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WHOOPS! IGN Ran A Plagiarized Review!

One thing about me that has been constant in my writing career is my respect for my editors. They have a very thankless job, trying to not only coordinate talent and produce work, but acting as the last line of defense against legal problems. This has only gotten harder in recent years. The sheer amount of content on the Internet, combined with the obscurity of most of it, makes verifying original work more of a dice roll than an actual skill.

It doesn't help that so much "talent" searches the backwaters of the Internet looking for things they can boost and claim as their own. Everyone has their own motivations and justifications. Some have deadline pressures. Some are just intimidated and want something that knocks it out of the park. Some are concerned about not delivering as promised and are afraid the editor won't give them more assignments. The list goes on and on.

Whatever it is, plagiarism has become big. Really big. And there's this subtle approval on the part of those who've succeeded. Some people are skimming stories off of online sites like Literotica and self-publishing them, claiming themselves as the creator. Online reviewers will often search Reddit and Twitter to skim comments to build into a whole article, remixing instead of composing, if you will. There's a popular YouTube video game reviewer who, when he started out, stole portions of his reviews from an online writer (I know, because I was a fan of said online writer, and recognized it immediately). There's a comic book reviewer who did the same thing. Even video makers are stealing from other video makers, with people like Grade A Under A and Jim Sterling seeing almost everything they do, from their words to what they emphasize, get copied by others passing off the work as their own. Depending on who and what is involved, the theft can go on for years before being discovered.

But sometimes, it happens almost instantly. And it gets a lot of people in a lot of trouble.

The first person showing up to this sock hop is a fellow by the name of Alex Kane, who runs a YouTube channel called Boomstick Gaming. He started it as a hobby back in 2006, but hasn't been able to take it full time. He's set up a Patreon, but it's not really going anywhere. He was laid off from his regular job six months ago, and is just trying to find a way to survive and keep his channel from fading into the white noise.

On July 24, 2018, Alex uploaded a video review of a game called Dead Cells, available since 2017 through Steam for the PC and being ported to various other platforms. His video gave an excellent, in-depth analysis of the game, praising its strengths and noting its weaknesses. From the standpoint of reviews, Alex did a fantastic job.

And now, we get to the party pooper. IGN is a video game news and review site, one of the granddaddies of the field that helped make video game print magazines obsolete. As I mentioned, Dead Cells is being ported, and one platform is the Nintendo Switch. IGN wanted video footage and a review of it to put up on their site. And for that, they turned to the editor of their Nintendo division, one Filip Miucin, to get the job done.

Miucin completed the video and proudly uploaded it on August 6, 2018. He mentioned that it was the first video he had edited, so he was really excited. He also posted 21 minutes of gameplay, and awarded the game a 9.7. Everything was looking just fine....

...except for one little problem. See, Alex is a fan of IGN and frequents the site. And when he clicked on the Dead Cells video review IGN posted, he discovered that significant portions of the script for Miucin's review were copied from Alex's own video.

(SIDEBAR: As I've said, a lot of sites play fast and loose with plagiarism nowadays, but I don't feel this act was dictated by IGN themselves. I believe they were under pressure for a timely article and handed it off to Miucin, figuring, as an editor, he knew the rules and they could trust him. Please do not pin this on IGN without some real evidence.)

Alex got to work, and that day, posted a video comparing the two videos. And the results are pretty damning. Not only was the length almost identical between the two (Alex's was 4:04, Miucin's was 3:45), but there are whole sections and sequences that are identical. Barring the existence of the Infinite Improbability Drive, there's no way this is coincidental. Miucin copied Alex's work and passed it off as his own.

Alex was shocked and wondered what he should do. His Twitter post about it with the link to his YouTube video got signal boosted by people like Mark Kern, the former Vanilla Team leader for World Of Warcraft. While debate was going on about whether or not Alex could potentially copyright strike the video, IGN took it down before the day was over. In its place was this message from the IGN editorial board:

"As a group of writers and creators who value our own work and that of others in our field, the editorial staff of IGN takes plagiarism very seriously. In light of concerns that have been raised about our Dead Cells review, we’ve removed it for the time being and are investigating."

Forbes reached out to Alex to get his take. I have to say, Alex is a lot more Zen and understanding about this whole thing than I would have been, and my hat is off to him for it. Alex said:

"At this time I have not been contacted back by IGN, but I would like to be cited, collaborated with, and compensated for the healthy ad revenue they pulled in on both their written review and video review. As for the author Filip, this was his first video review for IGN and it is slightly understandable to seek knowledge from someone who has done multiple reviews before, but it should not have been replicated in this manner. I foster no ill will towards Filip and do not encourage firing of this gentleman because I have been unemployed (business closure) for 6 months now and would not wish this burden on anyone."

Unfortunately, Alex's mercy towards Miucin might not come to pass. If IGN concludes that Miucin did copy Alex's work, then Miucin's career is over. No one will want to hire, as an editor or a writer, someone who so blatantly plagiarized someone's work and got nailed for it. Doing so means they could be opening themselves up for liability if the person or entity copied from isn't as chill about it as Alex is. No action has been taken as of this writing. But it's hard to see any other outcome for this, and Miucin's fate is sealed. A guy living the dream of writing about video games, and whatever his reasons (as Alex pointed out, Miucin said it was his first edited video, so it's possible the guy just panicked), the dreaming is done. And deserved or not, IGN is going to take this one on the chin.

Honesty is the best policy. If not because it is the right thing to do, then just because of all the headaches it can spare you when things go sidewise. Because they can, and they do.

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