Upon seeing several suspiciously positive user reviews on Metacritic.com for the Xbox 360 version of Jurassic Park: The Game yesterday, Gamespot did some Googling. They discovered that at least two of the user reviews were written and posted by employees of Telltale Games, the company that developed the title.
The game also came out for the iPad 2 a couple of days ago, and because iTunes has its own user reviews, we cross referenced them with the suspicious Metacritic ones. Sure enough, we found that one of the suspected Telltale employees also posted a glowing five-star review in iTunes.
The Metacritic user review, written under the handle KillerIri5h, can be found here. On iTunes, KILLERIRI5H posted the following:
We’ve reached out to Telltale for comment but haven’t gotten a reply yet. However, GameSpot spoke with a representative from the company and received the following statement:
Telltale Games do not censor or muzzle its employees in what they post on the internet. However, it is being communicated internally that anyone who posts in an industry forum will acknowledge that they are a Telltale employee. In this instance, two people who were proud of the game they worked on, posted positively on Metacritic under recognizable online forum and XBLA account names.
It doesn’t take an ethicist to realize that representing yourself as a regular customer when you’re employed by the company that made the game is disingenuous and wrong. But because posting user reviews is so easy to do on the App Store, Metacritc, and similar platforms, we’re sure this is far from the only instance of this happening.
Our proposed solution? Turn to the pros. All professional game review websites worth their salt actively try to maintain a critical distance from the games they review. Click here to see how seriously we take this mission. We haven’t reviewed Jurassic Park: The Game for iPad yet, but several other sites have found it to be buggy and mediocre.
What do you think? Is this an egregious breach of trust, or just a couple of employees who are proud of their work, trying to rally support in a public forum?