Sometimes people tell lies on the Internet. That's no news if you've spent any time on a computer, where finding the truth is no simple task. Pranksters on the web make things up all the time.
But last week, we saw something rather uncommon even for the Internet's standards: an interview with BioWare that was made up entirely. And we've talked to the person behind it, who tells us that he expected to be caught.
On December 5, a website called GamerSyndrome published an interview that they said was with BioWare. Although there was no name attributed to the BioWare representative, none of the answers seemed strange or out of the ordinary. In other words, it seemed legit.
A week later, as sometimes happens with these things, the interview started to make its way around the gaming press. One particularly newsworthy piece of information—that the new Mass Effect wouldn't be out until 2014 or 2015—spread to a bunch of major websites: IGN, Eurogamer, GameSpot, and yes, even Kotaku.
Then, something rather unusual happened. BioWare's Mike Gamble tweeted that the whole thing was a lie. When I followed up with BioWare, they echoed Gamble's tweet:
"We were working with that outlet on an interview, but at no time did anyone from EA or BioWare provide any answers to questions from GamerSyndrome," a BioWare rep told me in an e-mail.
Strange and stranger. I reached out to GamerSyndrome's managing editor for comment, but he wouldn't say much more than what he had written on his website:
This interview has been removed and the author responsible for this post has been terminated from the gamersyndrome.com team. The information provided previously by the author of this post was deemed to be obtained from an inaccurate source and NOT an official Bioware or EA interview response. We apologize for the inconvenience and the matter is being dealt with severely.
Over the past few days, I've been in touch with the writer of the interview, a 25-year-old college student who agreed to speak with me under condition of anonymity. Although you can find his name on the byline of his interview, the writer would only speak to me if I agreed not to use it.
At first he said that he had been conned by someone claiming to have been from BioWare. He said that the conman had made up answers to all of his questions. He said there were e-mails on his GamerSyndrome account that could prove this, but he couldn't get to them, because he was no longer with GamerSyndrome.
For the past few days I've been trying to piece together and verify that story. Until today, when he sent me another e-mail.
"Look, it's not fair that I do this to you or to anyone," he said. "What I've told you isn't correct. Here's the actual truth.
"The entire article was fake, I didn't talk to anyone for it. No one had ever hired me to write for a gaming website before, so I was trying so hard to impress them. I wanted them to see the interview and be impressed by what I wrote. When BioWare didn't respond with the answers to my questions I decided to finish the post myself. I took quotes from past BioWare interviews and inserted them into my post, as well as quotes from The Art of Mass Effect and The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3. I didn't expect the article to go anywhere so I thought nothing of it. However, I'm sorry for the article. There's nothing right with what I did and I apologize to anyone who was misled by this article."
So why? What drives someone to make up an entire interview like that? What's the logic behind it?
"I had been talking the interview up among the writers on GamerSyndrome and they all seemed so impressed with the fact that I could get an interview with [BioWare]," the writer told me. "Plus the administrator of GamerSyndrome seemed super impressed by it [so] I felt I needed to get the article up. I had been promising the article for a few months and BioWare had yet to respond to the email containing our questions. I felt that I had to get the article up, otherwise no one would think it was something."
I asked him if he thought he'd be found out. "Truthfully, yes I did think I would get caught," he said. "I didn't do it with the intent of deceiving people or spreading around lies. I only did it because I wanted to get the article finished and move on from it."
He wanted to be a games reporter. He just wanted to get the big scoop, impress his friends and peers at GamerSyndrome and elsewhere. But now he thinks he's sabotaged his dream.
"I don't plan on ever writing for a website again because of this situation," he said. "It was not fair for me to do this and all I can do now is say I'm sorry."