LOS ANGELES — Despite online rumors to the contrary, budding game critic Tamara Bakker maintained she was not paid for a perfect score she recently awarded — including not being paid by the people who made money hosting it.
“I just think it’s a really good game,” said Bakker, who recently gave a 10/10 score to Windville, a city-building platformer with gliding mechanics. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Yes there were bugs and rough edges but flying through my own city was just so charming. I didn’t even get a review copy of the game. I bought it with my own money. Please stop sending me pictures of my house.”
Bakker and other reviewers recently came under fire from a small group of popular streamers, who felt the aggregate review score for the so-called “cozy, lo-fi” game was too high.
Records from VideoGameCity News, the outlet that published Bakker’s review, show that she was indeed paid nothing for her time. Explained Editor-in-Chief Troy Marshall, “As a matter of journalistic practice, we would never accept money for a good score. We make our money the ethical way: those little outbound links at the bottom of articles that promise weight loss cures or imply Frankie Muniz died.”
“To keep conflicts of interest down even further, we don’t even pay reviewers. So you know it’s fair,” added Marshall.
“[Windville] first came on my radar when a bunch of bots upvoted it on Reddit,” said SkullyBopper13, a popular Twitch personality who mostly streams Battle Royale shooters, while scrolling through the game’s Metacritic page. “Then a few sites were paid off to promote the Kickstarter. Then they took that Kickstarter money, bought a publisher, and that’s when the real astroturfing began.”
SkullyBopper13, who promotes a series of gaming-themed energy supplements during ad breaks, maintains paid reviews deals are common in the industry. “It’s sad. These review sites are practically owned by the publishers,” he added.
At press time, SkullyBopper13 was pondering whether saying critical things about an upcoming AAA title would ruin his chances to renew a sponsorship deal.