PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Anti-GamerGate Answers (part 2)

on September 18, 2014

No answers have been changed/merged for this one.

Some answers may not be included if they misunderstood the question – they may instead have moved to ‘bonus’ as a section. Will highlight if that is the case.

People are anon if they didn’t explictly say “call me x”. Email me again if you want to change that 🙂 Anon referencing consistent within this topic, but not with others.

1. What problems do you have with #GamerGate? Can you give me specific examples?

Anon7: “The fundamental flaws in the arguments presented – Games are only entertainment/fun and can not be art. That cultural context has no value to games.
Misogynistic harassment of (women in) the industry e.g. Zoe Quinn, Jenn Frank, Leigh Alexander and many many more besides
Failing to attack the sources of power where real corruption has been proven e.g. You Tube videos
Fundamentally I found GamerGate arguments horrifically naive, lacking in critical thinking, unsupported and sometimes toxic. As a campaign against corruption in games journalism it was as stupid and flawed as the anti-vaccine campaign, with the power of celebrity (Adam Baldwin/ Jenny McCarthy) versus rational thinking.”


Anon8: “My problems with #GamerGate is that it was triggered immediately after “The Quinnspiracy.” It was clearly meant to continue to attack Zoe and her friends while operating under the “ethics” banner, which I think is disgusting. GamerGate is focused on attacking individuals… not companies. That’s what disgusts me. They’re ruining jobs. Obvious attacks include hacking Zoe’s Tumblr and email accounts and tweeting to her and her followers her own nude photos that her ex released. If this was about ethics, they would show them.
The Fine Young Capitalists were merely used by 4chan to try to prove that they don’t mind women in video games by donating them a large amount. This stupid video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGpJ39JBTLo was made to boast about it. When I found out the person behind TFYC was a man, I was instantly disgusted. It seems clear that his agenda was to use women by only giving them 8% and he’s probably a 4channer himself.
Vivian James…. a female anime character that 4chan created so they’d have a “woman” that would agree with them. What’s funny, as hinted at the video above, they started making porn of her. Clearly they can’t help sexualizing even their own female characters.”


Anon9: “My main issue with gamergate is that the movement is based on a lot of misinformation. This leads to completely innocent people being called out and attacked in a witchhunt. This keep happening because there are people out there honestly thinking they are uncovering a secret underground web of developers. The truth is much more simple. Almost everyone knows each other in the gaming industry, and almost everyone is friends with each other. The community just isn’t very large. You can link any active member of the indie scene to journalists and people in power.

A few good examples include:
Crypt of the Necrodancer devs being attacked due to an extremely loose connection with silverstring media which then has a connection to someone who dated brandon boyer who is the chairman of the IGF.
Their response:

The IGF being loosely linked to silver string media and called out on misinformation about the judging process (that Brandon Boyer somehow has full control over who wins when it’s based on over 200+ judges).
Their response:

Further accusing IGF of creating racket to make fez it’s grand prize winner.
1. The judges called out in the “racket” weren’t even judges that year.
2. They didn’t invest until after the voting process finished.

I’d link the video but it’s taken down from lawyers going after the creator. https://twitter.com/ShortFatOtaku/status/509495878990987264″

Anon10: “Like many hashtag campaigns, it is unfocused and vulnerable to individual actors. The overwhelming message is for “better game journalism” but no actual arguments for what makes it “better” have been made. Most responses show a staggering unawareness of how journalists work with sources and make personal relationships. Actual ethical breaches should be investigated and redressed, but the whopping majority of the “unethical journalism” that GamerGate proponents seem to be pointing out is any journalism that treats the threats and harassment of Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian as credible. The Jenn Frank case is a beautiful example: she complied with every aspect of the Guardian’s well-honed ethics policy and disclosed relationships to them before the piece was published. But, because it presented a narrative in opposition to GamerGate, it was condemned. GamerGate has also been notorious for using unproven or even disproven “information” as a foundation for outreach – all of the conspiracy diagrams, videos et cetera predicated on circumstantial “evidence” at best are a huge problem, especially for a group which is ostensibly about journalistic ethics.”
Anon11: “My problem with #gamergate is that is is inexplicably linked to sexism and harassment. Although I do not consider the accusations of corruption valid or sensible, it is important to point out that they aren’t new. Unfounded accusations of corruption are part of the background noise of being a games journalist. I think this is important to point out, because part of #gamergate’s defence mechanism is to claim that accusations of sexism are levelled in order to deflect from the corruption issues. They don’t realise that we’ve been dealing with corruption accusations for years. We don’t feel threatened by them. They’re annoying, but we’re not afraid of them. We don’t have any real need to discredit them. The only think that sets #gamergate apart is the level of abuse and sexism involved.

#gamergate began with a notable right wing celebrity linking to a video smearing a female developer’s sex life. The accusations of corruption that were levelled at this developer had been debunked days ago, but he still linked to it. This is standard for #gamergate. Their accusations are always rapidly debunked, but they continue to believe them as long as they fit their agenda. There is a hypocritical double standard at the heart of #gamergate. It accuses The Guardian and The New Yorker of biased reporting, but believes Breitbart, so long as it takes their side. One cannot debate with such an inherently dishonest movement.

Some #gamergate supporters will say that this does not reflect them personally, but that is the problem with being part of an anonymous mass. Perhaps there is someone somewhere who supports #gamergate and has been totally honest, open minded and scrupulous the entire time, but I can’t really see that person behind the mass of angry hypocrites. This is especially difficult because I have seen people who position themselves as ‘voices of reason’ within #gamergate break down into sexist remarks after I tried to reason with them. It is impossible to tell a ‘reasonable’ person from an unreasonable one without a lengthly debate, which is impossible for any one person to do.”

@SteampunkKanye: “My problems are many, numerous and looooong, as you’re about to find out. None probably apply to every member of GamerGate, though I’d imagine that for this level of intellectual dissonance to be maintained for a month, most do. They often depend on which #GamerGate we’re discussing – two distinct ones seem to have emerged. There’s the original ones, the ones who use GamerGate as a shield behind which they can engage in harassment, humiliation and in some cases actual cybercrime. Almost all of them seem to specifically dislike the idea of social justice or social progressivism, or at the very least think it’s unnecessary. They’re clearly just awful people, and should be decried.

Then there’s the ones who’ve been swept up, who have issues with the press and who’ve finally found people who’ll listen to them, trying to reframe it around their concerns. For most all of them, the main objection seems to be being tied in with the first group, with most assuming #GamerGate is a legit cause with its trolls, rather than an astroturfing campaign set up to divert criticism from said trolls, with whom all this originated. To someone who’s been following it from the beginning, it’s kind of funny to see people throwing on a hashtag started by the trolls they then complain about being generalised with, but I get why it’s happening. They’re patsies, and I feel sorry for most of them. I’ve had perfectly fruitful conversations with many of them, and there’s almost always a point where everyone involved realises that it’s all just a matter of semantics and priorities once misconceptions have been addressed. It should be noted that many of them also specifically dislike the idea of social justice or social progressivism, or at the very least think it’s unnecessary, but their belief in GG isn’t obfuscation like it is with the first lot, and thus are at least talking in good faith.

A problem that’s common to both of them is that many of them don’t understand journalism. As has been noted on your page, journalism revolves around working relationships with the people you report on. Editors and such are there to make sure that those relationships don’t get in the way of the publication’s understanding of the truth, but those relationships are vital on their coverage, and are a core element of how journalism works. See also: Jenn Frank’s editorial experience with The Guardian, one of the foremost newspapers in the world, not being up to the standards to which the GG crowd think journalism is held. Not just gonzo or consumer journalism – traditional journalism isn’t held to those standards either , nor should it be, lest it interfere with their journalistic duty to inform the public of their knowledge. Walter Cronkite opposed Vietnam. Edward R. Murrow opposed McCarthy. Every journalistic outlet in traditional journalism semi-publically has its own biases, which they often go to some lengths to preserve. This is how journalism functions, because professional journalism is made up almost exclusively of people telling the truth as best they can.

But if they understood journalism, they’d understand that basically none of their claims or random conspiracy theories (yes, including the Wizardchan one and the Zoe post) have the evidence to justify the intrusion into people’s personal lives, which also perfectly explains why no credible game site wanted to cover this stuff at first and still considers them to completely lack credibility.

Many of them also misunderstand several aspects of games journalism. The first being that it’s a conglomeration of several kinds of journalism – trade journalism, art journalism, media journalism, consumer journalism – all of which fall under the remit of “not real journalism”. There have been investigative parts undertaken, many of which have been great, but they’re few and far between. Which isn’t to say there aren’t ethical issues. Anyone with even slight insight into the games journalism world will know that journos never shut the hell up about ethical issues, whether they’re being violated and how they could be addressed. It’s actually really annoying a lot of the time.

One conclusion games journalists have come to is that the journalistic and development worlds are so small and ever-shifting that it would be tedious to disclose every person they know related to a project i.e. most if not all of them. No-one wants every review to be prefaced with “I met their CEO at a convention but he didn’t like me. Their 2D artist used to work at another company with a PR guy I once went drinking with. I think I said hi to her at a party once, and I thought she was kinda cute at the time but according to Facebook she’s got a new haircut that puts me off her now because ewww, white person dreads. I shared a taxi with one of their animators once but I got out early because he kind of has B.O. issues.” plus however many other cutesy little anecdotes make up all the relationships they’ve half-formed. If you want a list of people involved with the game the journo knows, look up the credits, and maybe subtract the game babies if the journo isn’t that prominent. It’s inevitable, and almost always helpful, that they will know people. If they know someone at a senior level, the journo should probably inform their editor to check for undue bias or even recuse themselves from certain types of coverage (basically just reviews from outlets which emphasise mass-market consumer journalism). I personally believe that insightful coverage can be done even from a great degree of intimacy with the subject, such as in Cara Ellison’s excellent EMBED WITH or S.EXE columns, which display the outstanding potential of gonzo journalism in a games journalism environment.

I’ve yet to see a suggestion of theirs that wouldn’t make games journalism worse, less fit for service than it is right now.

And while we’re here, corruption is the abdication of professional responsibility i.e. not being truthful in your reporting in a journalism context. It is not, say, really liking an indie developer so much that you bring them up in a bunch of editorially justified contexts, even if they hugged you once, or if you enjoyed their poetry (none of these things are proof of personal relationships either!), or if you supported their Patreon, or Kickstarter, or preordered their game. It’s also not reporting that someone you lived with once has a game out. Do they actually have a game out? Great, then you’re being truthful. No corruption!

I have a problem with the fact that few of them care to understand too. It’s easier to say that journalists are part of the conspiracy than to admit that maybe, if basically every informed voice is telling you that you are wrong, you might just plain be wrong. This one I have a real problem with because it’s a very gross flavour of intellectual arrogance. Not only do they know better than all these experts, they know that all these experts are disingenuous, so corrupted from the start that nothing they say should lead to self-examination on the part of the arrogant. They know everything. They’re not involved in the industry, they don’t know anyone who is, they don’t have any insight and they reject any insight they’re given, but they definitely know everything. This comes from larger nerd issues that stem from “people who placed their sense of self-worth in being smart rather than being socially capable”, and also has its roots in the same conclusion-first logic as intelligent design, climate change denial and anti-vaccination rhetoric.

Many of them do understand all these things, but it’s not really about that for them, they’re just saying it is because it obfuscates the fact that they just dislike marginalised groups making their way in the industry. Fuck them specifically.

Another problem is that many of them also don’t seem to understand moderation. More specifically, that when they sign up for a forum, they agree to be subject to the moderators’ desire to keep their community nice and in line. It’s not censorship, you guys, it’s people not wanting to host your toxic discussions. You have a right to speak, not a right to force someone else to host your speech. Get a blog like every other angry kid.

Many also don’t understand people; at the very least, they assume everybody is a cynical chess-master, conspiring with unerring accuracy to steer an entire industry in lockstep with their beliefs (in its most benevolent form, the belief in progressive articles all being “clickbait” i.e. something you can dismiss without considering or self-examining; in its least, accusing people of orchestrating or creating their own harassment while also harassing them). This is true of literal sociopaths, and sociopaths tend not to be good enough with grey areas to go into media. (again, while we’re here, Zoe Quinn makes games all about her emotions. She’s by all accounts very in touch with her emotions. She’s not a sociopath. Stop calling her that.) It never occurs to them that maybe these guys are sincerely interested in progressivism, sincerely excited by the avant-garde of their medium, hungry to do the best job they can. These are all better known as “the way almost every media journalist and independent creator has ever been, ever.” They don’t understand people, or they sublimate their understanding of people when it flatters their own perspective.

My running theory is that the fact that they don’t understand people is why so many of them need to get so invested in a subculture based around escapism where every interaction with another person is systemic and quantifiable, but obviously that doesn’t apply to everyone. And again, many of them do understand these things, but they’re just obfuscating the fact that they just dislike marginalised groups making their way in the industry. I hope they never procreate or form a lasting emotional connection with another person, and die alone and alienated.

A surprising number also don’t understand videogames, really. At least, not as well as they think they do. They understand systems, sure. They typically favour their systems-based games. Their idea of “objective” reviews are almost exclusively about reporting on what it’s like to interact with the systems. They’re the people who worked out whether killing or saving Little Sisters in Bioshock was numerically advantageous, rather than engaging with whether they wanted to kill a little girl. The aesthetic properties seem not to matter to them nearly as much, and man many of them seem to hate it when an aspect of their aesthetic is viewed as more important than the systems! But games have always been an intersection of the underlying systems and the aesthetics which articulate and accompany them (another thing a load of them seem to hate: considering games as a whole experience to which everything contributes, rather than as individual parts which should only be considered in isolation). There have always been games which have emphasised their aesthetic aspects; Myst is an obvious one, as well as many adventure games (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream springs to mind). Games exist on a spectrum from abstract, systems-based games to narrative-heavy visual-novel games, and at every point in between, and basically never at the extremes, and that the unity between these two things creates the transcendent value a game provides; the whole, holistic experience it creates. Without that, you’re into less than half of a videogame, with whatever “greater than the sum of its parts” the emergent experience brings. We’ll come back to this later, because it’s important.

So many of them don’t seem to understand, or care, that games aren’t created in a bubble, but that every decision which goes into their design is a reflection of the cultural, social, academic and political mores of the world around the designers. Even outside of the themes of the game itself or anything the games are trying to express, many motivating factors regarding the game’s design will be reflections of cultural, social, academic or political pressures. They don’t understand that this game then goes back out into the world and informs the constantly developing, constantly re-emerging culture from whence they came, or the responsibilities which come with that. They don’t’ understand that this makes every game political, directly or indirectly, like in that article I’m sure you have open somewhere that I’d very much like for you to link to here, Jenni. That, or they don’t think it should be addressed in game writing. Maybe they don’t want to think about real-world stuff. Maybe they don’t want the responsibility which that context brings. Maybe they just want to play their games, not minding that not challenging the status quo is as political as challenging it.

Once again, many of them do understand these things, but they’re just trying to justify not liking women and gays and the like. I hope they appreciate that they’ve affected nothing, they’ve changed nothing, they have no power and that everyone who matters sees right through them because they’re not even slightly as smart or powerful as they desperately want to believe they are.

I have a problem with the fact that many – I’m gonna say most – GamerGate types understand that games are changing, but they certainly don’t like it. They don’t like that game makers are progressing with the times, and the community is becoming both more diverse and more expressive of their diversity. They wouldn’t mind the women and the gender and sexual minorities, just so long as they made the exact same kinds of games with the exact same aesthetic qualities as the men did when they made up more of the industry. They’re not, though, and the GamerGate folks don’t really like that. They don’t like that indie games are pushing those buttons, making new kinds of games about new kinds of experiences, but they could ignore that.

What they really don’t like is that games journalism is changing too. As games are evolving, taking on a wider array of functions, the framework for game analysis must necessarily evolve with it. A media journalist’s first duty is to talk as best they can about their medium, and if their current framework isn’t fit for that duty, it should be changed to better facilitate them. In particular, while systems are evolving, aesthetic sophistication is growing at a far faster rate, and games journalism is necessarily shifting to better evaluate this sector. Reviews are looking less like consumer reviews of boxed products and more like reviews of music, literature or film. They’re covering independent stuff alongside wider releases, and in many cases, they prefer the indies. They place games in context, and hold games to task for their roles within that context. They focus on the holistic experience of a game, rather than simple systems analyses, which many GamerGate types hold up as being “objective” or free from personal bias, rather than what they actually are, which is boring and childish without any extra freedom (there’s a reason GoodGamer reviews come off as so outdated and superficial, and it’s not just down to the amateur writing). One great element can save a game. One terrible decision can sink it. It’s down to the subjective experience of a reviewer you either trust or who you view as having similar tastes to you.

GamerGate types don’t like this for a number of reasons. Sometimes they just want to know about the fun of interacting with systems, the simple pleasure of something entertaining, so to them this is reviews no longer being fit for purpose now that “let us have fun with your toy” isn’t the sole duty of a video game (it never was, but that’s the narrative!). Some don’t like their games being held accountable for their social or political context, or don’t like how that context reflects on them. Some don’t like that the complexity of current games commentary means that they don’t have the mindset or insight to potentially participate. Some don’t like that perspectives they see themselves in are valued less than other perspectives. Some just plain don’t like women. Either way, there’s a strong feeling that their perspective was once reflected in games journalism, but now isn’t, and none of them agree that their being left behind is necessary for a stronger discourse with a future generation. They’re old hoary rockists unable to understand new music critics willingness to find value in pop and hip hop and electronic music. They’re every film critic who railed against Bonnie and Clyde, while young, sparkly-eyed upstarts Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert hailed it as the coming of a new paradigm. They’re conservative, mostly in the non-political sense; they like things the way they were, and they wanted them to stay that way. And they’re wrong, because games will move on anyway, with or without them, productively or painfully.

Again, probably none of them all fit these problems, and none in equal measure. Each is an amalgamation of many of them, enough to shape their perspective and shield that perspective from the criticism of people who, frankly, know better. But their concerns are, in so many ways, retrograde. They’re behind the times, and they’re clawing at the gaming world to stay put. They’re not saving videogames, they’re sinking videogames. They’re stagnating and stymying videogames. They love their medium so much they never want it to leave them, which is understandable, but the medium needs to leave them to survive.

Oh, also, all the harassment, DDoSing, doxing and other general-purpose grossness. I have a problem with that, but so do many of them in fairness.”

2. Are there any points #GamerGate has raised that you want to see addressed?

Anon7: “I do think the mainstream games media is very very broken, but that’s not who they are attacking. There should be more transparency for the AAA PR machines. Any indie issues are very small fry by comparison. Where we saw large corporate websites changing their policies to satiate the baying crowds – that’s something we should be worried about.”


Anon8: “Their agenda? Nothing. I think it’s bogus, which has been made clear by the released IRC logs that 4chan released themselves. If you haven’t seen them, http://puu.sh/boAEC/f072f259b6.txt. Everyone that I’ve talked to about GamerGate, as I Told you, seem so angry and wound up over Anita and Zoe. They aren’t concerned with journalism at all.”


Anon9: “No, stop.”


Anon10: “I think there are people in the movement who believe that games journalists aren’t representing their best interests. I also think there are actors on the establishment side (myself included) who have been dismissive to those people. I believe that misogynists, harassers and trolls should be ignored and mocked, full stop. But due to the nature of the movement, some good people were lumped into that.”


Anon11: “Again, I don’t believe #gamergate actually raised any new points. Everything they have said has been debated and discussed more productively beforehand. Whether it’s the ethics of crowdfunding for reporters, at what point friendship becomes too close for real criticism, or the meaning of the word ‘gamer’. It all gets discussed on twitter all the time.

Indirectly it has raised the important issue of how gaming media responds to harassment and rumour mongering. Many outlets struggled figure out how to approach the initial smear campaign. While explicit condemnation makes us feel like we’ve done the right thing, we also worry that any kind of coverage just spreads the issue further and results in more intense harassment. The initial pre-gamergate harassment campaign really took off after a prominent youtuber posted an ill thought out, poorly researched opinion on the subject. No-one wants to make that mistake.”


@SteampunkKanye: “There absolutely should be more discussion of corruption and ethical issues in the games industry. It’s in the AAA scene, not the indies; the traditional games many of you like exclusively, not the avant-garde that’s coming to destroy (read: influence slightly, possibly) your vidya games. The indie games aren’t the ones buying up all the ad space. The indie games aren’t the ones where ex-editors of major publications go to head up their PR departments (this happens all the time, and usually isn’t an issue but sometimes presents a problem).

Article titles could stand to be more consistently reflective of their content and less reflective of whatever the editor thinks would be more marketable as an idea for an article.

Also, cultural shifts and accompanying shifts in reviewing frameworks should have been both better articulated and better justified.

Those last two both sum up why the “gamers are dead” articles offended so many people out there, though “gamers are growing to the point where gamers as a mostly homogenous subculture is becoming even less relevant than it ever was” is kind of unwieldy.

And yes, the indie game scene really is quite cliquey, though this is partially exaggerated by people on the outside for other reasons. People become friends with other people in the same industry, especially when they dig their stuff. It’s inevitable and not all that surprising.

Tl;dr – some of their problems are actual problems, almost none of them are as big of a deal as they say they are and the other is in the exact other direction. And yes, this is the section which gets a tl;dr.”


3. Are there any points #GamerGate hasn’t raised that you think it really should do?

Anon7: “Failure to consider real corruption in favour of attacking the minorities, and failure to acknowledge this as a short falling of their position. The real need for critical thinking to be taught in schools, so that reasoned arguments become a viable option.”


Anon8: “#GamerGate is really concerned with female game devs and journalists that have enough trouble paying rent. I think the relationships big named developers have with developers is disgusting. For instance, when Ubisoft let reviewers play Watch_Dogs, they gave each of the reviewers a free tablet computer. They’re not bringing this up. A huge thing I think that is wrong with the gaming industry is that developers jobs depend on MetaCritic most of the time. Why does an average number determine what employees should get paid and how much, if any in terms of bonuses? That’s a stupid system. So if a game developer makes a controversial game that is still good, if more than 15% of reviewers don’t like it, they miss their bonus.

The main thing is I think is “gamers” is dead. It’s not an identity anymore. Just like there aren’t moviers, musicers, or bookers. Video games is another form of media that is there for PUBLIC consumption… not a nerd minority. Most people play games now that computers are more affordable and nearly every smart phone is capable of playing some rather fine games. The gaming audience isn’t exclusive anymore, nor should it be.

This means gamers do not own video games. Video games belong to everyone who chooses to play them. This means everyone can critique video games and they should be able to critique video games without getting death and rape threats. You and I both know this didn’t start with GG. This has been going on for a long time and I hope the public sees these hate-based attacks for what they are.”


Anon9: “No, No more drive-by “points””


Anon10: “ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT SYSTEMATIC INSTITUTIONAL CORRUPTION IN JOURNALISM. Read this: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s8at4s – media journalism is constructed entirely on a system of access corruption. Nobody in the hashtag is seemingly concerned with this, instead choosing to pursue personal vendettas against individuals who don’t align with their ideological biases.”


Anon11: “I don’t think anyone wants their pet issues to be championed by a cause like #gamergate, I think it would do more damage than good. I would like to see more scrutiny of the youtube payola issue investigated by Simon Parkin and Mike Rose a few months ago, which actually constitutes proven ethical lapses, something not yet found in games journalism. However I would not wish #gamergate to be involved. I may not agree with youtubers, ”


@SteampunkKanye: “No. GamerGate is too tarnished for actual discourse, too stained by wilful ignorance and gleeful harassment. It’s bad branding to attach anything that matters to this festering carcass of a controversy.”


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