Update: Brandon Justice No Longer Works At EGM Now
Some of you might be asking “who’s Brandon Justice”, and the answer is that he is the former ‘Executive Editor’ (we’ll leave the discussion of what that title even means, considering everyone’s some sort of editor these days, for another time) at EGM Now. He wrote this thing. Which led me to write this thing. All in all, things were had aplenty.
Now I was tipped off that mister Justice might have been fired from EGM, so I did some light investigating and found that he does indeed no longer work there. The boss at the site, publisher Steve Harris, insists that Brandon Justice was not fired over Colonial Marines, but that it “is actually related to actions that took place prior to last week“. It is left hanging whether or not he was fired at all, or left of his own will, but it seems like what is not being said here is as significant as what is.
Let us go through this little editorial and I’ll quote the bits I find significant. He starts off by stating his intention:
This post will hopefully let me set the record straight on how EGM handles reviews in general—and this particular piece specifically.
Which seems like a fair reason. Question were raised, and he feels like they should be addressed. Now after the opening paragraph, he follows up with this one, which I will quote in full.
Let me begin by stating that I find it more than slightly ironic that many (if not most) of the critics who have questioned the veracity of Brandon’s opinions are doing so by passing erroneous speculation off as fact themselves. EGM wasn’t paid off. EGM didn’t sell advertisements to Sega or Gearbox or receive any compensation from anyone associated with Aliens: Colonial Marines. EGM didn’t attempt to change or influence Brandon’s opinions. And EGM has always, and will always, stand behind our reviewers regardless of criticism.
I am willing to accept that no payoffs happened here. I wouldn’t put it past certain publishers or even developers to maybe attempt a payoff occasionally, but I do not believe this is in any way a common occurrence, because there’s a lot more risk than reward in such a situation. It is more likely that someone, somewhere, in the chain of command took it upon themselves to make a poor decision. Or maybe that’s not the case either. Maybe mister Justice is simply a huge Aliens fan, and had an absolute blast with this game, and truly felt it deserved 9/10. He’s just not a good enough writer to explain why he thinks the game deserves that, and instead writes a review that reads more like a wonderfully sarcastic takedown of the game, until you see the score and realise they’re trying to pass this off as genuine. Maybe it was done as a dare. Whichever it is, reviews will always be subjective opinions, but reviewers should have the skill to be able to justify them with their writing.
It does seem a little curious how he so emphatically states that EGM weren’t paid off in any way, or in any way tried to influence mister Justice. And they received absolutely no money for that giant background ad they were running, apparently. A cynical man might read this and think they are shifting the blame over on mister Justice himself, but surely not, as the final line clearly states that they always have, and always will, stand behind their reviewers. The next paragraph is largely devoted to expounding upon this statement, and explaining the pressures of running a magazine, online and off, and mister Harris actually feels certain enough to challenge anyone to name even a single occasion where he didn’t stand behind his reviewers. Definitely laudable. We’ll see if anyone steps to the challenge, but I haven’t found anything yet.
So, how does one of EGM’s reviewers find laudable, if not exemplary, things in a game that everyone else panned? Because reviewing any type of product or media is a subjective process. Some people connect with certain things in different ways. EGM provides an internal oversight of the reviewing process to ensure that games are played to completion and scores properly reflect the written review in all instances.
This is actually a pretty good point, and also a dig at those who suggested that maybe mister Justice hadn’t actually played the game, and had only seen the demo. Which is a rather ridiculous claim, but this is the internet after all.
Many have taken issue with Brandon’s view that—at least based on his respective scores—Aliens: Colonial Marines is a better game than Halo 4.
Now, I don’t especially like when people compare games like this, even games that are ostensibly in the same genre. There are many people that have problems with the Halo series, regardless of the actual quality of the games, and while it’s strange, it’s not impossible that mister Justice simply liked A: CM better. While I can understand why they do it, I tend to get annoyed with people who just look at the reviews of two different games and claim that one is ‘better’ because it has a higher score. Unless the two games are trying to do the exact same thing, such a comparison is pointless.
Personally, I’m with the masses in not agreeing with that conclusion, but my opinion (or yours) doesn’t diminish Brandon’s feelings to the contrary. It also doesn’t mean that Brandon has this point of view because someone put cash into his or EGM’s pocket.
This starts by just saying, quite fairly, that mister Justice is allowed to have his own opinion regardless of whether anyone else agrees with it. It ends by stating again that no money was given to cause such a review. When dealing with the internet, a bit of repetition can be helpful, but I do again find it interesting how this less emphatic statement of ‘no payoff’ is made to include mister Justice, while he was excluded above.
Any review should certainly be subject to criticism, but censoring an opinion or reshaping a particular reviewer’s point of view into something other than their own personal feelings is, in my opinion, worse than publishing a review that others may feel is “wrong.”
Agreed, but what if there is actual valid criticism, like pointing out factual errors? Maybe that’s a discussion for another time. He does follow up in the next paragraph by saying:
Make no mistake: It’s absolutely fair to challenge any review, not just those that fall outside the average of our peers.
And assures people that EGM do not edit comments, unless they contain “personally hateful speech directed at other users“.
We also recognize that our print, digital, and online users rely upon our reviews in making purchasing decisions, and we take that responsibility seriously.
It’s good that they’re aware of this. I read both mister Justice’s Colonial Marines review and his earlier (and also debated) review of Dead Island, and I’m not quite so sure he was aware. I’ve had games I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but I’ve still kept in mind that they would not be a good fit for everyone, and made sure to mention that if I wrote about the game. I didn’t really notice any such reservations in mister Justice’s writing, and that seems both curious and poor. Maybe he doesn’t think that’s an important part of reviewing. Maybe he’s just a bad writer. Here’s an excerpt from the next paragraph, regarding the background ad.
The Aliens: Colonial Marines background was created by EGM, not the game company. It was not designed on behalf of the publisher. The background doesn’t link out to anyone. No one from Sega or Gearbox asked us to create it or publish it. And not one penny was paid for it to be there. Combine this with the fact that the background was first added to the website nearly a year ago, and a lot of the conspiratorial emphasis many placed on it evaporates.
Is this a thing that gaming websites do? I must admit that the ones I tend to read rarely, if ever, have custom backgrounds for specific games, so I fall into ignorance on this subject. And a cynical man might read the final line as admission as to how much emotional investment they had into the game being good, and couldn’t make themselves say otherwise. That’d probably be a stretch, though.
As far as the review is concerned, I’ll leave it to Brandon Justice to more fully expand upon the reasoning of his review if he wants.
That is what the review should have done in the first place, though. Well, moving on to the issue of mister Justice’s employment.
Some of you may have heard that Brandon Justice is no longer with EGM. This is true. But before speculation once again overwhelms fact, let me state that his departure has absolutely nothing to do with his Aliens: Colonial Marines review and is actually related to actions that took place prior to last week. Brandon is free to share these reasons if he so chooses.
So yeah, it’s confirmed, even if they don’t want to give up the reasons. It would be interesting if mister Justice made an official statement on this, but honestly I’m not holding my breath.
The rest is just more about how EGM stands by its reviews and reviewers, and some fluff. So there we have it. I will state again that I believe them when they say there was no payoff. It just seems too fantastic to be true that they’d get money to boost such a prominent game. I am currently most inclined to believe that Brandon Justice is simply a poor writer. Can we now move on to other things? Probably not! The saga continues, as they say.