February 20, 2009 4:00 PM |
['Chewing Pixels' is a regular GameSetWatch-exclusive column written by British games journalist and producer, Simon Parkin. This time, a surprising press release sheds light on a dangerous profession.]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Video Game Critic Killed Over 7/10 Review
A white, male video game reviewer has been murdered at his home in South London.
Charlie Drummond, a 30-year-old print and web journalist, was hacked to death by between 12 and 20 members of the gaming forum New-Gaf in his bedroom on Saturday morning.
According to police, his attackers had become riled at a review Drummond had written of the, at the time unreleased, videogame, Gears of Killzone 2, a product which the writer valued at 7/10 in a review printed in the Wedge Magazine two weeks ago.
A friend and fellow journalist told the BBC that Drummond’s killers had carved a 7/10 into his forehead using a DS stylus, a reference to the value judgment that apparently led to his demise.
While most of Drummond’s attackers are at large, one man, known at this point only by his online handle ‘Dutka-Fan’, handed himself in to a police station on Sunday morning. The police are yet to issue a statement, however one officer confirmed to the BBC the suspect had “not played the game in question yet”.
A discussion thread on New-Gaf, which ran to 60 pages prior to Drummond’s killing, was filled with expressions of dismay from forum members who accused the writer of “indulging [his] massive ego in an underhanded attempt at getting attention”, arguing that Drummond should “not be allowed to do things like this” and, in reference to the score he awarded the game, elliptically claiming: “This...is...a...lie.”
Such volatile discussions of unreleased videogames on the web are well-established, young men often defending products they have become heavily invested in. However, this is the first time that such anger has manifested itself as real world physical violence.
Drummond is believed to be the first videogame reviewer killed in the country, although game journalists have long lived with violence or the threat of it.
In 2008, games writer Oli Welsh received death threats for scoring the hotly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 4 an 8/10 for gaming site Eurogamer.
Likewise, Alec Meer was once threatened by a reader in response to a review of Star Wars: Empire At War claiming that he was going to “find your house, construct a giant wax statue of you outside it, and set fire to the thing”. Both men, and other writers working in the field, will no doubt take such anonymous threats more seriously in the future.
Veteran editor at Wedge Magazine, Anthony Mitt spoke of his shock at the news while praising Drummond as "brave and multi-talented", a writer who “was never frightened to speak truth to publishers and consumers alike”.
He went on to add: “We would always encourage readers to read the content of a review, which is often useful for understanding what the reviewer thought of the product with more detail and nuance than the ten point score system allows.”
But some members of the gaming community weren’t quite so sympathetic to Drummond’s fate. One prominent PR man from a large publisher, who asked to remain anonymous, told us: “Publishers and developers have long had to live or die by their Metacritic scores. Perhaps now it’s time for game reviewers to get a taste of their own medicine.”
However, the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights deplored the murder and called on the authorities to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.
"This tragedy should galvanise those responsible for protection of media freedom to take the necessary action to ensure the security of game reviewers,” said Vera Bingotits. “Every person should feel free to score anything whatever they like without fear for their safety,” she said, before giving our reporter a 6/10 for punctuation and dress sense.
The game in question, Gears of Killzone 2, entered the all format gaming charts last week at number 1. This week, however, it had dropped out of the charts altogether, superseded by a raft of fresh releases.
The New-Gaf thread about the game had also lost its head of steam, some posters adding comments such as, “Drummond might have actually been right about this one LOL”, “The zeitgeist has left the building: please move along now” and, “Tits or GTFO.”
Drummond is survived by his Nintendog and a pretty badass PC.
Categories: Column: Chewing Pixels