A Blogger’s Ego and the Anatomy of a Phony Scandal

Ego. We all have one. Bloggers are no exception. Blogging started off as a way to share one’s passion and hobbies with like-minded individuals. Yet blogging has started to change from the good old days. Thanks to the Internet many bloggers have become self-appointed experts usually without any training in their field or legitimate experience. Blogging has also become very competitive. It’s not enough to to blog monthly or weekly. These days you must blog daily and even multiple times per day if you hope to stand out in a sea of opinions. Regrettably for some, blogging has turned into a popularity contest driven by ego and arrogance. One blogger in particular has excelled at this new game of self-promotion and grandstanding — his name is Tobold.

This week Tobold revealed that Mythic had given him a free lifetime Warhammer subscription. On the surface revealing that information was a noble thing to do as it raised some valid questions with other bloggers as to the appropriateness of Mythic’s generosity and the criteria behind what they did. After all, aren’t bloggers supposed to be digging deeper and asking probing questions?

Video game companies have a long history of showing favoritism and handing out perks to certain influential community members. Back in 2004 before I started writing on Wolfshead Online, in a post on the Druid’s Grove forums entitled Conflict of interest? SOE paid for VIP’s and Community leaders to go to Fan Faire I exposed the fact that a MMO company was paying for the airfare and hotel accommodations of certain class forum leaders of the EverQuest community.

Needless to say, I got a frosty response from the people who had received perks from SOE and the thread was conveniently locked a few days later. It was clear that I had touched a sensitive nerve by daring to question the ethics and fairness of this practice. But I soon came to understand and accept the apathy of many MMO gamers; they don’t generally care about corporate corruption or journalistic ethics. After all, they just want to have fun right?

The Real Problem

My problem is not with Tobold’s revelation regarding his free subscription. It’s him making himself out to be a victim, his grandstanding and the subsequent promotion of his disclosure to gain favor with his followers in a blog entry entitled Toboldgate. Toboldgate? What?!? It seems that Tobold’s current plight is on par with unfortunate historical scandals such as Watergate. Unbelievable!

See if you can detect traces of an egomaniac in the following quote (emphasis is mine):

I have no idea whether I am the only blogger who got one, or just the only blogger admitting he got one. And I don’t know either why I received it. Was it my Paul Barnett interview? The 3,000 visitors per day, or 2,000 feed subscribers? My Blizzard press pass, on the logic that if Blizzard thinks I’m press then the other companies follow? Even if I’m the first, you might find solace in the thought that I probably won’t be the last. Your blog might be the next big thing if you put enough effort in it, and if it becomes customary for MMO companies to hand out freebies, then maybe one day you’ll get one too. It is not as if we bloggers had a huge income from our activity, so some recognition is nice.

Is it just me or is Tobold on an ego road trip of Cannonball Run proportions? Tobold is dangerously close to becoming a legend in his own mind. The arrogance on display here is astounding and unprecedented. Does anyone really believe that the normally all seeing and all knowing Tobold has had a sudden lapse of insight and has no idea why he got that free subscription? But you really have to feel sorry for him, because clearly he hasn’t gotten quite enough recognition from the MMO world.

Anatomy of Phony Scandal

Let’s take a look at the article called Toboldgate Biggest Scandal Ever that was the foundation and springboard for his Toboldgate piece. The title is pure exaggeration and a misleading fabrication on the part of the author. You would think that after reading about the “biggest scandal ever” that hundreds of bloggers and forum posters were calling for Tobold’s head after finding out that he got a free Warhammer account. Nothing could be further from the truth because at the time of that article being published there were only 2 blog articles that had expressed direct concern about Mythic’s practice of giving out free subscriptions to certain bloggers. That’s 2, count ’em — hardly a revolution or scandal worthy of the “gate” suffix.

Let’s examine how Boatorious starts off the Toboldgate article which is an attempt to “educate” (his words) the great unwashed masses out there with regard to the finer points of press perks and influence peddling:

Madness ensued. Some people were jealous. Some people were cautiously accepting, and some were just mad — one guy in Tobold’s comments section went nuts.

Madness? Pray tell, where and who? Dear wannabe Dr. Phil, please provide us with some evidence as to this diagnosis. Then he claims someone went “nuts”. Oh really now? So the third piece of damaging evidence that qualifies this as “scandal” of Watergate proportions is the comments of a poster named Jason on the original thread. Here is the person that went apparently “nuts”:

Unexpected and unfortunate.

You’ve been fairly even-handed with your thoughts on Warhammer so far, but no matter how you dress it up you’re going to sound like a paid stooge now.

I love how you try to brush it aside as no big deal since you’re still going to pay for it so you can play on Euro servers.

I wonder…how many other bloggers out there are on Mythic’s payroll?

He’s hardly a nut and hardly a hater. Here we have someone who’s making some legitimate observations about the issue at hand, yet he’s pilloried by Boatorious for daring to question the great Tobold. Remind me to never disagree with Tobold or his legion of readers/followers as it could cause mass panic in the virtual streets of the blogosphere!

Another interesting thing to note is that out of 22 comments there was a maximum of 2 that could even be called remotely critical of Tobold and Mythic’s decision in the original thread. Combine that, with those 2 previous blog articles and you have the false and manufactured outrage called Toboldgate that would make the former Iraqi Minister of Information very proud. Instead of showing some true character by disassociating himself from the phony outrage, Tobold completely agreed with the Boatorious’s assessment and poured gasoline on the fire.

Even Mark Jacobs has indulged in the phony hysteria by setting Tobold up as some innocent lamb being led to the slaughter:

A mob of ANGRY people are gathering around a man named Tobold who is tied up and hanging over a vat of cold tar. Standing next to him are a whole lot of chickens and a man with a grey goatee and mustache wearing a white suit.

An angry mob eh? I guess Mark Jacobs knows an angry mob when he sees one. The so-called angry mob attacking Tobold was an invented fantasy all along and he fell for it hook, line and sinker. Read the vitriolic comments of various Tobold supporters and you may come to an entirely different conclusion who the angry mob actually is.

The Tobold Telethon

Poor beleaguered Tobold. It’s an unspeakable outrage how 3 people have expressed an opinion contrary to the usual “Go Tobold go!” mantra. Add to that Eric who displayed some real character and posted his own disclosure and you have a total of 4 possible angry mob perpetrators — send in the riot police! Now the routinely hegemonic MMO blogosphere who have missed the real story have arrived on their white horses coming to save him and decry the villainous Tobold detractors! You see, they are proud and protective of him. They are downright giddy that that in their minds the bloggers have arrived — we are important now and have finally gotten the respect of the video game industry. Woohoo! We matter. In the words of Sally Field at the Oscars: “You love me! You really love me!!!”

In the end, Tobold, a very clever master of self-promotion wins — but it’s a hollow victory. He comes across as virtuous because he revealed the Mythic perk to the public. He then gets to explain why he deserved it by talking about how popular he is to his thousands of devoted fans. He also gets to wallow in the gushing support and sympathy from those very same “aw shucks, he’s just a blogger…give him a break!” sycophants and fellow bloggers. The newly crowned Blog Overlord also gets to further promote his recent induction into the MMO press corps and somehow rises above it all. Finally, he’s awarded the imprimatur of the Don Corleone of MMO blogs, Scott “Lum the Mad” Jennings and becomes a made man. And here you thought it was all about a free Warhammer subscription.


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