Friday, November 28, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 2: A History Lesson

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

What really happened?

To understand the history of GamerGate, we have to go back. Back further even than the beginning.

Jeff Gerstmann is a figure that's been prominent within games journalism for years. Even before the 21st century began, he was a public face of gaming. Gerstmann served as Editorial Director for Gamespot for a period of time before the game Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was released. I have personally played Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and in my opinion the game is a resounding “Meh.” It's like an archaic Grand Theft Auto without the open-world aspect; essentially a corridor shooter in a game engine that's not built for that. Gerstmann reviewed the game for Gamespot, giving it a “fair” recommendation but overall rightly panning the game as lacking. Gerstmann was shortly afterwards dismissed from Gamespot. It was later revealed the publisher, Eidos, was unhappy with the review and, in the words of Gerstmann, “management gave into publisher pressure.”

Robert Florence was a writer for Eurogamer. Or he was, until he wrote a piece detailing corruption in the games press back in 2012. You might recognize, if you've been following my work here, the picture used in the 'amended' version of the article.

The original version of that article is available at Neogaf. Florence was dismissed for saying the following:
One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: "Urm... Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that's a bad thing?"

Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: "Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider"

And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist's apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she's in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I'm sure she isn't, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?

Another journalist, one of the winners of the PS3 competition, tweeted this at disgusted RPS writer John Walker: "It was a hashtag, not an advert. Get off the pedestal." Now, this was Dave Cook, a guy I've met before. A good guy, as far as I could tell. But I don't believe for one second that Dave doesn't understand that in this time of social media madness a hashtag is just as powerful as an advert. Either he's on the defensive or he doesn't get what being a journalist is actually about.

Mass Effect 3, released in March 2012, came under fire from gamers for its ending, which took a series that focused on player choice and storytelling and slapped an ending that was abstract, gave no answers, opened up more loose ends than it tied, and varied only in the color of the energy burst of literally the galaxy's largest Deus Ex Machina. There was quite a bit of fan outrage over this; some would arguably rightfully so, considering most had spent nearly $200 and hundreds of hours crafting their story with their own customized character, myself included.

Gaming press's response was to label their readership as entitled whiners.

I bring these incidents up to show that the relationship between gaming press and gamers is far less cozy than between gaming press and publishers, which is why I think that the birth of 'the incident' was as painful as it was. Gamers knew AAA publishers had journalists in their pockets, but the indie developers were looked at as a breath of fresh air. Gamers knew, or at least thought they knew, that the coverage of indie devs was not bought and paid for like the AAA coverage.

Then it happened. Eron Gjoni -- by all rights someone that I probably couldn't stand to be in the same room with -- went public about what he (and people that have analyzed the evidence provided) felt was mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a woman he'd broken up with -- a woman who happened to be a game developer. There was an immediate immature and juvenile reaction to this, as people were tittering about with a hashtag.

No, not that hashtag. That came later.
  1. First it was #Quinnspiracy, because in the infodump that Gjoni had made, there were allegations and admissions that Zoe Quinn had cheated on him with several people in the gaming industry, including not only writers for Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun, which had covered (if not in review form) her and her game positively, but also another developer who had been a judge at an indie games competition where her game, Depression Quest, had been nominated. 
  2. A YouTuber called MundaneMatt did a brief news summary video about the post, and was hit with a DMCA notice by Zoe Quinn
  3. In response, a much more popular YouTuber TotalBiscuit condemned the misuse of the DMCA notice and took a neutral stance
  4. At Quinn's request, the Reddit thread where this was posted was turned into a graveyard of over 25,000 deleted comments. 
  5. Contrary to how the media narrative has thus far suggested, this is where Zoe Quinn is no longer relevant to the debate. While any harassment she may have received during this time period is both regrettable and reprehensible, something happened shortly afterwards that caused events to move completely past her. 
  6. August 27, 2014: Actor Adam Baldwin (Yes, that Adam Baldwin, of Chuck, Firefly, Full Metal Jacket, and The Last Ship. Also, a frequent voice actor in games) linked to a video (since removed) that detailed the allegations set forth in Gjoni's post with the first documented use of the hashtag #GamerGate.
  7. August 28, 2014: The Financial Post, Ars Technica, The Daily Beast, The Stranger, Beta Beat, Gamasutra, Polygon, Kotaku, and more, release articles within a 24 hour period claiming “Gamers are Dead” and “The End of Gamers.” 

Since that time, I have observed one side has focus primarily on emailing advertisers and digging up other examples of corruption and cronyism, while another side has shifted its narrative time and again from “cis-white man-babies living in their mothers' basements” to “right-wing conspiracy movement” to “misogynists and harassers.”

Yet another side has just lit fires on both of the aforementioned sides and ran for the sheer fallout. The GNAA (Google it; I'm not going into that here) and goons from SomethingAwful have confirmed their involvement in this.

But discounting the obvious third-party trolls, I've seen some vile stuff slung from one side to the other. I've seen people called terrorists. “Worse than ISIS.” Recommendations that groups of people be herded into gas chambers. Echo chambers set up.

And it's not the side you think.

Edit: Some factual errors have been corrected

Next week: Born In Fire


  1. I believe in equality. I believe that -all- human beings, regardless of race or sex, are, or at least should be, -equal- in the eyes of law, society, and custom. Any other human has all the same rights I have. That's the way it should work. Does it always work that way? No, it doesn't. But it's the goal, the standard to which I believe we all should strive.

    For me, 'Gamergate" has three components.

    1. The 'news' that the gaming press is playing Kermit to the Gaming industry's Frank Oz is no suprise. In the gun press, Remington could wrap a turd in tinfoil, and nobody in the press would utter a peep. In fact, this happened recently. I leave it as an exercize to the reader to find it, it's not hard(remington r51). Ford could wrap a turd in tinfoil, and 'Car and Driver' would wax poetic about the damn thing. The take away is that any 'industry press' is always deeply in bed with it's advertisers. This Is Not News.

    2. Certain people, mostly women, instead of making 'girl games'(games that are designed by and/or for a primarily female demographic), they demand that the industry stop making 'boy games'(Games that primarily cater to a male demographic) because, and I quote, 'misogyny'.Some of these people have even gone so far as to actively sabotage those who are trying to make 'girl games'. The Fine Young Capitalists are an example.

    3. People (predominately women) behaving badly, and when caught, hiding behind feminism, again 'because misogyny'. I find this incredibly offensive. Feminism is supposed to be about women being equal to men, not a flimsy excuse to hide behind when women get caught doing bad things.

    The accusations of doxxing, death threats, rape threats... That's annoying as well.

    The vast majority of the 'threats' are from the 8-12 year old range. These people, these -children-, aren't even sure what rape -is-, let alone are they even capable of it. Most of em, their balls haven't even dropped yet. They send 'rape threats' because while they're not sure what rape is, wow, the recipient sure gets pissed off. And that's what they're after. A reaction. They are neither serious nor credible.

    To make matters even worse, there's some credible evidence pointing to most of it being staged. That's right, -fake-. It's sent up as a distraction to derail the discussion.

    This part is incredibly offensive to me, because it devalues actual victims. Instead of being able to take them at their word, I have to stop and consider if something bad really happened, or are they making false claims/accusations because they have an ulterior motive? This is a horrible thing.

    I'd like to fine-tune this a bit more, but I've got a lot to do. Please bear in mind this was very off-the-cuff.

  2. Hence the massive blowback that has hit the anti-GG's, forcing them to resort to some extremely... how shall we say, questionable tactics. Such as instituting what amounts to 'free speech codes' in Twitter, targeting GG supporters, etc.

    A big thanks to Erin for tweaking comments so I can post, btw. I was wondering what happened to Disqus :)

    1. You're welcome, Toast.

      To explain to everyone else who is wondering what happened: I have received numerous complaints from folks that they would not leave comments because registering for Disqus was a process they did not wish to undergo. For years I resisted, because disabling Disqus would have meant losing years of comments.

      However, recently I learned that Disqus now uploads comments to Blogger, ensuring that comments are no longer lost. In the light of this knowledge I decided to perform an experiment by removing the plugin to see if that resulted in more comments.

      The experiment is ongoing, but so far I'm not impressed with the results.

  3. My personal favorite, so far.

    1. Greg: I almost deleted this as spam, as it followed the spammer formula of praise, followed by a context-less link. It is only because curiosity compelled me to follow the link that I did not delete it out of hand. In the future, would you be so kind as to provide context?

    2. Ah yes. Sorry about that. I had gotten a bit flustered trying to figure out how to log in to comment.
      I swear I used to have a profile on something other than google.
      My bad, and it won't happen again.


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