Just what would make someone plagiarise a video game review? This week on Kotaku Splitscreen, let’s discuss.
Kotaku editor Maddy Myers joins me and Kirk to talk about the wild story of IGN editor Filip Miucin, who was fired this week after a YouTuber accused him of plagiarising a Dead Cells review. Later, Kotaku discovered that Miucin had also previously plagiarised a NintendoLife review, before he started working at IGN.
We also talk about Dead Cells, what makes a good Metroidvania, the appeal of deleting your old tweets, EVO’s best storylines, and why you should watch Better Call Saul.
Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt:
Jason: ...So as we know, plagiarism is one of the worst sins one can commit in journalism, so it’s pretty wild. I think this is the first time I can remember this happening in the world of video game writing and reporting and critiquing. Maddy, I’m curious to hear your thoughts, what you make of this whole situation. Do you think this guy’s career is over?
Maddy: I think so. It’s hard for me to even imagine plagiarising. It’s really tough for me. Just in my personal life, a friend had to fire someone at his job for plagiarising something... When that happened, I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve met her — she doesn’t seem like the type of person who would do that. What is the psychology behind even doing it?’ And I was really fascinated by it, and then this happened, so I’ve really just been thinking about it, and I know I’d never do it, but some people do, and why. It’s kind like the questions we ask about why do people troll other people? What makes people... do things?
Jason: I think with plagiarism, it’s more of an addiction, or a mental illness.
Maddy: Yeah! It’s sad, in my friend’s case, his co-worker was saying she just felt so overworked and she didn’t have enough time to really write the things she was supposed to be writing, and that was her excuse, and she had completely justified it to herself. That was wild to me.
Jason: Yeah, I think you just convince yourself that there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, that it’s OK. I saw some people theorizing that it was because he was in over his head at work, or felt overwhelmed.
Maddy: That is not what I would do if I was overwhelmed!
Jason: Not only that but the examples of him doing it before IGN also paint the picture of a pattern. Kirk, what do you make of this?
Kirk: It’s a really interesting story on a number of levels. I have a few different thoughts. First of all I really feel for the editors at IGN — we know Tina [Amini] over there, who used to work with us, and just because this could very easily happen to us, it could happen to everybody. Our freelancers are great, but we could totally have someone who we had no idea lifted text from a YouTube video that none of us would ever have seen, and there’s no way to know or catch that, especially for a video, which isn’t written down anywhere. But also you trust your writers, you don’t check everything they write against the internet.
I don’t really understand the mentality either, and hesitate to guess too much about why this particular guy did it, but I’ve had similar thoughts to you, Maddy, in the past... [CNN’s] Fareed Zakaria, I remember being shocked by that, only because that guy is really successful. Clearly a good writer, and a really smart person. He’s bounced back, I think if you’re that established, I guess you can fuck up like that and stick around. But it still boggled the mind that you could be that well-known and still somehow think you could get away with this or think you’d even need to.
If you’re feeling overworked and you’re as famous, or even honestly in this case if you’re feeling overworked and you’re an editor at IGN, you’re doing fine, you can say, ‘I can’t write as much as I needed to,’ or something. I dunno. There’s something else going on there that I don’t totally understand.
One wrinkle of this and the fact that this was happening in video games is that a lot of the initial part of both reviews, there was all this cliched games jargon— “smooth gameplay.”
Kirk: Right, the kinds of things people say all the time. And I strive to avoid cliches, but I still do it, everyone does it, especially if you write thousands of articles. You repeat things, you use the same sort of language...
Maddy: I think that might be part of how someone might self-justify that it’s OK, if you have a personality type where you’re able to do that sort of self-justification, you might be like, ‘Well, people come up with similar ideas all the time, people are always using the same kinds of phrases in game reviews, no one would ever fault me for this.’