Reviews for indie action game Dead Cells began to roll out yesterday, and while the Metroidvania has been well-received by critics, an assessment by the leading video game website IGN quickly drew controversy due to its similarity to an existing YouTube review of the game. By Tuesday night, IGN announced it had “parted ways” with the editor responsible for its plagiarized review.
On July 24th, YouTube channel Boomstick Gaming uploaded a four-minute overview of Dead Cells, a roguelite that it praised for its unique marriage of combat and exploration. With 16,000 followers, Boomstick Gaming is a small channel that averages under 5,000 views per video. IGN, on the other hand, is the biggest gaming website on the internet, and its YouTube channel has around 10 million subscribers.
In a video uploaded yesterday, Boomstick Gaming compared his existing video review with IGN’s, highlighting a number of similarities between the two. Beyond the repetition of certain buzzwords and phrases, the general framework of both reviews appears to be the same. The focus and wording of the reviews are so aligned that the YouTuber highlights multiple time codes where the two uncannily overlap. Per Boomstick Gaming:
00:15 MYSELF: In Dead Cells you will need to kill your way through a labyrinth of levels all punctuated by boss encounters that starts off quite linear, but the more you play the more routes and game mechanics open up to you. You might not be able to make it to the final boss on your current run but if you can manage to salvage some blueprints for some new gear or better yet, an ability altering rune, it makes it all worth your while….
00:25 [IGN]: In Dead Cells you fight your way through a ever changing labyrinth of levels with branching paths, you’re almost guaranteed not to make it all the way through on every run, but as your efforts lead you to blueprints that unlocked new gear, it makes it all worth your while….
“The entire structure of my video is copied and many sentences are almost identical with high school levels of ‘word changing,’” Boomstick Gaming wrote in the video description.
The page that previously hosted the Dead Cells written and video reviews, both of which were composed by Nintendo editor Filip Miucin, was removed and replaced with a preliminary statement from IGN:
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.
Later on Tuesday evening, IGN released a follow-up statement acknowledging “substantial similarities” between its Dead Cells reviews and the Boomstick Gaming video “that could not be justified.”
“Though our Dead Cells reviewer played the game and came away with glowing opinions of it — as did many of our other staff members — the review itself was simply not acceptable. We’ve parted ways with the writer involved in the review, and we will be re-reviewing Dead Cells this week.” The company issued an apology to its readers, the game’s developer, and Boomstick Gaming, saying that “nothing is more important to us than your trust.”
And as Kotaku reports, internet sleuths have since then discovered a number of other reviews with striking similarities to other works, which has prompted IGN to replace much of Miucin’s work with a notice of the accusations. The works reviewed on these pages, which include the Nintendo Switch port of Skyrim, will be re-assessed by other IGN staff. Until then, they currently display a message that reads, “This article has been removed due to concerns over similarities to work by other authors. The author of this article is no longer employed by IGN.”
The plagiarism accusation quickly received attention, tallying over 119,000 views and attracting hundreds of enraged comments. Boomstick Gaming said that it has contacted IGN about the issue. Miucin, for his part, said on Twitter that this was the first video review that he edited for IGN.
“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,” Boomstick Gaming told The Verge. “I have been doing YouTube since 2006 as a hobby and have found somewhat of a following recently. A few months ago I started a Patreon that attempts to help me continue what I enjoy doing by accepting donations from fans of my videos but has seen little to no success.”
Update August 7th 8PM ET: This story has been updated to reflect IGN’s statement on Tuesday evening and the editor’s dismissal.
Update August 15th 2:36 PM: This story has been updated to reflect further takedowns of Miucin’s work on IGN.