This Is The Worst Games Media Ever, Except For All The Ones Before

You can take my thesis statement with a grain of salt, but it’s true.  We have, today, the biggest, most diverse, and most interesting Gaming Journalism we’ve ever had.  Whether that’s good enough, I leave as an exercise to the reader.  I suspect that many readers, particularly GGers would think not, and to be honest, I think that most developers, including many of us who challenge #Gamergate on many points, would actually agree.  As a matter of fact, at the end of the infamous Milo post, I gave several examples of things that merit actual investigation rather than crappy indie fundraisers and feminists who go mostly ignored anyway.

Big league games like Destiny and GTAV cost more than 9 figures, and a third of that at LEAST is usually earmarked to marketing. Is anyone following that money? Some years ago, a Gamespot journalist was fired right after giving a bad review to a AAA game. Games from big studios seem to rarely get reviews below 70%, but indie devs who can’t afford to advertise routinely do. Some companies have been caught giving payola to Youtube streamers (). Companies routinely fly press around the country and wine and dine the journalists that will review themHere’s a story about a company who hired a reviewer to do a mock review, solely so he couldn’t legally write the bad review they thought he’d give them.

Here’s the thing.  We used to have a smaller, more focused games media.  It was sharp.  It was glossy.  It printed just the previews, and once the game came out, it printed just the reviews.  It was the amazing world of Print Media: PC Games, PC Gamer, Computer Gaming World, Nintendo Power, EGM and NextGen magazine.  Let ol’ cranky grandpa developer tell you about it.

It was fucking DREADFUL.

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Here’s Why No One Believes The “It’s Not About Her” Angle

A play in three acts.

Act I: Zealous Investigator slams TFYC for not really supporting women or giving to charity.

The most neutral way to describe TFYC is that they were ‘in the mix’ when the ZoePost event exploded in the chain of events that would lead into #gamergate. There was shitty behavior on both sides, but supposedly Zoe Quinn and TFYC made peace. However, TFYC emerged from the event as the ‘not Zoe’ female developer, with 4chan supporting the game with funding. The invention of #gamergate’s mascot, Vivian James, was in support of this effort.

One of the more spectacularly wrong things I see over and over again is this idea that ‘the mainstream gaming press won’t cover TFYC because of Zoe!’ Here’s the thing: the mainstream gaming press doesn’t cover enough indie shit – PERIOD. One of the biggest problems with the gaming press is that they get all their money from big developers, and they fill their front pages with orgasmic previews of these AAA games, and the guys making indie games and running indie events have a hellacious time getting any press at all. In fact, and I’ll say this bluntly, #GamerGate was by far the best thing to happen to TFYC. Fucking nobody would know, or care, about it. That’s not the way it should be, it’s the way it is.

Anyway, I found Vivian’s argument to be pretty weak sauce. Basically, what she’s saying is that what TFYC is doing is using the money to give a talented female designer a PAID PROGRAMMING STAFF. Will she actually run the team? I suspect she’ll be paired with a more experienced designer who can help her color within the lines of budget and feasibility, two things new designers struggle with. Her argument that the team, not the designer, will get all the credit is utterly fallacious. Any marketing around the game would undoubtedly center around this promotion. Even if the artist contributed zero past the initial design document. Because that’s what’s most marketable here.

So anyway, I thought this was all bullshit, and was just about to respond as such forcefully, when TFYC beats me to it.  And then I was immediately glad I didn’t.

Act II: TFYC Makes It All About Zoe

This is literally the first full sentence of the response.

In the end, this project will alway be entwined with Zoe Quinn.

Wait, what? You mean, the one that shall not be named?  Needless to say, I immediately did a search of Viv’s original article.  Zoe’s name appears NOT ONCE.  There are so many ways that you could legitimately counter Viv’s claims.  Why do we immediately go here? Seriously, what the hell?  But TFYC goes straight to repeatedly bringing up Zoe, including:

  • Dredging up her donations and patreon earnings for no apparent reason.
  • Accusing Zoe of being unexperienced
  • Slamming Zoe for not really programming or building her own tech
  • Effectively accusing her of spinning a victim narrative so she doesn’t have to create any real work (even throwing in that she’s using her looks to make it happen)

He closes with:

In the end, if we weren’t here, all that would be left for you to bitterly tear at would be Zoe, and her sins are far worse than ours.

WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT HER?  Oh, that’s right.  Because her name is a dog whistle that somehow brings all the worst trolls to the yard, and its the easiest albeit sleaziest way to circle the wagons.

Act III: Zoe responds with a completely appropriate ‘what the fuck’.

Not much for me to say here, other than the fact that her general befuddlement and outrage here is pretty much warranted as near as I can tell.  Whether or not TFYC is clean or completely in the wrong, there is no good reason why Zoe should feel the need to expose her finances in response to TFYC’s ethical problems, be they real or non-existent.  I will note that before this left-field attack, I thought they were non-existent.

But you don’t deflect in such a bullshit way as that if there’s not something there.

Zoe, in this twitter stream, has agreed to release any and all documentation to members of the press who are willing to help her cleanse it of private information and host it.  I’d be surprised if any takers take her up on that.  The press that would normally cover such things, like Polygon or RPS, are trying not to talk about #gamergate, not because they are ignoring it so much as because, due mostly to utter bullshit claims, they feel like they are part of the story, and must recuse themselves.  The only games media talking about Gamergate right now are pro-gamergate sites, who are feeding off the movement.  You have to go to cracked magazine to read a major site with an antiview (their view is that this bullshit is the stupidest scandal in games history).

Seriously, if #GamerGate isn’t about Zoe, then why do GamerGate’s Heroes like Milo and TFYC have such a hard time avoiding her as a topic?

 

Ms. Sommers Just Can’t Let It Go

So it’s been a week since I pointed out that Christina Hoff Sommers logic in her ‘games aren’t sexist’ movie is, like, really, really logically flawed.’  She responded by… I’m not making this up… attacking my spelling.  She also intimated I smeared her while, at the same time, misrepresenting my point enough that a whole bunch of people thought I was calling gamers Nazis and Klansmen. Which was a nifty bit of gold-medal caliber trolling.

But hey, my original argument was a tad emotional and a little abbreviated because, er, I was trying to squeeze in a few Milo slams, but really because the article was more about how this was evidence that SOME people were attempting to hijack #gamergate in order to shut down certain voices in the games industry that are already underrepresented. And, er, she sure isn’t doing anything to disprove THAT point, but whatever.

So I responded the next day with a more focused and cohesive takedown of why her argument is really unworthy of the term ‘logic’.  Her response was… ignore it and just bash me about spelling again when talking about a completely unrelated article.

Hey, it’s a slanted article that doesn’t try to challenge her broken logic at all!  Of course she likes it!  It continues to support her narrative that she’s REALLY a feminist, it’s just a coincidence that she’s leading a lynch mob against other feminists!  And by the way,just my two cents, but picking on typos is what you do if you have no real argument.  Just before that, she also manages to lump my shitty little blog in with… erm… real press.

I’m really not sure what she ‘now understands‘ from this article, which has nothing to do with me at all, although I guess I should be flattered that she thinks maybe I’m important enough to be associated with some of the top journalists in the field, who actually have time and paychecks freeing them to do much, much more thorough and high caliber work than I.  

I’m guessing she thinks I’m on the Secret Mailing List of Game Journalists, and we all colluded to secretly agree that her movie is friggin’ terrible, makes no actual sense, and kills brain cells faster than Ozark Moonshine.  Here’s a hint.  I’m a developer.  I develop the games that the people on the list complain about.  I am, to them, the problem that they go onto that list to solve.  But hey, crack research there.

But anyway, I’ve been ignoring her and moving on, because clearly she doesn’t want to engage in the fact that her logic is utterly bogus and by extension, her movie is completely trash.  But apparently, I’ve gotten under her skin because she sent this yesterday morning.

Yes, the article she links to is…. the first one I linked above.  Yes, Christina is trying to create an illusion that I’m still pestering with her in order to rev up the troops, when really I’ve been ignoring her because I really have no interest in engaging with someone who just wants to drive-by Twitter trolling, rather than address the incredibly glaring logical holes in her argument.

Well, hey, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this kind of frequent attention from a new woman in my life.  Here’s the article.  Here’s her rebuttal, with their rebuttal to hers.  Here’s what we’ve learned.

  • That this feminist (as described by the civil article above) thinks that feminists have ‘silenced women and men alike’.  She doesn’t challenge this.  Of course she doesn’t.  She has a nice gig in being the un-feminist.
  • That she got completely wrong basic rape stats, resulting in her ballooning a relatively minor decrease in supposed rapes into an enormous one that doesn’t exist.  She doesn’t challenge FAIR’s account.
  • That she completely misrepresented the story of why a professor who took down a painting of a nude in a public classroom – she challenged that, but the professor backed FAIR’s account.
  • That she claimed that wife-beating was not allowed in English common law, but this is the opposite of known history.  Sommers doesn’t challenge this.
  • That she got basic stats on anorexia wrong.  She challenged this, but FAIR debunked her by… you know… getting stats from people who study eating disorders.
  • That she ignored evidence that domestic violence is higher on Super Bowl Sunday.  In this part of the article, she misquotes people, misattributes professional relationships, and ignores ombudsmen who challenge sources she used.  She doesn’t challenge this.
  • That she really wants you to believe that GQ magazine just made up the quote that  “There are a lot of homely women in women’s studies. Preaching these anti-male, anti-sex sermons is a way for them to compensate for various heartaches–they’re just mad at the beautiful girls.”  There is, in this case, no way to know.  On one hand, one assumes that legitimate news organizations don’t do that.  On the other, the reporter misplaced the notes so maybe she has a point that he’s clearly not a very good one.

To answer her question in the tweet, I didn’t link to the rebuttal because the article was already long, I was writing with 3 glasses of wine in me, and it’s not like I *needed* her to look worse than the original article did, which this pathetic rebuttal does. Seriously, I have no earthly idea why Christina Hoff Sommers would want to call attention to this article and rebuttal. Because it really doesn’t make her look very good at all.  Reading through it leaves the undeniable impression that Sommers cares very little about facts, and only cares very much about bending perceptions towards her cause.  But then finally, finally, she actually gave a fact-based, logical explanation why her logic about sexism in games isn’t very, very bad.

I’m kidding.  After that, she prompted her growing mob of fans to make fun of a pair of high school girls who DARED to try coding a video game!  Haha!  Girls who want to code games addressing social issues are funny! That, or a terrifying sign of how feminists indoctrinate our kids, of course.

I fully expect for her to spend the next week challenging their grammar.

The Most Important Part of This Escapist Article Is the Anonymity

Some time ago, Alexander Macris from The Escapist asked me to write up my thoughts on #gamergate. I sent him a response (it’s still coming, I think), and told him that I hoped he was talking to some women. With my response, I told him frankly that I thought it would be a bad idea for him to ignore diversity for this topic, because much of the roots of this topic are based in minority viewpoints, particularly women. He latched onto this idea and ran with it. It’s a good read. Seriously, go read it.

It’s well-rounded, and does a great job of describing the total feeling of ominous despair I’ve seen overtake the dev women I know. Let’s talk about the most important thing about this article: most of these women wouldn’t participate unless they were anonymous. This maps to what I see in my friends list. There are people in my friends list who have been making games for 20 years.  Some of these are women who normally will NOT shut up about what is right or wrong in game design or the games industry.  Since the start of #gamergate though,  these outspoken designers are absolutely, positively refusing to engage on this issue. By far, this is more true of the women than the men.

There’s a simple reason: what happened to Anita, and what happened to Zoe.

I’ve linked a few times this article by Criado Perez who documented the avalanche of shit that piled upon her once the Internet decided she was an uppity bitch. By way of comparison, last week, the twitterverse took something I wrote out of context, and decided I was part of the problem. Here’s a rough catalog of what I got when Base Mom called me out.

  1. A whole bunch of people who pointed out helpfully that mentioning the KKK or Nazis in any argument that’s gotten heated was fucking stupid.
  2. A whole bunch of people who called me a handful of names, mostly harmless like ‘idiot’ or ‘SJW asshole (the latter of which my friends found pretty funny, because they know me).
  3. A handful of people attempting to organize Bioware boycotts because of me, or requesting EA fire me.
  4. A couple of people who discounted my opinion because of how Bioware fucked up the end of ME3, or the level design in DA2 (Note: I had no part and can take credit nor blame for either game)
  5. A whole bunch of people who went full mom and talked about being ‘disappointed’ in me.
  6. A distinct uptick in the number of people trying to hack my blog.

Now, demanding people get fired because they have opinions on video games different from you is pretty uncool. But still, I didn’t get Doxed. I didn’t get DDOSed. My wife, parents and siblings haven’t been getting phone calls calling me a slut whore bitch cunt. I haven’t gotten any emails or twitters suggesting I should get raped and murdered. No one has made a video game where the sole point of it is to punch me in the face. Which is to say, a lot of shit got directed my way. But much of it was fair, some of it crossed into ‘vaguely dickish’ and some was ‘fairly concerning’. It is NOTHING compared to what happens when a community decides a woman gets uppity on the net.

I frankly think that a lot of people on BOTH sides who say they are getting harassed have no idea what harassment is.  I’ve seen numerous cases where people complained they were being ‘harassed’ for being called stupid, or being told to shut up.  Whether you call this harassment or not, this is light years from the worst shit that is happening.

Reading through the comments thread of the Escapist article, I see that a ton of people don’t get it. They think that these women, who are all clearly well-versed in the controversy, just don’t ‘get’ what #GamerGate was about. Here’s a hint: they totally get it. But #gamergate is a Rorschach test. For some, it’s a fight against journalistic corruption. For others, its an attempt to get rid of progressive (“SJW”) elements from games and games journalism. Some are still fighting a crusade against Zoe and Anita. Some are convinced its still a crusade of harassment and misogyny (and there’s still WAY too much of that shit going on on both sides). Some are just mad about ‘gamers are dead’ articles, as if those actually had any kind of lingering power on the games you’re going to get.

But I gotta tell you, in this ink blot, a lot of women devs look at the ink blot and they see a massive middle finger aimed right at them. Read the article – all but one of them expressed the same general thoughts. They feel silenced. They feel vilified. They feel alone. They feel despair that other women in the industry also feel this way, and some are starting to question whether to leave.  And they feel terrorized that they are one crazy ex-boyfriend away from being made an example of.

And if I had to place a guess, they are really sick of being told that ‘they just don’t get what GamerGate is all about’ by people who have no idea how hard it is to be a woman in the games’ industry.

I’ve had a couple of women tell me that they are TERRIFIED TO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK POSTS OR FAVORITE MY TWEETS ON THE SUBJECT.

A few weeks ago, I made a point, which is that ‘As long as women gamers and game developers are living under a cloud of virtual terrorism, I don’t give a shit about your cause.’  Now, there are a whole bunch of people who want to bend over backwards to say that it’s only a couple of fuckwads, and that the idea that this is about harassment is a myth.  I can tell you right now, that narrative is not what’s perceived.  Because the women who watched this unfold KNOW that it unfolded in the roots of Zoe and Anita, and even if they want to disagree with those two, they know there is very real risk of their lives going through the same kind of upheaval.

For having an opinion about video games.

What’s perceived is that voicing an opinion is just not safe for a whole bunch of people who are, it turns out, right at the center of the debate.  Whether or not you are pro or anti-, its perceived as just not a SAFE THING TO DO to SPEAK YOUR MIND.  And that’s a really, really fucking shitty place to be in the profession you love.

The Problem With GamerGate is Twitter

Damion notes: Dave Rickey is one of the smartest designers I know. He also violently disagrees with me on many aspects of my opinions about #gamergate, what its origins are, and what impact social justice issues have – as you can see if you read my comments threads here on Zen. He tends to be more pro-GG and I tend to be anti-GG, but in general, both of us have been trending towards a shared ‘pox on both their houses’ stance. He made the following comment on Facebook, and I asked if I could reprint this in its entirety, and he agreed.


Proposed: The problem in “‪#‎gamergate‬” is not misogyny, or corruption in games journalism. The problem is Twitter. Twitter is a breeding ground for social dysfunction, where you are lulled into a sense of community and comradery because everyone you follow and everyone that follows you are basically in agreement. The only things that can penetrate the bubble are “Outrage Porn” being retweeted into it, and attacks responding to outrage porn that is being passed around other bubbles.

There’s no room for nuance or in-depth discussion, and anyone who makes the mistake of trying will see their lengthy and thoughtful think-piece distilled down to a barely-true (if that) 140 character sound bite that will be used as a new piece of outrage porn.

Everything devolves into a screaming match, where the side that screams longest and loudest shouts down the other. It doesn’t matter what the facts are, who the actual people are, only which side can sustain their outrage the longest.

People I like and respect are acting shamefully, “signal boosting” and engaging in sweeping generalizations, cutting off and shunning people they’ve known for years because they showed the slightest lack of resolve and agreement. And the dividing line between people who are willing to consider nuance and those that do not seems to be their level of Twitter activity. If you’re monitoring twitter in real-time, you wind up picking a camp and committing to it 100%, as wave after wave after wave of groupthink and outrage sweeps aside all other considerations.

For the love of God, if you’re even *considering* cutting off contact with someone you know personally because of something they are saying about this clusterfuck, do yourself a favor: Turn off your twitter account and walk away. Ignore it for a few days. Then, *after* your withdrawal, ask yourself if attitudes and judgement frames you received from Twitter are really more important than personal ties.

Milo’s Sloppy, Biased Video Games Reporting

I’ve had some problems with Ben Kuchera’s work in the bast. In fact, not too long ago I wrote an article titled What’s Wrong With Game Journalism, and used as exhibit A Ben’s baffling spin on SimCity delivering a much-desired and much-demanded feature (offline play) as a ‘race to the bottom’. In it, I basically argued that Ben doesn’t know much about the inner technical challenges of making major changes like this, and also slammed him for putting a negative spin on what should be a positive, fan-friendly eventuality. Hell, one of my coworkers has a tumblr that it seems like he only ever updates when he wants to rant about something Ben said.

So yeah, Ben’s not above reproach as a journalist.

That being said, Milo Yiannopoulos makes Kuchera look like fucking Woodward and Bernstein combined. You may remember Milo from my previous piece here where I debunked him and Christina Sommers. I think it probably says something that while my Twitter feed filled up with people mad at me for bashing ‘Based Mom’, no one’s stepping up to defend Milo. This may be due to the fact that he’s the sort of enlightened soul who occasionally lets something repugnant slip, such as in this fantastically hypocritical article where he defines Rockstar as having “Brazen, sociopathic, adolescent attitudes” and then veering into “Personally, I don’t understand grown men wasting their lives playing computer games. It seems a bit sad to me” before concluding “It’s not for me to legislate what weirdos in yellowing underpants get up to in their spare time.”  He also makes it clear that there’s no doubt that video games were a factor in Elliott Rodger going nutballs.

Yes, this is the defender of the poor devs boxed in by political correctness, and the savior of gamers still reeling from a million ‘gamers are dead’ articles.

Milo has gotten a whiff of controversy, and is now trying to cash in by rebranding himself as a hero of these yellowing underpants weirdos.  But that requires a frame: that liberal/SJW journalists are attempting to destroy video games by…. er, something. Pressuring us poor helpless devs to stop making the games the players really want and instead start building ‘Kumbaya: the MMO’, because apparently my bosses hate money. Also, collusion! And he demonstrates collusion by showing that (a) journalists actually are on mailing lists and communicate to each other (editorial note: duh) and (b) in the case of the Zoe Quinn story (which GamerGate is totally not about!), the journalists all colluded by disagreeing strongly on whether to cover her, defend her or even send her a nice note.

That word ‘colluding’ – I don’t think it means what you think it means.

So in today’s blockbuster episode, Milo posts a story about how Ben Kuchera tried to take down Brad Wardell, presumably because Ben Kuchera is a filthy communist and Brad Wardell is an outstanding small businessman being punished by the liberal elites  But he leaves out or obfuscates a few details:

1) He really wants you to think that coverage of this is all Ben’s bias.  But as he skips over quickly, Ben didn’t break the story.  It was Kate Cox of Kotaku (who he just calls a ‘feminist activist reporter’ as an intended slam in passing).  Kuchera reposted the story.  But it’s hard to see how he’s the genesis of this story, and one can’t help wonder what’s up with Milo’s desperate frame to villify him for it.

2) He really wants you to ignore the fact that, when a  sitting CEO is sued by an employee for sexual harassment, it’s a matter of public record as many legal issues are, and that the press has pretty good rationale for having a reason to report it.

3) He doesn’t mention the fact that the Kate Cox story did not, in fact, come in response to the woman suing Brad, but rather Stardock countersuing her.  In their suit, they claimed that her deleting marketing assets and stealing a laptop was, in fact, a reason why Elemental shipped as a buggy piece of shit.   Because, you know, that’s how game development works.  Incidentally, this countersuit appeared merely 3 weeks after a judge rejected Stardock’s attempt to have the sexual harassment case dismissed – two years after the initial suit. 

4) He doesn’t mention this because it completely destroys his narrative – that the suit was dismissed as ‘groundless’.  The suit wasn’t dismissed as groundless by a judge, nor tried in court.  It was settled, in conjunction, effectively dropped in exchange for them dropping their allegations against her.  Things like her apology and post-case silence are almost certainly conditions of the settlement. In football, this is called ‘offsetting penalties’, not ‘nothing bad happened here’.

Not mentioning the countersuit or the well-understood terms of the dismissal of the case is kind of a big deal here, guys.

5) He really doesn’t mention the fact that this lawsuit was probably, if not a slam dunk, certainly strong enough to see its day in court and possibly earn judgment based on readily available facts (something that is betrayed by the sudden appearance of the countersuit).  Milo could have easily found these facts by searching on the Internet, where he could have found not only the original legal complaint as well as several handy summaries of the facts found within.  Among accusations in the complaint:

  1. Brad emailed his employee a purity test and asked for the score (and helpfully flagged the email for followup!).
  2. He touched her hair in an inappropriate and creepy manner (this is the one that always creeps my female friends out).
  3. He asked female employees about their breast and bra sizes.
  4. He told her she should go on the media tour because her nipples looked best on TV.
  5. He visited the hotel room of her and another female employee and made her feel uncomfortable.

She sent him a very polite note asking him to cut this shit the fuck out:

  • Please never touch my hair or any of my body parts; not even jokingly.
  • Please do not talk about my private life or about my boyfriend/future husband in any terms especially negative terms.
  • Please be careful with your “jokes” which are at many times inappropriate, sexist, vulgar and very embarrassing not only to me, but everyone present.
  • Please keep your negative personal opinions of others (including family members and/or coworkers) not present at the time of your comments, to yourself. I feel, at times, it puts me in a very uncomfortable position.

His response was pretty much the stupidest thing you could say in this context:

I don’t recall item #1 but will certainly endeavor to be extra careful.

I understand #2. I will be more conscious of this in the future.

#3, however is not acceptable to me. I am an inappropriate, sexist, vulgar, and embarrassing person and I’m not inclined to change my behavior. If this is a problem, you will need to find another job.

#4, Again, I am not willing to adapt my behavior to suit others. IF you find my behavior problematic, I recommend finding another job.

I’m not some manager or coworker of yours. I own the company. It, and your job here, exist to suit my purposes, not vice versa. The company is not an end unto itself, it is a means to an end which is to further the objectives of its shareholders (in this case, me).

He followed up with this note to a friendly note to HR:

My general obnoxiousness is not subject to change and I would terminate the corporation and all jobs within if I felt my rights were being curtailed.

I’ve never met Brad, I don’t think.  I actually find him mostly pleasant in my online interactions with him.  But yeah, there was plenty of reason for this case to see the inside of a courtroom. Because the boss doesn’t get to decide if a work environment is hostile.  As a side note, feel free to check out Brad undoubtedly driving his lawyers nuts by refusing to shut up about the case.

These aren’t just random rumors that Ben and Kate pulled off of the internet, but are actual documents from what at the time was an ongoing investigation that at that time the judge refused to dismiss.  They are the very definition of public record.  Brad should thank his stars that he went 2 years without them catching a reporter’s eye, and if he hadn’t countersued but instead let it run its course or quietly settled, Stardock and Brad would likely still have a sterling reputation.

Milo would know all this if he knew anything about the games industry.  Because this shit was ALL OVER THE PLACE two years ago.  But he wasn’t, and so what he writes is something that is sloppy, biased and malformed.

The truth of the matter is that Ben Kuchera did not destroy Brad Wardell’s reputation.  Either the plaintiff of this case, Alexandria Miseta did, or more likely, Brad did it to himself.

No, I Didn’t Say, Or Mean, That Gamers Are Nazis or Klansmen

TLDR: That’s not what I said, that’s not what I meant, but I apologize that what I wrote could be construed that way. But that doesn’t mean that CHS’s logic is any better.

My friends think it’s pretty funny that I’m now being linked wholeheartedly into the SJW Conspiracy that is in bed with the media and is out to destroy gaming. I’m simply a free speech zealot. I believe firmly in free speech for gamers, game makers, and game journalists. I believe that voices like Anita should be listened to. I also think they can frequently be wrong, or ill-suited for the market. I loudly advocated for Penny Arcade during the dickwolf scandal. I’m usually the one pissing off the feminists by loudly supporting boobplate – if your game is aimed for the right audience. I just simply don’t like people telling me who should be allowed to talk to me about games.

But then, we’re living in a time where Reddit, F13, 4Chan, Penny Arcade and Something Awful have all been named as potential members of the grand SJW conspiracy. These are usually sites that the feminists get the ANGRIEST at. It’s surreal. Not as surreal as being called out by a frequent television personality, I’ll grant you. But tonight, Christina Hoff Sommers did, of course,

This, of course, prompted my twitter feed to explode with people declaring that I had compared gamers to Nazis or the KKK. This is pretty clearly not what was intended by my statement. If anyone believes that’s what I was trying to say, they are sorely mistaken, but I apologize for allowing my chosen language to put this anywhere in doubt. The blog post (which is unedited other than a link to this post) is here. The quote in question is as follows:

Sommers throws out some stats and figures, and then somehow leaps to the assertion that Games aren’t Sexist, it’s just that women don’t like games. This is roughly akin to saying that the KKK isn’t racist, it’s just black people don’t want to join, or the Nazis weren’t anti-semetic, it’s just the Jews weren’t jiggy with the way they did things. Which is to say, it’s a nonsense logical leap, entirely circular in nature, and one that would get you a big red ‘F’ if you handed in a paper with this argument in your Intro to Logic or Philosophy class.

Okay, so she has a good point on my spelling error.

I didn’t compare gamers to Nazis. I was merely pointing out that her logic is nonsensical, counterintuitive, and circular. Well, I was trying to. Put another way, the fact that women don’t buy Maxim doesn’t in any way prove that Maxim isn’t sexist, and probably suggests otherwise. Or if you prefer, the fact that hardcore feminist criticism isn’t popular with men doesn’t in any way prove that that brand of criticism isn’t sexist, and probably suggests otherwise. Note in both cases, the statements above AREN’T saying they are sexist, necessarily. Just that logic being used to dismiss these concerns is hilariously malformed.

So to do her a service, I will offer a more full analysis of her point.

There is one thing that Sommers is very right on, and that is that the ESA’s numbers are wildly misused by many people throughout the media and the games industry on the way and nature that women approach games right now – and a lot of those people should know better. Simply put, there are a shit ton of women playing games right now, but they’re playing very different games. They’re playing the Sims, Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood, Candy Crush – all of these games have what are very ‘pink’ designs (an internal term I think Zynga coined that is now in widespread use). Meanwhile, as I mentioned previously, games like League of Legend have 90% M/F ratios. Call of Duty is very similar. Console purchasers are OVERWHELMINGLY male. The gaming market is wildly bifurcated, and surprisingly few games have anywhere near 50/50 splits.

Here’s the thing – throwing stats and figures in this regard is nice and all, but it doesn’t actually help her case, it hurts it. A large split in gender affinity requires an explanation, you can’t just poo-pooh it away. But she gives no explanation. She just makes a blanket declaration that there’s not.

It is very likely that more women don’t play these games BECAUSE they are sexist. Game designers have pretty good reason to believe this: we’ve found, over and over again, that having more positive depictions of women increases the number of women who play our games. In MMOs, giving women the choice to wear a bikini OR a robe makes them more comfortable. Displaying more women in empowered or combat roles seems to dramatically increase a reach towards this market. Being sensitive about the use of sexual assault as a story trope in your games does as well. Should the designer worry about that? Depends. I have no problem with designers consciously making a more hardcore game experience. I also have no problem with the makers of Maxim, Playboy or Porky’s. But those three definitely have content that many women could reasonably consider sexist, and so does Dragon’s Crown. I’ll defend the right for the DC team to make the game they want until the ends of the earth. But any reasonable person would agree its depictions of women are sexist, and likely resulting in many women choosing not to play. Things like this RESULT in the statistical split that Christina argues is not a factor.


Are there games that are rife with sexism, is that true? Do they promote a culture of misogyny and violence that must be dismantled? My answer is no.


So there are NO games that are rife with sexism? Oh, dearie me. Screw Dragon Crown or the surprisingly problematic Far Cry 3, I can’t wait until you see the latest hot tentacle porn games from Japan.

For years, games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty were said to cause violence, even though no one has been able to establish a clear correlation.

You’re absolutely right! And I’ve been shouting about this for years! But, bringing in the topic of violence is intellectually dishonest. Long-term violence being caused by video games has been pretty strongly disproven. Attempting to conflate this point with your thesis statement does not progress it in any way. Violence != sexism.

Now these critics are gaming is largely a hetero-patriarchal capitalist pursuit.

My attempt to google your emphasized phrase brought up…. links with quotes from you, or talking about this quote. Did I miss a point where Anita or another notable feminist I would have heard of said this, or is this just a strawman designed to earn disdain for hipster cultural studies professors who like words with lots of syllables?

They do a lot of cherrypicking and ignore the fact that the world of gaming has become inclusive!

That’s great! Although it seems to disagree with your initial stat dump which found that women aren’t playing games nearly as often as men! The existence of O! magazine doesn’t mean that Maxim isn’t going to have content that plenty of women find sexist or offensive, and anyway, using the example of a couple of Tomb Raideresque games with female heroes to prove that an audience you claim has a 7-1 M/F split is actually inclusive seems to be – what’s the word – cherrypicking?

Many of them want more than women on both sides of the video screen. They want the male video game culture to die.

That’s a bold statement. Anita in her video bends over backwards to say that these tropes don’t necessarily make a game bad, nor is it bad to enjoy a game with her tropes. Anyway, is there any actual reason to be concerned it could actually happen? No. No one is going to take GTA V and Call of Duty from male gamers – Take Two and Activision would and should be shelled by their stockholders if this were to happen. As long as there is no government censorship (something I would fight until the ends of the earth), we’re going to have blood, violence, and more impressive boob physics for years to come. Which is nice, because those are the games *I* like.

There is no evidence that games are making males more racist, sexist or homophobic.

Um, that’s not your thesis statement either. Why are we talking about this? Why can’t you simply explain why Games are Not Sexist? Incidentally, number of times in her videos that Anita called gamers sexist: zero.

Look, I’m not saying that all games are sexist, nor am I saying that all gamers are sexist. There are, indeed, some truly repugnant assholes, but it’s a fairly small number (and I’m not saying that there aren’t some being repugnant on the other side of the debate right now). But there is a HUGE split between how genders are playing games right now. And there is no doubt there is a lot of content that a reasonable person would consider sexist in some of these games, particularly high-profile AAA games aimed for male audiences. There is little doubt that these are connected to each other.

How GamerGate’s Right Wing Nutjob Heroes Are Betraying a Hidden Ideological Purge

#GamerGate diehards insist that the current discussion has nothing at all to do with politics and that they are, in fact, trying to keep politics and ideology out of gaming.  Which is stupid – Bioshock, the Sims, Call of Duty and Civilization are all games that have a lot of message and ideology – but yeah, you could ignore all that and stick to that broken point of view.  And a lot of #gamergate fanatics have – in a display of hypocrisy which has now become everyday in this hashtag, #GamerGate has anointed as their champions two right-wing nutjobs desperate to insert their own ideology into the discussion in an apparent successful attempt to be instant patron saints of the Movement.  Hilariously, both have admitted to not really playing any games, something that was considered high treason when it was inferred to be true about Anita, despite the fact that her stuff appears to be mostly very well researched and, uh, for the most part, to have problems but contain some pretty good points. Apparently this isn’t a problem if you’re willing to just take #GamerGate’s side although kudos to whoever suggested that Hatoful Boyfriend should be Milo’s first game).

Meet Milo, a writer for Breitbart, who is one of the rare people in the history of all humankind who I hated immediately instinctively and then disliked and had less respect for even more the more I researched him. He is an associate editor in a web magazine that even the conservative blogosphere considers to be a pimple on the ass of conservative thought.  Seriously, most of what the site is like what would happened if you combined the National Enquirer, a yapping Chihuahua, and your drunken racist uncle at Thanksgiving wearing a tinfoil hat.  Here they are talking about Birthism while vehemently denying that they do so, for example.  Here they are giving credence to Benghazi, a ‘scandal’ that even the House GOP is now admitting is bullshit.  Here they are losing their shit because of stock legal language at the bottom of a photo op.  And normally, their coverage of pop culture is wrapped up in bashing violence and defending Christianity from the evils of Hollywood. Yes, a site that specialized in ‘woe is me, why is there not enough clean, wholesome, Christian entertainment’ has suddenly decided to defend the tits and violence bonanza that is gaming.

As for Milo, this crusader against ideology started this whole thing off with an article titled, “Lying, Greedy, Promiscuous Feminist Crusaders are Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart.” Apparently, his editor had a rare crisis of conscience, which must be like discovering your first orgasm if you work for Breitbart, because it was actually shortened to be less offensive to what you see (you can see the original name in the hyperlink). He followed this up with the hysterically all-capitalized “AN OPEN LETTER TO THE VIDEO GAMING COMMUNITY FROM A SELF-CONFESSED RIGHT-WING BASTARD” – because hey, you know, he’s not about ideology at all.  This crusader for diversity calls transgenderism a disease. This defender of equality thinks that men are just BETTER at technology than women, because fuck you that’s why. All of this is because the so-called #GamerGate scandal was JUST NOT OBVIOUSLY HYPOCRITICAL ENOUGH yet.

As you can tell, Milo brings a veneer of maturity and respect to the sobering #gamergate core issues of journalistic integrity and respect towards women.  As a side note, his private twitter handle is @caligula, because of course it is.

The other pundit is Christina Hoff Sommers, a writer for the American Enterprise Institute, a site that consistently favors right wing solutions to problems.  It’s currently got the Koch Brothers and Newt Gingrich in it, and likes to promote causes like austerity, dissing the minimum wage, and declaring that Obamacare will be a disaster.  Which is to say, the AEI makes a living about being very, very right-wing.  Needless to say, I also think they are very, very wrong on these topics, but that’s beside the point – they are DECIDEDLY ideological.  Somehow suggesting that that organization is going to make some sort of statement that opposes ideology in a medium in anything is seriously smoking something, and not being polite enough to share with the rest of the group.

Christina, for her part, has made a career about depicting men in society as being an oppressed victim class, a load of garbage that apparently sounds less stupid when its spouted by a woman instead of a Men’s Rights Activist.  She’s Fox’s go-to guest when they need someone to say that fear of rape on college campuses is NO BIG DEAL (reality check: while sexual assault has dropped mightily in the last 20 years, the US still leads much of the civilized world).  Here she is complaining about the feminist conspiracy of making kids play freeze tag instead of normal tag.  Here she is complaining that boys are forced to read works of literature instead of Tom Clancy and comic books in English Literature classes.  Here’s her saying that a lot of feminists are ugly women who preach feminism to get back at men and beautiful women, along with a lot of other egregiously bad data.  You get the idea.

So what cunning observations have these two paragons of thought brought to the debate?  They do not disappoint with their uniquely self-promoting brand of stupidity.

Sommers throws out some stats and figures, and then somehow leaps to the assertion that Games aren’t Sexist, it’s just that women don’t like games.  This is roughly akin to saying that the KKK isn’t racist, it’s just black people don’t want to join, or the Nazis weren’t anti-semetic, it’s just the Jews weren’t jiggy with the way they did things.  Which is to say, it’s a nonsense logical leap, entirely circular in nature, and one that would get you a big red ‘F’ if you handed in a paper with this argument in your Intro to Logic or Philosophy class.  Which makes the fact that Sommers bio describes her as a former philosophy teacher even more hilarious.  Who knows, maybe she didn’t leave that profession by choice. There’s a lot more horrible logic in here, but I’ll just let you watch this lovingly crafted video rather than rebut it point by point. Short form: this is a very non-serious answer from an ideologue hoping simply to advance her own profile amidst the chaos of #gamergate. (EDIT: link about this paragraph with more analysis, discussion of my choice of phraseology is here. No, I didn’t call gamers Nazis)

As for Milo, his crack investigative reporting has uncovered the fact that Journalists sometimes are on mailing lists, and sometimes discuss issues in a non-public setting.  As someone in my friendslist pointed out, If you’re surprised that professional mailing lists exist, then you either aren’t good at your job, or nobody likes you. As Kyle Orland explains on Ars Technica, these lists can and do frequently help journalists maintain connections, find sources, discuss ethics, and a host of other topics.  I believe him because these things are true for devs as well.  But more so for journalists who cannot get stories without talking to people, and that includes other journalists.

I suppose its possible that Milo might surprise me by digging up actual proof of a scandal here – I can tell you that few developers would be surprised at revelations of actual shenanigans by and around the press.  But one would expect Milo to actually put his best foot forward, and instead he sprawls spectacularly on his face.  Take yesterday’s dump: his proof of widespread collusion resulting in journalists engaging in ‘damaging groupthink’ is a bunch of journalists in strong disagreement as to whether or not to send a harassed girl a comforting note.  Even the guy who suggested the idea admitted it might be problematic.  Several people said they liked it, until a couple people pointed out there was an ethical problem with it.  Presumably, then the idea died.

Crack detective work there, Milo.

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that a private, industry-only mailing list or discussion group is good for, and in this case, resulted in the right move happening.  Milo would know this if he knew anything about the games industry.  Or the tech industry.  Or, you know, journalism.

Incidentally, it’s not really collusion if a professional organization just DOES something.  I’m a member of the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) as well as BioWare.  The IGDA has many individuals in many, MANY companies.  If the IGDA were to debate in email with its members whether or not it should, for example, send Milo’s mother a nice bouquet of flowers to comfort her on the money she flushed down the toilet on her kid’s wasted journalism degree, that’s not BioWare, Blizzard, EA and Valve making a statement, it’s the IGDA making a statement.

Getting journalists on the same ideological page is nothing new either – the GOP famously sends their daily talking points to Rush Limbaugh and all his ilk, for example,and all Fox hosts get a memo discussing not just what to say but also how to say it.  Perhaps someday Milo will get off of the video game beat and actually get to see one of these fact sheets, but if this is the quality of his reporting, I wouldn’t hold my breath. 

His day one dump was marginally more interesting, because that’s where we saw a whole bunch of journalism professionals pointing out that the Zoe Quinn situation was a shitty breakup between private individuals that had no merits as a legitimate news story, and that as shitty as games journalism is, credible games sites should hold themselves up to a higher standard than TMZ or, say, Breitbart.  Given that all attempts to establish wrongdoing by Zoe Quinn or Nate has proven to be baseless or unprovable, it suggests the journalists were more than correct to remember the lessons they were taught in their Journalism 101 classes.  It’s not a conspiracy when 10 people look at the sky, and decide that it’s blue.

Also, just as a side note, #GamerGate spends a LOT of time trying to stress that this IS NOT ABOUT ZOE QUINN. BECAUSE SHE’S NOT REALLY A WORTHY STORY. And so, Milo’s great examples of collusion – are all about Zoe Quinn. Way to feed the narrative that the stated motives of #GamerGate are completely at odds with the ravenous tabloidesque tendencies of the internet mob.

What #Gamergate claims they favor is a more diverse and more inclusive games industry, where more voices can be heard.  The way that its actually been reflected is as an ideological purge.  Look at the list of approved websites, blessed by the #gamergate powers that be.  There are PLENTY of websites that appear to meet ideological muster, that being one that happily slutshames a developer in fear of losing their audience.  The idea that, somehow, Polygon and Kotaku control the whole message of the games industry is a joke. No, only a small subset of the games media is actually under attack right now, and that’s the part that is too principled to put a developer’s sex life on the front page..  It just so HAPPENS that these sites also tends\ to be the sites most interested in talking about social issues, behind-the-scenes developer issues, and giving coverage to indie games instead of Gears of God of Destiny Soul Caliber War XBII. What’s approved are media that focus on shoving the publisher’s canned talking points about the game so far up your ass you can’t walk straight.  That’s not a minority view, it’s 90% of games journalism.  And most of it is closer to being bought and paid advertisement than anything resembling ‘journalism’. 

I do not favor any movement that tries to silence a valid voice in the art and business of making video games, and you shouldn’t either. ESPECIALLY, if it’s aimed at targeting a particular point of view.

Look, I’m not going to defend everything that game journalists do. Of particular note, I remember fondly when Kotaku actually did games stuff rather than fill half their website with weird Japanese shit. And there are some very, very sketchy practices in the games industry between press and developers. 

Big league games like Destiny and GTAV cost more than 9 figures, and a third of that at LEAST is usually earmarked to marketing. Is anyone following that money? Some years ago, a Gamespot journalist was fired right after giving a bad review to a AAA game. Games from big studios seem to rarely get reviews below 70%, but indie devs who can’t afford to advertise routinely do. Some companies have been caught giving payola to Youtube streamers (). Companies routinely fly press around the country and wine and dine the journalists that will review them. Here’s a story about a company who hired a reviewer to do a mock review, solely so he couldn’t legally write the bad review they thought he’d give them.

But we’re now entering our second month of this, and we’re still not talking about any of these things.  Instead, despite the fact that everyone on #GamerGate that it’s REALLY NOT ABOUT WHATSHERNAME, we are, thanks to Milo and his ideologically skewed muckraking, once again talking about Zoe Quinn. And we’re describing as a grand conspiracy a handful of like-minded guys disagreeing with each other on a platform more archaic than an Facebook discussion group. Gaming may deserve better than its journalism. But it sure as hell deserves better than its supposed cure.

Note: I use a whitelist policy on comments: your first comment must be approved by me and then, in general, you can post freely. Note, I will use the banhammer if you get out of hand later. I am fairly liberal with what I allow, but I still insist debate remain civil, and I am unapologetic for that. If you want to see my standards, see what goes on in other threads.

I Watch Anita Sarkeesian So You Don’t Have To. But You Should.

So, my Twitter feed has been full of people who believe that Anita Sarkeesian wants to corrupt my brain, and convert me into being an SJW zombie, thus ruining every game that I ever make.  Because I have no free will and am part of the politically correct machine, I watched most of her video-game oriented videos.  And I gotta say, watching these videos really made me angry.  Because she spoiled the ending to about a couple dozen games I haven’t finished.  Seriously, Anita, a spoilers tag is customary here!

Now because I want to save any of you from becoming sheeple who might be infected by an opposing view by actually watching and considering her work on its actual merits, I thought I would pull a USA Today and share what I found to be the four primary takeaways from her videos so far in easily digestable form:

  1. Games should show more women capable of strength, agency and power in your game world, instead of being relegated to simply being background props or quest objectives that could be replaced with a sock monkey.
  2. Game designers should be less lazy in reaching for the same, tired stereotypes – or merely xeroxes of male leads – but especially stereotypes showing women as disempowered, and find ways to depict more female characters in more interesting and unique roles.
  3. Game designers should keep in mind that a lot of people (and not just women) have a viscerally negative reactions to scenes showing violence against women (particularly as many have first-hand experience with it), so maybe we shouldn’t just throw these scenes in casually.
  4. Seriously, all the dead, spread-eagled naked women in games are kind of creepy.

So here’s the thing – all four of the above statements are absolutely, 100% true.  As in, its hard to even debate them.

Times which she says that games should be censored or game designers silenced: zero.

Uses of the word misogyny: four.  

1. “[In Red Redemption], Female prostitutes are assaulted and murdered by johns who make a torrent of misogynistic slurs.” (She’s not wrong)

[In GTA3] “The writers wrote the character to annoy the player, so the decision to kill her is the punchline in a deeply misogynistic joke.”  (Also not wrong)

“But the truth is, there’s nothing mature about most of these stories, and many of them cross the line into blatant mysogyny.”  (I’d disagree with this one, but its an entirely subjective opinion)

“…The crude, sensationalized misogyny of Duke Nukem…”  (Again subjective, but much less debatable)

Times which she says game players are sexist or misogynistic: zero.

Use of the term ‘rape culture’ (a term I personally don’t like, because I feel it’s overloaded): zero.

Times which she says that all games are problematic: zero. In fact, she frequently makes it clear that she means the opposite:

“Just to be clear, I’m not saying that all games that use the damsel in distress as a plot device are automatically sexist or have no value.”

“This is not to say that women can never die or suffer… To say that women can never die in stories is absurd.  BUt it’s important to consider how women’s death are framed, and to consider why and how they are written.”

Now I’m certainly not arguing that all stories must include completely fearless, hyperindividualistic heroic women who pull themselves up by the bootstraps and never need anything from anyone.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally wanting or needing assistance.”

“Now just to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the color pink, makeup, bows and high heels, and people of all genders may choose to wear them in the real world, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.”

Can you enjoy games with some of these tropes?  Of course!

But please keep in mind that it’s both possible – and necessary – to simultaneously enjoy a piece of media while being critical by its more problematic or pernicious aspects.”

Times which I said “Seriously, did I just fucking watch that?”

This one point caught my eye in particular, about how relegating stories of trauma and sexual abuse to being crappy side quests trivializes one of the greatest crimes and fear that many women have:

“On a shallow surface level, these vignettes seem to contextualize these women in a negative light. However, these narratives are never about the abused women in question. Instead, (they) are flippantly summoned as sideshow attractions for stories about other things altogether.”

This is pretty much the only topic where she phrased things as anything approaching a call to action to developers – we NEED to do something.  (Most of her content merely catalogs and calls attention to content)

“To be clear, I’m not saying stories seriously examining domestic abuse or sexual violence are off-limits to interactive media. However, if game makers do attempt to address these themes, they need to approach these topic with the gravity, subtlety and respect they deserve.”

Why she is doing all this?  Because she believes games are important.

“These games don’t exist in a vacuum. They are an increasingly important and influential part of a larger social and cultural ecosystem.”

Again, 100% not wrong about that.  Major games now have global reach and influence, and so do whatever messages they send.  This is, in fact, why working in the games industry is so exciting to me and hundreds of other game developers.  We’re well past moving out of niche and into being everyone’s life.  That doesn’t mean we gotta stop making video game versions of Reservoir Dogs and Lord of the Rings.  But we can vastly broaden our reach.

Now, I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with everything she says, and in some cases, she glosses over or perhaps doesn’t understand very real development issues solving some real narrative problems.  I could write longer analyses about some of these points, and maybe I will, but here’s an overview:

  1. Because most games have one protagonist.  If that protagonist is male, all female characters will by necessity be pushed to less important roles.  And while we should have more female protagonists, we shouldn’t automatically dismiss those with male leads as having failing grades by happenstance.
  2. Most literary theorists believe strongly that ‘save the loved one’ is  more powerful storytelling than ‘save the world’.  When combined with point 1, this means a lot of damsels as the default plot point, particularly in those without family.
  3. Saying that it’s ‘lazy’ that games use violence to fix problems which might include your possessed girlfriend … well, lets say, a simplification.  Games model physical problem solving better than mental, social or emotional problem solving because of the visceral nature of how control works, and how easy it is to create content.  Also, if your game has a core combat main loop, you are a bad designer and deserve no scooby snacks if your boss fights don’t use those mechanics.
  4. Fat Princess looks kind of awesome.

Are these unsolvable issues?  Of course not.  They do take finesse, but the level in Last of Us where you control Ellie is an excellent example of addressing point one in my list above (show empowered women) while sidestepping the first issue in my list of issues.

But here’s the thing: This is all a conversation that’s worth having.  Designers should listen.  We can choose to incorporate that feedback.  We can choose to ignore that feedback.  Hell, a design team can choose to say, “Fuck you” and do the exact opposite of what she wants, just because they can (although, hey, maybe you could not be a complete douchebag about it).  That is completely their right as artists.  But there is no good reason to attempt to squelch what is a valuable and interesting addition to the discussion.  There’s certainly no harm in an artist hearing the message of a critic.  Lord knows the OTHER side of the spectrum is represented on my game forums.

I welcome criticism.  It makes me a better artist.  Because here’s the secret.  Criticism comes with making art, and it comes from all directions, not just feminists.  If your art isn’t being criticized, that only means that your art is culturally irrelevant.

My Artistic Freedom is Fine, Thank You

There is a movement afoot in the universe that insists that #gamergate is ALL FOR THE DEVELOPERS.  All for me and my ilk!  Protecting our freedom of speech!  Trying to save the games! Which is a pretty ballsy stance, considering the movement was born in the relentless and ongoing harassment and attempt to silence a game developer.  Still, here’s a sample of people telling me that this is all to SAVE MY ARTISTIC FREEDOM!

This is freakin’ ADORABLE.  Really.  I mean, it’s really precious. Now please stop it. Because it’s embarrassingly misguided about how the industry ACTUALLY works. We really don’t need your help here. And if it looks like this, we’d rather not have it.

So please stop using the artistic freedom of devs as the reason for your crusade. Why?

1. Many devs resent being associated with #gamergate because of it’s unquestionably foul roots.
And I’m one of them. Many devs, particularly female devs, find #GamerGate to be the fruit of a poisonous tree, that tree being the violent and often terrifying crusade against some developers, journalists and academics, the majority of whom happen to be women. You push away devs when you claim to speak for them all as long as the cause bears this name.

2. No one is trying to take away your games.
The most important thing for games is that it is recognized as speech and as an art form, so that it maintains legal protection in the form of freedom of speech. As long as we are not talking about censorship of game creators (and most academics reject censorship, they value speech), then I can make whatever kind of game I want, and people are allowed to have and voice whatever opinions they want about it.

3. It is an attempt to silence a different world view.
I keep hearing the word ‘corruption’ used to describe media outlets and reporters who have progressive (‘SJW’) views on games and game development. It’s not corruption. It’s a different point of view. Lord knows, we have shittons of web sites out there that just cut and paste whatever canned talking points a developer hands out at E3 with appropriate uses of the word ‘Awesome’ and ‘Extreme’ sprinkled in for good measure. None of this really makes the games industry better, or the artists creating it challenge themselves or their work more.

4. We can speak for ourselves – with our games.
I know, some developers like to pout that they can’t say whatever they want without earning the ire of the SJW police.  What a joke.  WE HAVE THE LOUDEST VOICES IN THE ROOM.  And that’s the game itself.  Anita Sarkeesian earned $150K from almost 7000 people.  This is an impressive amount of money, the highest I’ve seen for a project like this, and debunks the idea that only a tiny fringe is interested in her cause.  That being said, Destiny cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and market, and has reached hundreds of thousands, if not millions of players.   Same for GTA 5.  We have the megaphone.

Now, it’s true that individual developers might not necessarily be well-advised to go off and spout off whatever opinion that comes to mind.  However, this is usually less about reasons of press than it is about employment.  During GamerGate, I’ve seen more than one ‘aspiring game dev’ make what can only be described as career-limiting comments about women, the industry, or other devs in their twitter feed.  It turns out, it’s no fun to work in the pressure cooker that is the games industry when you work with an asshole.

5. The media is a relatively unimportant voice in the modern creation process.
A developer has a million voices guiding him through video game creation.  His boss.  His bosses boss.  His teammates, who want to just make a WoW/LoL/Clash of Clans clone.  The producer and project manager trying to get it out the door.  The marketing guy who wants to sneak ‘farmville’ into the game.  The publisher who will withhold paychecks to the developer if ludicrous demands aren’t met.  The license holder, who very often doesn’t seem to know his own license.  The home office who ignores the game for months at a time only to turn the Eye of Sauron on you at the worst possible time.  The MTX department, who wants to pick up the customer and shake him for loose change.  The ESRB, whose attitudes on decapitations seem to change from game to game.  The Apple/Sony/Xbox certification process.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Sure, we listen to outside voices.  The fans!  In today’s Internet, companies can and do build forums where they can build very direct relationships with their fans, and get a very real sense of what is important to the actual community building their game.  The press might report a point of view ragging on our game, but if our playerbase doesn’t care, most of the time, we don’t either.  Sure, the press mentioned same-gender romances as missing on SWTOR, but they moved on pretty much immediately to other games and stories.  The reason we added them was because the community literally kept a thread alive on the topic for – geez, a year?

Oh, also, the fans were right.

That’s not to say that we don’t care about the press entirely!  We care hugely!  About the Metacritic score! This is the single most important page of media a game has after launch day, and which aggregates game scores from across the spectrum.  Purists will be pleased to know that having incredible violencepossible hooker beatings and gratuitious boobage doesn’t seem to keep great games from getting great scores.  What matters is making a great game.

6. Sex and Violence isn’t going anywhere.
Media criticism of Television and Film has existed for literally decades.  Has it disappeared?  No!  In fact, these genres push the boundaries farther than ever before!  Dirty not-so-secret secret: sex sells, and there will always be artists willing to reach for those audiences, many trying desperately outdo anyone whose come before (note: your hostile liberal SJW media gave Dragon’s Crown a respectable 82).  These people may alienate a potential audience, but especially if you’re a small indy, you may have to pick and narrowly focus on one audience anyway!  (Small budget teams can’t please everyone)

And controversy sells!  The Witcher is a great series, but it would have had trouble getting any attention from the press if not for the ‘collecting bedmates‘ minigame in the first installment.  Lesbian sex got Mass Effect onto Fox News – you think a few people didn’t pick up boxes when that happened?  GTA has always embraced controversy.  They’ve only turned that into being one of the biggest game franchises in the world.

7. It’s insulting to the artists.
Do you think Will Wright needs protecting?  Sid Meier?  David Jaffe?  Raph Koster?  No.  They need input.  And they should have the freedom to take input from wherever the hell they want.  If we don’t get input, we make the same derivative crap over and over again.  Do you think you’re qualified where to tell these people where they should seek this input?

And criticism is fine.  Criticism is CONSTANT in the games industry, from every friggin’ direction you can imagine.  In fact, if you want to break into the games industry, my primary advice to you is (a) make stuff and (b) get criticized.  Junior designers assume that they’re always right. The ones that become senior designers learn to absorb and synthesize many points of view.  Sometimes this means taking someone like Anita Sarkeesian to heart.  Sometimes it means saying “We’re making the interactive Porky’s experience here, everything she says is irrelevant here.”

I’m a free speech zealot.  I believe fiercely that writers, authors, film makers, politicians and journalists should be given a lot of rope to create their art and speak their minds.  But I must say, as long as the government isn’t involved censoring the creation and distribution of my games, my artistic freedom is just fine, thank you.  Don’t worry about me.  Instead, spend that energy worrying about people who would have the audacity to silence disparate world views with harassment and threats of violence, all in the name of free speech.  All in the name of saving MY free speech.

Nobody is trying to silence me. If they tried, they’d likely fail.  I have 20 years experience, confidence in my craft, a large multinational company at my back, and about 20 years experience writing and speaking about game design.  But there are a lot of people who are trying to silence critics, academics and journalists with more progressive (“SJW”) views on games, because they aren’t ‘real’ gamers, or because what they want would ‘ruin’ games.  Meanwhile, increases in raw hardware power means that awesome boob physics is more realistic and impressive than ever before.

More diverse voices will lead to better, more diverse and more interesting games.  And at the end of the day, isn’t that all any of us really cares about?