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Good Morning, Orthodoxy! #3

Todd Wohling / September 25, 2014 at 8:00 AM / Gaming, Opinions

Good Morning, Orthodoxy is a series of articles examining a coordinated attack made against gamers on August 28 and 29.  The third installment focuses on how the orthodoxy spread in the 2 Minutes Hate has characterized Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and #GamerGate.

I didn’t know who Zoe Quinn was before Labor Day weekend.  I don’t use games media for much of anything beyond risk mitigation for my disposable income, and I have a discreet set of names that I trust for expressly that purpose: TB, Yahtzee Croshaw, and a few others.  Beyond that, I don’t pay all that much attention. So, it was by total happenstance that I stumbled across #GamerGate, coincident with some remodeling work being done in my house that put me in a hotel for 2 nights.  Without my primary gaming rig, I was forced to settle with my laptop and cable television for my entertainment.  Suffice it to say, I found my way to Twitter and Youtube, which is where I finally heard about #GamerGate.

My initial foray into the tag directed me to Leigh Alexander’s Gamasutra article telling me how “over” I was as a self-identified gamer.  The Supreme Pontiff of Orthodoxy made the following assertion:

‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.

I was taken aback by this statement; however, it gave me two more search terms: ‘social justice’ and ‘game journalism ethics’.  Baseball wasn’t holding my attention, so I added a #Gamergate column to Tweetdeck on the laptop and put my Google kung-fu to work.   This led to a Vice article written by Mike Pearl interviewing Eron Gjoni. I didn’t know who he was, either. From that piece, we get this:

When you talk to Eron Gjoni, the guy whose tell-all blog entry about his ex-girlfriend sparked the recent flare-up of the notorious Quinnspiracy debacle, it’s hard not to sympathize. He doesn’t want to be seen as part of “the sexist crusade to destroy game developer Zoe Quinn.”

On Wednesday, gamer punching bag Anita Sarkeesian got harassed and threatened for the umpteenth time by gamers who were angry about being called out for their misogyny. This time, she was driven out of her house by death threats.

My confusion level increasing, but with more leads and search terms, I follow links and do more goggle karate, and I found the zoepost.  Yes, I read it.  Yes, I chuckled at it in the exact same way one used to chuckle at the affirmation an episode of Jerry Springer or Maury would always give: No matter how bad it ever gets for me, it will never get that bad.  Judge me if you want; I couldn’t care less.  There were more names that I didn’t recognize, and I didn’t think much of it.  More link following led me to InternetAristocrat’s Youtube channel, which led me Sargon of Akkad’s channel.  Before the end of Labor Day Weekend, a spider web of relationships and the 2 Minutes Hate were sitting in my lap.

Speaking of orthodoxy and the 2 Minutes Hate, here comes Chris Plante from Polygon:

Last week, a game designer’s personal life was exposed to the internet, and used to justify physical threats to both the developer and her colleagues. The designer was one of many people targeted in an orchestrated harassment effort directed at game developers.

On Monday, prominent media critic, Anita Sarkeesian, posted a video to YouTube that criticized the use of women as background decoration, particularly in violent and sexual ways.

Many of those who shared the post received threats and harassment. The following tweets were directed at game designer Tim Schafer on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Devin Wilson from Gamasutra says thus:

We do not assume that the harassment we’ve seen lately is a complete aberration. We understand that there is a link between this medium that terrorists see themselves as defending and the terrorism itself.

We agree that caring about the world and its inhabitants is more important than clinging to our toys.

The irony of that last bit is it’s an appeal to me to turn the other cheek after 12 strangers get done telling me how reprehensible I am for having a hobby, knowing what I like, and wanting to maximize the value I get from my disposable income.

There’s more from Ars Technica:

The tide of abuse first surged over Zoe Quinn, creator of the game Depression Quest, who got a deluge of negative attention, abuse, threats, and harassment over a blog post written about her by an ex-boyfriend that was published August 16. The post, composed of narcissistic analysis mixed in with screenshots of several online conversations, exposed many personal details about Quinn irrelevant to her profession or professional conduct.

Sarkeesian’s videos, which are extremely well-researched and insightful, always draw a measure of harassment and abuse from the stereotypical gamers, who are typically vitriolic toward issues of diversity. This time, the video reached all the way to the likes of Joss Whedon and Tim Schafer. The amplified message earned Sarkeesian an avalanche of threats, including rape, death, and harm to her family.

We’re going to leave “well-researched” alone other than to note that Casey Johnston doesn’t have videogames listed in her bio anywhere.

Moving on to Dan Golding’s contribution to the orthodoxy:

First, a developer—a woman who makes games who has had so much piled on to her that I don’t want to perpetuate things by naming her—was the target of a harassment campaign that attacked her personal life and friendships.

It’s important to note that this hate campaign took the guise of a crusade against ‘corruption’ and ‘bias’ in the games industry, with particular emphasis on the relationships between independent game developers and the press.

These fires, already burning hot, were further fuelled yesterday by the release of the latest installment in Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’ video series… … Today, Sarkeesian has been forced to leave her home due to some serious threats made against her and her family in response to the video. It is terrifying stuff.

The orthodoxy that AS and more specifically ZQ are beyond reproach and those participating in #GamerGate are the ones harassing people continues to be spread.  This is from Tom’s Hardware Guide on September 16th, written by Jill Scharr:

Yet since the accusations of infidelity were first made, Quinn has suffered an onslaught of online harassment. People send her nasty messages. They hack her online accounts and post her personal information online. They call her home phone and leave disturbing messages. They use any channel available to them to send her graphic, frightening threats.

Many of the harassers seem far more concerned with Quinn’s personal life than with journalistic integrity. Others seem to just not like Depression Quest. The harassers were so persistent and lacking in factual basis that at one point Quinn tried to fight back by filing a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) request with YouTube to take down a particularly slanderous video.

This became clear about a week after the Quinn issue began, when media critic Anita Sarkeesian posted an unrelated video examining the ways women are treated in mainstream video-game narratives. GamerGate quickly rallied against Sarkeesian, and the harassment and doxxing (online posting of personal information) Sarkeesian experienced was so severe that she did not feel safe in her own home.

And this is from Curve magazine on September 17th:

If you’re a woman playing video games, you probably haven’t missed out on the latest gaming scandal, dubbed “GamerGate”. It’s ostensibly a campaign for ethics in games journalism, but it began as a campaign of harassment against the woman who developed the text adventure game Depression Quest.

Obviously, I expect the Curve magazine piece to be a character assassination, but Tom’s Hardware Guide?  Also, being the stickler for facts and data that I am, I couldn’t let these assertions go without showing twitter metrics for the end of August and beginning of September for #GamerGate, ZQ’s personal twitter, and AS’s personal twitter.

Topsy1 Topsy2Topsy3

To recap the three graphs, the average tweets per day for #GamerGate doesn’t cross 20k daily tweets until August 30. @femfreq spiked at 20k daily tweets on August 27 and ZQs personal twitter spiked at 5k daily tweets on August 27 and September 3.  I admit this is an incomplete data set, and I have no idea what was sent via email, snail mail, telephone, pigeon, and smoke signal. That said, if #GamerGate truly began as a harassment campaign against ZQ and AS, then why do their personal twitter metrics nose dive on the day #GamerGate takes off?  Surely, if #GamerGate were a harassment campaign, there’d be some sort of statistical correlation between #GamerGate and the people they were campaigning to harass.

It’s outside the orthodoxy to even consider the 2 Minutes Hate made #GamerGate take off; it’s outside the orthodoxy to even consider a systematic censorship campaign made #GamerGate take off; it’s outside the orthodoxy to have critical thinking skills and to have the perseverance to go digging through publicly available information to establish relationships and then question why “journalists” aren’t investigating them.

One last thing to talk about, and that’s the notion of Public Interest. The definition of Public Interest is as you’d imagine: appeal or relevance to the general populace.  ZQ’s escapades in and of themselves are not a matter of public interest.  Who they were with, and the duration of those relationships, are very much a matter of public interest.  Here is a matter of public interest that could be investigated that has nothing to do with ZQ’s body or sexuality: Did ZQ have a relationship with Robin Arnott at the time he was co-chair of the 2013 Indiecade Festival?  Here’s another:  Did ZQ and Robin Arnott tank the Pepsi Game Jam on purpose so ZQ could start Rebel Jam with extra benefit of good PR?  Here’s another: A member of Mighty No. 9’s forum mod team that has a relationship with ZQ is banning supporters who have supported GamerGate.  Here’s another: ZQ made a fake DMCA claim against a Youtube content creator who used a publicly available picture in a video.  Here’s a matter of public interest about AS: Describe in detail your methodology for acquiring the game footage you use in your Tropes vs. Women videos.  Here’s another:  There’s a distinct lack of conclusions in the Tropes videos.  When are we going to see them?  There are 6 matters of public interest in 10 minutes of thought from an outsider’s perspective.  These 6 matters of public interest have 0 combined articles written about them from “games journalists”.

So, #GamerGate has nothing to do with ZQ and AS.  Oh, the zoepost might have been the catalyst event, but realistically, it was the 2 Minutes Hate that set #GamerGate off and running.  Any history or orthodoxy that says otherwise is revisionist.

Next week on GMO, we take a look at inclusion. Check back next Tuesday for Part 4! Update: Good Morning, Orthodoxy! #4

Missed a previous installment? Check them out here: Part 1 | Part 2

Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.