Warning: Some of the images and quotes contain strong language.
Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart leaked the whole thread from the Game Journalism Professionals mailing list regarding the Zoe Quinn scandal. Of course, there are likely many more discussions related to the Game Journalism Professionals list, but what they entail or who they entail is nothing but speculation. Below will be an examination of that leaked thread. Certain emails and quotes from certain emails will be discussed.
Eventually, a safe link for all to view the emails in full will be available, but right now there is some personal information included in the leak so they will not be posted here – yet.
But first, here is a list of everyone involved in this thread of emails on the Game Jounralism Professionals mailing list:
Kyle Orland, senior editor at Ars Technica; Ben Kuchera, an editor at Polygon; Jason Shreier, a writer at Kotaku; James Fudge, managing editor of GamePolitics.com; Mike Wehner, a writer for the Daily Dot; Andrew Groen, a WIRED contributor; Dan Starkey, a freelance writer; Andy Eddy, a freelance writer and editor; William O’Neal, editor-in-chief at TechRadar.com; Mike Futter, news editor at Game Informer; Susan Arendt, Managing Editor at Joystiq; Matt Hawkins, creator of fort90; Michael Rougeau, a freelance writer; Schott Nichols, a freelance writer for mostly Digital Spy; Adam Rosenberg, the gaming and movie editor at Digital Trends; Devin Connors, writer at The Escapist; Greg Tito, editor-in-chief of The Escapist; Chris Dahlen, a freelance writer; Ryan Smith, a freelance writer; Sarah LeBoeuf, writer at The Escapist; Brandon Justice, editorial director at ReadRETRO Magazine; Britton Peele, entertainment editor at The Dallas Morning News; and Philip Kollar, a reviews editor at Polygon.
Again, that is just a list of the 23 people involved in this chain of emails. In all likelihood there are more people that just didn’t comment. A quick note about them too: Nobody that appears on this list wrote about the whole “Death of Gamers” thing that happened at the end of August. The closest one could say was the fact that an article by Chris Plante showed up on Polygon. If that is a mistake, please post that information in the comments.
What more can we see in the emails that were not included in the first two batches we were privy too?
Well it all began with the post seen above from Kyle Orland, which has been released already. There is one particular point to highlight:
I do feel that there is some legitimate public interest in a game developer being attacked by “the internet.” At the same time as *that*, I don’t want to in essence reward the jerks doing this by giving their ‘issue’ any attention at all.
That quote there sets the tone for the entire discussion onward. Nearly everyone who joined in the discussion afterward made those two distinct points among the other discussions going on where there were some disagreements. Immediately, this group of journalists from Game Journalism Professionals saw the issue about harassment and refused to give people that had a legitimate concern about game journalism ethics a voice. Keep that in mind, though it will be fairly easy as it crops up time and again throughout the discussion.
The most disturbing thing in the entire chain of articles from Game Journalism Professionals comes when Greg Tito, editor-in-chief at The Escapist asked the group their opinions on whether or not he should allow a thread about the Zoe Quinn issue to continue or if he should remove it:
I’ve decided not to write about this because it’s kind of ridiculous, but there’s a thread created on The Escapist forums that is getting attention. I am unsure where to draw the line. As an editorial organization, I’ve made the call to ignore the story. But as the controller of a public forum on the internet, I’m struggling to find justification in shutting down discussion. There are voices all over the spectrum in there.
Greg follows Kyle in the sense that he doesn’t want to write about the issue, but again, that is something they all agree on in this thread. However, here he does show a legitimate worry about free speech and discussion. He probably wishes the discussion didn’t go on because he sees it as “ridiculous,” but he also knows others may not see it that way. So what kind of advice did he get?
Well this is what Greg received from Ben Kuchera in multiple emails:
This is the question: People are using your platform to harass a developer. Are you comfortable with that?
Someone signed up for an Escapist account just to post that thread, and try to spread alleged details of someone’s sexual past in order to shame them. I’m not sure what your definition of harassment is, but that fits mine.
If using the forums to post hearsay to harass and abuse people isn’t against your current TOS, change your TOS. Don’t sit by and let your community be used to making gaming worse because of a technicality.
I mean, if nothing else now we KNOW the post contains demonstrably untrue things about real people. Serious allegations. Is THAT enough to get you to consider taking it down? What does it take before the Escapist says “Maybe we shouldn’t be giving this a home.”
James Fudge was also in favor of deleting it, claiming the thread violated the Terms of Service for The Escapist Forums., as well as Andy Eddy. Mike Wehner and Britton Peele agreed with Greg that the forums should be allowed to stay up. Though Britton Peele seemed to agree because having the discussion on The Escapist forums allowed for “a somewhat controlled discussion.”
This was Greg Tito’s response:
I don’t think factual errors in a forum post on the internet, however, are a huge area of concern for me.
The conversation may be distasteful to some of us, but I don’t know if the answer is to delete the thread. The Escapist is not giving harassment a home, but allowing civil discussion on a matter that people are emotional about. As long as it stays within our rules of conduct, and yeah James I don’t think anything stated has violated the rules you posted, then pushing this down would only serve my own tastes and opinions. That’s not what a public forum is designed to be, in my opinion.
First, let’s recognize Greg Tito for making the correct decision here with the forums. While most may disagree with his choice not to voice his opinion on the issue, we must recognize that he did not participate in actively silencing the community.
Second, and most important, this is quite disturbing. The fact that Greg could come to Game Journalism Professionals and genuinely ask for advice regarding censorship is deeply disturbing. What makes it even more disturbing is the fact that some of the journalists there were arguing for censorship. Isn’t it the job of the journalist to inform people on issues? To facilitate discussion through finding facts or offering their own opinion? Everything with that discussion paints a sickly light on game journalism and makes one step back to really think about their role.
Regardless of the discussion of the existence of this mailing list (which will happen later), any discussion of censorship – and a serious one at that – should ring alarms everywhere for anyone who reads it. Those involved in the discussion at Game Journalism Professionals should seriously reconsider what their job title entails.
And what does that entail exactly? Well Dan Starkey had something to say about that. In regards to whether or not to publish a story he said to think this:
It simply requires you to attempt to consider the consequences of your actions and determine if they will bring a net positive or a net negative about.
In many ways isn’t the job of a journalist to inform? It is not to choose what to inform about is it? The idea that a journalist would choose to not publish something based on their own utilitarian evaluation of publishing it is very troubling. For one, how can they know whether it would be positive or negative? And another, isn’t that evaluation left up to readers? This line of thought from Starkey is troubling to say the least.
One more thing to add before moving on to more in the mailing list. A contribution from Chris Dahlen:
Also, I’m just reminded of the recent Polygon opinion pieces where they shut the comments off altogether. Commenting on somebody else’s website or forum is a privilege, not a right. If you’re going to be a shitbag, you don’t get to contribute.
That last line aside (he is right about removing intentionally inflammatory comments), look at the one in bold. To an extent, that is somewhat true. That website or forum does hold the final decision in banning someone from it. However, this comment from Chris seems to be about intentionally removing discussion. There is a big difference in removing trolls and silencing criticism.
Ryan Smith probably asked the two most important, and thoughtful, questions on the whole Game Journalism Professionals mailing list:
how did some of you decide to publish the Josh Mattingly story from earlier this year: that appeared to be based on a private conversation about sex. Where do you see the line being drawn? And how do you guys feel about the Snapchat CEO’s emails from college being a story?
I was also wondering if when some of you published stories about Zoe Quinn’s harassment — did you actually ask for evidence of said harassment or just go by what she wrote on Twitter.
I’m just asking where the line is drawn at publishing messages that were private that have become public because someone posted them on the web.
Josh Mattingly’s sexual harassment of the game dev (which is super terrible) doesn’t appear to be part of an interview, it appears to be informal chat made public. The Snapchat CEO’s emails became a big story not too long ago, and it was because private emails were made public.
Surely it’s not all black and white when it comes to these stories.
For those unaware, the Josh Mattingly incident was about crude and overtly sexual messages sent to a developer that were then made public and discussed everywhere. The Snapchat CEO incident was about emails from college being made public that were misogynistic and all around in very poor taste.
Jason Schreier, Sarah LeBoeuf, and Ben Kuchera all had similar reactions to what Kuchera said here:
So you’re comparing writing about someone who sexually harassed a female developer, which is a disgraceful way to act, and covering someone who is being victimized to the point of not feeling safe in her home? Is that a real argument you’re trying to make?
They flat out refuse to discuss the thought of comparing the two. Yes there is a different in sexual harassment and adultery, but Ryan’s second question about whether or not the journalists looked into the harassment (which none responded to) makes this more interesting.
Just to entertain the discussion that Kuchera brought up before addressing the second question, in the end, what is more newsworthy: adultery, sexual harassment, or ignorance as a college student? None seem all that important really – but the context they are in is. In one, a developer allegedly had a personal relationship with a journalist, in another a journalist sexual harassed a developer, and in the last one a CEO of a company said some stupid things in some emails during college (this last one is the least newsworthy probably).
How are the first two really that different from one another? Mattingly’s actions were confirmed, surely, but shouldn’t the journalists have worked to confirm or deny the allegations against Zoe Quinn? That brings us to the second question.
Before they all came to the conclusion that this wasn’t “news” did any of them do any investigating to actually back up that conclusion? Seemingly they did not. What was the nature of their evaluation at all? Did any ask whether the allegations against Zoe Quinn held any water, regardless of harassment? A few times throughout the chain, Kyle Orland and Andy Eddy said that there may be some credence to looking into the corruption and ethics allegations but leave it at that. Even if they had an inkling, which it seems they did, why not pursue it?
The only person who seems to address it at all is Britton Peele who only says that “the ‘corruption of a journalist’ angle is completely irrelevant as Nathan [Grayson] as [sic] never ‘reviewed’ Depression Quest either on Kotaku or elsewhere.”
So at least there has been some work done there, but is that it? Weren’t the accusations more than Nathan Grayson to begin with? Britton took the time to dispel one person on corruption, but what about others? There are just so many unanswered questions as to why these journalists didn’t pursue looking at the facts. If the Internet is in uproar over something wouldn’t it be valuable to either confirm or deny what they are in uproar over?
If they truly wanted to end the harassment they would look into the allegations and try to find the truth. Either they would find the allegations baseless, much to their joy, or find them true and actually spark a real debate and examination of game journalism ethics. This was just bungled from the beginning.
The only thing left worth mentioning is just the general disparagment of the gaming community, which comes chiefly from Kyle Orland:
Even if you inhabit a pocket of relative civility within the sphere of “video game discussion on the Internet,” (as I think I do as well) you have to realize the shitshow that is our broader “video game” corner.
While overly negative, he is partly true that there is a lot of negativity around the gaming community. However, to just write all of it off is wrong. That negativity seeps throughout much of what Kyle said in the emails. It is also good to note that Kyle Orland not only started the discussion, but kept it going by linking articles and opinions to various other sites (including places like The Daily Beast which heavily argued the misogynist angle).
To end, I’d like to discuss just the very existence of a mailing list like this and what it means. For a first reaction, it is very alarming. As stated before, the very existence of it – regardless of how it actually functions – opens up the possibility for collusion and corruption, even accidentally. That may be the most apt way to describe what happened here: accidental collusion. They all agreed from the outset, no real arguments occurred to “bring someone into the fold” and they just stayed at that.
But on the other hand, it kind of sucks for journalists because they are then left without any real place to discuss certain issues privately. I still think they should be free to discuss similar things as to what they did in the Game Journalism Professionals mailing list but with transparency like here. That was a group of industry individuals talking about a topic for all to see publicly.
If Game Journalism Professionals was open to the public, one would have a hard time finding fault with it. For one, journalists could have their industry talk and talk with one another sharing their career as a commonality. And, then they could be held accountable because the public would see so then there wouldn’t be the very unprofessional outbursts of William O’Neal. Of course, that would still limit them from talking about certain things (like complaining about a certain PR person, etc), but this is likely the best compromise.
However, the existence of a secret list where private discussions can happen among journalists is ethically wrong. They should not be coming to compromises on issues in private, but should be revealed to one another in public through their personal outlets. Let the debate on issues happen with everyone.
Some of the journalists here have laughed off the “elite” title that Milo gave them. Well, it is sort of true. They are “elite” in the sense that they came together as a group and each decided that they would not report on an issue, and as Dan Starkey would have us believe, because they thought it would be more negative than positive. They are “elite” because they came together and decided what was best for the gaming community without every consulting that community. Elites in history did the exact same thing. They never consulted the general public, but enacted policies they saw fit.
People hoping for some grand conspiracy to be confirmed here are obviously disappointed. At worst this is a case of journalists working too close together to formulate opinions. It is still wrong, but not anything more than what was seen here.
However, anyone who claims this to be collusion will be reaching a little far. Nowhere in the emails is there a direct effort by all to come to an agreement and not post about the issue or remove discussion. Instead, it is just journalist after journalist chiming in one after another saying they agree that this is not an issue related to the gaming industry. While the result is pretty much the same, the manner they reached it is different. They came in agreeing, they did not all come to an agreement. Though, one could argue that in itself is a little worrisome.
This is still an issue though, and one has to wonder what else is in that mailing list outside of this scandal. Also, the discussion, at least what was released, ends on September 2nd… A lot has happened since then, what else has been said?
At one point Andrew Groen said that gaming was a “toxic culture.” One could say the same about the group involved in the Game Journalism Professionals mailing list.