I’d like to begin by addressing the relatively slow activity of my blog these past few months. I’ve been moving into my new house for university with my friends, learning how to use Maya and Unity, and have been generally absorbed by the inexorable, fumbling march of student life. If you’re dying to read every word I’ve ever published and/or worship my flawless character then you can keep up with my new footwear fashion blog, ‘Pedigogue‘ by clicking that link.
I did promise, however, that were a particularly motivating discursive thought to formalise within me vis-à-vis the usual subject matter, then I would be sure to return here and put pen to paper (finger to keyboard?). Today I read about something which absolutely stirred that line of exchanging thoughts within me, which I feel deserve some written comprehension.
I should warn you that I will assume all knowledge of the current situation with Filip Miucin, if that assumption is wrong then I suggest a quick google search of ‘Filip Miucin IGN’ (otherwise this post might not make much sense). This will not be in any way a history or timeline of the madness, expect no disquisition, ultimately this post is just a brief account of the thoughts and feelings that this situation has evoked in me personally.
What baffles me the most about Filip Miucin’s downfall as a games journalist is the sheer amount of blatantly plagiarised work that had gone unnoticed before he was ultimately called out. For me this brought to mind both the fact that plagiarists will almost always fester and thrive if unchallenged, but also the idea that the games criticism sphere is demonstrably large enough for such transgressions to go almost unnoticed. There is some silver lining there, in that this shows how much the industry and culture has flourished and how wide the circle has become.
The second most confusing thing about the situation, to me, is Miucin’s since-deleted response video which flippantly shrugs off these proofs of his wrongdoing as mere allegations. I’m searching for a description of Miucin’s approach here and it falls somewhere between audacity and mental instability. This spectacle for me, of a patently compulsive plagiarist deploying the feeblest circumlocutions unto the brandished pitchforks of the internet, utterly devoid of any apology, was uniquely boggling and I’m still unable to fully comprehend it.
It is hard for me to comprehend because, to speak frankly, I have also been guilty of plagiarism, and it is impossible for me to imagine myself responding as Miucin has to such damning evidences.
There are many, many un-pursued drafts stored away in the filing cabinets of this blog, the likes of which bear titles such as ‘On PewDiePie And Vanaman’, ‘Clickbait Culture’ and (the inspiration for this title now totally escapes me, rendering it accidentally hilarious) ‘My Gaming Wives’. One title of these drafts in particular sticks out to me though, ‘Blogging Confessions: I Plagiarise’. Evidently at one point I thought it something close to endearing to wear one’s flaws so shamelessly on one’s sleeve.
If you’ve been following this blog since I was 14, 15 or maybe even later, you may have noticed that you can’t find some of my older posts which were previously circling the web for a number of years. Some of these deletions are because I no longer believed the content to represent the blog, some were due to evolving taste, but a sizeable chunk have been made because I no longer considered the posts a product of my own imagination. After a while, I just felt that they didn’t belong to me.
There are crucial distinctions between what I believe to be my own plagiarism and Miucin’s blatant thievery. Of course, this blog is by nature amateur. I have never accepted nor been offered any any money or sponsorship deals on this blog, any schedule is self-imposed and the small circle of returning readers for this blog means that my postings are comparatively risk-free next to the postings of a cultural monolith such as IGN. The diametrical opposite is true of Miucin’s work. His transgressions had professional, monetary and cultural repercussions which have not fully caught up to him yet. The nature of the plagiarism is also different, and this is the crux of this post, really: there is such a thing as good-intentioned plagiarism.
Of course, this has nothing to do with Miucin and I would never, ever seek to excuse the man of his positively revolting character. I’m talking more about the kind of plagiarism that is detected more often than not by the creator of content themselves. The kind of plagiarism which we, as bloggers, sometimes succumb to in varying degrees, the plagiarism comes through encumbering your work with its inspirations. I’ve experienced this multiple times as a blogger over the years and it sometimes becomes apparent as I take on different creative processes at my university. If you’re a fellow blogger reading this, particularly a games blogger, you will probably share the same experience as me in that the inevitable first post, that ultimate decision to publicly talk (about games), did not randomly emerge in a conceptual vacuum. For me, I had my inspiring pundits.
A number of memories came to mind when I heard that TotalBiscuit had tragically died in hospital. As well as a quite unfortunate blog post I made (yep, one of the deleted ones) about him blocking me on Twitter before I stupidly asked his wife to get him to unblock me (a request that she unfortunately saw, and responded to less curtly than she had to (I was like 15, okay?)), I also remembered, quite vividly, the inception of this blog in November 2014. That first post, that geniously titled ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ubi’ owes a debt to TotalBiscuit’s ‘Let’s not play: Assassins Creed: Unity yet’. There was something charming and strangely motivating about his polemical authority that, more than anything, attracted me to his vocation let alone his channel. There’s a lot of his voice which I tried to replicate in that initial, terrifically cringeworthy post.
Of course, the best art and by extension artists are inimitable. Any writer would be hard-pressed to try and exact the nuance and majesty of Proust, any film student would probably be snickered at if they tried to assert that their shitty films somehow owed a debt to Kubrick. The artistry of those like Proust and Kubrick, for example, exists in a special echelon of quality and execution which in fact makes it hard to reproduce even if we were to try. But, there is such a thing as borrowing too much of the art’s components. This goes hand in hand with the fact that we can only, in the creative process, take from within our ken. Anything that I’m writing now is pouring forth as a stream of converging unconscious memories, that manifest in involuntary appearances as I think discursively about what to write. Crucially though, every word of this is one which I have already read, deployed or uttered at least once. I can only show what has already been shown unto me.
TotalBiscuit was one of many pundits who I began to look up to in the beginning. Amongst others were (and are) George Weidman, Chris Franklin, Noah Caldwell-Gervais, Ian Danskin and Satchell Drakes. I would watch these individuals’ videos religiously. Their acuity and passion was more than endearing to me, it was astounding. It opened up the world a gaming for me, a world which I thought I had known so well, and it even opened up career pathways for me. For the first couple years running my blog, I would tell friends and family (probably to their dismay) that I intended to be a journalist, wanting to (but lacking the courage to) actually state my intention of becoming a games journalist. I even did a couple weeks’ work experience in publication companies with this goal in mind (to this day this is probably the biggest waste of time in my life, bar ever dating my ex).
Looking up to these figures so much, I confused correctly digesting and being like my inspirations with just being my inspirations. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, I guess. Perhaps still lurking on this site are blatant rewordings of Weidman’s work in particular. In retrospect, I understand why I did this. I wasn’t a wide reader back in those days, I fancied myself a writer who didn’t need to read to excel. My sphere of influence was incredibly small but also incredibly motivating, which is a dangerous combination. To be clear: there is nothing wrong with having inspirations and idols. But, if you blog on here or take anything else up at an amateur level, it is most likely that you are the sole arbiter of when you’re borrowing too much.
I’ll just end by bullet-pointing a few tips that have helped me in this journey when it comes to having a healthy relationship between you and your influences.
- Abandon the idea that your work is completely your own. Ideas can be original, but the processes which are required to convey these involve using an almost entirely borrowed set of creative instruments. In this, everyone owes debts.
- It is not always good to be like your influences. Your work can have passion and lustre but without identity it is lost.
- Read more. If you’re a filmmaker, watch more films. A blogger who reads one blog is always in danger. Keeping your circle of influences wide is the best way of avoiding the danger of replication.
- It’s okay if you catch yourself in too much debt to other artists. Just start again, and if it never ends up feeling like your own, your heart’s not in the right place.
- Pride is a great barometer. The pieces on here which I am the most proud of are unequivocally my own, which I know owe no debts and began in my mind alone. The pieces which I am the least proud of, which I have deleted, are those which I know do not belong to me.