One story that’s been exceptionally big in the gaming industry these last few days is the case of the now-former Nintendo Editor for IGN, Filip Miucin. The writer was let go from the company after his review of an indie title turned out to be copied almost in its entirety from a small YouTube channel, but it has since been proven that Miucin has resorted to plagiarism on numerous other occasions. As a video game journalist myself, it’s been especially interesting for me to watch this whole fiasco unfold.
For any writer, avoiding plagiarism—even accidentally—is a part of “Writing 101.” That is, you’re taught typically very early on that it’s just plain wrong. In my case, this lesson came during my regular school years. I remember my teachers reminding us not to plagiarize on several occasions especially after reaching high school. The number of written reports we had to turn in then was far higher than in primary school. Speaking of those reports, I do vividly remember two distinct groups of folks: those who would spend time painstakingly putting reports together, and the “Wikipedia Lovers.”
The Wikipedia Lovers were a particularly humorous crowd. They consisted of students who thought that it was perfectly reasonable to lift entire Wikipedia entries, distinct blue hyperlinks and all, and just put their names at the top of the paper. I don’t think there was ever a time that a “report” like this wasn’t smacked with a giant failing grade, with the teachers exclaiming over the fact that this amounted to being sloppy plagiarism at best.
I was with the crowd; those who would actually try to write out a report in our own words. Writing has always come naturally to me (not to brag at all, but simply to provide context), so I always did what I could to make reports as original as possible, while citing sources where appropriate. This format is what we were taught to be the correct way, and sure enough, it’s quite similar to how I write stories for my current job—which is what you’re reading right now.
It’s basic education that plagiarism is way past wrong.
Thus, without a doubt, Miucin (and any other “writer” that’s committed similar actions) has no defense in this situation. If my tiny country of fewer than 400,000 people could have this simple rule in its basic curriculum, I believe it’s safe to say that most kids that also get a basic education are taught plagiarism must always be avoided. After all, it just ties into a common rule of human courtesy—stealing is wrong. However, plagiarism isn’t just wrong because it’s stealing; it’s wrong because it pretty much destroys your entire platform as a “writer.”
Being a writer is a profession very similar to others such as singing, dancing, or being a pilot. How so? That’s due to all these professions being of a technical class; they require a very specific technique to be done properly. Thus, folks in these professions tend to have a knack for them, usually acquired naturally and refined through constant practice. This is in contrast to other, less demanding jobs like being a cashier. No offense to any cashier out there of course, but jobs like that only call for fundamentally basic skills that most have.
There’s a difference between being a writer and being able to spell out words on a paper. For instance, you likely wouldn’t consider filling out an application as being in the same league as writing an entire report on a topic. That’s where the technical skills come in.
When it comes to gaming journalism specifically, a lot of people tend to get a kick out of it when I tell them that this is my job. The usual reaction tends to be something along the lines of: “Wow, that sounds like a dream job! You must have a lot of fun.” I do agree that this is a fun job, but it’s not literally all “fun and games” all the time. Playing games for entertainment and playing them for critique feels completely different, and writing about them is a whole other situation.
Writing about video games sounds like a fun job—and it is. But, it has its difficulties, as does any other writing-based job.
Despite having a “natural knack” for writing, I often find myself a little frazzled when trying to put an article together. Often, it’s difficult for me to get the thoughts in my head out onto a webpage in the “right” way, and that’s even if I can get a solid idea for a topic in the first place. Even writing news reports can be hard sometimes. That’s why I can’t help but be a bit annoyed when some folks write off this job as being “easy” despite not having done it a day in their lives. And it’s also why plagiarism is so frowned upon. As a writer, you understand the effort a fellow writer puts into a piece. So, for someone to just shamelessly lift it for their use can definitely be infuriating. Not only that, but in opinionated pieces especially, plagiarizing totally devalues the work.
This particular controversy with Miucin was sparked by a review. While no work should be plagiarized, doing so with a review is especially egregious as a review is meant to be someone articulating their thoughts and feelings about their personal experience with a product/service. So, plagiarizing a review is pretty much pointless since everyone has their own mindset. For instance, you and a group of friends can all watch a movie at the same time, and you will each walk away with your own personal take on it. Thus, reviews are important because they’re meant to be informative. As YouTuber DreamcastGuy mentioned in one of his videos about this controversy, game reviewers painstakingly put together their pieces by carefully analyzing a game and bringing out their findings in written/video form. These are meant to be a benefit, not just to consumers who are interested in purchasing the game, but also to the developers behind the titles themselves as it tells them how good of a job they did. Since each reviewer has will have their own personal takeaways, they usually end up identifying different things (unless there are general pros and cons). All in all, this feedback is important since it gives readers a good overview of what they should expect, and the creators areas to look over so they can make improvements if necessary.
I’m not sure what exactly led Miucin to do what he did, but I put it in the same boat as the aforementioned Wikipedia Lovers from school. What it all really boils down to is laziness. As I’ve said, this job can be difficult, but that’s never a good excuse. If anything though, I hope this situation sheds some light on how intricate our work as writers is. Outliers aside, we really all do try to put a lot of effort into creating engaging stories for our readers. Having to put up with the backlash from “Internet folk” and the pressure of the workload puts a strain on us all, but we do what we can to pull through it because we enjoy what we do. Miucin played by other rules, but I at least hope this situation teaches him to reevaluate his priorities, and whatever he ends up doing in the future, I hope he takes the opportunity to change his work ethic for the better.