Brash Games: Five Fast Facts You Need To Know

Paul Ryan: Not That One (The Jimquisition) I'm sorry if you're tired of hearing about Brash Games or its owner, Paul Ryan (Not That One). Unfortunately, those who were recently part of his libelous, treacherous, potentially illegal manifesto don't have a choice. And now the Cleaner Is Come. ("Born Depressed" & "Megalovania" covers by Nathan Hanover:

Independent Video Game Critic Jim Sterling and a bunch of former writers for Brash Games were part of an expose on the website, finding evidence of Site Owner and Editor Paul Ryan (not the politician) not paying writers, removing bylines from reviews when their authors quit, changing review scores without consent from reviewers, posting advertorials for gambling websites without disclosure, sending dubious legal threats, and attempting to deleting evidence of said behavior from internet archives. After refusing to respond to the allegations and evidence against him, Paul Ryan responded in a statement on Brash Games, attacking former writers and review aggregation sites.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Update: Since Sterling came out as nonbinary in August 2020, this article has been updated with their preferred pronouns (they/them).

1. A Review of Pac-Man 256 Kicked Off the Expose

Exposure (The Jimquisition) Every game blog wants to make a name for itself, but that desire can sometimes be fulfilled in a most undesirable way. I mean, look what happened to Brash Games! It doesn't pay its writers, it revokes author credits when people leave, and its owner has over a decade of duplicitous, shady…2017-04-17T12:51:19Z

As reported by Sterling in an episode of the Jimquisition, their weekly video essay series, The debacle began when writers Meg Read and Olly Smith revealed through Twitter that the website was changing their by-lines on the site.

Things kicked into gear after writer Ben McCurry published a review of Pac-Man 256 containing asides revealing the shady business practices of the site knowing fully well that Paul Ryan, the site’s editor, doesn’t check reviews before they go up. Sterling then paid McCurry to write an article for their own website to detail more allegations. This includes one instance where “Paul Ryan openly told one of his employees that mental illness made him unemployable in a ploy to get that employee to return,” said McCurry.

I gave you the benefit off the doubt last time and even though you posted all that crap that started all this I still took you back after no-one else would touch you with a bargepole as I understand mental illness and the effects it has on you but I should have listened to the devs who sent you codes via TA for your own blog that never materialized [sic].

Sterling added to the allegations in the video. Sterling received info that Ryan used to own AceGamez, his original game news publication that also didn’t pay its staff and removed by-lines from writers when they quit. Ryan sold the website in 2010 and said he ran it for at least 10 years before then. Sterling also showed a leaked email with the following quote from Ryan regarding all of the allegations he received:

I have decided not to read any of this crap and have not made any statements and don’t intend to [sic].

Video game review aggregation website OpenCritic investigated Brash Games and can confirm that the by-lines and scores of reviews have been changed because they take screenshots of reviews right when they are aggregated on the site. They also found that Ryan sent a spurious DMCA claim to True Achievements after former writer Mat Cooper reuploaded his content there after his byline was removed from Brash Games. Brash Games is no longer listed on OpenCritic.

2. Brash Games Says it Provides “Magazine Quality Reviews,” Client List Lifted From Nintendo

Brash Games, Brash Games Clients

Brash Games List of “Clients” (Screenshot by Jack Fennimore)

The About Page on Brash Games says they aim to “provide magazine quality reviews online” and “showcase the various games platforms available at the moment, and to help you find the very best games around whilst steering you clear of the stinkers.” They say they receive PR from nearly every publisher in the United Kingdom where they’re based.

Their list of “clients” contains an image taken directly from Nintendo.

3. The Website Has Connections to Online Casinos

A Tale Of Casinos And SEO Juice (The Jimquisition) How exactly do less scrupulous blogs get deals with casino websites to lace their articles with unsubtle advertisements? Who is pulling the strings, what sort of money changes hands, and what exactly are Casinos looking for when they ask for "SEO Juice?" The Jimquisition went deep to blow this mother. Bonus Content:…2017-04-24T14:05:23Z

In his original and follow-up videos, YouTuber KiriothTV pointed to a number of articles credited to David James (who doesn’t seem to exist) containing links to gambling websites. The byline was changed to “Useful Ranger” before the articles were deleted altogether.

Sterling followed up with their own video on online casinos and it’s connections to Brash Games. Sterling was receiving offers from ICS-Digital and Media-Top to promote online casinos on their website in the form of advertorials even though their website is funded by viewers and the contact page clearly states that they doesn’t allow sponsored content.

He negotiated a deal with Media-Top to put an advertorial on their site just to see what the process was like. They found that the companies who pay for websites to write advertorials not only didn’t require disclosure but encouraged clients to mask the fact that the article is an advertorial. Not only that, but the process outlined by Media-Top matched the gambling articles featured on Brash Games.

Media-Top told Sterling that they’ve made over 5,000 deals in the past two years.

Sterling didn’t put the advertorial on their site because the $100 they would’ve received wasn’t worth it. They later donated $100 each to the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling and the ACLU.

4. Brash Game’s Statement Attacked Writers

Brash Games Statement, Brash Games

A Section of Brash Games’s Statement (Screenshot by Jack Fennimore)

Ryan’s statement was released this week and Sterling released a video eviscerating it. In the statement, which has since been removed and archived, Ryan apologized for removing bylines from reviews when authors quit the site and promised to get bylines back. However, he needs input from past writers in order to get the bylines back. He then goes on to attempt to discredit his entire staff.

Unfortunately, when dealing with newbies who have been rejected by the magazines and or larger game sites these things happen. We take a chance on writers who have literally no experiences and send them free games in exchange for reviews and while they are entitled to their own opinions, you do have to question why the gave 2/10 to a game that is averaging 7/10 on Metacritic, clearly something amiss. They are not prepared to put in a decent shift, they think playing a game for a couple of hours and knocking up a 400 word review while smoking pot is totally acceptable [sic]!”

He said that writer Meg Read was let go because she failed to meet deadlines. Ryan also disclosed her mental health problems and said they were the reason they were lenient with her on deadlines. They let go of writer Olly Smith for similar reasons. He said all this while using his own disabilities to justify his anger.

He also accused McCurry of posting the Pac Man 256 review calling out his behavior while knowing full well that he wouldn’t see it until morning. He quoted McCurry but presented no proof that he actually said it.

“I knew Paul would be in bed by 10 p.m. as he’s disabled and heavily medicated so I waited until the early hours to publish it so he would not see it until the morning,” McCurry supposedly said according to Ryan.

McCurry has denied the allegations on Twitter.

Ryan also accused OpenCritic of releasing the report on his site to get attention and putting Brash Game’s reviews on their site for money.

I think this is the end of the written review which will put the review aggregators out of business. The only people making money out of reviews are the review aggregators themselves like Open Critic, but they are not sharing it with game sites? [sic]

5. Writers Have Responded and are Poised to File a Libel Lawsuit

Brash Games, Jim Sterling

Sterling edits silly images into their videos to mock their subjects. (Screenshot by Jack Fennimore)

Ryan also said that “There used to be a code of honor between reviews and they would carry out their assignment on time with no excuses and it worked for years.”

Sterling’s response?

What you did worked for years, about 16 of them according to the records we got… Now it’s fucked up and you’re angry because of that. Because your racket… has all been blown up to smithereens. Because this ‘code of honor’ you talk about wasn’t present with you around. It’s only now that some people have stood up and have shown some fucking integrity that we know all about your business.

Former Writer Olly Smith spoke up regarding the statement.

It’s incredibly hypocritical to use our health as a weapon, while also using your own as a shield.

He said that while his mental health may have been a reason for leaving, he hasn’t talked about his mental health for years and that Ryan must have dug through his social media for “dirt” on him and has done the same for other writers.

My message to Paul: please just stop. There’s no way you can make this better. Many of us were ready to move on but you keep bringing us down with you lies and hypocrisy.

Meg Read also released a statement on her website calling out Ryan.

Talking about my health is my prerogative and belongs to me and is nobody else’s business. Having Paul speak about it with such malice in the way he did has made me feel violated and almost guilty for having a mental illness which is so wrong. Luckily I’ve been met with mostly-positive reception which I’m very grateful for but that’s not the point. It should never have been said in the first place.

Paul Ryan was just a fart in the wind to me. But what he wrote about me today is unacceptable and I couldn’t sit there and just take it this time. It’s sad that I’ve had to write this at an attempt to explain myself, although addressing it has made me feel a little bit better since I’ve now got my side out there and have actual, factual evidence to back myself up. I just hope that going forward, Paul Ryan decides to treat writers who take time out of their day to review games for him for free with a bit more respect instead of throwing all his toys out of his pram and chucking them under the bus when he can’t get his own way.

Sterling got an email saying that a bunch of writers and a game developer are getting together to file a libel lawsuit against Ryan.

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