An Olive Branch from #GamerGate
By Sylect 3 Comments
Massive Word Dump Inc
I started writing this 2 months ago and have been re-editing it and adding to it because I am hoping to capture all my thoughts and feelings on the subject as clearly as possible. I am tired of feeling mad about all of this, I would like to be able to re-establish my feelings of goodwill towards those who I feel have only spurned me for 2 months straight. So this is my olive branch, I want to put this all behind me, at least personally. I am sure #GamerGate will continue on forever but I am tired of it. At the same time, I still feel like I’ve been crapped on. So I am hoping to express myself clearly, not looking to try and convince anyone to join the #GamerGate ranks, and hopefully we can have a smart discussion following and I can put this thing to bed, personally.
I am not trying to be inflammatory with this blog and apologize to anyone who takes it that way. I am simply trying to write down my thoughts and feelings so I can better consider them, if anyone wants to help me in that process, I welcome it.
There hasn’t been any good sort of de-escalation, I am still waiting on someone other than Total Biscuit to acknowledge the issues that are important. It was served up to the staff of Giant Bomb on a silver platter to do that but they (in my opinion) just dodged it like every other publication has, by feeding the trolls. Video game journalists and developers compartmentalized their audience as this vitriolic den of misogyny and hate and #GamerGate continues to grumble about corruption in the industry and a minority is still slinging vile garbage at those in the spotlight on both sides. People may have issues with the close ties that some of the journalists in the industry have with others but I don’t think that is at the heart of the issue.
The Root of the Problem
Sites like Kotaku and Polygon are very popular, I don’t know what their traffic numbers are but I am sure they are pleased as Punch with them. Why are they so popular? Well, it isn’t for hard-hitting news stories. Sure Polygon has some more in-depth pieces but for the most part, both sites are plagued with clickbait. When I say clickbait, I mean, “the titles of their articles suggest something with depth or substance but neither can be found within”. Though I personally think that Polygon has also been engaging in the kind of clickbait that exists only to drum up controversy.
That is why they these site got popular, this stuff popped up on social media and their perfectly SEO’d articles pop up on google.
The problem isn’t that clickbait, while a very disgusting trend, exists. It is when these sites, sites that only exist as a source of easy ad revenue, attempt to represent themselves as credible sources for opinion. Their actions have already shown us that their opinion is for sale.
It becomes even more complex when you consider that there are people within those organizations that are trying to write something better, to bring actual value to the table in terms of substance. They cannot be heard over the rest of the drizzle unfortunately, and while I think all journalism should be considered carefully, the extent to which these sites require the reader to sift through the garbage to get to the good stuff makes it not worth the effort for me at least.
So we should have journalism that is free of personal opinion and influence right? Of course not. This is what brings me to another point: crazy collateral damage.
In the midst of all of this stuff with Zoe Quinn, a couple of lists popped up. One was of organizations and people that we should not support because they are in some way shape or form tied up with Zoe, and a list of people we should support because they have in some way, shape or form done something to combat this journalism corruption. I do appreciate the idea of having a list of people I can boycott to send a message to, to at least say with my ad dollars and attention that I don’t support the way they do business. On the other hand, it has become a bit of a witch hunt and some who I think should not be on the list, are.
Case and point. Giant Bomb and their staff. Yes, Patrick Klepek has had some social interactions with Zoe, has had her with him for some conference speeches and on a couple of podcasts. The difference with GB and other sites that have been implicated is that Giant Bomb has a track record of being above reproach even before it was formed. Jeff Gerstman was fired because his review score couldn’t be bought. And after the site was formed, they elected not to review Bastion because they had concerns that people would accuse them of nepotism based on the fact that they know and worked with Greg Kasavin. So in the case of Giant Bomb, I am choosing to trust that the reason that this person is on their website is because they have something interesting to bring to the table. When I checked out Depression Quest personally, I did find it intriguing, and we have all probably played and enjoyed games as simple if not more than Depression Quest, so who cares, it brings a topic worthy of discussion up in a very interesting way.
I choose to trust Giant Bomb because they are always above board and have time and again demonstrated that their opinions are not for sale. That is why they should not be included in the boycott list.
I have, since writing the previous couple articles, paused my subscription to GB. Since this whole thing started and especially since the op-ed by Jeff, I have felt alienated from the site and have consumed far less than I have previously because, frankly, I haven’t felt welcome. Maybe I’m not, GB has the right to attract whatever demographic of audience they want and I was willing to just swallow it prior to the op-ed but since then I have felt a pretty big disconnect with the staff. Part of the reason I have finally decided to finish this bit of writing and post it here (I didn’t know where or if I would even publish this when I started writing it), is because I am hoping to resolve those feelings.
It seems like we have veered far off the path by now but I really think this is the heart of the matter. Sites like reddit and 4chan bring almost as much journalism to the table and more in a lot of cases than Polygon and Kotaku but because they are individual users and anonymous, they do not have the social platform that the writers for these sites do, and when that position is stretched and contorted and finally abused beyond recognition, the audience will react, some poorly. We have, as an audience, given these people a microphone and now we don’t like what we are hearing but I will come back to that later.
So on one hand, we shouldn’t be mad when there seems to be some sort of corruption within those sites because they already had it plastered up before anything about the Zoe Post came out. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be giving these people a voice in the first place so it is really our fault. As with any group that is large and has no leadership, one of the easiest voices to pick out will be the people who scream the loudest. Unfortunately for this situation, there are lots of those people.
On the side of those who support Zoe Quinn the collateral of people around her post “Zoe Post” the only weapon seems to be minimization. Because of the actions of a small number of trolls, now, no one is able to use the power of a large hashtag without being marginalized, even by the Giant Bomb staff itself.
I think there could be an intelligent discussion on the subject, I mean, look up #gamergate on twitter., You will certainly find a lot of excitable people, but you will also find a lot of people that are just begging for a real discussion. Ed Key, a game developer, said it best, “you might feel disenfranchised, but if people are hostile to you it’s because evil is done in your name.”
That statement sums up the entire problem. No reasonable person is defending the attacks against developers, in the same way that no reasonable person should be defending corruption of any kind in the industry. And yet, because everyone has felt the urge to take sides, they, to some extent have to protect those who they feel represent their views. I feel like you cannot be as reductive as Jeff was in the op-ed. Making vague statements about that sounded a lot like “follow the money” and assuming that everyone in #GamerGate lacks the basic intelligence it takes to discern the truth from obvious idiocy, if there is a cancer you cut it out. So the individuals on the side of the “public” who are engaged in the threats of violence, I don’t consider them a part of the conversation, they should be cut off and cast out. They won’t accomplish anything useful for themselves and will just push those they wish to influence so far away that the rest of us continue to feel disenfranchised.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why so many sites, Giant Bomb included, have only given a voice to the trolls. I have said so many times throughout this whole thing that if people like Patrick would engage the 99% instead of the 1%, they could shape the narrative and this would have probably already be over, but the insistence to only focus on trolls is what drags this out.
Movies and Games
No reasonable fan of cinema would wish for rights activists to dictate to Quentin Tarantino the kinds of movies he would make or the subject matter therein. Why then, is it unacceptable when people rationally reject the idea of the same thing happening within games? I’m not talking about the threats of violence and the doxxing and all of that. I like Mario games, the fact that you are rescuing Peach isn’t that important to me but on principle I reject the idea of a third party coming in and dictating to a company the kinds of games they can make.
Anita Sarkeesian makes the point in one of her videos that women are often just window dressing for these games, they are used as set pieces to vilify someone by their actions towards a helpless woman. I agree that that is happening, a lot. Where I disagree is that it is a bad thing. Of course violence against women is a horrible thing, of course it shouldn’t be trivialized but it is the gravity of the subject matter that makes it speak to me so much. I don’t want to be demonized for fighting against something I hate. I know that she states this as problematic, but I don’t really care, I don’t share her view and my opinion is just as valid as hers.
It all reminds me of the Far Cry 4 box art controversy and how stupid that was. Let’s pretend for a second that the people who were complaining about it were right and the main villain was white (I would love to go into how stupid they all sounded when it turned out that he wasn’t white but whatever, that is pretty obvious right? They all, every single one, looked like a bunch of blathering idiots.). Number one, it seems that the social justice crowd already views white men as the enemy anyway so I don’t understand their outrage when a game follows that along a logical progression and secondly, he is a villain, did they want him to be a good guy that is misunderstood? It isn’t often a game comes along and really sucks me into the story, and I am not claiming that Far Cry 4 will do that, but c’mon, don’t stop the developer from trying. If I am going to spend hours running around a world killing people, at least I should have some sort of motivation for doing it, otherwise I just stop playing like I did after I beat GTA5.
Games, at least many of the ones I enjoy, are built around power fantasies. I apologize to Ms. Sarkeesian but the sanitized world she is hoping for is just gray and unappealing to me. I like to fight against things I perceive as injustice both in real life and in games. I don’t think that is a bad thing.
What about ethics?
So how does this all connect with ethics in journalism? There are obvious no brainer things that I think everyone can agree on, things like not disclosing that you are dating the person in your article that is prompting a purchase, that stuff is easy and should be a pretty boilerplate standard that journalists in the industry abide by. In my opinion, it is shitty that we even need to push for that kind of disclosure, it is so obvious and the fact that it took this movement to bring about those changes doesn’t instill me with a whole lot of trust for some journalists.
I don’t have a problem with journalist knowing their subjects, it has been the thing that has allowed Giant Bomb to release so much great content. The difference between GB and other sites like Kotaku is that, like I said earlier, GB has been so far above board that they are in danger of dying from asphyxiation (get it? Cause they are up so high that there isn’t any oxygen?). #GamerGate, for me, has been an issue of people with a voice dictating the narrative and what the future of games should be to those who don’t. #GamerGate has been an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless.
People within the industry who have positions of power, and you are foolish to believe that these journalists don’t have power, have been using their position to silence people who are opposed to their social stance. So wait Sylect, aren’t you just doing the same thing by trying to have them silenced? Nah. Gaming attempts to be, by every standard you can name, one of the most inclusive mediums of entertainment out there. It has a relatively low bar to entry and it is in the interest of everyone who enjoys it that more people join in. When so-called “social justice warriors” attempt to spark a movement to alienate an entire demographic and probably the largest demographic within gaming, they hurt the industry. The gaming industry is big enough to be able to shoulder the release of games for every kind of individual. If you take issue with a particular game’s portrayal of a gender or race, make a better game that does it right, but don’t assume that simply because it didn’t speak to you in some way means it didn’t me.
King and Queen Makers
Because we exist in such a connected era, it is hard to find quality sometimes (ie Steam). It has become necessary that there are king and queen makers who can point people in the direction of quality. Giant Bomb has been that for me for years. I feel like I know the editors, their likes and dislikes, and so I know that if Brad likes something, I probably will as well, if Jeff likes something, I MIGHT like it and if Patrick likes something, it is probably interesting for some reason or another and warrants a look (also that Patrick is the only editor that truly appreciates quality stealth). That kind of relationship can only exist because I have spent the time to get to know the personalities of the editors and have extended them trust.
I used to browse Kotaku for the clickbait when I wanted to turn my brain off, but I never considered myself part of their community. Yet they have a community, a large one, and so when issues arise that suggest that the king and queen makers at Kotaku are pushing their own agendas or doing favors for friends, it raises red flags for me. I don’t want that crap anywhere in the industry because it hurts all of us. Scout’s honor, I wouldn’t have an issue with Patricia Hernandez if she had just been honest up front. But to hide information because you know that it will color the reception of your work? It’s gross, and it paints our hobby in a bad light.
There is a lot of trust that has to be extended to these individuals as Jeff has stated numerous times, and I get angry when there are blatant examples of someone knowingly and willfully violating that trust for whatever ends.
I think that pretty much sums up my thoughts and feelings. I hope it wasn’t too painful for anyone who spent their time sifting through it. I would love to discuss these thoughts and understand that I may be off base in an area or two, I just want to heal the fracture I feel personally and move on and no longer feel like I have to actively take place in the #GamerGate community to feel included in this hobby of ours.
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