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A few days ago, TechRaptor released our interview with former gaming journalist Allistair Pinsof and to say we had a great community response would be underplaying the impact the interview had. However, several forum threads such as Giant Bomb’s forums shut down comments amongst claims that Pinsof’s accusations are baseless. So I went on to investigate two of Pinsof’s claims, firstly that Brandon Boyer, chairman of IGF, seemed to have favored the work of Steph Thirion over other indie developers.

While Pinsof claims that Thirion’s now wife, games journalist Tiff Chow, once quipped that Thirion’s game Faraway would win Fantastic Fest 2011 as he was “friends with Brandon”, Chow seemed to remember the conversation differently when recounting it to Kotaku’s Jason Shreier.

“I remember Allistair asking how I knew Brandon, and I told him we were friends. At the time I was beaming with pride about Steph’s game being featured in the show. I am positive I said something along the lines of ‘I hope Faraway will win, but I’m biased—he’s my husband.”

Though Chow denies the exact wording it does seem that she agrees with the statement that her, Steph and Boyer are all friends as seen in this image where Chow took the picture. Boyer also forwarded a statement to Schreier noting that Faraway did in fact win Best in Show the grand prize at that year’s fantastic fest.

“All three of those jurors liked Faraway the most of all the eight games, so they awarded it Best in Show, for which Thirion won the grand prize: a glass boot filled with beer. “

Though he claims it is “all a joke” this has not stopped Thirion from boasting about it on Faraway’s website. In fact of the 5 awards Faraway is cited as receiving on its website, Boyer was involved at different levels in 4 of them. Faraway received 2 awards from IGF where Boyer is the Chairman, at Indiecade Boyer presented Thirion with his award and of course Fantastic Fest where Boyer was a judge. Asides from this previous testimony, their friendship is pretty public on twitter. Though this evidence is already damning enough, I wanted to look further to see how else Boyer’s friendship has helped Thirion’s career.

tiff chow tweet

The first thing I found is this tweet from Thirion crediting Brandon with his early success and encouraging twitter users to contribute to Brandon’s gofundme campaign. But even as early as 2009 Boyer was promoting Thirion’s work without disclosure. He promoted Thirion’s Eliss in this boingboing article without disclosure of their relationship, and again two months later in May, once more in June, November and in December named it one of the best indie iPhone games of 2009. He even promoted Thirion and Phil Fish in this 2010 article calling them indie gaming’s all stars. He also includes  calls to action to buy Thirion’s game in these two articles also from 2009. That’s 8 articles in the span one of 1 year, all promoting Thirion or Eliss all without disclosure of their friendship.

steph thirion tweet

While none of this points to the fact that Thirion won his awards based on friendship and not merit, Pinsof never claimed this, merely that the situation was suspicious. TechRaptor will leave its readers with the evidence so they can decide for themselves what part Boyer and Thirion’s relationship played in his coverage and awards.

This isn’t the first allegations leveed against the IGF, as TechRaptor has reported previously. The developers behind Super Meatboy had previously claimed that not all games entered into IGF were judged based on merit, and that judges didn’t even need to have played a game in order to judge it.

TechRaptor reached out to both Thirion and Boyer but at the time of publishing have not received a response.


Georgina Young

Contributor

British girl, currently in Japan. Surviving on a diet of retro games. Worshiping the god that is the Sega Megadrive. I like Nintendo.



  • Marcio

    They don’t care they have been exposed over and over again and rather than apologize and change they opt to demonize their audience. It’s time to build a new culture and Tech Raptor is part of it.

  • Mark Samenfink

    Mein Gott! Ethics!

  • Typical

    Hey guys, I’m trying to update my scorecard here, which one of these nepotist collaborators is the woman we want to drive out of gaming? I’m having trouble keeping up.

  • Johnathon Tieman

    I haven’t researched this yet, but isn’t there all sorts of laws regarding who is and is not eligible for awards from contests? Has anyone looked those up to see if they have been violated? Especially since the participants seem to have to actually pay to take part in this? I would think there is a whole raft of federal trade violations going on here…

  • Ncrdrg

    I’m glad to see this renewed focus on ethics and conflicts of interest following Pinsof’s allegations. Thanks for looking into it, Georgina. It’s pretty disgusting that a chairman like Boyer can manage to be so buddy buddy with both devs and journalists he got on the GJP list and promoted his friends’ game without disclosure. I already knew these guys were shady but damn, they really are shameless. The indie scene is too big for this clique nonsense.

  • DariusQ

    I’ve got to wonder if the indie developers who are getting shafted by the IGF even care that they’re being used. I sure as hell would.

  • An award from these organizations should be viewed as a big fat “Do not buy” label. The awards appear to have some problems with honest judging.

  • Meittimies

    quote from SPJ Code of Ethics page:

    “The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.

    Journalists should:

    – Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.”

    The very fact theres so much grounds for suspicion here is part of failure of Brandon’s former career as a journalist, not to mention Jason who tries his best to do damage control, while at the same time people find old quotes from him saying he’s not interested in verifying rumors himself.

    We should NOT be fine with this. Bad journalism has been allowed to fester within the gaming community because of our apathy. Those days should be over, we should do something to fix this!

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    Its obvious that Brandon Boyer is a huge fan of the game so he came into all the award shows bias BUT the proof of friendship is EXTREMELY flimsy.

    Chow stated that she was friends with Brandon not Steph. The picture posted was from 2 entire years later after Steph recieved the award. The tweet about Steph, Boyer, and chow all hanging out was one year after the award. There is no proof what so ever that Brandon Boyer and Steph were friends before any awards were given out.

    So series of events: Boyer writes articles on Stephs games > Steph wins awards > there is a tweet 1 year later about them hanging out > there is a picture of them hanging out 2 years after the awards show.

    Brandon came into the award shows already bias towards Steph’s game because he was a huge fan already. That’s its own problem but there is no proof what so ever of any connection between the 2 as friends.

    TechRaptor consciously decided to post the evidence out of chronological order to fabricate a friendship that did not exist and to fabricate a conflict of interests. If a site is going to try and be the “Real games journalism site” we should hold it to a higher standard and expect them to fact check thing. This is completely bullshit.

  • George on the Go

    No I did not consciously do it out of chronological order. There are far more tweets if you wade through twitter. Again I left it there for people to decide, not to say myself it affected his decision.

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    Then why not include any dates what so ever in your post? If you choose to post your facts out of order you should put dates on all of them to avoid confusing the readers who don’t click on every single source to fact check you. You post intentionally misleading information leading to a conclusion and state that you are leaving it to the readers to decide?

    EDIT: If there are far more tweets why not post the tweets reverent to the timeline instead of one that takes place a year later?

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    Review the dates on the evidence posted of their friendship. The picture was 2 years after the awards were given out and the tweet was 1 year past. These were the damning evidence to say there was a friendship. The article is intentionally misleading. There is no evidence point to the 2 were friends before the award show.

    Speaking of bad journalism

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    This laughable seeing how the article is misleading and omits important details like dates on the proof.

  • Erthwjim

    I still find it hard to believe that Chow remembers a conversation from a few years ago enough to say she definitely didn’t say something. Unless she’s been thinking of the conversation consistently for the last few years, I doubt she’d remember it so clearly.

  • Jambo

    And once again you claim its all wrong with no proof of your own.

  • Guest

    Fix the typos or let someone proofread:

    Forums one time too much or an on missing: “several forum threads such as Giant Bomb’s forums”

    Isn’t it chairman of the IGF?: “chairman of IGF”

    Thirion’s current wife?: “Thirion’s now wife”

    In the span of 1 year?: “in the span one of 1 year”

    All promoting *** without disclosure: “all promoting Thirion or Eliss all without”

    These aren’t the first allegations levelled/This isn’t the first allegation levelled: “This isn’t the first allegations leveed against the IGF”

  • Steph & Tiff were married by the time of Fantastic Arcade 2011. The linked picture was taken a couple days before the award show.

    Doing a quick Google search presents a similar situation at the 2009 & 2010 Indiecade — Steph won for a Faraway in 2010 for “Sublime Experience”. Once again, Tiff shares information/photos of hanging out days before the award show (together with Brandon and Steph):
    https://archive.today/TYGrU

    https://archive.today/n5nYo

  • So Silly

    This is some cheap attempt to make more hay off of the Pinsof alegations (several of which he has already walked back on twitter with no Update to the original article!)

    Disingenuosly pretending that you aren’t trying to stir up more GamerGate rabblerousing:

    “I’m just going to put these cherry picked dots here, if it looks like they form a line then that’s for the audience to decide! I’m not making a statement one way or another”

    Plus lets look at what this is all based on: Tiff Chow allegedly admiting to a table full of journalists that the awards were rigged. Then when she denies it people say “well of course she denies it, she would never admit it to a journalist”. Pinsof even admits he thought it was a joke!

    This whole Pinsof thing is him getting up on a soapbox to yell things he has missremembering and missheard, then quietly accepting that he was wrong about them all after the GamerGaters have stopped listening.

  • George on the Go

    The original article is an interview. We’re sorry if we don’t alter peoples words in interviews like some other websites.

  • So Silly

    I’m not suggesting you change his words or the body of the article but that you add an update at the bottom or the top to reflect that Pinsof has said that some of his central allegations are wrong.

    For instance, that any of the FEZ code was written by McGarth or that the game McGarth worked on had any plot, character, or graphical similarities to FEZ.

    Also that anyone who previously worked on FEZ kept their mouth shut out of fear of reprisals.

    These are central allegations to that article. That the interviewee no longer believes them seems like it’s worth mentioning.

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    The burden of proof lies on the accuser. Her proof of the conflict of interests is dated after the awards show. Its up to her to come up with more evidence.

  • TeLin特林

    Funny you didn’t respond to Pinsoff giving you evidence….

    Goats indeed.

  • Mister N

    All eight articles about Eliss were from 2009

    Faraway won awards in 2011

    I don’t know what’s so hard to follow here

  • Thanatos

    Just a huge web of sleaze. None of these people have an honest bone in their body.

  • Thanatos

    Especially when it behooves her to lie about it.

  • Zed75

    Gamergate was, is, and always will be a witchhunt.

  • Zed75

    Whereas Pinsof’s memory is unquestionably perfect.

  • Zed75

    They also might have mentioned that Brandon’s Gofundme was to pay off medical costs for cancer treatment.

  • Zed75

    This is pretty much in the same vein as the Polytron/IGF “corruption” image that pairs up jurors from 2011 with an award given in 2012. As if jurors could cast votes… across time?

  • Erthwjim

    I did say that in other posts, but pinsof has been thinking about it since it happened, chow not so much. I don’t think pinsof’s memory is perfect, but I think he might remember it better due to the situation.

  • Ben Jeanotte

    Great follow up, though I do wish the other guys would talk to us so we could get a couple of different sides to all this.

  • Zed75

    Really? I think I might remember my own words better than someone else. Especially if what they remembered me saying is something I never actually believed.

  • Erthwjim

    If you’re having hundreds of conversations on a given day, it’s very unlikely that you will remember one with someone that had no significance in your life and was more or less a random journalist to her. And unless she was repeating that particular conversation in her head for the last few years, remembering with the clarity with which she said she did is very unlikely. Now on the flipside, the conversation Pinsof had with her stuck out to him at the time and it’s been something that he’s been thinking of for the last couple years. The likelihood that this short term memory became a long term one is more likely to occur to Pinsof than it is to chow.

    Also a conversation is at least 2 people, what you’re implying is Chow would remember her part of the conversation but Pinsof wouldn’t. This also means Pinsof would remember his part of the conversation but Chow wouldn’t.

  • Zed75

    It’s really a treat to watch the contortions you fellas go into.

    You’ve decided he’s infallible and honest, and she’s either lying about what she said, or lying about whether she remembers what she said. To which I can only say: Classic Gamergate, to a T.

  • Erthwjim

    Actually this isn’t a contortion, it’s something you learn in a basic psychology course, it’s called the three box model of memory. There are many methods to move something from short term into long term memory, one of these methods is called rehearsal, which is what Pinsof seems to have been doing. Now I’ve never said he had a perfect recollection of the conversation, but like Chow he remembers the idea surrounding the conversation, which is how most of humanity remembers things. In addition to this Chow has somehow remembered verbatim something she claims she didn’t say, which is very rare, especially if she hasn’t been thinking of the conversation (rehearsing it) since it happened almost 5 years ago. I’m just sharing information on how memory works and why one person is more likely to remember the conversation than the other. If these facts are confusing to you and seem like contortion, I can’t really say anything except go take a basic psychology course or perhaps something even more in-depth that falls under cognitive psychology.

    Now onto your accusations of gamergate, you say I (or rather gamergate) have decided he’s infallible and honest while in the same breath attributing that infallibility and honesty to Chow. Not much I need to say to that, except maybe, classic anti-gg to a T. Attributing things to gamergate that they themselves do.

  • Zed75

    I never claimed Chow was infallible or honest, merely that Pinsof’s words should carry no more weight than hers. (Although given that Pinsof has recanted a number of his claims, it’s arguable his recollections should be given a good deal *less* weight.) But I guess that’s a tough point to follow, your selective regurgitation of freshman psych notwithstanding.

    And yes, treating casual, unverifiable smears as serious allegations to be rebutted is indeed a Gamergate hallmark.

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    I was refereeing mostly to the indiecade awards which were given in 2009. As for the fantastic Arcade 2011 you are using the readers ignorance of how conventions and awards shows in the games industry to push something as true when it might not be.

    You as a journalist in the games industry should know that grabbing a bite to eat before a convention or conference means absolutely nothing. Over my few years in the industry i have pictures of myself eating and drinking with hundreds of developers and journalists. Pick up meals are the norm as you should know that and be able to differentiate between grabbing a bite and a meaningful friendship that can create a conflict of interests.

    Also another thing you should already know is that Brandon knows almost everyone in the industry. He is one of the most social-able people in the industry. He knew Steph that is a given(whether they are friends or professional acquaintances that remains to be seen) but he also knew pretty much every other entry to the awards also.

    Another thing I am having a hard time connecting is Brandon Boyer to Indiecade. He was the presenter in 2009. That doesn’t mean he has any say in the winner and judging from the selection process http://www.indiecade.com/submissions/Selection_Process/
    I don’t see how he could have doctored anything to win. Or maybe my google-fu just isnt up to snuff but i looked for a while and couldn’t find anything.

    It is also well known that Tiff and Brandon are good friends. That does NOT mean that Steph and Brandon are also friends. Guilty by association then? All it means is that they are more likely to be in the same place at the same time.

    You are taking advantage of the readers ignorance to push something as fact that you have no way of proving.

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    That wouldn’t fit the narrative being woven.

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    Replied. I’ve got a day job let give me some time man.

  • Show_ME_YOUR_GOATS

    Time is irreverent to gamergate. They absolutely REFUSE to believe that the industry has done a damn good job at self policing thus far. Instead of admitting that there is not a problem they fabricate it.

  • Erthwjim

    And I never claimed Pinsof was infallible, I just commented on Chow’s ability to remember, so either you like pulling things out of your ass or your memory is so bad you can’t even remember what you were replying to, but let me quote it for you in case you forget again:

    I still find it hard to believe that Chow remembers a conversation from a few years ago enough to say she definitely didn’t say something. Unless she’s been thinking of the conversation consistently for the last few years, I doubt she’d remember it so clearly.

    Then you used anecdotal evidence of your own, saying you’d remember what you said in a conversation (which I still think you wouldn’t remember some random conversation with someone of no consequence from 5 years ago either, especially verbatim). Then yes after that I selectively chose what to pull from a basic psychology course because the conversation is about memory so why choose to bring in other information. So either you were being dishonest to prove a point about Chow or you really didn’t understand how memory worked so you needed a refresher from what can be found in a freshman psychology class.

    As for Pinsof, he has not retracted any of the conversations, he has just said he may have misunderstood what was being said, specifically when it came to McGrath: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1skget9
    There is no, perhaps I heard something different it’s perhaps what I heard meant something else, a misunderstanding.

  • Zed75

    Am I surprised you don’t know what “prove” means?

    Pinsof loudly claimed he was on a blacklist, and has since walked back on that: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2k8kds/iama_exgame_journalist_who_has_been_used_as/clj32zg?context=10000

    Of course, I’m sure you’ll fnd his explanation persuasive. He’s the straight-shootin’ truth teller GG deserves.

  • Erthwjim

    Again that doesn’t change what was said, it just changes his interpretation of the events. And if you even read the thread:

    The blacklisting thing is more of a narrative that the GamerGate blogger rolled with. He wasn’t wrong; I mean, my employer did email everyone telling them to not talk to or work with me.

    He’s saying gamergate took that as the narrative, that he felt his employer attempted to blacklist him, but in fact he felt he was not blacklisted, as Kotaku and Polygon hired him a few months later. But that doesn’t change the fact that his employer did attempt to blacklist him and who knows what effect that had on other sites.

  • Zed75

    Uh, I’m not going to explain to you what “walking back” means. If you can’t be bothered to look at what he said prior to being called out on it… well, like I said, he’s the journalist GG deserves.

  • TeLin特林

    Well….I hope it’s better than that horrid, biased Kotaku article.

  • DukeMagus

    Can’t be proved at all: she can say anything and deny everything five minutes later.

    it’s not like journalists would walk around with recorders on their pockets every single time

  • Erthwjim

    Here’s the thing, the blacklisting has emails to back it up. His previous boss from destructoid was trying to blacklist him. If you don’t see that, I can’t help you.

    Kotaku were also forthcoming that they didn’t want to work with me until my name cooled down which I appreciated at the time.

    In other words after what happened at destructoid as well as what was said in the GJP group, Kotaku did not want to work with him initially. And no one wanted to hear his side of the story at the time, and why is that? Perhaps because of what was said in the GJP group, perhaps because he was blacklisted, even if for a short period of time with Polygon and Kotaku. But that doesn’t even speak of how other gaming sites treated him. And at the time he didn’t feel he was being blacklisted, that wasn’t until later.

    But given the above, that does not change what was said in the group, and unfortunately you cannot change that either because what was said is captured all over the internet. Now he may have walked back on how he interpreted what was said, but that still doesn’t change what was said in those emails, and that does not somehow change his memory as you implied:

    Although given that Pinsof has recanted a number of his claims, it’s arguable his recollections should be given a good deal *less* weight

    He never recanted his recollections of events, he only recanted his interpretations of them, both with how he viewed the blacklist, since he didn’t even know about that until the emails were leaked so there’s no recollections to recant, as well as with McGrath. So to claim that what he remembers somehow holds less weight than what Chow claims is incorrect since what he remembered has not changed.

  • Zed75

    I got as far as “I can’t help you”, and you know what? I agree.

    Good luck sorting out this guy’s story. With all due respect to your efforts, I can’t take him (or his accusations) seriously enough to care.