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Let's Talk About #GamerGate and Journalism

Let's discuss the mess that the gaming community finds itself embroiled in.

Editorial by Mike Williams, .

So, it's been a bad few weeks at this point. If you're lucky, you've missed on a whole range of controversy surrounding the hashtags #GamerGate and #NotYourShield, the idea that the "gamer" identity is dead, and ethics in games journalism. There was a single touchpoint that had nothing to do with the game industry that exploded into a social media war. People have been insulted, harassed, had their personal information released, and been forced to leave their homes for their own safety. Vox has a rundown of the entire controversy to get you up to speed.

Before I dig in, let me say full-stop: Harassment is never good. We can certainly disagree in conversations without resorting to threats against one another. Period. We do not accept harassment here on USgamer and if your comments are of that nature, we will delete them. While there's certainly good faith messages coming from #GamerGate, there's also a great deal of harassment. That constant, organized harassment has led to women leaving the industry altogether, like Jenn Frank. That's sad and unacceptable. I can also agree that there has been harassment in the other direction, with a transgender teen having been doxxed (the release of personal information) in an article on #GamerGate.

The genesis of this controversy was the release of information relating to the personal life of Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn. We did not report on that because we did not find it newsworthy. Were there conflicts of interest related to Quinn and journalists? Not any concrete ones we could find. Instead, it was a situation between a man and a woman in a relationship that the man chose to spread to a wider audience. That's not news, it's gossip and slander. Many of the accusations that have popped up beyond that starting point also lack any proof. Even beyond that, USgamer's editorial remit has moved beyond the day-to-day news that other sites can give our readers; we'll certainly analyze news and rumors, but we're not directly reporting it much anymore.

I go to PAX to play games and meet gamers. [Image via Pixelscopic]

We Are All Gamers

On the first hashtag, #GamerGate, many believe that it started as a retaliation to Leigh Alexander's article, "'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over." (It did not. The first use of the hashtag was by actor Adam Baldwin, in relation to Zoe Quinn.) The article attempted to say that "gamer" was an outdated label for a group that has evolved beyond where we were in the past. Many felt her descriptions of gamers and game culture were incendiary. I get that. You certainly won't find me arguing that "gamer" as a title is dead, especially since it features so prominently into our name above.

The problem is "gamer" is such a wide, far-reaching label that can essentially cover anyone who plays games. There are many wonderful people who self-identify as gamers. I've met them, I've talked with them. They're why PAX is one of my favorite events to cover; seeing the interaction between developers and gamers is a treat.

There is also hate and fear in some gamers. There is a backlash towards criticism of any titles that fans may enjoy, whether this criticism is related to mechanics or aesthetics. This has become more frequent with the advent of the internet and social media; in the era of magazines a stern letter might not even make to the writer in question. Now, you can email and message us directly. That's good when it comes to engaging discussion, but horrible when it comes to those who would harass.

For some writers, the aesthetic criticism has been based around social issues like sexism and racism. It's based around the representation of minorities and women in the game industry. Being a minority, I'm personally empathetic to these points of view. It certainly doesn't comprise most of my writing, but at times I will be driven to write editorials tackling those topics. That's how it works, we write about what resonates with us in a effort to have a conversation with you, the reader.

Some games wear their thematic influences proudly.

Some say that they don't care about topics like race, gender, and inclusiveness in their media; they just want to enjoy their games. They ask us to keep "politics" and "agendas" out of gaming. That's fine, but they should be cognizant of the fact that the status quo is a position. "Neutrality" is dependent on local circumstances - politically neutral in the United States is different from politically neutral in China - thus there is no true neutral. The status quo is an agenda. What we are as a community now is not what we were 10 or 20 years ago. We are constantly evolving and growing; as that growth happens more people are speaking up, seeking to have a voice in how our community and culture evolves. We need more voices and viewpoints in the discussion, which is why harassment is bad for anyone.

Some ask that we just focus on the "game", but games aren't just about the mechanics. The mechanics, the aesthetics, and the player come together to create a complete experience. That is why you can give a game to 10 different people and get 10 different viewpoints. That is why we have second opinions in our reviews. We don't always have the bandwidth to do them, but we want to show you that reviews change with viewpoint. People talk of "agendas", when most of these writers are just writing about the truth of their viewpoint. That's honesty and transparency. That is what many have said they want from the games media.

We strive to provide our honest takes in everything we write. When we write articles, we journalists are having a conversation with all of you: the passionate fans, the casual players, the occasional gamer, and even the trolls. From this position, you frequently see the best and the worst gamers have to offer.

I can understand, especially due to the sheer volume, believing the worst in a group. Some journalists have disdain for parts of gamer culture, while some gamers believe the games media is hopelessly corrupt. That stems from something called the out-group homogeneity effect, the tendency to perceive your group as individual, while lumping people in other groups together. You probably do it to some other large group with a wide banner: Democrats, Republicans, feminists, libertarians, any religion, atheists, etc. It's easy to see the bad actors of any outside group as representative of the group as a whole. We're all human and it happens, but we should try better in seeing each other as thinking individuals. That also requires those within the group policing their own; harassment isn't fine when it comes from your side or because your cause is just. That's moral equivalence at work and we can all be better than that.

On Ethics

Part of the rallying cry behind #GamerGate was a call for greater ethics in games journalists. I'm sympathetic to that. Journalism, regardless of topic, always has room to improve. I have a Twitter List that's all smart people talking about journalism. There are certainly issues involving visibility in long-form content, rumor-mongering, aggregation, press events, and corporate partnership agreements. We can certainly talk about that in a frank, ongoing discussion. USgamer has a code of ethics, most people just never scroll down to our Policies page to see it.

Games journalism can be so many things.

The problem I see in many of the demands is a misunderstanding in how journalism works in our industry. Games journalism is comprised of multiple parts: news reporting, criticism, enthusiast reporting, and investigative journalism. They all happen in tandem in a healthy industry. News reporting is the straightforward, boilerplate stuff that we've largely left behind, but you can still find on our fellow Gamer Network sites like Eurogamer, GamesIndustry International, and VG247. Criticism sounds bad - who wants to be critical all the time? - but it's really about digging deeper into gaming content and culture to understand why they operate the way they do. Enthusiast reporting is the stuff you'd find on websites for other niches like tech and automotive: the trailers, previews, reviews, lists, and guides. Finally, there's the investigative reporting, which is what many people think of when they think of journalism. (More on those different types of journalism in relation to the current controversy can be found in this article.)

Investigative journalism is amazing, but there are two inherent issues with it. One, it takes a long time to research and write a great investigative or long-form article, meaning it's nearly impossible to sustain a site on investigative journalism alone; that's why writers like Simon Parkin are freelance and writers like Jason Schreier and Patrick Klepek augment their longer work with other content.

Two, the gaming industry isn't politics, government, or health; we're largely driven by an entertainment product, so there's less of a need for those within the industry to speak out and provide direct sources for certain issues. That's why some of the industry's bigger investigative pieces - Crytek's recent issues and the fall of Team Bondi for example - tended to only come after those involved had little to lose. They weren't being paid or had already left the company, so they felt fine speaking under anonymous conditions (they still have to work within the industry). When everything is working well (as well as long hours of crunch can get), the only way we journalists get information is through relationships we've crafted.

You're Dancing Too Close

Journalism is about relationships and research.

This is where we get into one of the points of contention in #GamerGate: that journalists should have little to do with those they cover. Unfortunately, that's not how great journalism works. It thrives on creating connections and relationships you trust. One of the stories held up as amazing journalism is Woodward and Bernstein's work in the Watergate scandal. That only happened because Woodward had befriended Federal Bureau of Investigation Associate Director Mark Felt years earlier. That allowed the pair to leverage an inside source.

Perhaps you've seen VICE News' amazing coverage of ISIS' actions in the Middle East. VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded within ISIS to make that a reality. That didn't happen just because he was a journalist. That happened because he had connections in the region that trusted him. Connections he's probably had dinner with or shared their homes. That could be a conflict of interest if you were looking at it in a cut and dry manner, but things like that are what real journalism requires. The work speaks for itself. That's not to say there aren't conduct guidelines we should follow, but journalism is predicated on access, which requires either an inside source or outright theft (which is illegal in most cases).

Every journalist who cares follows an ethical code. We have our policies, but I also tend to stick to some guidelines set down by Roger Ebert, one of the classic movie critics. They're worth a read, as they cover swag, review copies, friendship with those in your industry, and direct conflicts of interest. Most sites have their own policies, others stick to the SPJ's Code of Ethics. SPJ's work on creating a "timeless" code ignores some of the realities of journalism today, so places like journalism school Poytner have crafted their own code for the 21st century, even if some of the guidelines remain the same.

As it stands, the #GamerGate hashtag is as broad as the gamer label; there are many great, honest people participating, but they unfortunately exist alongside the malcontents, who are having a real, measurable effect on the industry. Ethics in journalism is an ongoing discussion that we're always willing to have. I've been a part of that discussion over in NeoGAF, but that's also a discussion we're willing to have in our community here. If you remain civil, I can certainly do my best to answer any questions you may have in the comments below. If your aim is a games media with strong ethics and greater transparency, I'm completely sympathetic. If your aim is to find an outlet for your rage or to chase amazing voices from our industry, you can do that elsewhere.

And if you're new here, welcome to USgamer. There's always room for new and diverse voices in our community.

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Comments 58

  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #1 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
    I visit IGN frequently and seeing all the comments in there really makes this site such a place of solace. I know people here love games and want to discuss their passion without being ridiculed. Also back to the IGN comments which we all know are horrible every day but any type of article IGN puts out the commenters always say that it was paid by the publisher or along those lines like their is some conspiracy going on. It makes me sad and wish for the days of old when they just had mailbags or when gaming magazines like Nintendo Power was where it was at. Anyway that is the end of my long sentence rant.
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  • Avatar for chrisjohnson32 #2 chrisjohnson32 2 years ago
    I found this article to be much better than many that have come out in the last few days. Thank you for recognizing that #GamerGate isn't filled to the brim with vile people, but instead is a movement that unfortunately has some bad apples and a slightly overzealous idea for where journalism should go. After spending alot of time talking to the people of #GamerGate (and compiling my own thoughts on the matter), I feel like the primary concern is that when game journalists do certain pieces they don't disclose the possible personal connections to the topic. That's just so that we can be a bit informed and make our own decisions on how to take the topic. Also, I know alot of people (myself included) only got involved with #GamerGate after the slew of articles writing about how "Gamers were dead," which offended a large number of people. There seems to be a disconnect between some news sites and their audience, on top of a little bit of arrogance (coming off as they're morally superior to everyone else).
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #3 limbeckd 2 years ago
    Well said, Mike.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    @chrisjohnson32 I can agree with both of those issues. Disclosure should be more prevalent and we try make that happen within articles, at the end, or we simply recusing ourselves from writing on the topic. You can see an example in one of Jeremy's Mighty No. 9 pieces (http://www.usgamer.net/articles/tgs-mighty-no-9-the-first-mcdonalds-in-japan-of-video-gaming).

    On the second point, I agree the "gamer is dead" articles probably inflamed the situation. I get part of the point they were making, but it came across as an attack to some readers. It's easy to paint a group as one thing, even if you sympathize with the group in some aspects. I think that's what feeds into the feeling of arrogance.
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  • Avatar for gordallott #5 gordallott 2 years ago
    I miss video games and talking about video games, the last few weeks has been anything but everywhere I look. I'm tired of it, everyone is coming out of this looking bad - people I respect reduced to squabbling on twitter, People being generalised, People treating the people that supported them like dogs, then there is the legitimate abuse - which isn't unique to the past few weeks at all.

    All of it stinks, it makes me not want to talk about games anymore incase I am labeled this that or the other.

    I'm tired of the whole mess, Even if the goals were lofty when it started, it's now just petty on all sides. I really like the articles here on usgamer, it's the closest to the kind of content about games I can find. I hope we can stick to that instead of lowering to social media arguments.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #6 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    @gordallott This is our final word on this particular topic, unless something major changes. Otherwise, more stuff about games!
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  • Avatar for whydoineedone #7 whydoineedone 2 years ago
    This is not a direct attack on you, Mike. My responses to your article serve only to highlight some of the problems that none of the replies to "GamerGate" have addressed yet.

    > We did not report on that because we did not find it newsworthy.

    It's not the not-reporting that led to the uproar. There have been plenty of rumours and scandals that have come and gone, and this one would have as well, if not for three things:

    1) Sites have run with other gossip, gossip much less substantiated than this (e.g. pseudonymous rape allegations against Max Temkin), but were unwilling to cover this; the lack of consistency does not go unnoticed.

    2) Sites reported on it but didn't allow comments from anyone who didn't come down on the "side" of Quinn; whether this is acceptable, I have no opinion on, but it was certainly a contributing factor.

    3) Third-party fora largely disallowed discussion of this; once again, I have no opinion on this, but it is a factor.

    > Many felt her descriptions of gamers and game culture were incendiary.

    Alexander is generally not a very pleasant person when she gets on her soap-box. She's not a very pleasant person in general, if how she acts online is anything to go by. It's not only her. Plenty of people in the gaming press and larger industry see fit to behave reprehensibly both in their professional and personal capacity, but then expect better of their audience. As representatives of the gaming "community", they should be setting the standard. Instead, they're lowering it even further.

    > [some] criticism has been based around social issues like sexism and racism
    > Being a minority, I'm personally empathetic to these points of view. It certainly doesn't comprise most of my writing, but at times I will be driven to write editorial tackling those topics

    I don't care for such editorials, mostly because I disagree with the ideology behind many of them, but I don't object to them. I object to their execution. There's a way to write such a piece that makes people listen; there's a way to write such a piece that people won't; and, worse yet, there's a way to write such a piece that will alienate people even further and divide them. There's been far too much of the latter two lately.

    Putting that aside, many sites are willing to address such serious social topics without giving right of reply, and then try to hide behind "It's our site! We can do what we want!" That's certainly true, but it doesn't make it right. If the object of covering such a topic is to address it in order for it to no longer be a topic worth covering, then it's disingenuous and even harmful to disallow discussion and be biased. Just because you've decided something is right and factual and true does not make it so. You're not infallible. You could very well be wrong.

    Robbing your readers (and yourself) of opportunities to be swayed or educated, narrowing the discourse to only that which you find acceptable, is counterproductive. Slavery was once discussed, and the best and most moral ideas won out. It's no longer up for discussion, but it once was. That's a necessary process. The only reason I can see for circumscribing opinion and discussion on contemporary social issues is because you fear you might be wrong.

    I intended to go on, but I've already spent too much time on this, I'm getting a headache, and I'm not paid for it. I'd have liked to get to the ethics/professionalism concerns that are now at the core of GamerGate, but maybe another time.

    I suppose I'll conclude with this: there's something very wrong with the industry if a person can't even address all the problems without resorting to a Herculean missive.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #8 CK20XX 2 years ago
    For me, the difference between "gamer" and normal person who plays games has been like the difference between "movie buff" and "movie viewer". One person has at least a semi-sophisticated knowledge of video games and what goes into making them, while the other merely enjoys something that most of the people in the world already enjoy in some form. One person knows their Metal Gears and Mega Mans and is liable to gravitate around similar quality titles, while the other doesn't care enough to be that picky or even desire a label to band under in the first place.

    After having researched GameGate by reading this article and the one on Vox though, I feel thoroughly confused. It sounds like there are good points to be made and problems to be exposed in the midst of all this, but nothing's going to go anywhere unless this whole discussion is dropped in favor of a better organized one. That the "gate" suffix has never made sense on anything hasn't helped matters either.
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  • Avatar for kingaelfric #9 kingaelfric 2 years ago
    @whydoineedone With all due respect, this is where I don't understand what the GamerGate folks really want. Don't like Leigh Alexander? Don't read her. Don't like a site's policies on disclosure? Don't read said site. Even if 100% of the gamers in the world agreed, we would have no moral, ethical, or legal right to demand a site change policies or that a particular author write or not write about a given topic (short of actual crimes or statutory infractions, etc.). I think the games industry these days does a decent, but not perfect job of disclosure. Vote with your feet. If enough people agree, the changes sought will follow. This is my only real axe to grind with GamerGate supporters; no matter how they describe it, their goals sound to me like a desire for censorship. I could of course be wrong, and will happily listen to anyone who wants to explain it to me!
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  • Avatar for whydoineedone #10 whydoineedone 2 years ago
    @CK20XX Maybe you'd like to read some more?

    http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/09/gamergate_explodes_gaming_journalists_declare_the_gamers_are_over_but_they.html

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/09/04/gamergate-a-closer-look-at-the-controversy-sweeping-video-games/
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  • Avatar for Hubertron #11 Hubertron 2 years ago
    Thanks for writing this mike. I appreciate your level headed approach and this was helpful for me to make sense of this. I was just listening to some old retronauts with Jenn and was super bummed to hear about her calling it quits. More power to her though.
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  • Avatar for EnderTZero #12 EnderTZero 2 years ago
    As somebody who keeps an eye on /v/ from time to time, I have a hard time seeing this campaign as anything but attempting to maintain the gendered status quo. Complaints about journalistic ethics, and more importantly the corrupting influence of game publishers themselves, are a factor - just see the uproar about EA stealth marketing on the site, or about the infamous Halo/Mountain Dew/Doritos campaign. But the current that runs much deeper, and that runs all the way through 4chan's history, is the maxim that "there are no girls on the internet."

    This gem has had a number of delightful explications and interpretations over the years by eager rationalizers, but the gist is this: women are attention-seekers as a general rule, but 4chan is a place that eschews attention via its very structure (threads auto-delete, a tripcode must be adopted to even become pseudonymous, everyone hates people who adopt tripcodes), so women simply don't exist, regardless of the sex or gender of the poster behind the keyboard.

    That first premise, that women are attention-seekers, is misogyny. It's misogyny born out of a particular social interaction, that in the school setting whereby a socially marginalized boy interprets his peers' vying for popularity as a) wrong or otherwise undesirable, and b) driven or maintained by girls, specifically girls' trading on their femininity or appearance. That our prototypical male likely desires these girls is fuel to the creation of the "attention whore" label, as well as its comprehensibility among those on the site.

    The status quo is that femininity is policed. The female body is an object to be used for masturbation on 4chan, and otherwise must remain unidentified. Anita Sarkeesian is anathema to this status quo, and so she is attacked using all of the tools and invective that 4chan can muster. Zoe Quinn is also guilty of being a visible woman, and worse yet thanks to Gnoji a sexually visible woman. The disparity between harassment against Quinn and harassment against Gnoji is unbelievably telling, because if anyone deserves some hate thrown his way, its Gnoji.

    This effort to enact gender-based control upon the reality in which 4chan lives, very much including video games, drives the current controversy to a greater extent than any other factor. That games journalism is now involved is incidental, a useful lever to make more visible Quinn's "transgression" against the policing of the female body. That adultery, the avatar of disordered feminine power, is central to Gnoji's complaint against her is what drives up the hatred to blast furnace levels.

    It's natural for people like Alexander to see this firehose of hate speech turned on again and resolve to stake a position designed to bring the community under a spotlight. It also of course gives the original #5guys protestors a new rallying cry to pull in a more diverse crowd among which they can better hide, which is what has happened. To someone self-identifying as a gamer but unaware of the reprehensible PAX protest et al, the news item is that gamers are under attack from busybodies. The misogynist undercurrent is subsumed, easily so considering how willing society at large still is to police the female body.

    Now that the controversy is large enough to carry many threads of varying legitimacy, it's very easy for the original provocateurs to blend in and reinforce those base policing instincts. It's hard to know what will take misogyny's strength away, but I cannot help but conclude that using the conveniently-viral #gamergate to reorganize formal thinking about games only buys it time to remain strong as it is.
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  • Avatar for whydoineedone #13 whydoineedone 2 years ago
    @kingaelfric

    > Don't like Leigh Alexander? Don't read her. Don't like a site's policies on disclosure? Don't read said site.

    People and sites I disagree with affect the industry and its perception in general. When Fox and CNN want to talk about gaming again, they're going to point to Alexander and others' articles as proof of how horrible we all are. When inflammatory people like Phil Fish represent the industry, it's embarrassing; that's why industries typically have standards for behaviour. I'd like to stop being ashamed of my hobby at some point. I'd like for people to not make assumptions about me based on what I do with my free time. Articles like Alexander's are actively harmful, especially since they don't offer a balanced view; all it would take to ameliorate at least some of my concerns is including a link to contrary opinions in Op/Ed pieces. Of course, for that to be possible, there would have to be contrary opinions, and everyone seems to be in lock-step at the moment. Don't speak out of turn, or you'll be run out of the industry.

    > This is my only real axe to grind with GamerGate supporters; no matter how they describe it, their goals sound to me like a desire for censorship.

    Well, if you think a desire for professionalism and ethics is a desire for censorship, I have no idea what to tell you.

    Since I'm back, I'll raise some of my concerns re: professionalism/ethics quickly. It's not that difficult not to review people you've slept with (Hernandez), or not to accuse people of misogyny without any proof (Green and Geis).

    I can understand why the gaming press are so eager to convince themselves and others that there's no corruption going on, however: just Google what happened to the last person to suggest all isn't right in Gaming Land ("Robert Florence" "Eurogamer").Edited September 2014 by whydoineedone
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  • Avatar for Punk1984 #14 Punk1984 2 years ago
    As a media person from the non-gaming world (Local News) I asked people what they thought of #GamerGate to get to the bottom of it. This was a mistake. I was shocked by the amount of hate I received for just asking. While this came from both sides the language that the pro-gamergate people continued to use led me to block people and report them for harassment for the first time ever. I agree with points of GamerGate but since I didn't fall in line people continued to harass me. The problem with GamerGate as I see it is three-fold.
    1)The message like all grass roots movements is nebulous, and the lack of a "leader" has created a vacuum of meaning. This lets the bad apples have a greater influence on the whole and the perception of group. If people saw more people shutting down the haters and 4chan abusers it would help.
    2)The context of the discussion is horrid. With Quinn's release of the chat logs and the harassment of numerous gaming celebrities (Who wants to pick on Tim Schafer?) there is no way for GamerGate to gain steam with moderate people. They'll see a lot of hate and not a lot of help.
    3)The solution is so easy, GamerGate should start their own news outlets. If they want their voice in media we live in an age where that is a distinct possibility. The demands I've heard show a lack of understanding of "journalistic ethics" so the only way to make them happy is to show them they can or can't do it.

    The end result: Can't we all just live and let live... err... game and let gamer?
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  • Avatar for kingaelfric #15 kingaelfric 2 years ago
    @whydoineedone thanks for the response, and I mean that quite honestly. First of all, with regard to Mr. Florence, I agree with you 100%. That was, however, the result of a single journalist, the threat of litigation, and the peculiarly loose libel laws of the United Kingdom. I'm against censorship, and I definitely consider what happened there censorship. Let me be clear that I am speaking here in a United States context, but I am fully aware it's not the only one. But on to your more general point about being hurt by Ms. Alexander's articles. You say you're embarrassed, that you'd like to not be prejudged, and that her articles are actively harmful. I'll stipulate that all of that is true for the sake of argument. That doesn't give you a right to stop anyone from publishing their opinions. It doesn't give you the right to mandate speech (as in links to opposing opinions). You could call me the dumbest person ever, bad for video games, and pure evil. I still have no moral, ethical, or legal right to stop you or to make you post counter evidence. The solution to speech with which you disagree is more speech. Call journalists out on the merits of their arguments. Talk about the damage they are doing. The way to make things better is not to make some sort of argument from authority, but rather to persuade. The conversations are happening and will continue.

    Finally, a desire for ethics is fine. When it is unequally applied, or applied only in certain circumstances (e.g., only to indie devs, and not with regard to AAA publishers, etc.) it can certainly amount to censorship. I don't mean to accuse you of this, but the GamerGate issues have seemed to disproportionately fall on women--who are, to begin with, a disproportionately small part of the gaming and gaming news industries. By all means, I'd encourage you to keep writing about the problems you see.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #16 CK20XX 2 years ago
    @whydoineedone I think I understand what those articles are trying to say, but it should have been clear some time ago that nothing is going to be accomplished under the GamerGate brand. You can't ride a wave started by trolls and misogynists and expect to turn it around. Instead you need to start a new effort and make sure it's actually organized. You need to wipe the table clean and start over, otherwise all your arguing and crusading will be pointless.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #17 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    @whydoineedone No one said corruption doesn't exist at all - I'm sure it has to in some form - but that's a far cry from "all/most games journalism is corrupt". Again, journalism in any industry can always be improved.

    And Rab's situation was related to a specific problem with UK libel laws, as in they can't get away with the things we can without prosecution. He himself stated this at the time (https://twitter.com/robertflorence/status/261434116224974848). Here's a further article about those laws 9http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/01/16/how-british-libel-laws-help-rich-villains-escape-the-scrutiny-of-the-press/).
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #18 Vonlenska 2 years ago
    A year ago, I probably would've smirked if you told me that one of my go-to sources for good games writing would be a site called "USGamer"--but, here we are. The drift away from news, the equal coverage to new and old games, the longer pieces on games history and the fairly diverse set of writers with disparate tastes has made this a pretty good little space.

    I'm glad to see this here, as I was glad to see the earlier piece on the depiction of police violence in games versus the realities faced by young black men. Having personally witnessed and experienced surprisingly vehement harassment (nothing like what Quinn or Sarkeesian have gotten, but still; thousands of frothy anonymous threats are still scary) from gamer culture myself, I feel weirdly relieved to see that element coming to light (something something best disinfectant) more recently. Gamer culture can feel very hostile to anyone with a not-stereotypical perspective, and too often the better parts remain silent on that. It's important and good to speak up, and I'm happy to see that here. The cries for journalistic integrity are really being used as a screen for misogyny, but even taken at face value don't really reflect how journalism gets done.

    Internet high fives to you, Mike, and anyone else for making games better and more inclusive. Art, creativity and fun have room for all kinds of people.
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  • Avatar for docexe #19 docexe 2 years ago
    Fantastic article, Mike. The volume of the controversy has surprised me, as I don’t remember when was the last time that a scandal of this magnitude exploded in the gaming community.

    There were also a couple of articles in Forbes that I think tackled the issue very well. I don’t entirely agree with some of the points expressed by the authors there, but ultimately they reflect many of my own stances on the multiple aspects regarding this controversy, which is actually very complex and multilayered. Linking them here if anyone is interested in reading them:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/09/04/gamergate-a-closer-look-at-the-controversy-sweeping-video-games/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2014/08/22/the-truth-about-video-game-journalism/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/08/26/sex-lies-and-video-games/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/09/01/the-gamer-is-dead-long-live-the-gamer/

    The only thing I can add is that I think the major problem at play here is that nasty “out-group homogeneity effect” that Mike points out: Every single group on this controversy (gamers, journalists, online critics, etc.) is actually very diverse and multilayered in terms of opinion, yet there are people on each group that are taking an absolutist stance where they are lumping the entirety of certain groups together with the worse or most negative representatives of them.

    This has led to a lot of hyperbole, attacks and incendiary reactions from all the sides involved and the net result is that the controversy is no longer a tabloid scandal surrounding a female developer (as it started), a discussion of social issues like online harassment and sexism, or a debate about the lack of ethics and transparency in gaming journalism. It has become an all-out war where every side is more concerned with winning and proving their superiority, rather than conceding that maybe some of the concerns posited by the other side(s) have merit.

    These quotes from the last Forbes article explain the issue better than I could:

    “But bad apples do not create an identity for an entire group of people, and critics and journalists who attempt to destroy a word in the name of politics are not furthering some noble goal, some cultural evolutionary step. As if by proclamation anyone could declare a word dead to begin with.

    I stopped writing about politics because I got to a point where all I wanted to say in every post is “You’re all wrong! All of you!
    […]
    I thought writing about games would be different, but it’s not. It’s the same cultural politics that exist everywhere else, only the lingo is changed, the battle lines are vague and poorly defined. Half of the problem in this debate is blurry definitions. And now in this latest scandal I just want to say the same thing: “You’re all wrong! All of you!”
    […]
    Language is powerful. Language is the source of power in any culture, and writers of all people should know this. Using the term “gamer” this way as a “catch-all term” for “reactionary holdouts” invariably casts too wide a net. It sounds disdainful. It perpetuates a stereotype. And it perpetuates the war.
    […]
    Then again, plenty of gamers perpetuate this stereotype on their own without any help. The truly bad apples—ones issuing death threats and such—may be only a small sliver of the pie, but there’s a much larger and very vocal contingent that continues to taint virtually every legitimate debate in the industry, over media ethics, industry business practices, etc. with identity politics.

    These are the anti Social Justice Warriors, gamers who obsess over members of the video game press who are perceived to be foisting a socially progressive agenda on the industry.
    […]
    Are there may be some people exploiting these issues for fame and clique? Yes, it’s quite possible. Signaling is enormously important to many people; half of all political blogging is just signaling to members of your own tribe how much you belong.

    But I also guarantee you that if I wrote an article tomorrow about something I genuinely believed was sexist, I’d get the Social Justice Warrior/White Knight treatment in a flash. It’s happened before. So what should I do?
    […]
    Anti-SJW folks say that they despise SJWs because SJWs don’t allow conversation, stifle debate, and make it impossible for more than one viewpoint to be heard. But the same can be said in reverse. I’m unable to talk about social issues I care about without a backlash.
    […]
    I agree that game writers shouldn’t be so quick to call everything sexist, that the message should be more positive rather than negative. But I think people are too riled up over cultural critics and commenters like Anita Sarkeesian, who are just one voice among many.

    Bring me a chorus of voices, of opinions. I want them all. I want a loud cacophony of differing viewpoints. Agreement is the death of creativity.

    But you? You all want to shut everyone else down who doesn’t conform to your worldview. You ask for “unbiased” but what you really want is an echo chamber. You ask for “objectivity” and then celebrate the entirely subjective and unaccountable monologues of YouTube commenters. You want to make a living writing about video games and then declare, from on high, that gamers are over.

    Which is why you’re all wrong. Each and every one of you. I may be wrong, too. It’s entirely possible.”
    Edited 3 times. Last edited September 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for Corto #20 Corto 2 years ago
    Fantastic read Mike! Insightful, learned and stimulating reading.
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  • Avatar for trooper6 #21 trooper6 2 years ago
    I'm new to USGamer (came from Eurogamer)...and I'm looking forward to some complex and thoughtful games journalism. This article is one such.

    But I must say, I find even the "well intentioned" #GamerGate folks not really bringing up an issue that resonates with me. When it comes time to critique of games journalism, for me, my larger concern is not if a random journalist got a preview copy of a game or met some developer at PAX or is friendly with someone. That I just don't care about at all. People know people. It we are all professional it is all okay. I care about that slightly older games journalism scandal that seems to have been forgotten in the rush to attack female indie games people...where companies buy an inordinate amount of ad space on a games website or magazine and then tell the editorial board (or heavily imply) that if the magazine gives a poor review to their new mediocre AAA game that company will blackball them. I worry about large, wealthy companies putting undue pressure on the gaming press. I'm not worried about some indie dev being pals with some freelance journalist.

    I think it is important to watch out for structural pressure from the powerful on those with less power.
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  • Avatar for abuele #22 abuele 2 years ago
    Great article, I'm just getting updated of all this wishi washi nonsense, I do follow just a couple of sites as for my gaming resource and entretainment, yours being one I daily visit. Other venues falter on the features or deal on the nonsense you just describe, when I find out such things happen, I just close my browser and redirect my attention to other sites.

    The USGAMER staff consist of people who create really interesting articles, whom I've read for many years in other venues. As I've read many articles from you guys from one spot in the internet to another one, really helps me understand how game journalism moves.

    Excellent job to all of you, keep at it, and thanks for all the interesting hours I've spent reading your articles.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #23 jeffcorry 2 years ago
    Great read. I appreciate your voice on the matter. It seems very balanced and straight forward.
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #24 Mooglepies 2 years ago
    This was an interesting read. From my own look into the issues as they've happened over the last few weeks, the only thing I can really say for sure is that, for both sides, this has been a bomb waiting to go off. It's very sad that things like this spilled over into threats and bullying. I also think it's unfortunate for those that have tried to move the discussion on to a wider conversation about journalism and ethics that this all started with the allegations against Zoe Quinn.

    I'm hopeful that it lets the pressure out on the situation for at least a prolonged period of time though. Given that there appear to be games developers and writers (on both sides of the fence) that say they don't feel they can speak out on the issues concerned normally for fear of being surrounded by an internet mob, I think it may end up being a positive that the discussion was actually held out in the open. I worry for the long term though, since this kind of massive blow up may be the start of the real politicisation of games journalism. I would find it very sad if that happened, it would only serve to fragment the community further. On the other hand, that tends to be what happens when a group of people, rightly or wrongly, feel disenfranchised from those that write for/about them.

    Certainly from a personal perspective I've noticed over the last few years that there have been multiple occasions where I've looked at an article on any given games site and gone "How much of this did the PR rep give you, and how much of it is yours?" I think I kind of accepted it a while back - nowadays I only go to websites such as this, or Polygon, or any other you might want to name for things like retrospectives on old games/events (Polygon's making of Street Fighter 2, or USG's fond look back at the GameBoy, for example). For anything else, I tend to refer to individual people I've formed relationships with over a number of years that I know and trust.

    There are specific examples of "games journalism" as some kind of amorphous entity capable of creating narrative though (and I don't even mean social issues), and I think that's part of what the current discussion is trying to address. The one that springs to mind immediately concerns last year's Devil May Cry reboot - there was an awful lot of really bad writing done prior to and post release of the game, specifically about the traditional fanbase of the series (it's also where I first started noticing writers really get nasty about "the traditional gamer" stereotype) that is utterly baffling, like the whole industry was engaged in some kind of group think.Edited September 2014 by Mooglepies
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  • Avatar for Daedalus207 #25 Daedalus207 2 years ago
    I haven't been actively following this controversy, but I have been exposed to it simply by virtue of my normal day-to-day reading of social media sites.

    Let me begin by saying that I certainly understand the perspective of those who want tighter standards of journalistic integrity. There are popular review sites that I don't visit anymore because I can't trust that their reviews are objective.

    That said, my impression is that "#GamerGate" has been completely lost to the trolls and misogynists. Attempts to redirect the passion of this movement into constructive discussions on journalistic integrity is probably well-intentioned, but it seems doomed to failure as the loudest voices draw attention away from the sensible voices.

    Regarding the use of the "gamer" label, it seems like the broader a label becomes, the less useful it is. A friend of mine who is a linguist and also gay, when he found out that I have very mild asthma, ask me how I felt about the label "asthmatic." I responded that, while calling me an asthmatic was strictly true, it felt both nebulous and slightly insulting. My asthma is not something that I chose, or that I have any control over, and defining me as a person using only that fact feels dehumanising. My friend's point was that the label "gay" can be very similar - it tells you one fact about a person, but it's so broad that it doesn't even begin to tell you what kind of person he is.

    I think "gamer" has started to reach the same point. It includes people who like action-packed games and don't care about story, people like myself who are willing to put up with lousy game mechanics if the story is strong enough, nice people, thoughtful people, and sadly, obnoxious people, racists, misogynists, and trolls.

    I'm sure there are racists and misogynists who are asthmatic, too. Is it bad that I share the label of asthmatic with such people? Is it worse that I share the label of "gamer" with such people?

    I don't know. I haven't really come to any solid conclusion. I'm enjoying the thoughtfulness of the article and my fellow commentators, though!
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  • Avatar for Sturat #26 Sturat 2 years ago
    As a longtime game player I can understand why some people are upset that things they aren't interested in are shifting too close to the mainstream. Stick with any hobby long enough and most people will experience it. It's hard to sympathize with people who want to protect the status quo right now though. I assume that everyone agrees with me that gaming peeked with the 4 big 16-bit systems and you're not a real gamer if you disagree.
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #27 Lord-Bob-Bree 2 years ago
    @trooper6 Well-said, I'd say.

    Anyway, my thoughts:

    -I can understand wanting to do away with the label of "gamer" for non-assholes. So much evil has been done under the term that I really feel like disassociating myself from it. Despite that, I can also understand those who feel like their identity is being attacked because of harm done by people who are not them.

    -Criticism of games is important, including (and especially?) criticism that looks at games in a social context. That's not all there is to a game, of course, but to ignore it is a disservice.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #28 Godots17thCup 2 years ago
    I don't have anything of substance to add to this discussion, unfortunately, so I'll just thank you for this article, Mike, it really is fantastic. It's one of the more level-headed and honest pieces I've seen regarding "GamerGate" since the subject blew up last month.
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  • Avatar for danger.to.others #29 danger.to.others 2 years ago
    While I don't hang out at Twitter or game sites getting into this gamergate, as it's being called, it's always telling the one's who simply don't want to think of race or sexism in games are always the one's never a victim to it.
    Plus, the beauty of the internet is just because an article or thread of certain topics exists, you aren't forced to read it. Merely skip it and read something in line with what you want.
    Seems people are more opposed to people speaking out on topics that make them uncomfortable and want them to shut it down and not exist at all.
    I never read every article at any site. Some stuff I already know about or it's a topic of something I'm not into. But my not being into it just means I move along, they can still talk to each other. It doesn't need to be stopped.

    The one part so many like to dismiss is the idea of payola in game reviews, but I believe that to be true.
    There's one thing when you make contacts and have preview articles, so you hang out with a developer. It's a whole other level when they fly you out to nice hotels or give you rare gifts or pay your site a lot of money to advertise a game and the review comes off very suspect and overpraised.
    I see that more often over at IGN than most places. In fact, the smaller sites, I don't think those are paid off at all.
    I'm not paranoid, thinking there's a grand nefarious scheme and all reviews are paid ads. I simply believe it's out there among a few who take the money and run at some of the most mainstream places.
    That's why I check by USGamer. I don't believe anything like that is going on here. My gut says the reviews are the true opinions and experiences of the writer, as it should be everywhere.
    Far too many reviews out there are more off and making it sound like pure perfection (The Call Of Duty Ghosts review at IGN comes to mind. I like the game, but that review was way overboard) too often than could be seen as simply their perspective. They come off phony.
    Shining a spotlight on that, I'm all for.

    I still raise an eyebrow in the industry's direction in general when no one mentioned how broken either Assassin's Creed 3 or Skyrim (especially PS3, which I got) were when they released. It was all glowing, no mention of technical problems.
    Stuff like that makes you wonder.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #30 Sturat 2 years ago
    @danger.to.others With so much importance placed on metascores you'd think it would be better to pay off a bunch of smaller sites, but I guess you're more likely to get called out on it then...
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #31 Kuni-Nino 2 years ago
    I gave up on this issue when Leigh Alexander lobbed that stupid vindictive essay of hers. I usually like her writing but it was filled to the brim with SJW rhetoric and a false summation of everyone and everything. She was mad and she torched the whole community. I got mad and stopped caring. It's a good thing I never look at twitter.

    Personally, I think of this whole farce like that episode of the Simpsons when Lisa and her Mensa club try to make Springfield a more cultured, more progressive place. It ends up not working and they end up relinquishing their power to the idiots when they start a mob. That's what's going on now.
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  • Avatar for The-Fool #32 The-Fool 2 years ago
    I haven't really been terribly aware of the #GamerGate scandals, and was frankly a little confused as to what it was about.

    So, thank you, Mike. Thank you for the link to the Vox article, and for your thoughts here.

    I sincerely hope that, in the future, things might have improved.Edited September 2014 by The-Fool
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  • Avatar for whydoineedone #33 whydoineedone 2 years ago
    @MHWilliams That's a fair point but, to my recollection, no one else has bothered addressing this topic head-on. There will be muttered asides here and there, half-hearted gestures at recognising that there's a problem- capped with something along the lines of "Doesn't matter anyway, I assure you we don't let it affect us!" as if that materially addresses anything- but someone, anyone else, has yet to address it head-on like Rab did. Even Youtubers do a better job of approaching the topic.

    And then there are people in the gaming press who say "Sometimes I'm a journalist and sometimes I'm not." It shows that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of their responsibilities as a member of the Fourth Estate. Yes, it sounds silly to put "Fourth Estate" and "video games" together, but it's a multi-billion dollar industry and there need to be standards of professionalism and ethics. THIS is not a game. This is real life, and there are real consequences.

    This is all going over most of the gaming press' heads.
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  • Avatar for whydoineedone #34 whydoineedone 2 years ago
    @Punk1984

    >there is no way for GamerGate to gain steam with moderate people.

    I'm a moderate, and it's gained steam with me.

    >GamerGate should start their own news outlets.

    I've been tinkering with the idea.
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  • Avatar for Zomby-Woof #35 Zomby-Woof 2 years ago
    Deleted September 2014 by Zomby-Woof
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  • Avatar for Exhuminator #36 Exhuminator 2 years ago


    Maybe I'm a disaffected jerk, but this whole shebang seems like overblown melodrama to me. Like a hormonal pimple on the pubescent face of a slowly maturing medium. I see the fuss and what it's about, but I'm too busy actually playing video games to care.

    Edits: wordsEdited 3 times. Last edited September 2014 by Exhuminator
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  • Avatar for kingaelfric #37 kingaelfric 2 years ago
    @whydoineedone I get the desire for professionalism and ethics. I do, but it's the "need" I don't see. I don't consider "games journalist" types to be a part of the "Fourth Estate" for the same reason I wouldn't have said Roger Ebert is part of the Fourth Estate. They simply fulfill different functions, to my mind. Is a restaurant critic a part of the Fourth Estate? As far as I can tell, the anger aimed at journalists has been much more about aesthetic judgments than objective reporting of fact. There are reviewers I trust. There are YouTubers I trust. There are twitter folks I trust. Even at the highest levels of professionalism and ethicality possible, I will still occasionally buy a game with which I am not thrilled. I just don't understand the stridency, but I am willing to listen!
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #38 Monkey-Tamer 2 years ago
    Anyone that absolutely believes everything journalists write has been living with their head in the sand. Less than honest reviews have plagued every industry. Firms pay for fake reviews on amazon. This is business as usual, same as it has always been. Back in the day when I had to scrimp and save for a game I reviewed them myself before purchase by renting them at the local video rental. When mass amounts of money are at stake opinions will be bought. Form your own.
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  • Avatar for Punk1984 #39 Punk1984 2 years ago
    @whydoineedone I should have said "mainstream moderate." I was typing quickly, sorry. My point was that the view from outside looking in at #GamerGate shows a very negative view of the pro-gamergate side because of the bad apples and the history of harassment in the video games space.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #40 hal9k 2 years ago
    @trooper6 Good post, I absolutely agree that this mess seems primarily to be an attack on females in the industry and not an argument about ethics in journalism. As you said, my real concerns with ethics in the industry come from older scandals - the Kane & Lynch review that got Gerstmann fired from Gamespot, Sony's 2007 blackball of Kotaku, the morons at Telltale who promoted their Jurassic Park game on gaming forums under false pretenses. Fortunately, the backlash to the first two examples were swift and justified, which hopefully acts as a deterrent. I'm not sure how to prevent the 3rd example, but who listens to people on comment threads anyway...

    Personally, I don't see journalists donating to crowdfunding for games or having personal interactions with indie developers as a significant problem. As Oculus backers learned, there's a big difference between crowdfunding a project and investing. At worst, the biggest problem I see with the indie scene is a version of "Oscar-bait." As in film, books, or other creative fields, I think critics will sometimes be attracted to a work that may or may not have a lot of mainstream appeal. We take this for granted in other media - I don't see the torches and pitchforks coming out for film critics or voters for the Nobel Prize in Literature, certainly not to this extent. In gaming, examples of "critical darlings" could include Gone Home or (arguably) Depression Quest. Other examples could also include The Stanley Parable or Papers, Please - I wonder why I haven't seen nearly as many people bashing those?

    The above problem isn't a case of corruption or cronyism, it's just a difference in taste. Reviews are subjective, of course. Sometimes I wonder if people who argue over reviews are afraid of having a low sales resistance - are there actually people who go out and purchase every highly rated game just because of a high score? I like all the writers here, you guys are great and no offense - but I've never made a purchase based solely on a review (certainly not for a full price, new release game). Sure, reviews are a factor, but I'm not going to buy something with a concept that I'm just not interested in (for example, Amnesia) no matter how many 5-star, game of the decade awards it wins. Everyone has different tastes, and I've never seen a writer whose preferences align exactly with my own. Thankfully, I don't just read articles that exactly conform to my opinions.

    Anyway, excellent piece, Mike. I appreciated how clearly you stated US Gamer's policies, and I'm glad that this site has tried to stay above reporting all the sensationalism and rumors surrounding these issues.Edited September 2014 by hal9k
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  • Avatar for sean697 #41 sean697 2 years ago
    I think I've mulled over some issues and thought about this for a good while. I think some of this comes from maybe some outspoken personality's not relating to their audience. Because quite frankly, I don't think any of this gets off the ground if it's just people whining about feminism or sexism in games. Most gamers I think realize that their is a skew in how these things are portrayed in games, and maybe some don't really care. But a lot are sympathetic to these voices. But when a lot of these people get ugly and use social media as a battleground and treat this as if it's some kind of war, well frankly it's kind of off putting. I like what Anita Sarkeesian says that her videos are not meant to stop your enjoyment of games, but to shine a light on some underlying issues with games. Whereas others go about acting with ultimate authority what you should and shouldn't enjoy, and branding people on social media just for disagreeing with them. On anything. They have a disdain for there audience. They aren't writing to gamers, they are writing at them for cred from other people who share their views. Thankfully I've never seen this problem at US gamer.

    As an example I've seen Leigh Alexander on twitter disparage people, and industry people who are sympathetic to her, or would be,for simple tweeting something in disagreement with one of her opinion pieces. Like I have literally seen her tweet to sick her followers on people. I mean she's a great writer, but she is a very polarizing person when it comes to reacting to how people perceive her work.

    Other things are that with this trend that Videogames are art. (Something I don't nessesarily agree with) you get a lot of in depth pieces dissecting various issues in games, without your audience having any type of art appreciation. You have people wondering how a game like gone home, which is barely a game could win game of the year at certain outlets. When your audience is not automatically conditioned to why it is good. You see the same thing in movies. I recently saw Holy Motors. I think most people would say what kind of crap movie is this, without an in depth analysis and knowledge or art house cinema.

    If more people stopped and discussed these things in a civil manner, something could be learned. As it is people are caught in the middle where they are forced to agree with harassers and idiots or just stay quiet. Because there is no middle ground. It seems like you are eigther on one side or the other.

    I think most people can recognize if journalists are biased or have opinions that you don't agree with. You just over time learn to find the good ones. Which luckily, US gamer has a lot of them who I have trusted over the years.Edited September 2014 by sean697
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBarnstorm #42 JohnnyBarnstorm 2 years ago
    Glad you guys wrote about it. It's weird that most sites have stayed away from the topic as much as possible. I'm incensed that people harassed Jenn Frank. She's awesome.

    I don't believe it's about ethics, or it ever was about ethics.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #43 Ohoni 2 years ago
    I think this is one of the better articles around on the issue. The thing is, too often the trolls are lumped in to "gamer culture," as if gamers in general are in any way responsible for their behavior, condone their behavior, or have any capability to limit their behavior, all of which is obviously false. Trolls will be trolls, no matter how many reasonable people disagree with their behavior. The only impact you can have on a trolls behavior is by acknowledging it, by pointing out how horrible it is, which gives them exactly what their want, positive feedback.

    Now I will say, I do not believe that "the status quo" is a position. Fighting to maintain the status quo is, to some degree, but such arguments seem fairly rare to me. More often the view I see is "I do not believe that there is a need for a change, but that if change occurs, that's fine too." I share that view. I don't think the games industry needs more female or minority character, or employees. I don't think it would be a bad thing if it got more either. I think that the proper amount of female or minority characters in a game is exactly the number it ends up with, no more, no less. The proper amount of female or minority employees at a company are the exact number they hire based on qualifications, no more, no less. If a company actively discriminates against people based on race or gender, then there is no place for that, but if they happen to have 90% white male employees, there's nothing automatically "wrong" with that in need of "fixing," it's just how things turned out. The same would be true if they were 90% female or 90% Hispanic. What they have is what they should have.

    I think that over the past few months, the game journalism industry as a whole have been a bit up their own navel about issues like this, insinuating that there is something wrong with most games that feature a single protagonist, having that protagonist be a white male. There isn't, that choice is as valid as any other, and if they instead choose to use an Asian male or a black woman as the lead, that is not a "good" thing any more than it is a "bad" thing, it's just a design choice that they felt would work for the game they were making. This sort of topic does not need commentary, and just sets up an antagonistic relationship between gamers that does not need to exist.
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  • Avatar for docexe #44 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni The thing is that there is a genuine imbalance when it comes to the representation of women and minorities in the game industry. Having a white male character as the protagonist of a game is not inherently wrong by itself, neither having a team, developer or publisher composed primarily by white men. The problem is with preponderance: These things are the default and there are systemic and societal issues at play that skew things in their favor, while making things more difficult for the alternatives.

    In that sense, I think addressing and discussing that imbalance (both in terms of the content of games as well as in terms of the people who work in the industry) has merit. Some journalists point out these issues, discuss them and criticize them out of a genuine interest in seeing the game industry improving in these areas.

    Of course, it’s something that will take time and won’t happen from one day to the other, and I don’t deny that some critics become incredibly militant on their views to the point that their criticisms of these issues can be read as an outright attack or demonization of the industry and its many participants as a whole, as if doing such things would help to motivate or accelerate the change (it won’t, it’s a broad and harmful generalization that contributes to the antagonism).

    That being said, ignoring these issues, pretending they don’t exist, or not commenting on them doesn’t really help either. Change can’t happen unless people recognize that something needs to change in the first place, hence why the discussion is important.

    Now, if you don’t want to be part of that discussion, that’s fine and you are entirely free to do so. But in such case, the best course of action is simply to not read/watch the articles/posts/blogs/forum threads/videos/whatever in question. Just focus on the content that you want or are interested in and ignore the rest. Because if you go and comment on them while stating that you don’t think the issue should be discussed or that it merits commentary… well, sorry to say this, but then you are already taking a stance on the discussion.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #45 Ohoni 2 years ago
    @docexe There is an imbalance in representation, no question there. The only problem is, IS that a problem? I mean if you personally would like to see more female or minority characters then that is a perfectly reasonable opinion to express, but it isn't something that they would owe you, or that they should be doing, it's just something you personally want, and if enough people personally want that, then they would be making a good decision to provide it. Short of that though, they should just produce the characters they want to produce, and not even consider questions of diversity or balance.

    It does strike me though that my complaint on the issue is a bit hypocritical itself. I'm complaining that there is an imbalance in the views put forth by the gaming press, that too many of them too often complain about a "lack of diversity," but really any one writer should not be held responsible for the dozens of other writers exploring the same tired themes.

    I do completely disagree, however, with your assertion that "change can't happen without discussing the issue." I rather think that discussing the issue inhibits change as much as it helps, because people tend to dig in their heels to resist what they might see as an outside aggressor, attempting to change their existing games.

    If you have a game, and it happens to have a female protagonist, for example, nobody will protest that and plenty of people will play it without giving her gender a second thought. If, on the other hand, her gender is hyped to the rafters as some sort of much needed, progressive advancement of videogames as an art form, then there will be people who will think "well I don't want to support that nonsense, I'll stay out of this one."

    The solution is not to discuss the issue, it's to make it NOT an issue. Just make games that are more diverse, buy games that are more diverse, don't comment on them being more diverse, or comment on less diverse games as if they are doing something wrong, just play more games and have fun.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #46 pdubb 2 years ago
    @mhwilliams I trust the US Gamer staff. I read Zoe's article online at cracked today and something didn't sit right. Going down the rabbit hole of this issue is an awful terrible place as I attempted to understand everything that happened.

    However one thing that I have seen and wasn't mentioned in the cracked article after seeing it mentioned on the steam page when the event first happened was donations to Suicide hotlines and ifred. I understand there are lots of people who have less than objective views on the subject, but are there any ways to determine if donations were actually given to charity.

    Again, I understand that this is a sensitive issue and I don't know why the article bothered me enough to go read up more on it, but I can't put a finger on it. Thanks for your time no matter what happens.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #47 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    @pdubb On the donations, iFred confirmed them last week. https://www.facebook.com/ifredorg/posts/373372282788073
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  • Avatar for docexe #48 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni Considering the history of discrimination that women and other groups have experienced along the centuries, and that said discrimination continues even in these days… Well, the imbalance IS a problem. It might not affect you personally (honestly, the gender imbalance doesn’t affect me either), and it is fine if you don’t want to be part of the discussion (you can remain on neutral ground and ultimately nobody can force you to be part of it or to read those articles), but that doesn’t mean the issue shouldn’t be addressed in some way.

    Now, I certainly don’t agree with the idea of forcing or imposing creative decisions on developers, but discussing and criticizing the imbalance and pointing out the need to do better in those areas is not necessarily the same as imposing “a diversity quota” or something like that on every developer/publisher. Discussing a problem is necessary in order to analyze it and address it. Of course, I don’t deny that taking actual action might be more important, so I agree with the need of making and buying games that are more diverse.

    As to some people reacting to said discussion by resisting or resenting it because they perceive it as “an outside aggressor, attempting to change their existing games.” …Well, it’s true many have reacted in that way. It is part of human nature to resist change, it’s something that you, me and everyone else does, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes even when the change might actually be beneficial. But the thing is that no meaningful change in human history has ever happened without some kind of conflict happening first.

    That being said, I honestly think such fear can be an overreaction just as bad as the attitude of some writers of demonizing the entire industry based on the attitude of a few gamers, primarily because:

    a) Once again, nobody is really forcing those people to be part of the discussion, they can ignore it if they want.

    b) The journalists, critics and commenters on these issues don’t really have the power to force big corporations like EA, Activision, Take-Two, etc. to do anything.

    c) As long as they see money on it, those big publishers will never stop producing games in established series like GTA, COD, etc., neither games that cater to the tastes of the male audience.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #49 Ohoni 2 years ago
    @docexe Again, so long as the discussion is on the level of "I, as a private individual, would have preferred to have this option available, and would have enjoyed the game more if it were," then that's fine. The problem happens when whole articles are framed around the issue, or when it's framed as some sort of social justice cause, rather than a personal preference.

    That is not playing fair, that is not using a level playing field, that is claiming that the desire to play a character of a specific gender or race is somehow a more valid and Important desire than to, say, have a different leveling system or better auction house features.

    As to your point about "resisting change," it misses the point I was making entirely. Gamers don't resist change, they resist people TRYING to change. If you just change things, nobody cares. I have never heard a single complaint (outside the trollsphere, of course) about a game that features a female or minority lead character. There was no controversy over AC:L, AC4:FC, Infamous:FL, etc. featuring female or minority characters. Nobody really cares. There have been plenty of games featuring female an minority characters in the past, present, and future of games, and the better they sell, the more of them they'll make.

    But if you step to the games I like, and tell me that they are "doing wrong" by not featuring those characters, then yeah, we'll have issues. It's not that I'm resistant to change, it's that I'm resistant to you trying to change things to suit your whims. Don't focus on what existing games lack in your eyes, just focus on what you want to see in future products, and we'll have no beef.

    It's not about me being worried that anyone is going to "force" a publisher to do anything. I don't care about that. What I worry about is public perception, that the developers of these games are being portrayed as bad people for NOT giving in to the whims of these lynch mobs, and that sometimes people don't know any better and will take those criticisms at face value.

    I mean, if all you followed was the E3 coverage of AC:U, you'd never imagine that Ubisoft had already put out a female-led AC game, you might not even learn anything about the game itself, given how focused the journalists were on adding female co-op models that were never on the drawing board. It's just inappropriate behavior and it should not be encouraged.
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  • Avatar for docexe #50 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni So your particular beef is that these articles contribute to the poor perception that the public at large have of videogames?

    ...Well, I can certainly see that happening, although that would tie the discussion to the public perception problem that videogames have had for decades, which is way more complex and goes beyond the existence of articles talking about sexism in the industry. So, I’m not going to get into that tangent right now because it’s a matter for a broader discussion and we will be here for days if we tackle it.

    I’m just going to say that, once again, I don’t think the solution is to not discuss the issues of sexism, racism, etc. in gaming. If anything, I think some journalists and critics should take a more level headed and diplomatic approach and less of a confrontational stance when discussing them, because it can’t be denied that some articles do read as attacks stating something along the lines of “these developers/gamers are EVIL”, and that ultimately doesn’t help matters. You don’t combat intolerance with more intolerance because that inevitably undermines the message. You combat it with education and dialogue.

    Of course on that matter, we as gamers would also need to be more willing to look into those issues and learn about them. Not to mention learning to be tolerant of criticism of the games we like. Sometimes our immediate reaction to any criticism is to rage, regardless of whether or not the criticism in question might actually have merit.Edited 2 times. Last edited September 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for pdubb #51 pdubb 2 years ago
    @MHWilliams Thanks, makes me feel a little better. I want to believe that I shouldn't be so cynical about this issue. Will try to continue to be objective. Again, thanks for your time. It's really really hard to parse what's true and what's an elaboration from those on both sides.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #52 Ohoni 2 years ago
    @docexe I agree that the perception of gamers is a wider issue, but when you have a misunderstood minority group, don't you think that you should consider the implications to the historical view of that group and avoid misrepresenting that group as best you can?

    Ultimately, I don't think it's a problem for developers and journalists to discuss these issues, just not in the public sphere. do it amongst themselves in the privacy of their game studios. Like sexting, it's just not something that should be done in publicly available places.

    And again, criticism of a game is fine, so long as it doesn't lean into tones of moral outrage in cases where it is not expressly valid. I mean, you want to call Duke Nukem on sexism, that's probably fair, if a bit redundant, but if you want to call the very first previews of AC:U for sexism, maybe you want to have a little nuance there.
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  • Avatar for docexe #53 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni “I agree that the perception of gamers is a wider issue, but when you have a misunderstood minority group, don't you think that you should consider the implications to the historical view of that group and avoid misrepresenting that group as best you can?”

    Oh! I agree with the spirit of this statement, but then notice that strictly speaking, “gamers” is not a minority. On the contrary, the term minority actually refers to groups like women (who historically have been oppressed or treated as second class citizens in most societies), people of certain ethnicities that have been oppressed in certain countries, people with other sexual preferences rather than the morally/socially accepted one by the powers that be, etc.

    The term “gamer” can refer to either mere hobbyism or to the “subculture” surrounding that hobby, which would make us more similar to groups like “goths”, “punks”, “hipsters”, “larpers”, “otaku”, etc. Of course, our subculture and our hobby as well as those other groups that I have mentioned here have also been unfairly misrepresented and demonized by different sectors of society as time has passed, so the spirit of that statement can apply to us as well. But even then, it should be pointed out that the level of persecution subcultures like ours have suffered can’t compare with the level of persecution that actual minorities have experienced.

    And well, I agree with the need of more nuance in criticism because these issues aren’t always white or black. But I still disagree that these issue shouldn’t be discussed publicly. But that’s a point on which we will ultimately keep disagreeing, so it’s probably better to leave the conversation at that.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #54 Ohoni 2 years ago
    @docexe
    "Oh! I agree with the spirit of this statement, but then notice that strictly speaking, “gamers” is not a minority."

    Yes, gamers are a minority. There are racial minorities, and gender minorities (although technically "women" are a gender majority), but there are also minorities that people choose to be part of, for example religious minorities. Gamers are a minority of people in the world that are born with the potential to enjoy games, and that choose to partake in them.

    Perhaps in time they will grow to be a majority, but for the time being they are seen as an "other" by mainstream society, and there is a great deal of bigotry that surrounds us, as made clear by how often "gamer" is used as a synonym for "mouth breathing troglodyte" by even the gaming press. Until the mainstream can learn the distinction between "gamers" and "trolls," this issue needs to be handled far more carefully than it usually is.
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  • Avatar for docexe #55 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni Ok, I think you should read a bit more about sociology to understand what is a minority. I’m not an expert on the matter and neither have the time to explain it, and yes, I’m aware there are political and religious minorities, but honestly, I think it is incredibly disingenuous on your part to state that gamers are a minority. We have suffered some bigotry and stereotyping, yes, like many other social groups, but it doesn’t compare at all with the level of bigotry and persecution that actual minorities have suffered historically.

    Because seriously, man, here on the Western hemisphere can you honestly tell me that you would be denied employment or access to services/education/health care/whatever solely for being a gamer? Or paid less than your coworkers solely for being a gamer? Or that you would be unfairly imprisoned or even executed solely for being a gamer? It just doesn’t compare.

    So I think you should read a bit more about the issue ...Is that or maybe you are deliberately trolling me or trying to make me trip under my own statements, and if that’s the case, it’s probably better to not continue this conversation.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #56 Ohoni 2 years ago
    @docexe
    "We have suffered some bigotry and stereotyping, yes, like many other social groups, but it doesn’t compare at all with the level of bigotry and persecution that actual minorities have suffered historically."


    Agreed, it is certainly and obviously less than some other groups have faced, but the degree of bigotry does not mean that it does not take place, or that it should be excused when it does. Female gamers have certainly faced less discrimination than, say, gay couples, but does that mean that their concerns should be dismissed?

    I do, however, appreciate you disenfranchising my position by accusing me of being a troll, rather than considering that I might be right. It makes it clear what sort of a "dialog" we're having here.
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  • Avatar for docexe #57 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni Well, I have to admit I jumped the gun with the troll comment. Your previous statement seemed incredibly disingenuous to me, and I have seen a lot of trolls who use said kind of statements in order to derail conversations or make the other interlocutor trip over his own words. So, I’m sorry for misinterpreting your point.

    Even then, I’m just going to say this: I never stated that the bigotry and demonization of gamers doesn’t exist, neither that our concerns about that bigotry and demonization should be dismissed. Indeed, I said in my previous comment, textually: Of course, our subculture and our hobby as well as those other groups that I have mentioned here have also been unfairly misrepresented and demonized by different sectors of society as time has passed, so the spirit of that statement can apply to us as well.

    It’s just that it seems wrong to me to compare the demonization and bigotry we have suffered to the demonization, bigotry, persecution and oppression that actual minorities have suffered. At the risk of making an ill-fitting analogy, is like comparing a cold to a pneumonia, both are diseases and both require treatment, but like it or not, one is genuinely more serious than the other.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #58 Ohoni 2 years ago
    @docexe I would tend to agree in most contexts, but we're discussing "female gamers" here, which as minority groups go, are not that far removed from "gamers" in general. I mean, there is absolutely no justifying harassment of any kind, but the sort of harassment female gamers receive is remarkably tame when compared to those other groups you bring up, and not that far from just the general harassment women face in any public sphere (which is also not at all appropriate, of course, but the point is that girl gamers don't merit any special singling out as an exceptionally disadvantaged sub-group).
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  • Avatar for docexe #59 docexe 2 years ago
    @Ohoni That’s a fair point.

    Ultimately, I think the degrees and forms of prejudice are different for every group, but I also think that all those forms and levels of prejudice are wrong and need to be addressed in some way or the other (and for the record: not by demonizing other groups neither by engaging in what can be considered as censorship). Of course, you can’t apply something akin to a silver bullet because every group and their needs and concerns are different.

    It’s part of why I think discussion of these issues is important, but giving how complex the entire thing is and with so many varied factors at play, I have to admit I don’t really know what to do about it beyond taking a “small steps” approach (being willing to listen and discuss these things; reminding my acquaintances that videogames are more than “murder fests”; being willing to buy and play games with female characters or characters from minorities; making small donations when I have spare money, etc.)Edited September 2014 by docexe
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