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This is a weird distinction to have to make but it does seem that many people do not understand that there is a significant difference between criticism and harassment. Since the beginning of the GamerGate issue, many people on both sides have claimed that harassment was taking place when it actually was in the form of criticism. This has become much clearer as an issue considering a few tweets recently, particularly by a man who works for Dell. The “GamerGate harassment” claims are far more prominent than the actual harassment occurring.

To illustrate this I am going to use the relationship between Patricia Hernandez, a writer at Kotaku, and Anna Anthropy a game developer. You can see the nature of the relationship I am talking about here. But a quick summary: Patricia Herndandez used her position as a journalist at a large gaming site to promote the work of her close friend Anna Anthropy.

Obviously, Patricia Hernandez abused her position to help promote a friend. She breached journalistic ethics that she never should have come close to doing and denies that she ever did. Anyone looking at the image linked to above should know that Hernandez’s actions are deplorable for her position and she should be reprimanded accordingly. Maybe not so far as to lose her job, but at least be far more scrutinized in the future.

Exploitation and manipulation should never be in a game journalist’s repertoire, but instead should be exactly what they defend against and try to root out to inform the public. As I’ve said before, the game journalist is the first line of defense against exploitation. In other words, Hernandez committed one of the cardinal sins of game journalism.

Now, would you classify what I just said above as criticism or harassment?  Obviously it is criticism as I said nothing attacking her character or beliefs, focusing solely on her actions, and never once threatening her person. Arguing that she should be reprimanded accordingly is not the same as threatening someone.

Harassment can come in many forms but criticism is not one of them. Harassment would be threats, inappropriate language and discussion (e.g. sexual), bullying, racist comments, and everything else down that line. Nothing that was said above came anywhere close to that. And, I think much of what I said above is an accurate representation of what many in the GamerGate movement would argue regarding this particular instance. It can likely be broadened beyond that as well, with much of what I argued above containing many themes that the GamerGate movement agrees with.

For an example of harassment, look at the tweet above (screencap here). This is not a concrete example of harassment per se, but it is extremely close. In most cases harassment can’t be claimed with a single instance, but if George directed what he said above at one person, or group, and said similar things repeatedly, one would no doubt accept that as harassment. In this case, it is a stretch to call George’s comments harassment, but it serves as an example of the kinds of messages that can be grouped together to form harassment.

But that really isn’t the tweet people should be talking about, it is the one that followed the rightful outrage (screencap here):

What George said was not criticism. At best for George one could consider what he said in the first tweet as a false analogy, but it is probably closer to something like ad hominem. Nothing in what he says there is criticism. Comparing one thing to another, accurately, can be a valuable tool in criticism but even that is not enough. There has to be some context, but most importantly there has to be some evidence. Right now this is baseless “criticism” in the most minor sense of the word.

Saying things similar to what George said in that first tweet is a good example of the sort of things that we should all consider harassment – nothing close to what I said above about Patricia Hernandez. The case of George is an interesting one as it was his poor use of argument and criticism that created something that is very close to harassment (again, assuming in some sense he is talking about one person or a group directly).

I know now that some people may agree, they will then argue that the criticism has been, unfairly, leveled mostly at women. That may have been true 4-5 weeks ago, but is not the case any longer. And before moving on, just because many women at the beginning of this issue were criticized doesn’t mean it was unwarranted anyway.

Now though, especially after the release of the Game Journalism Professionals mailing list, the criticism is at least equally shared among men and women. The GameJournoPros mailing list revealed a lot of names, many of which I discuss specifically in articles I wrote.  Most of them are men, like Kyle Orland, Ben Kuchera, James Fudge, and so many more.

I only say that to reiterate again that this is not a gender issue, not one of misogyny nor misandry, but one of the gaming industry. A message I have had for six weeks now since the news broke. And not only a message I have had either, but many in the GamerGate movement.

Anyone can be criticized, and everyone should be criticized. Anyone who genuinely cares about what they write about will understand the importance of criticism. Just because someone takes issue with something I have written or said doesn’t mean I think they are doing it in a harmful way. Nothing is inherently malicious about criticism at all. Of course, criticism can be a veiled form of harassment and used as a tool by some to try and muddy their actions (not unlike what George did) but we should all be able to recognize the difference.

Also, it should be mentioned that I am not unaware of the harassment that is legitimately happening right along side the GamerGate issue. That, as said before, is deplorable but should not take the focus away from the issues at hand here like the state of game journalism at the moment. But, the “GamerGate harassment” is blown greatly out of proportion.

Criticism is extremely valuable and should be encouraged in all situations where it is warranted. To make criticism synonymous with harassment does nothing but harm for all parties involved. It will make people afraid to speak their minds, which will then lead to a lack of change in the industry now and in the future – something I think all can agree needs to happen.

Andrew Otton

Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief at TechRaptor. Lover of some things, a not so much lover of other things.

  • William Wedgewood

    10/10 would read again

  • Ryan Lawson

    Comparing people playing video games to terrorists trying to overthrow governments in a whole region and institute a theocracy. What is this critique even trying to say? How am I supposed to “take” this criticism anyway?

  • No Excuses VTW

    I think the problem of trying to view postmodernist thinking through a rationalist lens rears its ugly head here as well. Since the postmodernist thinker doesn’t acknowledge “correct” definitions of anything, they are free to choose to define criticism as equivalent to harassment because they choose to perceive it that way without needing a logical epistemology to draw that conclusion.

    These same mechanisms are what allow them to cling to their narrative that #GamerGate is nothing but a hate movement aimed at forcing women out of the gaming industry, in the face of all arguments and evidence to the contrary; their selected perception trumps all that. It allows them to cling to the idea that the discussion of journalistic ethics is a smokescreen for this hate campaign, because that is the “truth” they accepted. It is what gives the arbitrary claim that gamers as a culture are a) misogynists and b) dead its foothold, despite a complete absence of supporting ethnographic data; it is the reality that they perceive, so they accept it as inviolable truth, since under postmodernist thinking, everyone can have their own truth which is perfectly valid regardless of evidence to the contrary.

  • Teutates

    there are sources on line with a different layout that they lived together … but no nothing to see here >_> sigh.

  • I agree 100% on this author’s view of criticism. I think criticism of culture and views is 100% necessary for that culture to grow and progress.

    I also however feel that Leigh Alexander’s gamasutra article that everyone got mad about was criticism as well. It was a pretty decent article criticizing some toxic aspects of a subculture, and it’s unfortunate people perceived it as a personal attack when it really wasn’t at all.

    My point is there’s room for criticism on both sides of this issue. Criticism, whether you agree with it or not, is a good thing.

  • Ryan Lawson

    “Since the postmodernist thinker doesn’t acknowledge “correct”
    definitions of anything, they are free to choose to define criticism as
    equivalent to harassment…”

    So many of these people have zero concept of what some of these words actually mean. I’ve mentioned elsewhere, but they throw around non-sequiters like “casual homophobia” as if PHOBIA no longer means something. I disagree with an opinion a person holds and that is suddenly MISOGYNY? It’s ridiculous how many people call themselves journalists and blithely redefine words, some of them with clear cut clinical definitions. “[Words] should mean something…”

  • Ryan Lawson

    Leigh needs to lay off her Twitter. Like, forever. People complain and are mad about her article, but her views on Twitter are downright toxic.

  • Ncrdrg

    “These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these
    childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have
    to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be
    had. There is what’s past and there is what’s now.” – Leigh Alexander.

    I think it’s hard not to be offended by this, honestly. She’s attacking gaming culture as a whole. It’s no surprise that GG took off after those articles.

  • Jambo

    You can’t be serious. Her article was incredibly toxic and insulting. Calling people “basement dwellers” and “childish internet arguers” is criticism?

    Not to mention that she had no proof whatsoever that her assertions were correct. Not one piece of evidence, not one study, nothing.

    The bottom line is that there was a colluded effort to redirect a narrative from proven corruption in games journalism (Just one example shown above) to the lie that “gamers” are misogynistic trolls who are against women in the gaming industry, which is factually incorrect as well as being outright ridiculous.

    It’s despicable. It’s dishonest. It has hurt a lot of people. Yet they keep blaming “gamers” for all of it. If they had actually listened in the beginning rather than trying to make the word “gamer” something toxic, this entire moevement would have been stillborn.

    Let’s not forget that Ms. Alexander brags about ruining careers, that she encourages doxxing of those she disagrees with, and that she has told people that she would “destroy their dreams” of being a games journalist when they disagreed with her. Oh, and let’s also not forget the amazing professionalism involved in saying that someone on the other side of the debate “jacks off goats”.

  • she was literally not talking about all gamers, just a very small subset that AAA marketing machines have been targeting for their money for the past few decades.

    I know people like this exist anecdotally. I’m not a childish internet arguer. I’m not a basement dwelling hyper-consumer. I know she was not talking about me, but about a small toxic subset of gaming that I’m not actually a part of.

    That’s what I got out of it. Sorry we fail to agree.

  • I’m guessing her twitter attitude has stemmed from her fatigue of the rampant harassment she has received from a minority of the gamergate movement. I’ll cut her some slack because having to deal with death and rape threats all day might make me a little testy too.

  • when she says “basement dwellers” and “childish internet arguers” this is indeed a fantastic example of criticism of a toxic element of gaming culture these days. it’s plain to me that she’s not talking about all gamers.

  • “It will make people afraid to speak their minds…”

    This is the exact reason that they use the terminology that they use. Criticism needs to be addressed for a person to retain their professionalism while harassment is to be ignored and ridiculed. They intentionally paint everything as harassment as to avoid ever having to respond to it.

    This is also why they paint things with the brush of misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia… the list goes on and on.

  • i see both sides painting criticism as harassment.

  • Jambo

    Yes. Of course. Except that this has been going on since long before gamergate. She has been incredibly toxic for years, only no one called her on it. Her and her cronies have been doxxing and hurting people for a long time.

    And are you seriously saying it was ok for her to doxx. insult, and threaten people who did nothing wrong because someone was mean to her?

  • Jambo

    So AAA companies making games that have budgets in the hundreds of millions are targeting a “very small subset”. Your logic is irrefutable.

    Continue your shilling.

  • Jambo

    Leigh? Is that you?

  • Are you simply trying to be contrary?

    Does that fact that people on both sides attempt this make it somehow okay or invalidate my point?

    The fact of the matter is that many anti-GG people were using these tactics in their daily lives for much longer than #gamergate has even existed. Nearly every site that has a SJW leaning has been using these tactics to silence people.

    Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun are sites that I simply stopped commenting on over the years, long before #gamergate, as I was tired of being called by these terms simply for failing to fall in line with the prevailing group-think.

  • Ryan Lawson

    Yes, that’s why nobody found anything distasteful in her writings at all until 2 months ago. She was a model of tolerance.
    She’s been pissing on everybody that disagreed with her for years. Now that a large enough group of people are telling her we know it isn’t rain, she’s shitting on us too.

    EDIT:Hate typing on phones

  • Thomas Fährmann

    I think its not an accident that the meaning of words are destroyed. Words are assciated with things like “gamers are terrorists” to create an emotional reaction only. So the term terrorist itself is becoming a regular word of an insult like “asshole” but with a heavily emotional degree to it because of the images or videos we have seen. If you insult me as a terrorist because I´m just a guy who plays video games you recall these terrible images in the subconscious mind of the audience and thats just plain messed up and shamefull to do so. If you label a gamer as a sexist and beforehand you have created an atmosphere of every sexist is also a rape victim blamer then things can get pretty messy. And what the idiot of dell did was not just stupid but shamefull. I dont know how these people look honest in the mirror and self reflect what they are doing. Their way of “critics” versus us (pro gamergate) is just insulting. They lie everytime they talk about us and more, they insult you or try to destroy your reputation only because you are in it to win it! They know exactly that they are the ones wrong in this whole shit from the beginning and they play like the rat in the corner. They have no dignity, honor or shame.

    I realy like your articles btw.

  • Thomas Fährmann

    99golems is using the SJW´s logic when facts matter. But but but but you do too. Not realizing that the vocal persons of the SJW´s write their shit on their so called gaming websites!

  • wcg

    She implied all gamers were basement dwellers. Her article was a personal attack on a group, not criticism. People got mad because it was a piece de resistance of a trend in gaming op-ed pieces. There’s much more to this that single article.

  • wcg

    The difference is she is supposed to be the professional journalist. Which, clearly, she is not.

  • Brad Sherard

    Identifying sides is what permits a narrative to be spun in which trolls using the gamergate umbrella can be lumped in with anyone pointing out journalist corruption and ideological propaganda. It permits the corrupt journalists a way to distract from their corruption by talking about ‘those misogynist gamers’. Treat ‘gamergate’ as a topic, not an identifier. In this way, the issue becomes the focus, not ‘what gamergate stands for’. Your arguments then stand on their own. Your actions vs the actions of the corrupt. They cannot hide from that by attacking you if you stand on your own with honesty and integrity. There is nothing for them to latch onto.

  • ArGG

    She never made any distinction, she just labeled ‘gamers’ and ‘gaming culture’ this way. If it is “criticism”, then it is akin to telling an artist ‘you suck, stop drawing, we’re all artists.’

  • Fatherless

    Its OK to treat women like adults, you know. Some of them even like it.