Duke Nukem PR guy would have been better off staying quiet

PR guy Jim Redner's Twitter tantrum sank his business with 2K Games last week after he threatened Duke Nukem Forever reviewers. Now he's explaining his position. But should he?
Written by Peter Cohen, Inactive

Remember the PR agency that found itself out on the street last week after it threatened retribution against game journalists who were too harsh with Duke Nukem Forever? He's spoken out in a guest column in Wired.

Jim Redner owns (and is sole proprietor) of The Redner Group, a PR agency located in Santa Monica, Calif. Up until last week, Redner represented 2K Games, with whom he'd worked previously for another Gearbox Software release - Borderlands.

Last week Redner took to Twitter and threatened unspecified game reviewers who were, in his opinion, taking unfair shots at Duke Nukem Forever, which Redner had been hired to promote. Redner suggested that anyone who had crossed the line with their review wouldn't be receiving product from him in the future.

It was a peculiar tirade. PR people rarely, if ever, are so publicly confrontational. So news of Redner's epic tantrum spread across game news sites like wildfire. 2K summarily fired him the following day and promptly disowned his comments.

At the outset, Redner admits his mistake, calling it "a brain fart of epic proportions that registered on the social media Richter scale." In his rambling, three-page screed, Redner paints himself as a one-man-shop David competing with PR industry Goliaths, overworked and underappreciated. Maybe that explains why he took so personally some of the sharp criticism levied at Duke Nukem Forever. Between his contrition, Redner wavers between hostility and defensiveness.

Ultimately, Redner defends his position, telling readers that he never actually threatened to blacklist any reviewers - that word came up in a Wired story recounting his comments. He attempts to differentiate "blacklisting" from what he calls "a selection process," and in the process, weakens his own argument.

Most of the third page of Redner's piece is a defense of why he doesn't send out more copies of games to reviewers. Redner explains that publishers and PR agencies have a limited number of review copies to work with and aren't obliged to send copies of games to every reviewer who asks. That's perfectly understandable.

It's when Redner explains that he factors in "past coverage" and "personal information" when he decides whether someone gets a game where his argument weakens.

"That’s not blacklisting. It’s a selection process," said Redner. Redner goes on at length to explain his "selection process."

"If I walked up to you today, and you hit me in the face as a form of greeting, do you think that I should I approach you again tomorrow?" he asks rhetorically.

Redner adds that the job of a PR agency is to protect the games they represent, not to "supply games to journalists who are capable of such hatred." He says that reviewers can always buy a copy of a game they want to review. That may be true, but it's beside the point: Redner already concedes that he'll send copies to reviewers he knows will be kind.

Realistically, Redner may quibble over the term "blacklisting," because it's a politically and culturally loaded term. But at the end of the day, the result is exactly the same. Explaining his "selection process" does little more than expose the system as pandering to reviewers who play ball - you scratch my back with a good review, I'll make it easy for you to get product or access next time.

While the vast majority of what Redner says is absolutely no surprise at all to anyone who's worked in the games business for any length of time, his comments give people who don't live this stuff every day a peek behind the curtain.

In the end, I can't help feeling that Redner would have been better off leaving well enough alone and just saying, "I screwed up, and I'm sorry."

Sometimes an apology is better than an explanation.

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