When your primary reading demographic starts asking probing questions about the ethics of your business practices, you don’t get to act surprised and self-righteous after your only response is to slander and malign anyone questioning you.
It’s been less than two days since I wrote my first piece about the #GamerGate movement on Twitter, but there have been a couple developments since then, and I’ve received a LOT of feedback, some of which deserves to be addressed.
(Once again, there will be links and images containing foul language.)
Several people talked to me privately, both politely and not so politely, wanting to know what I’m basing my judgment of Quinn on. More specifically, they think it’s horrific that people are so adamantly convinced that these apparently real claims of harassment are fake, and they are believing what ever major gaming news outlet is telling them: That it’s a sad month to be a “gamer.”
If you want the level-headed, more impartial article, check out my previous one.
THIS article is in response to my frustration at the growing levels of bullying and misinformation being spread by most major gaming outlets.
So let’s get some things straight:
Asking someone to provide proof of harassment or wrongdoing is NOT “Victim blaming.”
Anita Sarkeesian has often vocally claimed that the biggest detriment of modern society is that women are forced to prove they have been harassed, instead of being given the benefit of the doubt.
Unfortunately for Sarkeesian, that’s not how the real world works… and it’s not even the correct application of the term “victim blaming.”
No one is under any moral or legal obligation to take ANY claim at face value. The justice system is ideally meant to follow a system of “innocent until proven guilty.” While everyone from writers to law enforcement should, and usually do, take claims of harassment seriously, if you’re going to claim harassment or accuse another party of harassing you, then you need to be prepared to demonstrate proof.
Asking someone currently embroiled in an industry-wide scandal to provide evidence to back up their claims is not only reasonable, but advisable. Unfortunately, Quinn, Sarkeesian, and the numerous media outlets lined up behind them have done nothing but demand special standards and place the burden of proof on the readers and skeptics… when they acknowledge that proof is important at all.
The media avoids digging into it, because there is remarkably little hard evidence surrounding Quinn’s claims:
Quinn claims, and provides a screenshot supposedly taken from a forum thread on the website, that the denizens of WizardChan hated her for daring to make a game and be a woman at the same time, sparking a movement threatening her with bodily and financial harm. These are some very serious threats.
This is bizarre because WizardChan is a website for introverted men suffering from chronic depression and suicidal tendencies. While the single comment Quinn shared might be real, the users of WizardChan were appalled that someone who not only threaten Quinn, but that they were getting blamed for it, and assembled a rather poorly organized and emotional, but very contrary version of events.
The second problem I have is the alleged doxxing that occurred… primarily that it doesn’t make sense. Several amateur internet sleuths have raised questions regarding the claims of a doxxing attack made by Zoe Quinn and another indie-game developer, Phil Fish.
Fish wasn’t mentioned in the last article, but has been an ardent defender and ally of Quinn.
Both claimed that accounts of theirs had been hacked, and documents released to the public. However, people who ACTUALLY hack things have pointed out the incorrect timelines, and the fact that certain accounts which would had to have been hacked into first, in order to gain access to the ones that were never touched.
Everyone who was blamed for doing it has basically released “If I Did It” posts, explaining that they could never do what was claimed to have been done.
This actually creates a problem for Phil Fish, because if the claims that he staged the incident are true, he could be prosecuted for exposing employee information.
Victim blaming is accusing the victim of having done something to deserve their abuse and/or viciously mocking them for it.
Asking questions isn’t victim blaming.
Demanding answers and clarification for some suspicious claims isn’t victim blaming….
VICTIM BLAMING is victim blaming.
Something Phil Fish should know well:
This is a textbook example of what “victim blaming” is; arguing that the victim deserved it based on their own actions, and then cruelly mocking them for it. It even fits Sarkeesian’s definition.
This behavior is by no means uncommon. However, if Quinn, Sarkeesian, and the overwhelming number of gaming journals are to be believed… this sort of behavior is an anomaly.
These few bad apples or moments of indiscretion don’t represent the whole group, right? In fact, taking the worst things you can find and holding them up as examples of the norm would just be irresponsible, right?
Except that is literally what Sarkeesian has been doing to the entire video industry and culture. She and her supporters defend this by saying that even if they WERE guilty of cherry-picking, the fact that these examples exist to begin with demonstrates a problem. So that makes it OK.
Well, as long as we’re cherry-picking, we might as well cherry-pick from BOTH sides.
Bad behavior, threatening comments, and actual digital assault is by no means limited to any misogynistic outliers in the gaming community. It’s JUST as prevalent among people who have become flippantly known as “Social Justice Warriors.”
How? Well because I’m not just talking about random faces in the crowd doing things like threatening teenage boys with physical violence because they questioned the Sacred Cow nature of the “#YesAllWomen” movement, or of the more recent issue of people not only DEFENDING those death threats, but straight-up saying that the lives of people like Sarkeesian are more important…
I’m not even talking about people in Quinn’s crowd of followers doxxing, harassing, and doing EXACTLY to other people what they claim is being done to Quinn.
I’m talking about mainstream figureheads in the movement. Not just random, disgruntled plebes, but JOURNALISTS with more than a thousand followers; making threatening comments, insulting the intelligence and lineage of anyone who disagrees, saying gamers are worse that ISIS… and saying they should be killed:
Are they jokes? Probably. Hopefully. If the roles were reversed, and the gaming community made jokes like these, it would NEVER fly. The people posting would be crucified in the media and… oh wait…
That’s already happening.
But that’s OK, because it’s all done in the name of EQUALITY!
Except it’s not.
Gaming media has presented a disturbingly united front against gamers, against #GamerGate, against anti-Quinn people, and most importantly, against anyone who asks too many questions.
Anyone in the public who disagrees with the approved story is now a misogynist.
Anyone who’s a gamer is being told their hobbies and pastimes are dead or dying; that they should be ashamed.
And any gaming news outlet that doesn’t tow the line is turned out on it’s ear… not always metaphorically. While journalists who are financially linked to the people in question are given top billing for their “objective” stories, TechRaptor, an Australian tech news site, tried to run an article that questioned Quinn’s story… and their host promptly cancelled their service, shutting the site down.
Any reporters who ask questions are boxed out, or, in Kotaku’s case, told to shut up or get fired.
Gaming journalists who have built their entire lives and careers on the industry are now preaching its impending death, apparently convinced that they can kill it with a wave of socially-correct propaganda and censorship.
Unfortunately, it appears that they are DEAD WRONG.
Every major gaming site has spent the last week doing nothing but shaming the gamer culture and talking about how it doesn’t need them anymore.
This graph of the traffic and popularity of some of the biggest names in gaming journalism would indicate otherwise.
This is what happens when you try and put a media blackout on a topic that raises ethical questions about your professional practice: People stop trusting you for information.
They’re confident that they can still coast to victory by taking the moral high-ground; fighting for minorities and defending the defenseless.
Except that’s failing too.
As much as Forbes wants this “minor scuffle” in a “not very exciting” industry to be a domestic dispute between diverse, equality-loving journalists and their homogenous, male, misogynist readers… nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the remarkably diverse citizenry of “gamer culture,” including a huge number of women, are tired of being told that they’re all racists/sexists… and then see themselves exploited by the media outlets they disagree with.
Gamers of all stripes and genders are tired of being told that the obviously corrupt gaming journalists are doing all of this for their own good.
So they are telling them, quietly and simply, that they are not a shield for journalists to hide behind:
This is just a TINY sample of what’s going on with #NotYourShield… it’s encouraging and it’s amazing.
If you’re feeling discouraged by the behavior of journalists or depressed by the industry, then just spent some time reading these tweets.
The journalists did get ONE thing right. It IS a rough time to be considered a gamer:
Our indie-developer culture, meant to help newbies and start-ups get their foot in the door… is actually one of the most rigged, corrupt, and exploited areas of the industry.
This exploitation is being covered up under a mask of feminism. NOT real feminism, but a twisted parody.
Gaming journalism, the industry that wouldn’t even exist without gamers, has decided to revile them, censure them, and shame them… as loud and as long as they can. Worst of all, evidence points to it being the most corrupt, inbred system of all.
Apparently in the process of trying to squelch a surprisingly huge subset of people, they forgot how social media works… and they forgot how people themselves work.
Gamers are an incredibly diverse, MASSIVE group of people that are tired of being used as a punching bag by their own media outlets, and web-traffic is indicating that.
Gaming culture isn’t dead, isn’t dying, and it isn’t an exclusive club. Gaming journalism, on the other, could very well be all three.
Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central PA. Follow him on Twitter!