Change.org is a fascinating website. It’s a very accessible way to garner attention for a cause that you genuinely care for. But of course because everyone can use it sometimes it’s used for satirical petitions.
One of these satirical petitions is a more recent calling for the cancellation of Far Cry 5.
Far Cry 5 is an upcoming game that depicts its villains as a southern American messianic christian cult, which prompted a lot of discussion on whether the publisher of the game Ubisoft was making a statement against right-wing christian extremism. This led to the petition suitably named “Cancel Far Cry 5” which argues that the depiction of the villains are offensive to Americans and that they should change the villains.
Now anyone who reads the petition can clearly tell this is fake. The petition contains obvious satirical strawmen of right-wing politics and the 2014 hashtag movement Gamergate. It contains ramblings of Ubisoft promoting race mixing, saying how gamers are rejected by romantic partners, referring to the late French philosopher Voltaire as Boltair and even calling for racial diversity among the crazy cult despite the fact that they criticized race mixing in the very same petition, and saying that they don’t have to change anything for the French audience.
Yeah it’s painfully obvious that this petition was meant to mock right-wingers as well as gamers who criticize social justice politics in games in general. Yet that didn’t stop sudden blitz of video game news sites reporting the petition as a serious thing.
Within 6 hours 16 articles were made about the petition, and none of them seems to even remotely suggest that it could be satirical. The only article that suggested that it was satire was Forbes which is a site that does not primarily focus on video game journalism.
16 articles—all published within 6 hours.
Every single one an attack on gamers.
— Best Mom Eva (@mombot) May 30, 2017
So what exactly is going on here? Are video game journalists just utterly incompetent at fact checking? Or is there something more sinister going on?
Well for one the practice of multiple journalists agreeing to target one subject within a short time span is nothing new. During the time when Gamergate began to take ground there was a sudden blitz of articles on video game websites which all just so happened to talk about how the identity of gamer was dying.
And it turned out that this blitz and similar ones were clearly done intentionally through a google group called “Game Journo Pros” where journalists would collaborate on targeted journalism to attack people but also to give certain people close to them attention. And indeed this group was responsible for the “gamers are dead” articles.
Could this be a similar thing? Where a group of journalists find something and so happen to all target that one petition? Or was it just a case of monkey see, monkey do? Well, there is evidence that something even more sinister is going on. This may not just be a targeted attack against something. But a targeted attack against a target that they themselves created.
Yes there seems to be compelling evidence that the Far Cry 5 article was crafted as a hoax by game journalists themselves in order to conveniently target and mock people on the right.
The executive editor of COGconnected who just goes by “Shawn” on his twitter said that he found the petition on a Facebook group called Beyond Facebook before telling one of his employees to write a piece about it. He said that it was posted by a person and suggests that this person could’ve made it up.
Now the interesting thing here is that Beyond Facebook is a page consisting mostly of video game journalists and the admin of the page is in fact Brian Altano, a co-producer for IGN. And this is where it gets interesting. Because originally this Facebook group was open and public according to Shawn. But as soon as it was mentioned that the source behind the petition posted in this group the group suddenly got turned into a private group.
So this is what we know:
1. The source of the petition came from someone within the Beyond Facebook page, which is a page largely made up of video game journalists. Before the media blitz happened
2. The journalists won’t say the name of the person that posted it there
3. The page which was originally open to the public has now been made private
Now if this isn’t an elaborate hoax by a bunch of journalists trolls then they’d be transparent, open the group and tell us who posted the original petition. The fact that they’re being quite shady about this suggests it could indeed be a hoax made by them. I have reached out to multiple video game journalists about this but none have at the time of writing this responded.
So what do you think? Could it be a hoax crafted by video game journalists or are video game journalists incapable of understanding satire? It looks like we’ll just have to see how this unfolds.