As I reach the end of the week and look back it makes me feel ill. Everyone focused on Zoe Quinn and who she had sex with. That became the entire story. It should have been so much more.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Zoe had sex with anyone to curry favor. The incident did, however, create an opening to have a dialogue about how the gaming media has become insular and clique-ish. How there has been a giant "us vs them" mentality that makes little sense since "them" is their customers. Instead, people argued about Zoe Quinn. They argued about her based off of speculation. They argued in favor of her or against her because we have all been split up into different teams. There's us and there's them. The opportunity to have civil discourse was destroyed about two seconds after the window opened. The conversation should have never been about Zoe in the first place.
Some good did come out of this below the screaming from both sides. The issue surrounding the ethics of contributing to game creators (typically in the form of Patreon) and then covering said person/game was called into question. Kotaku and Polygon, two of the biggest gaming sites on the internet, changed their policies surrounding this. There wasn't a grand conclusion met because the issue has many layers, but a dialogue did happen and there is now more transparency at both outlets. Some are mad at Kotaku, saying they went a step too far by banning their writers from contributing at all, and think that Polygon's decision to just make their writers disclose that they have contributed is fairer. I don't know what is the right answer there but that's why we need to have these conversations. Whether Kotaku went too far or not, what we have now is two major websites that are more transparent than they were before. This is a GOOD thing.
Imagine if the rest of this week went this way. If we saw Phil Fish do his Phil Fish thing and then saw that disgusting revenge blog from Zoe's ex-boyfriend and said "Ok, let's see if anything happened." And then we went "Slightly suspicious but no actual proof; non-story." And then we went "but lets have a conversation about why a story like this is so believable." Let's face it, if you are to take social media and forums of both "gamers" and "journalists" and aggregate what they are saying they basically hate each other. "Gamers" don't trust the media. The media think that "gamers" are vile, women-hating cretins. This isn't absolute, of course, but that is what the discourse has been. So instead of just sticking with that and screaming at each other, what if "gamers" and journalists had an honest conversation.
We could have talked about how we get the feeling that the gaming media is more beholden to publishers than customers. The media could have explained how their business operates. We could have discussed the clique-ish-ness of certain journalists and how they present arguments as "if you don't agree you are a woman-hating bigot" that it is offensive to those of us who see many shades of grey instead of black/white. They could have explained why it's important to have social critics, even if we don't agree with them, and that if you hate what someone is writing the logical thing to do is not read their writing... not DOX them and send them death threats. We could have discussed Anita Sarkeesian's newest video with an eye on what we agree with and what we don't agree with and why. An open dialogue where we learned about each other. Where we learned that the vast majority of us aren't the lunatic fringe, that we do think about things like sexism, homophobia, extreme violence, and other issues in games and while we don't come to the same conclusions we could at least see where everyone was coming from.
That could have happened this week. Instead people screamed over each other and the gaming world feels as polarized as I've ever felt in my 37 years. We should feel ashamed. The fact that we don't points to the source of the problem. Us. All of us.
The Quinn thing, Phil Fish, PSN & bomb threats and now everything with Anita is calling into question what "gamers" are, really. And to put it plainly, it's all made me feel very detached from this whole situation. I'm typically not an empathetic person. My last job doing tech support over the phone at Comcast did a number on me. With that said, I feel awful for these people in the public eye getting shit on for whatever opinion they have and quite literally in someone cases, have their lives ruined or severely threatened. For example, I don't think Phil Fish is a good dude and don't play or buy his stuff, but I would not wish what happened to him on anyone. More to my point about what "gamers" are and if I'm lumped into that stereotype or categorization or whatever... I'm just a guy who loves video games. I play them all the time. I read about them almost just as much as playing them. Differing opinions about games interest me as well. I'm not a bigot or a mysoginst or anything in-between. Do I get lumped into whatever a "gamer" is? That's the part that frightens me. Are we all cast in a nasty light because some people who are hateful play a JRPG or pop in Call of Duty from time to time? Great article, Pete. And you're right. While this week could have been different, and probably should have been, I'm glad some outlets and people put some information out there regarding their policies and what is ethical or unethical. It's very nice to see that transparency every once in awhile. Keep up the good work. I love reading news and editorial here.
Sorry about the wall of text. Haha. Attempted to create paragraphs but comments might not be formatted like that. My bad.
I focussed too much on Zoe in this big discussion, i know. And i know there is a much bigger problem. There are a lot of internet haters, and i think i am not one of them. I certainly don't hate women, and i can take critque from women fairly well. They are right in a lot of things when i comes to gaming. And i know the Zoe thing distracted from the bigger issues. Her issue was toxic to the whole discussion. I get that. Sometimes you need to let an issue go for the greater good. But that, for me, is hard. When i think something is wrong, how small it may be, i don't let go easily. Even if it is better to just that. We all learn.