IGN sacks writer amid YouTuber plagiarism controversy

image source, Motion Twin
image captionMotion Twin's Dead Cells: The game at the centre of the controversy

Prominent gaming news website IGN has apologised and sacked a writer who was alleged to have plagiarised a game review.

The company was criticised after YouTuber Boomstick Gaming found similarities between his review of Motion Twin's multiplatform title Dead Cells and IGN's review of the same game.

Although the IGN review has since been removed, it can temporarily still be accessed via Google's webcache service.

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In response, IGN have removed the review from their website, apologised to Boomstick Gaming and "parted ways" with the reviewer.

"We take our review process seriously," read an official statement. "We apologize to our readers, developer Motion Twin, and most especially the YouTuber known under Boomstick Gaming...

"After taking the time to investigate, we've determined there were substantial similarities between a review posted weeks earlier and our review that could not be justified...

"The review itself was simply not acceptable. We've parted ways with the writer involved."

How has the YouTuber responded?

image source, Boomstick Gaming
image captionAlex K has been making videos on YouTube since 2006, and began to find a following in 2018

Speaking to the BBC, Alex K - the man behind the Boomstick Gaming YouTube channel - explained his ideal outcome did not include the IGN writer losing his job.

"As for [the writer]," Alex K said, "this was his first video review for IGN.

"It is slightly understandable to seek knowledge from someone who has done multiple reviews before, but it should not have been replicated in this manner.

"I foster no ill will towards [him] and do not encourage the firing of this gentleman.

"I have been unemployed for six months now and would not wish this burden on anyone.

"I do not know much about the writer... but hopefully he finds a career soon."

And he confirmed he has been contacted by IGN Editorial Manager of Games Tina Amini, who offered her apologies to him and said she understood the efforts made by "passionate people" like him in their work.

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What are the similarities between the reviews?

Alex K identifies 10 similarities between the two reviews in a video posted to his Boomstick Gaming YouTube channel.

Among his complaints, he claims both videos follow a similar structure, and refers to several incidents of phrases and sentences he says were lifted almost word-for-word.

For example, in one part of his review, Boomstick Gaming calls the combat system in Dead Cells "fast, fluid, responsive and one of the most rewarding representations of 2D combat of the entire genre".

While in their review, IGN say, "fights are fast, fluid, responsive and hands-down one of the most gratifying representations of video game combat I've ever experienced".

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How common is this?

YouTube has had a long, complex relationship with copyright.

Its controversial Content ID system has proven to be effective - although not perfect - at identifying when someone has used unlicensed music or footage.

But it cannot do anything about the alleged plagiarism in this case, where the footage and audio is different, but both videos may appear to follow a similar script.

Nonetheless, there are countless YouTube videos of people making such allegations every day, with popular YouTubers often accused of adapting content from smaller channels.

And with this type of plagiarism so difficult to spot, Jason Schreier, news editor of game website Kotaku, called for people online to refrain from being critical of IGN.

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What do the game developers think?

There is another side to this controversy - how it affects Motion Twin, who developed the video game which lost its 9.7/10 review from IGN overnight.

In a statement to the BBC, Motion Twin called the situation "quite uncomfortable".

"The public shaming and witch hunting that occurred on social media seems unnecessary and downright immature given the circumstances," read the statement.

"From this perspective it was refreshing to see the way that Boomstick, the real injured party, handled himself, always remaining civil and strikingly human.

"In any case we can have a more constructive public discussion than what we've seen so far.

"Some have asked about how we feel about losing the review. The rest have been stellar, and IGN will do another.

"In any case the internet drama will have more than made up for any lost visibility, it's just a shame that it had to come at such a cost and contribute to more online negativity."

By Tom Gerken, BBC UGC & Social News

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