#GamerGate Origins: Conspiracy, Corruption & Canoodling

[Note: This article is beginning to gain some traction, and as such I feel compelled to make clear that I in no way profit from this blog, nor do I ever intend to; at least not from this article. The only reason I wrote and published this was to spread the information. Take note, game journalists, this is what you call ‘Full Disclosure’.]

Greg Tito Statement 2I want you to read that statement, soak in every single word, and remember it throughout what I’m going to say.

It’s been a long week on the internet.

Anyone with a passing interest in video games might have noticed a bit of a hullabaloo going on over the last few days. Well, actually, depending on where you go to get your information, you might not know anything about it at all. Depending on where you go, you may have a wildly different idea about what has been going on, as opposed to the truth of the matter.

The truth is…well, the truth is we still can’t be sure about the truth. Not all of it, anyway. There is one thing we have learned with absolute certainty: Some people don’t care what the truth is, and some are actively against it ever coming out.

This is all starting to come across a bit ‘9/11 was an inside job’ so I should probably stop being so nebulous about the topic and just get down to it. Here we go…

Part I: Cloudy with a Chance of Shit Storms

Sometime last week, a story broke that Zoe Quinn, game developer, outspoken feminist campaigner and general industry personality, had allegedly cheated on her now ex boyfriend. This wouldn’t have been news in and of itself, were it not for the fact that the men she slept with happened to be prominent figures in the games journalism industry; at least one of whom had reported on Zoe’s work, and another who was on the committee for an award which Zoe won.

One of the initial issues with the story was the fact that it was broken by her ex-boyfriend, who many understandably reasoned would potentially have a vested interest in seeing Quinn taken down a peg or two. The thing is, he had screenshots of chat logs with Quinn to back up his claims, on top of a frankly astounding pile of other evidence, including the matching of dates when Quinn may have been involved with the other guilty parties and how this could have coincided with the alleged industry benefits she gained as a result.

Whatever the ex-boyfriend’s motivations were, the evidence was pretty hard to ignore.

Now, I’d been avoiding commenting on this straight away because, frankly, I’m a nobody, but also because I wanted to wait for more information to come to light, and to see how the accused would react, as well as the industry general.

So, at this point in time, here is all I was aware of:

-Zoe Quinn does not practice what she preaches.
-There is a level of corruption in gaming journalism.

Now, the latter I was aware of already, because there is corruption in all forms of mass media, that’s why we’re lucky we have access to so many different sources of information.

As for Zoe’s actions, they have done nothing to change how I feel about women, either in the games industry or in general. Just like if a black guy shoots someone I don’t immediately decide all black men are criminals, what Zoe did is on her and her alone; if the allegations are true then I find her to be a pretty reprehensible human being, but it doesn’t mean I will make any automatic assumptions about any other women.

That last point is of vital importance, because throughout this it has become far too easy for detractors to simply dismiss the outrage as the idle braying of a bunch of dudes who just wanna keep a woman down. Sexism absolutely does exist in the games industry, it’s just that it doesn’t quite exist the way the general media like to pretend it does.

As for me, and I realise I don’t speak for everyone (this is the closest I’ve ever got to getting to say ‘not all men,’ hooray!), I personally prefer to judge everyone on their own merits, rather than making blanket statements about half the population of Earth whose only common link is their genitalia.

To compound this point, when I was browsing through the Tumblr tag for Zoe Quinn, I was relieved and encouraged to discover that about 90% of the posts that I read from women were in condemnation of Zoe, saying that thanks to her actions it’s made the prospect of them going into the games industry, themselves, that much harder/more unappealing.

I’m glad to see that happening –not that women are abandoning a potential career, I mean that they’re pissed– because I did have fears when this all started that it was just going to dissolve into an us vs them mentality between men and women, where the real issue, as always, is the actions of a specific group, or groups, of people, who are in no way representative of the causes/principles they purport to champion, but have nonetheless damaged the reputations of those causes/principles through their actions.

Speaking of those causes and principles, it was around about this time that people started noticing some strange things going on around the internet, wherever this story was concerned. Mass bans on Reddit, a media blackout on virtually every gaming news website, forums like Neogaf threatening instant bans to anyone who brought up the topic of Quinn…even 4chan, the last bastion of free expression on the internet (for better or worse) was reported to have threads on the topic disappearing at an alarming rate.

Just to put that last part in perspective: 4chan has a section where it’s not uncommon to see genuine photos of people with their arms, legs and other appendages blown off, or scenes of an equally violent nature. That’s fine, and yet any discussion of Quinn bed-hopping with industry journos was out of the question?

This is what eventually lead many to question…

Part II: Games Journalism; Facts Optional

This is the point where I really want you to start remembering that statement from Greg Tito at the start of the article.

Even if this entire thing turns out to be some hugely elaborate witch hunt, which seems frankly impossible at this point, Greg Tito, editor of The Escapist, literally said he doesn’t think fact-checking is always important. I can’t believe any journalist who believed in their profession could say that and be okay with it, and I don’t know how the Escapist can claim to have an ounce of credibility after this.

To be fair to Tito, and the Escapist, however, they are not the only ones who are happy to run with a potential non-story, when they think it stands to benefit them.

Enter: Max Temkin, creator of Cards Against Humanity and, probably more importantly to Max, not a rapist.

Around mid-July, an article went up on Rock Paper Shotgun detailing how Temkin had been accused of rape. Kotaku shortly followed suit, as did The Daily Beast. The content of pretty much all the articles revolved around Temkins response to the allegation, which had been made over Tumblr, and how he had discussed the ambiguity of consent.

Now, I have no interest in opening that particular tin of vipers nests, what I do want to talk about is this: Max Temkin is not a rapist. Or to put it another way, Max Temkin is not in jail for raping a woman. Why not? Well, because for one thing Tumblr isn’t a courtroom.

If the woman accusing Temkin seriously believed her accusations against Temkin, then she should have went straight to the police and had an investigation opened up. What she should not have done is taken to fucking Tumblr to publicly slander an, at this point, completely innocent man. Whatever you want to make of Temkin’s response I leave up to you, all I would say is this: once you’ve been accused of being a rapist, or any other kind of -ist, you pretty much have no choice to go on the defensive.

It doesn’t matter if you love all of Earth’s creatures, if you are accused of being a racist, I defy you to not crumble into a stuttering moron and start throwing in the usual ‘I have X number of black friends’ qualifiers, because what is the alternative? Saying, ‘yeah I am, it’s brilliant’?

That is all irrelevant to my point though, which is that you should never make a criminal allegation over the internet. What you should also, definitely not do, is report on that allegation which, at that point, is little more than hearsay. RPS, Kotaku and The Daily Beast apparently disagree.

Now, you can argue all you want that what they were really criticising was Temkin’s response and opinions on consent, but here’s the undeniable fact: They were constantly repeating a man’s name alongside the word ‘rape’. Over and over again.

Kotaku actually posted an updated version of their piece where editor-in-chief, Stephen Totilo added this little caveat:

“This was never supposed to be a piece about whether accuser or accused was guilty—everyone is presumed innocent”

Well, it’s a bit fucking late for that, Stephen, me old mucker. As I said before, once you accuse someone of being an -ist, even after the claim is completely dismissed, you will always be remembered as that guy who might have been that thing, and no matter what you do for the rest of your life to distance yourself from it there will always be someone there, especially on the internet, to remind you of that time you might have been a rapist.

You’re a smart man, Stephen, probably a lot smarter than me, so if I know that I’m sure as shit going to believe you know it too.

So what does all this have to do with Zoe Quinn, you might ask? Well, mainly the fact that despite the articles above largely being opinion pieces of the nature of consent and society’s attitudes to rape in general, they were also very, very much about the personal matters of someone involved in the games industry.

If Kotaku wanted to run a piece on the nature of consent, then go nuts, it’d probably fit in with all the other shit they constantly bring up that has nothing to do with video games, but as soon as you bring a real person into the mix, who has had very serious but as yet unfounded allegations brought against them, you are making it a personal matter.

Let’s see what Greg Tito has to say on the topic of personal matters:

Greg Tito Statement 1Tito, there, is referring to the handling of the Zoe Quinn matter, and if you can’t be bothered reading the whole thing, let me just highlight one part for you:

“I will respect your rights to discuss it, but I ask all of you to respect people’s privacy and personal safety.”

Now, ask yourself: Do you think Max Temkin felt his privacy had been respected, when several prominent games journalism websites decided to paint him as a villain, while simultaneously distancing themselves from any actual bolstering of the accusations to keep clear of potential lawsuits?

Do you think he felt safe, knowing how society in general responds to rapists, accused or otherwise, and being aware of just how quick the internet is to decide on their version of the truth and form a hivemind and/or lynchmob?

I suppose if you wanted to, you could take the stance that Temkin made this public by responding to the allegations on his own blog, but as I already addressed he pretty much had to: if one party goes public with a serious allegation and the other goes silent then most people are going to take that as a clear-cut admission of guilt (keep that in mind for later, too).

Maybe that’s the difference though: Temkin did make his situation public of his own volition, but Zoe Quinn never did anything like that, right?

…Right?

Part III: When all You Want’s a Burning, Everyone Looks Like a Witch

This is the part of the story most relevant to the first Tito quote I posted, where you may have noticed he mentions taking Quinn at her word when running a story about her. What was the story in question?

Escapist Article DQ WC

That article ran just before Christmas last year, and you may notice now carries a small caveat at the beginning to state that ‘the claims were made by the accuser and have not been confirmed by another party’. In other words, the entire article was based on what Quinn said had happened, and no one at the Escapist thought it was worth looking into before running an article on the story.

What’s the problem with this? Well, aside from the fact that it makes for pretty shoddy fucking journalism -hell, even I try to source my claims with hyperlinks, when I can- it also meant that the accused party, who were named in the article as Wizardchan, a forum for socially maladjusted and, more seriously, mentally ill men to gather and just generally be sad and alone.

That’s not me being a dick, by the way, that is literally what the forum is for.

If you read the article, it purports that after a particularly vitriolic post was made on the Wizardchan board regarding Quinn and her game, Depression Quest, she started to receiving harassing phone calls and other abuse on her various social media accounts.

Here’s the thing, though: It was never directly linked to Wizardchan. Oh, the Escapist article absolutely was, has their name right there, plain as day, but the actual alleged attacks on Quinn were never, undeniably linked to the board.

In fact, after some people dug a little deeper and, you know, did some actual fucking investigative reporting, it came to the light that the original post on the Wizardchan board, which may or may not have been responsible for the alleged harassment, may not even have come from one of the users of the board, but a third party, CWCwiki, who make it their business to fuck with the people at Wizardchan, amongst other places, because, well, I guess everyone needs a hobby?

Here’s the post from CWCwiki, but you can read a full rundown of the debacle here:

CWCwikiNow, once again, it’s important to note that this is not an admission of guilt, but merely a piece of evidence which suggests reasonable doubt, regarding who it was that really harassed Quinn.

That is, of course, assuming the harassment occurred at all, since Quinn has never provided phone records or anything else to suggest what she claims happened actually happened. I don’t mean providing them to me, by the by, she doesn’t owe me owt, I mean providing them to the fucking police whose job it is to deal with people being harassed in real life because that is a real actual crime that people go to prison for.

Again, though, just like the Temkin case, Quinn for some reason felt that the internet was the best place to air her grievances, and of course a plethora of traffic-hungry gaming websites started falling over each other in a bid to oblige her.

Okay, so what’s the problem with this one? Well, just as Temkin will now forever be remembered as ‘that rape guy’ –at least three of the results on the first page when Googling ‘max tempkin’ are about the rape allegations– the users of Wizardchan, whom I would remind you are largely comprised of vulnerable young men –there’s a link to the suicide hotline on just about every page of their forum– became a target for a veritable shit storm of abuse in the wake of the Escapist and other websites running articles on this and highlighting Wizardchan as the likely (read: completely unverified) culprit.

Now, as we’ve discussed already, it may not even have been a member of the board who made the post that may or may not have lead to the abuse of Quinn that may or may not have actually happened.

If it was an actual user on the chan who made the thread about her, then I still don’t think anyone should be giving them shit, as long as it doesn’t go beyond the site. I mean, no one complains that literally every messageboard for every actor on IMDb has at least one thread talking about how awful the actor or actress is. There will always be people who don’t like other people, that will never change, all that matters is how they choose to act on that dislike.

What I think is important to constantly re-state is that Wizardchan is a board largely, if not entirely, populated by depressed lonely men, many of whom have mental problems, (you know, the kind of people that Quinn’s Depression Quest claims to be trying to help).

To be perfectly frank, they are nobodies, and I don’t say that insultingly but only to point out that them allegedly going after Zoe had nowhere near as big a precedent for innocent people being hurt as all the big names in the industry who wasted no time in grabbing the broadest brush they could find to paint the entirety of Wizardchan as a den of monsters.

This is my problem with Tito’s whole ‘we’ll always side with the victim’ schtick: Zoe may not have been a victim, and without bothering to fact-check The Escapist and a lot of other big sites with a lot of influence and a huge following were suddenly made very aware of a small corner of the internet inhabited by vulnerable people who hadn’t, and still haven’t, been proven guilty of any direct attack against Quinn.

This is the danger of just taking someone at their word and not fact-checking. When you have a large audience who you know for a fact are always happy to act on impulse and nail someone to the wall at the slightest provocation, whether you want them to or not.

When you know this, you are duty-bound to make absolutely sure that you’ve got your stories straight.

This part of the story made me think back to the Ipswich murders which occurred in the UK, in 2006, where several prostitutes were murdered over a period of months. During the investigation, one man was arrested and taken in for questioning because he’d been seen the night before talking to local prostitutes who were friendly with, or at least knew of, the victims.

As it turns out, the man regularly paid for the services of these women, and was talking to them to try and gather information because he figured they’d be more comfortable talking with someone they knew than with the police.

In other words, he was not only innocent, he was actively trying to help with the case, but as soon as he was taken away by the police, his name was all over the news and his neighbours were interviewed, saying, ‘well it’s just unbelievable to think you could live next to someone like that all this time.’

Now, after the dust settled and he was cleared of all charges, do you ever think that man was able to go back to living a normal life in that street? Even though his name had been cleared, he was still marked as, the dirty old man who sleeps with prostitutes. The media potentially ruined his reputation based on nothing but speculation.

That is the real danger of reporting on a story when you’re not willing to check the facts, and that is what I find objectionable about this entire debacle.

Of course, for any of that to happen, first you need to actually report on a story.

Part IV: The Deafening Sound of Silence

The immediate fallout from this story picking up steam was as confusing as it was hilarious.

While most websites and forums were swinging the banhammer around with reckless abandon and pulling a classic Delete Fucking Everything, many prominent industry figures took to Twitter to carefully collect their thoughts and, after looking at both sides of the argument from a reasoned perspective, completely lose their fucking shit:

tumblr_nal0uu6FSi1ricadfo1_1280That’s Max Scoville, who works for Destructoid, and who I actually really like, responding in a totally rational manner to what was admittedly a snipey joke question. Still though, does it look like a measured response, to you?

Let’s see what Bob Chipman, AKA the Escapist’s Moviebob, had to say on the situation:

Bob Chipman Meltdown 1Jeez, Bob, don’t be afraid to say what you feel. Anything else you’d like to add?

Bob Chipman Meltdown 2Okay, joking aside, I 100% agree with Chipman’s statements in these tweets, although I get the feeling that we have different opinions on who those ‘entitled, spoiled, assholes’ are.

Psst, spoiler: Moviebob isn’t referring to the games journalists who have spent years pushing their own personal agenda [see the previously addressed topic of journos picking and choosing when it’s okay to air a person’s dirty laundry], who have benefitted from lavish developer parties where they’re given shit like free PS3’s, and who are so fucking corrupt that they don’t even bother to put up any real fight when one of their own is thrown to the vultures to satisfy their corporate masters who keep them well paid and in a position of great power and affluence.

Other internet celebrities have been more even-handed in their approach, to be fair. Not that it did them much good.

Youtube Let’s Player and general gaming personality, TotalBiscuit released a statement regarding the DMCA takedown of a video criticising Zoe Quinn and the others involved in the scandal, as well as passing comment on the event as a whole. If you read through the statement you will notice that he couldn’t have been more diplomatic in his response, that he constantly pleads with people to wait for the dust to settle, not to jump to conclusions and saying that if there are problems then they should be addressed.

Pretty reasonable, right? Presumably that’s why he caught a ton of flak for it on Twitter, then, and of course Zoe was right there on the front lines to dish a bit of the abuse out, herself. Say what you will about the lady, she isn’t afraid to get her own hands dirty, from time to time:

RNF8nm9One thing I would like to highlight from TB’s statement, though, was where he discussed the DMCA takedown on the MundaneMatt video which criticised Quinn. Now, he went to great pains to point out how Youtube’s broken copyright system is really easy to game and that it may not even have been Quinn who made the claim; plausible given that her supporters have proven more than willing to engage in such acts in the past.

Now, I don’t care if you are directly responsible or not, when you know that these things are being done in your name -and Zoe is all to aware, she’s been pretty cavalier about the whole thing on Twitter- then you have a duty to address that. If you really care about what’s right, and about doing things the right way, then you should come out against the people who are breaking the god damn law in your honour.

Funnily enough, do you know who else agrees with me on that? John Walker, editor-in-chief of Rock Paper Shotgun. Check it out:

John Walker on Responding to MisrepThat is a solid stance to me. I totally agree. So isn’t it funny that, in the wake of the Quinn scandal, Walker again came out on Twitter, saying:

John Walker on EthicsSo, anyone who’s been misrepresented is duty-bound to address that and not have content about them removed, but anyone who tries to talk about how journalists and developers have potentially been doing backroom deals will be instantly shut down? How exactly does that one fucking work, John?

Is it because the sex scandal thing is a personal matter? Because I can think of something else that’s a pretty personal matter: being accused of fucking rape.

RPS Temkin ArticleOkay, I’ve got a new question for you John: How do you fucking sleep at night?

He did also go on to boast of his pride regarding the work RPS do, though:

“It always makes me proud when I hear “Rock, Paper, Shotgun” listed by these MRA morons as an example of the dearth of games journalism. Hypocritical foul bigots who pretend it’s about “ethics””

John, mate, I don’t think you are in any position to talk about ethics. I’m not even sure you have a clue what the word means.

Sorry, I shouldn’t be making this personal, (what am I, a games journalist? Haha, ahh…no, I kid,) and maybe instead of just running my god damn mouth all the time I should say what it is I actually expect to be done about all of this.

Well, shit, okay.

Part V: How Do We Save Games Journalism

Honestly, I don’t think it needs saving. It needs euthanised.

Personally, whatever the outcome of this is I don’t think it will affect me, I literally get almost all of my information about games from people I follow on Youtube –people, not websites– and the Escapists forums. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the front page of the Escapist, I have the ZP page bookmarked and I get to the forums from there.

I know a LP’er can be biased, but they can’t totally mask a games general content from the footage, so by watching them I can get a good feel for how the game will handle and if that’s something I’d enjoy.

I put a lot more stock in videos like that, rather than the meticulously planned, editor-approved ‘official’ reviews that go up on major websites -even if I generally like the website as a whole- because when you just have someone doing a general stream-of-conscious over a video it’s much easier to get a feel for sincerity.

As for forums, I know that they are still ultimately controlled by the websites that host them, but the mods of the Escapist have always been pretty even-handed in my experience –as evidenced by the fact that it’s just about the only forum still allowing it’s users to discuss all of this— and the userbase is generally open to a good discussion. I’ve learned a lot about critical analysis and source-checking from having my opinions challenged by other members, and that’s came in very handy while compiling  and trying to make sense of all of this.

Basically, I feel that journalist-driven news is pretty dead in an online age where information can be shared out and dissected by everyone; it’s no longer just a privileged few with their ear to the ground telling us how it is and then we dissect that: now we can watch tradeshows like E3 in real-time and make our own conclusions.

We’re our own journalists now, and I think the more we learn to use critical analysis the better we’ll become at informing ourselves. At that point, who needs a ‘professional’ to give us their opinion? What makes them anymore valid than any one of the users on these forums?

I know I’m not representative of everyone, and I wouldn’t assume to speak for anyone but myself on matters like this, but I honestly don’t feel that getting my information this way is anymore time-consuming or challenging than when I used to buy Nintendo Official Magazine and read that, cover to cover, every month.

Say you don’t wanna go down that road, though. Say you want to keep the system we have in place, just now, but just toss the bad apples out of the bushel.

There’s a small problem, there…

Part VI: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Ben Kuchera was one of the many big names getting tossed around while the war was raging on Twitter. Apparently, he’s now writing for Polygon, which surprised me, because last time I checked he was over at Penny Arcade. Now he’s at another site? Then I thought about all the other names coming up in this story. ALL of them have moved around three or four of the sites that keep getting brought up.

Now, this is no big secret, it’s not like any of the people I’m referring to tried to cover up that they were taking their talents elsewhere and, honestly, prior to this I never thought anything of it, because I like Max Scoville; I was glad to here he was going over to Destructoid. I like Jim Sterling, I was glad The Escapist snapped him up as reviews editor from Destructoid. Generally speaking, I’m happy to see the people I like succeed in their chosen profession.

But in light of all this, as more and more nepotism is uncovered in the industry, it’s getting very hard to ignore the fact that all of these sites are really just passing old blood from one position to the next.

It’s ALWAYS the same names, and if it’s all the same people, then what is the point in having all these different sites? Are they anything more than just clubhouses for a group of writer friends, all doing an ‘I’ll scratch your back’ routine? If the entire point of different sites is to allow the consumer to inform themselves with different opinions, how can we be expected to do that when they keep giving each other the same writers on lease and lend?

No, what we really need is some new blood in the industry, correct? Well, I guess, but the problem with that is that history is pretty cyclical when it comes to the media, and really any kind of industry where your name carries more weight than your words.

A lot of today’s indie devs who we champion will inevitably go on to become millionaire AAA publishers because, for some people, the climb to the top is all that matters. Others will just continue to make the games they want to make, because that’s why they’re in the business.

Likewise, if all these corrupt bullshit sites fade away, as they should, we will get new sites in their place. They’ll be good at first, eager to please, and some of them will do genuinely good reporting, based on facts and not wild speculation, but over time standards will inevitably start to slip as they become more desperate for traffic and again this whole process will start over.

As I said, I genuinely think the mistake we are making is in assuming that we need one constant, unanimous, unimpeachable source for our information. Instead we should all get our information from where we choose and then bring it to forums like this one to discuss it with each other.

Obviously, I’m not trying to paint the entire industry in that light, I just mean that generally, you can tell when someone is in it for the fame rather than the games (oh shit, put that on a t-shirt).

It’s fairly easy to spot which people in the industry are in it for the love of writing about their favoured hobby and who just want to be adored. Generally, I would say it’s the people who refuse to be proven wrong or hear any dissenting opinions that don’t actually care, and we’ve certainly seen a lot of them pop up in the wake of the Quinn scandal.

It’s this cult of personality that we need to tear down, on both sides (because I’m sure people like the InternetAristocrat will have fans who refuse to hear a word against him just as Anita Sarkeesian does) and in part I think sites like Twitter helps with that.

In other ways it hinders, and creates problems, because it humanises these people and puts them on our level, but also leaves them a lot more exposed to harassment and unfounded criticism. Phil Fish should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who doesn’t believe there are dangers to taking someone with absolutely no media training and then giving them a platform to voice their opinions.

The thing is, though, whatever happens as a result of this: social media isn’t going away. Twitter is excellent for quickly communicating a message to a huge amount of people and anyone in the media who refuses to use it is essentially lopping off an entire marketing limb, but if they want to use it then they can’t go fucking apeshit at the general public and start slinging insults because it’s unprofessional as fuck.

We need to find a balance, but that can’t possibly happen when 90% of these people instantly go on the defensive and either put up the shutters or start slinging massively generalised accusations at anyone who asks they maybe stop to look at some new evidence.

I feel like all of this is getting away from the original purpose of this discussion though, the meat and potatoes of the matter: Zoe Quinn, her alleged affairs, and the conflicts of interest they may have created.

Maybe I’m struggling to focus on that part because it’s so insignificant, in the grander scheme of things? I mean, really, why is Zoe so important, at all? Why do we all have to throw so much on her?

Part VII: You Can’t Put the Genie Back in the Bottle

I’ve been following Jim Sterling’s work for quite some time now, and thank god for him. What I’ve noticed, when reading his reviews, watching his Jimquisitions or just about every time he posts something controversial on Twitter, is that there’s at least one person on0hand to call him a fat dick or in other ways insults him. Literally it’s as predictable as the god damn sun setting in the evening.

As far as I’m aware, Jim doesn’t really care about it, or at least has made it clear it’s just something he has to deal with so he does, but I have never seen people come out in support for him or try to protect him the way people do with ZQ.

Now my question is this: what makes her so special that she needs protecting? Because she’s a woman? Because that, to me, flies directly in the face of supporting equality, by implying that a woman is not capable of protecting herself. I’ve seen the stuff she says on Twitter, she is more than willing to engage these people on their own level. The ‘protect the wimmenz’ angle also doesn’t really stack up when you consider that seemingly no major news sources are willing to address what’s happened to TFYC over the weekend (more on that, shortly).

So, is it the fact that the harassment of Zoe Quinn is worse than what Jim receives? I’m not so sure, when Jim did the podcast with Retsupurae he talked about threats being made against his family. That seems pretty fucking serious to me. I’m sure he’s mentioned it on the other podcasts he’s been involved in as well; that the abuse is not just an occasional thing.

So, what’s the difference, then? Well, Jim made clear in a JQ about Zoe that a persons harassment being dragged into the limelight should be their own choice, (I can’t remember what article he was referring to specifically, I don’t even think it was the one about her harassment, but perhaps the article that lead to her allegedly being harassed.)

From this we can conclude the reason that Jim never brings up the constant harassment he receives is because he doesn’t want it in the limelight.

Conversely, Zoe never fucking shuts up about it, to the point where she is known more for being harassed than she is for being a game developer, which is probably just as well since a little research by other people has shown she has hardly done a damn thing to contribute to video games, outside of inciting drama about the industry.

She constantly talks about how she’s being harassed by all these mysterious anons –about whom evidence is always conveniently thin; doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but does give pause for thought– and she goes to sites like the Escapist to get that harassment into the public eye, seemingly under the pretense of making people more aware of the rampant misogyny in the games industry (because it’s impossible that maybe people just don’t like her, as a person,) yet as soon as it comes to light that she might not be perfect, herself, (no one is, I know,) then suddenly none of us are allowed to talk about absolutely anything relating to her or her personal life because, ‘that’s not news.’

No, you’re quite right, it wasn’t news…until Zoe made it news. Sorry, but you don’t get to pick and choose when your plight is newsworthy, once you put yourself out there, once you ask for your story to be headline news, you accept that you are open to scrutiny and you should accept that when people scratch away at the surface and find things aren’t what they seem, causing your entire carefully assembled house of cards to start tumbling down around you, people aren’t going to stop asking for answers just because you suddenly decide that now it’s none of their business.

I get the feeling some of you may still think this is all about sexism, though. That this is just another case of the hateful patriarchy hating on an innocent woman who had the gall to try and break into a male-dominated industry.

Damn us men, why must we constantly sabotage these poor women, and stop them from entering the world of video games?

…Wait, what?

Part IX: Feminist Top Trumps

Have you heard of The Fine Young Capitalists? Probably not, but they are a charity movement, currently raising funds on Indiegogo for a project to get more women developing video games.

Did you know that, on Sunday the 24th of August, their campaign was hacked and shut down, with the following message left up on the page:

TFYC Hack

Did you also know that absolutely no websites reported on this? Not until much, much later, anyway, and only after mounting pressure from the Escapist forum-users and 4channers and Tumblrites who’d all been doing their fucking job for them.

What, this didn’t seem like news to them? Cause I think it’s pretty damn newsworthy.

Back to the actual story, though: If you can’t make it out, the message addresses /V/ [sic], the video game section of the aforementioned 4chan, also commonly referred to as ‘the asshole of the internet’, who are also usually blamed for the harassment of pretty much anyone the internet, the hacking and shutting down of websites and just about any unsavoury act you can think of. You name it, 4chan’s been accused of it.

Now, I know exactly what you are thinking of at this point: Why would anyone hack a charity drive to help women in the games industry to attack a website that is infamous for (allegedly) attacking women in the games industry, amongst others?

Well, it just so happens that 4chan had been a major contributor to the campaign, as part of a massive PR drive to try and show people that, maybe, all those allegations made against an entire website may not have been quite accurate, or at the very least have applied only to a select few troublemakers, and not, you know, every single person who ever visited the site.

TFYC 4chanMore recently, TFYC released information highlighting who the top contributors had been to their donation pool, which currently sits at just over thirty-two thousand dollars; almost exactly half of their $65,000 goal. Would you like to take a guess as to how the demographics shaped up?TFYC Stats Well, how do you like that?

Now, there are a few points about all of this that it is important to clear up: it’s still not known for certain who is responsible for the original Indiegogo campaign being hacked and shut down. Although they claimed to represent Quinn and her people, it hasn’t been confirmed, and people have speculated that there may be a third part responsible who just wants to stir up trouble, similar to CWCwiki in the Wizardchan incident.

Before all that, though, it’s important to ask: Why this campaign? Why did 4chan decide to throw their weight behind this specific campaign to improve their image, when there are numerous other outlets they could have chosen to show their support for women in the industry and general equality?

Well, it might have had something to do with the fact that Quinn previously did get the campaign shut down, by openly attacking it on Twitter, because she decided she didn’t like how TFYC classified who could and couldn’t be considered female, with regards to transgendered applicants.

Again, how you feel about the trans issue and how TFYC handled it is open for debate, but that doesn’t change the fact that Quinn mocked them in a public space where she KNEW that the more rabid members of her fanbase would be likely to pick up the story and act on it.

She then lied about how far she’d taken it when one of her supporters called her out on her bullshit; claiming she’d only made 4 tweets about it when, in actual fact, the real number was closer to about 44.

Quinn Lies Lies EverywhereJust for clarity, here she is laughing with one of her friends on Twitter about how the managed to [accidentally] DDos the TFYC campaign by directing an influx of her supporters towards it:

During the whole shit storm, she even found time to plug her own Patreon account, which essentially gives her money for doing, well, nothing at all, really. Also interesting to note that many of her contributors are the same journalists and industry figures who have been shutting down or otherwise sabotaging any discussion about her.

Again, I am not accusing anyone of anything, just stating facts.

Now, in light of all the evidence that has surfaced since the incident, surely Quinn’s supporters must be more open to rational discourse, right? RIGHT?

I can't with this anymore I just can'tCome on, they’ve gotta have something to back up their stance…

No shitting wayI give up.

So where am I going with all this? Well, I guess I am taking it kind of personally, at least on this point. Let me be honest: I’m tired of the implication that because I don’t like what a person does, and that person happens to have a vagina, that I must just hate women.

The people around the internet, currently campaigning for change as a result of the Quinn scandal aren’t against women, they are against anyone who would twist the truth to suit their own agenda.

And that’s the funniest thing about this whole three-ring circus, to me: all these sites had to do to quell the massive wave of shite heading towards them was put up an objective post about what was going on. No mud-slinging, no accusations or speculation, literally just a statement of facts about what was happening.

Hell, they didn’t even have to use any names or even mention the genders of the parties involved, just ‘developer’s intimate relationship with journalists raises concerns,’ then go on to document the ensuing fallout (most of which wouldn’t exist, probably, if they had addressed the problem in the first place.)

Of course it wouldn’t have quelled the outrage, in its entirety, we all know that the internet thrives on drama, but by refusing to address the topic at all, by actively stifling and silencing anyone who did want to discuss it, they made themselves out to be the guilty party; they made themselves out to be an enemy of journalism. And those aren’t my words, those are the words of John fucking Walker, editor-in-chief of RPS.

John Walker on Responding to MisrepI know I already posted that, but it bears repeating.

Jim Sterling hasn’t been afraid in the past of highlighting the potential conflict of ethics in the industry, and we know that these sites have no qualms about ruining a man’s career before he has been convicted of a single thing, and yet you’re telling me that a story with piles and piles of evidence to substantiate claims isn’t even remotely newsworthy?

The fact that most outlets have flat-out refused to do so leaves me to draw two conclusions:
1. It doesn’t fit their agenda, and they know there’s no way they could spin it to, (although Forbes gave it a damn good try.)
2. They seriously thought that their combined weight of influence was enough to stamp out the dissenters, even though that group comprised just about every single other person in the gaming community. In other words, it was an act of arrogance. (This theory is supported by the frankly childish Tweets of people like MovieBob and Max Scoville.)

This is going to get worse before it gets better, but all they have to do –all they ever had to do– to make it stop is admit they were wrong and open a dialogue so we can work together to make it right. At this point, silence absolutely is an admission of guilt about something, and I don’t see anyone on our side of things shutting up any time soon.

So really, I guess the only thing left to do is say what it is we actually want?

Part X: The Kotaku Ultimatum

In closing, I’d just like to bring things into perspective by applying a simple analysis to both sides of the argument, to try and show why we care (spoiler: It’s got nothing to do with hating women).

Basically, what does each side stand to win or lose, at the end of this?

The side against Quinn and the websites supporting her.

What we stand to gain:
-Transparency from the people who are PAID to report information to us.
-That’s it. That is literally it. We aren’t getting any money out of this. We aren’t getting famous. All we gain from this is a more professional, informative games press. Who can be against that?

What we stand to lose by letting this go:
-The nepotistic industry hivemind that has been proven to exist, where all the major gaming websites pass around the same writers from one post to another, continues unabated.
-They continue to post potentially biased or otherwise compromised media (from lack of fact-checking etc) which impedes the ability of every single person accessing their content to make informed, accurate decisions.
-Good writers, and other innocent people continue to be blacklisted from the industry, painted as scapegoats or in other ways punished if they dare to go against the party line (see previously: Dan Hsu, Jeff Gertsmann, Robert Florence.)

Quinn and the sites supporting her:

What they stand to gain if we give up:
-A shit ton of free press and as such profit from increased ad revenue.
-The ability to carry on spreading their slanted narrative.
-No reform to their extremely questionable ethics (not fact-checking stories which have the potential to greatly damage the lives of those involved).

What they stand to lose:
-Their jobs.
-Their position of influence.
-All the free shit that companies and developer friends have given them over the years, potentially for a bit of positive press.
-The moral high ground they’ve used for years to dismiss anyone who spoke out against them, no matter how reasonable or how impartial the attempted dissent may be.

That’s basically it, as far as this section goes. Could have saved myself a whole heap of hassle and just put this up, really.

…God dammit.

Conclusion: Closing Statement & Suggested Further Reading/Viewing

I’m tired. I’m really, truly exhausted by all of this.

I miss when we just called video games a hobby, before we had to quantify it and justify why we liked some games but not others and what label that meant we had to wear.

Honestly, video games have turned into fucking high school.

So, in closing, let me just say, for the record: I’ll play a game about a black, trans amputee with rocket thrusters strapped to their stumps if it’s a fun game. (Now just waiting to see what demographic I excluded in that concept, and who I have oppressed as a result.)

Oh, and if you only take one thing away from this rambling mess of an essay, then please, please let it be this:

War on Women 1War on Women 2

Suggested Further Info on the Topic, because honestly I’ve already written 7,500 words here, but there is SO much more to this, I couldn’t possibly cover it all:

The Fine Young Capitalist Links:

Youtube:

Other:

There will be more to come, I just need to get sorted out with the links, watch this space.

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29 Responses to #GamerGate Origins: Conspiracy, Corruption & Canoodling

  1. /v/ says:

    This is a very good piece of introductory material that quite succinctly covers all ground.
    I thank you for your service.

    • robsimple says:

      Happy to help, if there’s anything you feel I’ve missed out or not thoroughly covered –I know I didn’t even mention Phil Fish and the fake hack on his site– then please feel free to make suggestions/provide links.

      The more solid evidence we can get compiled in more places, the stronger our position will be.

  2. sol badman says:

    Great article! More people need to know

  3. JTS says:

    Thanks for this. The hardest thing so far has been trying to spread the facts of the matter amidst all the censorship.

    • robsimple says:

      No bother, I hope it helps. It looks like some sites are starting to come around, Kotaku have released a statement regarding Patreons apparently, but I still feel like there’s a lot more that has to change before this can be resolved.

  4. TheEvenHand says:

    The only things I can see that you missed are:

    1) Donations from Zoe’s game jam site (which has not been updated in months) go directly into her own personal account pay pal account, which may not be proof of anything, but is par for the course with many of her dubious actions. You clearly have ethics, and i understand why you wouldn’t want to add that without concrete proof of any wrong doing.

    2) Many people closer to Zoe than we are, are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their career’s, and their are several saved images of these people being threatened in such a way. I’ll post a few links to blogs from people claiming to be in the industry, that are posting their thoughts on this anonymously, for fear of reprisal. I know, anyone can say they are anyone on the internet, and pictures can be faked.

    3) Zoe claimed to be mugged, and then happily took donations from sympathizers when she literally has 2 jobs, at least, to rely on. Not illegal, just unethical.

    If i took the time to go back over everything i could probably expand this quite a bit, but long story short? Yes we are very much against what we see as a very immoral human being that has too much influence in the gaming industry (and over other human beings apparently) for our own good. What she has done to so many people is horrific. I like a few of the games that the fine young capitalists are making, and it disturbs me that she nearly destroyed so many peoples careers, five women’s dreams, and stopped games I want to play from being made for reasons we can only speculate about. I, and many others, don’t want her to be able to dictate anything in the gaming industry. We see her as something of a plague, and feel she needs to be stripped of her influence.

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s644c0

    http://gabrielaknight.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/female-indie-devs-perspective-on-the-culture-of-intimidation-in-the-indie-game-dev-journalism-scene/comment-page-1/#comment-21

    http://www.oppressionquest.com/ just because i find it ironic that it’s better in many ways than her own game, while only taking a few days to make.

  5. TheEvenHand says:

    Oh, since your moderating, feel free to edit my post as you see fit. I realize some of that you may not want in your comments. Keep what you need, and please mod this post.

    • robsimple says:

      Thanks for the reply and additional info, if you don’t mind I think I’m going to edit out the bit about the porn site, just because, even though I know it might go against some of the things she preaches about, I think it’s pretty separate from everything else that’s going on and borders a bit too close to slut-shaming, which I’d like to steer clear of.

      Thanks again for taking the time to compile the extra info though; everything helps!

  6. TheEvenHand says:

    Delete this post, just wanna give you a link http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/916373-pc/69912894 There are links on the first page showing a lot of whats going on. We’ve been compiling info since this began because we want something done about this. As much as the first page is to go through, we actually have more. We’re just not a particularly organized bunch, so it’s going to take some time to compile it all.

  7. Disparil says:

    This post was actual journalism! All is not lost, thank you.

  8. TheEggplant says:

    Great summary. My only problem is Jim Sterling seems to be fully supporting Zoe’s narrative.

    I don’t have any respect for him after his pro SJW rants on The Dismal Jesters, but this just cements it.

    • robsimple says:

      I wouldn’t say he’s fully supporting her, but I am disappointed that, given how strongly he has voiced his opinions on transparency and conflicts of interest in the past, he seems to be refusing to make any real comment on all of the damning evidence this has brought up.

      I’m not gonna try and defend him, but part of me wonders, when he’s been so vocal about this stuff in regard to other people, whether or not he’s amongst the journos who’ve been threatened with blacklisting from the industry for speaking up.

      It does sound a bit tin-foil hat brigade, I know, but with more and more devs and journos commenting anonymously that they would lose their jobs for speaking about any of this, publicly, I don’t think it’s something we should rule out.

      • TheEggplant says:

        I would have agreed with you in the past. Especially considering the hard stance he has taken against corporate nonsense, but as I mentioned in the previous comment the mocking he and Johnathan Holmes have engaged in on the Dismal Jesters’ podcast as well as on twitter seems to point towards an expression of attitude. I have lost a ton of respect for many people because of this whole affair and short of complete reversal due to overwhelming evidence it won’t ever be coming back.

      • robsimple says:

        I can understand that, I think more than anything I’m in denial, because I’m a big fan of Jim and I’d feel let down if he turned out to be full of shit.

        For now I’m just content to wait and see what his next move, my bigger concern is that the noise about all of this seems to be dying down; I’m worried that people think Kotaku’s weak little Patreon olive branch was considered enough of a victory to call the whole thing off.

        Then again, I’ve also heard people talk about staging a protest at PAX, I just pray to based god that whoever decides to do it remembers to stay calm and focus on the bigger picture; the absolute last thing we need at this point is to look like a literal angry mob.

  9. mike says:

    I did not read everything in the blog post, but:
    – First it says that media reported about a case of alleged rape without prove is an error
    – But it wants media to report about this “case”, this “huge” case of so “important” stuff
    – Screenshots are prove? Really? I can make you some screenshots…
    – Did you check that the “Young Capitalists” are not just another scam?

    I don’t say the people involved did nothing wrong, but the rage is about a lot of stuff and it just mixes everything. You could ask stuff about specific things that happened, and report that, but don’t mix it with other stuff that is not important to that point.

    And to use this case to show corruption in game journalism is just ridiculous, there are many cases where it is known that large studios got ratings and coverage for money. But in this case you can never prove that sex was exchanged for that. Saying you report about this case because of that is just nuts.

    I don’t have sympathy for the people involved, but what happens here is a witch hunt. And that witch hunt is the reason one cannot discuss about that aspects of this affair that would really be worth discussing. So the people being part of this witch hunt are the ones to blame that the few points worth discussing cannot be discussed in a reasonable way atm.

    Most people care s#it about this. Poor witch hunters.

    • robsimple says:

      You don’t really need to tell me you didn’t read everything I wrote, I could tell from your response. If you’d bothered to read my piece, or spent even five minutes researching the topic elsewhere and actually educating yourself on it, then you’d know that the ‘sex for favours’ allegation is only a tiny part of a much, much bigger issue, and that the only people still focusing on the sex angle are the ones who still hope they can still spin this as just more people being mean to Zoe, because she’s a woman.

      What we’re saying is that to report on the alleged rape and NOT the alleged affair, (despite the fact that the latter is far more related to video games, given the parties that are involved,) and using ‘it’s a strictly personal matter’ as an excuse, is a gigantic hypocrisy.

      It’s a blatant double-standard, and a perfect example of the kind of cherry-picking that goes on in the games press in order to craft a narrative that paints anyone not on their side, not in line with their specific message, as a villain.

      The people most to blame for the points that aren’t being discussed are the ones refusing to have a discussion, i.e. the journalists who are covering their own crooked asses by pretending they’ve done nothing wrong; that there have never been conflicts of interest, ethical fuck-ups or anything else that would paint them as the bad guys, for once; as self-serving shits whose only concern is lining their own pockets and upping their profile.

      I could go on to detail more reasons why I think you’re misguided in your assumptions, but I’m really not sure it would get us anywhere; I’ve laid out all of my evidence and provided numerous sources and that’s apparently not good enough for you, so I don’t know what else you want.

      • mike says:

        My main point was this:
        “And to use this case to show corruption in game journalism is just ridiculous, there are many cases where it is known that large studios got ratings and coverage for money. But in this case you can never prove that sex was exchanged for that. Saying you report about this case because of that is just nuts.”

        Didn’t see how you answer that.

      • robsimple says:

        And again, I did mention that, I said that this case is only a tiny little part of the bigger problem. Yes, there should be stories about how larger corporations use money to game the system –heads should have rolled for the Jeff Gertsmann debacle– but when a developer has an affair with people who can serve to benefit them, regardless of the gender of those parties and regardless of whether or not you think anyone did benefit from it, that is just a much smaller example of the exact same problem.

        This is the thing: ALL of it is news, but the gaming press refuses to report on any of it because they know where their allegiances lie. They know who keeps them in the life to which they’ve become accustomed, and they don’t give a shit about whether it’s ethical or not, because they’re not professionals.

        For the majority of them, they’re just amateurs like me, only they happened to luck out because they were willing to trade their dignity for money and perks.

  10. mike says:

    Did you read the linked article (Totalbiscuit’s response to the DMCA takedown and other fallout)?
    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s4nmr1/

    He thinks the witch hunt is crazy bullshit. I have a clear idea what he would think about this post.

    • robsimple says:

      I not only read it, I linked to it in this article. Again, if you’d bothered to read it before making these comments, you’d know that.

      I think you don’t speak for TB, and have no idea what he’d think about anything, but by all means feel free to direct his attention to this post, I’d be happy to talk it over with him.

      And one other thing: People need to stop using ‘witch hunt’ incorrectly. A witch hunt refers to people going after a completely innocent party. There is more than enough evidence, at this point, to suggest that at least some of the names that have been involved are at fault for something.

      So you can stop trying to paint the side who just wants the truth to be made clear as a bunch of nutbags looking for a problem where there isn’t one.

  11. This might be the most reasonable article I’ve read on this topic. I’ll have to start following you. Rational people are in short supply these days (on the net at least). Good stuff. Keep it up.

    • robsimple says:

      Thank you, I always try to be as balanced in my arguments as possible, because, in this case especially, the facts pretty much speak for themselves.

  12. alwaysaaron says:

    If I had one question to ask Zoe Quinn it would be “Why are all sites and journalists given free licence to attack Max Temkin based solely on an unsubstantiated tumblr accusation, but no one is allowed to question you with far more reason and evidence?” All major gaming sites were all over Max just a month before this issue, In regards to yours, silence, more than silence, closed threads tens of thousands of deleted posts, and a whole lot of “there is no story here” You’ve stated publicly that your personal life is exactly that, personal, after the harassment and threats you have suffered can I assume you and your camp will be speaking out in support of Max Temkin? I sure as hell bet he feels harassed and persecuted in much the same way. Why are your situations so different?”

    • robsimple says:

      I’ve said this all along, if their giddy delight in exposing (the innocent) Temkin while stopping at nothing to censor debate of Quinn isn’t clear and concrete evidence of their hypocrisy, then I don’t know what it will take to convince people.

  13. lightbulbsocket says:

    Toward the end of your article you mentioned Dan Hsu as one of the individuals who’ve been blackballed for not towing the proverbial party line. I was wondering if there was a specific incident you were referring and if you could point people toward some information regarding that incident. “Shoe” is on a short list of individuals I’ve always had a lot of respect for when it comes to journalism in gaming.

    • robsimple says:

      I can’t remember which video it was that directed me to his name, originally, but if I remember correctly he was one of the first journalists to speak out against other journos doing bought reviews -i.e. being paid by companies to give favourable game coverage- around about 2005.

      A load of other journos predictably tore him a new one, apparently because he refused to out his source, but then lo and behold two years later the Jeff Gertsmann/Kane & Lynch debacle goes down.

      I’m not sure how much Dan’s career suffered in the long run, as a result of his actions, to be perfectly honest, but I apparently he caught flak at the time and I think he deserves recognition for having had the balls to call these shitehawks out on their shady dealings at a time when no one else wanted to discuss it.

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