Reviewer Ben McCurry slipped a harsh criticism of his own employer Brash Games within a review of Pac-Man 256 posted on the Brash Games site. NeoGaffer RichyDevil brought it to light, while JaseC archived the page.
McCurry’s criticism started on the second paragraph:
“…the game becomes a garbled mess that becomes unplayable. A good example of a garbled mess is Brash Games; this very website that strips authors of their writing credits when they leave the site, later attributing them to the sole owner and editor, Paul Ryan, making your work completely pointless, just as Pac-Man is completely pointless after level 256.”
“…avoiding the void becomes truly heart-pounding; coincidentally, this is the same void my reviews will probably disappear into after I leave this site.”
“Everything that we grew to love in the original iterations is still present; the classic sound effects, the musical stings, and even ghosts. Speaking of ghosts, did you know that Brash Games deliberately ghosted themselves from Metacritic, GameRankings, and OpenCritic (marking themselves as “out of business on Meta and GR, which is an outrageous and egregious lie – it’s here right now) to avoid having any sort of public record of reviews available which would have attributed work to the proper authors? It’s true! In fact, when reviewers leave, work gets automatically attributed to “Brash Games”, which is solely operated by Paul Ryan, thus making it seem like he did all the work. OpenCritic are doing an investigation into the behaviour of the site and everything. But what truly deserves investigation is the new alterations added to the game in order to freshen up the format;…”
“Namco Bandai shy away from the sound of silence, which is, at the time of writing, exactly what I received when I announced my resignation to the editor Paul Ryan and clarified I would leave Brash as soon as possible. No email, no apology, no “I wish you the best in your future endeavours”, nothing. Pure radio silence; the only acknowledgement I received was that my name was pulled from the contributors list quietly. Some might call that cowardly – I’ll leave it to your interpretation. Rather, the game exploits low-key techno beats to gracefully update the beloved musical stings and background tracks. And (I promise this is the last time I utilise this painful segue) speaking of exploitation, Brash Games took advantage of naïve young writers, offering them no money, but exposure, which is useless when you essentially pretend your writers did not exist later on down the line.“
“I thought this game was great, but I’m going to – on behalf of Brash Games – award it a 1 out of 10. I do this safe in the knowledge that the editor will change it later without me knowing to fit the score HE would prefer. This is not an exaggeration: review scores selected by authors were changed by the editor without warning, explanation, or consideration, and several alumni of Brash Games corroborate this. As such, I would not want to begrudge my former editor another opportunity to do this.”
“(And now, because this game is a quality product and deserves some dignity, which Brash is totally bereft of, here’s the real review:…”
“By the way, if it wasn’t completely clear, with the publishing of this review, I quit Brash Games for the way it treats its writers, and I will endeavour to make sure new writers do not fall into the same trap. Nobody will pay me for this – it’s not a job that pays in the cash money sense, but the sense of satisfaction that I’ll get from making sure a talented writer doesn’t get taken advantage of is more than worth it. Good luck on Monday for when the OpenCritic report gets released.”
McCurry had this to say on twitter:
Poking around the site, I noticed this disclaimer on the “staff” and “about us” pages, as well as at the bottom of every review:
REVIEW CODE: Here at Brash Games we have a strict Review Code policy, Paul Ryan owner / editor is the only member of staff at Brash Games permitted to obtain review code and distribute it within the Brash Games review team. No other person is permitted to request review code and or send review links or contact the publishers in any way whatsoever. Should you wish to send us review code please email paulryan-at-brashgames.co.uk.
Click “write for us” and you’ll find this:
“While the role does not pay in the traditional cash-money sense, regular contributors will be pushed up the review list quickly and will subsequently have a better chance of landing the triple-A titles come review o’clock.”
It appears Brash Games is upfront about not paying “cash-money”. However, to promise “exposure” and then remove the author’s name from the work is in poor taste and could be considered theft of work.
To freelancers out there, value your time and do your homework.