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.
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.
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.