Dead Cells review plagiarism: Was IGN right to fire its content writer?

The gaming news and reviews website IGN has fired one of its content writers after an act of plagiarism was discovered. The story actually broke a couple of days ago – I remember seeing a tweet from an account called Broomstick Gaming and I instantly dismissed it in my mind, thinking “Yeahhhh, right…” Here’s the tweet in question…

If only I had bothered to watch the video! Basically, a chap called Deadite who runs the YouTube channel Broomstick Gaming had recently uploaded a video review of the roguelike-metroidvania / “roguevania” game Dead Cells, and in the follow-up video – which was the subject of the above tweet – he explains why he believes the reputable website IGN had in fact – well, stolen his words. Yes.

It all came down to one young journalist at the company – one who was fairly new at IGN, and for whom Dead Cells was his first video endeavour. So, reassuringly, this problem seems to be contained to a single individual and does not appear to be representative of widespread practice at the IGN offices (what a movie plot that would be!) Still, it absolutely sucks for Broomstick Gaming and for the company that’s had its reputation tarnished. And I guess it sucks for the plagiariser as well? But we’ll come back to that.

The big question is – did an act of plagiarism actually occur? I think at this point it’s safe to say – yes, most definitely. In fact, Deadite left some examples in the description of his YouTube video – which I recommend watching – but these are some of the clearest examples. See what you think.

[BROOMSTICK]: Dead Cells takes the progression of a metroidvania and integrates it into this procedurally generated action rogue lite…
[IGN REVIEW]: It takes the progression system of a metroidvania and transforms it into a procedurally generated action rogue lite…

[BROOMSTICK]: Dead Cells figures out and [sic] intriguing way to have your rogue lite and metroidvania experience all in one by focusing on your failures and urging you to try something new the next time.
[IGN REVIEW]: Dead Cells strikes a perfect and engaging balance between the metroidvania and rogue lite experiences by focusing on your failures and urging you to experiment when you do fail.

There are quite a few more examples but these seemed the punchiest to include here. Interestingly, Broomstick notes that the timecodes in both his own video and the IGN review match up pretty closely, and in fact they are identical in some instances, so there are structural similarities as well.

Blimey – not a good day for anyone. What happened next? Well, IGN initially pulled their review in the wake of the concerns that had been raised, and reassured readers that it was looking into the situation. It subsequently replaced this statement with a follow-up, attesting that it had “parted ways” with the writer in question, and that it would be re-reviewing Dead Cells in due course. IGN also added, “We apologize to our readers, developer Motion Twin, and most especially the YouTuber known under Broomstick Gaming for failing to uphold [our] standards.”

So as the dust settles on this (perhaps) unprecedented situation in the history of gaming, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reflection. I mean, me and this IGN writer are kiiiind of similar in the sense that we work / worked(!) in the world of video game journalism. I’ve reviewed stuff (albeit not professionally as yet) so we definitely have that in common. I’ve also been trying to figure out what must have been going through this young man’s head when he decided to effectively steal the work of a fledgling YouTuber.

Obviously I don’t know the guy, and this is purely speculation, but I wonder if he was feeling the burning pressure to impress? It’s incomprehensible that he wasn’t given enough time to properly play and review the title, although the PR man in me can certainly see some wiggle-room in IGN’s statement, which could allow for the possibility that the writer hadn’t had sufficient time on Dead Cells and was struggling to deliver his review to a tight deadline. (Or, perhaps he found the game too hard and couldn’t claw his way to the end in order to analyse it fully…?) I can only guess – I don’t know. We’ll probably never know.

Certainly, if someone told me that I had to play a new game and then write my own review on it, which would then be shared with the world via a reputable news site, and what’s more I’d get PAID for it…! Well, that’s Christmas… I’d give my right arm to do that! The idea that it would be “preferable” to crawl through someone else’s video review and transcribe it word for word, and then rejig a couple of sentences, and then submit the piece as my own and hope I don’t get fired… Honestly, that sounds both laborious and terrifying in equal measure, and zip amount of fun. It’s so hard for me to imagine that this was the IGN man’s M.O., but then, as I say, I haven’t met the guy. It could have been…?

I then thought about what I’d do if I was IGN. Would I fire the writer? Initially, I thought no – I’m a softy, and a second chance kind of man. To fire someone over a misstep is a career-ender; the guy would probably never work as a video game reviewer again. I wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for dictating someone’s entire future.

But then there are other factors to consider. This occurrence has been very damaging to IGN. It also really sucks for Deadite at Broomstick Gaming, as flattering as it is to have your words taken by IGN no less! I don’t mean to sound like too much of a wishy-washy liberal, but I actually feel sorry for everyone here – there are no winners. Except maaaaybe Broomstick Gaming and the game Dead Cells – to a slender degree – as they have ‘enjoyed’ some additional exposure in the midst of this online maelstrom.

So was IGN right to fire its content writer for this act of plagiarism? In my opinion, yes, I believe so. I hate that it’s probably killed the young man’s career in an industry that he’s (presumably) very passionate about, but he is responsible, and IGN has its reputation to consider.

That being said, if anyone would like to plagiarise this article(!) Haha, no, I jest. As much as it is a burning ambition of mine to be the subject of a video of The Know, I’d much rather it was for something more pleasant. Ashley Jenkins – please email.

So those are my thoughts. What do you all think? I’ve tried to be as balanced as possible here; I’ve no desire to fan any flames. But I did feel this was a subject worth covering, and it’s one that I wanted to weigh into with my thoughts. Leave yours in the comments below.

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