Earlier this week, I wrote an article about Mark Kern’s extremely bad interpretation of events over the last few months. I was inclined to give him a pass beyond this. I mean, it’s possible he’s been busy and not been paying close attention to what’s been going on. People who are in the quagmire that is #GamerGate have no idea how soap opera-like the whole thing is – I was only able to keep up for a while because I was switching jobs. Seriously, I’ve been in start-up mode professionally for the last month or so, and I swear, after a full day of dealing with that insanity, I have no time and energy to read about which KotakuInAction guy is mad because which GamerGhazi moderator said yadda yadda yadda. It’s got more daily twist and turns than a Mexican telenovela, with the added bonus of you have to learn and understand Chan culture to be able to make sense of any of it. You come in a few months late, and its an incomprehensible mess.
So I figured, maybe he’s busy. Maybe he doesn’t fully grok the origins. And to be fair, he is legitimately trying to prod these magazines to be agents of change, which is nice and idealistic.
The problem is that blaming Kotaku and Polygon for the events since last April is kind of like blaming Walter Cronkite for Vietnam. And describing these events as Yellow Journalism is grossly unfair to the people who were the true victims of Gamergate. Chief among these victims include three game developers: Randi Harper, Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu. It includes many others. Including, I note, myself.
Some of those victims are also #gamergaters. I’ve tried to tell their stories in the past, but it’s decidedly harder because the movement has a culture of ‘if you’re the victim of harassment, you should just swallow it’. But I’ve seen GamerGaters tell tales in Twitter of people being threatened with their jobs, get harassment from evil SJWs who want to defend Anita, etc. Some is undoubtedly true, such as when 8chan got DDOSed for a period of time that felt like a lifetime.
There is plenty of debate as to whether the people attacking Gators in this fashion are ‘Ghazians‘, or are actually just third party trolls from places like Something Awful trying to keep the pot stirred. I strongly suspect it’s the latter. Still, there are four things that are absolutely true:
- GamerGate isn’t the problem – harassment is the problem. There is a dark side of gaming right now, where a small cadre of assholes are doing seriously, SERIOUSLY skeevy shit, mostly -but not entirely – aimed at a handful of outspoken women in the industry. It includes doxing, swatting, DDOSing, silencing progressive critics, rape & death threats, and all manners of terrible harassment. It also includes, for example, the dev for CoD getting death threats for nerfing something, Smedley getting a bomb threat on his airplane, the Bungie exec who got Swatted, etc. Ignore gamergate – the asshole problem is bigger than that.
- No, Gamergate are not the only problem people. Yes, a certain fringe of harassers have made theirselves at home as warriors for the cause, and anyone who says otherwise is flatly lying. Still, this dark side of gaming predates GamerGate. Anita got her bomb threat at GDC before #GamerGate existed. Jennifer Hepler happened before gamergate. FatUglyOrSlutty existed before GamerGate. This dark side of gaming also includes some people taking tactics against gamergate supporters – probably for the LULZ and probably some on principle as well — and some people trying to make GamerGate look bad by attaching terrible shit to the hashtag.
- It’s not the press doing this. Kotaku and Polygon, or reporters working for them, are probably not actually the ones doxing or DDOSing *anybody*.
- As the press covering Gamers in general, they arguably have a responsibility to shine the light on this bullshit. And the press really is not doing so excessively. In fact, one of the constant refrains I hear from GG supporters is that major attacks on GG supporters (such as the 8chan DDOS) go completely unreported.
- The press – and developers like you and me – furthermore have a responsibility to condemn this shitty behavior. And you can’t do that without pointing it out.
So when I hear a respected dev describe the problem as ‘yellow journalism’, I have to wonder what the hell Kern is talking about. If they are reporting on shit that is actually happening, the term is ‘journalism’.
If you don’t believe press “yellow journalism” and fear scaremongering isn’t going to affect games, imagine the next Senator wanting to 1/2
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) February 20, 2015
2/2 ban games…that Senator will gleefully hold up these sensationalist articles and go “SEE? Even THEY agree with me!” That WILL happen.
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) February 20, 2015
Hey, Mark,first off, they won’t be holding up copies of Kotaku and Polygon, they’ll be holding up copies of the New York Times, Forbes, Rolling Stone and Washington Post, who picked up the story because we in the games industry let the problem of harassment in gaming go on too long, as most developers and gaming press just held their breath and hoped it would magically go away.
Secondly, the games press is somewhat hamstrung here, as the movement of #GamerGate is intentionally trying to discredit the gaming press for, you know, having opinions and thinking that women should be able to make games without getting a mailbox full of rape threats. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but Polygon & Kotaku both have tried to do stories that increase positivity and avoid mentioning THAT hashtag – in both cases, discussion immediately has been swamped by cause die-hards attacking and discrediting these outlets because of bullshit accusations about Zoe Quinn’s sex life.
Third, there are seriously a lot of people who believe that this problem cannot be fixed because ‘there will always be harassment and death threats on the internet and especially in gaming’. This is a tacit admission that gaming has a culture problem. It is a problem that thankfully doesn’t hit all gamers – gaming is so big now that it has a myriad of minicommunities, which vary wildly in toxicity. But it does exist, it exists in places that aren’t self-contained communities, and it’s a bad problem. And we need to stop pretending that the press are bad guys for reporting it, and we need to man up as an industry and say ‘man, we gotta FIX this shit, this is unacceptable’.
I support women in gaming, and I’ll let you know my own experiences. Some have asked why there are no women portraits on my company page. First, its because the page is incomplete (I have 3 women contributing to the startup and men who are not listed), but second is a real life lesson. I had an unfortunate incident where I had women portraits on my last company website. For whatever reason on a forum, the women (and men, but esp the women) started receiving harassment on the way they looked. Then the harassment escalated to speculation on their personalities and sexual aspects. It was horrible, and one woman was so badly harassed that we decided to take her picture down from our site…and she never wants it there again.
This petition is not just about yellow journalism in gaming press, but also about how such journalism does nothing to solve this type of harassment. Instead, it drives people apart, trying to put them into boxes or labels and pit them against each other for nothing other than traffic and profit. To solve these issues, the press has to bring us together, positively and constructively, with serious journalism. Only that way can we all come together and solve these types of serious issues in games. Kotaku and Polygon, lets not start with “games are bad and getting worse” lets start with “games are great, and can even be better.” Lets talk about and solve these issues, instead of focusing on how we’re yelling at each other for cheap clicks.
No, Mark. The problem is NOT that the press is reporting on the fact that horrible shit like this exists in the games industry. The problem is that HORRIBLE SHIT LIKE THIS EXISTS IN THE GAMES INDUSTRY. You had an opportunity here to use your megaphone to help make it so that people like your valued employees don’t have to hide like thieves because they happen to love making games while female. Instead, what you’re trying to do is convince the press that they should just sweep it back under the rug, where it won’t actually attract any undue attention.
No offense, Mark, but you’re trying to solve the wrong fucking problem.