A Number’s Everlasting Impact

Reviews are a natural part of the video game industry. Creators and users alike are eager to know what score a game gets. Good scores are used by the game studio’s marketing team to help advertise the game, bad scores are ignored. Sometimes though, those scores are tough to ignore. This is certainly the case for Blizzard and the game’s fanbase when it comes to Mitch Dyer of IGN’s Heroes of the Storm review.

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The score is a 6.5/10. For perspective, the metacritic score (cumulative sum of all scores found on the internet) is an 86. Completely fine to rate a game lower than the rest, especially since reviews are mostly based around the writer’s opinion. The part that’s inappropriate, is the review is filled with numerous factual errors.

Some of the errors include: saying every hero is $10 when they are not, thinking a character can incapacitate a hero for 15 seconds when at maximum they can for 8, stating objectives are random when they occur at set intervals, and more. The first mentioned has since been corrected while the second was removed entirely from the piece.

The most glaring concern that still exists in the piece is the persistent naming the game a MOBA. A MOBA is an acronym for multiplayer online battle arena, a genre dominated by the games League of Legends and Dota 2. Blizzard, the creators of Heroes of the Storm, have made it clear that they do not believe their game is a MOBA, but instead a “hero brawler.” The article linked was written almost two years prior to the writing of the review, so it is not like Blizzard recently made these claims that their game is not a MOBA.

Despite not being a MOBA by Blizzard’s standards, it does not stop the reviewer from making the assumption it is and thus comparing it to existing MOBA’s. Mitch Dyer writes “The rewards for taking the secondary map objectives are so disproportionate that they discourage laning and distract from the primary goal of sieging the enemy base,” displaying the author fundamentally misses the point of the game. Those “secondary map objectives” are not secondary, but the main focus of the map, and “laning” is not primary, but secondary. This misconception is drawn from him comparing the game to other MOBA’s, where the focus of those games is the “laning,” which is a term used to describe your character progressing in one of the two or three lanes of the map against the enemy. That title “hero brawler” that Blizzard uses to describe the game, comes in the fashion of team fights at the map objectives. The game is designed to have the whole team’s heroes on both sides go to those objectives and brawl each other, not stay in those lanes and push forward like they do in the MOBA’s DOTA 2 and League of Legends.

Mentioned earlier, Mitch Dyer has since changed some of the long list of his errors in his article, but only after receiving intense criticism for the piece. He was featured in a podcast on Rebel FM where he was told directly that some of what he said was flat out wrong. He also made a tweet response to people criticizing his review.

This response comes off quite unprofessional, when a good bit of what he wrote is misinformation. To display the community’s perspective: his tweet got 12 likes when one of the comments calling him out got 39.

What was a simple mediocre score, has escalated to meme status, where now if you google “6.5/10,” below Google’s calculator the first 7 links are all surrounding the score Mitch Dyer gave. Misinformation is likely the reasoning behind this number becoming a joke, not the score itself.

At the 50 second mark in Blizzard’s recently released trailer for upcoming content in Heroes of the Storm, you can see a banner in the back reading “6.5/10,” showing the company’s memory that the score persists.

The fact that even the company continues to carry out references of this review shows the longstanding impact a negative, but more importantly factually incorrect, review can have on a game.

Heroes of the Storm is far from the first to suffer from a bad review and will not be the last. Smalltime game journalism sites can get away with their review being a bit wrong, but when your review is in the top hits for googling ‘review + title name’ then maybe it is best to get those errors sorted out.

Two solutions can be done for a situation like this with the first simply being to correct the original review. The second is a bit more unorthodox, but the precedent already exists, even from IGN. The idea would be to write a second review, analyzing the game from where it is today. This is relevant because unlike some games, Heroes of the Storm is a game that puts in updates every single week, making the product that exists today far different than what it was a year ago, and continues to advertise itself instead of slowly fading out of existence. The point in this instance would not only be to review it without misinformation, but to provide a resource for what the game is like today.

Mitch Dyer no longer works for IGN, but that did not stop me from reaching out to him to see if he would correct his remaining errors. No response was given. I also emailed IGN’s media inquiries contact Kiersten Slader about the errors and perhaps a re-review, but also did not receive a response. Will update if I get one but seems unlikely at this point.

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The fact that neither responded displays a clear lack of care for trying to remedy past mistakes or care to promote true information, despite a re-review being a worthy enough article to get new and profitable clicks. Truth is too time consuming it seems.

*Note to William Mitchell – I am looking to do my final paper on the topic of those two solutions: fixing errors in existing reviews and potentially re-reviewing games that have evolved significantly from their original form. This is important in terms of the greater public having an understanding of what a game is like in its current state and for marketing the game. This could then expand to the core issue of giving numbers to games, where I could reach out to sites about their general statement on giving or not giving numerical values to games.


Dan Kennedy Talks Gawker & Newsworthiness

Journalists posting stories because they know people will click and read it, but do not consider the ethical dilemma of making certain stories public, is becoming dangerous territory. On October 27, 2016, Dan Kennedy guided a discussion about balancing newsworthiness and ethics, using the Gawker v. Hulk Hogan v. Peter Thiel case as a backdrop.

What is newsworthy means something different for every journalist. For some, ethics does not even come into consideration for what is newsworthy and what gets click is all that matters. Gawker is one of those companies that is infamous for publishing articles with no regards to the ethical concerns of negatively impacting people’s lives, and now primes as an example of why ethics needs to be an important aspect to one’s take on what is newsworthy.

First, it is important to talk about relevant past examples of Gawker media. They did good reporting exposing Rob Ford’s crack habits, Manti Te’o’s fictional dead girlfriend, and Facebook’s manipulation of Trending Topics. However, they also did despicable reporting when they wrote about a one-night stand with Christine O’Donnell, refusal to remove a sex video, and getting someone fired over a rude tweet. So they are overall a mixed bag and most people have a polarizing view on Gawker in general, due to them often reporting with little-to-no care of the ethics involved.

Now to bring it back to Hulk Hogan: Gawker published a sex video of Hulk Hogan and Heather Clem having sex. Hulk Hogan immediately attempts to sue, but Heather Clem does not join in. Gawker tries to fight that he is a public figure so it is newsworthy. It is not the first time a public figure has had a sex tape released on them, and Hulk Hogan has even bragged about his sexual history, so why would this be any different?

Well, it’s good to know Hulk Hogan had a helping hand. Peter Thiel, who had a hurtful article written on him via Gawker has made it a hobby of his to fund any sort of destruction that could make its way to Gawker. So naturally, Thiel heavily funds the defense of Hulk Hogan.

Now, the case itself seemed to boil down to the questions of whether the tape was “highly offensive to a reasonable person” and if it was “legitimate concern to the public.” The class was mostly in agreement that it was both highly offensive and not of legitimate concern, with the arguments on the other side mostly discussing that though it is not a clean story, it will get garner readers, which is often the primary goal of news organizations.

Hulk Hogan wins $140 million, forcing Gawker to become bankrupt. Old news, but still resonated deeply within a crowd of future journalists. Despite few defending the publishing of it, those who spoke up at the end all were dismayed by of the outcome. The amount Hogan won was extremely excessive and unnecessary. Ethics say one should probably not report on a topic so inappropriate, but it does get readers, and therefore giving you a profit.

Is it wrong to publish a story when you have all the material you need? Well, clearly in Hogan’s case it was wrong for Gawker to do so, but to a lesser degree, it can be viewed as ethically wrong to publish Hilary Clinton’s emails. The information was out there for all to publish, but the ethics of whether it was right or not to do so can be questioned. It gets clicks just like the Hogan story, but it negatively impacts Hilary Clinton while feeding into the motivations of whoever leaked them. The ethics would be less questionable if it leaked information on both sides, but to be ethically okay about exposing one side has to be done with almost ignorance  of the possibility that there could be the same thing happening on the other.

The media should not have to worry about getting sued when they report negatively on public figures, but sadly the results of this case add to that fear. No matter what side you are on for the Gawker case, the outcome is unsettling for journalists and hopefully will not seen replicated to such a degree in the future.

Coming to Terms with the Election

The United States’ 2016 election has been undeniably unlike any other election in the nation’s history. Despite statistics overwhelmingly predicting Hilary Clinton as the winner, Donald Trump claimed victory. Early on November 9, 2016, the Northeastern University School of Journalism held a meeting with faculty members and students alike to discuss the results of the election and their implications. This led to the discussion of ethical issues journalists were guilty of this election cycle and ethical concerns moving forward.

There was not an empty seat in the room with at least twenty people having to stand or sit on the floor. Before it had officially begun it was rather quiet for the amount of people in the room. There was an air of uneasiness wafting around the room, with many individuals wearing a solemn expression.

Three faculty members led the event: Jonathan Kaufman, Dan Kennedy, and Dina Kraft, where the latter two of the three gave opening remarks before opening it up to everyone else. It took a bit of prodding before someone finally felt comfortable to raise their hand. Not long after that first thought was shared, professor Carlene Hempel chimed in to comment that the opening remarks displayed a clear anti-Trump bias, which was undoubtedly true. In fact, the opening remarks from Dina Kraft included the statement “[I think some of us] are surprised by the America we woke up to.” This statement set the scene for a room against Trump. Despite this fact being recognized and it being iterated that the room was a judgment-free space, throughout the entire discussion not a single soul spoke as though they supported Trump. Maybe everyone in the room was pro-Hilary but if there was anyone who was not, they likely were too intimidated to speak, and understandably so.

An interesting point emphasized by Dan Kennedy was how monumental of a failure polling was this election. Prior to election day, polls favoring Trump were practically non-existent, with some reaching as high as Clinton having a 98% chance of winning. The discussion led to deciphering why exactly the polls were so wrong. One train of thought was how most of the polling was done through major news organizations, which have grown smaller in number and primarily only exist in major cities, which commonly vote democratic. Though this fact is not new, so it would be thought that pollsters made efforts to reach more out for the opinions of more rural areas. Another idea was that folks misjudged the amount of people who came out to vote who historically do not. It was mentioned that Clinton went down the list of expected locations for her to hold rallies at, and did not spread out to places where she thought she had already won/lost or did not think there were many people who would vote at all there. It would seem Trump took advantage of this and hit those very locations, creating influence in locations where Hilary did not even try, naturally giving him the upper hand.

Another point discussed was how evident it seems the people of America desire change. Obama can be viewed as priming this philosophy of change, being the first African-American president and having served only two years in the senate prior to being president. Retrospectively, Clinton can be seen as an embodiment of what the democratic party stood for as a whole, where Trump appeared to hold allegiance to no party in-particular, with the word “republican” being more of a label to him than a loyalty. His stances did align more conservative than liberal but an almost unprecedented amount of fellow republicans stood against him as a candidate, with Trump holding stances and ideas unique to him alone. Though Clinton held the card of potential first female president, her political stances did not push for anything the American people had not heard before.

Unlike many other elections, temperament played a major role. The overall attitude of Trump, as unorthodox as it was, resonated with people. Unfortunately for Clinton, her temperament had widely become associated with dishonesty. This is where it was argued news organizations did a horrendous job covering, most specifically in regards to hacked emails and everything WikiLeaks. Professor Laurel Leff raised the point that it was wrong to write about anything on WikiLeaks, especially when only one side is damaged in doing so. This basis stemmed mostly from the thought that the leaks came from the Russians, who had intentions to sabotage Clinton and elect Trump. By reporting on the leaks reporters were playing into the hands of Russia, who of course did not make efforts to reveal any corruption existing in the Republican party or Trump himself. Leff’s both passion and dismay about the results of the election were evident via her shaking as she spoke and tone of voice. This sentiment was commonplace around the room, perhaps furthering the discomfort any Trump supporter would have in revealing his or her political stance.

An argument against not publishing what is on WikiLeaks is that at the end of the day, a news organization is out to make a profit. If there is a “juicy” story found on public leaks and other news organizations have or are likely to write about that information then it would be a missed opportunity to get readers. Financially this argument is sound but ethically it does not justify the act. Doing something because others are doing it and it will make you a profit should not outweigh unfairly damaging a political party. One middle ground would be to publish the information but also provide insight to the reader on potential motivations for it being released and to do research to uncover or at least call into question if the other side (in this case the republican party) has signs of corruption as well. Again though, this may not have damaged Trump much due to him being such an outlier of a candidate who represents himself more than the republican party. Trump had numerous allegations made public. There was an agreement amongst the room that Trump supporters did have knowledge of Trump’s skeletons and it was not as though the media refrained from reporting on them. News organizations fed the sensation that was Donald Trump. They provided him with free publicity. Dan Kennedy brought up the fact that the owner of a major news organization was well aware of how potentially negative it was for the people to report so voraciously on anything Trump but how good it was from a financial gain perspective.

In many any parts of America, especially in the less wealthy and rural areas, citizens may only have access to one source of news. If this news source is biased in either direction, then that means the only perspective some individuals have is through the lens of that bias. Some may be wise enough to see past the bias, but sadly in the case of less wealthy and rural areas, it is not uncommon for a lack of education to exist in that environment, leaving citizens without the proper tools to analyze the news given. This notion should invoke the necessity of ensuring people have access to as neutral as possible source of news. One example could be making sure the most basic of cable packages does not only include Fox News (right leaning) or CNN (left leaning) as the only news outlet. Though the ideal news is as objective as possible, it is often unavoidable. Not to say it is necessarily wrong to mix opinion with news, but it is wrong when the difference between fact and opinion is not clear to the consumers, especially when that is a consumer’s only option for news.

Even reporters have a right to pick a side, but when they let that side interfere with their reporting of the news it creates a ripple effect for all who consume that news. Showing favoritism for one side over the other, or being emotional about the outcome of the 2016 election, was not inappropriate for the setting, but it might have dampened the ability for one side to learn about the other. Whether people like it or not, a candidate has been elected. That outcome is not going to change. Now it is of prime importance for both sides to help understand each other. The issue of the discussion, and this point was raised, it was kind of an echo box of people who all held similar beliefs. Without a doubt it was a productive discussion, but due to the clear favoritism of Clinton, it increased the difficulty to understand the side of Trump. Progress was made in understanding, but that progress could have been exponentially greater if it was not multiple people from one side making assumptions about the other and instead had individuals from that other side speak about their personal feelings on why they feel the way they do.

Thanks to the outcome of this election, something positive will come: change. Moving forward, reporters should and will act differently on how elections are covered. Polls will be viewed with immense skepticism and what it means to be presidential will take on a whole new meaning. The American people seem to want change, and it would only be appropriate for news organizations to adapt and make some changes themselves.