Let me say from the first that I agree there should be a disclosure in the item. Not because anything that happened was wrong, unlike in the cases Gamergate is upset about, but simply because in the current atmosphere things need to be whiter than white.
Full disclosure, I know Alex – at least online – and we have ‘shot the shit’ some of these issues for a while. I think The Escapist is one of the few sites that has treated Gamergate remotely fairly in allowing discussion and in showing all sides of the argument. They also revised their ethics policy and fully disclosed it and have otherwise done a lot of things worthy of praise and support.
The crux of the matter is ‘editorial content’.
The interview was not about the project, Alex had no byline in the interview – I think it’s Greg who has been managing the interviews on the site. The interview does not support or promote the project – which has closed in any case.
The things that Gamergate has been concerned by are explicated in the ethics policy quote above. Specifically:
The instances Gamergate were pissed off about were cases where people in positions of power were promoting individuals that they patreoned or projects that were underway. Places were the conflicts of interest were obvious and massive, once you understood the relationships involved.
My interview is one of many, providing a variety of views and does not promote my project – which closed out successfully by the time this came out anyway.
Still, I felt it should be disclosed because of the kind of attention everything is getting.
There’s another couple of side issues here.
1. They misrepresent Gor and what they say amounts to failing to understand the difference between reality and fantasy and kink-shaming. In a world where 50 Shades of Grey is a bestseller (despite being awful) I don’t think it’s safe ground to point and laugh at people’s BDSM fantasies.
2. The following is the extent of my involvement in the ‘Burgers and Fries’ IRC channel, an open channel that I clicked on to try and find out more about what was going on:
3. Also, for the record. I said good things about Depression Quest, used to follow Zoe Quinn, I donated money when she was mugged. I regret this now, due to her actions. Not the configuration of her chromosomes. As a sufferer from depression myself I thought it was a good thing, sadly, made by a person who it turns out is not good.
If you want any more clarification, detail or explanation, please leave a comment.
The interview has since been removed, apparently for ‘harassment towards Escapist contributors’. I have no idea why, and have no idea who I might have ‘harassed’ (though the bar these days is set so low it could be anything).
James “Grim” Desborough is a game designer, author and blogger who has worked primarily on role-playing games, as well as card games, board games and social computer games. He won an Origins Award in 2001 and has been a pundit on men’s issues. Follow him on twitter @Grimachu. We interviewed Mr. Desborough over email.
Have any public comments by you about GamerGate triggered or abuse or harassment from games or game journalists? If so, please share what you deem appropriate.
I’ve been shocked by the contempt many games journalists seem to hold for their audience and my comments have met with some hostility. I haven’t paid that much attention to the “who” and the “where” and have tried to follow my own best advice and ignore it. A lot of it comes from people who aren’t anonymous trolls or new accounts though and that-to me-is the striking difference between the #GamerGate side and whatever you might call the opposition. There are trolls on all sides, but the ones that are public about the abuse, name calling etc., certainly seem to be more on the anti-GamerGate side.
Gamer Gate Harrassment has been doing a good job of logging a tiny a portion of the abuse.
Some developers have reported to me that they are being blacklisted or stonewalled by journalists over comments they’ve made relating to #GamerGate or similar issues. Have you experienced anything similar?
Tabletop gaming has been undergoing similar upheavals, but without anything like as much opposition. These kinds of arguments can be two-edged in that notoriety can bring money and attention to your projects in the short term but can make people unwilling to work with you in the longer term.
I have had to operate under a pen name on occasion because of the faux controversy and hatred directed towards me, other creators have not wanted to work with me not because they disagree with me necessarily or don’t want to work with me, but because they’re afraid of – and I quote – “The crazies.” From my point of view the harassment issue – as is reported in the media – is 180 degrees from what really goes on, but then the media is often in on the harassment.
I’ve also had interviews evaporate or it has taken weeks longer than necessary to talk to the right people. That’s either disorganization or, well, something else.
What does being blacklisted or stonewalled mean?
It makes it harder to get work, harder to get exposure. If you’re not part of a larger company that makes promotion of your material more difficult and it makes it hard to be part of the conversation. A very one-sided and caricatured ‘debate’ tends to appear in the press so the other side of these arguments doesn’t get as much airing.
How was the blacklisting or stonewalling communicated to you? How did you find out?
It wasn’t. I found out via friends or doing a little digging and prodding.
Did they give a reason for your blacklisting/stonewalling?
The aforementioned issue of ‘The crazies’ – or similar – has been brought up several times. The article I wrote defending the use of unpleasant tropes in stories (rape in particular) has been cited a few times. Rather absurd to be living in a world where fictional bad things happening to fictional people has such an impact in life.
What do you expect the consequences of this to be?
It just makes everything that little bit harder, but it also makes the fight more important. On a broader scale I think the right to free expression is being severely curtailed both by this atmosphere of slacktivist orthodoxy and by issues around private ownership of communications media.
Do you know of any developers who have been silenced or self-silenced by concerns of how gamers or journalists will react to their opinion of GamerGate?
There are plenty who hold their tongues over issues like this, and this in particular, out of a sense of self-preservation. I think they really should stand up for their consumers and community though. It just goes to show how bad things have gotten if they don’t feel they can actually side with their fans.
Have you ever been subjected to criticism of misogyny, racism, or similar because of your actual game development or other work in the industry?
Yes, though it doesn’t take much to be accused of misogyny these days. Merely disagreeing with someone who happens to be a woman seems to be enough. It’s a form of apophenia [editor: the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data] in my opinion. You go looking for something to be offended by and you’ll find it.
Are there particular articles, journalists, sites, or communities that are considered particularly egregious in their criticism by developers?
RPGnet, Yourdungeonissuck, http://wouldyouagreethat.tumblr.com/. In the tabletop RPG community much of the ‘social justice’ criticism comes from the developers and writers themselves, such Tablehop (a known troll and abuser) with a definite split which, again, is related to certain indies. Evil Hat are quite ‘SJW’ish, the Eclipse Phase people famously banned ‘MRAs’ from their site, without really defining what one was exactly. Machine Age Productions actually do a good thing in that they make their own games, but they spoil it by slagging off and hating anyone and everyone that doesn’t share their views.
Some developers have reported that #GamerGate is a situation that has been brewing for years. Do you agree?
Absolutely. There’s a conflux of issues here coming together. The Indie scene was vulnerable to a particular kind of ‘social justice’ infiltration because it was smaller and dealing with the right kinds of subjects. Corruption in gaming journalism goes back almost as long as computer gaming, but the death of the magazines and the rise of the sites was supposed to make that better. Now it’s the turn of the YouTubers it seems, and sooner or later they’re going to have their scandals. The abuse and criticism directed towards ‘mainstream’ gaming (consoles, PC) has been building for years and many gamers have become heartily sick of everything they love being torn apart on dubious ideological bases. I think this was just the last straw that took them past questioning themselves.
When did the distrust begin?
Things have been going wrong since the 80s I reckon, but the ‘social justice warrior’ issue seems to have kicked into high gear around 2010.
What are the primary concerns that developers have, vis a vis the game press? Vis a vis gamers?
I want people to be able to make anything and for consumers to be able to buy anything. Whether that’s Gone Home or Battle Raper, I don’t care. When I read a game review I want to know about the graphics, the specs, the sound, the options, the game details. Not whether it ‘objectifies’ women (I can judge that for myself, thanks) or what Bell Hooks or Simone de Beauvoir might have had to say about the strip club level. As a writer and developer I want what I work on to be judged on its artistic (or fun) merits, not whether it conforms to a particular political orthodoxy. The game is what matters and it’s the game being reviewed. Not speculation about my private life or beliefs.
Are developers changing their interactions with the game press or gamers as a result of GamerGate?
I used to try and interact as much as possible, even with the haters, to try and understand where they were coming from. Not any more.
What could the press do to restore developers’ confidence that they will treat them fairly? What could gamers do to restore relations with developers?
The Escapist seems to have made the biggest step in adopting some professional guidelines. I’d like to see other sites doing that and I’d like to see opinion clearly marked as such and, perhaps, separated out from the ‘meat’ of a review so that those who are interested can read that and those who aren’t can skip it.
Gamers need to be conscious that any creative act is putting a part of yourself out on show and that they need to be twice as positive about the good things as they are negative about the bad things. Tell people what you like about their games, not just what you hate. #GamerGate has been heartening to me as a game maker, even in another field, because it shows that developers and writers aren’t alone in their frustrations.
Is there a perception of corruption among the game press? If so, is it primarily perceived as mercenary (pay to get a good review) or primarily ideological (toe the party line to get a good review) or something else?
There’s not that much money in game press, so I think it’s more ideological and unprofessional favors. That doesn’t make it any less worrying though.
Any other comments?
This whole thing is a tangled mess of issues and they, perhaps, need to be untangled. The Zoe Quinn issue was merely the spark, though recent questions have brought her – and Sarkeesian – back into focus. There were clear conflicts of interest there, even if nothing actually wrong was done. It’s not sufficient to be innocent when it comes to public opinion, you must also appear to be innocent.
From there concerns about DiGRA, IGF, Silverstring and a whole host of other issues with clear conflicts of interest have been found out. Both of these concerns tie in to existing worry about issues such as Colonial Marines and a dev at Gearbox essentially admitted biased coverage.
The SJW issue is one that impacts creativity as a whole and ties in via the indie games scene and a biased games media that has been pushing these particular agendas hard for years, not waiting for things to change organically – which they have been doing – and even heavily criticizing games that advance the form. I think, really, gamers’ patience has just run out.
The takedown message has been updated, and reveals that the interview was taken down merely on the basis of accusations. As a fan of logic and due process I find this unacceptable.