Popular YouTuber Says He Won't Cover Game After Twitter Spat

Popular YouTuber Says He Won't Cover Game After Twitter Spat

Should a critic cease coverage of a game simply because a developer does not like them? According to one YouTuber, tensions between himself and a developer are pronounced enough to make any potential coverage that developer's game biased.

Earlier this week, commentator John Bain — known by many as TotalBiscuit, the PC-centric commentator with over two million YouTube followers — tweeted about the recently-launched indie game Titan Souls:

Popular YouTuber Says He Won't Cover Game After Twitter Spat

Here's what one of the artists behind the game, Andrew Gleeson, said in response to Bain's opinion:

Popular YouTuber Says He Won't Cover Game After Twitter Spat
Popular YouTuber Says He Won't Cover Game After Twitter Spat

Things escalated further when later that day, Bain announced that he would no longer continue coverage of Titan Souls. The reason? He felt that knowing that one of the developers had it "out" for him would colour his coverage of the game.

"I was going to explain the game, say why it wasn't for me, and then try to look at it from a different point of view — which I tend to do with pretty much every game I cover," Bain said in a SoundCloud recording where he explained what his initial plans for coverage of Titan Souls were.

"I don't slam games for no reason and indeed I'll try to find things in games that other people might like, especially within genres that I don't personally enjoy. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen now. It really can't, because [Gleeson] has introduced an element of bias into my mind, to the point where I can no longer fairly critique the game he was involved with."

Bain went on to finger wag Gleeson, claiming that Gleeson's behaviour was not very good PR for his game.

"I now know that someone within the Titan Souls team has it out for me, for whatever reason," Bain said. "And as a result, there's no way I can possibly critique the game properly without having that just sitting in the back of my mind. It affects my criticism. It affects my ability to stay as objective as possible."

You can listen to the entirety of the SoundCloud here:

The decision is a curious one. Fans of TotalBiscuit might not be surprised, given that the commentator's brand is very concerned with the appearance of objectivity. Critics of TotalBiscuit on the other hand might wonder if this is a case of Bain being thin-skinned, or a way for him to lash out at the developers over personal squabbles under the guise of objectivity.

While personal tensions between an outlet/critic/personality and developers are not exactly rare — anyone who has been in the media/on Twitter long enough can probably name a developer who is not fond of them, or vice versa — politics such as these do not always change an outlet's coverage of a game, especially not if the readership is interested in the game. But Bain maintains that Gleeson's Tweets could have altered his coverage of Titan Souls in a variety of ways.

"I could overcompensate and be more generous than I should be in an effort to either make peace with the artist, [to] try to be the 'bigger man' or to 'prove him wrong,'" Bain explained to Kotaku in an email. "Alternatively I could go the other way and be overly critical because I've been personally attacked by a member of the development team.

"It is very easy to suggest that one can try to rise above it all and remain unbiased but the reality is that everyone is biased one way or another and the dangerous thing is when you don't have the ability to realise where your bias lies. As a result of that, any opinion I give on that game is guaranteed to be compromised."

Bain also said he feared that potential negative criticism of the game could be seen as "revenge" of sorts, and that he wanted to avoid more drama on social media. Judging from some of the responses on Twitter and on Reddit to the very public SoundCloud announcement, this hope for de-escalation was not exactly successful. For the last couple of days, fans and games developers alike have remarked on the situation on social media, taking jabs at both figures. Yesterday, a few TotalBiscuit sympathizers mobilized to give Titan Souls an overall negative review on Steam. Today, many of these reviews have vanished, though at least one remains:

Popular YouTuber Says He Won't Cover Game After Twitter Spat

Gleeson didn't respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

"I would strongly discourage anyone from posting negative reviews referencing this social media spat," Bain told me. He said he did not want anyone to "engage in petty revenge in my name" and that he doesn't "approve or endorse such actions."

Throughout his SoundCloud and in his interview with me, Bain expressed concern about being as "objective as possible." His definition of objectivity seems to be one where outside factors do not negatively cloud his judgement of a game. It can already be dicey enough to discuss objectivity in the context of reporting (At Kotaku, we actually assume that even reporting can't be objective and expect our writers to simply be clear when they're veering into the realm of opinion). Objectivity in the context of inherently subjective reviews is an even trickier proposition.

Depending on who you ask, the quest for objectivity is either a noble one, or a fruitless one. Some people maintain that objectivity is an impossibility, and the best thing you can do is to be honest about where you're coming from and what influences your thinking — the audience will take it from there. Some would argue that even if complete objectivity isn't possible, it's still worth striving for as best one can.

Regardless of where you stand on objectivity, and regardless of whether or not you think Bain was right in dropping coverage of a game because of personal tensions, one thing is certain: if all critics adopted a similar policy, there would be considerably less coverage of many high-interest games on your outlet of choice. We've certainly heard about plenty of developers who dislike us, but if we think our readers want to know about those developers' games, we're going to cover them, review them and be as fair about it as possible. That said, Bain is a solo critic, and he doesn't have the luxury of assigning a review of a game to another person on the staff, like a more traditional outlet could. Like I said, it's all tricky stuff.


Comments

    Toilet Biscuit.
    I like that. I'm going to steal it.

    Last edited 17/04/15 10:05 am

    He's a commentator... writing about his views on a game... how is that in any way objective in the first place?

    Seriously, the only thing you can objectively review about a game is technical specifications. Once you veer into gameplay, artistic style, game design, etc. it is entirely subjective.

    Last edited 17/04/15 10:11 am

      Indeed. Even something like "This game doesn't appeal to me because of X reason." is subjective because X reason might be something that someone else enjoys. Your personal preferences colour any opinion that you may have on any form of entertainment and to claim otherwise is a Sisyphean goal at best.

        Bang on. You'll hear this in just about any FPS review he does when he spends 5 minutes bitching about the lack of an FOV slider, something that doesn't bother a lot of people, and can easily be worked around, but to TB, is a critical design flaw and insult to him, personally.

          I don't care one way or the other about TotalBiscuit... But considering he covers mostly PC I will say a shooter lacking an FOV slider on PC in this day and age is rather questionable. And is something that simply shouldn't have to be 'worked around' at all.

          For me personally it always makes me wonder if the developers have EVER played a game on PC, and that isn't what I would call a good sign.

          Plenty of people actually do care for a variety of reasons.

          Otherwise anytime an FPS didn't have it you wouldn't see a whole host of forum posts and the likes asking "How do I change the FOV?" from the word go. It also wouldn't be one of the absolute first issues modders tend to try to fix if it is missing or not up to par.

          And if you're not putting one in because you know modders will add it, then I'd call that both lazy and insulting to every single person who is purchasing your product.

          He goes on about FOV sliders because he suffers from simulation sickness, I think he has a valid point to complain about something that makes him feel ill and spread information for others who suffer from similar problems. Not to mention the fact that if you make a first-person game, let alone a shooter, you better have a FOV slider somewhere without me having to go into the files to change it.

      I think he is using 'objectivity' loosely.
      He doesn't mean his whole review is objective (since it can't be), but is devoid of bias and influence from sources outside the game; he wants to the review the game in a vacuum effectively. And the developers comments make him feel that he won't be able to do so, and thus isn't going to cover the game.
      I think he has a fair point and the developer really is the one who took it too far in the first place by acting like an immature child.

        I disagree...

        Take music for example. Can you appreciate the music while thinking the musician is a dickhead? Absolutely! *looking at you, Noel Gallagher*

        Can we appreciate Roman Polanski's skill behind the camera, despite the fact that he's an admitted paedophile? Or the fact that, despite reportedly being a total dick to his actors, Hitchcock was arguably the greatest director of all time? Of course!

        LIkewise, you can easily distance your thoughts on the game from your thoughts on the people that made it. Just because I was a massive Blizzard fanboy didn't stop me from criticizing the many problems that Diablo 3 had at launch... and (very) occasionally I can admit when a developer I don't like *cough EA cough* does some good work.

          The otherside of the coin though is that the artist has never made a direct reference to you.

          Which the developer has done by the way he responded to TB's original tweet.

          ---

          He wants his opinion to be generated based on his usual tastes much like any other reviewer does.

          Bias is the shit that while your opinion might always be negative towards say 3D brawlers, have the potential to sway you more to either side of your normal stance.

          I might not like Grease as a stage show, but odds are I'm going to be more accepting of it if someone else has paid for me to see it.

          Likewise I'd likely be more critical if I paid for myself and others.

          If I pay solely for myself then that's likely the closest I'm going to get to my raw opinion of it

      What part of "..as objective as possible" didn't you understand? Not to mention, gameplay/art style/game design are "entirely subjective"? I don't know how well you thought this comment through.

        Sigh. I usually don't go back to year-old posts to start a fight, but you seem to be itching for an argument so I'll bite.

        What part of "..as objective as possible" didn't you understand?

        The bit where he said 'objectively'. It's an inherently subjective topic, so claiming objectivity is a bit rich.

        Not to mention, gameplay/art style/game design are "entirely subjective"? I don't know how well you thought this comment through.

        Gameplay - subjective. Most people thought the excessive focus on micromanagement in Master of Orion 2 was a flaw in the gameplay, but personally I liked it. See? Subjective. Unless you are talking technical errors (game crashing, that sort of stuff), it's subjective. Hell, I even like the star lanes in the new Master of Orion remake, but alot of people don't - again, subjective.

        Art Style - some people hate the cartoon-y look of the Borderlands games, but I like it. Some people hated the low-res art style of Risk of Rain, but I thought it was lovely. Likewise, some people are totally into hyper-realistic graphics at ultra settings, but that isn't my thing. Again, subjective.

        Game design - pretty intrinsically linked to gameplay, but let's take a game like Alien: Isolation. Some people were expecting the game version of Aliens, but instead they got the original Alien - a claustrophobic horror experience with more focus on atmosphere and less focus on action. The game was fantastic, but it wasn't for everyone. Again, subjective.

        Now, obviously I've thought my comment through... care to do the same?

    He might be being thin-skinned, but at least he's being honest about it. I just hope he has a similar policy for if a developer tweets him "i love you, you're the bestest"

      As you'll see in the link I posted below, he does.

    Ohhhh, that's what this drama was all about.

    I don't agree with how the developer responded, but it does show TB to be kind of a hypocrite.

    What am I missing here? At first it looks like the dev just put it up as a joke, like "whoopty doo, a famous person doesn't like my game".

    So I ask, where is this bit? "I now know that someone within the Titan Souls team has it out for me, for whatever reason".

    Was there a Twitter exchange that's not mentioned here?

      TB believes he is more important than he actually is.

      Seems like everyone is missing the point. The the artist called totalbiscuit “toiletbiscuit.”

      TB has been spending the last year battling colon cancer.

      When TB told people that he had colon cancer a bunch of idiots, starting making fun of him for it.

      This dev made fun of his struggles and cancer patients. It’s really easy to see how TB would take offense to it. I do too.

      Yeah, if that is the extent of the exchange, TB jumped to full paranoia from a pretty innocuous couple of tweets.

      I tend to agree, except for the 'Toilet' biscuit reference. That is then a childish insult and that is what I think he is referring to. But still, it's all over nothing and I don't care either way.

        Huh, I didn't even notice that. And would've put it down to poor phone typing if I had.

      From what I can see, unless there is more to this, TB simply mentioned he found the game wasn't something that appealed to him and stated an objective observation of why. Gleeson then made a response celebrating the fact that TB didn't like the game. Whether in jest or not, there was nothing in the original statement that directly criticised the developers or the game so it was a completely unnecessary, snarky reply directed at TB. It could be that Gleeson just didn't pick up that TB was just explaining the design of the game wasn't his cup of tea, but his response certainly makes it sound like he has a personal beef with TB.

        I've looked at the article a few times now and I still can't find what the beef is, besides those 2 tweets that look like they're in jest to me.

        TB's response was pretty rational (going by the link posted by @bathmatt) and clearly explained why he shouldn't review a game in light of the issues. But I have no idea what the other tweets are that the dev supposedly made 'in January'.

    TB has posted his complete interview responses here if you're interested in the context of his quotes:

    http://blueplz.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/the-complete-set-of-kotaku-interview.html

      Thanks for posting this, I think he's being rational.

    'popular youtuber', well there's an oxymoron if ever there was one. ToiletBiscuit is a self-important douche with an hugely inflated ego to match the 'glass jawed' devs he complains about. He's a prima donna who is convinced of the superiority of his opinion over others. If he was about 'objectivity', then his WTF is... series where he shits on specific games/devs in particular, wouldn't exist.

      Personally- I dont look at it as shitting on games/devs.

      A critique is made to point out flaws, and while a lot of people may not care about an FOV slider, I find in the games I play- it makes a huge difference to what I can see on screen with a wider field of view.

      And in the objectivity argument- a critique by nature is practically impossible to be completely objective- but I respect that he tries to look at things from different perspectives to find things to point out that people may like.

      Call him an asshole, or whatever all you like, but with a subscriber count of over 2 million I can bet more people listen to his opinion than any of us posting comments- which can help to inflate egos

      Last edited 17/04/15 12:02 pm

      How majestically ignorant. Bravo.

        Then enlighten me, losturtel. How exactly is my majestic ignorance of his (imo) self-important videos and podcasts somehow wide of the mark? Or have I been reading into his (again, my opinion in the last 12 months+) pontificating over the last year or so? He never used to be so preachy or scathing, so please, explain to me why, in your eyes, I am so considerably wrong?

        And as sarcastic as that sounds, because fuck, I always sound sarcastic in text, I am legitimately asking. You have a different view and I like to hear your take on TB.

    Who cares.

    Seriously.

    A critic is allowed to trash whatever they want, and whoever created it can tell them to get fucked. It's been like that for yonks.

    If TB wanted to not look petty and self serving he should of just cut reviews silently and not cover the game instead of a SoundCloud rant to make himself look good. Also he shouldn't of posted his original tweet. It wrecks his whole idea of being objective even before the response from the Dev. He's just another in the big toilet of youtube people who think they're smarter/more important than they really are.

    never heard of Total Biscuit.

    Sounds like a dick head to be completely honest.

    When i was a kid i didnt know about devs and critics n all that jazz... i just enjoyed the game without the drama around it.... i try to relive those times cos i actually really enjoy this game, its so cute and pixel perfect.

    No one cares if he is going to review the game or not. If the game is good then even with no reviewers the game will be good. The dev shouldn't have get provoked by the reviewer making a scene out of it.

    He should be proud of the game he made and let assholes be gone.

      So because TB had a different opinion he is an "asshole" and the devs childish response was justified?

    I'm not sure why the developer doesn't like TB but I assume because he tends to lean towards the gamergate side of Twitter and criticising/looking down on the mainstream media and feminism. TB often has arguments with Leigh Alexander (the "gamer is dead" writer), i think it was last month he insulted her personal life by calling her an alcoholic. So there's a lot of venom on Twitter between him and others.

    Personally I liked his critiquing at first but his videos slowly grew more and more unironically "PC master race", being a primarily PS4 player it just got kind of insulting to watch.

    Last edited 17/04/15 12:50 pm

    Well thank god there's a demo for the game so you don't need another person to tell you if the game is good or not.

    "Bain also said he feared that potential negative criticism of the game could be seen as “revenge” of sorts, and that he wanted to avoid more drama on social media."

    I'll agree that Gleeson shouldn't have made the comments about Bain in the first place, it's bad PR and irresponsible for business, but regardless, Bain would have been very aware that making a very public and specific complaint about the comment would result in his fans being outraged.

    His rationale of wanting to "stay objective" seems like a thin excuse at best. If he was honestly worried about objectivity in covering the game, all he had to do was not cover it, yet publicly calling out Gleeson like this has only made him and Titan Souls a target for the mobs of TotalBiscuit followers. This feels more like an immature and spiteful attack than anything, and considering the damage it is causing, you can hardly say it's fair.

    Last edited 17/04/15 1:47 pm

    Trying to be an "objective critic" is an exercise in futiliy. What we like or don't is often emotional rather than rational, so a review is only as useful as the reviewers tastes align with your own. l subbed to TB a long time ago and have watched/listened to all the co-optional podcasts twice. I like watching his port reports where he spends 20 mins going through the options menus, but I haven't watched or read a critic or review of any game in years except for watching good game on youtube (higher res than tv and on demand).

    I watch gameplay on youtube or twitch instead.

    I'm usually on TB's side with a lot of what he says, but in all honesty i think for once TB is over reacting.

    Did the Titan Souls dev act like an immature kid? yeah, but it came off more as a joke than other much worse reactions we've seen from devs.

    But TB coming out and saying he won't cover a game, as if the games success relies on his word comes off way worse than the dev...

    Never heard of total biscuit or titan souls before this article.

    Now I have.

    Still not interested in either.

    First off: Like him or hate him, Total Biscuit IS a bit of a big deal. With little over 2 million subscribers, his reviews (specifically the WTF is... series) get around 300k viewers, up to 550k if it's a highly anticipated game (HM2, BF:Hardline) and that can be a big deal, honestly.

    If he really sold a game nobody had heard of and a just a third of those 300k viewers bought it at let's say $10, that's an easy $1million right there. While I'm probably over simplifying a bit here, it DOES happen, or so the chaps behind Sunless Sea seem to think (see Sunless Sea Sales and Funding Deep Dive, Part III: Early Access and Final Release)

    I'm not saying he's the be all and end all to internet reviewers (though for what it's worth, he is the biggest Steam Curator with 477.5k followers) but if you're a small indie game developer with your first foray into the difficult world of indie game development, a positive word from TB can really help you.

    Titan Souls seems to be the first game by Acid Nerve, a three man company, and by acting the way he did on twitter, the artist may very well have cost them a bit of profit. (MAY. Maybe if TB reviewed it, nothing would have changed. Maybe they would have lost even more sales if he reviewed it. Anything is possible, I'm not a psychic.) As one of the other two guys, I would not be pleased with him, that's for sure.

    IN MY OPINION, I think I do agree with the sentiment that TB is probably doing this out of spite, but we might never know for sure. He claims he isn't, but if he was he'd be hurting the company to spite the one guy.

    Also IN MY OPINION, it wasn't "just a joke" as a lot of people claim. Based on some of the twitter company keeps, this is actually tangentally related to Gamergate, where in TB is seen as a "bad guy" for his initial attempts at trying to be neutral on the topic (before being slightly less neutral because of harassment).

    ----------

    ULTIMATELY, if I have learned anything from this whole thing is that Gleeson, and presumably the other two are Australian, so we should all support this game because Team Australia. Kotaku AU should interview the team or something. Get on it, Mark. Australian developers! Especially since 2K Australia died.

    Also, the game will probably do fine without TB's review. It seems to be getting mostly positive reviews around the place (Steam reviews aside, which are stupid if they're acting out of "defense" of TB, but what can you do? People on the internet, amirite?) so there's probably nothing to worry about. A FEW lost sales, not that big a deal, surely?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now