For those who aren’t aware, #GamerGate kicked off when an ex-boyfriend of game developer Zoe Quinn, Eron Gjoni a programmer, wrote a blog post complaining about her treatment of him and five others, including her boss, Joshua Boggs, and a gaming journalist, Nathan Grayson. What this snowballed into was a criticism of the ethics of gaming journalism and a frank look at the misogyny involved in the gaming community, with games journalists being criticised for financially supporting the development of games, ending in vast campaigns (or ‘Operations’) to attack gaming journalists and their publications.
Let me make this clear: what follows from this is my own opinion on this situation and is not representative of Vada Magazine, its publishers, directors, or even any of the rest of the editorial staff. I am not being paid to write this by anyone, nor am I being asked to contribute my opinion for any other reason than it being of interest to the overall discussion. I am not involved with #GamerGate in any other way than as a bystander who happens to also be involved in the relative industry. I repeat, Beverly Leslie is a homosexual.
The #GamerGate hashtag has appeared on Twitter a number of times, as many hashtags do these days, but is possibly the most enduring of the second half of this year. When this all kicked off in August, I wasn’t really paying attention, but as it is something that endured I figured that I would do some research into it, and thanks to the GamerGate Wiki I was updated pretty quickly.
Reading about #GamerGate several things became clear: 1) this is an attack on gaming journalists and a call for better ethics, but without real knowledge of the relationship between game developers and gaming journalists; 2) the issue between Quinn and Gjoni is one of a sour breakup, rather than ‘revealing’ Gjoni’s inherent misogyny; and, 3) among all the material discussing this on blogs, websites, magazines etc., not many journalists have spoken honestly about their role, instead finding solace in attacking gamers and gaming as a whole, which is frankly a rather large divide.
So here is the deal – the truth about gaming journalism.
Most gamers are male. With this in mind, is it wrong of game developers, designers, and, producers to target their main audience? What this does reveal, however, is that being in an underrepresented group in the gaming world will mean you get more attention for whatever you do, and maybe, too, they will be under greater scrutiny. This may explain, for example, how Quinn was able to garner so much attention and financial contributions for her work from gaming journalists.
The relationship between the gaming industry and gaming journalism is more complex than any other lifestyle section. Whilst film writers are invited to premieres and press screenings, and food and drinks writers get access to food shows and free samples, games writers get given copies of games that are currently worth up to £80 in the UK, with very little cause for recall. This means that in an average year of games writing, where a journalist plays and reviews only one game every fortnight, they clock up an average of 26 games on their shelf, at an approximate value of £1,039.74 (if they are PS3/Xbox 360 games, which go on sale for an average of £39.99 each at launch).
They also see more about what games are coming out, trends in publishing, and, know about all the problems of the games community (under-representation is just the tip of the iceberg) because they talk about it a lot, and sometimes with the games developers. This means when they see a project that they like, of course they will want to donate to it, just as I donated $15 to the Read Only Memories Kickstarter last year.
An outsider to this sees an ethical dilemma because of the nature of journalism, but if you were to ask a political journalist what their personal views on next years’ general election were, for example, you would probably discover more influence than just reading between the lines of their publication or articles. Yet they are not condemned.
The situation gets compounded when you add things like LGBT+ publications to the mix, which by and large do not have a dedicated Tech or Games writer on staff as they only use the space to generate advertising revenue. Yet when I opened up discussions with SquareEnix, as a fan of the games they produce like Kingdom Hearts, they were happy to send copies of games because they wanted to be featured more in LGBT+ publications.
Ultimately, a call for more ethics in gaming journalism is avoiding a larger plot – that without gaming journalism, games producers will lose a large connection with their target audience, and messages will therefore be lost. Of course games journalists are in the pockets of games producers and vice versa, but it is a system of checks and balances that ensures that the best games are produced, at least in the vast majority of cases.
Lastly, the attack on gamers is just ridiculous, because the majority of gaming journalists are gamers themselves, so the ones who started that whole argument are clearly the ones who did journalism at university (or college or whatever), didn’t get their place at The Telegraph (or Boston Herald – again, whatever), and so ‘settled’ for writing about video games. Attacking your target audience is stupid, and the writers involved should be fired.
The three Cs of #GamerGate – corruption, collusion, and censorship – are not quite as simple as they should be, and involved participants attacking journalists and writers for the first two are allowing more of the third, censoring expression of opinion and expression of artistry in the form of the games themselves.
Image courtesy of MetalEater.com