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In a bizarre twist to the whole #Gamergate affair, Jack Thompson appeared on a preview of The Sarkeesian Effect in an excerpt from an interview and condemned Anita Sarkeesian as a censor. Needless to say, this is a shocking turn of events.
Thompson seems to have mellowed with his disbarring and with age, presenting a somewhat more reasonable view that adult content shouldn’t be accessible to kids. This is, of course, impossible – especially in the age of the internet – but it’s a far cry from the days of ‘ban everything’.
Thompson didn’t endorse Gamergate but he did condemn the new coterie of pseudo-critics. Thompson’s attempts to control and ban video games were pursued in the courts in a formal, legalistic manner while Sarkeesian et al have pursued their ends via mob tactics, harassment and abuse. Where the crossover lies is that both generations of moral panic have used bad pseudoscience to try and push their agenda, whether it be the unproven assertion that videogames cause violence or the unproven assertion that videogames cause misogyny.
Thompson is in no way being endorsed or forgiven by #Gamergate, though you wouldn’t know it to read to the AGGro feeds. He has hardly been welcomed into anyone’s bosom. It’s just shocking that gaming’s ‘great Satan’ now appears to be reasonable and sane compared to the current crop of critics, the McIntoshes, the Fishes, the Kucheras of this world. That’s worth noting and a valid comparison to make.
Censorship endorsing shitbag condemns worse censorship endorsing shitbag as ‘too extreme’, there’s your take-home from this.
Things are certainly very strange.
[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.
A response to THIS article.
Let’s preface this by saying that if you’re a fair-minded opponent, that should mean that you acknowledge there are problems in gaming journalism, that they should be fixed (even if you think they can’t at this point) and that you understand #gamergate isn’t about abuse.
To whom am I speaking? I should specify, shouldn’t I? After all, as the gamers I talked to on Tuesday made it clear, there are a great many people involved, and not all of them see entirely eye-to-eye. In general, though, those of you who were patient enough to answer my questions seemed to agree on three broad points:
1. That you see the word gamer as an valuable way to identify yourself;
2. That you are dismayed with what you see as corruption in the gaming press; and
3. That you are opposed to exclusion—and, therefore, to harassment.
Seems pretty fair, but let’s break this down a bit:
1. Gamer is a bit tighter than geek or nerd. Gamer is a fan of a medium, like ‘film buff’ or ‘bookworm’, while geeks and nerds are more broad categories with interests more in line with genres. You don’t see this same controversy over the suffixes -fan, or ‘-buff’. That ‘gamer’ seems to come in for such opprobrium – even by its own supposed press – is an issue and indicative of hypocrisy in people who are supposedly against discrimination.
2. Let’s be clear here. It’s not ‘what is seen as corruption’ at this point, it IS corruption and it’s not just this single instance, it’s corruption across the industry along with nepotism and the prosecution of a ‘social justice’ agenda in collusion with others. It’s the drift of games journalism from its remit.
3. Nobody wants to exclude anyone and #NotYourShield demonstrates the existing diversity of people in the games industry. The ‘status quo’ is not a boys club, but an inclusive and diverse medium and THAT is what people are seeking to protect against conservative outside forces as well as preserving consumer protection for those who buy games media.
That last item is an important distinction. While nearly everyone I spoke to last night insisted on that point, not everyone has taken the same approach. Others have struck upon harassment as a handy tool for achieving their goals. We’ll get back to them in a moment, but for now I want to specifically address those who sincerely want #GamerGate to be about inclusion, not exclusion.
You mean trolls.
Please, please, please stop taking trolls seriously.
I presume you know your way around the internet and therefore know ‘don’t feed the troll’. The vast and overwhelming majority of nasty bullshit on both sides comes from trolls. If anything more of the abuse from the opposition to #gamergate is sincere. You have devs and journalists spewing venom at their own audience, fat-shaming, ‘cishetwhitemale’ is being flung around a lot with a tone of scorn along with ‘pissbaby’, ‘shitlord’, ‘cheeto fingered basement dweller’ etc. That’s from people who aren’t anonymous Twitter eggs with all of two followers to their name but real, actual people.
Stop taking trolls seriously. Trolling IS an issue, but a separate one.
I keep hammering this point home but we have this weird situation of synergistic trolling going on where both the troll and the victim gain by the trolling being taken seriously. Someone like Sarkeesian – who may or may not have orchestrated fake trolling attacks on herself for publicity – can point to obviously insincere trolling and threats as evidence of her thesis that ‘gaming’ is misogynistic when anyone with a lick of experience on the net knows that trolls are essentially meaningless and that it doesn’t mean jack squat other than a sociopath has an internet connection.
Stop taking them seriously. It’s profoundly disingenuous.
With nearly every gamer I spoke to, I started out by asking, “What do you see as the overarching goal of #GamerGate?” When, as was often the case, you answered “corruption,” I made a point of following up by asking what practices you had in mind. And it’s there, in your answers to that question, that I could begin to see the goals and imperatives of your activism begin to diverge. Some asked only for more prominent disclaimers whenever a writer had a potential conflict of interest. Others argued that disclaimers weren’t enough, and that writers ought to be recused whenever a relationship might be thought to go beyond the bounds of the professional. Still others felt that developers were capable of exerting too much financial pressure over the gaming press. Even while arguing that #GamerGate was not primarily about the accusations of a certain ex-boyfriend, yet others seemed primarily concerned that sexual relationships with developers had a rampant and undue influence on how writers report on games.
So there’s no actual divergence. Everyone agrees that conflicts of interest are an issue and a variety of potential solutions to that issue have been offered. This variety of concerns are all one concern – conflict of interest. The potential solutions all deal with that problem.
It’s possible to see that distinction a bit more clearly if you compare the way games have traditionally written about in a venue like, say, the New York Times, versus the way they usually covered in gaming magazines. Even when they weren’t being downright skeptical, non-enthusiast publishers tended to be at least agnostic about the value of games in general. When you write for an enthusiast press, though, you’ve already thrown out some measure of objectivity, since it’s assumed that you and your reader already agree that games are worth your time, money and interest.
Ah, but that has changed, hasn’t it? Even high scoring reviews now often contain a hectoring tone about representations of women and minorities which seems to cast doubt on the value of games at all. It’s as though every film review contained a reference to the Bechdel Test – and it gets incredibly wearing to be told you’re shit and your medium is shit and your favourite games are shit because of ideological reasons that you don’t necessarily agree with. It’s like every single news outlet is now Fox News, relentlessly hammering an agenda that’s largely bullshit to anyone who takes the time to do their own analysis.
It’s also horribly familiar to anyone with passing familiarity with the history of ‘geek censorship’. Fredric Wertham, Pat Pulling, Jack Thompson, the Judas Priest trial… moral panics with no substance, every one. This generation’s Jack Thompson is Anita Sarkeesian but where the gaming press of old held the line against Thompson and his ilk, they’ve bought into the panic this time and are prosecuting it. Little wonder that to many this feels like a betrayal.
Its origins as an enthusiast press have left a deep impress on the industry. A current events reporter for Reuters may sneak into a war zone to get the unvarnished truth, but that isn’t how enthusiast presses work. They rely for most of their information on the companies whose products they cover. Most of the news stories you read on your favorite gaming site are based on press releases. The interviews wouldn’t be possible if the site hadn’t maintained an amicable relationship with the publisher. The juicy tidbits that weren’t meant to be revealed so early are typically the result of writers and developers chumming it up at expos and conferences.
All of what you’re saying is true, but it’s apologia for the poor state of the gaming press. It’s making excuses and it isn’t, and wouldn’t, be tolerated were we talking about, say, representation in games. As such, it should be brushed off with equal derision to the way statements like ‘But the core audience is white males 18-35…’ are.
Still, I actually consider that a valid (commercial but not creative) argument. So let’s treat your argument seriously for a moment in return.
Yes, this is the way things are. Yes it will be difficult to change, but should it? Is it worth the fight despite the pressures involved?
Much as you would suggest, I’m sure, that it’s worth the risk of making more diverse and ‘inclusive’ games (whatever that means) despite the commercial issues. So it is worth the risk of bringing honesty into games journalism and having game journalism place the consumer at the top of their concerns, rather than the companies.
“Corruption” probably isn’t the right word for all of that. It isn’t like gaming magazines and sites started out with the standards endorsed by the SPJ and Reuters, but lost sight of their values over time. All along, chumminess with the makers of video games has been the cost of access to the information you’ve demanded as a gamer. That isn’t a recent development, and if you’ve been supporting the gaming press up until now, then you’ve been complicit in supporting those relationship, whether you realized it or not.
Yeah it is the right word. Games journalists have been being, essentially, bribed by companies for a very long time and when bribes don’t work they get blackmailed or extorted. I’ve seen this from the inside. You can’t give a bad review or that company and possibly that publisher and distributor won’t work with you any more. No early access, no free games, suddenly things get a lot more expensive and your news cycle can’t build hype and you can’t get traffic.
This needs to change and, ironically, that would take collusion in the existing ‘mainstream’ games media to happen.
Growth will mean insisting upon the distinction between serious investigative journalism and the sort of enthusiast reporting that has traditionally passed for gaming news. If you’re promoting #GamerGate because you like the way the gaming press covered games before writers starting investigating topics like labor exploitation and the gender divide, then you may want to stop insisting on higher journalistic standards. If those standards are important to you, then you’ll have to tolerate those sorts of articles, even when you don’t like the light they case on gaming. As William Randolph Hearst famously said, “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”
Let’s stop you there.
Labour exploitation at places like EA is genuine investigative journalism, and good stuff. We’d also like to know – I’m sure – how and in what conditions our consoles, chips, computers and peripherals are made.
The gender divide/representation etc isn’t investigative journalism. It’s op-ed (and IIRC 22% of the games industry is female, though only 17% or so of computer related graduates are female, so work wise representation seems to be doing just fine). We already have diverse games and promoting and enjoying those games doesn’t have to include shitting on everyone else’s fun and making out that subjective taste is some kind of objective cultural issue that’s really and truly ‘srs bsns’.
At the same time, many of you told me that you wanted to see less social criticism in those reviews. If you really think that through, you’ll see that you can’t have it both ways. There’s a deep contradiction imbedded in the notion that, on the one hand, writers shouldn’t be beholden to developers when they review a game, and that, on the other hand, they should avoid criticisms they feel are relevant. Most game publishers don’t want to be criticized for the social prejudices they may have worked into their games. As such, the simple fact that a writer or editor would be willing to publish a social criticism ought to be treated as evidence that the venue is maintaining some independence from the industry on which it reports. Even when it doesn’t interest you, even when you disagree with what’s been said— even if, as some of you expressed, you feel personally affronted on the game’s behalf — you ought to welcome such criticism as a check on the sort of cozy developer/press relationship you’ve called corrupt.
Again, the problem is that this is a relentless, Fox Newsian choir of singular opinion, and opinion that has fuck all to do with the game. When it appears it should be clearly marked as an op-ed and not concealed within a review or played up for click bait. ‘Fair and balanced’ is another watchword of mainstream journalism and I don’t mean distorting things by including opposing (marginal) views to things like climate change. It is the unquestioning promotion of unproven assumptions – akin to Thompson’s ‘games cause violence’ thesis and the lionisation of known frauds like Sarkeesian, apparently just because she says the ‘right’ things, that are an issue. When known frauds are getting industry awards, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Which is just as well, since you those of you who answered my questions on Twitter couldn’t point me to a really viable plan for effecting change. After “what do you hope to achieve,” the question I asked most was, “How do you intend to achieve it?” Some of you seemed to think that the social media campaign would be enough to shame publishers into adopting your standards. It’s possible that, at least for the time being, we’ll see more disclaimers pointing out potential conflicts of interest, but beyond that, I wouldn’t expect much voluntary action on the part of publishers. They themselves may want to see more serious journalism, but their bread and butter is still the enthusiast tier of the industry. They mostly cannot afford to cut ties with the companies on which they report.
Gamergate has been a good start. It has exposed some bad people and eaten away at the popularity of the major offenders. There’s been some acknowledgement of issues from some games sites and introductions of codes of conduct with regard to crowdfunding. This is all a good start.
Ideally what would change would be that the consumer would be re-centred as the main concern of the gaming press and that they would reassert themselves to ‘fight for the users’. They are not there to be PR for games companies and they should give fair and genuine reviews. They also need to stop attacking their own audience which they have been doing for years in their reviews and articles and have now done more explicitly on Twitter.
Perhaps we’ll see new, more honest sites popping up that will pick up the traffic that has fallen away from Kotaku and the like. I also hope we see more games companies willing to reassert their creative independence and to tell the social critics to take a hike.
“So we’ll force their hands,” some of you told me. You suggested boycotting outlets that didn’t adopt your standards. But there’s a serious chicken-and-egg problem with that plan. After all, the point is to increase transparency, but how can you know which outlets to boycott unless they’re already being transparent about those relationships? Some suggested an independent review board tasked with ensuring transparency, without any real plan for funding it or making its pronouncements enforceable. Without some means of forcing recalcitrant outlets to make their relationships more transparent, the only viable way to decide who gets boycotted is the shotgun approach. But to send an effective message, a boycott must be narrowly targeted. The nature of your complaint makes that practically impossible.
Gamers, hackers and independent investigations have done a good job exposing corruption so far, from the initial spark to problems at Gearbox and at The Guardian. If they retain their focus on this it should become self-policing to an extent.
There is, as it happens, one group using the #GamerGate hashtag that has figured out an effective plan for changing the gaming press. Their method is continual harassment. They hurl invective, issue threats, expose sensitive information (like bank account numbers) and generally work to intimidate writers out of the business of printing something somebody doesn’t like. Typically, they target individuals rather than institutions, especially those with relatively small support systems, like financially vulnerable freelancers and independent developers, or non-commercial blogs sustained by reader donations rather than ad revenue.
You’re taking trolls seriously again – and forgetting that it cuts both ways. This is part of what gamers are sick of, being lumped in with trolls and abusers simply because its convenient and plays into an existing (false) narrative about the gaming community. The overuse of the ‘misogynerd’ meme is robbing it of its power. People aren’t buying it any longer.
You lose because it gets harder to espouse your cause when people associate it with harassment and misogyny. You lose because the number of people actively working to make the press more reliable and gaming more inclusive dwindles a little more. You lose because more people feel excluded from gaming. You lose, most of all, because hate takes a greater share of the world.
Then stop, falsely, associating it with harassment and misogyny or DO start realising that this issue isn’t one sided and that the ‘SJW’ side in all this is just as guilty and far more GENUINE in its threats and insults. Understand that they are the ones excluding people and trying to enact censorship, all based on bullshit ideological viewpoints and bad social critique that gamers don’t buy and which they see echoes of the folk memories of the moral panics of yesteryear in.
But most of all, stop taking the trolls seriously and accept and understand that #gamergate people are genuine.
This question seems to be popping up a lot and there’s a lot of obfuscation going on from the social justice warriors*, the gaming media (such as it is) and others. So here’s a quick primer into what’s going on (or you could start HERE):
An indie computer game developer – who happens to be a woman (irrelevant) – was exposed as having cheated on her boyfriend (irrelevant) with a bunch of guys (irrelevant) who happened to hold positions in gaming media and to have given her all sorts of booster articles and kudos (supremely fucking relevant).
Obviously, this at least looks dodgy as fuck, even if it’s all above board and just sexytimes rather than payment in kind. It calls into question journalistic integrity, which is what should divide professional gaming/journalism sites like Kotaku/Forbes/Vice etc from ‘mere’ games bloggers and Youtube personalities who are just doing what they do for the ‘lulz’ and the fun of it.
The conflict of interest should be obvious.
When this hit, however, it was ignored and/or suppressed by most of that same gaming journalism field, which again, looks dodgy as hell since it’s their ethics and transparency that are under question.
That was, however, just the spark of what has become a more generally skeptical and critical eye that has turned on other conflicts of interest (such as PR or consultancy businesses also run by games journalists) and long standing issues with corruption via threats, blacklisting, pre-order culture etc in games journalism.
It has ALSO become tangled up in a general backlash against the kind of judgemental, gamer-hating, ‘everything you like is bad and wrong’ articles which have also been common in the last few years, along with the lionisation of known fraud Anita Sarkeesian.
In short, it’s been a long time coming.
It has been complicated, of course, by trolls and by Social Justice Warriors who – along with the people under suspicion of corruption and ethical breaches – are using the fact that it all happened to start from a love septagon involving a woman to deflect into their existing narrative that it’s all to do with crying man-babies who don’t like women in their games. Unfortunately, accusations of misogyny, sexism, racism etc still carry a lot of currency and power in silencing people and the hate towards gamers is – at this point – well entrenched.
What it is really about is:
- Journalistic ethics and integrity.
- Irritation with clickbaiting.
- Annoyance at being constantly demonised and criticised by people who are supposed to love your hobbies.
- The many hateful articles and the doubling down on censorship and slandering of the fanbase sites have indulged in since this broke.
- SJW censorship backlash.
This is also part of a wider cultural problem, affecting many forms of media and play.
As background, it’s worth noting that gamers have a very well justified siege mentality towards this sort of thing and wider nerd culture even more so. You can trace it back at least to Fredric Wertham and Seduction of the Innocent, via, Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons, Tipper Gore, Jack Thompson, MMO scare stories and all the rest. In that context, little wonder people are suspicious and react badly to their concerns being brushed off as some, supposed, gamer-inherent misogyny (which has also been the basis of much slandering and hatred directed towards games and game producers themselves).
*’Social Justice Warriors’ (or SJWs) means the kind of Tumblrina, vicious, nasty online bully who likes to pretend at being progressive and liberal while being authoritarian, nasty and everything they claim to hate.