Giant Bomb News

Letter From the Editor 10/17/2014

The staff weighs in on recent events.

We’ve always been a site about different personalities. It’s something that we hope helps us reach as wide an audience as possible. Over the course of the last two months, we’ve seen some people take up arms and begin firing shots back and forth. As we’ve discussed our course of action, and whether this discussion belongs on a site that represents all of us, we’ve tried to respect the opinions of both the staff and our audience. It's been hard at times to watch our hobby, industry, friends, and fans be attacked and to watch many of them also go on the offensive. While the reasons for all this chaos may be diverse, there are clearly actions taking place that are reprehensible. We don’t want to turn the site into a political platform, but at the same time it’s important to be clear that we as a staff and a community will not tolerate abuse, no matter how strongly one’s passions run. We don’t feel we are addressing the offenders that have lashed out most savagely, claiming an agenda to give themselves clearance to continue harassment and attacks. They are not participants in this discussion, and serve only to inflame and frighten those of us who seek resolution. In the end, we’ve decided to speak directly to you, our fans and community. We’ve been talking about this a lot internally, and we believe Jeff’s following thoughts effectively capture what we’ve been feeling over the last few weeks. It has been a trying time, especially for those that have seen the worst of what the Internet can become. We hope through support, civil discussion, and reliance on both facts and empathy, we can heal, and then get back to building and expanding the thing we’re all passionate about: games.

- The Giant Bomb Staff

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The last two months have felt like I've been staring at some kind of slow-motion car crash. Actually, has it only been two months? At this point, it's getting harder and harder to remember a time before Zoe Quinn's unlikely (and almost certainly unwanted) rise to prominence. How, exactly, did we jump from a group of knuckleheads bombing a Steam page for a game designed to, in its own way, help people better understand depression, to a hardened and politicized hate movement? How did we get from people arguing that Gone Home isn't a game to people harassing women in the video game industry while simultaneously claiming that they aren't? It's beyond the pale. And, preposterously, it's still happening. That might be the most shocking part of all.

Despite my name often being attached to the conspiratorial "gate" suffix, I've never been a big fan of the term. So when "GamerGate" rose up to cover over a campaign of harassment with a veneer of concern for the ethics of games journalism, it more or less set off every single disgust alarm I have. Though I'm sure some good people have been roped into this mess under this guise, the ethical concern portion of all this is largely a farce, a fallacy. But the string-pullers at the core of this mess have managed to rope in some number of unsuspecting players who do, in fact, think that this thing starts and stops with outrage over perceived ethical violations in the game journalism industry. To those of you who have been led to believe that this is all about ethics in games journalism and not about the harassment of game developers, I'll say this up front.

You have every right to not believe a word I'm saying here.

I'm a man in the media business. I've been doing this since I was 16. I could sit here and defend my line of work, which I think is largely just and on the level, but if you're deep into the 'Gate, your only reaction will be to probably say "of course he would say that." That's fine. Some of you have been politicized so completely that this is just another "left vs. right" issue to you, and many of you are using the same language used in arguments over other hardened political issues. So keep on "rolling coal" on video games journalism if you think it's actually that corrupt. I'm not here to tell you what to do. But you might want to really look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're spending your time crusading for the right fight. That's all. Make sure this is the position you want to take and, more importantly, how you want that position to be represented. If you genuinely care about ethics in games journalism, GamerGate is not the spot for you. To some of them, "unethical" is being used as a synonym for "a viewpoint I don't agree with." That's not an ethics discussion. That's an attempt to silence criticism. Again, if you do care about ethics in games journalism, GamerGate is destroying your message.

I'm saddened to see the topic that has driven much of my career become so wholly co-opted for hate. Ultimately, that's a side note to the main event, of course. Having people toss all discussion about ethics in games journalism under a bus to hide politicized harassment campaigns is sad for me, but I'll be fine. Games? Game developers? That's what's actually at stake. I'm not sure what the actual end goal of GamerGate seems to be, but it seems to be somewhere between "destroy the careers of anyone who would make a game that falls outside of a certain-yet-unspecified scope and/or topic" and "let's burn it all down because it's fun to see how much trouble we can stir up."

But GamerGate is a speed bump for the video game industry, at best. It was already on its way to the back burner when a fresh crop of death threats whipped everyone back up into a frenzy. The core group of instigators will probably find another group to target, and they'll leave behind a big mess of harassment, hurt, half-truths, and twisted words. It'll be fascinating to see how video games--whether you consider that to be a community, a business, a profession, or a hotbed of increasingly political bickering--moves forward. Regardless of all that, the torrent of harassment being spewed forth needs to stop. I shouldn't need to say "hey, don't issue death threats" for people to understand that issuing death threats is a crappy thing to do, but that's where we're at.

In many ways, that's been the most frustrating part. To watch talented folks like Jenn Frank get pushed right up to a breaking point and for the rest of us to have nothing better to combat this with than "hey, I know you think you're waging some kind of holy war and solving some kind of real-world issue but stop this" feels like the most empty and toothless statement around. It's easy to feel helpless and I don't have a real solution to this. I'm not sure that there is one, honestly. GamerGate has created a group of people who speak in political terms and attack the people they disagree with in the same way a political action group would target someone speaking out against that group's specified cause. They talk in circles that feel like they're designed to waste as much time as possible, exhausting their target in the process.

I hate to present this as one side attacking another side when, at the end of the day, the video games that join this whole thing together makes this more of an "us versus us" sort of conflict. But some of the people falling on the "anti-" side of the GamerGate are employing the same sort of "you are with us or against us" mentality. As those people get more frantic, they also damage the message they're trying to express. Silence isn't complicity. Silence might also be not letting a campaign of hate and chaos be taken seriously by not giving it a place at the table. Now, from a distance, this whole topic looks like every other politicized media conspiracy, with two sides full of extremists and a bunch of people in the middle looking disillusioned by the whole debacle.

Continued success in the face of adversity is the best defense against those that would seek to derail you and mire you in endless arguments that they control, that they frame, and that they aren't actually trying to win. Regardless of your own personal politics, stop letting GamerGate be in your way. For some of you, obviously, that will be an incredible challenge. Some people are getting a lot of hateful garbage hurled their way. But to give in would be to further enable a collection of people who don't even know what they actually want other than to simply disrupt you as much as they possibly can. We can't let that happen. We have faith that video games and the people who make them will persevere.

- Jeff Gerstmann

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+