Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My First Flash Game - "My Dinner With Jonathan"

Part of the game design course I'm enrolled on is learning how to make games using Flash, so earlier this month, I made a short game to practice coding (basic stuff like changing frames and triggering animations). As I mentioned in my last blog post, over the past couple of months, Jonathan McIntosh -- producer of the Feminist Frequency Tropes vs Women in Video Games series -- has been getting a lot more attention on Twitter for his often bizarre statements. That led to the "#FullMcIntosh" hashtag being used to describe some of his most ridiculous tweets. He's gradually stopped being a behind-the-scenes figure and has become more prominent, to the point of appearing in a Feminist Frequency video himself.

So naturally, I decided that my game should parody Jonathan McIntosh.

I explain a lot about the reasons behind the game on the "About" screen but basically, my criticism of the Tropes vs Women series has been ignored. Everyone's criticism of the TvsW series has been ignored, unless it's very easy to dismiss (as was the case with Doug Walker in August 2013). Yet the views of McIntosh and Sarkeesian, as flawed, unproven and blatantly untrue as they are, still receive recognition in game journalism circles. With that in mind, I've joined everyone else who's said "screw it" and decided that parody is a far better way of raising an objection than scrutinising every line of a Tropes vs Woman video.

I actually put more of an effort into it than you might think; I trawled McIntosh's timeline and the #FullMcIntosh hashtag for some of the most ridiculous things he's written and many of them were so ludicrous that I could put them into the game unaltered. Others were exaggerated slightly and a few were entirely fabricated (which meant I had to think like McIntosh. It was arduous). I made a list of actual Jonathan McIntosh statements and highlighted the ones that ended up in the game in some form or another:

Left-click for larger view.
Bear in mind that this is my first Flash game ever, so I'm pretty happy with how it turned out overall. As you can probably tell, I'm not much of an artist but coding-wise, I learned plenty from it.

However, if you want a far more fun parody, about a week after I posted my game on Twitter, someone posted a link to a game called "Vivtest - Xmas Edition". If you're familiar with #GamerGate, it features a lot of references to figures who are, apparently, opposed to more ethical behaviour from game journalists. And yes, Jonathan McIntosh makes an appearance as well.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Tekken's Lucky Chloe - Not Coming to the US?

Three days ago, a new character was announced for Tekken 7. If you're familiar with Japanese idols, the new character, Lucky Chloe, appears to draw a lot of inspiration from them; her fun, unique outfit, bubbly personality and slightly forced use of English phrases ("Engrish") is somewhat reminiscent of idol stereotypes.

She looks like a fun character. Her moveset is entertaining to watch and, in my opinion, her outfit and personality both have a ton of charm.

Yet at the moment, there's a rumour going around that due to fan complaints, Lucky Chloe isn't going to be released in the U.S. Only Europe and Asia.

Because this is a rumour, it may be debunked in a few days and this will all become a moot point. For the time being though, it's started a conversation.

You can read TechRaptor's article on this story but basically, when the character trailer was released, there was a backlash against the character on both Youtube -- read the comments of the video above -- as well as NeoGAF and even directed at the games director, Katsuhiro Harada, on Twitter. I'll come to why this backlash occurred later on but Harada's response is the issue; responding to people bothering him on Twitter, he made the claim that Lucky Chloe would be exclusive to Europe and Asia.

I should say that I'm in Europe so even if this is true, it shouldn't affect me. Having said that, I feel bad for U.S. Tekken fans who aren't getting a character because of a vocal minority of complainers.

The complaints themselves were bafflingly varied. Some said that Lucky Chloe didn't fit in with the rest of Tekken's cast, which is ridiculous. As a long-time Tekken fan, Lucky Chloe wouldn't even be in my top ten ridiculous characters. From fighting bears, kangaroos and dinosaurs to robot girls and old men doing somersaults, Tekken's cast has always been more ludicrous than serious. The only reason we don't consider characters like Yoshimitsu and Devil more ridiculous is because they look cool.

For people making the claim that she doesn't fit in, Tekken has had cutesy, anime-esque female characters since 3. Just look at Ling Xiaoyu's Tekken 3 ending. The central Mishima family storyline and conflict is like something straight out of an anime. People acting like Lucky Chloe is a step too far seem to be making excuses. Being too "moe" or fanservice-y is not new to the series at all.

Those aren't the most worrying complaints though. Read this NeoGAF post:

Left-click to enlarge.
Once again, people have been complaining about how a female character in a game is dressed. In this case, this poster went as far as say she was only included to appeal to fetishists (specifically singling out Harada himself and claiming that's the reason for Lucky Chloe's inclusion). There's also a ton of cultural insensitivity towards Japan and Japanese gamers.

The reason I'm writing about this at all is because this is the same type of entitled attitude that we see from modern game critics. This demanding nature is becoming frighteningly common. I apologise for bringing up Anita Sarkeesian but in her case, she directed her ire at Toru Iwatani, creator of Pac-Man; in her "Ms. Male Character" video, Sarkeesian brought up Iwatani's desire to appeal to women by making a game based around food. In spite of the fact that this worked -- likely bringing more women into gaming than Anita herself ever will -- Anita referred to Iwatani's "regressive personal or cultural notions about women". Basically, saying either he or Japan as a whole had negative views about women. So either he's sexist or the entire nation is. Once again, cultural insensitivity (possibly outright xenophobia).

Another example that I think is most comparable to the Tekken 7 situation is when Kotaku's Jason Schreier lambasted Vanillaware's George Kamitani over the design of the Sorceress in Dragon's Crown. He referred to him as "a fourteen-year-old boy" and, in a follow-up article, laid the entirety of sexism towards women in the games industry at Kamitani's feet (including such issues as booth babes, yet Schreier himself had no problem dismissing male con-goers as "sweaty male attendees" and ranting about "male power fantasies"). I went over this at the time but there is no reason or excuse for insulting a developer just because you disagree with his creative direction. Again, as sexualisation is less of an issue in Japan, insulting him just because he's more used to drawing what he wants instead of what you want reeks of cultural insensitivity.

The reason I draw parallels between the situation with Harada and the Lucky Chloe critics is because after Schreier complained, Kamitani responded by posting a picture of three of the Dragon's Crown Dwarf's palette-swaps in a possibly-suggestive pose (it's a long story but I cover it in the previous paragraph's link. Schreier added to his insensitivity by branding Kamitani homophobic).

In this case, Harada has responded too and this is where I think Harada may just be playing a joke on the haters. His joke about giving the U.S. audience a "well-muscled skinhead" seems like the same kind of jab as Kamitani's towards Schreier, so don't be surprised if Lucky Chloe is included. On the other hand, his comment about the characters being region-exclusive seems sincere. It's hard to say at this point.

The point is that in the face of this kind of dogmatic insensitivity and outright bigotry towards an entire nation over something as ridiculous a female video game character that we've seen a total of 46 seconds of, who could blame Harada if he decided to take his ball and go home? He'd have every right to. In the face of insulting, entitled critics who think every game developer owes them a favour, why shouldn't he say "screw it" and do as he wants, rather than what they want? It isn't like Phil Fish, who had a Twitter blow-up every two weeks and supposedly cancelled projects left and right in the face of minor criticism, insulting sexual assault victims along the way. This is like a parent teaching his spoiled children some manners using the "'I want' never gets" phrase.

Honestly, what did the critics even think would happen? Did they believe that if they complained enough, Harada would change Lucky Chloe to suit them? Look at the entitlement on one of the comments Harada responded to: "Please add an option to delete any character you do not want to play against in Arcade battle". Did that person really expect that to happen?

I have every sympathy for American Tekken fans who wanted to play a complete version of Tekken 7 without having to import but at the same time, if this is true, it would be a good wake-up call to an entitled crowd who've never been told "no" in their lives. The same people who preach about not judging women on their attires or attitudes in real life are the same ones who love to dictate what women wear and how they act in fiction. I find that unacceptable.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, TechRaptor added a couple of updates in the article above. Still nothing concrete but it seems likely that Harada was referring only to the arcade versions of Tekken 7, rather than the console versions. Fingers crossed.


I didn't update last month, which I'd like to apologise for. Very hectic schedule but on the plus side, I'm now decent at using Adobe Flash. Trying to figure out if I could use it for this blog, somehow. If I ever make a "gender issues in gaming"-related game, I'll post it here. Unlikely though.

I have to give a big, big thank you to Milo Yiannopoulos for linking to this blog in his article "An Open Letter to Bloomberg's Sheelah Kolhatkar, on the Delicate Matter of Anita Sarkeesian" on Breitbart. I've spoken to Milo a few times on Twitter -- although I doubt he remembered me, so him linking to this blog is just a coincidence -- and he's a nice guy. Give his article a read. It's excellent and very comprehensive. At this stage, why anyone continues to give Anita the time of day is a mystery to me.

Also, thank you to the influx of visitors who've stopped by over the past month due to wanting to learn more about Jonathan McIntosh. I've only written about McIntosh a couple of times because I've never thought of him as being especially significant. However, people have become more aware of him because of his penchant for posting unusual, often-nonsensical things on Twitter (such as "we need to see some games that are not fun" because he thinks that's the only way they'll be able to have as much depth and artistic merit as other forms of entertainment). More recently, he's become known for appearing in Feminist Frequency's "25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male" video, which I haven't watched but I did post a brief rebuttal to it back when McIntosh wrote it as an article.

I don't have much to add, although I'm finding it very telling that many of the items they rattled off were less about describing "gaming while male" and more involved with talking about women's experiences. McIntosh and the others in the video seemed content to speak on behalf of female gamers and tell the world what they experience. TechRaptor have another good article on this where the female contributors to the site (and other female gamers) leave their responses to the video. Watch the Youtube videos posted in the comments section too. It's eye-opening stuff.

As time has gone on, it's becoming more and more clear the social justice method of being "pro-woman" makes zero sense. They have zero interest in listening to the voices of women who say there's nothing wrong with the games industry or the gaming community. Women like Christine Phelan (Valve) and Gabrielle Toledano (EA) both work in the games industry and say the industry is nothing but welcoming towards women. Likewise, female gamers speak up regularly about feeling nothing but welcomed into gaming communities. I'm currently enrolled on a games design course and can confirm that both are the case.

So why is it that the group considered "pro-woman" are the ones engaging in scaremongering? Telling women there's nothing but horrible portrayals, sexist male "virgin basement-dwellers" to abuse them and an industry that wants to drive them out? Likewise, consider the opposite; why is it that those of us who say "these female characters are great, female developers are awesome and gaming is a great pasttime for people no matter their physical characteristics" are considered "anti-woman"? Why is driving women out of the industry considered "progressive" by these people? Because we don't stomp our feet and throw tantrums about game content?

It's too late now but I was going to write about Polygon's Bayonetta 2 review, talking about this exact thing. A great game, featuring a strong female character, designed by a woman and appreciated by women on the development team ... yet a male Polygon reviewer dismisses her as "sexualised". Apparently, strong female characters and the hard work of women is irrelevant if a guy playing it feels offended and needs to preach about how hard women have it.

Akiko Kuroda, Producer on Bayonetta 2.

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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Anita Sarkeesian's Sexist Exploitation of a Mass Shooting

I've been procrastinating about writing a blog regarding Polygon's low Bayonetta 2 review score since they posted it last week but this couldn't wait. As some of you may know, there was a school shooting yesterday in Marysville, Washington, leaving two people dead (including the gunman) and four others in critical condition.

I woke up this morning and went on Twitter to see the following tweets from Anita Sarkeesian:

There are a few good reasons to bring up mass shootings with regards to debating an agenda. To discuss the possibility (or necessity) of gun control laws. To point out the poor record of supporting mental health issues and campaign for change.

To push a ridiculous, pseudo-scientific claim about "toxic masculinity" is not a good reason. It's nothing but shameless exploitation of a tragedy to push a sexist agenda. According to Anita the problem isn't guns. It isn't failure to diagnose and treat severe mental health issues. It's men. "Toxic masculinity", to be more specific.

It's one thing to use such a disgustingly sexist phrase as that but acting like pointing it out is helping men -- "this is how patriarchy can harm men too" -- is just ridiculous. Imagine applying the phrase "toxic" to any other characteristic of any other demographic and acting as if it's actually for their benefit. "Toxic homosexuality", for example.

Edit: Created this for Twitter, so I figured I'd post it here too. Feel free to spread it around.

I've already written about the patriarchy argument and how it fails to get to the root of many serious issues that affect men and women. Let's assume for a minute that the patriarchy exists; has the patriarchy ever described a characteristic innate to men as "toxic"? No, yet Anita is happy to do so. How exactly is the "patriarchy" harming me? They aren't stereotyping my entire sex in the way that a popular feminist is happy to, nor are they saying there's something wrong with me just for being male.

As Cathy Young's tweet above points out, it's important to keep in mind that this isn't Anita throwing out her "toxic masculinity" phrase as part of a TEDxWomen or Conference talk. She's branding mass shootings as something inherent to masculinity. Not only does it ignore female mass murderers but paints it as a male problem. Then claims that she's "helping" men by telling them.

I wasn't the only one to point this out but it has to be said: Anita Sarkeesian is now on the same level as Jack Thompson. For those who don't remember, Jack's big claim was that the Columbine massacre was the fault of gamers and he used it to fuel his anti-gamer crusade. Anita is doing the exact same thing and using a mass shooting to promote all the sexist views she wants. She even took the opportunity to plug a book that she had written a blurb for on the back cover:

Left-click for larger view.
Understandably, Anita's sexist exploitation of a tragedy caused some backlash against her. Rather than taking on board the criticism and considering making an apology, Anita did what she always does; claims she was harassed. It's almost reached the point of self-parody:

Yes, Anita actually claimed that a backlash against exploiting a tragedy to push a sexist agenda was "hate". I don't think I've ever used the phrase "professional victim" to describe Anita, as others have, but it's an accurate description; she poses as a damsel in distress to gain further magazine interviews, newspaper coverage and talks about being harassed. This is no different and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't happen; following the shootings by Elliot Rodger in May, feminist bloggers and journalists leapt on the opportunity to blame "male entitlement", "male rage" and "male privilege". Laying mass shootings at the feet of men is apparently common amongst modern feminist "hipsters with degrees in cultural studies" (as the wonderful Christina Hoff Sommers put it when describing Anita's video game criticism).

After this, I don't want to see anyone claiming all Anita is doing is "making videos about wanting equality in video games", as Anita has claimed in the past during her talks. That was never true. The same applies for those who say "feminism is for equality". This is just another example of how that is not the case. In fact, if there are any feminists, especially feminist gamers, this should be the straw that breaks the camel's back when it comes to reasons to denounce Anita as your spokesperson. If the flawed arguments, the bias, stealing videos from others without permission, stealing artwork from others without permission, the whole "prostituted women" instead of "sex workers" controversy and dismissing male victims of domestic violence didn't do it, this should.

In the link I just posted about part two of Anita's Damsels in Distress video, I wrote "her heart may be in the right place". Obviously, I withdraw that statement. There is no reason for any moral person to support Anita Sarkeesian or anyone else who would exploit a tragedy to push their own agenda. More than that, she is a prime example of why I refuse to support modern feminism. I actually follow plenty of feminists on Twitter who I like but it goes without saying that people like Anita Sarkeesian have made the feminist movement about misandry. Not equality.

This is a picture that I posted back in May, following the Elliot Rodger shootings. It's as true now as it was then:

Credit to Europa-Phoenix.
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Monday, 6 October 2014

"Ethics & Diversity"

I'm sorry for not updating sooner but I came down with an illness at the same time I planned on writing a new blog.

College has started up again and my games design course kicked off with a focus on Ethics & Diversity as part of the induction. There isn't a lot to say about it -- just as there wasn't much discussion about it last year -- but I'll relay what was discussed.

Rather than a typical class of students, this year's course involves each group working together as if they're each an individual studio. Each "studio" has its own name, logo, etc. but before we reached that stage, we had to research mission statements from existing developers and create a "do's and don'ts" poster about ethics and diversity, after discussing it for a while.

Prior to creating the posters, the students had to list examples of discrimination they could think of either in games, the gaming community or the industry, under different headings on big sheets of paper the tutor provided. Headings like "Have you ever seen discrimination in the games industry?" and "List some examples of current ethical issues in the games industry". The one that stood out was "Why do you think women are under-represented in games?"

It's clear that it's a loaded question and your response is probably the same as all of mine were (but I didn't list). Could there be more female characters in games? Yes, as well as more varied and diverse characters in general. Do I think women are under-represented in games? No. I don't believe that just because few AAA games have female characters means women are under-represented and games with female protagonists are plentiful if you cast your net wider, particularly towards Japanese titles. Even if only AAA games are focused on, there are still plenty of strong female characters being represented, even while not playable. Plus, I don't think it's stressed often enough that just because there's a main character in a game with the same skin colour, sex and sexual orientation as me, that doesn't mean he "represents" me in any way. Sharing a few similar characteristics doesn't mean that character is representative of me or anyone else who shares those characteristics. I've spoken about this before, saying it's often easier for me to identify with someone who doesn't share my characteristics, such as a female protagonist, than a character who does that I dislike (Final Fantasy X's Tidus being being one of many examples).

In fairness to the tutor, he seemed reasonable enough. I spoke to him about having "heard" counter-arguments before to accusations of sexism in games -- without naming names, I mentioned that some critics had a habit of taking examples out of context and diminishing good female characters by ignoring/minimising their most praiseworthy attributes -- and he seemed happy to hear me out.

When speaking to the entire class, however, there were two things that bothered me. Firstly, a student mentioned women in the games industry being paid less, which the tutor acknowledged and also mentioned that it was common across all industries. This particular "fact" has been debunked many times over the years, to the point that it ended up on Christina Hoff Sommers' TIME piece "5 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die" (and Sommers also wrote this article for the Daily Beast if you would like more info on the subject or you can check out the report yourself). Not to go into it too much but the wage gap doesn't take into account hours worked, experience, incentives for relocating, travelling long distances or being poached from another company. It's the same story in the case of the games industry but bear in mind that games have been a male-dominated industry for thirty years (and still is). Senior figures in the industry are more likely to be male and their salaries are obviously going to be larger than those of the entry-level employees that their salaries are being compared against (which, while still male-dominated, is more likely to have more female employees because the games industry has tried to appeal to women more in recent years). When you collectively weigh the male salaries against the female ones, it's obvious that the male salary is going to be higher overall.

The problem is that saying that in a classroom when everyone except the tutor is silent makes you look like a nut. Just saying "that's not true" doesn't do much good and it wasn't as though I could back it up with a PowerPoint presentation on the subject.

The second thing that bothered me was when the tutor asked outright, "has anyone here not seen any examples of discrimination in games?" The problem with that is it occurred after talking about the wage gap, after the class had wracked their brains to come up with examples of discrimination to write underneath the headings and after everyone had read out at least one example. After that, nobody is going to say "I haven't" and I doubt they would have even at the start of the session. It's also a loaded question, given it's not structured to account for answers like, "sure but [context, artistic direction, etc.]". That's not to say there isn't discrimination in the games industry -- most notably in online games, where trolls are indiscriminate about who they discriminate against -- but I wouldn't describe, say, the women in Dead Or Alive as an example of "discrimination" or "misogyny". Those terms are too strong to describe something so minor and waters-down the severity of actual discrimination and misogyny. I know this has all been said before but it's worth repeating.

At some point, one of the things the tutor said was something like, "ethics and diversity has become a bigger issue in recent years and will only become bigger as time goes on". To that all I have to say is ... great! One of the biggest misconceptions gaming's Social Justice Warrior critics have towards people who critique their viewpoints is that we don't want to have the conversation. That's not the case at all. I want this conversation as long as it is a fair conversation, with all viewpoints being given equal consideration. To date, that has not been the case.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

#GamerGate and #NotYourShield

I'll try to keep this blog from being as long as the last one and give a more basic overview rather than a comprehensive one. This is a story that seems to keep growing, so there's no sense in being comprehensive if there are just going to be more articles and developments. Also note that, for once, I won't be linking to any sites that ignorantly insult or otherwise dismiss gamers.

For anyone who isn't on Twitter or who has been out of the loop for the last week or so #GamerGate is a hashtag that spiralled out of the gaming press' reaction -- or lack thereof -- to the unethical behaviour from game journalists that we touched upon last time; Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson sleeping with Zoë Quinn being an association that damages his ability to remain impartial while reporting. The gaming press did one of two things; they either gave a collective shrug of the shoulders or they went on the attack, ignoring the story about corruption in game journalism to say how horrible all gamers were to Zoë Quinn.

#GamerGate is basically the name given to those reactions and the unethical behaviour from the gaming press. Although since then, the situation has become a lot bigger.

Surprisingly, KnowYourMeme gives a good overview of what #GamerGate is about. As before, InternetAristocrat made a video about all of this while it was happening. I recommend watching it if you haven't already:

Let's recap some of the problems that gamers had with the gaming press. To begin with, it was journalists refusing to acknowledge conflicts of interest and associations that could damage their integrity. Nathan Grayson and Zoë Quinn for example. However, lots of other examples came out over the coming days (and some were already available at the time my last blog was posted), including Patricia Hernandez having relationships with two developers whose games she went on to promote on Kotaku without acknowledging any personal involvement. She went as far as to directly link to where the games could be purchased:

Left-click for larger view (very large image).

Since then, she's added footnotes on each piece, very briefly pointing out her relationship with each developer.

Plus, details about journalists contributing to developers' Patreons -- which, in case you didn't know, is a website where people can donate regularly to content creators, usually per month but also per video for Youtubers, per image for artists, etc. -- came out while I was writing my last blog:

Left-click for larger view (very large image).
Then there was this comment from someone who works for Reuters, the world's largest news agency. Give it a read, it's an interesting little story. Amongst other things, the writer notes that during Reuters' 2008 review, they discovered that a staggering 0% of staff members for gaming news sites had degrees in journalism. That's not a misprint. Zero percent:

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There was also the friendship between Polygon reviewer Danielle Riendeau and Gone Home developer Chris Remo, going as far back as 2011. This raised some eyebrows when Riendeau review the game for Polygon and gave it a perfect 10/10 score:

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As this is such a big and far-reaching story, I'm sure I've missed some examples but these all came to light because of #GamerGate. Let's not forget Rab Florence's Eurogamer article about exactly this type of club -- taking aim at the Games Media Awards, Geoff Keighley and the relationship between journalists and publishers -- and Cinema Blend's article about publishers offering gifts to reviewers. As you can see, evidence of unethical behaviour is beginning to mount. Feel free to refer back to the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics page if you're interested in seeing where, exactly, game journalists went wrong.

So what was the gaming press' reaction to all this? Calm acceptance of the whole situation and a pledge to reform what is evidently a broken system? Well, there is some talk of reform, which we'll come to later on but on the whole ... no.

Tom Hatfield - Writer for PC Gamer, Rock, Paper, Shotgun and The Guardian. Left-click for larger view.
Devin Faraci - Writer for Badass Digest. Left-click for larger view.
Helena Horton - Currently writing for the Daily Mirror's Ampp3d columns. Left-click for larger view.
These are just a few examples from writers. Being compared to ISIS and saying that #GamerGate was a reason to kill all men are some of the more severe examples but insults about "basement-dwelling virgins" and "manbabies" were thrown around regularly. Here are some examples of the types of ad hominem attacks directed at #GamerGate supporters:

Left-click for larger view. Note that "@Devin_Faraci" is a parody account ("@devincf" is the actual account, as seen in a previous screenshot).
It was the same story when a hashtag titled "#IStandWithJonTron" cropped up. I missed out on this hashtag while it was happening, so I can only assume that Youtuber JonTron -- someone who I only knew from his involvement in the cancelled Game Jam reality television show that Zoë Quinn was also involved in -- voiced his support for #GamerGate and faced this backlash for it:

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There are a few reasons for so many comments about misogyny but, as far as I can tell, very few of them had to do with #GamerGate. Some were still annoyed that the hashtag grew from the Zoë Quinn situation, which wasn't that much of an issue by the time #GamerGate was being discussed. Then there was the leak of celebrity nudes, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, that happened a few days ago. I have no idea how that was linked to #GamerGate. From what I see from the 4chan co-creator implementing a DMCA policy, it's related to 4chan. I also recall hearing something about them first surfacing on Reddit.

Then, around the same time, Anita Sarkeesian tweeted about having to leave her home because of death threats. She showed a screenshot of another three-minute old Twitter account with only ten tweets as "proof". Only ten tweets, all being violent, sexual and threatening towards her.

Now, ignoring whether this Twitter account was legitimate or not (I'm skeptical), this made the news on gaming sites while other significant stories didn't. This unverified story about Anita Sarkeesian leaving her home -- it was based on nothing but her word -- was reported while stories like, say, the Fine Young Capitalists' IndieGoGo campaign hadn't received any coverage at that time. Since then, it's received coverage twice. Once on Vice, where they complained about the campaign for being born of misogyny (even though this project for women has raised $52,000 as of this writing), and once on Gameranx, where the writer said that just because the project supports women doesn't make it immune to criticism. Which is fair enough but hilarious when you take into account the fact that no gaming sites have published any criticism of Anita's supposedly good-for-women project.

Let's be clear; I'm sure there was harassment of both Quinn and Sarkeesian but thirty seconds of research into #GamerGate at any point while it was occurring would've showed that the vast majority of gamers cared about ethical behaviour and, following the insults and accusations of misogyny, some respect from the gaming press and that sexism didn't come into it. The fact that game journalists branded all gamers participating in #GamerGate this way was a damning indictment of their unwillingness to investigate and accurately report in itself.

Accusations of unethical behaviour cast a black cloud over games journalism but, since attacking gamers was suddenly the trendy thing to do, a bunch of gaming sites all coincidentally seemed to have the same idea; supposedly, but unconvincingly, independently from each other, about ten different articles sprang up declaring "Gamers are Dead" ... and they all showed up over the course of one weekend. I'm not going to link to them all here. A blog called Crotchety Old Gamer has a list of many of them but I assume there's more than that. And yes, they used the Anita Sarkeesian story to justify this "Gamers are Dead" claim in each one. There were similar articles about a petition being circled by developers about making an effort to stop harassment in games wherever they saw it. Some sites, like IGN, used an image from Anita Sarkeesian's latest video for that article too but, even worse, the moderators appeared to be censoring perfectly reasonable comments:

Left-click for larger view.

Recapping all of this is starting to feel a bit stale and long-winded, so I'll give some of my thoughts on it and pick that thought up a bit later.

Let's start with the obvious; game journalists don't own gaming or the "gamer" term. Plenty of gamers have been playing games for decades. Game journalists aren't going to kill it in one weekend with some passive-aggressive articles and if they actually believed they would, it's incredibly arrogant of them.

Then there are the insults thrown around. The funny and sometimes strange thing about #GamerGate is that many of the people using the hashtag didn't dislike game journalism. Demanding ethical behaviour didn't mean that they disliked game journalists or suggest that any of them were bad at their jobs (outside of the unethical behaviour, of course). This may have been an attack on a corrupt system but it wasn't about the individuals. When names were mentioned, such as Stephen Totilo, it was because they were in positions to change things. So my question is this: how much must you dislike your own consumers to insult them in such a way? It disturbs me how comfortable game journalists were at branding people misogynists -- there's no two ways about it, calling everyone bigots -- when called out on their own actions. This kind of refusal to take responsibility actually has an acronym; DARVO, or "Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender". Or if you'd prefer something more relateable, a refusal to take responsibility is something children do when they've done something wrong. Game journalists did the same thing. Attacking people when your industry faces criticism is not a mature or rational response.

What I found amazing about #GamerGate was how game journalists -- through their conflicts of interest, attacks on gamers and biased/political/soapbox issue articles -- managed to annoy absolutely everyone. From all demographics. In spite of the claims that all the #GamerGate supporters were "straight white guys" who desperately wanted to maintain a boys' club, the gaming press annoyed men, women, transpeople, left-wingers and right-wingers, people of all races, all sexualities, the able-bodied and the disabled, feminists and MRAs. People from every demographic and group showed their support for #GamerGate for the simple reason that people from every demographic are gamers. We all care about accurate and unbiased journalism ... and the gaming press' arrogance concerning the matter didn't help them in the slightest.

Going back to the story and the "Gamers are Dead" articles, the problem was that by trying to derail the goals of #GamerGate and turn it into an issue of sexism rather than journalistic integrity, the gaming press pulled all of their soapbox articles into the firing line. Although there are people like me who have always had a problem with gaming sites promoting a political stance, others began to speak out in objection to gaming sites using arguments about misogyny, sexuality, minorities and "straight white guys wanting to keeping gaming as a boys' club" in order to derail topics about their own corruption.

So we had objections to Kotaku's Jason Schreier insulting George Kamitani for his character designs in Dragon's Crown:

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A freelance writer named Jenn Frank wrote a scathing attack on gamers in The Guardian, again saying that it was all about hatred of women and using Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn as examples. Then it came out that Frank is a friend of Quinn's, funds Quinn's Patreon and Quinn's PR agent funds Frank's Patreon:

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Bear in mind that throughout these many accusations of misogyny on the gaming community's behalf, female gamers are speaking out against unethical behaviour in the gaming press ... and having their opinions ignored. Frustrated female gamers didn't fit the "misogynist" narrative the gaming press was weaving. Same for non-white and non-heterosexual gamers being ignored by the writers claiming these were the acts of "straight white guys".

So basically, the same game journalists who claim to be all for progressiveness and equality in gaming are the same people ignoring the voices of women and minorities. The same people writing about Zoë Quinn and posting Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes Vs Women videos are the same people who refuse to give publicity to the Fine Young Capitalists' IndieGoGo project. People who don't represent women or minorities feel as if they have the right to speak on behalf of women and minorities.

This is when the #NotYourShield hashtag started being used.

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Left-click for larger view. Tweets are still difficult to make out in this one.
Gamers from every demographic other than the "straight white male" group that game journalists were singling out used #NotYourShield to object to the gaming press' use of their sex/race/sexuality to shield themselves from accusations of corruption.

#NotYourShield opened up an extra can of worms. Pictures like this one started to do the rounds, showing that 4chan -- the site that game journalists loved to single out as a misogynist haven that #GamerGate sprang from -- actually had a lot more female members than visitors to the gaming sites accusing #GamerGate of misogyny:

Although I suspect these images already existed, they were brought up as part of #NotYourShield to protest how everyone other than straight white men were being ignored the gaming press:

And there was also a great video by this female gamer. Can't embed it here for some reason, so make sure to check the link. There were blogs by black gamers and feminist gamers too.

It was all very inspirational to watch if you followed it at the time.

#NotYourShield didn't change anything, of course. Game journalists and developers went on ignoring women, transpeople, non-whites, LGBT and other gamers just as they did before, except maybe suggesting they were white guys using "sockpuppet" accounts (faking it).

There has been some support for #GamerGate and #NotYourShield on a few different sites -- Gamer Headlines, Games Reviews and Slate -- and their analysis compared to that of, say, Gamasutra is like night and day.

As for reform, Polygon and Kotaku have revised their policies regarding support for developers. CinemaBlend covers the story and it seems that while all Polygon writers have to do is disclose whether they fund a developers' Patreon, Kotaku writers are prohibited from funding them entirely. Kotaku seems to be making greater strides but looking at both the comment from the Reuters' employee from earlier and the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics page, I'd say both still have a long way to go. There isn't much mention of avoiding other potential conflicts of interest, such as relationships, and there is zero acknowledgement of the lack of respect game journalists seem to have for their audience.

The Escapist's general manager also mentions revised ethical guidelines:

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That about covers all I'd like to cover. I suspect I'll take a break after this, with my next blog at the end of the month at the earliest. Until then, I recommend supporting #GamerGate and leave a few images here that I couldn't fit in anywhere else.

Devin Faraci of Badass Digest saying arguments against Anita Sarkeesian are as ridiculous as Holocaust Denial.
Adam Sessler, former X-Play host, president of a consultancy firm for entertainment and media.
Support #GamerGate image.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Zoë Quinn Story

If you've been following the story of Zoë Quinn over the past few days, it's been an almost unbelievable period for the gaming community. In short, a story came out about Zoë Quinn's personal life that was only mildly interesting and noteworthy but due to selfishness, stupidity and needless censorship from many different parties, it became a much bigger issue than it should've been.

For those of you who don't know, Zoë Quinn is the indie game developer who worked on Depression Quest, a text-based "adventure" game (for lack of a better genre) that is up on Steam. It received quite a lot of publicity at the end of last year because Quinn allegedly received a lot of abuse for creating something that is arguably not a "game" in the sense of the word we're all familiar with. More on that later.

Since then, Zoë Quinn has enjoyed the same kind of minor celebrity that many women in the games industry share, due to being a representative of the struggles that women in the industry face. However, following the release of Depression Quest, she stayed out of the spotlight. Until last week.

Zoë Quinn
On August 16th, an ex-boyfriend of Quinn's named Eron Gjoni created a Wordpress blog called "The Zoe Post", which chronicled a chunk of his relationship with Quinn. He went into great detail about their time together, showing a video featuring both himself and many of Quinn's messages to him for proof that his story was authentic and screengrab after screengrab of his conversations with her. The big story is that while they were together, Quinn cheated on Gjoni with five different men and -- something I don't feel has been focused on enough when this topic is discussed -- had unprotected sex with Gjoni without him knowing about her other sexual partners, putting him at risk of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Now, if you're hearing this story for the first time, you're probably thinking the same thing that me and literally every single other person who heard this story thought; "you know, that's not that interesting. The Zoe Post is a good read but so what? I'm not into gossip about indie developers' private lives". You're right. On its own, this story probably wouldn't have amounted to very much. It was its own contained affair, which would probably blow over very quickly after some people altered Quinn's Wikipedia page for fun and got the usual insulting messages towards her out of their system.

There are two big problems with that; 1) one of the people she slept with was Nathan Grayson, a games journalist who has written for Kotaku and Rock, Paper, Shotgun and 2) the horrible, unbelievable handling of this problem by Quinn, the gaming press and even completely unrelated forums like Reddit and NeoGAF have caused it to spiral out of control.

The real meat of the issue is that Quinn had sex with a member of the gaming press. This is what's caused the majority of the outrage and is why this isn't just a story about Quinn's personal life that fizzled out after it had run its course. There's a lot I will mention here for people who don't know but a good place for all the facts about this is a Youtube video called "Quinnspiracy Theory: The Five Guys Saga" by Internet Aristocrat. He gives an excellent, detailed rundown of how all this ties to the gaming press and, at 24 minutes, will probably take less time to watch than this blog will take to read. With half a million views as of this writing, it's practically required viewing at this point:

I have to admire Internet Aristocrat's hard-hitting style, particularly when setting his sights on clickbait and social justice articles on gaming sites like "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is" and Jonathan McIntosh's "Playing with privilege: the invisible benefits of gaming while male". I've discussed these articles here before and it's a relief to see a video calling them out receiving so much attention.

I don't think the link between Quinn's sexual encounters with Nathan Grayson and social justice articles are quite as clear-cut as Internet Aristocrat makes out and, although I think Depression Quest and Gone Home are sorry excuses for games, that particular opinion is irrelevant. However, he does raise some good points that I want to bring up. There are several parties who screwed up on a large scale and I'm interested in examining what they did wrong and how it's led to the issue spiralling out of control.

Let's start with what happened before breaking this down into the different groups. Basically, everything you need to know is that Zoë Quinn slept with the following five guys:
  1. Robin Arnott - Indie developer.
  2. Joshua Boggs - Zoë's boss and a married man.
  3. Nathan Grayson - Game journalist. Writer for Kotaku and Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
The accusation from Internet Aristocrat (which I believe he got from others) is that the other two men were Kyle Pulver, indie developer, and Brandon McCartin, indie developer who worked on Fez. I'm not sure how these two names came out because Gjoni intentionally covered up the names of the last two men in The Zoe Post, assuring readers that he didn't think they were the type to sleep with a woman while knowing that she had a boyfriend. Interestingly, Pulver is the only one who says the accusation towards him is unfounded:

Make of that what you will. I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary (although I'm happy to be convinced) and this is pretty much what I expected everyone in his situation would do in the face of such an accusation. McCartin, on the other hand, posts links to Polygon articles about Twitter harassment, so he doesn't seem quite so innocent. Regardless of all this, Grayson's the important one. Keep him in mind.

Got all that? After this, it gets a bit more complicated, due to the ridiculous number of stories that came out in a short space of time.

Before we go any further, let's make this explicitly clear; this is not about attacking Zoë Quinn, nor anybody else. There are lots of people who ended up creating a mountain out of a mildly-interesting molehill and the lack of responsibility from all of them is what has driven to an overwhelming backlash from gamers.

Let's start with Quinn though and look at how her actions led to this story becoming bigger than it was originally.

Zoë Quinn

I'll try to cover as much as I can for newcomers to this story but since there's a lot of branching information, I have to limit some stories to just the relevant parts. I'll save Quinn's Tumblr response until the end, since I have some stuff I want to write about it.

After this story broke others began to come forward with their own stories about Zoë Quinn. One of these people was from a group known as The Fine Young Capitalists, who were interested in having women worldwide suggest ideas for games, having everyone go to their website to vote on the best one and female developers would create it. Even better, the profits from the game go to charity! Here's the story from Reddit:

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Plus, this is a legitimate cause; The Fine Young Capitalists have their own website, where you can vote on the best game idea and their own IndieGoGo page for the project. Quinn maintains that it didn't happen as the Young Capitalist member describes it; she says there was no doxxing or banning from Twitter (yet didn't follow up on my helpful suggestion to donate to the project):

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Also quite funny to note that Anita Sarkeesian hasn't donated either. 4chan, on the other hand, have responded overwhelmingly, leading The Fine Young Capitalists to praise them on Twitter. Interestingly, 94% of donations come from men.

Update: Now TFYCapitalists have accepted a character design from 4chan for one of the games too! And she is excellent.

Update #2: And now the IndieGoGo page has been hacked and shut down. It isn't clear by who yet but you can read TFYCapitalists' statement here.

Update #3: And as it turns out, someone has provided a helpful picture showing that Zoë Quinn's backlash against TFYCapitalists was considerably more than she was making out:

Left-click to enlarge.

There's an issue with Zoë Quinn's claim in the tweet above; "if you're sad women aren't making more games, why ask for 6 months unpaid labor from them?" For new readers -- I'm sure I'll get a few from this post -- I studied game design at college and one thing that was instilled in all the students was how the games industry is largely portfolio-based. Any artwork from the Fine Young Capitalists five game projects would look great in a portfolio. Any programmers would have a brand new game to place in a showreel. It goes without saying that making a game for charity would be an excellent thing to put on a resumé.

It isn't as if the female creators working on the Fine Young Capitalists' game are walking away empty-handed. If their own money was going into the project, I could see Quinn's point. As it is, this is a project where everyone wins. It's an excellent idea and a very worthy cause.

Then, there was this tweet:

The first person in the conversation, Wolf Wozniak, claims that Zoë Quinn sexually harassed him and Phil Fish, developer of Fez, inadvertantly confirms it. Rather than staying quiet and pretending he didn't know what on earth Wozniak was talking about, he confirmed that he knew what this person was talking about. His tweets were then favourited by Quinn and Robin Arnott, one of the men Quinn had slept with. There was also a long series of tweets leading up to the revelation that Wozniak was sexually harassed by Quinn, discussing how he feared being stigmatised by the indie developer community. His tweets are now private but there was an image featuring the entire discussion (although I couldn't find a version where all the tweets were large enough to read), including Fish's reply.

Update: Someone posted this picture in the comments section of a Gamespot article. This is the one I was looking for:

Left-click to enlarge.

Here's where I want you to do something for me, readers; pick a male game developer. Gabe Newell. Peter Molyneux. Will Wright. Imagine a scandal breaking out where it was revealed that they had sexually harassed a woman at a wedding and had unprotected sex with their wife/girlfriend after cheating on them with five different women.

How long do you think it would take before you went onto a gaming website and read the headline, "Gabe Newell steps down as Managing Director of Valve in the wake of sexual harassment and multiple affair scandal"?

How quickly do you think calling the victim of the sexual harassment a "little shit" would get called out as typical internet misogyny?

Why do people leap to Quinn's defence when she harasses and knowingly puts her boyfriend at risk of sexually-transmitted diseases -- I cannot stress that point enough -- in a way that they wouldn't if the perpetrator was male and the victims were female?

I used to like Phil Fish, after seeing Indie Game: The Movie. Phil deleted his Twitter account late last night, claiming that he was hacked and Polytron and Fez 2 were up for sale. He left while ranting about Quinn's critics being "cowards" and "ball-less manboobs". I don't really want go into the debacle any more than that.

I've only written about Quinn once before on this blog and it was actually defending her in the face of the abuse that she allegedly received. I don't know how recently these were created but a series of images has been doing the rounds that show how unlikely it is that the perpetrators of the harassment were actually the culprits. I can't really comment on it more than that; I don't know Wizardchan well enough to say whether this is accurate and I don't know whether Quinn had evidence of phone calls that she didn't bring up (or just weren't included in the images) but that's a convincing overview.

Finally, we come to Quinn's reply on Tumblr, which can be read here or you can take a look at an Imgur version here, in case the main version is removed (or you don't want to give Quinn's Tumblr any views).

Quinn's blog was one of the reasons I went from being only mildly interested in this story to giving it more attention. I feel as if there were two ways she could've handled this when talking about it on her blog; the mature, responsible way or the aggressive, uncompromising way. She chose the latter.

The big issue that I have with Quinn's response is that she insists on describing the events as "personal issues" but the way she responds is anything but personal. Rather than this being solely about Quinn herself, she holds herself up as an example of all women; she talks about what it's like to be a woman no fewer than five times throughout the blog post:
"[...] all of these things are inexcusable and will continue to happen to women until this culture changes. I’m certainly not the first. I wish I could be the last."
"Sexuality is one of the most personal, hurtful, and easy things to demonize a woman over, and also has nothing to do with my games."
"This is another example of gendered violence, whereby my personal life becomes a means to punish my professional credentials and to try to shame me into giving up my work. I’m still committed to doing my small part to create a world where no woman is at risk of experiencing this."
"These kinds of accusations have been levied against any woman of status in any industry, ever."
"I have been judged because, if you are a woman, you are expected to constantly “prove” yourself, and even mere accusations can somehow undo all the good you’ve done and justify any measure of depraved brutality against you. Meanwhile, I see major support thrown the way of my male colleagues when they are accused of any sort of wrongdoing."
If you've ever seen responses from content creators like Anita Sarkeesian, you'll have probably seen arguments very similar to these ones. Rather than taking responsibility for her own actions, Quinn shifts the focus onto her critics. It stops being something she has to acknowledge about herself and paints those who disagree with her actions -- including her ex-boyfriend -- as people who want to attack her because she's a woman.

I'd also like to address that last quote; first of all, these aren't accusations, it's proof. The message logs on The Zoe Post show Quinn herself admitting that she's slept with other men. Secondly, Quinn really sees "major support" thrown the way of male colleagues? Men are actually supported when cheating on their partners? Because all I see is the opposite; Zoë Quinn has received overwhelming support for her actions and has had the gaming press defending her. More on that later.

Thirdly, men in the media have been reprimanded for a lot less. While it's the gaming press rather than the industry itself, a while ago I briefly wrote about how Destructoid writer Ryan Perez was fired for referring to Felicia Day as a "booth babe" on Twitter. This dislike of one female celebrity was apparently enough for him to be branded a misogynist and get fired from his job after a witch hunt spearheaded by Wil Wheaton. However, Perez is not representative of all men any more than Quinn is representative of all women.

Quinn's tumblr post also started a trend of victim-blaming towards her ex-boyfriend that continued throughout the majority of articles I've read about this whole affair. In spite of the fact that Eron Gjoni himself acknowledges that The Zoe Post is written "almost entirely in shitty metaphors and bitter snark", Quinn and others dismiss him as just "an angry/vindictive/jilted ex-boyfriend", depending on the article you read, and a Daily Dot article reducing his issues down to "nasty, post-breakup gripes".

I'm not going to let this particular point go; Zoë Quinn had unprotected sex with Eron Gjoni after cheating on him, knowingly putting him at risk of sexually-transmitted diseases. This is not a minor issue. If I went through that, I'd probably be "angry" and "vindictive" too but justifiably so.

The idea that Quinn puts forward about this being a personal matter is also flawed. This is going off-topic quite a bit but there was a phrase used here in the UK by a journalist and satirist called Ian Hislop, during a political scandal involving the Defence Secretary. On a show he's part of, he said, "he blurred the line between his personal and professional lives. Surely that means we're entitled to ask questions about the personal one", which led to a minor debate about legitimate areas of enquiry and overstepping those bounds. I know I certainly have delved into personal details here but it's honestly due to the way it's been handled. The insistence by both Quinn and her supporters that she is the victim in all of this. Imagine, instead, if she wrote something more PR-friendly and professional sounding, apologetic and full of humility. Something like:
"I was in a relationship with Eron Gjoni and, as with many relationships, did things I regretted. My actions did not impact my professional career in any manner. I apologise to anyone who was hurt during this period due to my behaviour. I appreciate your continued support and understanding."
Even with something like that, Quinn wouldn't reveal anything about her personal life but would also remain mature and professional. That's the type of response we've come to expect. Not a rant about how hard she had it following the reveal of details of a relationship where she was arguably emotionally abusive towards her boyfriend.

There's probably more that I could nitpick about this but I can leave it there. Again, I want to point out that, in spite of the fact that I've been critical of Quinn's actions, I don't want this to be an attack on her. She is right about one thing; this being her personal life does entitle her to a significant amount of privacy and as critical as I am of her behaviour, handling it properly could've gone a long way. Which is the theme of this entire scandal, if "scandal" isn't too strong a word.

The Gaming Press

We all know that game journalism is awful. It's not a secret. There aren't many mainstream gaming sites that don't feature clickbait articles now. Internet Aristocrat highlights several of these in his video above. Articles about Social Justice themes have become a lot more common. That'd be fine on sites devoted to the subject but, if you've read the many different blog posts I've written about these types of articles, you'll know that it's difficult not to see these "journalists" as being entitled to the point of insulting their audience and attacking developers when they see something they don't like (like George Kamitani being outright insulted for Dragon's Crown's female character designs or Hideo Kojima facing a backlash for Quiet's revealing outfit in Metal Gear Solid V).

Then there's the constant focus on AAA games, particularly on story and cinematic presentation over gameplay. It's similar with indie games, such as Gone Home. I don't begrudge any game a review or previews but when Gamespot has twenty features on The Last Of Us in July of 2014, including one called "The Test of Time: Looking Back at The Last Of Us" -- only thirteen months after its release -- you can't expect a chunk of your audience not to roll their eyes at the preferential treatment. Think of all the time everyone wasted on Watch Dogs. One of my biggest pet peeves when browsing gaming sites is the lack of attention given to titles that don't fit either the big-budget or indie mould. When's the last time you read about Dynasty Warriors? Disgaea? The Atelier series? They're all still going. Unfortunately, in the case of gaming sites, Yellow Journalism is the order of the day.

That's a minor complaint when we consider the long-standing accusations of corruption in the gaming press. In 2012, Rab Florence wrote an excellent article for Eurogamer that called out the nature of the relationships between games journalists and people working in games PR; going from a famous picture of Spike TV's Geoff Keighley (although I was most familiar with his GameTrailers work) sitting between a Halo 4 poster and a table of Doritos and Mountain Dew, Florence also criticised game journalists winning free PlayStation 3s from a competition at the Game Media Awards.

While searching for information for a college paper, I came across an article on CinemaBlend, quoting from a Q&A that an anonymous publisher did for Kotaku. Here's the part they quoted:
"Reviews only have an impact if they're 90+, and then the impact is huge.

We don't take steps to get good reviews, we take steps to make good games. Then we invite reviews to fancy promotional events to warm them up on the game before they play it on their own.

I think of our launch parties as warm-up comedians for the main act. Warm-up comedians are there to get you laughing and excited, so when the star performer walks onstage, you're primed and ready to enjoy the set. Our promo events are the same way. We bring out media to a fancy location, wine and dine them, show them the best parts of our game, and generally build anticipation for release. The theory is that, once they get the game and play it privately, they already have a positive association with the game, which may influence their final score."
Although the article made it clear that there isn't any money exchanging hands, it's unquestionable that game reviews are influenced by factors other than just game quality. While I'm sure professional journalists would insist that these types of fancy events don't sway their opinion, how can they remain impartial following the experience? Honestly, this is something I don't blame the publisher for; it could be argued that if the publisher is rich and dumb enough to offer it, the game journalist should take it. I see it the other way around; if the journalist is unethical enough to accept lavish gifts from someone whose game they'll be reviewing in the near future, a publisher rich enough to throw these kind of events might as well.

With that, we come to Nathan Grayson. As mentioned earlier, he's one of the men Zoë Quinn had sex with. He's a games journalist and has written for Kotaku and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I looked back over my blog and was surprised to find I'd written about him twice before, as small parts of larger posts. Once criticising a #1ReasonWhy article he wrote where he referred to men as "self-centered slobs" and another where he interviewed the lead writer of Dragon Age III and had a closing statement that would have a six-year-old rolling their eyes at the immaturity. Interestingly, I wasn't aware that he'd written both articles until now but both times I criticised him for an "us vs. them" mentality when it came to sexism in games.

(Note: I'm using DoNotLink for both of the Rock, Paper, Shotgun articles in that paragraph, so don't panic if you're redirected.)

The accusation is that Zoë Quinn slept with Nathan Grayson to get publicity for her game on the sites that he writes for. Now, let's deal with the elephant in the room: there is no evidence of that being the case. That's just the way it is. He's only written about her twice. Once on Kotaku, about a game jam-themed reality show she was involved in and another on RPS, featuring Depression Quest in a list of greenlit releases on Steam. No reviews of Depression Quest. Also, no word from Rock, Paper, Shotgun as of this writing but for once, I have to give credit to Kotaku for actually responding to the accusation towards one of their writers. In a mature fashion, no less.

So without any actual positive coverage for Depression Quest from Grayson, that means game journalism is in the clear, doesn't it? If only.

Some people have linked to the Code of Ethics page on the site of the Society of Professional Journalists. This is an amazing list that clearly explains unethical journalistic acts and it's mind-boggling to go down the list and mentally cross off every one that the gaming press is guilty of committing. Take note of the points underneath the "Act Independently" header, particularly the first three:
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

The fact is that Grayson was in a position to help Quinn and who knows if he talked about positive coverage for her game behind the scenes? Likewise, Quinn was the perfect font of conflict for Grayson's Social Justice-themes and rants. Regardless of the fact that Grayson didn't write a Depression Quest review, he could have. This was a conflict of interest. This was an association that comprised Grayson's integrity and damaged his credibility. And, as pointed out by the anonymous publisher from the CinemaBlend article, games journalists certainly do not refuse gifts and special treatment that compromise journalistic integrity.

Putting Grayson to one side, you only have to look at how the gaming press has responded to this Zoe Quinn story to see more examples of a lack of ethics. They adopt one of two extreme stances; not mentioning the story at all or going on the defensive in the same way Quinn did (blaming her critics, her boyfriend, using it as an example of misogyny in gaming, etc.). The obvious problem with not mentioning the story at all is that it's a big story to ignore. In a way, games journalists have shot themselves in the foot. Yes, it's about Quinn's personal life, which protects her from attention. However, when games journalists don't have any qualms about calling male gamers "self-centered slobs" (Grayson, RPS), insulting developers by calling them "14-year-old boys" and going on to lay all of sexism in gaming at their feet (Schreier, Kotaku) or the following Ben Kuchera (editor at Polygon) tweet, they have no excuse for the Zoe Quinn story being off-limits.

All of this, in itself, crumples up the SPJ Code of Ethics and throws it away. "Seek Truth and Report It" and "Be Accountable" are completely alien concepts.

When it comes to the number of articles that take Quinn's side, I don't even know where to begin. For the sake of consistency, here are the links to several articles I've rounded up but I recommend not viewing them.
These all pander to their readers with the same arguments we've seen again and again but Motherboard is the worst of the bunch; Quinn was harassed (with only her word as evidence), this is an example of misogyny in "predominately male communities", she was compared to Anita Sarkeesian and, worst of all, Quinn was slut-shamed.

I'm going to say this one more time, hopefully for the last time in this blog post. Feel free to say it with me: Zoë Quinn had unprotected sex with her boyfriend after sleeping with five other guys. If you want to act like criticising her over that is slut-shaming, I think you have a lot to learn about sexual health. If this was as by-the-numbers as the author of that article paints it -- "A woman should be able to engage in sexual relations with her peers and not be publicly smeared for it." -- Quinn wouldn't have been smeared for it outside of the usual trolls. That's not what happened.

However, one thing that eats away at me about that Motherboard article is the following paragraph-and-a-half:
"To make matters even more ridiculous, a digital mob has taken to accusing Quinn, not ironically, of creating "a negative image for all current and future female game devs with her actions" and "[setting] back women in the video game industry."
Actually, what keeps women from the gaming industry (and other tech related fields) are online incidents like this one."
Firstly, as a quick aside, most women choose to stay out of the gaming industry. There's nothing actively keeping women out. It's likely the same as other engineering majors. You can't say women are being kept out of the gaming industry any more than you can say men are being kept out of social work, performing arts and psychology.

Secondly, and this is the part that bothers me, the author of that Motherboard article wrote that paragraph ... but didn't find any quotes from female developers to see what they thought. As it happens, here's two female devs who were very vocal about the issue (names and dates obscured, just for the sake of safety):

You wouldn't think it would be difficult for the writer of the Motherboard article to actually consider asking a female developer's opinion, rather than being so arrogant as to speak for them. Even the creator of the Tumblr they linked to -- kc-vidya-rants -- was female but the author automatically assumed they were male! Apparently, an appeal to victimhood is more important than acknowledging that female developers may object to Quinn's behaviour too (and by "behaviour", I mean her Tumblr and Twitter responses as well as the events that started the entire controversy).

Finally, there's the claim that "Women are not welcome on the internet", a statement that was around long before the Zoë Quinn story ever existed. To that, all I have to say is look at the outpouring of support for TFYCapitalists' IndieGoGo project, featuring an all-female development team and game concepts from women all over the world. Look at the money that 4chan is putting towards it! Over the past month, I've been frequenting the Women Against Feminism Facebook page and Tumblr and the only people telling them they weren't welcome were -- you guessed it -- feminists. Here's a quick screengrab I took of a comment before it was deleted for strong language (opinions are welcome but strong language is moderated):

If you think that's a one-off, you should see the sheer number of comments belittling the anti-feminist women by telling them how uneducated they are. Especially last month. Meanwhile, would you like to read my favourite reason why a woman was against feminism?

This speaks for itself. I'm not going to elaborate on it. I'll end this section here.

Discussion Forums

I'll keep this last section much shorter than the others. Discussion forums are places that shouldn't have had any involvement in the Zoë Quinn debacle, other than allowing their members to discuss it and moderating appropriately (no doxxing, no threats, no insults if the forum is the type of place that doesn't allow that, etc.). It's a gaming topic so it has its place on gaming forums.

Some places took exception to that. Amongst some communities, discussions started when a Youtube game reviewer named TotalBiscuit (or The Cynical Brit) wrote a blog post about the situation, expression his confusion about the situation and decrying both Quinn for using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to take down a video by a Youtuber called MundaneMatt and game journalists for nepotism. The DMCA gives users the right to claim copyright infringement and can be used to remove copyrighted material from Youtube. The problem was that MundaneMatt only used a single, publicly-available image from Depression Quest in his video, so it was theorised that Quinn (or someone else) abused the use of the DMCA to censor material she disliked and didn't want to be spread. You can see this in Internet Aristocrat's video. This could certainly be backed up by an e-mail from Quinn that was screengrabbed (see her reply at the bottom) ...

Left-click for larger view.
... Which she immediately claimed was the result of her e-mail being hacked.

TotalBiscuit's blog post became a talking point on Reddit, with its own thread on /r/gaming. This makes sense, since not only was Quinn a figure in the games industry but TotalBiscuit's has a popular Youtube channel where he reviews games, with over 1.7 million subscribers.

So a thread was created about everything TotalBiscuit wrote about in his blog post, rather than specifically about Quinn, but every single comment in the entire thread was deleted. Over 21,000 of them:

Left-click to enlarge.

Reddit has rules that prohibit the doxxing of individuals -- giving out their addresses, telephone numbers, etc. -- which is the excuse they used for deleting every new comment in the thread as soon as it was posted. It's obvious that not all 21,000 were doxxing Zoë Quinn. In fact, when I first came across that topic -- when they had about 17,000 comments -- every new comment was a copy-and-paste round-up of links and information about "Zoegate" as they took to naming it. No doxxing, just links and screenshots. That thread is where I got most of my information about this topic when I was starting to learn about it. Since then, the thread has been deleted entirely.

How did this happen? Well, these screenshots paint a link between the senior moderator of /r/gaming and Zoë Quinn:

Left-click to enlarge.
Then, when someone mentioned this fairly concrete evidence of personal bias in a private message to another moderator:

... They were told to fuck off.

It's the same story on NeoGAF. In this case, it wasn't even a request as extreme as removing someone's moderator status. No, this was two people simply asking the moderators for the opportunity to discuss a gaming issue on a games forum. Read the requests yourself to see how reasonable they are. The responses, on the other hand, act as if the requests are the most outlandish and sexist things the moderator has ever read and he only gives sarcastic responses:

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Left-click to enlarge.

It apparently didn't occur to either of the moderators on either site that if they had just let their members discuss this issue, it probably would've blown over by now. Instead, they inadvertantly stirred the pot even further. By censoring perfectly legitimate discussion and abusing moderator privileges, didn't they realise that they were turning this into a much bigger issue than it would've been otherwise? Moderators are supposed to keep the peace. Instead, this type of silencing and censorship is closer to the internet version of a police state (albeit one used to cover up a really boring scandal).

This entire affair is one of the biggest examples of the Streisand effect I've ever seen. How can it be described, other than an example of how greed, selfishness, stupidity, censorship and a sense of victimhood can cause a more-or-less uninteresting story to become a full-blown scandal? It's too early to see how Quinn will come out of this -- my bet is that she'll probably be fine, if not even more successful than she was before -- but there's a Tumblr suggesting a PAX protest against a lack of integrity from games journalists. It'll be interesting to see if anything comes of that. Unfortunately, the owner of that Tumblr left an update today saying they plan on closing it down due to harassment so here's the relevant information:

Left-click to enlarge.

Left-click to enlarge.
And they suggest you spread this image around every single forum you know.

In closing, I think we're all agreed that gamers deserve a higher standard from game journalists than what they've been given. Hopefully, game journalists can get over feeling sorry for themselves and start being more interested in issues more important to gamers. The gulf between gamers and the press in incredibly wide right now and the actions over the past week have only made that chasm wider. It's my impression that game journalists believe they have some "ownership" over gaming. It's their sandbox and they'll get angry at anyone else trying to play in it. They may be developers designing female characters in ways they dislike, female devs who don't toe the line when it comes to "women in gaming" conversations or straight white guys for daring to be straight white guys. The accusations that sometimes crop up about gaming being a "boy's club" are blatantly false. It's a game journalist's club. It's fuelled by their self-interest. From the articles that are published or not published based on personal bias to accepting gifts from publishers to sway opinion. This is unacceptable.

Instead of my usual closing, I'll just say thanks for reading and leave a comment below. I'm interested in reading your opinions on this.

Update: Internet Aristocrat posted a second part to his Quinnspiracy Theory video, featuring a lot of new information that's been gathered over the past week. You can watch it here: