Stardock Corporation – incorporated as Stardock Systems, in 1993 – has been a major part of the PC gaming industry for quite literally decades. Developing series such as Galactic Civilizations, and Sins of a Solar Empire; in the Space 4X scene, they are rivaled by few other companies in regards to sheer support. Today; with his 20+ years of experience in the industry, comapny founder and CEO Brad Wardell shares some thoughts on the current controversy’s surrounding it, the changing tech world, and more.
It’s really an honor to be able to interview you; I’ve been a Galactic Civilizations fan for a while now, and to actually get to talk to the man that really allowed that series to happen is just really cool. I think I speak for the entire 4X scene when I say that your company has been a great developer regarding the genre. You guys have made a bunch of great games in the last couple of years; so it’s really shocking to see that you’ve been the target of harassment for so long…
Thank you for the kind words. The SJW harassment only began in the past 6 to 7 years. They started to trickle into gaming communities bit by bit.
It’s a pleasure – I know that you’re a busy man, so please answer the questions that you want to answer…1. Do you believe that the gaming media has changed in any way within the last couple of years? Is there anything you’d like to say about the “gaming press” as a whole?
The biggest change to the gaming media is that there was an advertising crash some years ago. This dramatically changed the way the gaming press operated. Before the crash, they had full-time journalists on staff. Back in those days, the biggest problems they faced was pressure from AAA publishers trying to get good reviews.
After the crash, many of the game sites and magazines disappeared and those that remained were forced to rely more and more on external freelancers. There’s nothing wrong with freelancers in themselves but they require more editorial supervision. Many editors are so spread thin that they don’t have the time to really consider the content of a given article.
You said that this change in the gaming media happened because of an advertising crash? Could you elaborate on this, and maybe share some insight into what you think caused it?
During the dot-com bubble, game sites generated a lot of ad revenue. When the dot-com bubble collapsed, ad rates went way down. As a result, many of the sites either disappeared or had to cut budgets pretty dramatically.
In regards to the “new” reliance on freelancers; do you have any examples in particular you can share? It sounds like it would be interesting to get a CEO’s look on that shift, and it seems like you’re well-versed (experienced?) in regards to the subject.
Well first, I want to emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with freelancers. Many of the best journalists are freelancers. However, freelancers do tend to require more oversight by editors to make sure the content they submit is consistent with the mission of the magazine.
A lot of editors are under tremendous pressure to get content up and fast. That is, imo, exactly how the “sexual harassment” coverage of me got up on Kotaku. The journalist had an agenda and submitted something that was arguably newsworthy on its own (gaming CEO sued for sexual harassment is probably newsworthy at some places).
But because the freelancer had an agenda (in her case: Women are victims in the game industry) the article only covered her allegations and then cherry picked one email I had written that was (in full context) obviously being sarcastic and presented as being representative of our interactions.
In reality, if I had actually sexually harassed someone, nobody would have known about it because we would have settled long before there was a lawsuit. But the freelancer had an agenda and that was all that mattered.
Do you believe that the harassment you received was related to something specific you said; or what do you think triggered it (I understand you went over this a little bit on your blog post; but I’m pretty curious to know more.)
It wasn’t related to anything specifically. In my specific case, it derived from my blog on JoeUser.com (www.joeuser.com) in which I would infrequently post on some political issue that they didn’t agree in. As SJWs began to permeate more and more gaming forums, they would link to these blogs and declare me a “Bad” person. For example, I once posted that I didn’t agree with UPS boycotting Fox News for its political slant and that I’d choose a different shipper. My issue wasn’t about Fox News specifically, I don’t like corporations using their financial power to try to stifle speech they don’t like. I’d felt the same if they had targeted MSNBC. However, because it was Fox, I immediately got labeled as a right-wing nut and thus “the enemy”.
Once they decided I was the enemy, everything I said or did began to be scrutinized through the social justice lens.
Has the recent events in regards to #gamergate changed any of your opinions on the industry?
Yes. It’s given me hope. The SJW types have used the “racism” or “misogyny” card so much that it’s lost its sting. Trying to argue that gamers are generally misogynists or don’t want women playing games was so over the top, so absurd and so contrary to reality that people started to recognize them for what they are: Garden variety bullies.
Do you think that Stardock as a business will benefit from the recent events? If so, how and why?
I don’t think it’ll affect us either way. 99.9% of gamers and software users don’t follow this stuff.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like to see come out of this controversy?
I’d like to see gamers more vigilant in the future. Keep journalists and SJW commenters from being able to spew out their misrepresentations, lies and venom without being called on it.
The biggest breakthrough that’s come out of this is that many people now realize that the SJWs misrepresent other people on purpose. It’s not a misunderstanding. They’re not misinterpreting what you’re saying. They misrepresent to marginalize people they don’t like. The ends justifies the means for them.
Most people are inherently good, inherently trusting. It takes a lot to convince someone that someone else is purposely lying. The anti-#gamergate people have successfully convinced the average gamer that they purposely lie and misrepresent those they don’t like.
And for something a little bit different; what are your thoughts on the recent surge in interest for Linux in PC gaming? Do you guys, as of current, have any interest in developing games software for the platform?
The main problem with Linux for us is OpenGL. I don’t want to get anyone mad but I’m not a big fan of OpenGL. 😉 I’d do a Mantle game for Linux though. 😉
I feel I should ask since we’re also a tech site; are there any specific reasons you can give regarding why you aren’t a fan of OpenGL?
The reasons are varied and many. Basically, it’s a mess of an API. I don’t know of any game developers who like it. The only thing it has going for it is ease of porting. The biggest issue we have with it is that it abstracts at a very high. It’s really hard to get remotely close to the hardware.
And finally; you mentioned Mantle. What sort of effect do you think the API has had on PC gaming – directly or otherwise? Positive or negative?
Mantle has already had a tremendous impact imo. I think it helped the forces at Microsoft who were pushing for a DirectX 12 get their way and DirectX 12 is the most important version of DirectX since probably DirectX 5.
Alright. Thank you for your time! (Note; the original interview was scheduled to end here, but more questions were requested after the most recent events – I don’t think I need to specify exactly which ones.)
Is there anything that you’d like to say regarding the most recent information? (Breitbart article, The List, 4chan and reddit censorship etc.)
The censorship is particularly troubling. Not just because of the double standards on what gets snuffed out but by attempting to censor it, it just makes it that much worse.
I am troubled at any hint of narrative crafting. What made #gamergate hit the big time was the obviously coordinated August 28 deluge of hate articles against gamers. If people would have just let this thing run its course, it would be over.
How much do you think the situation has changed, now that the list has been revealed? Have your opinions on the situation changed?
My opinion hasn’t changed. But I would caution people to consider what their objectives are in all this. Is their goal to permanently alienate journalists or is it to reform journalism? There is a fine line there.
Up to this point, I think #gamergate has accomplished a lot more than most people realize. Specifically:
1. Freelance work is likely to get more scrutiny before it goes up in the future.
2. Gamers are now showing a lot more critical thinking when they read articles.
3. Journalists, even those who won’t publicly admit it, are likely to have a bit more empathy now that they’ve been on the receiving end of some of the anger that is regularly directed at game developers and gamers.
What do you think should happen next?
No one likes feeling like they’ve been misrepresented. I suspect tonight there are a number of journalists who feel they’ve been wronged, libeled, and misrepresented. I have hope that it may cause some of them to understand how gamers feel when they’re told they’re a bunch of misogynistic basement dwellers.
And, on a personal note, I would like to think that before some site presents someone’s unsubstantiated allegations as evidence of sexism, harassment, misogyny, etc. that they will take much greater care before publishing it.
After all, one can’t really complain about the Breitbart article if they happily published articles smearing gamers right?
Finally; what do you think that individuals should do in regards to this information?
I think great care should be taken not to alienate those journalists who are listening to the criticism. Support good journalism. Criticize bad journalism.
Just as making broad claims that all gamers are misogynists backfired, so too will suggesting that all game journalists are corrupt.
Don’t turn an opponent into an enemy.
And anything else you have to say?
The latest article on the journalist emails is very troubling. Even the idea that journalists would send a gift like this to a subject is ill-advised inappropriate.I guess you could say that I think #gamergate is far from over.
I think that’s all – for real now; thanks again, and have a good night!
[Note, that the views of the interviewer may not match the views shared by the site as a whole]