CVG appear to be a bunch of lousy hacks.

Recently, on a visit to England, Chris Hecker and I did an interview with Edge magazine. It was a long interview where we spoke freely on many topics, while having a good time. Afterward, the interviewer and the editors of Edge did a very good job editing down the interview and distilling it into its salient points, without distorting the substance of the discussion.

The final result is published in Edge issue 223. I am very happy with it. It is probably my favorite interview I have done during my 15 years in the game industry. I thank Edge for the opportunity to do the interview and for their hard work in writing it up.

Because I like the interview so much, I should be happy when other news sites spread the word about it, right? Apparently it is not so. CVG just published online an article about the interview titled

Braid creator: Sony takes more risks than MS with indie game choices


They fill out their article by pasting in somewhat-out-of-context quotes to support this statement (and nothing else). To believe their account, it was a highly anti-Microsoft and pro-Sony interview. [I am not going to link to CVG's article, because I don't want to give them hits; go find it on a search engine if you want to see it.]

CVG's article is a deceptive, manipulative piece of sensationalist crap meant to drive hits by stoking the argument between Sony fans and Microsoft fans. It misrepresents the content of the interview almost entirely. (Chris Hecker, who was half the interview, doesn't even appear in their write-up. This alone should make it clear that they have no interest in truthful and accurate communication.)


Chris Hecker: Half the interview! He's even in the foreground in this picture.

For the record, here's a list of the subjects Chris and I actually talked about:

  • Overall trends in indie game development -- where, and for how long, will indies be able to find Braid or World of Goo-sized audiences for their games?
  • How it's easier to make indie games, on the technical implementation side, than ever before.
  • Small indie games versus big indie games -- punk-rock-esque one-offs vs deeply exploring game design subjects.
  • Indies ought to step up and produce higher-quality work rather than so many bad games and a few good ones.
  • Braid is structurally a traditional game in many ways.
  • The idea of game design as a stream of focused communication rather than a set of rules.
  • Even the highest-selling games right now essentially sell to a niche audience.
  • Innovation in mainstream games and how it helps drive the industry.
  • When is an indie game really finished -- how much work should you put in?
  • Problems with the way video game education is set up right now.
  • Most people who use the phrase "game mechanic" don't seem to know what it means.
  • How to see your game from the perspective of the player.

In the middle of all this, there is one bit about the way Microsoft and Sony, respectively, handle their portfolio strategies with regard to indie games. There are positives and negatives mentioned regarding each party. Sony does come out a bit ahead, but our discussion was much more even-handed than the confrontational CVG headline would have you believe.


From CVG's write-up, you would barely even know that I talked about my company's upcoming game The Witness.

Is it the case that I said the things that CVG quotes? Yes! Are they an honest representation of the content of the interview? No! They are a dishonest and manipulative way of driving hits to CVG's web site.

Chris recently wrote about this kind of treatment at the hands of journalists, so rather than repeating him, I encourage you to go read that article. I do want to point out, though, that this is not a victimless crime.

When this kind of hack-job is written, it hurts indie developers: it harms our relationship with our business partners like Microsoft or Sony when they think that we called an interview just to trash them in public (or when they know we didn't really do that, but they have to deal with the PR fallout of the public thinking we did, which is just as bad.) It harms my reputation with players because they think I called an interview just to make a big deal out of bashing Microsoft and generally being negative (which I did not do!) It does an injustice to people who want to read about thoughtful discussions in video games; it does this not only by failing to point out the thoughtful parts of the interview, but by injecting extra noise into the sphere of discussion, making it harder for everyone to find anything thoughtful.

But perhaps worst of all, CVG is crapping on their fellow journalists at Edge by depicting Edge's hard work as tabloidesque junk.

Damage is clearly done, and CVG are doing this damage just so they can make a little bit of money off a few more web hits.

I encourage everyone out there to stop reading this kind of stuff. It's just misinformation; it's worse than worthless.

67 Comments:

  1. Very interesting reading. Chris’ article is quite amazing.

    PS, you forgot a picture of the island as it currently stands!

  2. Games “journalism” strikes again!

    Is the actual interview up online anywhere, or is it just in the print edition?

  3. As far as I know, so far it is only in the print edition. I hope it will make its way online.

  4. I totally understand! It is hard enough being Indie but with things like this it only makes our lives harder. In the Indie world you have to support all those that give you a helping hand no matter how small.

  5. I was a little surprised when I read the headline in a news Hub this morning, so when I remembered a while ago I came here and now I understand everything.

    Don’t worry, we’re used to the low professionalism of much of the gaming press. Inflammatory and misleading headlines are daily bread, so we often hesitate before we give them any credibility.

    I hope to read about the interesting topics you talked about in the interview.

  6. Yeah, CVG has always been the place for crappy “news” and stupid, stupid rumors. Unfortunately, both them and Edge belong to Future, so they share content.

  7. Honestly, the most depressing thing here is that “Sony takes more risks than MS with indie game choices” would be considered a biased or agenda-filled line of discussion in the first place. I miss the days (if they ever actually existed) when people could debate subjects like that without hysteria or accusations. You know, back when information was presented in context.

  8. Hoboy, that gameinformer article is so much worse.

    I can’t wait until Sushi Bar Samurai comes out and the press find the Jeff and Casey podcasts about Mircosoft. That’ll be a riot – and it’ll be ok, because you can take any of their barrage of insults out of context and it will be indicative of the whole.

  9. Seems like they ran out of Top Ten list ideas to write for the month after thoroughly exhausting themself with all the inane GOTY shenanigans.

  10. If it’s any conciliation, it’s not like anyone actually reads CVG anymore.

  11. Eh, not surprised. Especially at the Game Informer article since they’re really nothing more than an advertising shill of a paper rather than an actual magazine. I can see defense for it, as it’s just highlight “a” point without also facing counter-subjects of the conversation and not the whole story which was much more interesting, but if you think it doesn’t matter – read the comments on the Game Informer page. I read at least two that were flat out insults to Jonathan, including one calling him “an arrogant ass” and another one saying “Blow can blow me.” So now you got these gamers worked up in a tizzy because you said something bad about their favorite console, turning it into a slinging of “Yo Momma” insults.

    Lucky for these other game sites, shredding the Edge interview into pieces, there’s no online copy of it so it’s gonna be even LESS likely that somebody’s gonna cross-research the interview to hear the whole story. It’s just sad. Typical, but sad.

  12. Pingback: Corey Williams » Corey Williams

  13. Well said. I try to avoid sites like that now (I almost exclusively rely on Giant Bomb for gaming info these days. Glorified blogs such as Kotaku and CVG are the worst, but even some of the major publications such as IGN and Gamespot have lost a lot of credibility in recent years.

  14. I was pointed to your article by someone earlier today. As I read it, it immediately didn’t pass the smell test. Something wasn’t right about it. Someone really sat down to talk with you about Microsoft not taking chances?

    Ironically, and on a totally unrelated note, I ended up seeing Chris Hecker be misquoted… again… about the Wii and saw his rant.

    I am so sick of journalism. It is all lies. The poitn is always just to get eyeballs, sell papers, or commercials. I have long stopped believing headlines about anything… games, world events. It is all sensationalism and even articles are written just to highlight juicy quotes. We are never afforded context.

    This leaves us in a sad place. If no one reports the news, I am increasingly disconnected, and stop caring about anything in the world but myself… because everyone is a sensationalist liar with an angle… even in the gaming press.

    This just sickens me.

  15. Hey Jonathan I saw that one of the topics that you and Chris were discussing was the meaning of “game mechanic.” And I have been writing concepts for games and I used the word game mechanic along with a topic that a user could perform in a game, to help focus my thoughts. For example when I was thinking I labeled one page Game Mechanic: Aiming. Could I find your idea of “game mechanic” in the magazine or if not in the magazine could you briefly discuss here?

  16. Thank you. This is why I buy people like you’s games. Because you guys are smart. Yes, I don’t throw that compliment around because lately it seems like people are idiots. But this is one hundred percent true. I will be linking this to quite a few people. Thanks for the great read, great opinions and clarification on what happened. Also thanks for the link to the article from Chris (feels weird calling him by his first name but that is how you referred to him in the article heh) that was a really good read.

  17. i reposted this on my site. i had manipulation at the hands of journalists.

    wiiandthekid.com

  18. This is beyond incompetence. This is deliberate horseshit. I wish I could say I expected better from a Future Publishing outlet but, frankly, this is about as good as it gets (barring Edge, obviously).

  19. i’m sorry john… i just linked to that article in the previous post. i even said “plataform confirmed? probably not!” i knuw you wouldn’t speak like that, but i still droped the link… i didn’t mean to give them more hits or any thing but after reading hecker’s story i agree, this is not a victimless crime and it is dis-honest and manipulative.

    but i will link you to something else,

    http://angryjoeshow.com/2010/12/geoff-keighley-interview/

    i’m completly neutral in this subject of “journalist” but just so that the people know… hip-hop , the economy guys that make wrong predictions and everything…

    this is your gaming press, ladies and gentlemen!

  20. Just to let you know, I’ve submitted this to the blog ‘Game Journalists are Incompetent F$#%wits.’

  21. “It harms my reputation with players because they think I called an interview just to make a big deal out of bashing Microsoft and generally being negative (which I did not do!)”

    It harms your reputation more when you overreact so badly to such a tiny thing. Grow up man.

  22. Top story: Braid creator hates free journalism.

    “It’s nothing but misinformation; it’s worse than worthless.”

    ;)

  23. I’m not going to lie, John, you (and apparently your seemingly brown-nosing commenters as well) may be taking this whole debacle a little too seriously. There’s no way this could affect your standing with either publisher as your comment was both mild-mannered and arguably completely true. I understand wanting the rest of your interview to be read, but to blatantly attack a gaming blog for quoting you in a way that would be not only interesting to their readers — their fanbase, but also garners hits from links, is not only uncalled for, but also pretty idiotic. You may come off looking like much more of a dick for flipping out than you realize.

    Don’t get me wrong, your work is incredible; i’m a fan. It’s just disappointing to hear that you’re the type to make mountains of molehills.

  24. Until journalistic integrity pays cash money, that won’t go away. And it certainly won’t go away by calling it names.

    I think the real story here is that you are finally famous enough to hit the tabloids! Congrats and make sure to stealthily exploit it to cross-promote your upcoming game, The Witness (from the creator of Braid)

  25. While I didn’t find the body to be particularly inflammatory (the headline is rather inexcusable), I do remember the article Hecker wrote and how actually hearing his side completely changed my opinion of him. I’m now rather intrigued to read the original interview article should it ever come online. I’m not the biggest fan of Jonathan Blow but I’d rather dislike the guy for things he actually said rather than out of context quotes. You’ve always been an interesting and intelligent person to say the least.

    On second read even the body is bad so just forget that too.

  26. spilltheink: It most definitely *does* affect our standing with publishers. I have had big problems introduced into my relationship with Microsoft about stuff just like this that has happened in the past, and I know many other indie developers for whom similar things are true.

    I’m not sure why you wouldn’t believe this. It’s obvious if you are familiar with the reality of how game development works.

  27. I’m going to have to go on your word for this one as I’m no insider in the industry. It just seems nonsensical for such a diplomaticly phrased comment to to have serious negative impact on a critcally acclaimed game developer’s reputation. I apologize for my prior ignorance and thank you for setting the record straight. Like i said, i’m a big fan and mean no disrespect.

  28. Just bought the humble bundle today, seeing as Braid was included. Cheers, Jon!

  29. ” it was a highly anti-Microsoft and pro-Sony interview.”

    No it wasn’t, the interview mentions Microsoft has many indie games in their indie channel and that produced some fine games.

  30. While I think that Edge can’t review a game to save its life (many of its recent reviews have omitted key game features – things like whether or not it had online play!), it sounds like they did right by you with this interview. Like many other commentors, when I saw the original ‘flamebait’ article, I was a little curious – I’d read some other stuff the good Mr Blow had said and they sounded thoughtful and balanced, and the article was most definitely now. Am glad I came across here – keep up the great work Jonathon/Chris :).

  31. There are a few dimensions at play here. Firstly, speaking from a purely personal point of view, there is another victim here. Us. It’s very dispiriting to read some of the comments here. People quoting the word ‘journalism’ in the same way they might ‘rape’. One wonders how they would feel about the single quotes applied to their job and their passion, which in games ‘journalism’ are often one and the same.

    Secondly, for the record, I don’t like this kind of journalism. As the deputy editor of a well-regarded print magazine, we have far more luxury print insightful, full-bodied investigative pieces and indeed to stand firm as an honest journalistic entity.

    Web journalists do not have this luxury, and I think really what you’ve highlighted here is the primary difference. Sure there are many sites out there – Eurogamer, for example – which have the numbers to not have to extend their remit beyond transparent reporting, but the vast majority rely on increasing their hits to survive. The sad fact is that anyone saying that one platform-holder is better than the other will always generate hits because, and I put this in the nicest way possible, it’s the only thing that complete morons like to read about.

    Having worked on the web for a spell myself, I can absolutely assure you that many, many an in-depth, scholarly feature or interview gets printed, just to see it generate precisely no hits. The old adage about the tree falling in the forest?

    Just like the mainstream media, in which tabloids regularly take non-contextual quotes from interviews conducted with highfalutin moral agendas for the sake of selling papers, you can hate them – and believe me, I know full-well about stretching PR relationships – but they play a near-vital role. If the article is in Edge, sure enough people will read it, but there is an incalculable amount of fantastic features and interviews out there that no one ever reads unless someone does something to – artificially – beef up its clickability factor.

    Its something that those who deal with the mainstream newspapers are media-savvy enough to accept as a necessary evil, but I’ve noticed that many developers are some way behind in accepting it. I think all your points are valid, but, even though this kind of thing gives us ‘journalists’ a bad name, I also think it’s something we all just have to accept because it’s not the ‘journalists’ who are at fault, it’s the bickering, flaming, whining idiots who think that an intelligent discussion about videogames can be found on N4G or NeoGAF, and who will only click on something if it somehow supports their inexplicable mortal loyalty to one box full of chips and circuits or another.

    Dan Howdle
    Deputy Editor
    360 Magazine

  32. Damn shame!
    I want honest, meaningful and insightful interviews / blog-posts and not PR-aware corporate blah blah.

    If that makes some developers apply censorship and/or dumb down their responses it is yet another unfortunate result of this ….

    You have my support

  33. Sounds like someone doesn’t want his good relationship with Microsoft threatened.

  34. ..but you did say the things they quoted, and i think its a fair point you make and they report. Theyre journalists – im not sure what you expect them to do? You either need to grow a pair or stop putting yourself in the limelight. If you invite and crave publicity to showcase your work, dont be pissed when you can’t control it.

  35. My friend it seems like your just throwing your dummy out of the pram over a bi of bad press. CVG get paid to bring things like this to the attention of gamers and I’m not saying what they did to you was right but it’s what they do nonetheless. When I first read the story I agreed with what you said and I believe it was in no way a Pro Sony thing to say, it was just true. But going out on a limb and calling them lousy hacks is a low blow, I don’t read much of their stuff as they don’t write as well as PC Gamer or Destructoid but still if you didn’t want it taken out of context then think about what you say as to avoid any situation such as this to happen again. Feel free to email me if you want to have a chat.

  36. Also Braid is a great game and many thanks for creating a fantastic experience.

  37. I think that you’re forgetting that CVG’s job is to promote publications that are owned by Future. Of course they’re sensationalist, because that’s the entire reason that they exist; to attract views and gain hits in any way possible, which in this case, involved misquoting you. Anyone who goes to CVG for actual news seriously needs to consider other sites.

    Edge is also owned by Future, and CVG simply chose the things that they wanted from that article to suit their modus operandi. They didn’t quote the whole article because then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs properly.

    Blogs exist because of readers and regular visitors. People nowadays will do what they have to do to obtain views, and in this particular case, CVG did just that. I agree with you wholeheartedly that such a quote could harm relations with publishers and whatnot and I understand that that is a huge problem for a developer such as yourself, but considering that you simply said the specific quote that CVG used on it’s site in an interview that discussed a multitude of topics which more than likely contradicts such a quote, then what would stop Microsoft or Sony understanding why you would say such a thing?

    You obviously have a reason to be concerned with such an article, or in CVG’s case, a snippet of an interview that is used to promote Edge magazine, but all I’m saying is that CVG were simply doing their job, and I don’t think that they’re a bunch of “lousy hacks” for doing their job.

    That said, I’ll just add that I enjoyed Braid a lot and hope that you continue to make many more incredibly unique games in the future.

  38. Journalists of all kinds manipulate the truth, it’s a story as old as the world itself: i totally empathize with you, some journalists are only after loads and loads of hits and nothing else.
    I think, on the other hand, that Chris Hecker should (and could) have been more “diplomatic” in expressing his thoughts about the Wii and Nintendo as a game selling company, for at least two reasons:
    1) He was working for EA at the time and EA, as a leading company HAS GOT business with Nintendo. Come on! You really think that a statement like “the Wii is a piece of shit” doesn’t get a headline? Even if it was said during a rant? A little too naive, in my opinion.
    2) Reading further in Chris Hecker’s article, i got to the point where he makes a list of what he actually said in the Fear of A Wii Planet rant and i think that a lot of the things he said during the rant are unfounded and over-exaggerated (i know, it’s a rant…), like: “The faster the machine, the more options you have for developing the algorithms that make up the interactive systems of the game, including the AI and controls”… True, on a theoretical level, but on a practical one you got AN AWFUL LOT of stupid, dumb, ultimately boring first person shooters that runs thanks to photorealistic 3d engines, and then you’ve got Braid and World of Goo (the last one was Wii Game of the Year 2009 for IGN).
    Chris says “The faster the hardware, the more software developers can concentrate on the higher level algorithms, and the more advanced interactive algorithms are possible, it’s that simple”… I don’t think so. I think that, taking a look at the mainstream game products out there, game developers need to read more (good) books, watch more (good) films and listen to more (good) music. It’s not obviously the case of Chris, but i think that this is mainly the problem, otherwise you will have a planet-full-of-dumb-developers, not a Wii planet. We already got sufficient horsepower, in my opinion: craving for more (without working on beautiful gameplay and STORY) is only meant for graphic whores.
    Chris then talks about games as an art form, and i totally agree with him. I don’t know if Nintendo is more for “fun games” instead of “artistic games”, surely Miyamoto always points out how important is that gamers enjoy themselves while playing his games, and Super Mario Bros. was undoubtely created keeping that firmly in mind; Miyamoto it’s not the only one who focuses on entertaining his audience, also Woody Allen states the same thing, saying that he makes movies because he wants that people enjoy themselves while watching them: no more, no less.
    “Making fun games” and “making artistic games” can coincide. I think it’s mandatory that they coincide.
    On the “horsepower” issue, assuming that Chris Hecker wants to make “artistic” games, i think that maybe he can consider a japanese monochromatic brush painting art, called “Sumi-e”, where the artist uses only black ink and a few brushes. This kind of art is extremely difficult ’cause “once a stroke is painted, it cannot be changed or erased” but extremely beautiful and satisfying; Miles Davis himself got inspired by the philosophy behind the Sumi-e before recording “A Kind of Blue”.
    Horsepower it’s not so important, after all.

    Goodbye and keep up the good work, Jonathan, you’re one of my favorite game developers, i look forward to “The Witness”.

  39. It’s nice to see some clarification. Some of us are at the mercy of the media. I try not to read into it too much and take a lot of it with a grain of salt. At times it feels like the paparazzi happening in the movie industry and with actors. A shame so many people feed off of this negativity but I guess that’s the price of fame eh Jonathan?

    I would like for you to clear up one thing. In the past they mentioned you were unhappy with the way Microsoft handled the pricing of Braid and you acted like you had little input in that. Yet your game was also the same price on PSN and the PC. Lots of forum dwellers out there want to continue to depict Microsoft as this evil empire much like what is happening with Activision.

  40. I dislike CVG because of their constant excerpt stealings from interviews!

    They make 2 paragraphs and call it an article news:/

  41. Some Destructoid Asshat

    I don’t want to sound like I know everything, and I’m probably coming in with bias from reading Jim Sterling’s analysis, but I think this is just going to create more news for you to tear your hair out at about it being “taken out of context”.

    Its how news works. Not the end of the world. Unless Microsoft was riding your ass about defaming them in the interview (which you didn’t, even from the small portion that we got, it is pretty easy to distinguish you as just and observer of two very different business models, concerning indie development), I’d not give a shit. They’ve got their right–I suppose you can just decline interviews from CVG from now on?

    Anyways, keep making awesome games.

  42. Just for the sake of debate ;) I’m linking this article from Dtoid as a reaction about the same issue.

    http://www.destructoid.com/jonathan-blow-cvg-and-the-sh-tstorm-i-caused-190165.phtml

  43. You shouldn’t let the media get to you: the fact of the matter is that I passed by the CVG article, read it, went ‘even as a 360 user, that’s very true’ and moved on. MS probably thinks the same regarding the article – even if they did take offence to it, they would source the original article, check it for defamation, then move on.

    However, then you commented on it here – and to be honest, you’re coming off the worse. People expect the news (in all forms) to cherry pick the juiciest bits from the article, so unless you didn’t say what you said they are not being hacks. A hack would make crap up. They didn’t – you did say those things – and your complaint is that they didn’t mention the gazillion other things you said. Guess what? That’s what the magazine is for and is the reason why they put a big pointy arrow telling people where to go.

    The problem is that your blog post actually is more arrogant than what CVG posted – full of ‘bwaaaa, they just don’t understand me’ nonsense and sniping of the media, who’ll happily destroy your reputation proper if you give them reason to hate you. Get over it – these things happen and you’re getting off lightly. The problem is that your partner-in-crime Chris Hecker has been caught out not mincing his words lightly in regards to the Wii, and his backlash to the media last time, over something he actually said, wiped out his popularity in the press – which can hurt an indie dev more than keeping quiet. The media backlash painted Chris as an arse, and now that reputation he created for himself has ruined both his popularity for some, and the popularity for SpyParty.

    You should take the following advice Kelley Armstrong (the author) had regarding the public and the press: ‘Resist the Urge to Respond Publicly to Criticism’ (http://bit.ly/b3DZWw). Whilst out-of-context banter makes you look bad for the short term, the fact of the matter is that the actual statement, despite being incendiary in your eyes, is 90% what you meant and actually nowhere near as shocking as you think it is. If you hadn’t flipped out over this, people would have passed it by. But you didn’t – you reacted to such a tiny thing that now you too are risking being branded an arse who goes back on what he says and makes mountains out of molehills, which may harm you in the long run no matter how good your games are.

    Good luck for the future in all this.

  44. After reading the actual interview, there is no question as to how entirely false those headlines are. We’re talking night and day differences between what you said and (more importantly) when you said it.

    It is also very kind of you to say that Hecker was “one half” of the interview, because what I’ve gotten from it was “An interview with Chris Hecker with an occasional comment by Blow.” Being that I really like Hecker and that awesome website of his, that’s not a bad thing. But I’m here commenting on your article for a reason: what you said at Rice about the intent behind The Witness drove it to be above all other games on my expectation lists and rendered me obsessive.

    Which ultimately drove me to purchase Braid recently for the second and third time in the same day: once in the Humble Bundle, and once on PSN because my XBLA version is in demo mode and I got tired of that. The point that I’m trying to make here is that you got me effin’ obsessed with the proposition of epiphany in The Witness. I wish I could say more, but I’d just come across as an arrogant ass whose words are most likely interesting only to himself.

    Thanks for Braid. Thanks for the Rice talk. Thanks for the full interview. Thanks for saying “lousy hacks.” And thanks for giving a shit enough to keep us posted on the progress. I still don’t know what “THROUGH MANY BIRTHS” part is supposed to mean, but the last line of the first stanza is satisfying.

  45. The lesson for indie developers is the same one everyone else who deals with the press ends up learning one way or another — for everything you want to say, you first have to picture it on a headline and ask yourself if it’s a headline you’d want to see. That, and never assume that just because a reporter understands the subtleties in what you’re saying that the article will do anything but take it at face value.

  46. You have my support, thanks for sharing this. I for one am completely against taking quotes out of context.

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