Dear Aggrieved and Beleaguered Old-Sk00l Gamers

Gamer
She’s Purdy. I Should Threaten to Kill Her.

For those with lives too busy to bother following mini-scandals in the gaming industry, Chris Plante of Polygon recaps a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for the community as a whole. Little ‘ol unknown me will list the events, as did he, because they’re so outrageous they warrant repeating:

1. Old-sk00l gamers, opposed to structural shifts in the industry, used Youtube, Reddit, twitter, 4chan, and an assortment of channels to distribute defamatory and private correspondence about a sexual matter between one purple-haired female indie-developer and her chagrined dirty-laundry-tell-all ex-boyfriend. The ex claimed that of several she’d slept with while they were together, one is a gaming journalist. This got a contingent of the gamer community up in arms over supposed systemic corruption within gaming journalism. Ostensibly because that journalist might have posted positive reviews of her freely available game in a sex-for reviews quid-pro-quo, and thereby promoted not just the game but her feminist values as well.

2. A friend of this purple-haired indie-game-dev chick, Phil Fish, an indie-dev himself, tweeted a note of support for her. In response, someone hacked his twitter account and web site. He wasn’t pleased about that.

3. In a separate matter, feminist vlogger Anita Sarkeesian released another of her videos on Tropes Versus Women in Videogames on Youtube. There’s been a history of vehement opposition to her work, with death and rape threats, harassment, and general trolling. And this week, it happened again.

 Screen shot 2014-08-29 at 10.46.54 AM

Someone messaged her with death threats against her and her family, including her home address to make it clear they were serious. She and her family left home in fear for their lives. The story’s all over the news. Real classy.

4. It seems old-Sk00l kids don’t like Sony either. A bomb threat diverted a flight carrying Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley. And someone engaged in a denial of service attack that shut down the Sony Playstation Network.

5. And yesterday, someone called the police and made a false report about game developer Chris Kootra. As a result, a SWAT team invaded his company offices with guns drawn. One false move and he could have been killed.

swatted’. Authorities call it a felony.

After Plante finished summarizing these sorry events he concluded:

Polygon:

This week, it should be clear to this community that games are at a cultural turning point. No longer are games designed, marketed and sold to a niche group of young men. … More games are being created by more people for more people than ever before.

Which is right. But I wish Plante had also focused on the business side of this cultural transition in gaming. It’s more than just a cause of social righteousness. Because, as the PBS NewsHour reported, women now outnumber teenage boys as a market demographic buying games.

Adolescent boys are widely considered to be one of, if not the most, sought-after demographic by game development studios, but the uptick of female gamers could be a signal of changes to come. Mobile ad firm Flurry Analytics found that on on the whole, women presented a much larger value proposition to game developers in terms of revenue and brand engagement. [link in original]

That’s a fact seemingly ignored by just about everyone, journalists and both pro and anti feminist gaming activists alike. Instead, the focus is on media personalities.

Anita Sarkeesian versus Thunderf00t. Or, InternetAristocrat versus [unnamed female indie-dev-chick with purple hair]. This personalized conflict mobilizes the masses on each side, drawing viewership, building audience, fanning comment flame wars. Anti-social-justice-warriors claim Sarkeesian incites trolls to attack her and thus build a sympathetic audience, all while disseminating salacious and sometimes defamatory material about their opponents to do just the same. Both sides get more views as the controversy escalates. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But lately, the anti-social-justice warriors have used the scandal with this purple-haired-indie-dev chick, and revelations about her private life, to elevate the matter to one of supposed journalistic ethics. Taking reports from the ex-BF detailing her relationship with this other journalist and concluding that an alleged sex-for-game-review quid-pro-quo had occurred. Thus, to them, here was proof of widespread ‘journalistic corruption’ in the gaming press.

Are you fucking kidding me?

You needed to reveal details of some purple-haired-chick’s private sex life to make the case that for-profit media companies print public relations and help their advertising customers maximize sales? You conclude ‘journalistic corruption’ because one journalist might have released a bogus positive review of a game that’s given away for free?

And this is your case for corrupt journalism?

Rob Simple’s blog presents a well written argument for that position (I like Rob’s blog). He also includes a hoard of down the rabbit-hole crazy-facts-that-don’t-matter about that female developer whom I shan’t name, so go there for the digs. But, getting to the core issue of this so-called journalistic ethics debate, and what to do to save gaming journalism, he concludes:

Honestly, I don’t think it needs saving. It needs [to be] euthanised.

I’m sorry, euthanizing the gaming press is your solution? Never mind that it’s no solution, just how do you implement it? Are you going to take out the entire gaming press with a carefully aimed BFG shot? I’m sure the industry is – ahem – quaking in their boots.

Look, gaming journalism isn’t a morass of industry collusion because some unknown green-haired indie-game-dev-chick may have gotten one or more unfair positive reviews for a free game. As Totalbiscuit eloquently points out, the real issue is a gaming public being repeatedly snookered by misleading public relations campaigns for shitty commercial products. With supposedly objective reviewers trading inside access to promote a hype machine about an ever present unbearably desirable new. And those gaming media outlets thus raking in ad revenue cash in the process. All that to hawk $60 pieces of unfinished garbage. And you facilitate all this. Feminists gaming press is a side issue.

There’s an argument I’ll buy. Totalbiscuit, I salute you.

You want to talk real corruption in journalism? The field is a mess everywhere these days. Some examples that dwarf little things like video games: Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Margaret Wente, Jonah Lehrer, Gerald Posner, and more – all disgraced for publishing false quotes and/or printing plagiarism. A Poyntr study reported that in 2012 alone, a total of thirty-one known instances of reporters fabricating quotes or plagiarizing sources had been revealed.

Here’s some more: In the lead up to the Iraq War, Judith Miller, of The New York Times, wrote numerous hard news articles using anonymous quotes by Bush administration officials that turned out to be false. The Times’ editors squelched James Risen’s report on Warrantless Wiretapping at the request of Bush Administration officials during the ’04 election cycle, thus impacting the election itself. Scott Shane’s NY Times reports in 2010-11 that cited unnamed CIA sources who smeared the London Bureau of Investigative Reporting’s work documenting Afghan civilian casualties, falsely calling it a Pakistani Intelligence operation. And let’s not forget Dan Rather’s report that used a falsified document purporting to supposedly prove George Bush’s draft dodging. Or Lara Logan’s CBS News 60 Minutes flawed report on Benghazi citing an anonymous source that turned out to have lied about his background and uttered false claims on camera.

I could go on and on with more examples, but those were stories of national and international import. More than just disseminating false public relations and corporate propaganda to sell newly released or pre-release commercial games, but shit nations go to war over.

OK, so agreed – ethics in journalism is seriously fucked up. But then so is this idiotic example of a random purple-haired-chick used as some grand cause célèbre for ferreting out ‘systemic journalistic corruption.’

You gotta be fucking kidding me.

Totalbiscuit’s discussion of big gaming companies wresting bogus reviews for pre-orders and shitty games seems a more viable target. That is, if you want to hit upon the core of bad journalistic and commercial media practices. Because no for-profit media company would put their reputation on the line and disseminate false reviews of certain free games merely to promote a social agenda. That’s nuts. No, they’d want more. A big advertising contract. Insider access for a juicy story sure to draw audience. SHOW ME THE MONEY.

These are the things that move media business. So I’ll put it in stark terms:

No mere social movement alone has EVER shifted the media landscape in a multi-billion dollar industry.

  • Though green-warriors have sat in trees, though they spiked trunks and marched on logging companies, splendid forests are still felled.
  • Though anti-fracking activists have showed their sink faucets spewing fire before cameras, though they march on fracking sites and organized countless anti-fracking campaigns, those big-bad energy companies still squirt chemicals into the ground and bottle up natural gas for sale.
  • Though whales are magnificent creatures with large brains who sing beautiful songs, and though a cheesy Star Trek movie sympathetic to their plight might have tugged at nerd hearts if nerds had one, and even after a Save the Whales bumper sticker craze lit up the ’70s like an old roach, the damn things are still stuck with harpoons, dragged onto whaling ships and taken to market to be eaten by hungry Japanese.
  • And the civil rights movement? Really? #ferguson

You anti-social-justice-activists plain have it wrong. Journalists aren’t colluding with game developers to force social justice themes on buyers of games. No business has ever cared about social justice. They collude with big players to sell shitty products and attract advertising revenue.

Got that? It’s about MONEY.

As told in that PBS article on women gamers having overtaken teenage boys as buyers, this tells the tale of a demographic shift affecting product and press. So does Anita Sarkeesian and the +200,000 followers on her Youtube channel. These are leading indicators of a potential lucrative market the gaming industry wants to tap. Let’s be honest, these companies are more interested in exploiting new markets than furthering the cause of the exploitation of women. All this hoopla about chick-games is an industry tailoring new product to suit new buyers. Not some great awakening of social conscience by a once misogynistic now reformed industry.

They do it because it will make them richer.

And all ya’ll old-Sk00l gamers are a tapped out and maximized market. How much more growth opportunity do you present?

Ya’ll won’t change this market transformation by loudly complaining on Youtube, Reddit, /v/ and elsewhere. Or engaging in illegal guerrilla tactics like threatening the life of a feminist culture critic, smearing a purple-haired indie-dev-chick by disseminating details of her private life, hacking a corporate gaming network and making bomb threats at an airport to piss off one of their executives, and certainly not by calling in a SWAT team on some random game developer. That shit will simply destroy your credibility and attract notice of very pissed off authorities with real guns and a long memory.

You’re doing it wrong, kids.

727-computer-reaction-face-gun-shoot-head-suicide-an-hero

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8 thoughts on “Dear Aggrieved and Beleaguered Old-Sk00l Gamers

  1. A well written piece, although I figure you know already that I have to disagree with a lot of it.

    Just in regard to the part you quoted me on about euthanising the gaming press –as in the concept, not the actual people– that actual line was an off the cuff remark, I feel like I elaborated on it further down but I apologise if it wasn’t clear enough, because sometimes I forget when I’m writing that other people don’t think exactly the same way I do.

    What I was trying to say is that the gaming press, in it’s current incarnation, doesn’t work. Not for the best interests of everyone. Now, just because it happens to be aligned with far left views, isn’t why I’m against it. If they were constantly writing articles about hating women in games, I’d be every bit as against it as I am just now, while they’re currently painting every gamer with a penis as a patriarchal monster.

    Basically: I’m against anyone using their position of power to spread their own agenda. I understand that personal bias will always enter into writing a little bit, because writing is a deeply personal thing, but some of the articles I’ve seen on sites like Kotaku craft entire narratives out of next to nothing, aside from the authors own, individual opinion, [See: The article on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, ‘celebrating rape’.]

    I’m going to write a follow-up piece later on today where I flesh out that general idea, so hopefully that will clear things up, but if not I’m happy to have a discussion about it.

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    1. I don’t know why your comment wasn’t automatically approved. I’m experimenting with WordPress. Have more material over at Blogger.

      Anyway, thanks a bunch for responding. And fair enough on the quote. I did read your piece in full, but have to admit that little snipe stood out as begging to be quoted. lol

      Have you considered that Kotaku management may have decided to target a female audience and directed the writer and his editor to spice shit up just to draw women in?

      I don’t know what it’s like in there, but do know that publishing houses and newspapers do that all the time. Trolling for dollars rather than replies.

      I’ll read your ‘celebrating rape’ blog post. And look forward to your next blog installment on this issue.

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      1. I could try and pretend I’m really clever and that my ‘euthanise the press’ quote was designed to be quoted out of context and draw people in, but I’m really not that clever, I just have a flair for the theatrical.

        As to your comment on how Kotaku are running things, I actually think you’re absolutely right. I think they know exactly what they are doing, and that’s why I have such a problem with it.

        If they just want to appeal to a female audience, that’s cool with me. I think the same about games, in general, about movies, music, books…all of it. Because no matter who the target demographic is, if I think it looks good I will still enjoy it. Or to put it another way: I’m pretty sure that Definitely Maybe was designed for the straight, twenty-something male demographic, but I love me some Ryan Reynolds, and I have a real soft spot for a good rom-com.

        My problem with what Kotaku are doing, on the other hand, is that they are going beyond appealing to a market. When they publish articles that put words in the mouths of developers, or that paint as yet innocent men as rapists, that begins to create a narrative, and anyone casually reading their site will just accept it because, hey, they’re a reputable news site; they wouldn’t lie, right?

        This is an extremely dangerous, and as I think you mentioned, we see it on a much grander scale in the rest of the world. Politicians who twist facts and skew statistics to try and push their agenda, newspapers who run unfounded scandal stories, stories that actually do ruin lives, because it gets them hits.

        I know that in the grand scheme of things, gaming press is just a small part of a much bigger problem, but it’s the part that I’m most informed about, that I follow the most, so it’s that part of the corruption that I personally choose to try and fight against.

        I can understand why it seems silly to people who only have a passing interest, why people think it’s just a bunch of boys angry about having to let a girl into their treehouse, but I think to just write it off as that and nothing more is giving sites like Kotaku exactly what they want, and it’s really, really dangerous.

        Kotaku, at this point, is essentially a propaganda machine: So many of the articles they run are based on no facts, no statistics, no market trends –if they were then the fact that women now make up the largest percentage of gamers would have blown a hole in their rhetoric about the big, bad patriarchy– and, as you say, if that’s what people wanna read, it’s not my business to tell them not to, but when that information is filling peoples heads with lies, with nonsense and stereotypes that are no longer applicable, it only serves to drive a wedge deeper into the divide between gamers, gaming press and devs.

        As I’ve said from the start, I don’t care if women wanna play games, I don’t care if women wanna make games, I don’t care if the character I play as in a game is a women: all I care about is playing games.

        This is the sentiment of every other gamer I personally know and it’s the sentiment of most of the people I’ve talked to online.

        Sure, there are some assholes who still go ‘no it has to be a man, my immersion!’ but gamers are like any other group of people, you’re always gonna get dickheads, but the portrayal of us in the media is always, ALWAYS that we’re a rabid mob of angry dudes who are livid about all these skirts muscling into OUR hobby.

        They are continuing to perpetuate a stereotype that no longer exists, hell maybe never existed, at least not to the extent they’ve suggested it did, and that’s what is really holding the industry back: the fact that no one is just allowed to make games anymore, that they have to be saying something meaningful, but if they’re not or if they’re saying what the journalist thinks is the wrong thing (again, Lords of Shadow 2) then these websites will waste no time in dragging gender politics, and race culture and the patriarchy into a debate where none of those things have any place.

        Sorry, I’ll shut up now, I didn’t mean to go off on such a long rant in your comments section, I’m just tired of being painted as something that I’m not.

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  2. Also I made a few typos, and it’s killing me, I meant Def Maybe wasn’t written with me in mind, and it should be ‘rape culture’ instead of race, although plenty of people drag race into the argument, too.

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    1. I’ve got to read your ‘rape’ piece about that Kotaku story before I can comment on it.

      Rob Simple Wrote:

      “Sure, there are some assholes who still go ‘no it has to be a man, my immersion!’ but gamers are like any other group of people, you’re always gonna get dickheads, but the portrayal of us in the media is always, ALWAYS that we’re a rabid mob of angry dudes who are livid about all these skirts muscling into OUR hobby.”

      Well, let’s be honest. YOU didn’t do those horrible things. A silent majority of the oldsk00l didn’t do them. But some creepy minority did. Because media outlets that used to cater to oldsk00l interests are now refocusing their brands toward customers more interested in Hello Kitty and The Bachelor than Football and Mortal Kombat.

      And the old community doesn’t like that. They’re being shoved aside by the pink gown set.

      I grew up with video games. I’m 46. I’ve owned one of just about every console generation since the 2600. Bought a Voodoo card just to play Quake (the first one). Spent countless all-nighters on fragging on Quake 3. These days own a PS3.

      But even though I’ve played games for decades, I like – though often disagree with – Sarkeesian. The thing about her is that she frames her critique using well understood academic models from the Humanities. She’s not brilliant, no Susan Sontag. In fact, her entire approach is derivative of Sontag’s motif analysis in Fascinating Fascism.

      But she’s not stupid. She makes interesting – if provocative – points. And she works her schtick. Builds audience. Just like Thunderf00t does.

      I’m just not that worked up over some chick posting youtube videos. Or, for that matter, some green-haired chick writing a text adventure game derivative of Zork that explores depression. She wants to do that? Go at it. Some reviewer likes it? Whatever. The damn thing is free. If you think it sucks, at least you didn’t get burnt or $60 (or $5) in the process.

      The question of journalism standards in commercial press is another matter. Disinformation and abusive public relations is affecting every aspect of life in the public arena. Citizens have been de-facto stripped of their franchise, threatening the social contract. It’s that serious. Abuse in game journalism might be a microcosm of that. I wouldn’t doubt it.

      But freaking out over publicity for a free game won’t change endemic problems in the field – and I mean ethics in gaming journalism, not in general. You got to hit them where the money is. These are for-profit ventures.

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      1. I’ve posted a new article, doesn’t touch on the rape story, but I can link you that a video that lays out the details about it really well on Twitter, if you like.

        To be completely honest, I don’t like Anita Sarkeesian, in terms of her work, and I actually don’t like Thunderf00t either, both for the same reason: They make everything they take about relate to their own interests. Anita has to tie everything she talks about into feminism, when it isn’t always –sometimes people aren’t dicks because they hate women; they’re just dicks– and Thunderf00t, at least from what I’ve seen, has to tie everything back into atheism, even when it has nothing to do with that.

        I support both feminism and atheism as causes, because I support the idea of a society that is based on logic and reasoning, and equality is a big part of that, but I think when you have to shoehorn your cause into every single thing you talk about, even when it’s something you really don’t know a lot about (there have been a couple things in TvW that Anita is just flat-out wrong about; I’ve not seen much of Thunderf00t’s work, but I’m sure he’d be the same) you ultimately end up doing a disservice to the ideals your striving toward.

        Despite all of that, though, I don’t feel like I’ve been personally wronged by any of these people, I just really cannot abide the distribution of outright lies and half-truths because ultimately it holds all of us back.

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  3. Me again. Sorry for clogging up your comments, but I wanted to mention that I’m an idiot and it was USGamer and not Kotaku who ran the Castlevania story. I only just realised, but it was killing me knowing that I’d blamed the wrong people in my comments.

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