Four days ago, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier published a story titled “Unsung Story Is A $660,000 Kickstarter Disaster.” It’s a peculiar thing; the body mostly consists of Schreier venting his displeasure with said Kickstarter in a very feelings-based, op-ed style, despite the story being filed in the same place as Kotaku’s more regular journalism. What evidence he does lay out is lackluster, and seems to spring from fundamental misreadings of the Kickstarter campaign and its updates; and his conclusion about necessary refunds seems to emerge from a fundamental misunderstanding of what crowdfunding is. It is, in short, not really about Unsung Story, or developer Playdek; it is about the continued ambiguity in the relationship between backers and developers.
Writers wield power relative to the size of their audience, and for better or worse Kotaku is one of the most-read gaming publications. With great power comes (wait for it) great responsibility; in this case, Schreier has directed significant negative coverage towards the Unsung Story developer, Playdek, and the game itself.
There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself. Journalism, by its nature, cannot and should not attempt to please all parties. But it does serve a cause, a hope that ‘the truth shall set us free’ or at the very least do a greater good than the damage caused by negative coverage. It has to; otherwise, the negative coverage cannot be justified.
In the critique linked below , I hope I make it clear that the justification in this article is not present. This is not to say that Playdek is innocent of any wrongdoing, or that the campaign is above criticism (I have a few choice beefs with how things have been run); just that this article chooses poorly-considered attacks in place of more readily substantiated criticism.
I’m using this opportunity to test out News Genius, a web tool that allows direct annotations on web pages for close reading; you can find my annotated response and critique of the Kotaku article below: