven’t seen it in stores for 20 years or so, and I’m sure it’s no longer made. Sliced cheddar is much better if you want real cheese, and Singles/Velveeta are cheaper if you don’t care (or have taste buds).

          1. Decius says:

            The best way to get sliced cheese is with a block of cheese and a cheese slicer.
            The second best way is with a knife.

            Often pre-sliced or pre-shredded cheese also contains sawdust.

    2. Asdasd says:

      I asked an American what kind of cheeses were made in his country. He told me they had both kinds: yellow and white.

    3. LCF says:

      *Laughs in French with a sizable chunk of tomme de chèvre in the hand.*

    4. Mr. Wolf says:

      Wait, Americans call that pre-sliced rubber-and-phlegm combination “American cheese”? Oh, I weep for the American culinary arts. The land of the hamburger deserves good cheese, for without how will they make good hamburgers?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well they are making hamburgers with stuff that is barely meat(I think it was something like only 40% actual meat required in order for something to be called meat),so why not use cheese that is barely cheese?

        1. Shamus says:

          I know you’re just joking around and repeating a popular meme regarding fast food, but let me use this as excuse to talk about McDonald’s burgers.

          I worked at McDonald’s in the 90s. Despite the longstanding jokes that their burgers weren’t actually meat, it was pretty obvious that they were, in fact, totally meat. The box of meat patties said “100% USDA GRADE A BEEF”. So if they weren’t meat – or if there was a bunch of additives in there – then it was a massive cover-up that broke the law, on multiple levels, for decades, without ever being exposed. If the burgers really were 40% something else, then it should have been very easy to catch them.

          On top of that, I could tell I was looking at meat. It had the right texture. It heated in the right way. And if you ate it the moment you were done cooking it, it tasted exactly like you’d expect beef to taste. If something went wrong and a patty thawed out (like, a frozen patty fell on the floor during a rush and rolled under some machinery and didn’t get cleaned up until things slowed down) the thawed meat had exactly the right texture and consistency of ground beef.

          If McDonald’s really has invented fake meat that’s indistinguishable from the real thing, then rather than risking a massive scandal by pretending it’s meat, they should just sell it. A meat alternative that’s indistinguishable from the real thing would be worth billions.

          Now, you may ask: If they’re using real meat, why do their burgers taste like rubber?

          Ah, now here is the problem with fast food. If you made a hamburger, wrapped it in paper, and left it in a warm humid drawer for half an hour, then you’d wind up with something that more or less tastes like a McDonald’s hamburger. The taste isn’t the lack of real meat, it’s the result of food aging in a hot environment where all the flavors blend together and everything becomes rubbery. The bun becomes chewy and the meat becomes chewy, but in a different way. The condiments assume the same temperature as the rest of the item, which means you’re eating mustard and ketchup that have been heated to 71C (160F) which is not how you’d consume that stuff under normal conditions. You lose all of the contrasting flavors and temperatures and the whole thing blurs together into a homogeneous blob.

          1. TouToTheHouYo says:

            What foul blasphemous concoctions have you been subjecting yourself to, Shamus? ‘Round here – the greater Sacramento area of California – McDonalds has the decency to prepare their food fresh. Granted it still tastes cheap but nothing like the horror you describe. I genuinely pity you if that substandard sustenance is the best you have in your area. The humble McDonalds cheeseburger, when properly and freshly prepared, is a delight. The rest of their menu varies wildly in quality but their staples are generally good.

            1. Guest says:

              Do they? When I last worked in Maccas, they no longer premade burgers, they made them “fresh” to order. But they didn’t cook them fresh, that would be too time consuming. They did batches of 10:1, 4:1, and 3:1 patties and put them into a storage unit with a timer (I think it was an hour) for use in FIFO. Of course, our store didn’t properly track it, so things weren’t FIFOd, and some of them were in there for longer, but that’s basically why the meat is rubbery, even if they made your burger to order, which they do nationwide here, the patty may have been in there for like an hour if they obey the rules, and longer if they don’t, depending on how busy they are.

          2. Redrock says:

            I’m actually surprised that people are actually seriously implying that McDonald’s burgers aren’t meat. I mean, you can say a lot of bad things about those burgers – there’s the whole Jamie Oliver “pink slime” ammonia thing which stopped being relevant in 2011, for example. But accusing them of not using actual meat? That always seemed weird to me. Once you think about it, McDonald’s, like any other fast food chain, would never do anything that could realistically get them sued or damage their brand. Hence, youu can be sure that while the food is unhealthy because of what it is (i.e. greasy carb and fat filled delight) it’s made with quality class-action-lawsuit-repelling ingredients.

          3. Daemian Lucifer says:

            So if they weren’t meat – or if there was a bunch of additives in there – then it was a massive cover-up that broke the law, on multiple levels, for decades, without ever being exposed.

            Fun tidbit:You know those labels that say “zero calories”?Thats a blatant lie that everyone is allowed to use.I would be surprised if that were the only one.

            And while I cant comment on most of that from personal experience,this I can:

            The taste isn’t the lack of real meat, it’s the result of food aging in a hot environment where all the flavors blend together and everything becomes rubbery.

            This is not the case when you use 100% real(Im calling it “100% real” for convenience this time) meat and real vegetables.I alternate between buying stuff from stores and real stuff from people doing their own agriculture.And when I get to leave the real stuff half eaten to cool,then reheat it later,it still tastes great.When I do this with the store bought things,its a toss up between it being ok and it being chewy and crappy.Now whether this is because the meat was treated differently,or the preservatives change during cooking*,had some additives,or something else,I cant say from this.The only thing I can say for certain is that store bought meat,the one that goes to fast food joints,is definitely of lower quality.

            *This is my guess because store bought things can remain unprocessed for longer,but after being prepared they dont taste good for long.

            1. Mephane says:

              Fun tidbit:You know those labels that say “zero calories”?Thats a blatant lie that everyone is allowed to use.I would be surprised if that were the only one.

              I haven’t watched that video because I currently cannot listen to audio, so bear with me please – is that video merely about artificial sweeteners being not technical absolutely 0 calories, but something like a tiny and usually inconsequential fraction of what an equivalent amount of sugar has? Because while that’s technically correct (the best kind of correct), it doesn’t really “debunk” anything.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                No,its about artificial sweeteners having the exact same number of calories as ordinary sugar,but are able to claim that they have 0 by simply being packaged in a creative way.

                1. EwgB says:

                  An “artificial” sweetener (some of them are natural, but don’t fall for the naturalistic fallacy) having the same amount of calories (or more) per gram doesn’t tell you much though. That’s the whole point of those sweeteners that they are MUCH more sweeter than sugar or fructose or whatever, sometimes dozens of times more (aspartam is ~200 times sweeter than sucrose for example), so you only need a tiny fraction of the stuff.

                  I want to stress that I am in no way advocating or supporting use or consumption of sugar substitutes, nor am I discouraging it. Unfortunately, there are studies concerning health benefits or drawbacks of those sweeteners going both ways, so there isn’t really have any reliable information AFAIK. Make up your own damn mind! :-)

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    The point of that video isnt whether the sweetener in question is better or worse,but that is blatantly saying something false in its nutritional information simply due to a legal loophole.

                    1. EwgB says:

                      I now clicked the video and found out that I actually watched it back when it came out (I am subscribed to Tom Scott’s channel). And to me one of the points of the video is that the product in question is 95% glucose, so obviously you would get a caloric content similar to that of sugar. And your point that they can claim that it is sugar free because of a legal loophole is of course correct. But I also think that by saying that

                      artificial sweeteners having the exact same number of calories as ordinary sugar

                      you miss the point that the sweeteners have the same or similar number of calories per weight unit as sugar, but are much sweeter than sugar, so a normal portion of sweetener would weigh much less and thus have less calories than a corresponding portion of sugar. That’s the whole point I was trying to make.
                      So tldr, bullshit legal loopholes are bullshit (and possibly not accidental), but claiming that artificial sweeteners are as calorific as sugar is also misleading.

                    2. Redrock says:

                      Come on, DL. Stating that sugar and, say, Splenda have the same amount of calories per gram is, while technically true, a sensationalist clickbait piece of nonsense. Because for all practicle intents and purposes it’s just irrelevant, since a serving of Splenda is much smaller than a serving of sugar with comparable sweetness. It’s a marketing trick, absolutely, but it’s not even a loophole – it’s just a very straightforward classification issue.

                    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      You are both missing the fact that,in this case,a single packet of splenda is about the similar weight of a sugar cube,which is the amount that it is advertised as replacing.It does not matter that it is slightly sweeter,because thats a matter of taste.Some people like just one lump of sugar,some like 5 packets of splenda.

          4. Mephane says:

            A meat alternative that’s indistinguishable from the real thing would be worth billions.

            Various companies are offering basically that, near identical substitutes, for example check out “Impossible Burger”. And while I haven’t eaten that particular one yet, I have tasted a variety of substitutes and some come really, really close, to the point where if someone would serve me that without explanation, I’d refuse to eat it because I’d think it’s actual meat (I’m a vegan).

            And then there’s the whole lab-grown meat thing being researched, which may or may not be technically meat depending on your definition.

          5. EwgB says:

            A serious, in-depth answer to a slightly trollish non-question. That’s why I love this site!
            An another note, I recently ate a Hamburger Royal with cheese (that’s a quarter-pounder for Americans who didn’t watch Pulp Fiction), that was apparently made to order, since I had to wait, and it was still pretty hot when I got it. And it was bloody delicious! That makes it another “data”-point to your theory. Also, I got it for just two euros (promotion), which made it doubly tasty.

          6. Decius says:

            Just in my lifetime I’ve seen some wide variation in fast food preparation philosophy. The biggest thing being that the burgers aren’t assembled until ordered, resulting in longer wait times, especially during surges, but much higher quality, especially at surges.

  8. King Marth says:

    Thought this was the summary to Shamus’s Escapist article for the week and kept looking for the link to the original through the entire page.

    1. Droid says:

      I’m relieved I’m not the only one.

  9. Joshua says:

    “Even ignoring that, I have to wonder what the typical long-term plans are for a serial plagiarist. You can’t expect to do this for an entire career, and the longer you get away with it the more it will hurt when you’re finally exposed and have to find a new career.”

    Sounds like people who commit fraud. Although there are a few well-thought out schemes, most fraud involves methods that *will* eventually result in the person getting caught because concealing the crime becomes almost a full-time job in itself.

    1. Droid says:

      I guess it just boils down to people being really bad at intuiting probability and managing long-term risk?

      1. guy says:

        It boils down to there actually being a relatively low chance of getting caught in a way that leads to punishment. It’s easy to do and hard to catch. A lot of people eventually get caught, but a lot more probably don’t.

        Also, for fraud generally mostly getting caught just means they need a new pseudonym. It can be complex to prosecute and unless it’s really high-dollar is probably not nearly as high-priority as other equally complex crimes.

        1. Joshua says:

          I didn’t fully understand your reply, but then realized I forgot to specify I was talking about workplace fraud. I.E. Embezzling and stealing items from the company you work for. Sending someone an email as a Nigerian Prince is a different kind of fraud than what I was discussing.

          At the least, your punishment will be termination. Other than physically swiping some cheap inventory, it is not exactly easy to do without getting caught eventually, unless a workplace has shoddy controls. One of the reasons for this is that people who do it at least once will almost always keep making further and further attempts instead of leaving just one anomaly which could be written off.

          1. guy says:

            People get away with workplace embezzlement for quite a while on a fairly regular basis. They just create a fake paper trail that stands up to cursory examination. The records will look like the money was spent on some legitimate transaction. It won’t get caught unless someone decides to check on the actual payment potentially quite thoroughly. It seems like everyone always gets caught eventually, but we only know about the people who did get caught.

            Mind, people who aren’t in charge of the books are pretty much limited to timesheet fraud and expensing things they shouldn’t. Anything else creates an inconsistency accountants will notice.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    I’m not a fan of plagiarism. I understand people who are inspired by others, or those who like someone’s work so much they want to share it, even without permission (not a nice thing to do, but understandable and pretty much unavoidable in the internet). And I have no problem with people picking up a joke they read or heard somewhere and repeating without claiming its source, as long as they’re not actively claiming they made it up (people tend to know jokes travel everywhere).

    But people who straight up present a work as theirs and get paid or otherwise graded for it? Those can go screw themselves. Yeah, I’m still bitter about that kid in highschool who stole my already graded drawing for art class, erased the name and the grade and presented it as his own.

    1. Droid says:

      Have you at least done the Right Thing and buried that asshole in an unmarked grave in the desert?


  11. ccesarano says:

    I appreciate the effort to do more than dogpile. I remember seeing a lot of people being frustrated because “do you know how many people would want to have his job?” It stinks of a lack of appreciation, but as you outline above, it’s a pretty stressful job to have that compensates very little. I used to think I wanted to write about games for a living, and I’ve tried to rent games I didn’t think highly of and complete them just so I could write about them. It’s rough. Perhaps it would be easier to manage without a separate day job, but one of the common things I hear is that few writers and reviewers come home and want to play games in their free time.

    There’s a very big difference between the freedom of what you want to write about and what you are told to write about, and when that comes with deadlines (and especially now that so many games are 40+ hour open-world collecto-romps) there’s a lot of pressure. I can see this guy as being someone that thought being a games writer was going to be a dream job, started to get in over their head, and resorted to plagiarism to help meet deadlines and simply survive. I don’t think they “tricked” IGN.

    Then again, I don’t know what they’re earliest work looks like, either. It could be they’ve been plagiarizing this whole time. I do, however, still think it’s something we should learn to be more careful of rather than sticking their face on a dart board.

  12. Ardis Meade says:

    “American cheese is a crime against the idea of food itself”
    Huh, I didn’t know Shamus was a dirty commie. Learn something new every day.

  13. Michael J Anderson says:

    Historically there has been an issue where you are paid by the review or article or whatever … or that certain perks such as trips to events, free/promo hardware or accessories, or whatever, are all tied up to volume of reviews.

    This too often leads to shoddy reviews based on someone playing a game for too short a time to truly experience things that would be key to ‘understanding the core of the game’. But through the years THOSE kinds of reviews have become easier to spot, so people try to find other ways to short-cut the process. Writing more broadly, using templates that capture the essense of things without being too specific, or …

    … evidently now it has come to not bothering to play the game and just re-purposing someone else’s experience. Ugh.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The main victim was IGN, who had to take down all of the plagiarists archived content and spend resources re-reviewing the affected games.

    I feel like dead cells was the main victim.At least ign had some influence over this.If they did a better check on the guys application,or if some editor checked his reviews,they couldve caught the plagiarist before he was caught by the public.But dead cells had no input in this,and yet this controversy around a review for it overshadowed he game itself.And yes,it got more coverage for this,but it is now way better known as “that game someone plagiarized a review for” than what it actually is.

    1. guy says:

      The most direct victim is anyone who spent money on IGN relating to those reviews. They paid for an original review and did not get the benefit of one; if they’d known the review was copied from elsewhere they’d likely have gone to said elsewhere.

      IGN is victimized as well because they sold them as original in good faith and now need to make amends to their customers.

      The plagerized reviewers were victimized, because if their reviews had not been copied to IGN without compensation, they may have been able to attract readers away from IGN.

      The devs and publishers are honestly probably fine; they still got a review of their game on IGN. They’re only victimized if an original IGN review would have boosted sales relative to the plagerized review. Dead Cells might not have wanted this kind of coverage, but it’s likely to boost sales due to a lot of people hearing about the game due to the controversy. It could negatively impact publishers in the future if it undermines trust in game reviews in general, however.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So many comments and not a single mention of the sword of shannara or eragon?Both of those would fit well under the “Why Do This?” heading,seeing how successful they are.

    1. Redrock says:

      Oh, oh, this reminds me how people used to accuse Sir Terry Pratchett of plagiarising J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts with his Unseen University. And when he explained that the UU predates Hogwarts by at least a decade, he then had to explain that no, having wizards in pointy hats doesn’t make Rowling’s work plagiarism either.

      What I mean to say is crying plagiarism in genre fiction is often problematic. Many works are derivative, sure, but that sort of comes with the territory. Now, in Eragon’s case there is that scene which resembles the scene from David Eddings’s The Ruby Knight. Which does feel a bit like an homage, seing how he flipped the whole ford-bridge thing around and it was an important point in the original? Sure, he stole the general idead of the scene and reused a couple of phrases, but does that smal scene make the whole book plagiarism? I don’t think so. It is a very mediocre and derivative fantasy book, that’s for sure.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heres the thing about your test:You are assuming that the company wants to hire GOOD journalists.But going for quality over quantity never struck me as the thing ign does.

  17. Steve C says:

    I’m a big believer in not making the cure worse than the disease. I do not believe in putting disproportionate time and effort towards preventing things that are super rare. What are the odds that someone you are going to hire is a plagiarist vs the odds they do something else to damage your business/brand? Maybe they are embezzler. Or maybe they accidentally burn down your building. There are a host of problems more likely than this. Sure, obviously you don’t want those people. But put in the effort where it will be useful.

    I’m aware of exactly two cases of noteworthy plagiarism that damaged the company/brand. One is this one, and the other is a journalist from the NYT from ~10yrs ago. It is extremely uncommon. It is like having disaster preparation drills in case of wild elephant attacks. I’m sure there are more cases of people being fired over plagiarism. Let’s be real here– of all the various reasons you might regret hiring someone, and all the ways a bad hire might screw you– plagiarism is at the bottom of the list.

    Even if a perfect interview test to weed out plagiarists existed, that does nothing to prevent them from engaging in that behavior in the future. Spending time and effort stopping plagiarism in schools?– yes! Because it is common. Games journalism where it feels every site is a few months from going bankrupt? Pfft.

    btw: @Shamus “a writer for IGN was caught plagiarizing his content.” I read that as originally as he reused his own content from another site on two different sites. (Which counts as plagiarism in academia.)

    1. Ander says:

      Ah, yes, the infamous “self-plagiarism.”

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        I actually did this once when I was in high school and got away with it. (I’m not proud of having done so… my excuse is basically that it was the last assignment of my senior year and I’d pretty much checked out.) I was supposed to write an essay analyzing a comic play. I took an essay I’d written earlier in the year comparing and contrasting Oedipus Rex with Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, deleted all the parts about Oedipus Rex, wrote a new introduction and conclusion and handed it in again, to the same teacher.

        She didn’t notice.

  18. Bubble181 says:

    1. It’s coincidental, but just today, one of Spain’s ministers (the secretary-of-state type for you Americans, not the preacher type) had to step down because it was discovered she had plagiarized parts of her master’s thesis. A few years ago, one of Belgium’s ministers (same) suffered the same fate.

    The difference between plagiarism and using sources can be small, and there can be many reasons for using similar phrases/words/styles. I know that when I looked back on parts of my own thesis, I realized that some paragraphs were *really* heavily influenced by one source, simply because it was pretty much the *only* source on that topic with any meaningful content. I agreed with the original writer, and came to pretty much the same conclusions as they did, so a lot of it ended up in mine. In the end, I rewrote those parts pretty heavily and made sure they all had proper references to the original works…And that I included at least one original idea/variation in my version.

    Anyway, as for game journalism, I agree with some of the other writers – he probably got in over his head, not being able to meet deadlines, or getting close to some break point for a higher tier of rewards (Sadly, this is an actual practice in quite a few types of journalism these days – bonuses for quantity of output, gifts, etc), and took the “easy” way out.
    Perhaps it also started out more benign: watching a (few) other reviews of a game before writing one yourself is a good idea – you can see different points of view, possibly self-correct if you were going to say something like “they never explained how XXXXX” while it turns out they *do* explain it but it’s easy to miss or you just never got that far (time constraints, you know), get inspiration, see other possible ways the story can play out (again, time constraints – I can imagine no reporter except Shamus ever played Mass Effect 3 three times to see all the different endings! ;) ).
    In the same way, if you’re being asked to write something about a random topic, the Wikipedia page *can* be a good place to start …Just not a good place to *end*. Getting an idea of what other people think of the game, or what Wiki has to say about….Neo-rococo architecture in Germany, is useful. Using that as your sole basis will result in just a rehash of what you’ve read/seen, instead of your own ideas and views.

  19. AncientSpark says:

    Maybe this is a bit of a hatejerking to IGN, but I was always under the impression that IGN’s work culture as a game review site might be causing all sorts of short-cutting and lack of quality content. Even looking outside of this incident of plagirism itself, IGN is rife with a lot of odd writing choices and bad research, to the point where I’m more willing to bet that the reason the author plagiarized is workplace culture related.

    A recent example was that a reviewer re-reviewed Path of Exile and gave it a relatively low score for them, citing “monotonous combat” and “resistance checky combat”, but a cursory look at his review and his video showed a play time over twice of what even a beginner would have in one run through and gear that was so well and truly awful by that point in the game that almost no ARPG would be playable in that state (I’m talking DPS in the realm of maybe 20% of what even a beginner build would have by that point in the game, even when messing around).

    1. guy says:

      I wouldn’t pay the playtime any heed; it probably means the reviewer experimented with a broad cross-section of the gameplay and it’s bloated their playtime.

      Having 20% of level-appropriate DPS is such a bizarre scenario I have no idea how it would happen by accident. Unless the reviewer stumbled into a freakishly resillient build of some kind and could survive 500% as long as usual.

  20. Plagiarism balances this weird line between copyright infringement (aka piracy) and derivative-work/trans-formative work, depending on how little or how much is rewritten.

    For example, a news site that translates a news article from another site to English is plagiarizing the work, but as it’s a translation and (hopefully) crediting the source it becomes a trans-formative (or derivative-work?) work where the original creator is credited. But, this may or may not be permitted by the creator of the original work.

    On some sites you may see a license mark being CC BY or similar, if you don’t see this, then ask the creator for permission.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Proper translation still does ask for permission,or has a long standing license.But even if we ignore that,what it is doing is bringing the thing to the audience that would not be able to use the original otherwise.Incidentally,that is one case where I also think piracy is unambiguously ok:Bringing the product to the audience that would otherwise be completely unable to obtain it.

    2. guy says:

      The default state under US law is that the copyright holder has absolute control over the creation of derivative works; all cases where a derivative work may be created without permission are defined as exceptions to that default.

      Translating without permission is copyright infringement; if the original source is properly credited it is not plagerism. If the translator licensed the rights to produce a translation, they have copyright on the translation itself; the licensing agreement may impose any conditions both parties agree to. Generally this works out to the translator making some kind of payment arrangement and possibly agreeing to limitations on how they use it, and in return the original copyright holder agrees to not license it out to a competitor for a sufficent period.

      Unauthorized translations are technically infringement, but if there’s no commercially avaliable competing translation literally no one cares.

      Plagerism, on the other hand, is basically completely forbidden. It is specifically presenting the work of others as though it were your own; there is no societal benefit to permitting this. A specific instance may be legal, but there is no plagerism exception and it’ll probably make any court more skeptical that it meets the requirement of another exception.

  21. Asdasd says:

    This has gotten a lot of coverage, to the point where the cumulative effect of so many articles has unintentionally elevated the response to extreme levels. That sucks and I don’t blame IGN but I don’t want to add to the ongoing public shaming. Being a games journalist doesn’t mean we want a three-paragraph summary of their opinions writing until they’re out of time, they just need to be able to form an opinion and articulate it.

    So those are my thoughts on this.

  22. Jabrwock says:

    “We’re using “crime” in the general sense as in “American cheese is a crime against the idea of food itself”, not in the specific sense of “criminal act that can land you in jail”.”

    I suppose it depends how broadly you define copyright. Plagiarism for profit?

    1. guy says:

      Copyright infringement is in most cases a civil violation; it is illegal but is not a criminal offense.

      Probably the people who got plagerized from could sue the writer, but he doesn’t have the money to pay out enough to make it worthwhile, while IGN’s swift takedowns and the fact that there’s no reason to believe anyone else was aware it was happening or should have noticed sooner will probably limit the extent of their liability.

  23. Jabrwock says:

    This doesn’t mean we’re helpless to fend-off would-be plagiarists. We can’t catch them before we publish, but maybe we can catch them before they’re hired.

    This is a constant hiring problem. HR has their “needs”, actual department with the vacancy has their “needs”, and guess who wins? I had a fight at my company because R&D got sick and tired of HR passing along people with “good people skills” because HR wasn’t listening to R&D’s skills requirements. So now an HR and a project manager sit in on interviews, each asking questions about their field of expertise.

  24. The Nick says:

    The only problem with the ’40 minutes to do a game review’ idea is that, while it might be OK if you have a structured demo put together by somebody who created an advertisement for their product specifically designed to allow you to have enough time to both play the product and then write three paragraphs about it…

    …that breaks down with most games because, while you often have to speed through games to get reviews out on time, 15 minutes (or 36 minutes, if you *really* want to push it and are confident that you can spit out three coherent paragraphs in 4 minutes) is not nearly enough time to write anything meaningful that can be judged by even a hack editor.

    Some games won’t even get you through the tutorial in that time. You might still be reading some background and controls.

    Metal Gear Solid? You’re not even done the pre-game opening animation. There’s only so many ways to stretch out three paragraphs concerning what the gameplay is like when your entire experience is “Tap (B) to advance text” for 36 minutes.

  25. Oblivion437 says:

    There was an article a few years back on Inside Higher Ed written by a pseudonymous employee of a custom paper mill. It contained some first hand information that was sometimes amusing but other times chilling. For example, nursing students generally can’t write to save their lives but they’re perfectly competent at nursing itself, while the overwhelming majority of cheaters and plagiarists in academia are teaching majors to the extent that about 2/3 of all teaching majors do one or the other at least once before finishing college. Getting caught doing it is an instant dead-end to an academic career, but it appears that cheating is very common, especially in the humanities, because detection methods haven’t caught up to things like custom papers. Input-complete test banks from textbook publishers have been compromised and shared around but a lot of colleges still rely on them for designing exams.

    Most game journos, whether they just get the creative writing degree or if they actually get the journalism degree (which is apparently rare in games journalism according to Associated Press) are still walking through those same halls, studying in those same classes, and so on. They spend the final stage of their formative years surrounded by plagiarists and hustlers and either tacitly put up with it or themselves participate in it. So if it is rife (Gamespot used to get caught doing it regularly back in the early 2000s) then we can understand why. Those who do it learned to do it in college and those who don’t learned to tolerate it there.

    If the ‘indie’ outfits like Kotaku haven’t learned anything over the past eight years or so then the ‘pros’ like IGN certainly have. They did the right thing and they did it promptly. They did it before the inevitable discovery that the video maker was like most plagiarists in that he did it habitually.

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