Editor's Blog: Lost Humanity 18 Aftermath
First of all, I want to apologise to Eurogamer's readers for not saying anything else about why I edited Rab Florence's column last week until now. There are a bunch of reasons why I've not said anything. One is that removing paragraphs from Rab's column is the most depressing thing I've had to do in five years of editing the site and I still haven't gotten over it. Another is that the emotion of the moment was much too raw for useful analysis and introspection. And the last reason is that I hoped the column still spoke for itself.
However, now that things have died down a little, there seem to be two main reactions and I want to address both of them.
The first is that a lot of people want to know more about why I made the changes and issued an apology. The answer is that Lauren Wainwright threatened us with legal action and made it clear she would not back down, at which point we took legal advice and ultimately made the decision to remove the paragraphs. It was not a decision that I took lightly. One objection to this action that I've read online is that there was no libel. All I can really say is that the advice we received meant that removing the offending text and apologising to Lauren was the right course of action to take. We also considered the fact that the article wasn't really about her but about all of us, and I felt that the edited version did not change Rab's meaning.
The second main reaction seems to have come mostly from people who work in the games industry - it's all over my Twitter feed, anyway - and it's that a lot of people want to forget about the whole thing and move on. It's just video games, they say. It's not as important as all this. Well, I don't want to move on. It is important. And I don't want to move on for the same reasons I published Rab's column in the first place: I believe there is a lot of truth in what he says.
When I first asked Rab to do a column for Eurogamer, it was because I knew he was a fantastic writer who loves games but who isn't a games journalist. I hoped that he would pick out a topic each week that I wasn't thinking about - or wasn't thinking about enough - and bring it to wider attention. I hoped he would speak truth to authority, ask the unasked questions, and force us to think harder about what we do and make my life a bit more uncomfortable. Rab did all those things.
What has ended up being his last column, A Table of Doritos, was a great example of this, and I don't want Rab's original point to be missed in the sideshow. Rab's original point, as I interpreted it as his editor and on the basis of which I thought his column was worth publishing, was that games journalists are all a little bit compromised. Not hugely so. But a little. And we need to think about it more than we do. We talk about ethics a lot behind the scenes at Eurogamer, but do we talk about it enough? Probably not. We have all developed relationships with people who work in games in order to get our jobs done. We all get sent free stuff. We accept these things because they are a means by which we can report on games, but how can we know they don't influence us?
I didn't publish the column because I think Eurogamer is better than everyone else. I published it because I think we are all pretty much the same and we should all be thinking about this stuff more than we do. I imagine the reason we don't is that it has become the wallpaper to our professional lives, and it's easy to forget that it's there and just get on with things. And my worry after last week was that our collective reaction was going to be, "Oh no, people don't like the wallpaper - let's just paint over it." I would rather strip the wallpaper. It can't be done in a week, but it can be done. It will make the site better overall.
Apart from anything else, it is no exaggeration to say that in the last few days people from outside Eurogamer have screamed at me about publishing Rab's column. It was very unpopular with a lot of people who I have grown to know and like over the last 13 years. I will have to look them in the eye forever more and some won't forgive me. It also obviously resulted in legal threats, legal advice, removing paragraphs and an apology. None of this was in any way fun. Despite all that, I think it will all have been worth it if we learn from it.
One of my biggest regrets is that Rab won't be doing his column on Eurogamer tomorrow. I want to thank him for the eighteen he did write, which are some of my favourite things we've ever published. Even the last one. Especially the last one. I hope one day to tempt him back for some more.
Finally, I want to apologise again to our readers. Your trust is something we've worked extremely hard to establish for more than a decade and I hope that if we've shaken any element of it then you will allow us to try to rebuild that over time.