[Cartoon from plebcomics on Tumblr, which remains hilarious and which you should check out]
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*Rolls up my sleeves*
Hi. I make games. I write about games. I get paid to make games. I used to get paid to write about games. I walked away from paid writing about games, because it was a pretty shitty, corrupt, jaded process that really flew in the face of why I wanted to write about games.
Hi, I make games. I write about games. I get paid to make games. I’ve helped out in the support for games and I know plenty who write about games. It is true that it is a pretty shitty, corrupt, jaded process and it has been for a long time.
I’ve talked to a lot of pro- #GamerGate people over the past few days. I’ve tried to hear out as many as I could. It was hard. I want to first address why that was hard, then I want to try to address some of the trends between the reasonable, cool people I spoke with.
I’ve talked to a lot of anti-gamergate people since it began. I’ve tried to hear them out but it has pretty much universally been a hate-fest with all manner of misrepresentations, deflections, dodges, hedges and – ironically – derailings. There are seemingly no honest, capable, thoughtful people on the ‘other side’ of this debate.
First off, it’s very difficult to wade through the hate. The signal to noise ratio is not good. In fact, it’s terrible. If you’re reasonable, and you want to have a conversation, it’s difficult to do that when the person is hearing ten death threats and thirty insults for every single reasonable message. That mars any perception of credibility for a group that’s invested heavily in credibility and ethics.
I find myself repeatedly asking this question of the SJW side of the debate.
Why are you taking trolls seriously?
No, really. It’s an adage practically as old as the public internet that you ‘don’t feed the trolls’ and yet I see this happening constantly on the SJW side and not just in relation to gamergate. Sarkeesian has practically made a living from taking trolls seriously and playing it up while begging for donations. I know you’ll call that ‘victim blaming’ but it does bear consideration, especially given she’s a known fraud with links to pyramid schemes and scams like handwriting analysis.
Block, report, mute, we have the tools to deal with trolls and we know how to use them, so why not use them? Could it be that trolls give the appearance of evidence that games are filled with misogynistic social outcasts and thus appear to support your thesis? A tad exploitative no?
Trolls are an issue, but it’s a separate issue. They’ll flock to any controversy to wind people up and the best thing to do is to ignore them.
It’s not like the harassment has been one-sided, HERE. The difference, of course, being that a lot of the harassment of pro-gamergate people is sincere.
It’s not exactly like David himself is immune to being… trollish (the target here being me, and not for the first time, so I’ll admit bias against the man based on his track record and espoused beliefs).
Or retweeting trolls and abuse come to that. Tablehop there is a notorious abuser under a variety of accounts.
Now, I’ve heard a few people say, “Point out the threats and insults when they happen! We’ll report those people! They don’t speak for us!” I’ve seen numerous people pointing these threats and harassments out. A couple of very bad times, I saw some people jump in, report, and otherwise shut down the threats. But more often than not (by a wide margin) what I saw was apologism and excuses for the threats and harassment. I saw a lot of “but this time it’s warranted!” style messages. That doesn’t help anyone. That doesn’t build dialogue.
Why are you taking trolls seriously? What about the abuse from your side? What about YOUR abuse and trolling? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
So, if you want to know why there are prominent journalists right now talking about how gamer culture is toxic, and how gamers as a label are dead, this is why. Because even if you’re rational, passionate, and wanting good things, your voice is being drowned out by loud, hateful, toxic people.
And because these journalists, even from broadsheets, don’t take the time to do even five minutes of research, exposing their own lack of professionalism.
A couple of days ago, I posted an email from the San Francisco Police Department verifying a police report placed by Anita Sarkeesian. Why? Because a muckraker accused her of lying, and drummed up a BUNCH of hate. His message had over six hundred reshares. His thread had dozens of people talking about how she needs to be imprisoned, how she needs to be shot, and how she’s… you get the picture. So, I fact-checked.
If this is true, good. However it raises questions such as why the reporter and others who contacted the police and FBI were told something different. So we’re now in a position of having multiple queries saying she didn’t and one – yours – saying she did. So where does that leave us exactly? Back in ‘he said-she said’ with it coming down to sides.
NB: It turns out the Breitbart reporter broke this on Twitter (the FBI involvement) the day before David.
Of course, either way, this doesn’t alter suspicion that some of the troll threats were manufactured.
And I posted the results of that fact-checking. Did I get six hundred people recanting their threats, insults, and accusations? No. I got a couple dozen people threatening me, and a fuckton of people insulting me for DARING to fact-check a journalist. When, mind you, the Gamergate movement is supposedly about holding journalists accountable. Do you know how many messages came up to the effect of, “Oh. I shouldn’t have jumped the gun and accused her without the facts?” None. None at all.
Why are you taking trolls seriously?
I also don’t think you’re quite presenting what happened in an honest manner, but rather with typical bias. As I point out above, that’s only turned this into a he-said/she-said thing with no likely resolution in sight for the time being. I have tweeted the Breitbart reporter in search of more clarification.
Part of the problem here is that there is a mob of amateur sleuths trying to get at the truth because the so-called professionals have utterly failed them.
So understand why a lot of us say, “This group of people is toxic.” It’s because a large majority of what we’re experiencing is people doing very toxic things. There are some reasonable voices. But from where we stand, they’re a stark minority. The movement is about accountability and ethics in journalism, yet the ONLY reaction I got from fact-checking a journalist was hate, denial, threats, and insults. From where I stand, calling Gamergate toxic and hateful isn’t a far stretch at all, because it appears to be doing toxic and hateful things.
From where gamergate, and more broadly the opposition to SJW censorship stands the SJW grouping is toxic, for much the same reasons. The important difference, of course, is that the majority of SJWs don’t appear to be insincere trolls. By your own standard we could hold up social justice (minus the warriors) as toxic, oppressive and hateful because of the actions of Tumblr SJWs and people like yourself.
Yes, I’m aware ‘SJW’ isn’t the most polite term, but it’s the best one that we have to describe this extremist, censorious mindset. As morally conservative in its own way as any evangelical right radicalism of the Reagan era.
Yes, there’s some positive. Yay, charities. But that’s drowned out. And ironically, when we hear about a charity or otherwise positive thing, it’s universally used as a method of attack. For example, there was a period where the Gamergate folks had it in their head that Zoe Quinn was lying about charitable donations. They’d trot out, “We aren’t lying con artists! We really donate to charities!” Essentially, weaponizing charity. Then, I also heard a lot of people bragging when Zoe’s donations were verified officially by the charities, because a group of (allegedly) thousands of people were able to donate more than a single independent game designer. Like seriously, very petty shit.
But also rather valid. Exasperation at an abusive public figure was more effective than their own attempts to raise consciousness and elicit donations. Ironic. You’re showing your biased lens again here. It’s equally valid to say that the group responded to injustices by correcting them. The interference with The Fine Young Capitalists crowdfunding project for one and the apparent – at the time – scamming of charitable donations on the other.
Even more positively some sites have responded to gamergate with tighter ethical guidelines, most notably The Escapist which has lead the way on this (disclosure, I’ve been talking to the general manager there about Gamergate and related issues for a little while).
So, corruption in journalism. Can I let you in on a secret? We want to have that conversation. We all do, with maybe a couple of exceptions. This is a conversation we’ve tried to have, and wanted to have for years. But why aren’t we just sitting down and talking it over and smiling and playing games and shutting up about the feminisms? Basically, it’s because we’re having two completely different conversations. One’s an insider conversation, informed about the industry. The other is an outsider conversation, based on half-truths, misunderstandings, and what we see as skewed priorities.
We are, indeed, having two separate conversations and yes, the corruption has been an issue for years, though it has nudged over the parapet before the discussion has never completely taken hold.
Well, I have my suspicions. Journalists have done very well out of the status quo, sites depend on the corruption not being overtly exposed because then they lose previews, early access and free demo copies (which kills their ability to hype and do their job properly).
Why is it different this time around and how does it relate to ‘the feminisms’? Because gamers are fed up of being lectured and games being analysed on arbitrary political orthodoxy rather than their actual merits as games. This has been going on for a while now, though it first really penetrated my consciousness around 2010 and it’s not just happening in games media. We’re saturated with this kind of ideological gatekeeping and abuse in games, tabletop games, fiction, film, TV. Everything we like is bad and awful and it brainwashes us into being violent, misogynistic, racist… etc… etc… etc.
And people took it for a long time, because they want these kind of geek spaces to be inclusive and people are evangelical about their hobbies. They want other people to like them. Still, nothing seemed to satisfy, nothing seemed to quiet the abuse and so resentment began to build.
The indie scene should just mean independent, but as with tabletop games and with music it took on a character of its own and became quite ideological. At least people were actually making games but a lot of the developers with an SJW slant sold their games and ideas more on abuse of other people’s tastes than the merits of their own. David does this himself as well. He’s to be praised for making his own games in his own way to his own ideas, but to be damned for selling that off the back of abuse of similar efforts made by others (yes, me included). So it has been with the computer game indie scene.
The corruption within the Indie computer game scene has taken hold for a variety of reasons then, including the above.
Gamers have become pissed off because of the following:
- Abuse of the community.
- Resentment in the community.
- Politicisation of reviews.
- Indies relative lack of sway.
- Indies being supposed to be better and professing better ideology (hypocrisy)
- The community collectively reaching the end of its tether.
On our side, a lot of journalists hate the nepotism, and most importantly, they hate the relationship the industry has with journalism. Because a while back ago, “games journalism” was essentially coopted as a marketing arm for certain AAA publishers. At that point, AAA publishers became gatekeepers for success in games journalism. It’s awful, because we want to be talking critically. We want to be looking at games in different lights. We want to approach these works of art as works of art, and not just as the next success or flop. But that can’t happen on any large scale, because of that corruption, because of the commercialism of it all.
So not as games then. There’s another source of the divide too.
Gamers seemingly want games to – at least primarily – be gauged on their qualities as games. The value for money, the longevity, the replayability, the sound, the graphics, the story. Not the degree to which it conforms with arbitrary ideological stances and the commissars that seek to enforce that.
Let’s take an example unrelated to the current mire of gender issues as a case-in-point.
Bioshock was a fairly conventional game in a lot of ways, a run-and-gun first person shooter of the type we’ve seen many times before. The graphics were good, the water effects fantastic, the scenery and level design inspiring, the story stand-out good. By most accounts a pretty great game and a large part of what made it great was its story of a failed utopia, a collapsed ‘Galt’s Gulch’.
Imagine, however, a review written by a dyed-in-the-wool Libertarian extremist who worshipped at the altar of Ayn Rand. How might they review such a game? Would such a review be worth anyone’s time in trying to work out whether they want to purchase it any longer? Would them complaining that the representation of Objectivism was unrealistic (in an undersea city where you have pseudo-magical powers) be meaningful in any real way?
That doesn’t mean that we should ignore the presence of the ideological underpinnings and representation in the game, just that we shouldn’t pass judgement on it. It’s worth noting and mentioning, whether it agrees with our personal ideology or not, but it’s not worth damning it and harranguing your audience based on your own political slant.
Ideological reviews are really just shitty reviews.
The way a lot of the Gamergate stuff looks to us really looks like some strange bizarro world where the games industry works completely different than it really does.
The question is more should it work that way?
The biggest targets of Gamergate have been people who are frankly powerless in the games industry. People like Zoe Quinn and Phil Fish, they are not gatekeepers. They are not able to enact any real, significant influence on the industry. Most independent game jams, awards, and exhibitions are small groups of people, trying to make names for themselves in their little ponds. That’s how independent artists work in pretty much every creative field. They can’t compete with the game industry, so they’re trying to carve out their own little micro industry, where they do their own things and have a captive audience.
ZQ isn’t really a ‘target’ of gamergate per se. Her actions may have sparked and sustained it, but it’s not about going after her per se. It’s about going after bad practice and ideological demagoguery. As such she remains a target only because she continuously puts herself forward and because she’s linked to so many dodgy dealings. Fish is pretty much just a pseudo-troll at this point.
Are these people gatekeepers? New, young, up-and-coming devs seem to think so because they’re part of cliques that collectively do wield power. They’re also part of the SJW mob which seems to claim a lot of journalists who very much are gatekeepers. Again, if you look back, their niche is carved out primarily – it seems – by hating on what other people love and less upon doing what they love and giving it wings.
It’s gone beyond just the indies now though and into journalism and through that there will be an effect on the triple-A’s because new disclosure policies will also affect AAA reviews.
Gamergate did that. It’s a huge, positive step for everyone. Is it enough? Probably not. We do need to carry on working and bring AAAs under scrutiny too.
“SJWs” aren’t affecting widescale change in video games. There’s some minor change here and there. But most of it is shit that, if you weren’t aware was changed, you wouldn’t know was any different. If they get what they want, and that’s a big if, the end result will be a few more games featuring a little more diversity, and maybe less rape and objectification. This will never, ever approach social justice change in major titles like Call of Duty. The SJWs know that. The Call of Duty developers are making Call of Duty. Nobody expects them to make something else. There’s room for Call of Duty. Nobody is trying to take it away. Fuck, the ideal is ultimately MORE GAMES. This is a good thing. Experimental games move the industry forward, and make your core games better. Those games get to be the testing ground where we try out new ideas in a less risk adverse environment.
Here’s where we disagree. SJWs are, indeed, having a profound and negative effect across geek media and it’s primarily exercised through niche journalism. As noted before it has happened in tabletop gaming, it has happened in SF&F (Hugo awards, SFWA shenanigans etc), TV, Film. There is a concerted effort to affect change and it is profoundly dishonest, manipulative and predicated upon ideological wishful thinking rather than facts. We’ve all been through this before in the past with satanic panics, Jack Thompson and even Elvis’ hips.
Here’s the problem. The one thing I can still praise David for is that he does, actually, go out and make games. He doesn’t just carp from the sidelines, he actually tries to make things happen and to put his material out there. However it is deeply ironic to hear him echo my sentiment that people should just ‘MAKE MORE GAMES’ when he and others have specifically tried to prevent me from doing so, and not just me but others. This done via harassment campaigns, petitions to publishers and other means.
It’s deeply hypocritical.
If that is what were going on ‘MOAR GAMEZ!’ I think we’d all be happy, but SJWs seem intent on decrying, damning and demonising what everyone else is doing and claiming that these media are somehow responsible for evil and bad things in the world.
It seems, to me, we’ve heard this tune before.
Anita Sarkeesian? So far, a writer for an already very diverse game was influenced to cop to a trope in his games, and say he won’t be using it again. Fundamentally, the game is still a manshooter game. Just, one story element will be swapped out for something else in the future, instead of recycling the same old thing. That’s pretty much as far as her influence has gone.
Sarkeesian is this generation’s Jack Thompson, Fredric Wertham or Pat Pulling. She is a known fraud who is somehow still being lionised by mainstream media and held up as a saintly example. She wields influence, sadly, and while there is room for discussion on these topics her profoundly dishonest way of approaching it and the fact she’s a known fraud make her the wrong person to do it. She also makes the mistake of the Thompsons, Werthams and Pullings of trying to claim fictive experiences affect real world interactions. She’s just another mad preacher claiming that Pokemon teaches evolution and leads helpless children to hell.
Here’s why: She’s not trying to enact and force change. She’s pointing out trends, the way an art critic does. Some people might look to what she’s saying, and ask for more exceptions from that trend. Some developers might see those trends in their work, and shift away. But she’s never once said that games featuring sexist tropes should not be made. She even makes explicitly clear in every one of her videos that playing games with sexist tropes is okay, it’s not wrong to have fun with those games. But, certain trends do influence attitudes, according to numerous scientific studies. She doesn’t say these games will make you sexist. That would be stupid, since she, and numerous SJW types, have played these games. If she was saying that, and she’s not, she would have to follow up her videos with, “I played this game. It made me sexist.”
Yes, she is (5:10 side by side comparison with Thompson), and she’s part of a continuum of people who have co-opted the public discussion of games with this material and slag off their own audience in so doing. They are absolutely trying to change games, with the explicit and laughable purpose of: “dismantling hegemonic masculinity through intimate friendships. Tearing down those emotional walls that are part of the infrastructure of gendered oppression.”
The DiGRA transcripts are hilarious and horrifying at the same time. Apologies for linking to a video, but other sources and links keep getting taken down. HERE.
Do you know what else this focus on Anita’s doing? It’s making your games worse. And I’m not saying, “Oh, if you leave Anita alone, she’ll make games better”. No. But right now, AAA game executives see people like Anita calling for diversity in games, and they’re seeing people like Gamergate attacking them vehemently. They see SO much hate. They see 650 people retweeting the guy claiming she lied about a police report. This tells them that the market doesn’t want diversity. This tells them to double down on boring, scruffy 30-something male protagonist with a dark past, blah, blah. When we look at games like Watch Dogs, and we think they could have done better if they were a little more ambitious, understand that people shitting on “SJWs” causes that risk averse, milquetoast game design.
Only if they’re not paying attention. The market does want diversity, they don’t want to be lectured on how awful they are if they decide to play Lollipop Chainsaw or Dragon’s Crown. What they see when they look at SJWs is that no matter what they do it will never be enough and it will end up making games less diverse and imaginative, not more. Free expression needs defending FROM SJWs, not BY them. If you doubt that enforcing (whether by the mob or legislation) a code on games makers will smash diversity, history has a lesson for you about the Comics Code.
You can have discussions about Anita’s points. But understand that she’s making critique. A lot of it is subjective. A lot of it relies on specific definitions that she gives. For example, it’s popular to attack her use of Hitman as an example of Women as Background Decoration. However, the only way it’s not a valid example is if you’re not actually using her definition. Essentially, you’re throwing out her thesis and applying a different thesis to her examples. That’s not fair, and it’s not academically sound.
Screaming ‘misogyny!’ and misrepresenting games, removing context etc is not criticism. Nor is politicised polemicism criticism. Even if she had a good point it would be lost in the fact that – again this needs pointing out – she’s a known fraud. It’s popular to attack her use of Hitman because it is, again, presented sans context and it’s not how anyone – other than her it seems – reacts to the game. Her thesis is flat out wrong and her methodology is deliberately and explicitly biased. The counter-criticism is absolutely valid.
But have these discussions! Just focus on the art, the trends, and the culture. Don’t focus on the person. Because if your goal is debunking her, you’ve already lost. Right now, people are throwing so much shit at her, hoping it sticks. Seriously. A journalist literally investigated whether or not she actually made a police report when people were threatening her life, and another prominent blogger demanded police report numbers from her. Neither of these people are entitled to that information. They’re trying so hard to catch her up in a lie, that they’re losing sight of what they’re doing, and how silly and unethical it looks. Why does Anita have to be discredited, if her points are not valid? If her arguments are wrong, discuss them.
Isn’t that what you’re doing – on a larger scale – by conflating gamergate with the trolls? In that case its dishonest, but with Sarkeesian she is the public face of this sex-negative, feminist and SJW ideological censorship that is trying to be enacted. Why go after her reports? Because she is suspected of making up many of them and essentially profiting by being a professional victim. Exposing her with direct evidence that this is so shows (more) dishonesty on her part.
Right now, publishers are buying reviews. Right now, publishers are giving large amounts of money and other perks to journalists in order to skew the public perception and influence, both positively and negatively, game sales. Right now, Metacritic is being used to determine whether or not designers get to keep their jobs. Right now, AAA executives are cutting women and LGBT characters out of games in development, because of “the core demographic”. These are huge problems. These are problems we want to talk about. These are problems we want to fix.
And also right now ideologues are colluding in an attempt to control the dialogue around games and prosecute a political agenda. This is the fallacy of relative privation.
Yes, these issues need looking at (though you made a rod for your own back with the representation issue) but that doesn’t excuse what’s going on in games journalism or amongst the indies.
We aren’t going to smile and nod while hundreds of people dogpile a couple of people’s sex lives. We’re not going to cheer you on while muckrakers are hounding people for answers to stupid, invasive questions they shouldn’t be asking. We want a better industry. But we feel that what we’re seeing, or at least the bulk of what we’re seeing is making a worse industry.
I don’t think anyone has really given that much of a toss about the fact that ZQ cheated on her boyfriend a huge number of times, other than the boyfriend and the Breitbart writer – though only in his headline IIRC. What caught people’s attention was that it appeared to be sex for favours and whether or not it was there was clear CoI which was not declared. Again, this was just the starting point and continually trying to drag it back to ZQ is an attempt to derail and make it about ‘slut shaming’ and ‘misogyny’ rather than about corruption. Nobody is falling for it any more.
Here’s the perspective from my side of the aisle, though it seems I’m hardly ever believed.
We have a corruption problem in computer games media and it exists at all levels, whether ideological (SJW issues, especially sex-negative radical feminism) or financial (AAA publishers). Gamergate has accomplished a lot of god in relation to these issues in exposing ideologues, causing a couple of resignations of writers who wrote hit pieces with huge CoI issues around them and most fundamentally and importantly facilitating ethical standard enforcement on key news sites (again, shout out to The Escapist).
My chief concern as a game creator, writer, historian and ‘politics buff’ is broader than the corrupt reviews. My concern is censorship and the constriction of free expression. I see the SJW ideological issue across geek media, and I’m going to reiterate these points I’ve made before. It is controlling the narrative and not in a good way, it is leading to harassment of creators, censorship of creators, self-censorship of creators. It is denying people opportunities and it is spreading lies about people. It is predicated upon a false premise that ‘problematic media’ are actually a problem, rather than vicarious – and sometimes uncomfortable – entertainment in a fictive space.
I am a free expression radical, admittedly, I don’t see why anything should be off limits provided nobody real is actually harmed and everything is nice and consensual between real people. As such I oppose the UK’s ‘opt out’ porn filtering and the ‘extreme porn ban’. As such I oppose busybody interference in games, writing, films, TV etc. As such I oppose the SJW agenda of subjecting any and all fictive media to its litmus tests for political orthodoxy.
It is popular to paint anyone who opposes this ideological censorship (though you likely won’t even admit that it IS censorship) as doing so because they’re misogynistic, racist, sexist etc, etc, etc. To paint the SJW as being a person of empathy, understanding and equality who just wants to make the world a better place.
I can’t speak for everyone but I want diversity, variety etc too. I’m a fan of equality, though I may define it differently to you. However, over and above anything else I believe in free expression. Diversity is great, insisting everything MUST be diverse is not, trying to force everything to be diverse is right out. Different female representations? Great! Insisting that they all conform to a sex-negative, no-sexualisation set of requirements? Not so great.
The huge variety of people on #notyourshield helps demonstrate that the SJWs are not really talking for the people that they think they’re talking for. It seems to be a movement rooted in Tumblrist special snowflake syndrome and pseudo-intellectual, academic media analysis with a feminist/Marxist slant. As a person on the left myself I hate to use the term Marxist as it’s a pushbutton word for some people, but this idea of false consciousness (internalised misogyny etc) has been allowing anti-gamergate people to ironically ignore and marginalise the #notyourshield people as not knowing what’s best for them.
That’s the ultimate arrogance of the SJW point of view though, isn’t it? This media is bad for you, I know, because I consumed it and it didn’t have any bad effect on me…
Make more art. Make your own art. Stop shitting on what other people love. That’ll do far more for your cause than what you have been doing.