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):

Left-click for larger view.
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:

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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:


6 comments:

  1. Sorry in advance if you already mentioned some of what I typed, I started to skim after a bit, so I may have missed some parts, also sorry for writing a response almost as lengthy as your initial post.

    You should see the Internet Artistocrat's newest video on the matter if you haven't already: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKmy5OKg6lo

    A lot of people agree that this was the straw that broke the camel's back on the topic of game journalism and hopefully it does lead to some positive change in how they conduct themselves. Personally, I'd say leave 'em at the wayside and find better sites and people to get info from, it'd be nice if more companies could find an alternative like Nintendo did with Direct.

    Also, the way gaming sites have tried to brush it under the rug, when in previous months and years they've been all for writing about stuff like this, makes it feel like there's a LOT more about this than what we've seen so far.

    As for the hacking of Zoe Quinn, the first one was ruled as completely false because none of the doxxed info was real, the second one involving Phil Fish is in a gray (grey?) area right now, but most people are extremely suspicious because :

    (1) hours earlier Adam Sessler was tweeting pictures and such of himself and Quinn at a bar, paraphrased a bit:, watching a "live hack" on themselves take place, but Quinn has apparently refused to contact the authorities, 4chan users have claimed to have notified the FBI and other places on the matter though.

    (2)Apparently a lot of the stuff in the downloadable zip file was just business stuff from a few years ago and assets from Fez 1.

    (3)Fish and Quinn both still strangely had full use of their twitters, even though Polytron's was hacked.

    Regardless of where you fall on this subject or how much you care, it'll be interesting to see what the truth ultimately turns out to be and how that effects things afterwards.

    (On a side-note: that Ben Kuchera tweet you posted pisses me off so much it's not even funny, it's like "Really, Ben? A hipster douche and a woman who could adequately be reffered to as a slut/whore over people that say mean things on the internet, ironically the only thing Phil Fish is known for now these days?" "'cause I'd take one psuedo-intellectual weirdo like Kojima over every game "journalists'" sanctimonious, pretentious mouthfart of an article! The sooner you and people like you are out of jobs, the better gaming AND the definition of journalism will be for it!" Sorry for the rant, had to get that out.)

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    1. Thanks for the link to Internet Aristocrat's newest video. Hadn't seen it. I'll add it to the blog.

      Yeah, I'd seen some stuff about Fish and Quinn being hacked, including the picture of Sessler and Quinn at the bar. I wasn't following the story very closely though. I guess I naïvely assumed that there was some simple, rational explanation for why Fish and Quinn had been hacked but still had access to their Twitter accounts. And I guess doing it to themselves is indeed a simple, rational explanation. I'm sceptical about whether the FBI were actually informed but it'll be interested to see if anything comes of it. Not that I want Fish or Quinn to actually be imprisoned but this kind of immature drama deserves some kind of reprimand. It's like giving children the "scare 'em straight" approach.

      I would like it if there were more alternatives for news, for both developers and gamers. Over the past week, one of the few sites I found that reported on the issue was an independent site called GamesNosh and even they tweeted that they'd been asked to remove the article (and the site was apparently down for several hours, although the article remained afterwards).

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    2. I've seen a theory that there may be a 3rd party hacking Quinn and Fish (and maybe TFYC) that's doing it just to fan the flames, but I've only seen that theory at /v/ so far.

      I do, in a way, feel genuinely bad for Zoe Quinn because of her personal life being tossed out for the whole world to see, but she was unfortunately a sort of lightning rod for a bigger issue in gaming.

      On a side-note: In case you hadn't seen it yet, check out Jordan Owen's documentary project, The Sarkeesian Effect, it's supposed to be a doc talking about the current trend of SJW stuff in gaming with interviews from major players from both sides of the argument:

      The pitch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROHvvtUcp8I
      Interview with Jordan Owen about the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzxDbXSGcIg

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  2. The story reach French gaming website with the traditionnal sexism & misogyny BS http://www.donotlink.com/bb3q paradoxically a blogger on the same website show what really people are reproaching http://www.gameblog.fr/blogs/seishou/p_107747_une-inde-couche-avec-un-journaliste-de-kotaku-en-echange-de-


    PS: check Crescent's blog http://crescentreview.blogspot.com.au/ he gives an interesting point of view about Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian acknowledging the criticism raise against and how she tried to deny them

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  3. This is so sad. Pissed off ex goes crazy on the net. That stuff happens all the time and doesn't deserve this type of thing. He quickly moved from being in the right to being in the wrong. What an ass. Good on you Zoe.

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    1. In what way is pointing out your ex's abusive behaviour being in the wrong? Or make them an "ass", which is clear victim-blaming ...

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