Game publisher Paradox issued an unusual statement this morning, defending a negative IGN review of their newest game while shooting down conspiracy nuts who believed that IGN’s criticism was influenced by outside factors.
The conspiracy, which originated in Gamergate circles because of course it did, alleged that IGN freelancer Rowan Kaiser (who has written for Kotaku) trashed Paradox’s new game Stellaris because he’d once heard the publisher support video-maker John ‘Totalbiscuit’ Bain.
“Totalbiscuit is not a popular, adorably controversial figure in gaming,” Kaiser had said on Twitter in July of 2015. “He is a serial harasser who made GG mainstream. No game company, no PR people, nobody should talk to or about him other than on those terms. When I was at ParadoxCon this year his name was said as someone who can sell games with mentions. I instantly felt worse about being there.”
(At the time, Totalbiscuit responded on his Soundcloud, denying those allegations. “Rowan Kaisers allegations against me are entirely false and we consider them libel,” he said.)
Kaiser’s review of Stellaris, which gives the game a 6.3/10, criticizes the new space strategy game for becoming “a largely uneventful slog” after a promising start. (Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett had similar complaints.) For the past two days conspiracy theorists have attacked the review on Reddit, YouTube, and social media, to the point where IGN’s review editor Dan Stapleton felt compelled to defend Kaiser on Twitter.
This is all very stupid, of course—as is often the case with Gamergate conspiracy theories, the link between Paradox and Kaiser’s distaste for Totalbiscuit is very tenuous—but Paradox sent out a statement this morning nonetheless. In it, the publisher stands by IGN and Kaiser, despite the negativity.
“Contrary to a lot of opinions we’ve seen posted, Rowan is a very logical choice by IGN,” Paradox said. “Although, yes, we would disagree with the lower-than-liked score that he eventually awarded us, he does have experience of our previous titles and has over the years provided his professional opinion on those, too. It would make sense that IGN would make use of his experience to review Stellaris.”
Paradox also made it clear that they want nothing to do with the conspiracy junkies. (In case you’re wondering: Totalbiscuit has not commented publicly on any of this.)
“The second and perhaps the most important topic is a supposed conspiracy suggesting that Rowan would have a personal vendetta against us or our games due to his/our relationship with other game critics,” they said. “This is categorically NOT the case. Those named in said conspiracy (including Rowan) are professionals in their field and we are absolutely confident that such feelings would never colour review content.”
The full response is classy, and it’s a credit to Paradox that they addressed it so well. Yet, considering the actual facts at hand, it’s unbelievable that they needed to respond at all. Such is the internet in 2016.
Update - 2:12pm: this story has been updated to add Totalbiscuit’s response to Kaiser’s comments last year.