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The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

On the Topic of that Silly Cartoon

The continuing saga of Mark Kern condemning the games media for #gamergate (part one and part two)

The Cartoon that Mark is referring to is this one.   Embedded image permalink Later, he tried to constructively egg on the people who were pointing out that this was basically him peddling GamerGate talking points while pretending to pursue an avenue of peace – which basically means he’s asking for everyone to just shut up and accept GamerGate’s demands.

Sure, Mark. I’m happy to oblige.

1. The reference to Anita not being a gamer is a quote that is clearly pulled out of context – the full quote discusses how she isn’t particularly a fan of ultraviolent games. At any rate, such attacks are ad hominem attacks that have no actual bearings on the truth or falsity of her cultural criticisms (which are not perfect, but are in fact pretty good). Coverage of this is gossipy crap that has no reason to appear on a games journalism site.

Much less brought up is that both Milo Yiannopoulis and Christina Sommers had next to no exposure to video games before August – hell, Milo described GTA players in early August as ‘weirdos in yellowing underpants’ before discovering that gamers could be a new front in the culture wars for him to profit from. Both lept in the cultural fray with both feet to make grand sweeping statements about the games industry and yet the same people who complain about Anita find no fault with these two more conservative critics.

2. I actually don’t agree with Jon on either violence in games or on Israel, but his political views of Israel have pretty much nothing to do with his views on games, and game professionals and critics should be somewhat alarmed at the notion that these sorts of views should start becoming fair game, because this is, quite frankly, downright McCarthyesque. At any rate, there is no good reason for a games journalism site to cover this, although needless to say that the right wing rag Breitbart is happy to oblige.

3. The Hitler quotebot has nothing to do with games, and was not hosted by Kotaku and so there’s no good reason why Polygon or Kotaku should at all feel pressured to cover it. The cartoon was probably trying to slam Kotaku by measure of being owned by Gawker, but that’s a ridiculous standard to hold a media conglomerate to, because each media outlet typically operates independently, aiming with different standards for different audiences. By way of comparison, here’s a long list of other NBCUniversal subsidiaries that we somehow did not all lump in with NBC when Brian Williams fucked up.

4. I have no idea what Gawker needed to tell a judge about, but again, if it’s not specifically about Kotaku, then it’s not a games or games media story.

5. In the September/October timeframe, when the kerfuffle was particularly bad, opponents to #gamergate couldn’t actually use some social media services such as twitter as they were being targeted and brigaded by sometimes dozens or hundreds of #gamergate adherents who would barrage them with questions, and very frequently, often harass or insult them along the way.  Some of these professionals require the use of Twitter to do their job.  Morale among female game developers was astonishing low at that period of time – most female devs refused to even comment on the topic of gamergate without anonymity, as was evidenced by the Escapist profile some months back.  I can’t find it now, but there is a video somewhere of Jenn Frank just watching in horror as abuse aimed at her scrolls in unabated.  The very first action that IGDA took in relation to GamerGate was actually to condemn that level of harassment.

Harassment of game developers remained so much of a concern that the IGDA felt compelled to set up a resource page so that game developers could protect themselves, their privacy and their families from harassment.  One of the many things they put on this page was a link to Randi Harper’s GGAutoBlocker.  Randi is one of the female developers that is a constant target of abuse by GamerGate, complete with stalkings, and as such, sites such as KiA have gone to great lengths to mischaracterize what this tool is and how it works.  It simply creates a list of people who have followed one of a handful of the most extreme gamergate proponents.  There is a relatively simple means to request being removed from the list – a process that I went through once when I was put on it myself.  If your twitter feed is not full of abusive crap, you’ll likely have no problem being removed.

Some argue that the tool creates an echo chamber effect.  Others, including myself, argue that there’s little difference between using this tool and manually (and tediously) blocking waves and waves of harassers manually.  Freedom of speech does not mean that anybody is actually compelled to sit still and listen to them spit vile filth into their ears.

I will agree that this story merited more coverage in the gaming press.  Namely, its newsworthy that harassment of game developers is now so bad that the IGDA feels it is part of their core mission to give indie developers the tools so they can work online without feeling constantly under assault.

In short, every single aspect of this cartoon appears to be scurrilious crap, where the narrative the cartoon provides is one that is either unsupported by actual data, or where the narrative is so stupid and far from the actual arena of games and game development that one can only draw the conclusion that the idea that #gamergate is about ethics in games journalism is a laughable farce.  This conclusion is one that’s been apparent to most observers for months now.



  1. Well done. Clearly the dev who put out the superior MMO product. 😛

  2. Hi there, Damion.

    I thought I’d provide an explanation of Point 4 about “Gawker had to tell a judge they are about ethics in journalism.” The “they” presumably being “GamerGate”.

    This appears to be in reference to an unfortunate misrepresentation of comments Gawker made regarding an ongoing legal case involving former Gawker interns. In the course of the trial, Gawker wanted the court to encourage caution by plaintiffs so that they wouldn’t attempt to tie their unrelated case(which has been going on since before GamerGate) to other “political causes” such as GamerGate. They suggested to the judge that appealing to GamerGate at known GG forums such as sub-Reddit KotakuInAction would be inappropriate, as GamerGate was partially about “general criticism of its gaming site”.

    Here is an image about the Gawker court case which was spread around in GamerGate as “proof” of this claim:

    Gawker at no point suggest or acknowledge that GamerGate is about “ethics in journalism”. They only stated to a judge that GamerGate has targeted their site, including their gaming site Kotaku. “General criticism” certainly can cover the campaign against their more feminist or progressive coverage of topics and relatively critical coverage of GamerGate. To suggest Gawker acknowledges GamerGate is about anything in particular besides attacking them and their staff is simply not supported by what they said in court.

    Now, having said that, I am in no way defending Gawker or their stances in their ongoing legal case. I am merely pointing out the absurdity of claiming they said what they apparently did not say to a judge. Like the other examples in the comic, they appear to be willful misrepresentations of random statements and events to serve the agenda of some disingenuous GamerGate advocates.

    Hopefully anyone misled by such misrepresentations may realize their error and move on to concerns with more substance.

  3. Just responding to one thing:

    “The reference to Anita not being a gamer is a quote that is clearly pulled out of context – the full quote discusses how she isn’t particularly a fan of ultraviolent games.”

    Her full quote is:

    “I’m doing video games. It’s not exactly a fandom – I’m not a fan of video games. I actually had to learn a lot about video games in the process of making this. […] And also, video games. I would love to play video games, but I don’t want to go around shooting people and ripping of their heads and it’s just gross.”

    From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Afgtd8ZsXzI

    You can claim that this doesn’t matter if you want (personally I don’t particularly care about this issue), but characterizing “I’m not a fan of video games,” “I had to learn a lot about video games,” and “I would love to play video games” as “this person isn’t particularly a fan of ultraviolent games” doesn’t seem like a fair interpretation to me.

    Let me put it this way: if Anita had later claimed to have never played a video game in her life (obviously not true in real life, but this is a hypothetical), is there anything in the quote up there that would contradict that?

    • One of the issues that gets ignored by people who use that video is that it originated in 2010, where the Tropes vs Women Kickstarter was launched in 2012.

      Two years is long enough to become a fan of gaming. Hell, someone could certainly make the transition in less time from “non-gamer” to “gamer”.

      • It’s fine if she has “become” a fan, but she never said that. She’s posed herself as a life-long gamer for as long as she’s been in the eye of the gamer, sharing pictures of her as a wee girl holding a controller for example. It DOES matter that she’s lied about that, as it suggests her supposed drive to improve an industry she loves is a complete fabrication. This in turn suggests that she really is just in it for the cash, which is fine, but let’s stop being purposefully ignorant about that motivation.

        • Damion Schubert

          March 3, 2015 at 4:21 pm

          She’s given an explanation of what she meant by that statement in a recently published Kotaku article – she had the feeling at one point that because she didn’t like hyperviolent bro games that she couldn’t call herself a gamer, before realizing that gaming was much bigger than this.

          At any rate, it’s an ad hominem attack. It literally has no bearing on whether or not her points as cited in feminist frequency have merit. It is an attempt by her critics to score cheap rhetorical points in favor of actually being able to cite anything of actual substance.

  4. The impressive thing about this cartoon is it makes 5 points to paint to ridiculize those critical of GG. It fails spectacularly at 4 of the five, I didn’t follow the Jon and Israel story, I can’t comment on that.

    The only points the strip can make is by quote mining and, in the case of the third point, trying to smear Kotaku with a story that don’t involve the site at all.

    In the end, this cartoon express quite well why “moderates” aren’t taken seriously, absolutely everything said in favour of gg is wrong. Pretending there is a reasonable middle ground is simply being ignorant or wrong; it would be simply a compromise between a bunch of reasonable opinions and the black hole of craziness.

  5. I don’t even get why that cartoon was made, except to showcase the ignorance of the author. There isn’t a joke in there. It’s just awkward and lame. I’m all for Mark Kern learning real things about the real world, but he could be less obnoxious.

    Then again, maybe he can’t. Maybe this is just how he operates.

  6. In regards to number 4, the GG crew is trying to claim something that wasn’t said at all. Here is the link that the reddit crew is point to – http://i.imgur.com/ITMijbX.png

    No admission that GG is about gaming journalism or anything even close.

    As best as I can tell, it is part of a lawsuit regarding unpaid Gawker interns. The only connection to GG whatsoever is that Gawker doesn’t want lawyers to try to reach out to former unpaid interns using social media including hitting up the anti-Gawker GG movement (aka KotakuInAction).

    More detailed article here – http://pando.com/2015/02/14/court-docs-lawyers-for-gawker-interns-plan-to-find-new-plaintiffs-by-spamming-gamergate-on-reddit/

  7. > I can’t find it now, but there is a video somewhere of Jenn Frank just watching in horror as abuse aimed at her scrolls in unabated.


  8. “4. I have no idea what Gawker needed to tell a judge about, but again, if it’s not specifically about Kotaku, then it’s not a games or games media story.”

    It’s a reference to this:

    Gawker wants the plaintiffs to be careful on Reddit, not connecting this lawsuit with “unrelated controversies and political causes.” Denton’s company gives some examples. The plaintiffs shouldn’t attempt to leverage the GamerGate controversy by posting in the subreddit “KotakuInAction,” which Gawker says has expanded into general criticism of its gaming site. “Plaintiffs apparently would like notice of the lawsuit to be added to this ‘munitions pile,’ but there is no justification for doing so,” states Gawker’s letter. “

  9. >I can’t find it now, but there is a video somewhere of Jenn Frank just watching in horror as abuse aimed at her scrolls in unabated.

    Her tweets that day: https://storify.com/JJJJQQQQ/jenn-frank

  10. Speaking of The Escapist, looks like it’s digging its own grave now, with everyone who used to be anti-GG now gone from there for various reasons (Sterling, Tito, Moviebob), only to be replaced by, well, this: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.871054-A-professional-objective-apolitical-future-for-The-Escapist

  11. It’s still ridiculous to me that Damion and company equate criticism on twitter to assault. Yeah try taking that to court.

    • What a coincidence. I was just thinking of how ridiculous it is to me to equate using hundreds of sockpuppets and burners to spew endless streams of vitriol at a person with criticism.

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