On This IGN Plagiarism Thing


#1

So the typical torch-bearing brigades are out after this flare up. Kotaku has a good piece summarizing what we know so far: https://kotaku.com/ign-pulls-review-after-plagiarism-accusations-1828157939

Now I don’t read IGN or Filip Miucin specifically so I can’t speak on these videos. But this makes no sense to me. It’s been bugging me all day because it just doesn’t add up for an IGN salaried employee to do this. (Miucin isn’t just some overworked freelancer, he’s their Nintendo Editor.) A lot of the “copied” sentences in question can easily just be generic sentences that could appear in any informative review.

It really doesn’t make sense to me because the IGN video is only four minutes long, and could only be 600 words or so. If you’re an editor you have to had written this kind of thing a hundred times, you could do it in your sleep. I could probably write 600 words to a standard review of Dead Cells without even playing the game, and I’m not some master poet either. The audio production, game footage capturing, and video editing would require ten times more work than a simple piece telling you what Dead Cells is and why it is fun.

It’s so stupid I can’t believe anybody would do it, let alone somebody whose whole life would be ruined if they were caught. You get caught plagiarizing as a writer, you’re done, forever. That’s the end of your career. I want to believe in a fellow writer especially since games media, and media in general, is always under siege from the shittiest people. But there’s so many similar sentences its really suspicious.

I just don’t know what to think here. Your thoughts?


#2

I can’t help but feel that hastily editing a relatively generic (and short) video review to pass it off as your own work is unnecessarily risky for someone like Miucin. He gave the game a 9.7 so the review was sure to get a ton of hits. I mean, he can’t be that brazen.

But at the same time, the similarities are alarming.


#3

I feel like the similarities between the quotes posted in the Kotaku article are just too much alike to be written off.

We don’t know enough from Miucin’s side to make a full judgement, but I think the evidence presented is pretty damning.


#4

considering IGN also uploads other people’s speedruns, slaps ads on them, buries the credit and link-back in the read more, and rakes in hundreds of thousands of views while the originals languish with a couple hundred at most…i’m not particularly surprised they would try it on with stealing a review.


#5

Though I was an IGN fan from way back in the N64.com days, I haven’t checked them out in years because of how bland their content has consistently been. It’s for that reason that I believe this situation is more likely the result of mediocre writers coincidentally saying similar things about a game. It’s like reading reviews for a big game on Metacritic one after another. At a certain point the text all blurs together in a hive mind consensus. This situation is a bit more concerning than that, but not by much.


#6

A) I wouldn’t be surprised if IGN did rip this guy off.

B) Most review writing is so bland it almost doesn’t matter.

Edit: I’m thinking about this from a copyright perspective, which isn’t the exact same lens as plagurism, but I tihnk is informative, and it’s what I do all day so here we are.

To be protected by copyright, something needs to be original. It’s not enough to just copy something if that something isn’t original enough to be protected by copyright. Without getting too into the weeds about standards of originality under copyright, this kind of writing is so generic that it’s barely copyrightable. To infringe you’d have to rip the langauge word for word.

So, this is incredibly lazy, which, is also not surprising given what we here about journalism and blogging all the time, but what is plagiarism meant to protect against, people being lazy (probably a good thing to teach kids in school) or having creative works ripped off? If the former than yeah this was lazy, if the later, it stinks but I’m not sure this kind of writing is really what the existing doctrines are about.


#7

So uhhh I’m a writing tutor for college undergrads and this hits a lot of the “this is plagiarized” bubbles. My understanding is also that the structure of the reviews is similar, going from point to point in the same order.

I think it’s important to not generalize this to the entire website, and using this to write off most mainstream games writing is a pretty big leap to me. You don’t have two articles going from point to point in the same order using the exact same adjectives like this by accident.


#8

I’m honestly not sure how someone could read some of these passages and not think they were taken from the smaller channel’s review. Like they mention word changing but in some of the passages I’ve seen it was basically word for word. And a lot of those words are not just describing what the game is, which could easily appear similar from different outlets. (These two passages taken from the Newsweek article on the matter, in case anyone didn’t want to search through a full article):

“Boomstick: In most games of this genre your coolest skills and spells are often set to strictly long recharge timers or a limited mana system, but in Dead Cells your abilities have incredibly quick recharges and allow you to seamlessly integrate these gadgets in normal encounters and doesn’t make you feel penalized for using your cool stuff. This combat system is fast, fluid, responsive and one of the most rewarding representation of 2D combat of the entire genre.”

“IGN: Most games limit your most useful skills with long cooldown timers or a limited mana system but Dead Cells encourages you to use your deadliest gadgets with a fast recharge timer. It never punishes you using your best tactics. Fights are fast, fluid, responsive and hands down one of the most gratifying representations of video combat I’ve ever experienced.”

Come on, seriously? Dude didn’t even try. Glad it’s under investigation, and of course firing someone is always a serious matter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the outcome.


#9

I mean… the fact that it wasn’t in his best interest to do this doesn’t mean he didn’t. This isn’t just a case of someone parroting generic terms through osmosis - if you break down and compare the reviews’ structure, they’re practically identical.


#10

But couldn’t that also be attributable to the fact that mainstream gaming reviews are so generically structured and checklist-oriented? Hearing Jeff Gerstmann and Alex Navarro talk about the grind of reviewing games for Gamespot makes me think that a reviewer could have easily churned out something so generic as to be structurally and verbally similar to somebody else’s review. And I think that possibility is far more damning of IGN’s quality than a single plagiarized review could ever be.


#11

I’m not denying plagiarism, but it feels like something that was bound to happen every now and then when your review is a cut and dry explanation of mechanics. There’s only so much you can talk about, y’know?


#12

100% + 15 characters


#13

Yeah, considering my experience with plagarism in a teaching/academic setting, it’s usually never in someone’s best interest to plagarize, and that never stops it from happening. It never seems like a rational decision where someone weighs the pros and cons and goes with it, usually because the pros are minimal and the cons are astronomical. But people do it anyway either because they’re desperate or worried or stressed (which isn’t an excuse, but it speaks to the irrationality behind it).


#14

I don’t think things are so strict today to the point that two people would accidentally write two essays that are near identical. College students are often in courses where everyone’s writing about the same topic with similarly structured papers, but if two students have papers with similarities to this degree, they’re brought in to find out if someone copied the other.

Having two reviews use words and phrases like “limited mana system” in the exact same context is extremely alarming. To go back to the example of college writing, even when a professor gives a class a detailed assignment sheet with a specific rubric, or a gaming website says that you have to write x amount of words and talk about sound, graphics, gameplay, story, and difficulty, you have a problem when you and your peer have sentences that look like these and go through the same points in the same order.


#16

It doesn’t feel productive to approach this from an “I disbelieve an established games press person would so this” or “this seems unlikely because it would be foolish to do” angle. They’re very closed perspectives.

It seems far more than a coincidence. IGN is gonna investigate, and it makes sense to let that happen before speculating further.


#17

I did engineering in university, so I can’t really speak to essay writing in that much detail. That said, I can speak about lab reports with some authority. And with lab reports, inevitably there will be similarities in writing because there are only so many ways to describe a titration procedure or the results of a spectrometry test. Similarly, how many different ways can one describe yet another retro-style Metroidvania when writing about it as a product review? I am definitely not saying that the writer absolutely didn’t plagiarize, just that I think the possibility of this being a coincidence is significant enough that I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

I will say that I agree with you about there being a problem. I just think that problem is that mainstream game reviews are so generic that this was bound to happen at some point in IGN’s 20+ year history.


#18

While it very much SEEMS to me that this was an instance of plagiarism, the accusing YouTuber’s original review is very much in the style of the generic, consumer-focused, big video game website review from the format to the choice of cliched jargon.

Ultimately the smoking gun would be how closely Miucin’s review follows the original’s format and how often the exact same terms were used in the exact same places.

I think in a perfect world a site might be alarmed at this particular escalation of that trend and look to pivot on its review strategy, but I also wonder if the somewhat cookie-cutter nature of this style of review could lead to bad faith claims seeking exposure in the future.

That said I think IGN has handled this as best as they could so far (internal investigations can be a mixed bag) and would probably benefit from examining if this had happened before/how it can be prevented in the future.


#19

Ah yes, it’s time to savor the most enjoyable of human foibles. The moment when a legitimate problem is immediately caught and exposed, so conspiracy nuts assume that means all the other nonsense they cling to is also naturally true instead of the exact opposite. Nothing says “massive hidden subterfuge” quite like a bad actor being caught and exposed faster than it takes for my coffee to hit room temperature.


#20

I always leave myself open to the old adage “never underestimate the depths of human stupidity”. Sadly I just can’t believe how stupid people can really be.


#21

The high school dirtbag in me can imagine that review writing for a site like IGN is the kind of low reward, demanding job that could result in a very tired person making a really poor judgment choice and decide to take a risk.