UPDATED – 5/6/2017
A few events have transpired since this article was first published. The main development being Brash Games has not shut down, they returned a few days after the news of their demise first spread and returned to producing reviews as if nothing happened. The owner, Paul Ryan, issued a short apology for their “mistakes” and that was it, yet the apology post was edited throughout the day. The post was amended to deflect blame onto Open Critic, their writing staff and pretty much anyone but themselves. After many edits, the post was ultimately taken down. Jim Sterling did yet another video about this subject, focusing on this non-apology. One bone of contention was that Paul Ryan publicly aired mental health issues of two of his former writers and shamed them for their troubles.
Meg was an amateur writer who was given a trial at Brash Games, but failed to meet the minimum requirements of 2-3 articles per month. Unfortunately she was let go for constantly failing to meet deadlines and for failing to provide reviews for titles she had received. We had been extremely lenient with Meg due to her mental heath issues but at the same time as taking games from us for review, she was also volunteering at various newspapers posting articles for free in a bid to boost her portfolio but had no problem submitting those articles. Olly Smith was also let go for similar reasons.
This wasn’t the first case of Brash Games placing blame on their writers. Earlier evidence reveals an e-mail Mr. Ryan sent his current staff after the scandal first broke accusing former writers of contacting publishers behind his back for free games. However, this went beyond that, this violated people’s trust by discussing their private health issues on a public platform which is not legal in the UK where Brash Games is based. One of the writers in question, Meg Bethany Read, wrote her own opinion piece on the subject to clear the air and state her side of the story. It’s a shame that anyone would have to defend themselves over something so personal, but Paul Ryan can’t even apologize without creating his own narrative, needing to drag everyone down into the mud along with him.
So why did Open Critic make such a meal of it ? They wanted to use Brash Games and this so-called scandal as a springboard to announce themselves to the gaming community (GamersGate style), after all their previous attempts had failed. They were shunned by publishers, developers and the gaming public. That’s why they started to drip feeding parts of their so-called investigation on game forums to build momentum and anticipation for the big reveal and to say “Hey look we’re here to weed our corruption and wrongdoing in the games industry”. An unnamed source told Brash Games “They (Open Critic) had to do something, they had failed to make inroads into the aggregation field and Metacritic are still firmly regarded as the industry standard so they set about finding a scapegoat, someone who wouldn’t fight back or make a scene, a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter and unfortunately that was Brash Games run by a cripple in a wheelchair, you know the one. Talk about an easy target”. What followed was a game of chinese whispers and suddenly I was responsible for everything, even the air strikes on Syria, no I’m not that Paul Ryan.
Fear not, though! Now you can own a piece of history because after a month of scandal, exposes, and miserable failures to apologize, it would seem that Brash Games is now up for sale. There is no telling how long this offer will be available as it seems Paul Ryan -no, not that one- changes his mind often but the sale is advertised currently on the Brash Games website as well as their Twitter. I cannot comment on the legality of selling the entire website, along with the reviews written by other people who were already unpaid and now have no credit to their articles but it would seem anyone who buys the site gets the whole package. Stay tuned for more developments on the situation.
<Original article published 4/25 begins>
It’s been a pretty hard month for Brash Games, a site that posts video game reviews and other related articles. At least, it did. Until very recently, the site was functioning as usual, producing new content despite many news articles and YouTube videos discussing their shady activities. Now, trying to visit their site (http://brashgames.co.uk/) will get you a nice page advertising that the domain is for sale. This shutdown comes after a month of exposes on Brash Games on how they treat their writers and even how the site would sneak in advertisements for gambling websites despite claiming to be an “ad free” site.
The train wreck started on April 8th, 2017 when Kotaku broke the news of Brash Games abusing their writers by discussing former BG writer Olly Smith who brought to light some of their wrongdoings. Ben McCurry added fuel to the fire with his review of Pac-Man 256 which contained blatant call outs of how Brash Games treats people, and highlighted the fact no one at the site proofreads articles before posting them, allowing McCurry to air tons of dirty laundry in the most spectacular way possible. With Smith’s numerous Twitter posts denouncing Brash Games as well, McCurry confirmed a lot of it, adding onto it, the ball started rolling and didn’t stop for the entire month.
Among some of Brash Games’ many sins include: Removing writer’s byline credit on their articles once they left the site, altering review scores without the consent of the writer, and ghosting itself from Metacritic, OpenCritic and other ranking sites to avoid there being an archive of their reviews. However, this did not stop OpenCritic from investigating the con and publishing a highly detailed report on many of the site’s indiscretions. Ben McCurry also wrote a comprehensive article about his time at Brash Games and why he left and acts a perfect one-read summary of the nightmare of a business Brash Games was. Of course many other ex-writers have also taken to social media to air their grievances with the site creating a lot of talk within the video game and writing communities.
The Brash Games trainwreck united the gaming community, even for a short time, and shed light on some of the unethical sides to video game journalism. It didn’t stop with just Kotaku’s article, even landing on Forbes’ website and Yahoo!. YouTubers such as KiriothTV and Jim Sterling added scathing exposés about the company and its owner Paul Ryan (not that one) unearthing more evidence than I can even write about here. The most interesting piece being Brash Games having a link to gambling sites, claiming to run “ad free” but having a host of articles that contained links to these gambling sites. Part of the detective work noted that these articles were paid for by said gambling sites to be on the site thus discrediting their claim of being “ad free” and also “unbiased.”
As a novice freelance writer myself, I do admit to having considered writing for Brash Games personally, I even reached out to them and was going to do so until all this news landed. Because of which, I kept abreast of the situation wondering where everything was headed. I was eager to write for them, they offered a lot of lovely titles to work with as well. But as more ex-writers came out with their own horror stories and friends who are in the video game industry warned me away from Brash Games, I realized it was best to avoid them and I’m glad I did. It’s a shame that such practices aren’t new and probably won’t stop, taking advantage of young writers and not only not paying them but also removing their credit from their hard work. It’s a harsh industry that even I won’t begin to say I fully understand and hearing about stories like this can be disheartening, however, thankfully there are still good journalistic sites for people eager to jump in and discuss video games. R.I.P. Brash Games, you brought this upon yourself.