A grab-bag of #GamerGate responses

Tuesday was a busier day than usual for me on Twitter. Yahoo Tech ran my column decrying the vicious and creepy harassment of a few women in or connected to the gaming industry by what I called a “nutcase fringe” of “GamerGate”–and, more important, Twitter’s failure to take some basic steps to make itself less harassment-friendly–and my Twitter notifications promptly blew up.

Twitter analytics for GamerGate weekThe GamerGaters who showed up there–and in the post’s comments thread and on my Facebook page–were not amused. I spent most of the morning replying to those tweets but then had to turn my attention back to work. So for anybody who’s been waiting for a reply–or would like one exceeding 140 characters–here are my responses to the most common comments on my column.

Why didn’t you write about the doxxing and harassment of GamerGate supporters?

That’s the fairest point I’ve seen made. But this was a column about the history of harassment on Twitter–which has seen women take by far the worst abuse, as I noted in my mentions of Kathy Sierra and Adria Richards’ ordeals–and the service’s ineffectual response to it. I could have and should have written it months ago; the attacks on GamerGate opponents represent just another chapter in the story of a part of online culture that needs to die.

Plus, I have seen no credible evidence that harassment of GamerGate supporters has been as prolonged and vicious as that of Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian and other female critics of GamerGate.

(To anybody who’s been hit with death threats on Twitter, I’m sorry. Nobody should be subjected to that crap for speaking their mind. To those sending those threats: What the hell is wrong with you?)

This is about journalism ethics.

Those of you saying this, I believe you. But I also don’t get where you’re coming from. The massive influence AAA game publishers have over the gaming media and the willingness of some writers to suck up to them have been a glaring issue since the 1990s–back when I was writing and editing game reviews at the Post myself–and now you’re up in arms over a game nobody had heard of, Quinn’s Depression Quest, getting a little publicity? You’re saying the real sickness in gaming media, the reason to grab the pitchforks and torches, is the relationships some indie developers have with individual writers?

Oh, and the chat logs showing this meme was cooked up by a bunch of 4chan trolls using sockpuppet Twitter accounts display little concern about journalism ethics.

(Note also that the GamerGate outcry over the phony allegation that sleeping with a game writer got Quinn a favorable review of Depression Quest has led to the game getting about a billion times more mentions than it would have received otherwise.)

Twitter notifications on watchWe just want the politics taken out of game journalism.

Not everything has to be political. But if you take gaming seriously as a creative endeavor–a goal I remember most game-industry types supporting back in the ’90s–it’s delusional and incoherent to declare it exempt from any political scrutiny.

If you don’t appreciate Sarkeesian’s feminist critique of games, you can read somebody else’s–most reviews don’t put games in any social or political context, same as many write-ups of music, movies and books. Or write your own.

We’re tired of SJWs imposing their agenda on the gaming industry.

That’s “SJW,” as in “Social Justice Warrior.” Beyond the silliness of that supposed insult (me, I think it’s good to care whether an industry marginalizes people who could make it better), the idea that feminists are in a position to order around the game industry or any other segment of the technology sector is laughable.

The subtext of some of these objections, that the gaming industry does not need to change, troubles me much more. Historically, the majority culture in America telling a minority culture “can’t you just pipe down and let us keep things the way they are?” has led to some darker chapters in our country’s history.

There is a history of unjustly blaming video games for real-world violence, but that complaint hasn’t been brought up much by GamerGaters. And now that a threat of a school shooting led Sarkeesian to cancel a planned appearance at Utah State University–campus police told her they couldn’t check attendees for weapons under the state’s open concealed-carry laws–it would be awkward to bring up that.

(The game industry hasn’t done itself a favor by shying away from that argument, as game designer Daniel Greenberg—a friend and, years ago, one of my better freelance contributors—argues in this post at The Atlantic.)

The publicity over these attacks is unwarranted; those women should have just ignored the trolls.

The accounts of people who have been hit with repeated, graphic threats of rape and death indicate no such thing is possible. Not having had to endure such a thing, I’m inclined to believe those who have.

Another thought: It would have been an interesting experiment to publish my column under a female byline and a woman’s photo.

You’re advocating for censorship.

If you can’t tell the difference between governments arresting people for their speech and a corporation deciding on the rules of its own social network, you’re an idiot.

We’re not misogynists. We value diversity and welcome women, and there’s no evidence GamerGate is behind any of the attacks.

I believe you when you say that. But a non-trivial proportion of the pro-GamerGate testimony I’ve seen has exhibited sexism of varying levels of toxicity, from saying Quinn reached “the top” (as if she’s now EA) “on her back” to calling complaints about GamerGate “stupid feminist BS.”

And some of the most public supporters of GamerGate are outright cretins, from actor Adam Baldwin (who earlier wondered if President Obama wanted to bring Ebola to America) to writer and professional jerk Milo Yiannopoulos (last year, his mockery of complaints about female underrepresentation at tech conferences ran under the headline “Put a sock in it, you dickless wonders”).

And all the way at the nutcase fringe, you have the creeps on 8chan plotting these attacks. This is the problem with calling a hashtag a movement: How do you kick people out of GamerGate when they say they support it too?

As for people who actually make games, an increasing number of them don’t want anything to do with this mess.

We’re tired of being demeaned and stereotyped in the media.

I get it: You don’t appreciate stories like Leigh Alexander’s “‘Gamers are over” post at Gamasutra questioning whether there is a “gamer” identity and whether it has anything redeeming to offer. But having spent most of the last decade reading about the demise of my own occupation, I have to say: If you want to call yourself an oppressed class, get in line.

Meanwhile, what has GamerGate itself done to the image of gamers? Does the rest of the world think you’re a saner lot with a more secure grasp on reality now? Do they think you’re a more pleasant bunch to hang out with? I will bet that they don’t. And that GamerGate will wind up as one of the most counterproductive attempts at a PR campaign since the Iraqi Information Minister.

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10 thoughts on “A grab-bag of #GamerGate responses

  1. For once excuse my probably bad English since it is not may Native Language. But I am what you can call a Pro #GamerGater.

    For your fist point. This will not excuse any harassment or Attack against these people but Zoe was not harassed because she was a women. They most likely used this fact to hurt her but Zoe is really not innocent at all. For example the Attacked a Suicide Forum called Wizzardchan because they were pretty upset about her game because they felt it is not what depression is about . Zoe was more like a trigger what was built up over ll these years. And then these “Gamer are Dead articles” came out and everyone went crazy and was angry. And that goes for both sides with one provoking them in a victorious way like Leigh Alexander did by mocking people who were upset and really upset about these articles. And when people react to harass which she certainly did in good and very bad ways people like these will hump on her. They see that affects her.

    Anita was always a part of harassment since she kickstarted her Campaign years ago. She even received lots of death threats before this whole thing started. Maybe it is because how she portrays videogames. Very negatively and and cherry picked for many people. There are a lot of people who have criticized her work in videos write ups etc. But none of it really find a place on these sites talking about social issues at all. Form the Gaming Press it was only one voice and that was hers. Mostly because she was more prominent then Youtubers with 30 or 50k Viewers. who knows but it always felt wrong to gamer how she was presented with no criticism against her at all. It was “she was right and everyone else was wrong” and when people said something in these comment sections for articles they got deleted or banned. There was no discussion at all. This was probably really frustrating.

    As for Wu I have no Idea how she became a target at all. She seems like a radical Feminist and maybe that was the reason to attack her. What with Wu started looked more and more like a huge planned Attack against us. Even More that Wu was someone totally random and not even Important at all. It was so strange that all of sudden every media outlet went after GamerGate. Then StopGamerGate 2014 suddenly trended worldwide which was also caused by multiple use of Bots. And we have proof for this.

    But overall how horrible these harassment are there is real no evidence that it was #GamerGate. Just like every movement. Religion, Feminism, Fanclubs etc. There are always extremists who do these things and on the Internet there are people that do it just for fun. But the blame went all to them because it was a perfect fit for their narrative. I even got told by a games Journalist Writer after I informed her that some troll posted her address and that GamerGate does everything to get this account suspended which we did. That it does not matter if it was GamerGate or not because we are an embarrassment. And then blamed it on us.

    Also I know that a lot of people got doxxed and harassed. A Reporter received a Syringe in his mail. Boogie a famous Youtube Personality which had a more positive GamerGate standpoint but also was very neutral was visited at home and he and his wive received these. As well as several other female members who have been called Disgrace and Betrayer of their own Gender, Several Deaththreats etc. It is really not a black and White issue here as the media wants people make believe. I honestly do not know who harasses people but right know I am believing more that these are trolls who want to see the world burn and have fun. They are probably neither site in the end. GamerGate figured one out for example which was from Brazil wanting to get traffic for his site. But no one in the media actually investigates these things which is very sad.

    As for ethics in Journalism

    This is a even more complicated one. I agree that this whole thing about a game no one really reviewed but just mentioned in a favorable way was stupid but it showed the thing we always suspected for years. Gaming Journalists are like a clique they are all friends and with these friends you have developers as well. There are people that lived together under one roof and write about each other. By my understanding and watching a video about Greg Lisby talking about relationships and journalistic ethics they are breaking every point he made in his 9 minute talk. After watching this video I was pretty upset to see how these “journalists” see it it as totally normal just like in any other profession. They are all tied very tightly together and we can not do a think about it. Journalists and developer big or small.

    As for the thing that Big publishers have all the control? I think that has totally shifted to the point that big Publisher more and more do not even care about the gaming Press at all anymore since these sites have alienated gamer for years now. PR Firms of these Companies rather making deals with Twitch and YouTube personalities which are getting more and more prominent in this industry. The last months even These streamers are getting copies even earlier than the gaming sites. Despite the Industry growing and more more Sites are slowly dying and being replaced by them So I can see how they try to get a new audience for their sites. But I think it is unethical doing this by shaming the core gamer. And this is also were the SJW things falls into.

    Scores for games is very important in this Industry and a success of a game is not only based on sales. But also on the overall Metacritic Score. When Publishers making contracts with developers they have a a minimum metacritic score in their contract. Obsidian for example made a game which got a ranking of 84. But to get a bonus they had to reach a score of 85. This resulted in Obsidian canceling a Project and fire quite a few people.

    Gamer are passionate about their games which is great but when Journalists already hate a game or genre they are already negative biased to this game. For example: There was a Racing Game called Gran Turismo 6 which was reviewed by someone who wrote in her review that she thinks cars and racing in circles is dumb. She did not care for the game, the mechanics, nothing. She just described how boring and stupid this game for her was. In the end she gave it a low score for playing a few hours and this score was part of Metacritic. This person did not care at all. She even asked herself in the review why she was the one who had to review this game. And gamers who are passionate about their games will never understand this. If you do not like a genre or not even have knowledge of it do not review it because you go into it with a already negative bias. And with Social criticism it is even more difficult in my opinion.

    Bayonetta 2 was a great example: The reviewer already knew what the game was about because it was a sequel. He already knew that this was something he will hate because he personally as a straight white male thinks this game is sexist. So 90% of the game was about how sexist it is and the 10% how good everything else. in the end he gave it a 7.5 because of his political view. This was by a large margin the lowest score of this game. Everyone else praised this game as a masterpiece because of how fun it was to play.

    The funny thing is that many sex positive feminists including Leigh Alexander think this is a great empowered female Character. And one example of one of the very few great female character to them.

    Many people would say nothing if this personal political view would not influence there score. For example in a second opinion piece or a long editorial. Or maybe do not even use a score like Kotaku does. But a personal view is so subjective that it in many peoples mind hurt the game especially when it is a game which is very niche to begin with and has no high hopes to sell like Bayonetta 2. Many want just as objective reviews as possible while putting social criticism in an extra field.

    As for censorship: That is very hard. But many of these social issues are seem like clickbaits when someone compares a scene in which a evil vampire kills a family with a game called rapelay which literally lets you play as a man portrayed as a hero or good guy who rapes a whole family because he felt they were mean to him. This is not criticism anymore this is hyperbole. She even said that she hopes they will remove this scene in the end. This is a call for censorship in my opinion. And we have more and more like that. Words like sexist or racist right know are being thrown around like free candy and these once strong words are losing more and more meaning. And this happens not even with full playable games. They only need to publish a image of a bit more controversial Boxcover like with Far cry 4 and people already call out foul and racism. It is way too much that it really gets annoying. But since these articles always have the most views and comments or clicks they will publish them as fast as they can. It feels more and more like a cash grab of dies slowly dying.

    Last comment I swear: Since all went downhill it went more and more difficult to archieve anything meaningful when we have to defend ourselves any minute. I really hate this current situation than before all the shitstorm began we archived quite a bit.

    Raising 70K for a Gamejam for women. Changed the journalistic policies of the escapist which they even thanked us for and gave us also a space for discussion which the other journalists not even tried in the beginning of this whole mess. Also Twitch has changed his policies about sponsored streams and transparency of these. But the last weeks doing this stuff it becomes more and more impossible and yes resulted in a fight against radical or modern Feminism.

    I also want better female or divers characters in video games I also want much better Writing like the Last of Us for example which properly had the best written and humanized Characters ever in a video game or current Hollywood cinema. But I and many others do not believe in shaming games or people to archive this. We should praise and embrace great diverse characters instead way more.

    We need to allow developer to make error we need to encourage big publishers to take risk but It is just not possible right now because the moment one little thing is wrong with a female character they will judge it and call it misogynistic, sexist. Just one trailer or picture is enough for this judgement. It is really frustrating for someone like me who wants more diverse characters and experiments with writing and also gameplay.

    I am really sorry for this probably really bad written very long post but I felt to answer to your report….

  2. I personally think there is a problem in gaming journalism especially ethics, and it needs to change. The writing in games journalism has been horrible and needs to improve. Right now we don’t have great writers, we have people who share only one side of the debate.

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  6. campus police told her they couldn’t check attendees for weapons under the state’s open-carry laws
    IIRC, it was the concealed carry law that caused the police to not search attendees.

    • Right you are. You generally don’t need to search people who have their firearms on their hips.

      (Hat tip to Sarkeesian’s NYT op-ed today, which finally reminded me to fix this.)

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