Freelance game critic and Ludotempus editor Ben McCurry resigned from game review site Brash Games this week when he published a quickly-taken-down review of Pac-man 256 that actually served as a list of grievances against his former employer and editor, Paul Ryan.
In the review, which can be found archived here, begins with a review for Pac-Man remake 256. The story quickly takes a turn into “oh god the editor totally doesn’t check stories before publication” with the following:
“The idea of Pac-Man 256 is derived from what happens in the original Pac-Man when you clear 256 levels; on level 257, the game becomes a garbled mess that becomes unplayable. A good example of a garbled mess is Brash Games; this very website that strips authors of their writing credits when they leave the site, later attributing them to the sole owner and editor, Paul Ryan, making your work completely pointless, just as Pac-Man is completely pointless after level 256.”
Amazing segues like this are plentiful with the story, which is why I truly suggest you read the review, which can again be found here, because Ryan quickly deleted the post from the site’s live feed.
McCurry’s allegations of stripping attributions seems to be true, as proven by several archives of reviews he provided. His review for Earn to Die 2 is listed under his name in this archive, but the live version attributes the review to Brash Games instead. This was true of all five archived reviews provided by McCurry. He also alleged that Ryan replaced bylines of other critics with his own name, but I could not confirm this myself.
Ryan is however attributed to multiple stories on the same day, such as the 9 stories listed under his name on February 24, but prior to that no stories had been published under his name since March 30 2016.
Looking back to 2013, every review published on Brash Games is either attributed to a critic still actively publishing reviews on the site, or simply attributed to “Brash Games.” Critics like Olly Smith and Meg Bethany Read allege the same treatment working for Brash Games.
According to McCurry, the reason he was able to publish this post was because there is no editing oversight on the site whatsoever. McCurry’s story went straight into print rather than being reviewed by Ryan prior to publication.
Ryan reportedly has full control over everything on the site, including PR, key acquisition, editing stories and review scores. Ryan also reportedly does not pay most of his critics, promising exposure to writers like McCurry instead. McCurry could not confirm if all writers were unpaid, as the critics have little or no contact with each other.
The review alleges that Ryan had lied to review aggregators like OpenCritic and GameRankings, which seems to be correct as GameRankings lists Brash Games as “out of business” as of this story’s publication. Additionally, OpenCritic’s URL for Brash Games leads to an error page.
McCurry alleges other shady practices by Ryan, including changing review scores to improve relations with developers or match MetaCritic scores, breaking embargo on games like Yooka-Laylee, and possibly providing Humble Bundle keys for reviews instead of developer-provided keys as a means of saving money and reviewing as many games as possible.
McCurry provided the following initial statement on his decision to write the review (minor cuts by me to avoid redundancy):
“People have told me that the way I’ve gone about things might have been unprofessional. If I had concerns about Brash, why wouldn’t I just write an open letter or a blog? I didn’t do this because I feared it would get lost on the internet and nobody would read it. I wanted to expose the site and their iffy approach to courting and treating writers by doing it in the most public way possible so as to put true public pressure on the editor Paul Ryan for the things I and others had stated he’d done... I was displeased at him for this and the lackluster way he managed my resignation - no word was said to me, but I was quietly removed from the staff list. As such, because I felt he’d acted cowardly both to me and the writers he’d wronged, I ran with the tell-all review, because I thought it’d be the best way to show the internet that he’s an incompetent and willfully malignant editor.”
As of press time, Paul Ryan/Brash Games has yet to respond to comment, or respond to emails.
McCurry currently runs his own site Ludotempus where he reviews retro and indie games.
This story will be updated if further developments from Brash Games arrive.
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial here and join in. Follow us on Twitter @KoTAYku and Like Us on Facebook.
Have a story you want told? See a game you want to know more about? Contact the author of this post via his e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @Geo_star101