The internet is an odd place. Once considered the information superhighway, it is my personal belief that it has begun to turn into a misinformation superhighway if you’re unwilling to read on a topic for more than ten minutes. Even going to aggregation sites will ultimately steer you in the wrong direction if you’re not careful to take in the full story. As it stands, I feel the need to take the time and discuss a couple of issues that have crossed my desk, and I’ve let sit for far too long. I wanted to have a discussion about the importance of ethics in game journalism, #Gamergate, and an accusation lobbied towards me by Zoe Quinn.
Addressing Ms. Quinn.
I wanted to get this bit out of the way because a) it actually leads in well to the other topics and b) has been bugging me for some time. Since word has a tendency to get around on the internet, I’d like to address Zoe Quinn, who in a post on Medium used an image from my article Second Thoughts: Portrait of the Opposition and took it out of context. Since I have my doubts that you watched the video where I criticized internet famous Dan Olson’s video on Gamergate, I’ll just give a condensed version. My Second Thoughts articles are meant to expand on topics that I bring up in my Mind of Micah C videos.
Now, I do want to thank you for placing a link to my article in your post on Medium so that people can read the article and decide for themselves. I don’t know if that was your intention, but ultimately that can be a result of the action. The image that you linked is a photoshopped screen grab from that particular video in which Mr. Olson took the time to call yourself, Brianna Wu, and Anita Sarkeesian “game culture critics” which was a position that I vehemently disagreed with. Beyond that, I also took a short look at some of the pervasive ideas that have been put forward that Gamergate is ideologically opposed to. To shorten it, I discussed the idea that two sides of the political horseshoe (in this case, Libertarians and Far-Left Authoritarians) are beginning a cultural battle that we’ve now seen waged over the internet and in the mainstream press (sans Fox News).
With that said, I cannot speak for the entirety of the TechRaptor staff and any articles they have written in regards to your work or life. They have their own voices and I’ll not speak for them. I will speak for myself, because as someone who has worked in journalism in some capacity since 2009 I feel the need to defend my standards. I don’t care about your personal life, quite frankly. Whom you have sex with, relationships with, or what have you have no bearing on my day to day life. The only time I think about such things is when they cross into the realm of game journalism, such as Ben Kuchera not disclosing that he is contributing to your Patreon account, or your relationship with Nathan Grayson not being disclosed to his audience as he gives you positive press. Even then, you have nothing to do with their decisions. Why people mention you outside of those relations is beyond me.
You see Zoe, I’ve been a longtime critic of the lack of ethics in video game journalism. These critiques of mine go back to 2010, when I wrote rather scathing articles about Ben Kuchera mocking a man’s unemployment status, and Jim Sterling’s rampant sexism on top of his inability to act like an adult. I even confronted both of them about such issues, which ended in an insincere email from Kuchera and Sterling attempting to sic the Destructoid message board on me, only to prove my point further. Now, I don’t expect you or many others to know these things because such things have long since passed, but the point that I’m making is that I have fought for journalism ethics before Gamergate existed, and should it end and I am still involved in journalism, I will continue the fight. I’ll address both Gamergate and journalism ethics in the rest of the article, but let me say this: ethics are important to myself and the audience, no matter who they affiliate with.
To close this section, let me say this: I disagree with La mort de l’auteur almost in its entirety.
Ethics in Game Journalism
Professionally, Video Game Journalism is not my priority. My day job is. Journalism is a second job that I don’t even do for myself. The money that I make from it goes to charity. With that said, there’s a scripture that sticks with me the more I age from the book of Ecclesiastes. Before I quote it, know that I’m not trying to convert the reader here. Just give a part of my thought process so that folks will understand my state of mind as I discuss ethics from here on in. The scripture comes from Ecclesiastes chapter nine, verse ten. This is probably my favorite book in the Bible due to its sobering nature, but this scripture has stuck with me as the book concludes.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
Essentially, we all have our lot in life, so we should find joy in the work that we do. Work, in and of itself, is often spent servicing another person in some fashion. The same is true of journalism, but what must always be kept in mind is that the duty of someone who serves is to make sure that the served is well taken care of. That’s why journalistic ethics are so important. Your audience is buying your information, whether it be through a direct method or an indirect method. When I interact with my audience, they want to know three things: what the information is, where it came from, and what does the writer have to do with it, if anything. This way they can determine if the information is trustworthy.
This is what makes disclosure so important to the audience. There is always going to be a trust relationship between the publisher, the writer, and the consumer. The publisher trusts the writer to write, the writer trusts the consumer to read, and the consumer trusts that the publisher didn’t hire a hack. Beyond that, we as humans know what it’s like to receive or see others receive preferential treatment. Nepotism can be a negative side effect when you invest yourself into another human being, whether it be via love or friendship. Consumers want to avoid these situations because some friends will sell snake oil for their buddies if asked to.
With just about any human being on the planet, these sorts of disclosures are important. They even cross over to the business realm. In my day job, I have to keep my biases in mind and try to be as objective as humanly possible, or I may invest advertising funds in the wrong area, or have some other kerfluffle happen. So, why would there be a backlash to, say, Tyler Wilde and PC Gamer realizing they made an ethical mistake?
#GamerGate, and am I a part of it?
It’s been rather interesting to discuss and cover the Gamergate controversy since I’ve rejoined the fold as a game journalist. The unique nature of the movement being completely digital has seen a lot of impact, but also a lot of fear and many bold reactions. We’ve seen Gawker lose millions, Gamasutra hit hard as a backlash to Leigh Alexander’s “Gamers are Over” article, on top of sites like IGN and The Escapist revising their ethics policies. Granted, not all of these can be attributed to Gamergate, but it would be a lie to say that the reason ethics have become a talking point is not because of Gamergate.
Reactions to such happenings have been rather mixed. Many of the people who have been calling for an increase in transparency, on top of many regular readers, have largely had a positive reaction to ethical changes. In regards to the impacts on Gawker and Gamasutra, there has largely been a reaction of shock from the average Joe, not expecting what they originally considered a small band of nerds to carry such power. Then, of course, you have the incumbent game journalists. Their reaction has been predictable.
With ad hominem attacks ranging from dismissing proven fact as rumor or flat out calling it terrorism, the incumbent game journalists and their supporters have largely come to see Gamergate as a threat. It seems that Polygon cannot go a month without Ben Kuchera writing an opinion (read: propaganda) piece that denounces Gamergate for whatever reason. Even the mainstream press (who can be tied to some gaming websites either politically or via parent companies) have decided to get in on the action, with MSNBC and ABC taking their time to attack Gamergate. Granted, from a logical perspective such attacks have been laughable, being rife with logical fallacies, one sided research, and stacking the proverbial deck argument wise.
It’s as if those particular outlets think that having a panel about the Virgin Mary featuring Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Pinker would be “balanced.”
Then again, the foundation of gaming journalism has been shaken a bit, to the point where it seems some have become uncomfortable. When you hear that Intel has pulled advertisements from a site like Gamasutra, or Gawker has lost millions in advertising, it has to be expected that the incumbents would be in a state of fear. Beyond that, their willingness to accept change in ethics was a dead giveaway to their ability to do their jobs honestly. Jim Sterling had a major temper tantrum in regards to The Escapist allowing discussion and writing balanced articles on the subject. Nick Scarpino, Greg Miller, Tim Gettys, and Colin Moriarty (shortly after appearing on Jonathan McIntosh’s video about male privelege in gaming) left IGN, which was also around the same time that IGN updated its ethics policy to be much more audience friendly. I cannot prove that the IGN writers left the site because of the ethics policy, but I do think the timeline skews in the direction of there being an objection to the updated policies.
With all of this going on, it’s hard to find a point where I’m not laughing at the incumbent game journalists in regards to what is happening to them. Since I began writing about games, I’ve despised the bloated, corrupt, and lazy writing from these game journalists who are far too set in their ways to change any time soon. Though there are good apples out there who genuinely care about their audience, there are still plenty of bad apples as well, on top of their supporters. So, when I see their lifestyle shook up, I’m in good spirits because if you can’t do your job well you do not deserve to have the job. In any other industry some of these people would have been fired a long time ago and learned their lesson.
Another thing that I have to note is that among Gamergate supporters, this website has been touted as one of the good ones. My work has been praised by people within the movement, and it’s rather obvious that I’ve mingled with people within it. I’ve been on Gamergate charity streams, have been seen discussing game journalism with people within Gamergate, and joking around with them as well. There have been some accusations thrown my way, by the aforementioned Zoe Quinn and others, that I’m a part of the movement. So, am I secretly a Game Journalist fighting for Gamergate? Am I a part of some leadership cabal that plans to bring down gaming journalism and build something else in its place? Is there a reason that I posted so many triangles on my Twitter? Is Micah Curtis, businessman by day and game journalist by night, a member of Gamergate?!
I do sympathize with the movement though. With that said, I don’t actively participate in boycotts or email advertisers due to the conflict of interests. Am I happy to see corrupt journalists and the far-left authoritarians they support be knocked down a peg? Yes. Most definitely. I’m not going to help them do it though. I outed Jonathan McIntosh as an anti-Semite because I came across the information and it was part of a larger story going on. One that ultimately went nowhere, because no one took the information and ran with it. Were I a part of Gamergate, I would have taken my findings and went to Intel with them before going to Milo Yiannopoulis and putting my writeup on Truthrevolt. Ultimately, I’m a journalist. What the public does with what I write is up to them.