A conversation about concerns in videogame journalism

This is a Storify I made of a conversation I had with a #gamersgate advocate.

There’s a lot to parse about the “controversy” that has been going on, but the short timeline of facts is this:

  • Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend makes an immense amount of spurious claims about her and the state of the games journalism industry
  • people on internet forums take up that flag and begin to harass her, Anita Sarkeesian, and basically every other woman and perceived “Social Justice Warrior” on social media and elsewhere
  • out of that harassment campaign comes a supposedly separate campaign that wants to interrogate the interrelationships between videogame journalists and the games and developers they cover
  • that “journalistic ethics” campaign now exists in many colors–some are harassing, some are drawing webs of corruption, some are responding in good faith, and so on.

That’s where we are right now.

It seems to me that the participants in #gamergate are all there for different reasons and that it is mostly an accidental coalition that has formed out of a sense of being wronged. The person that I talked to in that Storify seems to just generally have a problem with a perceived lack of transparency in the world of games journalism. Another common thread that I see is that “the wrong games are being covered,” which smacks of small developers who are unhappy that their games don’t receive much press coverage. There’s yet another demographic that are literally using it as an excuse to air out all perceived wrongs–they seem to believe they’ve been wronged by all women, by the industry, by those who cover the industry, and a smattering of other, more nebulous sources.

Generally, #gamersgate leaves me with a sense of confusion more than anything else. I see a lot of chatter in the tag about it not being sexist, but then I see the immense amount of hate mail/hacking attempts/threats that women in the industry are getting. I keep seeing appeals to logic and rationality but no longform defenses of these methods or even arguments for why #gamersgate matters at all. As you can see in the conversation from the Storify, there isn’t much cohesion in the arguments being delivered from this set. It mostly seems like a decade’s worth of forum “common sense” (journos are paid off, games aren’t as good as they used to be, journos have an agenda) being thrown at a wall in order to see what sticks.

TCIW has an open comments policy, and I’m fully open to having someone explain these things to me. I am not likely to agree–this is not my first, second, or even fifth go around with these kinds of campaigns–but I do want to see a longform, rationalized explanation for why #gamersgate people feel this way about the world. Not an image macro, not a concept web, and not a twenty minute YouTube video made by a community figurehead, but a real, actual explanation written by a human. That said, I reserve the right to delete any and all toxic speech or threats from my blog. I am open to a conversation, but I am not open to being insulted or threatened.

[Edit 9/4/2014 3:31pm EST: Just a note that the comments here are moderated (as noted above) and I want to make an addendum: if you make a comment that is purely reiterating or stating things that have already been written in a comment already, I am not posting it. It clutters up the threads and adds literally nothing to the conversation. However, I am reading everything that comes in. Thank you for reading.]

[Edit 9/5/2014 9:03am EST: Thanks for all of your comments! We’ve gotten to the point where comments coming in, both for and against #gamergate, are just rehashes of the same thing over and over again (or, alternately, they are appeals to evidence when those appeals have been addressed already in the comments several times). That means that it is time to call it and close down the comments. As anyone who has moderated comments for more than ten minutes can tell you, it is emotionally draining work, and I think that all parties have made their points known already here. Once again, I thank everyone for their contributions. As always, I can be contacted through twitter if you have additional questions or remarks.]

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24 Responses to A conversation about concerns in videogame journalism

  1. freddy says:

    I can’t hope to really explain this stuff either, but reading your storify and this article reminded me of something. It feels like this whole thing is a bizarre combination of two things that are at odds with each other. Remember the whole “doritogate” deal that came up after Rab Florence’s article back in 2012 about the Games Media Awards? I don’t recall that having much to do with women or indie games, though my memory is hazy, but more to do with big game companies and the thin line between some gaming sites and PR. I remember myself nodding along to some of that stuff back then as possibly causing some issues within game journalism.

    But now that’s got tangled up in this idea that it isn’t big companies and big sites but also women and indie devs that are behind everything. It’s so weird and confusing because that stuff feels in direct opposition to the “doritogate”-style corruption, sites talking about odd indie games or AAA games in super critical ways is practically the exact opposite. And combining these two things has seemed to cause people to be way, way more vehement about it.

    I think that’s part of why its so incredibly confusing, that there’s this supposed corruption that both supports AAA CoD games and small indie games like Gone Home. I honestly feel like the more anti-feminist/anti-“SJW” part of this whole deal is hijacking the old “doritogate” thing to try to be more credible, and its taking a lot of folks along with it who aren’t really sure why they’re mad.

    • kunzelman says:

      I think this is a really smart read on the situation, thanks for the comment.

    • Daniel Kaszor says:

      Yes, this utterly. There are these big underlying issues with the critical sphere around games (and frankly all entertainment media) and the main target is bizarrely the people who seem to reject that inherently. It’s like if someone was all pissed off at movie junkets and decided it was the Duplass Brothers’ fault.

  2. Weefz says:

    Yup, that storify is exactly the sort of non-conversation I had with a couple of people myself. Lots of repetition of “game journalists are corrupt” and “more ethics” but few actual specifics and facts and on what’s actually wrong and what could be improved and how.

    Later, I saw a screengrab of a post on 4Chan telling people to be polite and say the problem is about ethics in journalism but without providing any examples for them and it all started to make sense to me.

  3. BoneForYou says:

    I have to disagree with your version of the events, as they don’t cover the full story. I’ve been watching this happen since it first began on reddit and /v/, and I’ll try to cover it here:

    It all started with the ZoePost, a blog written by Zoe’s ex Eron, detailing his experience with her and a huge log of their facebook conversations. He shows evidence of her admitting to sleeping with five guys, all of whom work in the gaming industry as journalists. This of course hits Reddit, 4chan and other sites, with Reddits thread reaching over 20,000 comments. What no one expected however was the mass censorship across these sites, with hundreds of people in Reddit being banned/shadowbanned and their threads/comments deleted in mass. It was revealed that Zoe was communicating with the Reddiit mod of /r/gaming, where the bans were happening, during the exact time the bans took place. At the same time, YT user MundaneMatt puts up a video discussing the original ZoePost, and has his video taken down by a false DMCA claim by Zoe Quinn. What we have now is the Streisand Effect in action, where trying to cover something up blows it into even bigger proportions.

    Everyone started digging for info, trying to find out as much as they could. One of the Five Guys, Nathan Grayson, ran two articles covering Zoes game Depression Quest. Three days after the ZoePost hit the Internet, Zoe claimed she was doxed by 4chan’s /v/ board, yet none of the leaked info is in any way related to her and the dox could not have happened the way that she claimed. A feminist game-design campaign called The Fine Young Capitalists claims to be doxed by Zoe Quinn, and research into her twitter feed shows intense hatred towards them and an admittance to doxing them. We’ve seen places like GamesNosh run articles covering the opposite side, and their host demands they remove it. We’ve seen the website Techraptor do the same thing, and their IP gets taken down within hours.

    Is this the first you’ve heard of any of these claims? If you’ve been following gaming journalism sites like Kotaku, Polygon, Gamasutra, or The Escapist, all of this is surely news to you. There were 15 articles published by different gaming sites, all within 48 hours of each other, decrying the actions of these ‘misogynistic’ gamers who simply live to harass defenseless women like Zoe and Anita. Look at any of the authors twitter feeds and you see outright dismissal of any evidence, and continued harassment of ‘gamers’.
    If you really want to know what #Gamergate is about, it’s our reaction to the complete refusal to address any of the serious allegations against their journalists or Zoe Quinn. We’re upset that instead of having an open dialogue about this, we see a mass campaign to lump gamers in with the trolls who send people rape and death threats. We want to see transparency, changes of ethics and behaviors, and the feedback we’ve gotten from them is an indication that we need to keep going.

    • kunzelman says:

      Thank you for the comment! I’ll do my best to respond to it in detail!

      I absolutely understand the sequence of events that took place. Like you, I have been paying attention since the beginning, and part of the differences in our accounts (beyond mine being a little bit snippy) is that we are starting from different places when it comes to an understanding of the right to privacy that a person should reasonably be expected to have on the internet. From my understanding through reading the Reddit threads, lots of comments were moderated in order to preserve Quinn’s right to privacy, implicitly holding that it was both unfair and unwarranted for private details about her and her sex life to be spread around the internet for seemingly no reason that interpersonal revenge between exes.

      I find it really hard to speculate about whether claims that Quinn is participating in some kind of quinnspiracy are true or not. I’ve read through the gamergate hashtag for a few days now, and I’ve yet to see any evidence that is convincing beyond someone stating from the outset that it should be convincing. Put another way, I have yet to see these claims substantiated beyond the simple assertion “these things are true.”

      Your third paragraph is sort of all over the place, but I think most of what’s important about all of these examples is that they’ve all been sussed out to some degree or another, and in all of these cases the involved parties are fine with the results: Kotaku has responded to the Grayson claims and inquired about that/tightened their policies. The Fine Young Capitalists have released their own statement about where they are with Quinn and I believe that both parties have apologized for slighting the other. I just followed up and did some googling on both your Techraptor and GamesNosh examples, and neither of those appear to be “takedowns,” but instead server overloads due to an immense amount of traffic coming from this event. I went and looked at both websites, and that matches up to me; they both appear to be smaller game-oriented sites that aren’t prepared for tens of thousands of hits in a few hours. I can’t speak to Quinn’s claims about the doxxing from 4chan, but I’m not sure if you’re really providing much detail when you say “can’t have happened how she claimed.” I’m absolutely willing to read a breakdown of that if you’re willing to write one.

      It is interesting that you made it almost all the way to the end of your comment while only addressing what has been done to a nebulous public while completely ignoring what the public has been doing. There have been death threats, hacked accounts, and an extensive campaign of harassment via email and Twitter toward a huge number of people (especially women) related to videogames journalism and the industry itself. Taken in that context, the huge number of articles in the games (and even more in the mainstream) press makes sense, especially because the “evidence” that suggests Quinn received favors from the games press is unsubstantiated. This is not a case of gamers being persecuted; this is a case of gamers being willfully ignorant of the context in which they are performing horrible actions.

      It seems here at the end you’re lumping several things together, and I actually want to parse them apart for a second because I think you’re touching on something very important. You say:

      1. “it’s our reaction to the complete refusal to address any of the serious allegations against their journalists or Zoe Quinn” – I am confused about why you think these allegations aren’t being taken seriously. Kotaku and Polygon have responded to gamergate with policy changes already, so they are clearly taking it seriously. On the other end, it is worth considering this: maybe the mainstream press has taken a look at your evidence and found it unpersuasive or unsupported. Maybe they have applied reason, judged between your claims and the claims of others, and found you to be wrong.

      2. “We’re upset that instead of having an open dialogue about this, we see a mass campaign to lump gamers in with the trolls who send people rape and death threats.” – This is actually a really great point, and one that I think is worth mentioning. First, I don’t think anyone talking about “gamers” is talking about people who play games, but rather the people who aggressively defend their sovereign right to games at the expense of others or those new to games. I think all of these authors ultimately want a world where we can all play games and have a grand time with one another. That said, rhetoric is real, and if you feel insulted by the way gamer is being used, then maybe it is important for you to help parse out the difference between the average gamer and those who send rape and death threats. Write Reddit and 4Chan posts discouraging it. When you see people doing it on Twitter, stand up and say something. Maybe also take a step back and think about the experiences of people on the other end. For every one tweet of legitimate criticism that Anita Sarkeesian gets she also gets ten threats, dismissals, and slurs. Take a few minutes out of your day to help control your community, and I promise that it will be harder for “gamers” to get dismissed in the same way that they are today.

      3. “changes of ethics and behaviors” – Can you be a little more specific about what kinds of changes in ethics and behaviors you want to see? What kind of specific policies would you like to see implemented, and what kind of behavioral change would you like to see in the games journalism industry?

      Thank you for your comment, and I look forward to the next one.

      • Mike says:

        I also watched this unravel from the beginning and there are some things left out of the original comments list of events.

        The Reddit moderators stated that the threads were locked down and auto deleting replies due to the number and speed in which comments violating the ToS were being posted. It was not humanly possible to moderate the forums. The moderator also chose to reach out to Zoe and give her a heads up that there was this attack being launched on her. This was all in a thread pinned to top of the subreddit, though few paid attention to it and assumed a conspiracy.

        Next, the ZoePost – the blog set up by her ex-boyfriend – removed some of the initial accusations when they were proven false. Dates were changed and of course the Kotaku author Nathan never wrote the review he was accused of writing in exchange for sex. Again this was not hidden, right on the source blog it states in an update “To be clear, if there was any conflict of interest between Zoe and Nathan regarding coverage of Depression Quest prior to April, I have no reason to believe that it was sexual in nature.”

        The actual “facts” fell apart pretty quickly, but the hate and attacks have still not stopped. Why people questions the ethics of journalists without evidence yet take the words of an ex-boyfriend’s rant without question is something I cannot comprehend.

      • Jack says:

        As an IT journalist (I dabble in gaming journalism but it’s not my full-time gig):

        The rage from the angry misogynistic stereotypical “gamer” crowd is the outrage of a group of people being told they have to finally grow up and share space with others. And I get it. I started gaming in the 1980s, and I remember when taking a deck of Magic cards to school was an act of courage.

        But this faux concern over ethics or supposed inconsistencies is nothing but a smokescreen. The people who show up to tell you they’re angry about supposed ethical inconsistencies can’t show proof of them, because there is no proof to show. They may profess to hate “third wave feminism,” but I’d love to know how many of them can define it (along with its relationship to first and second-wave feminism).

        Most hilarious of all, however, is the fundamental misunderstanding of power in the reviewer -publisher relationship. Indie developers don’t offer big reviewers bribes, because indie developers don’t have bribes to offer. When Company X offers to fly you to its headquarters so you can test the latest Call of Shooty title in a 5.1 stereo surround hookup with private hotel room, 72 inch flatscreen, catered room service, and would you like any other amenities with that? *That* is something verging on a bribe. And it happens.

        The idea that giving someone some pitiful amount of money via Patreon in exchange for no sales consideration or payoff = publisher willing to fund a private vacation for you with all the amenities a nerd could love is an example of either terribly misplaced targets *or* the fundamental duplicity of the original claims. The reason you don’t see publishers taking these claims seriously is because when you’ve been in the business long enough to see the kinds of perks that actually *could* function like bribes if you allowed them to, the idea that such tiny amounts of support results in vast unethical action is ridiculous.

        This isn’t about gaming ethics. It’s not about whether or not Zoe Quinn did or didn’t act appropriately, or did or didn’t tell the truth at any point. It’s about angry self-entitled man-children screaming that no, they should get everything THEIR way, because THEY WERE HERE FIRST.

      • John Brindle says:

        I’d like to chime in here, if it’s not unwelcome, with a factual note about The Fine Young Capitalists, because I think it’s one of the more absurd planks in the #GamerGate cause.

        The claim about Quinn ‘doxing’ TFYC comes from a very sour-grapes post on Reddit, apparently by the leader of the project. When examined, the substance of this ‘doxing’ seems to be that someone close to Zoe found out the name of the person running the show by looking at their Facebook page, and Zoe retweeted this. The TFYC lead guy has confirmed this account, and said she was not responsible for any subsequent trouble they experienced. http://www.thefineyoungcapitalists.com/PeaceTreaty

        But what he has also done is stepped down from the angry rhetoric of his original posts, which suggested that Zoe and Zoe alone was responsible for the destruction of the project, and implied she did so for her own financial gain. As someone who was there at the time, this was always obvious nonsense. Within the (vaguely defined) ‘queer games’/’indie games’ scene, there was widespread and genuine skepticism of TYFC. Many people felt that it was an inauthentic, appropriative and tone-deaf project, which had waltzed into a situation in which many women were already hard at work scraping rent by making games and, far from proposing to support them or make their work more economically viable, acted as if they didn’t exist and invited women to go through its own doors. The anger against them was not generated by any one person but followed naturally from shared politics/ideals – whether or not you agree with them.

        Now, let’s examine this ‘doxing’ in detail. Firstly, we are talking about information which was public on Facebook. Secondly, we’re talking about the identity of a person who is running a very public project which is asking for people’s money – not an unreasonable thing to wish to know. Thirdly, the screenshot which was actually spread around showed the TFYC joking about how he wanted only pretty women to apply to a PR role because he was “allowed to be selfish” – something which would obviously unnerve and alarm the very women who might wish to participate in the project. So I don’t regard this as a very serious charge. Let’s also note how plastic the definition of ‘doxing’ has been in this debate. Everyone is happy to call a retweet of a public Facebook screenshot a ‘dox’, and yet nobody in the #GamerGate camp seems ever to have referred to what Eron Gjoni did to Zoe as ‘doxing’, even though it involved the distribution of very personal chatlogs without her consent.

        TYFC, of course, claims that people ‘misunderstood’ its trans policy and its profit structure. The fellow in charge also claims he lost money because of the adverse publicity. All I can say is that this is not anyone else’s problem but his. If you run a project like that, you are responsible for explaining it properly to the public. You are responsible for the PR activities which go with it. You are responsible for correcting – in a calm and professional fashion – any misunderstandings that might arise. So while it might be true that some people misunderstood it (I don’t have the wherewithal to go back and check specifically what their site said at the time), that is the sole responsibility of the company trying to put its message out there.

        So let’s recap: Zoe didn’t ‘dox’ TFYC. The ‘dox’ was very light and barely worthy of the term. Zoe did not cause TFYC to fail (TFYC did that all on its own). TFYC has since retracted the claim that Zoe was responsible for their problems.

        So the whole thing holds no water. And meanwhile, when we examine TFYC’s behaviour, we find it was initially happy to jump in on an ongoing harassment campaign (which is absolutely what this all started as) and post misleading claims it now recants. It is a supposedly feminist charity campaign which saw fit to wilfully or recklessly misrepresent facts, accuse a woman already under attack of profiting from its own failures, and then /accept money/ from the campaign against her. By contrast, the cancer charity which got money from Redditors fapping over doxxed celebrity nudes said it could not accept this cash and would return it. Hopefully you can understand why folks like me don’t feel that TFYC have covered themselves in glory.

    • Quintin Stone says:

      “One of the Five Guys, Nathan Grayson, ran two articles covering Zoes game Depression Quest.”

      This bit is actually untrue. The tiniest bit of research can disprove it. Kotaku put out a statement on this claim:

      Nathan Grayson never wrote an article about Depression Quest, nevermind two of them.

  4. Ian Danskin says:

    Fabulous write-up, Cameron! Matt Lees had a pretty incisive take on the mish-mash of arguments being flung around. Most relevant quote:

    “[W]ith so little evidence proving it to be true and attempts at reparations so quickly dismissed, why do so many people fervently believe that the traditional games media cannot be trusted? Why do people who often align themselves with the importance of rational thought and unbiased opinions hold so much faith in a belief that is – on paper – undeniably irrational?

    I don’t really have an answer for that, but I’d argue it’s likely a swirl of factors whipped up into an anger-meringue by an outside third-party that I now represent. People don’t like traditional games media for a wide variety of reasons. They feel like the biggest gaming websites only represent mass-media bollocks. They feel like their hobby is changing in ways that isn’t aligned with the elements they love. They feel like games media don’t talk about games in a way that personally speaks to them.

    All of these points are entirely reasonably things to be unhappy about, but they don’t represent a systematic problem. The belief that the root of these problems is caused by some sort of systematic injustice, however, is undeniably intoxicating. It allows us to fabricate a tangible solution to an impossible problem: creating the illusion that if we fight hard enough we can force the world to change to suit our personal needs.”

    Full post is here: http://jamsponge.tumblr.com/post/95731137698/why-the-games-press-wont-talk-about-ethical-corruption

  5. Naramsin says:

    “It seems to me that the participants in #gamergate are all there for different reasons and that it is mostly an accidental coalition that has formed out of a sense of being wronged. The person that I talked to in that Storify seems to just generally have a problem with a perceived lack of transparency in the world of games journalism. Another common thread that I see is that “the wrong games are being covered,” which smacks of small developers who are unhappy that their games don’t receive much press coverage.”

    Oh absolutely.

    There was though, in this tweeter talk point (though vastly obscured) about games journalism, that game journalism doesn’t really like to examine: homogeneous of opinions. Especially, as this is a point often made about “gamers”: as being homogeneous, like minded group. Which is hardly a truth, it’s nigh impossible to be an even a “real gamer” when you can’t deal with dissenting opinions (it would be miraculous to find 5 people whose Top10 and Worst10 games are the same). Yet there seems to be less “dissenting opinions” among game journalists then among gamers. Mass Effect 3 is kind of good example, while “gamers” were divided, reviews and opinions of games journalists were almost universally positive. In smaller scale this also can be applied to Gone Home, among more social justice minded journalists this game was universally praised and you’d think that among more individual minded, free spirited people forming that kind of uniformed opinion will be very hard. Of course this can be logically explained without screaming “corruption” but homogeneous stance among big sites towards AAA titles and among less popular sites towards “indie” games with addition of direct accusation of “gamers” that they can not take to have their opinion challenged, only being pandered to, is giving something to think about.

  6. Anonymous game developer says:

    I’ll try to sum up the causes of anger among the #GamerGate crowd.

    First thing to do is realize that this group of people don’t share the values or beliefs of the journalists covering games for them. They don’t think that an image of a girl in a metal bikini slaying a dragon spreads ‘rape culture’. They don’t believe third-wave feminism has good goals, or that women should be equally represented in games as though they’re identical to men. If you think that this belief – that men are not the same as women, and that rape and misogyny are not the #1 problem in modern society – makes someone a regressive evil caveman, you’ll probably end up responding like most game journalists have. So understanding any of the other concerns about this really depend on starting with accepting that basic viewpoint as legitimate.

    Moving on to specifics, this is what makes #gamergate people angry (not that I agree with all of them, necessarily, but I’m making the point):

    1. Gaming journalist websites are constantly throwing up clickbait articles about how sexist this game is, or how much of a victim that female game journalist was. #gamergaters see these articles as whiny, inflammatory, value-less clickbait and are angry about having to see these all the time instead of what they perceive as substantial, quality game coverage.

    2. They’re angry that the elite has, en masse, called them fat, friendless man-children with that article blast a few days ago. They’re even angrier because these elite writers are the exact people who constantly freak out about anyone criticizing a woman over feminist stereotypes. They hate the hypocrisy.

    3. They dislike Anita Sarkeesian not just because of her extreme viewpoints, but because they think she is a fraud. They question the authenticity of these threats and troll messages sent to her. They question whether she is deliberately emphasizing or even inventing her victimhood for personal gain. They note that the more people her about Anita, the more money she makes from YouTube and Kickstarter. And the more of a victim she is, the more people hear about her. They’re angry that every game journalist falls for this business strategy without questioning it, just because she is a woman and in the feminist ideology women are always victims. The same concept – professional victims making noise and getting paid for it – applies to journalists like Leigh Alexander and developers like Zoe Quinn, all of whom benefit financially from their own victimhood.

    They also note that Anita in particular made 160k off her Kickstarter where she claimed to be a gamer and love games – yet there is another video of her earlier stating that she doesn’t play games or know much about them. It seems clear she’s not really a long-time gamer; she’s an outsider who has found a way to use gaming to become well-known, spread her ideology, and make money. The #gamergate people hate that she is simply allowed to do this, no questions asked, and even supported in her efforts by credulous ‘journalists’.

    4. They hate how the entire journalistic machine has closed ranks around people who should be expelled because of their ethical infractions. This is sort of a side issue, but it emphasizes point 4 above. For example, Leigh Alexander is a “game journalist” but also runs a game PR service for pay, which is a clear conflict of interest, which nobody in journalism seems to care about. There’s a massive amount of evidence that Zoe Quinn engaged in wide-scale unethical behavior (on a professional level), but again, the journos just close ranks around her when she plays the victim card and don’t question anything.

    5. Lots of #gamergate people are non-white, non-cis, non-male and other minorities. These peoples’ existence is denied by journalists who scream that their only critics are fat white male losers. Search #notyourshield for some angry people pissed off about being used this way.

    6. I’m a developer, and I’m angry that I have to post this anonymously. You know why? Because I know I’d be economically punished if I actually said my mind, because people with a feminist agenda would ostracize me.

    • kunzelman says:

      Thanks for the comment. I am concerned that your strawman of contemporary feminism (and your disagreements with it) fundamentally makes you unable to have an actual conversation about these things without foreclosing ideas outside of your pregiven system. It is important that you’re noting problems with “third-wave feminism” without understanding that the debates you’re referring to have actually been taken up, over and over again since the early 1990s, by third-wave feminists of all stripes. So it seems like you’ve constructed a nonsense version of that movement in order to confirm your already-held belief that feminism isn’t worth engaging with. Worth noting.

      You’re right that understanding #gamergate as a movement requires you to be on board with this initial argument, which is why lots of people reject that movement on face. Part of the reason for this is that your very calm explanation–“that men are not the same as women, and that rape and misogyny are not the #1 problem in modern society”–obscures the brutal reality of how that position is used to police the behavior and the very existence of women in the world at large and in a very targeted, specific way in games culture. It isn’t about a disagreement about the positions of women–this is an argument that feminists are constantly engaged with internally, as I said above–but also about who gets to speak and what they get to speak about. In the final calculus, this is a fight about the ability for women to be autonomous and speak up about the way that they are represented in the media that has decided to portray them (almost exclusively) in either a negative way or in a way that reduces them to sexual objects for men. It is a fight to assert their personhood in the face of a culture that continually attempts to reduce them to silenced objects.

      1. I don’t understand how those can be pure clickbait when those are literally concerns held by thousands upon thousands of gamers. When issues that concern the gaming public appear, the games press covers them. When a new game is released, news sites do interviews and coverage to inform fans/consumers in order for them to make decisions about that product. Articles that cover sexist or misogynistic content is literally the exact same type of coverage. I cannot fathom a world in which a regurgitated press release is understood to be more valuable than criticism of a game. More than that, it assumes that there’s an opportunity cost to this kind of coverage, which mostly just reveals that #gamergate advocates making this complaint don’t understand how journalism works across the board.

      2. The stereotyping of game players in all ways is bad, especially because we know that the people who play games are a radically diverse set of people. We can chalk this stereotyping up to the latent “gamers are grognards/neckbeards/console warriors” flack that has been around for 20+ years now, and it is time for that all to go away.

      3. First, Sarkeesian doesn’t have “extreme viewpoints.” Her criticisms of games are some of the most benign, sensible criticisms possible. Second, it seems like your point here under “3” is part of a lot of speculation that fails to cohere into an actual point. It seems like what you are saying is that #gamergate advocates are unhappy that Sarkeesian is making money off of sensible criticism on the internet. Additionally, they question whether she has been attacked or threatened at all, and they’re unhappy that journalists take this as a given. It seems like the response to this is very simple: you can go on Twitter at any given time and see people telling her to shut up, calling her slurs, and generally being awful. You can also see it in the hundreds of hours of response videos, tens of thousands of forum posts, and comment threads of publications. How is it even a question that out of these hundreds of thousands of violently negative responses that threats would come out of this? In what world is it more likely that she is lying versus one person out of a thousand might be emboldened to send a death threat from a burner account over email?

      It seems like your second paragraph for this point is literally just angry that she is able to play and speak about games in the world. I can’t even understand this position.

      4. I’ve yet to be convinced about “ethical infractions,” and I would love to see actual evidence or just an argument about how games journalism done by these few people who get named constantly in these debates is any different than games journalism in the past 30 years or journalism on the whole.

      You have two examples: Alexander and Quinn. Both are factually inaccurate. Alexander’s company is not a “PR service for pay,” but instead a consultation firm that essentially gives content-oriented feedback to developers about their games. The reason that Quinn is covered the way she is (especially in the past two weeks) has nothing to do with closing ranks, but it is instead about upholding the “journalistic ethics” that #gamergate adherents want so much. Reporting one-sided speculation from a romantic partner (and knowing that that reportage will result in the continuation of harassment and threats) goes against the core root of journalistic ethical standards for every major journalist organization. It seems like in all this Twitter screaming someone would have actually read a journalistic code of ethics.

      5. There’s no doubt that “gamers” get treated like a holistic, undifferentiated mass of white men. It is definitely important to parse differences and specifics (that’s why this is an open comment thread, after all). However, there are a few problems with #notyourshield, including its origins in 4chan and 4chan’s extensive use of social engineering tactics on Twitter through sock puppet accounts. There’s simply no way to know if any given person who is tweeting in #notyourshield is a real person or a fictional identity made to to confirm the larger point of #gamergate. None of that is to say that the concerns of minorities who feel like they are being erased shouldn’t be taken into account, but rather that the function and origins of #notyourshield are so polluted that it becomes impossible to make evidenciary claims about it.

      6. I don’t really understand your logic here. What you are describing here is called criticism. If you say something that an extensive part of the population finds offensive at the very core of your being, maybe you are out of step with the world. It isn’t about a feminist agenda. It is about recognizing that how you think about the world literally precludes women from fulfilling their wishes and desires in the way that a man is simply by the function of his being a man. This is, fundamentally, a human rights issue.

      It is also strange to me that you started this with “I don’t agree with #gamergate completely” and then ended with a statement that made it seem like you agree 100% with the positions that you outlined here.

      Thank you for your comment.

      • Anonymous game developer says:

        4. Ethical infractions – The evidence is right there in my original post. I already mentioned Anita’s profit-making lies about being a “gamer”, but you didn’t even respond to that. You’re instead choosing to simply believe that these people are perfect. Here’s a video covering it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcPIu3sDkEw

        5. I challenge you to go search #notyourshield on Twitter right now and find the many, many people who have been on Twitter for months or years before this, with long discussions about other topics and verifiable public existences, who are saying very clearly that they are #notyourshield. You must address this, you can’t say it just doesn’t exist, or that it’s “so polluted’ that you can’t claim anything about it. It is a simple fact that there are a large number of non-cis, non-white, non-females who do not agree with your position or ideology.

        I see you taking the easy way out over and over. You *just believe* that there are no ethical infractions among the feminist activsts in the game industry. You *just believe* that all the #gamergate criticics are white cis males. But it’s just not true. The truth is more complex than this, and you need to address the realities that have been brought forth.

        Your final comment about me, “how you think about the world literally precludes women from fulfilling their wishes and desires in the way that a man is simply by the function of his being a man” is nothing like how I, or those who agree with me, see the world. You’re assuming an entire anti-woman, hateful, misogynistic belief system that just isn’t there. I think anyone should be able to do anything they want equally. However, I also don’t think the games industry being majority male is any more of a ‘problem’ than the trucking industry being majority male, or the teaching profession being majority female. Men and women are different; we have different interests and desires and proclivities, and that’s totally okay.

        It may be true that the “debates you’re referring to have actually been taken up, over and over again since the early 1990s, by third-wave feminists”. Of course they have. That doesn’t mean everyone has been convinced. It’s also interesting how extreme you assume my viewpoints are on feminism. To me, your viewpoints seem rather extreme:

        “This is a fight about the ability for women to be autonomous and speak up about the way that they are represented in the media that has decided to portray them (almost exclusively) in either a negative way or in a way that reduces them to sexual objects for men. It is a fight to assert their personhood in the face of a culture that continually attempts to reduce them to silenced objects.”

        Really? Wow! So journalism isn’t journalism, it’s activism! It’s a societal “fight”! You can’t just report facts, you have a duty to push society’s beliefs in a more correct direction! This is the attitude that #gamergate people hate. We want journalists to simply report the info we’re interested in – not use their platforms to push their beliefs on us.

        This is really the crux of the anger – the misuse of journalistic power as a tool for social engineering. Journalists should be reporting facts that the people are interested in – not using their position as a tool to manipulate their readers’ beliefs in a direction they think is more correct. Because even though they think they’re so much smarter and better than all the smelly neck-beard “gamers” out there, they aren’t. That’s not their decision to make.

        Journalists and activists should be separate groups, and journalists should look sceptically on activists as they should look sceptically on anyone else.

        • Anonymous game developer says:

          I also want to note that your comments towards me personally are offensive.

          I have employed women, trans, and non-white people. Because I don’t care what color they are or what genitalia they have, as long as they can do the work (and these ones could).

          • Luke says:

            Mate, Cameron was treating you with kid gloves. I would have been much less patient. A few points, in no particular order:

            -In your initial post, you repeatedly write ‘they’ when you cleary mean ‘I’. This is a disingenous rhetorical trope that I have seen many ‘gamergate’ supporters use. You approach as a disinterested third party, when you are anything but.

            -You say that Sarkeesian is telling ‘profit-making lies’ by presenting herself as a gamer. How the hell does one determine who is and isn’t a ‘gamer’, and who the hell gave you the right to decide? Furthermore: so what if she isn’t? It’s like saying no-one can write about the latest Michael Bay film unless they are ‘true film buffs’.

            -All journalism is activism. Is the genocidal racism in the writing of a whole bunch of nineteenth century journalists and ‘scientists’ apolitical because those views were normal at the time? How exactly do you propose to report about games ‘objectively’? Have you ever read the literary or film sections in your local paper?

            -Following on from this: you do realise that most content on gaming sites is basically recycled press releases, right? I suppose so long as they are reported ‘objectively’, there is no issue? Why — and this is the question this whole business revolves around — why do you feel that personally attacking a few very small fish on periphery of the industry for imagined offenses is the best way to avoid corruption?

            Come to that: your whole argument conflates ‘corruption’ with what you see as ‘activism’. Where is the logical connection? You start talking about one thing, and end with another. This is telling, and another common example of disingenousness. None of this is actually about ethics at all, is it? Your problem is that women are expressing opinions you don’t like in public, and you want to shut them down. If this were my blog, I would tell you now exactly where and how you could lodge your ‘concerns’, but I will leave it here out of respect for our host.

          • kunzelman says:

            I am sorry that I have offended you. I am literally only responding to your comments and I stand behind all of my responses. I did not say that you haven’t employed several different people. I will say that based on the comments you have left here that you seem to have some views that hold women in particular under suspicion, especially since the only people you named in a negative way in your comment were women (and some of your claims were straight-up factually inaccurate). I think that is worth some personal reflection.

            Thank you for your comment and, once again, I apologize if I have offended you.

        • kunzelman says:

          I think you are flailing quite a bit in this follow-up, and I think you only make two salient points that I haven’t already addressed in other replies here in this thread.

          The first is that you repeatedly suggest that I just “believe” things. It seems like you’re arbitrarily choosing this to put this on me. You came to my blog and gave me a reading on the situation, and I just responded to what you said with plain, simple responses. Additionally, I made an attempt not to ascribe these behaviors to you, but rather to “gamers,” but you ended up conflating those two groups in your own post, so I did as well.

          The second is that you are suggesting that I conflate journalism and activism. To begin with I want to say that I was defending the practice of feminist criticism in general, and that I am always going to defend women when they assert their right to speak in a field that always attempts to crush or silence them. Additionally, you seem to be very confused about where the critiques of games and gamer culture are coming from. Often they are coming from opinion pieces, editorials, and independent critics. Some websites (Polygon, Gamespot, and RPS come to mind) will often have their on-staff reporters cover these issues, but that’s not the primary place they are coming from.

          Mostly it seems like you are constructing both me and “games journalism” as strawpersons in order to feel vindicated in your anger. I also want to note that you are ceding the argument that you are expressly embracing a rhetoric and movement that actively silences women in the journalism (of which there are so, so many examples from the past couple years) in favor of embracing a nebulous hashtag that doesn’t seem to have any tangible benefit other than providing support for another hashtag that is directly connected to campaigns of harassment of women.

    • Jack says:

      To respond to you in order:

      1). I hate clickbait as much as anyone. Most journalists do. At best we have a love/hate relationship with it, because at the end of the day, clickbait drives traffic and traffic pays the bills. Still, if clickbait alone were driving traffic, I think you’d see more stories with titles like: “How Bayonetta’s tits disprove the myth of rape culture.”

      If I wanted to drive traffic, *that’s* the kind of clickbait title I’d write. So, no. It’s not just clickbaiting — it’s journalists and authors who have opinions that differ from yours.

      2). The gamers being called fat, friendless, misogynistic douchecanoes are, in many cases, the same gamers who have made death threats, rape threats, invented nonexistent proof, and then used that proof to call for the heads of others. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but let’s not pretend that one side is anything like blameless here.

      3). Disliking Sarkeesian is fine. Thinking Sarkeesian is a fraud is fine. Threatening her to the point that she calls the police (and then questioning the threat report as though she’s required to submit proof to the Internet (as opposed to the local PD) is not ok.

      Seriously, I don’t care at all if you or anyone think Sarkeesian is a fraud. It’s the actions taken as a result of that conclusion (by this particular group of people, not you specifically) that I find so troubling.

      4). You see journalists closing ranks to protect people accused of ethical infractions because the ethical infractions don’t exist (or at the very least, have not been proven to exist based on the “data” provided online.) When Kotaku and Polygon make changes to their policies, that’s a response.

      5). Sure. Not bothered by this — and I don’t condone insults flying on either side of the table. This solution would be better served if everyone would calm down.

      6). Here, you blow apart the value of everything you just said. The nebulous “feminist agenda” will punish you? What — do the Indigo Girls show up at your house dressed like Banshees and wail until your neighbors’ call the cops?

      There is no shadowy conspiracy. There is no “feminist agenda.”

    • Matt says:

      “If you think that this belief – that men are not the same as women, and that rape and misogyny are not the #1 problem in modern society – makes someone a regressive evil caveman, you’ll probably end up responding like most game journalists have.”

      This is the problem, I think.

      Men are the same as women. It is no longer ethically acceptable in many online spaces to believe that men and women are fundamentally different. This is, by definition, a sexist belief, and sexism has been taboo for a while now.

      I’m going to assume the second assertion is an exaggeration, and you simply mean that rape and misogyny aren’t significant modern problems. This is also factually inaccurate, and a dangerous belief to hold, in that it sabotages any attempt to combat rape and misogyny. You aren’t being allowed to assert these positions because we believe that they are unethical positions to assert.

      Now we come to a cultural problem. On 4chan and reddit, you can assert any position you want, up to and including white supremacy. 4chan and reddit, however, are exceptions, not just online but among most forums of discussion. You can’t assert white supremacist beliefs in any Western newspaper or television show or political debate or conversation in the pub. They’re beyond the threshold of acceptability. And any discussion space where anonymity is not guaranteed will have a threshold of acceptability, will have certain opinions that you’re not allowed to state no matter how correct you might think they are. This does not constitute a violation of freedom of speech unless it’s the government doing it, because that’s not what freedom of speech means, but it does constitute a limit on what you’re allowed to say, so I suppose you might fairly observe that that’s nitpicking. You’re not allowed to say anything you want, after all. I would argue, however, that such limitations on speech are absolutely necessary if you want to maintain any kind of standard of discourse at all, and cite the impossibility of conducting a meaningful argument on 4chan or reddit as evidence of that.

      We are, however, presumably attempting to reach people who disagree with even the fundamentals of our position, and in order to do that we have to compromise. You can’t convince someone if you don’t allow them to express their opinion, no matter how distasteful you may find it. How would you have an argument with them? So there have to be spaces, like this comments thread, where you are allowed to make those assertions without being chased off. That’s fine. You’re doing it now, actually. We can find ways to meet in the middle there. But what I think you are going to have to do is accept that there are always SOME limitations on speech, and that these are necessary for a fruitful discussion. They don’t have to be big limitations. We might accept, for instance, that you can assert that men and women are different, but not that you can use the word “slut”. We might fairly place a ban on distributing people’s pictures without their consent. We might simply ask that you express yourself politely and in full sentences. If you feel that you’re being censored, that’s fine, and you can argue that the rules governing speech should be different, but some are always going to exist and you are always going to have to navigate them. If you don’t do that – if you conflate not being allowed to question the necessity of feminism with not being allowed to make obscene, personal comments – then communication between us is going to continue being impossible.

  7. Uri says:

    Hi Cameron,

    Nice post and good replies.

    Here is my reading of gamergate. Like others, this is based on observation and I don’t claim to speak for anyone else.

    1. Why are people posting to #gamergate?

    They are doing this to vent and express their anger.

    2. What are they angry about?

    They are angry about changes in the game industry and game media that have been taking place for some time. Both these industries used to cater exclusively to a small core community. In the last few years the market for games has grown significantly and now game developers and media also produce some content that caters to people outside the original community. Members of this community are losing some of their privilege of being exclusively catered to, and are angry about this.

    3. Why now?

    Internet anger is a positive feedback loop, you just need an initial trigger. The trigger was the moderation of discussions of the Zoe Quinn story. For regulars of Internet forums, these sites are like a second home. That’s where they feel safe and empowered. Wide-scale moderation after the Quinn story felt like someone coming into their home, throwing them out and locking the door. This generated the initial pool of anger that flowed towards the media corruption storyline.

    4. Why are they talking about media corruption?

    They are angry about the media, for the previously stated loss of privilege. But they can’t admit – to themselves and to others – that this is why they are angry. So they did what the “birther movement” did: invent a conspiracy about the subject of their anger, convince themselves of its existence, then get angry about that. Media corruption is a facade for the real cause of the anger.

    Two peripheral points:

    5. Is there a strand of legitimate media criticism weaved into this discussion?

    No. People with legitimate claims will not risk tainting these claims by joining a conspiracy theory. There was a lively discussion of game media ethics long before gamergate and it will continue long after gamergate dies down. The only distinct contribution of gamergate is conspiracy theories.

    6. Do the gamergate people hate women?

    I don’t think so. Their problem is just loss of privilege. Let’s imagine a scenario: Anita Sarkeesian publishes a tropes video, and it is completely dismissed by the industry. Game developers reject her criticism out of hand. Gaming sites write stories describing the video as an uninformed witch hunt against games. In that scenario, the industry said exactly what the core gamer community wanted to hear, so the community just chuckles and dismisses the whole ordeal. In reality, some developers agree with criticism of their games, and the media presents the criticism as legitimate. People are angry that the industry is not saying what they want to hear. Sarkeesian represents for them this loss of privilege, so they lash out at her criticism. The circumstances – anger, anonymity, and a woman presenting feminist criticism – result in the channelling of misogyny already prevalent in general society.

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