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.


  1. Pageviews (or hits) are like money—to media sites, they are money—and like money, the more pageviews produced, the less each is worth.

    Sites that depend solely on pageviews are in a race to the bottom and are, in the long-run, unsustainable, particularly sites smaller than the CNNs or NYTimes of the world (though those sites are in trouble for other reasons, i.e., profitability).

    The ultimate scarce resource, the one that can’t be gamed by breaking articles into multiple pages (or entirely separate posts, as CVG did), link-baiting and other tricks that artificially inflate pageviews

  2. Whoops, hit the Submit Comment button by accident.

    The ultimate scarce resource […] is _attention_.

    Anyway, I’m saying all this to show that the more sites like CVG play the pageview game, the more they doom themselves. Not only will they lose more and more readers who no longer trust them or no longer find what they write enjoyable, but they also make pageviews as a metric for advertising dollars less valuable for all their competitors, too.

  3. Big fan from BRAZIL !!!!
    tks for “Braid”….. tks for “The Witness”

  4. Your response is a tad OTT. CVG never purported to deliver a comprehensive overview of your Edge interview. Rather, they simply picked up on something they found interesting and made that the focus of their report. Perfectly legitimate journalism if you ask me.

    The point – that Sony seems to encourage more in the way of artistic expression – is a valid one. CVG have no obligation to cover any other aspect of the interview if they don’t deem it to be of great interest to their readership. Indeed, rather than lift the Edge article word-for-word (which is practically what you seem to be advocating) it probably makes more sense to simply point people in the right direction and let them read the interview in its original form.

    I can kinda see where your coming from. However in this case I honestly believe you’ve suffered a knee-jerk reaction that has somewhat missed the mark

  5. The point is that I said those things inside a package of contrasting and carefully-balanced statements.

    CVG isolated a few statements, taking them out of the context of balancing statements and thus changed their meaning, in order to generate a “more exciting” headline.

    If they had cherry-picked slightly different sentences from the same paragraphs, their headline could have easily been:

    “Braid creator: Microsoft’s online service more successful than Sony’s”

    So it ought to be clear to you that this is a heavily-misleading process.

    I think a fair headline for the article would have been something like:

    “Braid creator discusses pros and cons of XBLA and PSN for indies”

    But that’s not going to be as exciting, right? That’s not going to incite console-wars nerd-rage in the same way. Thus they intentionally engage in distortion in order to get a more-exciting headline.

    Let me simplify the situation a bit. If someone in an interview says, “Where should indies publish their game, XBLA or PSN?” And I say, “That depends on what the developer is looking for… on XBLA you have the potential to sell many more copies, but on PSN you have more freedom to do creative things,” and someone decides to just cut out the second part of this sentence: “BRAID DEVELOPER: PSN BETTER THAN XBLA BECAUSE INDIES HAVE MORE FREEDOM,” that is a clearly misleading headline, even though those words were said in the interview. The reason it’s misleading is because the statement is removed from counterbalancing statements.

    That’s what they did here.

  6. Well, you are probably right… but to be honest, I think this is more of a “Barbara Streisand” effect, than anything else ;). At least community wise, people would eventually have shrugged it of and move on, the internet is too big to care… and probably be forgotten a week later for the people that looked at the issue if they did… your reaction made it wildly public and noticeable, and to be honest, I think you are getting the short stick here because many feel that the piece was fairly harmless and you are overreacting (you could have reacted in a calm way, but screaming it loudly like an angry forum flamer was out of proportion for a lot).

    I have absolutely no idea for the possible problems you could have with Microsoft for a statement like that, so I am talking to the dark here… but I do not think they are going to say “OH Jon said THAT!!! we are bringing him down the HAMMER!!! Who cares if he made Braid and brought a huge amount of people on our X360s and has a huge voice around the indie community, he’s DOWN!!”. They aren’t stupid (I think) and they know they are not going to drop independent dev support in such a non fashionable way, only to see Mr. Blow complaining on the internet and calling out MS and have another CVG headline like “MS drops Jon Blow all support and whatsoever because of what he said two weeks ago!!!” and getting all of the world-wide indie rage for that.

    In MS they are probably going to read that statement and say.. “hmm, well what we can do to fix that problem”, be more kind with game devs, and prevent them from letting them go flying over other companies distribution systems and instead they will keep their indie user base firmly attached (or not, maybe the won’t even consider that an issue). And probably send them a PR or support dude saying some standard comment like “MS always tries to do the best for indie developers and such bla bla…”… and thats it.

    And that would have happened if nobody said anything, and if really it was a big issue. I honestly think its not that big. But you overreacted and now many people are not really taking it from you because… it was something so simple that could have been answered without a “knee-jerk” reaction…

    Then again I have no even created a game for something like X360 or PSs3 or something like it, so I may be wrong and this could be really problematic… I dunno…

  7. @ Italo,

    Where did Jonathan “scream” like an “angry forum flamer”?

  8. @Nate Some people, or at least myself, would consider “CVG appear to be a bunch of lousy hacks.” and this call for everyone to “to stop reading this kind of stuff. It’s just misinformation; it’s worse than worthless.” as very strong statements, and an overreaction.

    But I guess getting quoted out of context might be infuriating for anyone, and well, you may lose trust, and in the future you will be a little more careful when saying things to anyone who has “one liner news ears” :P. It is an important lesson for everyone when you’ll get interviewed ;).

    But you are right, that is not an “angry forum flamer scream” at all, thats my bad (an overreaction myself, U_U). I still believe its still a very strong and should have been taken less of a big issue.

  9. I am sure your anger is justified and i am not even going to see the crappy article. Knowing the THEY are bad journalists is a very important thing to know. BUT…
    There are those times that i get angry at my kids and trying to educate them by saying what not to do, but i know that empowering then when they do good is much more effective! Still i don’t always manage to do that :(

    I think the analogy is clear, and this is how i see the outcome of this post:
    1. You got CVG great traffic, and great page views!!! The title it self is of great value to them and mentioned article did very good!
    2. Instead of reading the real Edge article (which i didn’t see a link to) i spend my time reading this post,
    3. I didn’t know CVG before reading this, and i already been to their site and not yet in Edge.

    Long story short, i think this post could have been “Journalism at its best @Edge!” with the first paragraph that you wrote and nothing more!
    That would have definitely got me mach faster to the real thing. And now off i go to find it ;-)

  10. you know what i just remember, reading the article again… that one time you said “fuck that” then the link to the thing where you said it, to the… whatever it was, disappeared. what you said besides being true, it was pretty innocent, but it was just sad the way people tried to ruined you and sabotage you. and in the articles quoting the “jonathan blow says fuck that!” every person in the comments was trying to put you on your back foot, trying to put you down b/c they read the titles and jumped up at the first oportunity to talk bad about you, when you have always been yourself: honest and respectful. i never saw you as pretentious or “hipster-shit”.but that’s how people are. you don’t have control over that. but you do have control over your game… so do a positive/negative thing, and stick to the positive space and make the best game that you can at the time, b/c there is always people that won’t respect what you care about… like souljaboy, right? i do understand why you are upset at the cvg article. b/c this has happened before, and it’s not a good place to be in. specialy when you are trying to focus on making the best game possible… you can only get so careful opening your mouth in public before you stick to yes/no answer. and then you can’t give interviews, you can’t give talks… and just it shouldn’t be like that… it is not right for them to be like that, is just not the right thing to do. it’s not honest. why are they trying to shut you up, jonathan? b/c that’s what they’re doin… just b/c you acknowledge some aspects of game that could be potentially negative? wouldn’t that be perverse… but at least they can’t do this to your games. focus on making the best game possible and let *them* talk for you. and they will stand up for you and support you. just like Braid defended you.

  11. I understand your point about this hurting your relationships with business partners, but if they didn’t change your words and chose to only publish a select quote, I don’t see how that is deceptive or manipulative. You either said those words or you didn’t, there is nothing in between. It’s not like you said “Y is better than Z at sucking” and they wrote “Blow: Y is better than Z”. Maybe the quote has a comes off stronger out of context, but I don’t believe you can say that is not what you meant when you said those words. That is just the nature of press. They do it to politicians all the time. That’s why they’re so cautious about everything they say, because they know that every single word they say can and will be taken out of context for a juicier headline.
    But still, I understand your point. It is the same with artists and animators putting stuff from unannounced games in their portfolios and all these sites covering it. It is brutal. It is hurting that person’s chances of getting another job, but I can’t really blame the press can I, because who leaked that stuff in the first place?

  12. is TheWitness the new version of Eight Dots, like Braid is the new version of Oracle Billards? or is the Witness the new version of Galstaff, where you do certain gestures or paths with the blue mazes instead of the hand, to do “spells” or event thingies?

    or is The Witness a new thing you have never done? if so… where did it came from, what is it about… can you talk about that?!

  13. As a guy who writes for a paper, I can confirm Mr. Blow’s accuracy in regards to the attitude journalists and media outlets have towards developing stories. The fact of the matter is, all media outlets– blogs, newspapers, television, social ect.– are in their basic existence advertising mediums. The journalists are not being paid because they write the “best” articles, but because the content they generate attracts consumer traffic. The more titillating the stories, the more eyes the outlet will attract, which raises the outlet’s value to advertisers. “Truth” and “accuracy” in the reporting is secondary, and should remain that way in order to maximize the financial well being of the outlet and in turn the people the outlet employs.

    I certainly try to refrain from exploiting the subjects of my created content, but the same can also be said of the subjects themselves, especially when the subjects approach the outlet in support of or in context with a product that they themselves are trying to publicize. Being in a position to direct more traffic and consumer interest back towards the subject is a very valuable and ponderous power, so it is in the subject’s interest to deliver “interesting” or “compelling” information/”news.”

    Mr. Blow, I listened to yr Rice talk; that part about the “doublethink”/”knowing wink” attitude of retail pricing (“$9.99! It’s totally less then $10.00!!”) makes a neat parallel to the real “mechanics” behind the economy of “buzz,” and the consequent impulse to generate more “noise.” It’s all made to manipulate the consumers.

    All that said, f*** these GVC guys. Yeah, everybody’s got to hustle, but as you pointed out, it can be personally and professionally damaging when media outlets take it too far, disrespecting the subject by treating them as unthinking, discard-able resources. They violate the relationship/unspoken rule/assumed contract between the subject and the outlet, the unspoken trust. Sometimes you end up with your situation, which has negative consequences for all parties involved: 1) the consumer, who gets a skewed version of your comments at least in the headline (didn’t bother reading the article) 2) the outlet, which suffers a blow to its credibility at least with those (admittedly small percentage of) readers interested enough to find yr full comments in context, who will then question or at least scoff at for a few seconds the outlet’s attempted manipulation/twisting of yr statement, and who might then might decrease their traffic to the outlet, which might end up decreasing the value of the outlet’s advertising space 3) the content producer at the outlet, who might develop a habit of this ugly attitude, and have their content suffer for it, lowering their journalistic “value.” 4) the subject, as you may know.

    This is not to say that this isn’t sometimes a good thing, as the damaging of, say, a criminal Somalian warlord’s personal and professional reputation might be considered a constructive act for society at large.

    tl; dr: Bluh.

  14. All right then. I won’t read it :)

  15. it has been a while since the last update… so to keep everybody entertain and interested….. i’ve come with a new link to another indie game.

    the game is Fract. it’s about… a first-person, open world, puzzle game set on an uninhabited island… is a “Myst+Tron+Rez” kind of game

    i don’t want to advertise or spam… but it’s something relevant, right? i was impressed and like “wow! i bet this is how playing The Witness will feel” so yeah, hope you guys give it a try and enjoy it… if you need a more common analogy to another game Fract is probably alot like Real Myst. which i guess is how The Witness will play like… alittle

    And maybe this could give jonathan some ideas : )

  16. Please don’t waste time crafting well-thought-out responses to adolescent-baiting websites Jonathan (I use CVG myself sometimes, but it’s blatantly clear that a lot of their articles are troll-bait). I’m sitting waiting patiently for the Witness (it looks beautiful and I haven’t really enjoyed a video game properly since Riven) and the thought of you having to expend your energy and time on such futile pursuits as responding to this rubbish makes me despair.
    Thanks for Braid and all the best with The Witness.

  17. A little over 10 years later, but this piece is still as relevant as ever.
    sadly, as some sites devolve themselves in an attempt to draw in as many people as possible, the reputations of many sites have dropped in the fallout.

    Kotaku seems to be a great example of this. One just another one of the gaming sites, though it did get its share of in depth pieces thanks to Jason Schriers articles involving crunch in the workplace.
    Sadly, at some point, there was a shift from their focus on videogame news, as we saw a rise in the number of articles that were either just filled with ‘reactions’ from twitter, or ‘clickbait’ articles with a title blatantly designed to draw people in with a wild claim/accusation.

    Problem being, while many people complain about these articles, they were also clicking on them, which meant they were getting more traffic, which meant more ad revenue. So they started to become more and more common, to the point they became the focus of the site, and the actual news stories became a rarity…

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