Disgraced video game reviewer Filip Miucin has made his return public life, posting a YouTube review of the video game Dead Cells.
As many may recall, Dead Cells was the same game he plagiarized his review of in August 2018, which sparked and investigation into his work and eventually his firing from IGN. Now, in July 2020, Miucin is taking another crack at the game with what he calls a “Very Honest & Original” review of the game.
Though the review is glowing and praises the game highly, the feedback on Miucin’s return has been far less-well received. As of this writing, the video has 1.1K likes to 4.6K dislikes and the comments are scathingly critical of Miucin’s choice to return to video game reviews.
To be clear, this isn’t Miucin’s actual return to public life. Back in April 2019, Miucin posted a pair of apology videos for his plagiarisms. Though the videos themselves were decent in terms of their content, they were significantly late (coming nine months after his firing) and omitted some of his misdeeds, including the falsehoods in his now-deleted first apology.
After those apology videos, he also published seven reviews, none of which were well-received. The last of those reviews went up in August 2019.
Nonetheless, Miucin’s return to public life, 23 months after his downfall and eleven since his last review, has not been well-received. Despite promises that he will produce honest and original reviews moving forward, it seems that there is still little trust for Miucin and his brand.
But this leads to an interesting question: Why? Other journalists have been credibly accused of plagiarism and ethical violations and have made triumphant returns much more quickly. Why is Miucin still on the outside looking in?
A Tale of Two Journalists
To understand why Miucin thought he could return to public life, one needs to look no farther than Benny Johnson.
To recap, Benny Johnson is a conservative political activist and journalist that was fired from two separate publications over ethical lapses. First, he was fired from Buzzfeed after more they discovered more than 40 counts of plagiarism in his history.
However, rather than being banished from journalism, he was quickly snapped up by the National Review. He soon left there to go work at the Independent Journal Review (IJR), the publication that Benny Johnson attempted to call out for plagiarism only to have the allegations thrown back at him many-fold.
At the IJR, Johnson was once again accused of plagiarism and ethical violations but eventually was suspended after he assigned and published a now-retracted conspiracy theory involving President Barack Obama.
However, even that wasn’t the end for Johnson. He landed a new job at the Daily Caller and eventually a new job at the conservative non-profit Turning Point USA.
Despite being one of the most prolific plagiarists in journalism’s history, Johnson’s career never experienced as much as a speed bump. In an environment where many great journalists are struggling to find even freelance work, Johnson has always had someone willing to take him in.
The question is simple: Why? Why does Johnson’s career have infinite lives and Miucin’s seemingly over? The answer comes down to one word: Authenticity.
Authenticity and Audience Expectation
The main difference between Miucin and Johnson is the fields that they operate in. Miucin is a video game journalist that specializes in reviews and Johnson is a political correspondent.
This may seem like a minor difference, but it ends up mattering a great deal.
In political reporting, authenticity of message is more important than authenticity of voice. This is true across the political spectrum.
Political commentators routinely repeat stories, narratives and ideas that are not unique to them but fit with the message they are trying to present. The brand that Benny Johnson has isn’t tied to himself or his opinions, but instead is tied to his conservative views.
Though plagiarism is far from ideal and certainly isn’t a good thing, it’s less of a betrayal than other perceived misdeeds, such as having a sudden shift in political ideology. In 2020, political commentary is more about toeing the line reinforcing what the reader wants to hear than having original thoughts and analysis.
With video game reviews, it’s vastly different. Video game reviewers, especially ones that are going on camera for their reviews, are expected to be authentic and honest. Anything less than that is seen as betrayal. That, in turn, is exactly what Miucin did two years ago.
It might seem strange that a video game reviewer is held to a much higher standard of authenticity than a political journalist, but a video game review is meant to be a direct reflection of the author where a political columnist is meant to reflect an external opinion.
This is also why Melania Trump plagiarizing a supposedly personal passage from her speech was more newsworthy than various other political plagiarism stories involving political documents, including the ones involving Senator Marco Rubio, President Barack Obama and so forth.
Likewise, scandals involving education are considered more serious, such as Senator John Walsh and Vice President Joe Biden. Once again, it plays to authenticity. It calls into question the education has received, which is supposed to be a direct representative of that candidate’s work and character.
In short, when authenticity of voice and work matters, plagiarism stings much harder. Miucin is getting a hard lesson in that and it’s a lesson he’ll likely never recover from.
The truth is simple, Miucin will never likely be welcomed back as a video game reviewer. The internet is not wont for people to review video games and, as someone that has a permanent stain on his authenticity, there’s just no reason for him to be welcomed back.
Nothing speaks to this more directly than the actions of IGN’s executive editor Ryan McCaffrey, who, in response to Miucin’s tweeted two simple words.
Though Miucin has his defenders, they seem easily outnumbered by those that don’t want him back. Whether he can turn his remaining defenders into a new career is uncertain, but it won’t be the career he had if he is able to pull something through.
To that end, if I were going to offer Miucin a piece of advice, it would be this: You need to be authentic.
Your new review of Dead Cells makes mention of your previous plagiarism but makes it sound as if that one review was the only thing you were found to have taken. It wasn’t and you acknowledged as such in your 2019 videos. Those videos were ill-timed and incomplete, but at least honest.
This review feels less honest and, if you’re trying to recover from a plagiarism scandal, you have to rebuild your authenticity and integrity. You can’t do that by hiding much of your past.
If you don’t take full ownership of your past, you’ll never have a chance at taking ownership of your future.