It’s never pleasant to see something like this happen. Apparently a BioWare employee has been caught red-handed reviewing the game his employer developed. Some internet sleuthing has dug up some incriminating evidence that one may view as the manipulation of customer opinion by a company. Companies try to influence opinion all the time, but it becomes a problem when an employee poses as a regular consumer to hype a product. Follow the bread crumbs and you’ll learn how this whole mess came to light.
Through varies sources, including an infographic that’s being passed around on Twitter, we attempted to recreate the steps to get the same results the original whistle-blower achieved. It all starts on Metacritic, where a user going by the handle of “Avanost” wrote a user review. He gave Dragon Age 2 a perfect 10 calling it “flawlessly executed and endlessly entertaining.” Avanost only reviewed Dragon Age 2, but he rated two other versions of Dragon Age 2. He gave those versions a 10 and 9.
After searching for Avanost through Google, Avanost’s name appeared again on a website called Plurk. It’s there that Avanost’s real name is revealed to be Chris Hoban of Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Another Google search for Chris Hoban turned up a Linkedin profile for an individual who works as an applications engineer at BioWare. This individual is also named Chris Hoban. Coincidence? Maybe. However, the Chris Hoban on Linkedin is also from Edmonton, Canada.
We’ve tried to recreate every step in this investigation and were successful on most fronts. The only thing we couldn’t duplicate were the Metacritc reviews, which have been removed from the site. Avanost’s profile still says he rated three games and reviewed one.
While there’s nothing wrong with an employee loving his employer’s work, they should disclose that information if they’re going to post reviews. Otherwise, there is a clear conflict of interest that can’t result in anything positive.