Archive for Industry Musings

This Week Was All About Ethics in Games Journalism

Actually, none of it really was, because it never really actually is.  But it does highlight that ActuallyEthics is my new favorite Tumblr.

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This developer tells GamerGate that “You are Not My Shield.”

So yeah — I have no respect for this stuff. Speaking for myself — please do not ever get in the way of any criticism, no matter how stupid, that a developer of a game may want to hear. Do not be our shield or our earmuffs: fuck that. Some developers may disagree with me. They may say “no, I don’t want to hear that stuff, it enrages me and makes it harder for me to make my games!” You know what? I have a big old side-eye for those devs. Plug your ears, if you can’t handle it, if hearing a criticism is going to blow your shaky creative vision out of the water. Stay offline. We get death threats for adjusting sniper rifle firing time; the threat is not worth hearing, but “I hate this nerf” is, and how much more so is “the way women look in your game makes me uncomfortable” if someone feels that?

David Gaider asks a super relevant question (and makes me ask why neither he nor his coworker were on my twitter feed previously, while simultaneously being very proud to be a fellow BioWarean):

“But she’s cherry-picking her evidence!” “Her views are biased!” “Everything about those videos is garbage, and she needs to be stopped!” Okay. Let’s pretend for a moment that, for those of you who feel this way, you’re absolutely right. My question is this:

Why the fuck do you even care?

Is there such a profound shortage of shitty opinions on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet that the appearance of this one constitutes a crime in the making? Have you asked yourself why it’s this particular opinion that drives you up the goddamned wall? What do you tell yourself, if and when you stop for that moment of introspection?

Andrew Sullivan (one of my favorite political writers) tries to write about Gamergate, and doesn’t nail all of the facts (not unexpected given how twisted and complicated the situation is).  But what is interesting to me is that he managed to write the whole piece without talking about journalistic ethics at all.  To him, it’s about the gamer culture defending themselves from far-left criticism, and whether ‘bullying’ is going both ways.  Interesting questions, but not as interesting as the fact that, after researching the issue, he could criticize the issue without mentioning ‘ethics’, ‘integrity’ or ‘games journalism’ speaks very loudly to how little there is there in terms of what the cause is supposedly about.

Second, there’s a missing piece of logic, so far as I have managed to discern, in the gamergate campaign. The argument seems to be that some feminists are attempting to police or control a hyper-male culture of violence, speed, competition and boobage. And in so far as that might be the case, my sympathies do indeed lie with the gamers. The creeping misandry in a lot of current debates – see “Affirmative Consent” and “Check Your Privilege” – and the easy prejudices that define white and male and young as suspect identities (because sexism!) rightly offend many men (and women).

There’s an atmosphere in which it has somehow become problematic to have a classic white, straight male identity, and a lot that goes with it. I’m not really a part of that general culture – indifferent to boobage, as I am, and bored by violence. But I don’t see why it cannot have a place in the world. I believe in the flourishing of all sorts of cultures and subcultures and have long been repulsed by the nannies and busybodies who want to police them – whether from the social right or the feminist left.

Lastly, certainly prompted by my criticism a couple of nights ago, IGN finally took a stand against the ‘recent unpleasantness’.  It was literally so careful and safe that some Gamergaters think that IGN took their side.  But given I picked on them a couple days ago, I thought it warranted a followup.

In grappling with this story, we’ve reached beyond the content team at IGN, discussing it with other departments, those employed in other areas of the industry, some of whom have been personally affected by the events of the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, the issue has proven just as contentious outside of our walls as within. Some in the industry have praised our reluctance to devote editorial space to this issue; others at the opposite side have called us cowards and worse.

The Gamer Press Woke Up, Decried Gamergate, Then Went Back To Sleep

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article shaming the press for basically ignoring GamerGate.  I was not alone, with Frank Cifaldi being one notable example who made literally dozens of tweets like the one below.

Erik Kain, a Forbes journalist who has written more sympathetically to the #gamergate cause, has also made that note from the other side.

Shortly afterwards, the Anita shooting threat and Brianna Wu being forced to flee her home resulted in the real press finally picking up on the story, and not surprisingly with those two events driving the coverage, my predictions were correct in that #GamerGate has been covered as primarily a vehicle for harassment.  #Gamergaters complaining that they aren’t covering their trumped up bullshit against Nathan Grayson don’t seem to get that those kinds of penny-ante inside baseball stories DON’T make national news, but potential school shootings sure as hell do. And THAT’S why stories have finally shown up in the MSM press, including CNN, MSNBC multiple times, New York Times, Rolling StoneCBS, and NPR among others.

I’m guessing that once the New York Times is reporting on their field of expertise while they’ve been actively ignoring it, the gaming press started to actually feel a sense of shame, because at that point they were pretty clearly derelict in their duty.  Brianna Wu calling them out from the Washington Post may have also been a factor.  Because it wasn’t until then that we started to see the flood of sites actually acknowledge and, in most cases, condemn #gamergate.

GiantBomb (10/17/2014)

[W]hen “GamerGate” rose up to cover over a campaign of harassment with a veneer of concern for the ethics of games journalism, it more or less set off every single disgust alarm I have. Though I’m sure some good people have been roped into this mess under this guise, the ethical concern portion of all this is largely a farce, a fallacy.

Polygon (10/17/2014)

Of course, this whole thing didn’t begin with “ethics.” When demands from the proto-GamerGate crowd to cover the Quinn “controversy” got louder, we discussed the topic internally. We debated its newsworthiness — it turns out we don’t always agree — but it was the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics that ultimately helped me make the decision to decline coverage of what was now being called a conspiracy. “Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect,” the code reads under the heading of “Minimize Harm.”

Gamespot (10/17/2014) - Attempts to play it safe by not mentioning #gamergate by name.

Although we consider any debate dealing with game journalism ethics to be vitally important, we do not condone any actions that are meant to harass, bully, or intimidate others. We also refuse to give oxygen to a disturbing minority who seek to use this debate as an excuse for their own appalling actions.

Kotaku (10/20/2014) – After they had just given oxygen to the short-lived counterprotest, they later published We’re all Tired of Gamergate.

Here’s where we seem to stand: Much of the press and the gaming world is repulsed by Gamergate, a movement that is—be it the case that it was the actions of extremists or not—inextricably associated with harassment and that, as much as its roots may be claimed to be about games journalism still suffers the core rot of having taken seed as a blog post written by a person trying to assassinate the character of his ex-girlfriend.

Game Informer (10/20/2014) – Notably, this magazine is effectively the house organ for Gamestop, the video game retail chain.  Note, this article is a surprisingly thorough history of the original sins of #gamergate, the harassment of Anita and Zoe, and seems to be pretty accurate, a good read if you want a reminder why you should be pissed off about the cataclysm that is #gamergate.

Media outlets outside of gaming are looking into this mess in the video game community and they see GamerGate as a hate group. It is hard for me to disagree with that conclusion. Many of the same people who harassed Anita Sarkeesian during her Kickstarter campaign two years ago, many of the same tactics of intimidation, victim blaming, and conspiracy theories, have come out of the woodwork to support GamerGate. Why wouldn’t they? It legitimizes and normalizes their hatred of these women. “GamerGate does not condone harassment,” has become a common quote when allegations of abuse crop up. I find that hard to believe. The goals of those who harass and send death threats and the goals of GamerGate are the same. Those harassers are comfortable in GamerGate; there is no reason for them to feel unwelcome. People on the GamerGate forums celebrated when Anita Sarkeesian cancelled her talk at USU because of the school shooting threat. Defending this movement after two months of this behavior is giving tacit support to an environment that encourages harassment of women in the video game industry.

Joystiq (10/20/2014)

The only story I’ve seen fished out with the GamerGate hashtag is legitimate harassment. I have seen absolutely vile, irredeemable messages delivered to women who have dared to make games, critique games and, you know, BE ON THE INTERNET in the vicinity of games. And by stating this, I am not inviting you to tell me, now, whether or not you agree with the views of industry critics like Anita Sarkeesian – that’s irrelevant.

If you feel defensive or angry right now, it’s because you’re being mentioned in the same breath as: those who send death threats to developers; those who launch volleys of sexist remarks at women reviewing games; those who threaten school shootings in order to shut down a woman’s speech (about video games!) at a university. I don’t believe Joystiq readers stand for that, but I also see requests for our team to get “back” to writing about video games whenever we touch on gender disparity or LGBTQ issues. Well, we can’t do that while people are getting attacked in the same room. We can’t talk about games or ethics or “just games” while this is going on.

Somewhere in here, the ESA offered the most milquetoast of all condemnations possible.  I suspect that next week, they’ll report that the sky is, in fact, blue.  Usually.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” said a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association in a statement. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats.”

This leaves some notable exceptions acting as cowards in stating a position.  IGN (the number one gaming site in the world), The Escapist (which is trying to pivot to cater to disaffected gamergaters).  PCGamer has no editorial I can find, but are limiting their comments to just twitter (and getting boycott threats for it), thus managing to be spineless and alienate gamergaters at the same time.

As for the rest of them, most of them for whatever reason haven’t posted about the issue since, which means that MSNBC has run more coverage than any of them.  It’s nice that they took the time to take a stand for what’s right.  Maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll feel inclined to do it again in a month or two.

And for what it’s worth, none of them were as good as Clickhole’s.

Is Gamergate a vast, complex, and diverse community?

Yes! It is not composed, as the mainstream media would lead you to believe, solely of white male trolls. It also has female trolls. It has African-American trolls and Asian trolls, gay trolls and straight trolls. In fact, Gamergate is all about the inclusion of anyone—regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation—whose views on video games and how we should think about them conform exactly to those of the movement at large.

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It is important to remember that the members of Gamergate, only some of whom threaten to rape and murder women, are simply fighting for ethics in gaming journalism.

In Which I Acknowledge and Apologize

About a month ago, I wrote a post about Milo that, by happenstance, discussed a lawsuit in Brad Wardell’s past.  At the time, it didn’t catch fire.  Simply put, no one cared.  I think it had 11 comments as of last Thursday, and I’d forgotten about it entirely.

On Friday, Brad spoke up and condemned the article.  I happened to be on top of a Mayan temple at the time (no shit), but when I got back to my laptop and saw the twitterstorm, I immediately edited the article to include links to his side of the story, as well as my quick takes on the issue.  I then reached out to him on Twitter, and we talked a couple of times that night – at length.  The talks were actually surprisingly pleasant and open.

In the course of this conversation (and some further digging on my part), Brad made a convincing case that I probably erred in trusting Kotaku’s reporting uncritically in this instance.  Part of this was him showing me documentation from the case.  Translation: he took me up on my offer.  I’m opting not to link these here at Brad’s request – at any rate, he has his own forum for doing so if he so chooses, and if anyone asks to see these, I’m just going to say I’ve seen ‘em, and direct you to ask him if you’re a reporter.

I’ve also done some external investigation, in an attempt to be sure I’m … well, at least closer to right. Three quick examples:

  1. Brad sent me documentation showing me that Kotaku gave him mere hours – at the end of a workday – to respond to the story before publishing it – a story that had clearly been in the works for weeks.  The notice had little or no mention of the fact that the story would be based on leaked court proceedings, meaning that Brad had neither the time to address it, nor the ability to rebut the specific extremely damaging claims being aimed towards him.  (As such, Brad did not comment on that article at all, which looked all the more damning).
  2. Brad sent me documentation showing that the case of Stardock vs. the Complainant for lost marketing materials was in active Arbitration as early as a full year before the judged moved the other case to trial, which actively challenges Kotaku’s narrative (which I parroted) that this lawsuit was retaliatory and designed solely to make the sexual harassment lawsuit just go away.
  3. Brad was quite compelling in pointing out that most of the list of grievances (i.e. touching hair, purity test, etc) was effectively laughed out of court, based on the testimony of many witnesses to these events, including that of one of the complainant’s best friends.  This comes from not just Brad, but commentary I’ve found here and there from those who should know the facts.  This is a point he also brought up in his Escapist Gamergate Interview, which appeared after my article did.

This isn’t all, but you get the gist.

So as per my addendum in the original post, I’ll condemn Kotaku for what I believe was probably shitty journalism.   And while I’m at it, I’ll acknowledge and apologize, particularly to Brad, for not being critical enough of that journalism.  And while I still am no fan of GamerGate, I can certainly appreciate his relatively well-founded criticism of the press in his address to it as a result.

As a gesture of good faith, I offered to interview a third-party observer of what happened so that we could get a more objective view of the events that unfolded.  Brad initially agreed, but our third party declined.  If circumstances change, I will be happy to host that here. Beyond that, I won’t be coming back to this issue.

All told, I think that this is a big, messy story, and further investigation and discussion is probably best left in the hands of pro journalists (he’d probably add ‘non-gaming’ to that) who have the experience and access to handle sensitive situations like this one.  I do think there’s still an interesting story here – one which has not yet been objectively told – and it’s one of how bad information can be frozen like amber, dredged up in google, and resurrected a million times, inescapably, in the future.  But I’m not the right one to write that story.

Three quick GG reads

Chris Kluwe, who continues to be one of my favorite people in the universe, has a very vitriol-laced take on the situation:

Thus, when I see an article titled “Gamers are dead,” referring to the death of the popular trope of a pasty young man in a dimly lit room, it fills me with joy, because it means WE FUCKING WON. So many people are playing games now that they are popular culture. They are not going away. All sorts of cool things, that I like, are now things that a whole bunch of other people like! There’s enough space now for people to make games that are strange and disturbing and maybe highlight a different perspective of the world, because gaming is no longer a niche activity, it’s something that everybody does. There is room for art in video games. That’s awesome!

Jesse Singal wrote this utterly awesome take of being a legitimate journalist trying to engage in gamergate, which touches on many of the themes I’ve mentioned here.  A must-read.

I believe Smilomaniac. I also believe the various Reddit and 8chan posts and the folks in the Hangout; I think Gamergate is primarily about anger at progressive people who care about feminism and transgender rights and mental health and whatever else is getting involved in gaming, and by what gamergaters see as overly solicitous coverage of said individuals and their games.

And here’s the thing: That’s fine! It’s an opinion I happen to disagree with, but it’s a coherent, concrete viewpoint. Say what you will about the tenets of anti-progressivism, dude, but at least it’s an ethos.

Let me address Gamergate advocates directly for a moment: Right now, journalists trying to be fair-minded about your movement simply can’t win. Again, if I’m arguing with someone from the NRA or the NAACP or some other established group, I can point to actual quotes from the group’s leadership. With you guys, any bad thing that happens is, by definition, not the work of A True Gamergater. It’s one of the oldest logical fallacies in the book.

Tadhg Kelly thinks Gamergate is dying.  I disagree, but he does have some salient points as he tries to draw out what lessons one might learn:

The hashtag is still going, as are the fervent speculations and plans for operations on 8chan and Reddit, but the movement that is #Gamergate is exposed for what it always was: A core of angry men hidden within a softer (and far more naive) crowd that liked to think of itself as diverse. The shield dropped when someone went too far, someone threatened a school shooting. Someone else threatened another woman in games out of her home. And the response from the key gaters boiled down to an extended “I absolutely don’t condone that sort of thing even if they are asking for it“.

Polygon’s Bayonetta 2 Review is Fine

So, in between the Brianna Wu media tour and the emergence of #StopGamerGate2014, #GamerGate for the first time in weeks actually attempted to bring up something that was almost something something kinda like Journalistic Ethics.  As you may know, #Gamergate declares that journalistic ethics and integrity is what this is all really about (although that’s built on a total sham, is ignorant of actual problems and allergic to actual journalistic ethics).  But hey, maybe they got it better this time!

bayonetta2

Oh dear.

Read more

What GamerGate Can Learn From the NFL and Ray Rice

GamerGate should be in PR crisis mode.  It’s not.  It can’t be.  And it doesn’t know how.

Gamergate is, right now, a hashtag that is ABOUT harassment.  That’s not what it’s better angels want.  There’s a large contingent of people that are in there that are deeply committed to improving the games industry press, and care about that.  They think that’s what they’ve signed up for.  I don’t agree with their principles, their priorities or their view of how the industry actually works, but the better angels clearly want to clean up what they see as a fucked up enterprise.

But all of that is buried now, under a daily drumbeat of harassment, harassment, HARASSMENT.  What are the news stories for the last few days?  Let’s look at my current twitter feed and KiA, reddit’s central source for the latest Gamergate goings on.  Briana Wu being harassed.  Briana Wu going on MSNBC and getting her twitter hacked.  Briana Wu is an awful person (multiple times) USU cancelling Anita’s speaking gig because of a shooter threat. Boogie is being harassed. Zoe Quinn freaking out about being on MSNBC facing her harasser.  Just endless news on harassment of anti-gg AND gg personalities, defenses against harassment, denials against harassment, and spiteful, hateful bile thrown at people who accuse them of harassment.

Oh, and #Gamergate is finally hitting the mainstream press.  MSNBC: harassment.  CNN: harassment.  HuffPost: harassment.  Mentions of ethics are an afterthought.  The harassment infighting is so fierce that when an actual Ethics issue pops up, it doesn’t get nearly the attention as, say, a blow-by-blow detail of what happened in Zoe Quinn’s restraining order hearing.

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Why I Only Told the Womens’ Stories

Last week, I put up a very long article about the stories of harassment I could find.  I’ve made some minor corrections based on additional details I’ve gotten.  I have an open invitation for more women to send me their stories, and will correct any bad information I’ve gotten.  As I’ve mentioned before, the stories from the gamergate side are much sketchier and less detailed than the ones on the other side, largely because the other side has endeavored to document their harassment in long form.

One question I’ve gotten over and over again has been ‘what about the men?’

Surely some people, including JonTron, have gotten harassment, and in many cases, it’s gone over the line.  And I’ve been accused of sexism for leaving out their stories, and implying that women are weaker.

I’m not saying women are weaker.  I’m saying that the harassment women get is much, much more frequent and much more vile.  This is something that I will personally vouch for from working in MMOs for almost 20 years and seeing harassment logs that could curl paint.  If you don’t believe me, then read this article here: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.  Then read this here: There’s No Comparing Male and Female Harassment Online (which addresses this rebuttal to Hess’ article).  Or this article: Scholar thinks online harassment of women is a civil rights issue.  Particular notes:

  • Much of the harassment women (or other minorities) get is ABOUT them being different, and has specific discriminatory goals.
  • A much higher percentage of the harassment women gets involves descriptions of sexual violence.
  • 89% of domestic violence cases now include cyberharassment as a component (texts, emails, etc).
  • 70% of cyberstalk victims are female, and 80% of cyberstalking defendants are male.
  • 90% of revenge porn cases had female victims.
  • 70% of women in multiplayer games have played as male characters online to avoid abuse.

Here’s a fun scientific study:

In 2006, researchers from the University of Maryland set up a bunch of fake online accounts and then dispatched them into chat rooms. Accounts with feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day. Masculine names received 3.7.

So in a neutral environment, women are 25 times more likely to receive harassment! The differences in levels of harassment are stark enough to see plainly.  As the following reader comment on a GiantBomb article pointed out sarcastically

This has NOTHING to do with GamerGate! It’s merely a coincidence that 3 women have fled their homes, a handful of female game journalists have left their careers, and female game devs have had to speak out but only under the cover of anonymity all while gamergate happened! A BIG COINCIDENCE!

#Gamergate DOES have a bodycount, but it’s a bodycount that has hit MANY more women than men – despite the fact that women are, as a whole, vastly underrepresented in the industry!

Online harassment is such a big issue now that the limitations as to how threatening you are allowed to be is going on the docket of the supreme court.  (As a side note, here’s a fun article about how the defense is hilariously going to have to explain hip-hop lyrics to the supreme court).  And most of the time, online harassment that rises to the level of hate speech and crime is aimed at minorities.

So if someone else wants to write an article about how certain men in the movement have been harassed, be my guest.  All harassment is bad, and is a problem that needs an addressing.  But compared to what the women have endured, it’s a fart in a hurricane.

GamerGate: 6 Weeks Later

There are three excellent must-reads related to GamerGate this last week, plus one oldie but goodie.  All of them look at gamergate skeptically, not from a position of extremism or reactionary politics, but from a sense of moderation.  I’ll recommend them, and then write my own thoughts before I take a bit of a self-imposed exile from the blog for a few days.  Seriously, read them.

God of War and Twisted Metal designer David Jaffe’s excellent Twitlonger on the subject mirrors my own thoughts closely.

I keep getting hit with people going ,’Well Jaffe, these journalists are SMEARING devs by saying bad shit about them!!!!’…ok, well welcome to the big leagues of putting something out in the world for public consumption and getting judged for it.

Katherine Cross is an academic and an author for Feministing.  I’ve linked this article once, and will gladly do so again.

Their ideology—the conviction that any and all feminism, and anything that can be deemed “SJW” is inherently corrupt—makes harassment and the targeting of outspoken figures, especially women, inevitable, and impervious to utilitarian admonitions. Why care about ‘looking bad’ when your cause is so noble?

John Walker, an editor of Rock, Paper, Scissors, wrote the following on his personal blog.

“Anti-GamerGate” does not exist. There is no such movement, there is no such collective of people. It’s a construct of GG’s, an attempt to create a scarecrow. There are, undoubtedly, stupid, dangerous idiots who are responding to those within GG in awful ways. They are not an organised affiliation, with dedicated forums, coordinated attack mobs, and specifically expressed desires to “destroy”.

David A Hill, dev and former journalist, has a month-old article that bears re-reading.

So, corruption in journalism. Can I let you in on a secret? We want to have that conversation. We all do, with maybe a couple of exceptions. This is a conversation we’ve tried to have, and wanted to have for years.

But why aren’t we just sitting down and talking it over and smiling and playing games and shutting up about the feminisms? Basically, it’s because we’re having two completely different conversations. One’s an insider conversation, informed about the industry. The other is an outsider conversation, based on half-truths, misunderstandings, and what we see as skewed priorities.

My turn, and I’ll just write briefly and plainly.

1. I think that GamerGate-the-Hashtag will always struggle with the issue of harassment to casual observers.  

#GamerGate was forged in reaction to the refusal for reporters to delve into the muck that was Zoe Quinn’s lovelife, and the associated hammering that she was taking from Mundane Matt (“5 Guys”) and 4Chan.  At the same time, Anita Sarkeesian posted the same time, and was immediately driven into hiding by a virulent hate campaign.  Gamergaters have attempted to disown the hate from this period of time in their past.  But it always seems disingenious – if you try to say that they weren’t party to it or actively cheering it on, you seem inherently dishonest. And that only hurts the cause, no matter how much #gamergate has cleaned up their act (and they’ve certainly put in an effort to do so).

Most #GamerGate diehards have no idea how big, confusing and messy the GamerGate-the-Event is to casual observers on the outside. Most don’t pay close attention to the daily goings-on – hell, *I* can barely keep up with what’s going on, simply between completing my 8-hour job and then writing for the blog.  Most only know about the biggest, most explosive things that appeared in Facebook and Twitter in the last week.  And since GamerGate is leaderless and has a nasty undercurrent to it, the biggest, most explosive things usually just reinforce the harassment narrative:  Brianna Wu got doxed.  Anita got a bomb threat at a public event – again.  Zoe had a reddit spy show up at her restraining order hearing – and that story has more than 600 upvotes.  Every piece of moderate news that comes simply cannot compete with the shittiist things done by the shittiest people who can sneak near the cause.

Some will say, ‘there’s no proof that #Gamergate was behind Anita or Briana!’  This is true. Some will say ‘our side is getting harassed too!’  This is also true. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter – most gamers and devs know that gamergate-the-event is just so toxic that having an opinion on it – one way or the other – can very likely doom you to an inevitable river of shit.  There’s a reason every female developer I know refuses to talk about gamergate - what may not be noticed is that fewer devs are opting to talk to fans AT ALL for fear of being dragged into the tarpit of the debate and being forced to choose a side and risk alienating fans.  So heads wiser than mine are just opting to stay the hell away from it altogether, rather than support or oppose it directly.

Look at it this way: There is nothing in the whole debate I care about as much as the issue of harassment.  If I sign up as a Gamergate supporter, I am instantly associating myself with a movement and a fight that was born of harassment, and always seems to find its way back in the proximity of the gutter.  I know that probably only 1% of GamerGaters are the sort of vile people who cannot resist this sort of shit, but the fact that that 1% too often dictates what the fight of the day is for GamerGate, the result is a movement that is incapable of actually moving forward.  Until Gamergate changes their culture, I expect little will change.

2. I’m all in favor of better games journalism, but I see little or no actual tangible progress or appetite for change in directions that actually matter.

Look, our press isn’t great.  It’s got a lot of problems, but still we have the widest, most diverse, less bought-and-paid press that video games have ever had.  To be sure, there have always been problems and questions of corruption.  But the corruption centers around money, mainly how publishers can buy access via the games press and streamers, and there seems to be shockingly little interest by anyone in covering that stuff.

Instead, I see a mindnumbing focus on bullshit I can’t get behind.  People are still butthurt by an editorial in Gamasutra that happened 6 weeks ago.  This — has nothing to do with ethics.  People are upset to find that Game Journalists have a mailing list – so far the list has shown… erm, some journalists disagreeing with each other and being a little catty towards some devs.  Big whoop. Most industries have a mailing list. On dev lists, we complain about reporters!   People are upset to find out that Games Journalists have FRIENDS!  Or sometimes have drinks with developers!  Ye gads.  That’s called “Connections”, otherwise known as “How you get information for your fucking news story.”

And then there’s the collusion angle.  Apparently, Ben Kuchera worked together to release 12 articles at the same time in order to…. do …. what?  Seriously, what’s the motive here?  That they’d launch a nagging mommy bomb so massive that they’d convince all gamers that they had wasted their lives, so we’d all stop playing our video games and Ben could be looking for a new job before Christmas as the games industry as we know it lay in smoldering ruins behind him?  Seriously.  There is no motive here for any sort of nefarious conspiracy here that makes sense.  The short answer is simple: journalists were fucking lazy, and stole from each other when trying to rush out stories condemning what was happening to Zoe and Anita.

Here’s the secret about the press: Collusion, I.e. having the same story as the other guys, is actually pretty bad for them.  If everyone has the same story, then there’s no reason to read them all.  People will only read the biggest and best one.  In order to compete, you have to FIND a reason, a spin, or an angle for people to choose your site over the others.  Polygon does it by asking interesting cultural questions about the games it plays.  The Escapist does it, apparently, by pandering to Gamergate.  That’s FINE.  If you don’t have a good spin, angle or beat, then there’s no reason why someone would choose your site over IGN or Gamespot.

3. As a game developer and first amendment purist, I find the drive to silence certain types of game criticism revolting.

I concede that the anti-feminist and anti-SJW angle of the debate is a relatively minor complaint for some gamergaters to have, but for many, that’s what they mean when they talk about corruption.  In my interview with Milo, he dinged the idea of GAMR as something that couldn’t handle the anti-feminist cultural issues he cares about.  This idea that SJWs are going to use DARPA and DiGRA to somehow make us stop making the kind of games that gamers today love.  It’s ridiculous.

First off, AAA studios like money.  A lot.  And their stockholders like money.  A lot.  People get fired if we don’t make games that deliver wheelbarrels full of money. And it turns out that games with lots of sex and violence still deliver money.  A metric fuckton of it.  Look at the success of Grand Theft Auto V.  The noted SJW-corrupt press gave it a 97%.  That studio is going to be pretty damned cautious about fucking up that money printing machine.  If some SJW tried to come in and mess with GTA VI, they’d probably be taken out mob style.

I’m in no way an SJW, but I have taken the time to watch Anita’s stuff, and found both good and bad stuff in there.  Why?  Because good designers seek all the input they can.  They try to look at their game in every possible light, examine every possible angle, and see if there is some new way, technique or viewpoint that can elevate their craft, and make better games and reach larger audiences.  Me and most other designers are more than capable of filtering out the bad or non-useful parts of the feedback.  My artistic freedom is fine.

People want to study my games?  That’s fine.  People want to tell me I’m doing it wrong?  Dear god, that’s a normal day of work for a game designer.  As long as no one is advocating for legal or political censorship of games – let them talk.  It’s not going to hurt your games, and I’d rather live in an industry where free speech is encouraged, rather than slam down on one viewpoint via some sort of neoMcCarthyism.

4. I’m skeptical of how big GamerGate actually is.

As I mentioned yesterday, the big gaming press outlets are utterly ignoring #GamerGate. They’ve completely written that audience off.  It’s hard to tell what, exactly, they’re seeing, but they must have some metrics, somewhere, that says that things are moving up for them, and that they should just keep on keeping on.

This probably shouldn’t be a surprise.  After all, it’s not Polygon’s readers that was mad at Polygon.  It was Reddit and 4Chan, who normally get their news from… well, whatever Reddit and 4Chan have upvoted and/or talked about.  Polygon’s daily readers probably have only the dimmest idea of what’s going on.

5. I really want GamerGate to become effective, or go away.

I have a selfish reason for suggesting a consumer organization and then attempting to refine that idea – right now, the games industry is a sucky place to be around.  Developers don’t want to engage with their fans right now, for fear of being pulled into the tarpit of #gamergate related issues.  This sucks.  It sucks for us, and it sucks for you.

Right now, #gamergate is like a dull toothache.  It’s constantly there, nagging at you, but nothing much that’s momentous actually happens.  I want to change that.  I think a consumer organization like GAMR could solve the problems above.  It could provide resources to help combat harassment.  It could focus the issues of press corruption on actual press corruption.  It could help casual #gamergate fans get a filtered understanding of what is actually important to the cause.  And it could focus its relatively small numbers into forming a more powerful, unified thrust.  One big enough, united enough, and powerful enough that the major game sites can’t ignore it anymore.

So I put the idea out there.  I still have no interest in running it, but I think it could be pretty cool, and has the potential to raise the visibility of the cause, and could address not only some press shady practices, but also some developer/publisher shady practices as well.  Which, I stress, I think is a good thing, because we’re certainly not above reproach either.

Maybe that’s not the answer.  But I can tell you that the answer isn’t just letting this dull toothache keep going the way it’s going now.  It’s just an endless game of chicken right now, between the press and a relatively tiny sliver of the games playerbase.  Until some fundamentals happen, it looks almost guarunteed that nothing substantial is going to change in the near future.

Which is a shame, because I’d really like to talk about something other than gamergate.

 

 

 

 

Listening and Believing: What Vicious Harassment Really Looks Like

Writer’s Note: if more harassed women have stories they want to share – on both sides or outside of Gamergate altogether – and can provide links that are well-sourced and thorough, add them to the comments. I will try to add the best, most thorough stories to this page. Unfortunately, most pro-GG stories I could find are just a couple of tweets, and therefore lack much in the way of context or depth. Ladies, tell your stories, in longform, for the record. It’s important.

This article is about harassment. And it’s not just about attacks on anti-gamergaters.  Some are #gamergaters who were harassed – either by antis or anarchistic assholes.  But many of these are from events that predate #gamergate, in totally different scandals and explosions.  As an aside, I’ll note that the stories coming from the pro-#Gamergate faction are much lighter and sketchier, because they aren’t capturing the experience in any sort of verifiable longform. This is probably a factor of the anti-GG side having a lot of writers on that side of the fence. Still, I encourage the harassed to tell their story in a way that can be archived in a readable format for posterity and verifiability. And I will note that #Gamergate has been saving harassment, large and small, aimed their way in this Tumblr.

But it’s pretty clear to me that most people on both sides are good people who believe harassment is wrong. It’s also pretty clear that a tiny minority of people on both sides, and probably on a third side that is ‘pro-watching-the-world-burn’, are using the outrage of these people in order to camoflauge doing some truly heinous shit, with the express intent of keeping the outrage engine going.

I’ve said from the beginning, as long as there are people harassed, and my friends and colleagues are afraid to speak freely on the topic – pro or con, then I don’t give a shit about the cause of journalistic corruption.  Worrying about what an op-ed writer said a month ago, and whether some shitty independent games award was won legit means NOTHING to me because right now, bullies (on both sides) are trying to silence dissonant voices.  Most frequently, that means women, especially women who don’t ‘pick the right side’.

I’ve been concerned about harassment of women online since even before gamergate – I believe the fact that Sony and Xbox won’t address that what you see on FatUglyOrSlutty is something any online gamer will tell you is all-too-normal — THAT is actually holding the games industry back from expanding our markets (and cynically, our sales and profits as well).  You shouldn’t need thick skin to play a video game.

So I’m so happy that people finally want to talk about harassment.
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The Games Press isn’t Attacking #Gamergate. It’s Ignoring Them

There’s been a lot of press coverage of Gamergate in the past few weeks.  Of particular note:

There’s more, but you get the idea.  So that’s actually a pretty wide mix.  Cracked and the Verge come hard from the left/anti side, whereas Breitbart comes from the right/pro- side and emphasizes the culture war aspect of the debate.  There’s also a wide range of beats: Slate, RCP and Breitbart are politics.  Forbes is financial.  Cracked is probably the best pop culture criticism on the net, masquerading as a humor magazine.  Agree with them or not, there’s a lot of coverage out there.  But there’s sure someplace where it’s missing: the Gaming Press.

I keep hearing #gamergate complained that they are being hammered by the sites on the boycott list. If #GamerGate were really a war for the soul of all gamers, one would expect for the Gaming Press to have daily updates and attacks on these poor defenseless souls!  But that’s not what I see.  What I see is the blacklisted sites pretty much blacklisting #gamergate coverage right back.  I did a quick perusal of these sites over lunch, and here’s what I found.

Polygon (yes, they have an Ethics Statement)

They have one article that mentions Gamergate: Intel apologizes for pulling advertising from Gamasutra.  Beyond that, they have a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t mention gamergate by name, and would probably still be covered even if GamerGate didn’t exist: Christina Hoff Sommers logic failure and Jonathan Mann’s musical rebuttal.  Anita’s XOXO talk (Coverage of Sarkeesian’s XOXO talk and Posted Video).  Some stories about the FBI stepping in to help Anita and the IGDA deal with issues of harassment.  1000 Game developers sign letter demanding greater tolerance.  Saint’s Row developer says ‘Anita was Right’.

Of note, there’s pretty much NOTHING other than the Intel story and anita’s talk video since the Sommers’ video, and again pretty much the Intel story alone mentions GG.

Kotaku (since this article: About Gamergate, on Sept 5th):

Even less.  I’m being charitable and including their Shadows of Mordor payola scandal coverage, solely because it came up here as something that GG should care about.  They also covered Anita Sarkeesian’s GDC Award Ceremony being a target of a bomb threat in MarchChristina Hoff Sommers’ logic catastrophe and 1000 Game developers writing a sternly worded letter in gamergate’s direction.  That’s a MINISCULE part of what’s happened in GG the last six weeks, and none of it mentioned #gamergate by name.

Gamespot

The ability to troll back through Gamespot’s history goes back only a week, so instead I tried web searches: Gamergate. Sarkeesian.  Quinn.  Ethics.  MundaneMatt.  Ideology.  Sommers.  I literally got so few hits I actually searched Destiny and Sims to see if their engine worked.  It does.

What I found was: Intel pulls ads from pressure for Gamergate but says it isn’t taking sides. FBI investigated Death Threats against Anita SarkeesianSarkeesian Bomb Threat at GDC 2014.  Three stories out of HUNDREDS that could be considered tangentially related to GG.

IGN

Seriously, I got bored at this point.  I only went back 15 days, through literally hundreds of article headlines and found literally nothing.  As in, there were TWO articles about how having Shatner show up in Star Trek 3 was probably a bad idea, but none I’d consider even tangentially gamergate related.  Searching for ‘gamergate’ on their search engine brought up a few hits, all from private consumer blogs, but absolutely zero from their own editorial staff.

Rock Paper Shotgun (since their ‘Videogames are for Everyone‘ addressing of issue)

Running out of lunch break to spend on this, I went straight to the search engine:  Gamergate (0 hits), Sarkeesian (0 recent hits), Payola (0 recent hits), Misogyny (no hits), Quinn (none recent/relevant), Ethics (1 recent hit about Steam Curators).  In short, pretty much fuck all.

 

Literally, not a single one of these articles is nearly as comprehensive or detailed as anyone one of the other articles I listed at the very top of this article, from ANY side or outlet.  In short, other than the developer letter in early September, and the Intel ad pullout last week, your average gamer who reads Gamespot, IGN, Kotaku and Polygon pretty much has no idea this thing is still going on.  It’s really quite remarkable when you think about it.  But anyone who tells you the games press is pounding on Gamergate is blatantly, BLATANTLY lying.  The games press is treating this like it’s radioactive. The only games press talking about gamergate are the sites actively trying to court those guys, like the Escapist. So why is this?

First off, I believe that they don’t know how.  They are, effectively, part of the story because of the corruption angle, and reporting on yourself in an impartial way is tricky as hell, especially when your credibility has already been cast in doubt (wrongly or no).  If they had more structures like an ombudsman to help people have faith in their credibility on the topic, they might be able to do so.  But as it is, anything they write will be instantly cast in a ‘burn the witch’ light.

The second thing is that they don’t think they need to.  Sure, they could solve the above problem, or they could just keep on keeping on.  Polygon’s editor proudly tweeted their QuantCast scores yesterday, and the buzz I got from talking to my source on the inside is that Polygon is pleased as punch with how they’re doing right now.  It turns out that Polygon’s readers aren’t the ones who are mad at them.

Let’s look at some of the sites swirling around this on Alexa (If anyone knows of better or more accurate data, or thinks I’m reading this wrong, I’m all ears.  This is not my area of expertise):

  • IGN (#328, up from ~#350 or so a year ago)
  • Gamespot (#943,up minorly from a year ago)
  • Kotaku (#1060, up from ~#1500 a year ago)
  • Polygon (#2721, up from #6000 a year ago)
  • Gamasutra (#7307, about flat for the year, having just rebounded)
  • RockPaperShotgun (#7389, also flat for the year, rebounding after a trough)

By comparison, here are some more GG friendly sites:

Other common pro- sites, like TechRaptor, GamesReviews, NicheGamer and GoodGamers.us are all still too small or new to have Alexa rankings.  The Escapist probably has gained from #Gamergate, but it’s not clear that the other sites have lost much, if anything.  It certainly hasn’t been enough for the Escapist to change positions on that list anywhere.  The classic gaming sites can still deliver HUGE audiences to publishers looking to sell games.  So the main gaming sites are still kicking ass.  Why change?

Which leads to the third reason: the websites are betting gamergate’s bite is probably not as bad as it’s bark.  7 weeks in, and there’s been one significant boycott victory, which the advertiser immediately regretted.  That’s actually not a ton of progress.

James Wagner Au has asked before how many people are actually part of #Gamergate.  Riffing on some of the things that he notes:

What does that mean?  Hell if I know.  Here’s where someone should go tell EEDAR this is important and go figure this out.  If I had to wager a guess, I’d note that this seems to be very much a stream/youtube motivated revolt.  It’s got a relatively small number of speakers.  How many people are actually listening and caring enouth to act is much harder to measure.  Still, I’d guess high 5-digits to low 6-digits at MOST would call themselves passionate Gamergate supporters.

By comparison:

All of a sudden, #Gamergate feels kind of small, doesn’t it?