The Slow Demise of IGN

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How to start… well… let’s just say that the contents of this piece have changed dramatically over the course of the last 5 of 6 weeks as IGN steadily became less friendly to those trying to help it, in much the same way that addicts can’t see there is a problem until they end up in an Ambulance having overdosed themselves for the umpteenth time, IGN seems oblivious to their own predicament.

This is not a friendly happy piece, I’m well aware that I am the sort of person to try and find humour in anything and everything, but for a change this is solely intended to be serious as I can possibly be… apologies in advance… but I doubt I’m the first person to have seen a website they used to enjoy decide to kill itself off in such spectacular fashion.

The Beginning

Up until late 2011 my main site for gaming news was Gamespot, it had its issues, the moderators seemed to be Sony fanboys, they sacked one of their greatest Editors over a review of a game they had clearly received a lot of advertising revenue from, compounded this error by then purging hundreds of user reviews of the same game written in protest… but what are a few “niggles” between friends.

Now at this time I was, it’s safe to say, a dickhead… my personal moderation history ran to several pages, and most of them were probably warranted… some however, seemed to be purely because I had dared criticise the PlayStation, and at that time there was a lot to criticise the PlayStation 3 for… like the price tag (around $600 I the US, but closer to $825 in the UK with the exchange rate) but in November 2011 they changed the site… big time.

They dramatically over hauled the site, dropped thousands of reviews from users, tried to kick up some clicks by deliberately issuing some games with dubiously scored reviews… it was too much for many… including me.

On 13 November 2011 a new visitor to IGN created an account, new site, new perspective… and, most importantly, the opportunity to post blog pieces which had played a big part of my Gamespot experience.

The Next Step

IGN was like plenty of other sites, fanboys on both sides arguing the toss, having an irrational hatred for anything not on their console, but most of it was generally light hearted… big game reviews would get upwards of 65,000 comments which is staggering… at current time of writing they’re lucky to get more than two to three thousand.

Then they switched their comment system, from Disqus, which was a user favourite but (apparently) a sod to moderate… which is where I really joined the fold… I replied to a piece asking for new moderators and, a month or so later, after they’d vetted all the applicants (and gone into some serious detailed checks of my posting history) an invitation to join was made and on 1 December 2015 the tag “moderator” was added to my account.

This is where I had intended to start my IGN piece when I first started submitting to XOne Bros… back then the piece was to be entitled “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” and was to go into a little more detail of how a team of moderators works.

It still will, in a way, but it’s not quite got the same ending.

Now moderators get bad press from website users, usually those who post the sort of comments that get deleted or think it’s perfectly fine to post racist rants and pictures of penises.

What these users don’t see is the torrent of filth and abuse posted on the site they use and enjoy… the Uncharted 4 review, which had the audacity to only award the game 9, saw threats of violence (both physical and sexual) towards the female reviewer… there were a lot of bans handed out after that one… yet the fact that the moderating team deleted hundreds of abusive comments goes unseen.

All of these comments were posted by people who hadn’t played the game, had no way of knowing whether or not they were valid criticisms, had only seen the occasional trailer… but why let things like that get in the way of a good rant, it was Uncharted 4 god dammit, that very name alone warrants a 10/10 review.

After clearing these out for a week I started to feel I had made an error of judgement… after all I’d applied to become a moderator with the intention of helping make the site better… yet it was clear that this wasn’t happening… it was only the beginning.

The Slippery Slope

Now nobody in their right mind expects a site to be fanboy free… it’s just not going to happen, some (and I’ll name drop a regular user of the site here who’s name became legendary… BlizzardIsGaming… who seems a decent enough sort having chatted via Live messages) do it in a very tongue in cheek fashion… many a time I’d be clearing out comments and the thought would occur to me, “if I see one more comment in the ModQ from them then the ban-hammer falls” and he’d stop… no more posts, it was like he knew.

Quick explanation here, if you’re in an IGN comment section and you see the phrase “The Comment Was Deleted” then chances are it wasn’t deleted at all, any reported post presents the moderator with 3 options, Approve whichs marks it as okay, Delete which was only used when you’d ban someone (because that way they couldn’t change the post at a later date) or Bozo… which removes it from everyone else’s feed but leaves it intact on that users feed, this was the most commonly used option.

Further explanation… ModQ… when a comment is flagged by a user it appears in a queue of items for the team of moderators to review, hence a ModQ, which we would access through the Livefyre site itself… pro-tip here, if you flag a comment in the threads and pick “Disagree” as the reason why you’re reporting it… you’re wasting your time, those posts don’t even hit the ModQ.

Back on point… the fanboys became more and more rabid, more and more bans were issued, and then Livefyre changed its look on the moderator end and a lot of functionality vanished, if I tried to find a particular user by name then I was screwed… to the point where if I entered my own user name I wouldn’t show up on the results until page 6.

I was in contact with a Livefyre/IGN technician for a week or so, before my emails got ignored… then the IGN staff member who acted as the go between for us and the site left… and, even now, over 15 months later… hasn’t been replaced… more on that later.

Because the “new improved” Livefyre was falling apart a ban started to mean nothing, you’d ban someone and they could be back posting inside a minute… so you’d ban someone who was posting porn (which carried a permanent ban) and inside 60 seconds they’d be back posting again, usually with a username very similar to the one just banned to mock.

You see… IGN doesn’t require you to use a legitimate email address, you can just make one up, as long as it has an @ symbol in there it doesn’t give a monkeys chuff whether it’s real or not.

One user has had, at a low estimation, over 1,500 banned accounts… and what can the website do about it? Plenty. What are they prepared to do about it? Sod all.

Final Straw

Still without any go between with the site a senior mod quit, then another… and then, when the news hit that our previous “leader” Kallie Plagge had left because the site weren’t prepared to do anything about the sexual harassment she was suffering, another left in protest… and fair play to him, he stood up for what he believed in in the only way he could.

Still there was no dialogue between the site and those people who were trying to keep the site afloat… and here’s a kicker, what do you think those who act as moderators get as a reward for all their efforts? Virtually nothing, Prime Membership for free… but you can get the same effect by using an ad-blocker.

We were given the go ahead to recruit new moderators, all of those still doing the job would find and recommend potential new candidates… and then, when we had a good dozen or more people lined up… any communication with the site stopped once more.

It’s sort of like banging your head against the wall until it bleeds… the site is now filled with fanboys who think Donald Trump is the second coming, racists, sexists, porn posters, religious bigots and for who the very essence of evil is someone who argues for equal rights… they have their home.

If the fanboys were at least entertaining it would lessen the impact, but the days of a well worded “stealth troll” comment from the aforementioned BlizzardIsGaming are long gone, he continues to post under a new account (the IGN reviews editor banned the original account, and moderators are supposed to enforce bans like that) but those get lost among the expletive filled rants and hatred… as you worked through the ModQ you could almost feel the IQ points dropping off your score.

I quit using my moderator account… the tags had disappeared for some reason so while the protocol was to want someone posting troll comments, that warning carries no weight with no tag next to your name… and quietly continued under a new name… I still posted blogs, but finding others to read was become harder amidst a wave of spam blogs plugging live sports streaming, or game hacks for Pokemon or GTA… then the final nail in the coffin was confirmed.

Posting blogs had become increasingly hard, the option to “Post New Blog” vanished, and I had to use a work around just to post anything, then, at the start of January a message appeared when I went to post a new piece… officially killing the blog function, even worse, they dismissed it as having been “an experiment” which, to me, was an insult too far.

The one major feature of why I joined the site, was written off as being a mere experiment… I’m not alone in feeling this was the final step, the final kick to the balls by a site that simply doesn’t care about its users, just about getting the clicks… I’d been able to ignore the gradual movement away from gaming, the comic book reviews, the movie reviews, the obvious shill pieces, the way they’d manage to get 6 or 7 articles out of one trailer, the plugging of their own products and the heavy handed way that editors would deal with people who disagreed with them… even if that user was polite as hell in the process.

I’ve quit the site, deleted the Slack app the moderation team used to communicate (which was a definite boon in some times as you’d be able to chat with others who knew exactly why you were frustrated with the role you’d volunteered for) signed out of Livefyre and deleted the site links from my favourites toolbar.

The site has gone to the dogs, and doesn’t seem to give a crap about it just as long as people click the links, watch the ads and basically do whatever the hell they want knowing that the site won’t do a thing to stop them.

So… anyone know a good website where you can post the occasional blog piece?

Mark Schutz

Based in the heart of the United Kingdom and old enough to remember when “old school” was just “school”. Multi-console owner who has never understood why some people feel the need to defend one console just because of the name on the box. Former IGN moderator (but much better now thanks) who has come out of that with a much improved outlook on video games. Can be found on Xbox Live or PSN under the name TTDog666