VideoGamer.com Cover-Up: “Leading Expert on Racism” No Longer

Wesley Yin-Poole of VideoGamer.com interviewed Glenn Bowman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, about Resident Evil 5 and its racist content. Yin-Poole called Bowman “one of the UK’s leading experts on racism”. In one of my previous posts, I suggested that Bowman may not be the most qualified academic to consult because none of his specialties include research on race issues or racism, based upon his body of work and list of publications.

Since my post was published, Glenn Bowman has twice commented on my blog, in the first instance clarifying that VideoGamer.com did not “pre-vet” him for the interview, and secondly stating that he does not consider himself an expert on racism. I am reasonably certain that the IP addresses for both Bowman’s comments, as well as the University of Kent email address used to submit his comment, are valid. The comments originate from IPs in the UK. One of them is from an ISP and the other is from the University of Kent.

Further digging turns up Bowman’s profile at the Society of Applied Anthropology social network, where Bowman cites his “Areas of specialisation: West Bank Palestine, Former Yugoslavia (esp. Serbia and Macedonia). Political Anthropology. Shrines and intercommunal interactions. Psychoanalysis, philosophy, history” and his as areas of expertise as “Palestine, Former Yugoslavia”. This lends further support to Bowman’s comment that he doesn’t consider himself an expert on racism, as Yin-Poole had dubbed him in the VideoGamer.com article.

After Bowman posted those comments on my blog, the VideoGamer.com article covered up their previous claim that Bowman was a “leading expert on racism” by removing that quote (link to current article, screencap of current article). Below are two screen shots of the cached articles, showing the original quote at VideoGamer.com, which references Bowman as “one of the UK’s leading experts on racism”:

VideoGamer.com RE5 Article Showing Google Cache

This is the relevant section, zoomed-in:

VideoGamer.com Article - Close-Up

Both Kotaku and Joystiq, two leading games blogs, posted stories referring to Bowman’s expertise in racism, based upon Wesley Yin-Poole’s interview.

Here, Kotaku cites VideoGamer.com as their source and refers to Bowman as “one of the UK’s top experts on racism”:

Kotaku: An Informed Expert Speaks Out On RE5 Racism

Joystiq calls Bowman “a real expert on the science of race relations”:

Joystiq: Anthropologist says Resident Evil 5 is not racist, Takeuchi continues defense

My point is not to vilify Bowman. I have nothing against Glen Bowman at all. I think that he was inadvertently dragged into this by the unprofessionalism of VideoGamer.com. In a bid to get the most hits, the most attention, VideoGamer.com published misinformation about their source so that their story appeared more credible to their readers. This misinformation has spread throughout the gaming media unchecked and unexamined. Joystiq and Kotaku are just two examples. Wesley Yin-Poole’s bio states that he has a “strong journalistic background” but that claim doesn’t seem to hold water in light of the fact that he made misinformed claims about his source and he (or someone at VideoGamer.com) edited the original article without stating that he had made changes. Furthermore, none of the big gaming blogs or news outlets bothered to check VideoGamer.com’s source to see whether he was actually an expert on racism as VideoGamer.com claimed.

I think this incident is an indication of the poor state of videogame journalism.

EDIT — 20 March 2009: Kotaku has updated their story linked above to reflect the information in this post.

  7 comments for “VideoGamer.com Cover-Up: “Leading Expert on Racism” No Longer

  1. 17 March 2009 at 09:46

    I wasn’t aware that many, or in fact any, games journalists have actually ‘done’ journalism in the traditional sense — online ones, at least.

    Other than a tiny handful of large broadsheet papers, I can’t think of many paper publications that have had gaming sections for more than the last few years.

    The problem is probably two-fold —
    1) online journalism is wrought with the lack of accountability. A change can be made, it can be swept under the carpet without anyone being any the wiser (unless someone like you spots it!)

    2) Lack of experience. It’s still such a fledgling industry. Just like we suffer from a lack of politicians that grew up with video games, likewise we have a lack of experienced and educated journalists that can report properly in the field of games.

  2. 17 March 2009 at 13:24

    Bravo, Brinstar!

  3. 17 March 2009 at 22:25

    “Expert” Consulted on RE5 Racism Issue: Not an Expert on Race After All

    UPDATE: There is an update to this story here. Recently, VideoGamer.com interviewed an “expert” to ask him whether the imagery in Resident Evil 5 was racist. The academic expert they consulted was Glenn Bowman, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at…

  4. 17 March 2009 at 23:03

    Most major mainstream news sites have clued into the fact that anyone can easily edit stories without the public knowing the wiser, which is why they feel accountable to be transparent about changes. Many of them show some kind of edit history, indicating the date of original publication and the date on which the article was last edited.

    I think more videogame journalists than we’re aware of do have qualifications in traditional journalism. For example, former Newsweek games journalist N’Gai Croal has journalism qualifications and many years of experience outside of videogame journalism. Stephen Totilo, who is the head editor of MTV Multiplayer has experience and qualifications in print journalism prior to writing for MTV Multiplayer. Patrick Klepek, who recently had to leave MTV Multiplayer due to budget cuts, has no experience outside of videogame journalism, but he does have a journalism degree. The head editor of Kotaku, Brian Crecente, has many years of print journalism experience and a qualification in journalism as well, which is why I think it’s extremely odd that Kotaku is one of the worst of the major gaming news sites for journalistic practices. Kotaku routinely sensationalises stories for page views, and has a reputation for not following-up or fact checking their sources. Kotaku and Brian Crecente have come under fire time and time again, but they’ve never improved their standards from what I have seen. Kyle Orland is another well-known videogame journalist and he has a degree in computer science and in journalism. Those are just some of the more high profile games journalists that I know of who have journalism degrees and experience.

  5. 18 March 2009 at 13:59

    That’s why I read blogs… like this one. :)

  6. Gunch
    18 March 2009 at 21:02

    “I think this incident is an indication of the poor state of videogame journalism.”

    You mean like 99% of the videogame journalism out there?
    Most of them would know a fact check if it bit them in the ass.

  7. 21 March 2009 at 09:03

    Discussion of My Post at Racialicious

    My post (I also have a follow-up) about VideoGamer.com’s race “expert”, who was consulted to deliver the “verdict” on the racially-charged imagery in Resident Evil 5, was cross-posted over at Racialicious. Racialicious, a blog that discussses race issu…

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