A message to Bonus Stage (formerly Brash Games) – Fuck you

UPDATE: Since this article was written, Paul Ryan has completely renamed his Brash Games site and is now masquerading as Bonus Stage instead. His hope is clearly that with this rebranding he can paint over the shit stains his previous site was covered in.

Let it be known that every reference to Brash Games below can also be attributed to Bonus Stage since it’s a shithawk in a normal hawk’s clothing.


There’s an unwritten rule in games journalism that you’re supposed to treat your fellow professionals with respect.

If you have any issues with another games journalist’s article it’s not really good practice to air those issues on Twitter (even though a lot of us do), and it’s certainly considered unprofessional to write up an article that outright calls them out.

That’s why you don’t get Kotaku publishing an article simply called “suck our holes, Polygon”. Some of them may think it, but it just isn’t professional to insult fellow games journalists.

Well, guess what. I’m not a professional anymore: I do Tired Old Hack in my free time. And so we’re fucking doing this.

The Brash Games saga has been going on for a few weeks now. If you’re out of the loop, it’s a games website run by a chap called Paul Ryan.

He accepts articles from contributors, but the ‘twist’ is:

• he doesn’t pay these contributors

• contributors are expected to be happy enough with ‘exposure’ and experience

• contributors’ articles are seemingly posted with very little actual editing involved (more on that in a bit)

• if a contributor decides to leave Brash Games, their account is removed from the site and all the bylines on their reviews revert back to ‘by Brash Games’. In other words: “Remember when you said you were happy not to get paid because you were doing it for exposure? Well, if you leave us you lose that exposure too.”

Another little fun fact that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, but I thought it was funny: the ‘Clients’ page on the Brash Games site not only nicks an image from Nintendo, but goes on to give a ridiculously long list of publishers clearly copied and pasted from Wikipedia or something. How do I know? Well…

I don’t know how good an editor Paul Ryan (thinks he) is, but I’ll admit that his ability to get in touch with companies that have been dead since before websites even existed is pretty special.

Incidentally, that ‘Clients’ page has since been pulled from the front page of the site. But it’s still there if you use some expert hacking (i.e. search for ‘clients’ in the search bar)

If you want a better way to catch up with the Brash Games saga so far, there are two great videos from Jim Sterling summing it up with the venom it deserves. The first explains the whole ‘Brash Games versus its contributors’ story:

…while the second exposes the site further for its dodgy articles which include links to casino sites, which are paid advertorials but aren’t disclosed as such:

So that’s where we were as of this morning. The general consensus was that Brash Games was a shite website whose owner Paul Ryan essentially sourced free work from enthusiastic young writers desperate to get their name known, writers who deserved to get paid but weren’t, and were punished for leaving by being stripped of any attribution.

Last week Ryan posted a short statement on the Brash Games site, stating:

Brash Games acknowledges that we made mistakes in removing the accounts in question and we would like to take this opportunity to personally apologise to those concerned for our actions.

We are deeply sorry for our actions and we would like to reinstate the effected accounts as soon as possible.

To that end we would like the effected parties to contact us via the contact form together with a list of articles / reviews effected and we will reinstate the accounts with immediate effect.

We will also be making changes to the editing process and appointing a new editor to oversee the review process. We have learnt from our mistakes and can assure you that this will not happen in the future.

This really should have been the end of it. The guy was exposed for shitty practices, he showed remorse, he offered to undo the damage and promised to give back the writers the credit they deserved.

Today, though, Ryan edited the statement, completely transforming it into a massive rant which is one of the most shameful things I’ve ever seen from a so-called editor.

In case he edits it again, here’s the entire statement in full, split up with my commentary on why it’s so fucking loathsome.

The boring notes bit

Before we get to the statement, I need to make something clear: part of this statement refers to a writer called Meg Bethany Read.

As you can see, sometimes they even get legit journalistic scoops too

Meg is a young games journalist who’s only in the very early stages of her career. She’s been studying journalism at university and last year she managed to secure regular review gigs for The Daily Star – not quite Edge, but a great start for a young prospective talent.

If the name’s familiar, that’s because Meg was also my guest in the third episode of the Tired Old Hack podcast, giving her views on the Switch after the press event we’d both attended.

Long story short – and she won’t mind me saying this – Meg is still quite green and finding her feet in this industry, but I’m impressed enough with her work at this stage that I know she’s going to make it. I’m happy to support her and am proud to call her a friend.

As for Paul Ryan, I’ve been in the business for more than a decade and I’d honestly never heard of the guy until all this started. According to him, he’s been doing it for longer than me though, so who am I to judge: for all I know, maybe our paths just never crossed.

Actually, here’s how he describes himself on the site:

Remember this, because it’s important. He states, in his own words, that he has “sole responsibility for all content”. Bear this in mind as you read through the statement below.

The statement

Here’s Paul Ryan’s new statement, along with commentary from me.

Often in situations like this, the person in question will later argue their words have been taken out of context. To protect myself from such suggestions, the statement is provided in its entirety as it appeared on the site on the morning of 1 May 2017.

This statement consisted of a number of very long paragraphs so I’ve split them up into smaller chunks to make them easier to analyse.

This is the only modification I’ve made (other than the addition of my own comments). Everything else is completely unedited, and nothing has been removed: even the grammatical and spelling errors have been left intact in order to ensure 100% accuracy.

I have also saved screenshots of the entire statement on Imgur in order to prove this was what the statement looked like at the time, and in case it’s needed for legal reasons by anyone mentioned in the statement.

I acknowledge I made mistakes in deleting the accounts of previous volunteers and would like to take this opportunity to personally apologise to those concerned for my actions.

I am deeply sorry for my actions and I will be reinstating the effected accounts as soon as possible. I would like the effected parties to contact me via the contact form with a list of articles and the URL’s so I can re-instate the accounts with immediate effect.

I have already added several accounts and am waiting for others contributors to get in touch.

The statement starts with a revised version of the original statement, with very few major changes other than changing ‘we’ to ‘I’ throughout. There can be no doubt from this, therefore, that Paul Ryan is the sole person responsible for this statement and anything said below is straight from the horse’s arse, as it were.

After this seemingly humble, remorseful statement, Ryan immediately goes onto a frankly despicable offensive against Meg Bethany Read:

Meg was an amateur writer who was given a trail at Brash Games, but failed to meet the minimum requirements of 2-3 articles per month.

Unfortunately she was let go for constantly failing to meet deadlines and for failing to provide reviews for titles she had received.

We had been extremely lenient with Meg due to her mental heath issues but at the same time as taking games from us for review she was also volunteering at various newspapers posting articles for free in a bid to boost her portfolio but had no problem submitting those articles. Olly Smith was also let go for similar reasons.

This is one of the most vile, reprehensible things I’ve ever seen a so-called ‘editor’ write about a journalist.

Paul Ryan, who the fuck do you think you are? You have no fucking right to disclose someone’s mental health in the first place.

Even worse, you have no fucking right to use someone’s mental health to sell yourself as some sort of patient saint. Oh, you were “extremely lenient” with her, that’s so generous of you while you took her fucking words for free.

What’s this shit about “minimum requirements of 2-3 articles per month,” too? Your site is written by VOLUNTEERS. They don’t owe you anything, you tragic multicoloured splodge of a lonely clown’s spunk.

I want to break this page up a bit with another image but I’m so angry nothing is suitable

As for your claim that Meg was “also volunteering at various newspapers posting articles for free in a bid to boost her portfolio but had no problem submitting those articles”?

Maybe she was: so fuck? If I was in her shoes, you’d better believe I’d be prioritising a national newspaper and the exposure that brings over some shitmuncher website with all the ‘household name’ quality of Douglas Goldie. And that’s a name I just made up.

I’m almost certain that publicly disclosing something deeply personal like an employee’s mental health status is illegal.

What’s that? She wasn’t an employee, she was only a volunteer? Well, according to volunteer information organisation Volunteer Now, a volunteer can be ruled an employee in court “if a contract of employment can be seen to exist”, and “a contract of employment can exist without a written document”.

In other words, if it can be shown that Meg was required to provide a minimum level of work for you within a certain time period… like, oh I don’t know, “2-3 articles per month” (your words, not mine), then legally she could be considered an employee.

Whoops! Bet you regret trying to throw her under the bus and disclosing her personal health information now.

After breaching the Data Protection Act 1998 and Equality Act 2010, Ryan then went on to address criticism the site has received for changing review scores, something the review aggregator site OpenCritic exposed by digging into its archive of cached reviews.

With regards to changing review scores this has been completely blown out of proportion by Open Critic who were not interested in the truth, despite the stats on Metacritic that prove otherwise.

According to Metacritic on average, Brash Games grades 4.5 points lower than other critics. Open Critic made out that we were actually changing review scores to please publishers but the evidence says otherwise.

In the last 6 months we have awarded the following scores:-

16x (1/10)
9x (2/10)
21x (3/10)
45x (4/10)
96x (5/10)
105x (6/10)
170x (7/10)
202x (8/10)
22x (10/10)

As you can see in the last 6 months we have scores 462 games lower than 7/10 and 324 higher than 7/10. FACT.

I’m really not sure what this proves other than the fact you can easily manipulate stats to suit your own needs.

Ryan claims that “Brash Games grades 4.5 points lower than other critics”, but conveniently chooses to ignore Metacritic’s other, more damning statement that half of Brash Game’s reviews are scored higher than the average critic.

Regardless, none of this matters. Ryan’s numbers are wrong in the first place. He says:

“We have scored 462 games lower than 7/10 and 324 higher than 7/10. FACT.”

Ummm… nope. You’re counting the 7/10s in the ‘lower than 7/10’ category. Seven is not lower than seven.

In reality, your site scored 292 games lower than 7/10 and 324 higher. In fact, since 7/10 these days is generally accepted as a positive score, you should have instead said:

“We have scored 292 games lower than 7/10 and 494 games 7/10 or higher.”


Oh, and OpenCritic never once implied that Ryan was changing scores to please publishers. It doesn’t say that anywhere in the report, and the OpenCritic co-founder backed this up on Twitter:

What’s the point of all this penis-measuring anyway? Ah, of course, it’s the fumbling, inexperienced foreplay leading up to another attempted screwjob, this time aimed at OpenCritic:

So why did Open Critic make such a meal of it ? They wanted to use Brash Games and this so-called scandal as a springboard to announce themselves to the gaming community (GamersGate style), after all their previous attempts had failed.

They were shunned by publishers, developers and the gaming public. That’s why they started to drip feeding parts of their so-called investigation on game forums to build momentum and anticipation for the big reveal and to say “Hey look we’re here to weed our corruption and wrongdoing in the games industry”.

Or maybe, you know, they wanted to defend themselves and the legitimacy of their own website, something your score-fiddling threatened to affect if they didn’t address it.

Say what you like about OpenCritic, but at least they published a detailed report with actual facts in it: I note that nowhere do you say their information was incorrect.

Instead, you try to deflect the attention from your wrongdoing by trying to associate OpenCritic as a GamerGate sympathiser. Yawn.

Here’s the thing: you don’t get to have a go at someone for “weeding out wrongdoing in the games industry” when you’re the one guilty of the wrongdoing.

“Oh, I can’t believe someone reported me to the police for kicking a tramp up the hole. Imagine trying to make yourself look better by standing up to tramp-booting.”

It gets worse:

An unnamed source told Brash Games “They (Open Critic) had to do something, they had failed to make inroads into the aggregation field and Metacritic are still firmly regarded as the industry standard so they set about finding a scapegoat, someone who wouldn’t fight back or make a scene, a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter and unfortunately that was Brash Games run by a cripple in a wheelchair, you know the one. Talk about an easy target”.

What followed was a game of chinese whispers and suddenly I was responsible for everything, even the air strikes on Syria, no I’m not that Paul Ryan.

Here’s the deal. “An unnamed source” doesn’t work here. You can’t just take venomous statements like suggesting someone targeted “a cripple in a wheelchair” as a “sacrificial lamb” and then attribute them to “an unnamed source”.

You don’t have an unnamed source, Paul Ryan. You made this up. I have every sympathy for whatever physical disability you may have, but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to use your wheelchair as a weapon with which to attack others.

You don’t get to say “an unnamed source” told you that OpenCritic thought they’d make “a sacrificial lamb” out of “a cripple in a wheelchair”. Unless you can reveal your mystery source, you’re dancing very close to libellous territory: you have no fucking right to try to defame another publication by implying they targeted you because of your disability when you have absolutely zero evidence of that.


Otherwise, I could just as easily say “an unnamed source” told me you have a fetish for putting sunglasses on camels then slapping them in the dick. I mean, it must be true if my unnamed source told me!

In other words, what we essentially have here is a fucking shameless, despicable attempt to deflect from your own wrongdoing by trying to suggest those who exposed you merely did so because you were an easy target by being “a cripple in a wheelchair”.

That’s absolutely sickening and I’m glad the people at OpenCritic are aware of it: I hope action is taken.

Ryan continues with another conspiracy theory:

Even disgraced former volunteers who stole games, board games, and other reviewable’s and those who plagiarised reviews were making all kinds of unfounded accusations.

Other game sites started to get in on the act, repeating the unfounded allegations including GameGrin who then started poaching our volunteers on a massive scale (10 that we know of to date) including Thomas Hughes, Sean Carey, Rohan, Nathan Lakritz, Mark Brearley, Dylan Chaundy, Tyler Schurwan and the infamous Ben McCurry who joined our former team members Meg Read and Oliver Smith who are both writing under fictitious names.

So was GameGrin behind this or did three of their writers conspire together without their knowledge? And was in coincidental that they just happened to poached ten members of our team? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

GameGrin are not alone in trying to discredit Brash Games, Rich Stone, Matt Cooper and Graham Sherry from True achievements have been duplicating our reviews. They did initially take them down, but our reviews are back up on True achievements.

The sheer hypocrisy here is breathtaking. I can’t believe you have the gall to accuse people of making “unfounded allegations” against you and then, literally IN THE SAME SENTENCE, go on to accuse Meg Read and Oliver Smith of “writing under fictitious names” with absolutely no evidence to back that up.

For the record, Meg has told me she has never written under a fake name and I have no reason to disbelieve her.

After all, when you’re a young journalist still trying to get noticed, to the extent that you’d take unpaid work for shiteholes like Brash Games, there’s absolutely no logic in writing for another site under a pseudonym. You’d take all the exposure you can get… which was Brash’s sales pitch in the first place, after all.

In the interests of fairness, I’m not a fan of these guys either

Here’s the thing. I don’t like GameGrin much either. They mostly run off volunteers too, and when they do pay writers it’s nothing short of insulting (“£3 per 400+ word review”).

GameGrin and Brash Games are – to borrow a great line from politician George Galloway – two cheeks of the same arse.

But when your writers are volunteers, you have absolutely no say in where else they can work, and you don’t get to be a whiny fucking prick about it if they go to a different site.

Annoyed that your writers are being “poached” by another site? Maybe instead of having a go at your rival site, stop and have a think about why your writers are leaving your own publication in droves. Maybe because sweatshops pay better.

Believe it or not, it’s about to get worse. Paul Ryan next called out Ben McCurry, a writer who made Brash Games look like the fucking pub league website it is by publishing a damning criticism of the site masquerading as a Pac-Man 256 review.

Ben McCurry joined and resignation from Brash Games in the space of 14 days with his infamous resignation / review. You may be wondering how Ben’s review was even posted considering it contained some pretty damning remarks that would harm our reputation.

Well, Ben was able to clear that up: “I knew Paul would be in bed by 10pm 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.”

Matthew Enthoven, the OpenCritic Founder believes Ben’s review is “unprofessional… self-defeating… [and] immature…” and “goes against civility” as he urged the game community to be compassionate and forgiving towards Paul and Brash Games.

Another vicious accusation there, this time actually – seemingly – quoting McCurry verbatim as saying he took advantage of Paul Ryan’s disability. Surely such a horrible admission will end McCurry’s career?

Well, it would if he’d FUCKING SAID IT.

Predictably, McCurry has taken to Twitter, exposing Ryan for the lying prick he is. His tweet thread discussing it reads:

“I am absolutely furious! I never said the named quotation in this paragraph. I can’t find the tweet this relates to but it’s based on a reply I sent the night of the Pac-Man review where I said I sent out the piece when Paul was asleep. PLEASE find where I said it was because you were in a wheelchair or heavily medicated? Never said that.”

Sure enough, having trawled through McCurry’s tweets, this is the only reference I can find to him posting it in the middle of the night. Sure enough, no reference to Ryan’s disability:

As for Matthew Enthoven, the OpenCritic co-founder, “urging the game community to be compassionate and forgiving towards Paul and Brash Games”?

Yeah, about that.


It goes on:

Over the past 6 years we have changed a handful of scores for various reasons and this represents a tiny proportion of the 3914 reviews covered to date. The first time this happened was when John Beta plagiarised reviews and the scores were linked on Metacritic.

As soon as I became aware of the situation, I took down the reviews and asked other writers to cover the titles again, to appease Metacritic however the new reviews had different scores and Metacritic do not change scores once they have been published so we were faced with either taking the replacement reviews down completely or changing the scores slightly to match our Metacritic scores which is what we did.

Here Ryan admits to changing scores to keep some reviews on Metacritic rather than choosing to remove them in order to maintain credibility.

None of this matters any more, mind, because Metacritic hasn’t acknowledged Brash Games as a legitimate source for a while now. The last Brash review on Metacritic was back in September 2016, meaning for the past 7 months it’s no longer been considered a credible site.

There now follows two lengthy stories in which Paul Ryan attempts to throw two young writers under the bus while failing to realise the glaring thing to learn from all this. Bear with me here:

Unfortunately on occasions inexperienced writers have failed to adhere to our own rating system and this was the case with Josh Robertson a newbie who was tasked with reviewing Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found on Playstation 4.

Having gone through his review i felt that 3/10 was hash given that he had stated that many of the aspects of the game were good (7/10). I asked him to refer to our rating system and to reconsider his rating based on the Metacritic Average of 7/10.

After further discussions it was agreed that we would not publish the review and would not be offering Josh a place at Brash Games. A senior staff writers with 600+ reviews had already covered the game for Brash Games and awarded it 7/10 so I was fully justified in asking Josh to reconsider the score.

So far, so good. According to this telling of events:

• someone asked to write for the site
• you gave them a game to review and he gave it 3/10
• you thought it was way too low and since one of your reviewers had already covered it and given it a 7, you decided not to publish the review.

A good, ethical way of sussing out new writers without risking credibility, you could say.

Um… except Josh’s review was published. With a revised score of 5. It was logged on OpenCritic and everything. It’s since been changed to a 7 with the writer’s name replaced with simply “Brash Games”.

In other words, sorry Paul, but you’re talking shite, mate.

On another occasion Matt Forde reviewed U Host and gave it 2/10 while it was averaging 78% world-wide, sadly Brash Games was the only site to have reviewed it on Metacritic where it was now an impressionable 20% which was effecting sales.

The developer had this to say “In conclusion, in my opinion, a game reviewer should demonstrate that they have actually played the game and this is frustratingly one of, if not the worst review I’ve read in my entire life.

Frustrating, not only because it’s connected to my game, but because I have serious doubts that they actually played said game, let alone played it the way it was meant to be played. U Host is a multiplayer game. I can’t help but get the impression that they not only played it on their own, but half-heartedly at that.

I have great respect for your site, but can’t respect this review. It demonstrates a lazy and unprofessional reviewer bordering on slander and malicious falsehood. As I said, I’d appreciate a fair review. Please offer it to someone who enjoys playing multiplayer games and or quizzes”.

Again we asked an experienced reviewer to take a look at the game and it was awarded a 7/10 so we were justified.

I don’t know what the fuck “we were justified” means because at the time of writing U Host still has a score of 2/10 on the site and the writer is credited as Paul Ryan.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I Googled ‘swimming pool spaghetti’ but there you go

The whole thing’s a fucking mess, basically, and unpicking all this shit would be like trying to untangle a swimming pool full of spaghetti. I don’t have time for that, but what should be clear at this stage is that Brash Games is a shambles.

The glaring thing going unaddressed is that despite all this bollocks Ryan doesn’t realise he has to check this shit before it goes on the site. He’s the fucking editor.

Instead, he blames the writers for the stuff they’ve written, taking it to a ridiculous degree in the next part:

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 while they are entitles to their own opinions, you do have to question why they gave 2/10 to a game that is averaging 7/10 on Metacritic, clearly something amiss.

Either they genuinely haven’t played the game or it not a genre they enjoy. After all, we don’t force them to review specific titles, they select them from our extensive review lists.

Are you fucking serious, Paul Ryan? Cast your mind way back to the start of this article. Remember when I showed everyone how you refer to yourself?

There it is, typed out for all to see in your own words. You have “SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL CONTENT”.

What sort of fucking outfit takes on “newbies” (as you put it) and – despite fully admitting that some of them have “literally no experience” and you’re “taking a chance” on them – publishes their work anyway with no checks on the quality of their writing?

You’re responsible for this shit. It’s your reputation on the line here.

A clever metaphor

I mean, it was. That ship hasn’t just sailed: it’s been hijacked by pirates, plundered of what little loot it had and set ablaze, its rotten wood reduced to a fine soot that’s washed away to the corners of the globe.

Guess what? No experienced writer is going to come near your site because you won’t pay any fucker. That means everyone you’re dealing with is going to be inexperienced. You knew this was the deal going into it.

That means you don’t get to moan about the stuff they write and say “oh, but they’re inexperienced”. You have – remember, say it with me – SOLE RESPONSIBILITY for the content on that site, so I don’t understand why you haven’t been checking every single piece with twice as much scrutiny than if it were written by someone established.

Otherwise, you could twist it the other way. All your examples of writer inexperience have been reviews that were scored far too low compared to their Metacritic scores.

What’s to stop a PR or developer masquerading as a new up-and-coming writer and reviewing their own game, giving it a 10? Fuck all mate, that’s what.

Let’s round it off then:

We will also be making changes to the editing process and appointing a new editor to oversee the review process. We have learnt from our mistakes and can assure you that this will not happen in the future.

We have not yer had time to respond in full to Open Critic’s report but will do so in the coming weeks/months.

No, you haven’t had time to response to OpenCritic’s report. Maybe because it’s hard to defend the indefensible.

However, you HAVE had time to vilify a young writer and expose her mental health condition in an attempt to damage her career before it’s even had a chance to grow.

You HAVE had time to accuse OpenCritic of targeting you because you’re “a cripple in a wheelchair” (your words: not mine, theirs or anyone else’s), a shameful attempt at libel that they’re now aware of.

You HAVE had time to attribute a fake quote to one of your former writers in order to suggest he took advantage of you in a disabled state, another vile and manipulative act.

And you HAVE had time to blame anyone and everyone for your shambles of a website except for the man who has – one more time – SOLE RESPONSIBILITY for all the content on there. After all, I guess you could say you’re the big boss! Remember?

I don’t know who you are, Paul Ryan. Funnily enough, I only just noticed that we’ve been friends on Facebook for a couple of years. It must have been during the time I was trying to build my contacts and was just adding anyone from the industry who sent me a friend request. Rest assured I must have forgotten about it as soon as I did it, and rest assured we aren’t friends on there now.

I don’t know you, and I’m not really sure whether you know me. If you did you’d know I’m generally quite a happy guy. I even started this site to focus on positive coverage of games because I didn’t like all the negativity circulating around the internet. It takes a lot to take my smile off my face.

But I am fucking livid right now, and much like the content on your website, you’re fully responsible for it.

You have one more chance to write a proper apology on your site, Paul Ryan. You have to apologise for breaching the Data Protection and Equality Acts by revealing private information about a young woman’s mental health.

You have to apologise for libelling OpenCritic and Ben McCurry for falsely accusing them – through fake ‘anonymous sources’ and, even worse, fake quotes – of using your disability against you.

You have to apologise for all the bullshit practices on Brash Games which not only make your site look like a laughing stock but also paints my industry – an industry I love in which I and countless others commit on a daily basis to following ethical and moral codes – in a dark, shameful light.

Above all else, though, you have to apologise for being a manipulative liar who’s taken things too far, and you have to draw a line under things right now.

People are already starting to consider legal action and I don’t think you’ll find many people showing you much sympathy.

But hey, you could always make up some quotes and pretend they are.

If you’re a young writer and you want to get your name known more, don’t write for Brash Games or any other site who promises you ‘exposure’ rather than money.

Start your own site and keep writing for that. You won’t get paid, but you wouldn’t be getting paid anyway – at least this way you get to write what you want, evolve your writing at your own pace, and discover whether you still enjoy doing it after a longer period.

This could be YOU if you set up your own site instead of being fleeced by pricks trying to get traffic off your work

I’ll let you in on a secret: Tired Old Hack is just a standard WordPress blog. Anyone can set one up. The writing is the hard bit – despite what some people think, there’s a real level of skill involved – but that’s all the more reason why you should be paid for it if you aren’t doing it on your own site.

Improving your writing and getting published in a reputable site is a long process that takes a lot of work (otherwise everyone would be doing it). Don’t be tempted by ‘quick fix’ shortcuts like Brash Games: they may promise exposure but having their name on your CV/resume will damage your reputation more than it’ll enhance it.

Until today I’ve been offering writing advice as a $7 tier on my Patreon but this fucking Brash Games slime has made it clear to me that young writers deserve better so I’m offering it free to everyone.

My DMs are always open and you can always email me. Send me links to your work and if you want advice on your writing – no matter how granular – I’m always happy to help. If I read anything I really like I’ll share it with my Twitter followers. It’s not much but it’s a start.

In short: fuck this prick.

UPDATE 1: I’ve had a few messages from folk defending other sites who don’t pay their writers, including GameGrin (who are mentioned in the article). In the interests of clarity, let me explain my stance on it a wee bit more.

I fully appreciate that there are some sites out there (such as fansites for specific series) who simply can’t afford to pay their writers. While some people aspire to be writers, there are others who aspire to be editors or simply run their own sites, and they have to start somewhere too.

In the interests of fairness, fuck these guys too

If a website is legitimately made for the love of gaming and isn’t turning a decent profit, and if you buy into the idea of supporting them, then I am in no position to tell you to stop writing for them. In no way is that what I’m trying to say.

However, if you find yourself writing for a site that is making money, then you deserve a cut of it. This is only my opinion, and if you disagree that’s completely fine.

To clarify: I don’t know anyone at GameGrin, and when I compared the site to Brash Games and described them as “two cheeks on the same arse” I appreciate I may have been a bit harsh as a result of my anger while writing.

While I still don’t agree in principle with the concept of writers not being paid for their work, I do accept there are different ways of handling this situation and based on anecdotal evidence I accept that GameGrin does at least treat its writers with more respect than Brash Games does.

I should also stress that nobody at GameGrin has contacted me regarding this article. I hope that makes things a bit clearer.

UPDATE 2: Since this article was written, Paul Ryan has edited the article (he did it after 10pm too, which disproves that theory).

Breathtakingly though, he hasn’t removed any of his statements. Instead, he’s ADDED more allegations, as follows:

We have had many cases of deception where a writer joins us just to try to blag free games, take Thomas Hughes for instance now with GameGrin, he asked to review New Frontier Days ~Founding Pioneers~ on the Nintendo Switch. He was given a digital code on 12th March and claimed it didn’t work and asked for another Switch game to review instead.

This wasn’t the first time he claimed a code didn’t work so i gave him the benefit of the doubt and issued a replacement code on 14th March for the same game, but 6 weeks later I’m still waiting for the review.

I wish this was an isolated incident but unfortunately it’s really common these days Matt Cooper of True Achievements did the same thing but on a much larger scale, he left under a cloud, re-joined and did it all over again.

Josh Robertson (1 review), Ben McCurry (2 reviews), Meg Read (5 reviews) and Oliver Smith (11 Reviews) contributed less than 20 to Brash Games, but were quite happy to deceive publishers and developers in an attempt to blag free games even after we added a warning to potential publishers and developers on our website.

Unfortunately, this new breed of freelancers / freeloaders, often claim to write for various  publications including newspapers in an attempt to impress their friends and colleagues and deliberately set out to steal video games and it’s almost universally accepted as part industry.

At this point you don’t need me to add anything more to this situation. It’s truly pathetic now, and I hope Mr Ryan realises that at this stage all he’s doing is drilling more holes into a sinking ship.

If you’re new to Tired Old Hack, I’ve been a games journalist for over a decade and have written for the likes of Official Nintendo Magazine UK, Nintendo Gamer, CVG, Official PlayStation Magazine UK, Official Xbox Magazine UK, Vice, GamesMaster and Red Bull. I now run Tired Old Hack as my own personal site dedicated to positive coverage of games: despite what this article suggests, I’m actually usually very cheery.

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  1. Thank you so much, Chris! I’m eager to start writing about games so this has really helped. Thank you for the free advice – you’re the best journalist I know, full stop.

  2. I first heard about this fiasco on the Jimquisition when it came out.,,,absolutely horrifying to see the complete lack of respect and general moral standards that some journalists in the industry (and all industries, for that matter) have.

  3. What a fucking scumbag, here was me thinking that this was a more friendly community. It’s shocking to see someone who treats the people who makes his site what it is so poorly, and it makes me want to be violently sick, preferrably through his letter box. Excellent article, by the way, I’ve sent you an e-mail about some feedback on one of my shitty articles :).

  4. I think it’s a bit late for an apology, people are already reporting the guy to the ICO for violating the Data Protection Act so hopefully the next thing we hear about him is that he’s been arraigned in a crown court

  5. This was an amazing article, I love seeing shitty sites get what they deserve. As someone that knows how it feels to be ignored I get why some people would go along with just getting ‘exposure’. Because of all that crap though (and the fact writing reviews is a merely a hobby of mine) I’ve never attempted to write for a ‘proper’ site. One day I’ll probably just save up the money to pay for wordpress premium and turn the blog into my own site.

  6. I know very little about gaming and less so about gaming journalism, but as soon as I read the first two bullets about not paying reviewers in exchange for exposure I knew this was going nowhere but downhill fast. Little did I know how far down it would go! I hope Mr. Ryan is punished for his defamation, but these being the last, desperate acts of a desperate man, I can’t imagine he has anything to sue for. Hopefully no one’s career or personal life has been irreparably damaged from this, especially for Ms. Read. Never ever should someone’s mental health problems be exposed or used against them.
    On a humorous sidenote, it is apparent that Brash Games’ reviews really weren’t edited as Mr. Ryan cannot be bothered to proofread his own published rantings.
    Chris, I came to your site to read your favorite SNES games and I’ve stuck around reading other things. I don’t have the money to buy a console and games without making large sacrifices, but I still read your reviews because you write very well and reading your site is good entertainment. (God that sounds stuffy).

  7. Just thought I’d post this here because it’s so funny. Tragic, of course, and hurtful, but you have to laugh. I have to laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll tie bricks to his wheelchair and push him off the Humber Bridge.

    I used to write at Brash, and I was naive enough to give him a second chance. After he once again shafted me (some six months after he did it before) by altering my reviews, I sent him an email saying I was leaving, and “so much for second chances”. He filled the email with venomous, completely fictional materiel. Here is, copied verbatim, my response to him. You can see the areas where I respond, in turn, to each part of his email (‘You’ is where I’m quoting Paul back to himself, and , just like the article above, I’ve left his awful grammar and spelling intact):

    “YOU: 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 materialised

    ME: Are you SURE you have the right person here? Because as usual, I have no idea what you’re talking about. If there’s ANY developer out there at all, ANY, who has felt the need to get in touch with Paul Ryan (why would they do that anyway!?) about my not honouring a review, please, I implore them to get in touch. I’ll be sure to forward this to everyone in my address book to set the record straight. I know, no need to thank me – If you believe I’m stealing keys from devs, then I’ll do all the legwork to put that right.

    Also, YOU “understand the effects mental illness” have on me? Are we even on the same planet, here? And touch me with a bargepole? After you saw fit to alter my review scores and claim my work as yours, I didn’t take my work anywhere, despite offers from xboxgamereviews, passthecontroller and more. In fact, the latter were offering me the position of a content editor, much more than just writing reviews. I declined, for the moment.

    YOU: To my knowledge that makes 19 codes in the last few months so at least you’ve got some games to play to keep you busy. Here’s a list of the outstanding games and the codes so everyone can verify you’ve used them and if you look at True Achievements you’ll see he’s played them all and is clearly lying again.

    ME: 19 codes for what exactly? Who from? These mysterious developers who claim I promised to write about them on a blog? I mean, are you actually crazy enough to make this shit up off the top of your head, or, again, are you sure you’re not mistaking me for someone else? And lying about what? What, sincerely, am I lying about? Please look back above to the part where I give you your final FIVE (which in your mind has gone from six, to eight, to nineteen) reviews in one succinct statement. After all, it’s my subjective opinion on the matter, and they all use the same shitty emulation software from the same company, so their performance suffers equally. You have never had contracts with anyone, you never outlined any contractual requirements to provide a minimum number of words for a review. I’ve always written some of the longest, most verbose reviews on Brash.

    I haven’t lied to anyone about anything – in fact, if you take a look at my status on TA, you’ll see it clearly says I’m receiving 8 codes for Neo Geo games to review, five of which I’ve managed to uninstall without unlocking an achievement because they were so awful to play. (2/10 is generous, but I know you’re a generous kind of guy).

    Final note: You can claim anything you want. It doesn’t matter. Because the whole industry knows you are lying, to everyone, about everything.

    Warmest regards,

    Mat (that’s ONE ‘t’) Cooper.”

    The word you’re looking for, I believe, is cunt.

  8. Meg listed her illness on twitter/social media so when Paul Ryan mentioned this it would have been already out in the social sphere, considering the short amount of reviews being posted by the reviewers who have since left I would be hesitant to take what they say on face value, it would be better to hear from someone who had been writing for them for a while and then judge

  9. Every games journalist, new or not, really should join the National Union of Journalists. They provide advise, training and protection at work for journalists http://www.nuj.org.uk

    I’m suggesting this as a lifelong gamer and trade unionist and reader of game reviews.

    1. Hi Gayle. While I do agree with the idea of trade unions in theory, in practice it (sadly) doesn’t work well when it comes to games journalism.

      For starters, as games journalists are generally paid quite low (or, as seen in this case, not at all), many of them would struggle to pay even the minimum annual £180 membership fee to be a NUJ member.

      More importantly, though, some (though not all) publishers don’t recognise unions. For the nine years I was at Future Publishing they didn’t recognise the NUJ, and while that may have changed in the two years since I’ve left I’ve heard nothing to suggest this is the case. It’s something I hope improves but until it does joining the NUJ may be an ineffective expense depending on where games journalists are getting work.

  10. “There’s an unwritten rule in games journalism that you’re supposed to treat your fellow professionals with respect… it’s certainly considered unprofessional to write up an article that outright calls them out.”

    I have to slightly disagree with this. In my opinion if another writer conducts a very blatant act of ineptitude (eg. extremely poor writing, poor facts or sources), then you have every right to call them out, whether you’re a professional or not. Especially if the writer in question IS a paid professional — why is he being paid to produce nonsense like this?

    Of course, one must consider how severe the act of “calling out” should be. Normally, the wise choice would be to just point out their mistakes in a fair manner without resorting to vulgarities or personal attacks. Mistakes happen all the time, we’re here to learn from them.

    In cases like Brash Games however, I guess going all-out is warranted. Don’t feel ashamed at all Chris. Evil and stupidity is only allowed to exist because no one decides to take action.

  11. Even worse, Jim Sterling talked about Paul Ryan’s dickishness, and a lot of the things he said about replacing the review on U Host, he altered the quote a LOT. The publisher e-mailed Sterling the original problem they had with the review, and as it turns out our little bastard friend Ryan decided to significantly change it to be more accusatory. The specific part of the video discussing this can be found here:

    I have to say, Ryan’s really pushing his way to a libel suit, insn’t he?

  12. Hi Chris,

    I’ve followed your work for some time. This is a well-written article, but I also think parts of it are overly righteous. I used to write for big, now reputable sites you would know like “Nintendo Life” (when they were small) and they didn’t pay any of their writers at all. It was through the efforts of volunteering and solid work that NL became so large in the first place. I was happy to volunteer, and that was with a regular commitment of ‘free’ articles a week – it was this or they would get rid of you.

    The point is: I don’t think we should immediately criticise game sites out there that don’t pay their writers, simply because they have no funding to pay them with… blame failing advertisement revenues for one.

    If a terrible game site like Brash is making a fair bit of money and not paying any of their writers – while doing dodgy things like removing their work – then, of course, that’s fair enough, but for the legitimate smaller guys out there trying to break in (I tried a few years back, so hard), I think this article is a little harsh. Everyone has to start somewhere before they get known. Sometimes the options are very limited on the web.

  13. Imagine being so self obsessed that you have writers write for your site for recognition, then get mad when they get recognised by paying companies. The predisposition that you give them “exposure” is a farce if you don’t let them leave your site when someone actually finds their work.

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