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Good Morning, Orthodoxy! #3

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



  • Darth Kilth

    I wonder how long they will keep trying to spin #GamerGate as nothing but a Anti-ZQ/FF hate campaign, it’s obviously not stopping or even slowing down #GG and almost anyone who even asks what GG is about quickly learns the truth.
    In the end all these sites are only hurting themselves in the long run as they are all showing themselfs to by either lazy in research or just corrupt and writing what their friends tell them to.

  • oddbubble

    I have a theory about Anita Sarkeesian and why she thinks men hate her because she’s a woman. She reminds me off some of the women I met while at uni with, average intelligence, but only realised this once they got to uni/college after finding school easy, but when they got into a real academic environment they struggled, then could only do bullshit degrees like sociology and then subsequently had there opinions ignored by most not because they were women, because: most believed they shouldn’t be there. I admit, I ignore anyone who has degrees like that opinions, yet I don’t ignore those who have no education :/
    My only problem with Zoe Quinn is not that she tried to fuck her way to the top, which in its self I have no problem with (I know if I could do it, I would as would most men I suspect), but what really gets my goat is the fact that once she was found out, she screamed sexism and that is just utter bullshit.

    There are some good things to come out of all this though, I have found this site and others like it who are all about the games, graphics cards, gadgets and not about bullshit and overly left leaning politics . It must be time to move on from this by now, and get back to what we love GAMES!!!! and just ignore the fools they have no real impact in the AAA industry.

    No one can argue that games don’t need at least a little bit more diversity, but not at the expense of game play or story

  • Todd Wohling

    Odd,
    Be careful when painting blanket statements like that about people who got into the social sciences. Some people *wanted* to go into soc and psych because they were good at it, or that’s where they felt they could make a difference in someone’s life or whatever the motiviation is. To dismiss someone’s opinons simply because of what subjects they took in college does a disservice to both them and you.
    I’m as big an intellectual elitist as anyone, but I’ll listen to anyone’s opinon so long as they can back that opinion up with logic, facts, and/or data. Sometimes you get surprised and your perspective changes, which is really cool. Other times not so much, and value is derived from getting to exercise the debate muscles.
    Also, and it seems I wasn’t clear enough about this in the post, I couldn’t care less about the nature of ZQ’s relationships. I care about who they were with, when they started, and how they affected events. Beyond that, it is well and truly no business whatsoever of ours.
    TW

  • wcg

    Although I’m resorting to an ad hominem attack but Leigh Alexander has always come across as a whiny, self absorbed hipster. I followed her on Twitter for years and she spends more time mooning over indie bands than video games (I’m not exaggerating here.) The reason I bring this up is that she does represent a certain group of games “journalists” who are particularly aloof and self-superior to their audience.

    What’s aggravating about her attack is that she singles out gamers while likely knowing that gamer demographics don’t support her argument. Gamasutra has published articles on gaming demographics. Comments like “Suddenly a generation of lonely basement kids had marketers whispering in their ears that they were the most important commercial demographic of all time.” The average gamer is in their 30’s, possibly married, most likely employed and not in a basement. As a middle aged gamer, engineer, dad and husband, I’m just going to disagree with her.

  • oddbubble

    want expecting a reply from the author of the article and I hope you can continue to be part of the comments section as the site grows.

    I didn’t mean to paint such a blanket picture, and the point I was trying to make was made poorly. In the UK sociology is a bit of a joke subject and its probably better in most circumstances to leave it off your CV (philosophy on the other hand is held in high regard) and just have a 3 year gap, unfortunately tho the vast majority of sociology students are women.

  • Todd Wohling

    Odd,
    I make it a point of personal “professional” pride to engage with my audience. Sometimes RL pressures make that impossible, but as long as I have the ability to engage with people, I will.
    Sociology has a stigma in the States as well. Further, I don’t want the GMOs to come off like I am trying to organize an internet lynch mob or anything like that. I recognized some patterns; I wanted to explore them; and I believe #Gamergate proponents are getting a raw deal in huge swaths of the media. Anyway, I appreciate the clarification.
    TW

  • sprawlghost

    I was going to reply with something similar. What is interesting though, is that from a pretty strong background in social engineering this entire situation comes across almost as if it were planned. For instance, we’ve not only got various news sites making their slanted rebuttal pieces, but many are deleting and otherwise censoring responses (including banning members, or in some cases entire countries). This builds up an echo chamber which, to everyone present for it, seems to reinforce the original intended message.

    This echo chamber helps maintain the already existing white knight effect. Plenty of people on the internet are more than willing to rush to the defense of females regardless of whether or not they are in the wrong. In fact, it can be blatantly obvious that a female is causing a problem, yet the white knights will come flat out and say it’s not their fault, everyone is sexist, etc. It’s really no different than the white knights we see defending certain developers or consoles even when they should perhaps be a bit critical.

    Of course, who can forget the timing of the articles or how these people are connected? They all know each other. They all colluded to release these articles at the same time. Anita provokes rage after taking clips out of context, making baseless claims without the research, and she takes in ~$160,000 to continue to make videos without a single minute spent on researching the subjects she is critiquing. Zoe shut down a charity, created her own gamejam, and never ran it after acquiring the funds. That’s not stupidity or a lack of understanding. That’s well planned and executed.

    I know I’m not the only one with this opinion. It’s obvious to some of us that this entire series of events has unfolded and filled both Anita and Zoe’s pockets with cash, as well as providing both with more exposure than they would have had otherwise.

    As they say, “you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.” This entire situation seems to have quite a bit involved. With that level of complexity, you’ve got to have at least a basic understanding of people, and that’s where degrees like sociology and psychology really help out. It isn’t all just fluff.

  • Todd Wohling

    wcg,

    I’m not the biggest fan of hers either, obviously. I don’t know how much she identifies as a games journalist except as a matter of convenience. When she goes on something like Girls With Hoodies podcast, they introduce her as a “Culture Critic”, whatever that is.
    TW

  • Todd Wohling

    If it was planned, I don’t think any of the planners figured on #GamerGate hitting 1 million tweets while still going strong. Either someone didn’t anticipate properly, someone screwed up, or some aspects weren’t planned. It’s hard to say. I do agree that there are some smart people behind the scenes at Silverstring, and that’s a little disconcerting.
    TW

  • sprawlghost

    I’d say that after the initial backlash to the claims of video games causing violence, and seeing the same effect after Sarkeesian’s first video it should be expected. That being said, a good controversy drives traffic and donations towards all sorts of people involved. Now I’m not saying that it runs /that/ deep. However, I don’t think that we can discount the possibility particularly when we already know about clickbait strategies etc. I do find it highly suspect that prior to the Kickstarter, Sarkeesian was “not a gamer” in her own words, however, as a non-gamer who suddenly claimed to be a gamer she raised ~$160,000 in rather short order for the purpose of doing “researched” videos. It’s worth noting, the appearance of being a victim as well as setting a low kickstarter amount both serve to drive those donation numbers up.

    It could be that I’m overthinking it due to all my time around social engineers and paying attention to actual scams being done, but I think the coincidental similarities should at the very least be mentioned.

  • Zakemaster

    They’ll keep doing it as long as they feel like they’re being backed up into a wall, because they all know it’s absolutely the only thing they can do at this point. There is no logical argument that can stand up to the questions we’re all asking them, and so they keep dodging and weaving, throwing countless insults at us and hoping that they stick. To the wider internet community at large, who somehow still take things at face value, it’s sadly working. Anybody who puts in any effort can see what’s happening, but the other side of the story is so prevalent that most people just believe the first thing they read. And that definitely isn’t the truth.

  • Zakemaster

    More than anything, I want the creators of this “Orthodoxy” to just answer for what they’ve been doing. Seems like so much of the gaming journalism sphere has grown without much oversight that they’ve come to view themselves as infallible. Now that they’re actions are being exposed, they’re using their platforms and podiums to defend themselves and extinguish the story. This is the very thing that they’re supposed to be fighting against. The problem is, I see absolutely no way of stopping this, short of uprooting the whole system. And I think we all know that won’t happen.

  • Reptile

    About the echo chamber: Stuff like this is why there is people who believe in creationism.

    About people getting money with this. Misses Zoe makes 3.111 dollars PER MONTH on patreon! And she doesn’t do anything!
    Source: http://www.patreon.com/zoe

  • wcg

    I think the move to “Culture Critic” coincides with her disdain for her gaming audience. A few years ago when I did follow her on Twitter, she was a video game critic/pundit.

  • VoluntaryGramerNazi

    I personally hate Megaphone too. And it’s for a much more personal issue of racism.

    I come from a country where the main political parties are segregated based on race, where affirmative action is kept in place by the majority race for the majority race and where I got to witness an Indian get slashed by a parang simply for being Indian.

    To hear her explicitly call for a racist ‘violent cultural backlash’ and later dismiss it as ‘oh noes, that’s not who I am nao’ without so much as an apology incenses me and come what may I will see Gamasutra burn for that.

  • tz1

    The Ray Rice elevator video v.s. Eron’s screencaps. Imagine if ESPN and the rest of the sports journalism crowd supported Rice and created a sympathy fund over his suspension. I suspect Rice is getting threats. Does private life matter or not?

    You can’t have it both ways, pleading a private lIfe backstory about how you are a starving discriminated against female developer, so please help poor little me, and suddenly when the facade is exposed say it doesn’t matter and that it shouldn’t be invaded.

    And Eron is a victim of abuse – by ZQ’s own definition of rape (hiding that you have other partners negates consent), he was raped by her. Let that sink in (EA!). One feminist complaint is that women are coerced or defrauded into having sex and that is sufficient to be considered rape. Here it happened to a man. What should the proper response be to someone exposed as a rapist? Online or otherwise?

    Proper journalism would first fact-check Eron’s accusations, get comments from all parties and fact-check those, and give the facts, and then let people judge. If Eron was making it all up, he would be exposed and be the villain. Instead, they tried to excuse ZQ’s acts – “yes, she did all that, but she really is a good person…”.

    Presstitutes?

    ZQ could have created a masculine or neutral pseudonym and let her work speak for itself.

    If the gaming media wasn’t corrupt, such a game would win or lose on its merits, and things like patreon wouldn’t matter as much since it would be “keep these great games coming” instead of “I’m a victim”. But the victim card seems to be the only thing that matters to the gaming press.

  • Ms_Fortune

    The thing that gets me about the death threats is how gamers are singled in them, the person that wrote them is using a gender neutral name. he did not mention games or mention gamergate or anything, he sent vile death threats to her.

    Yet someone this person is a gamer, not just gamers, male gamers cause the insults and rhetoric are largely gendered when it comes to stuff like this, crucify the person for sending death threats but don’t use him as a beacon to vilify people when you have no evidence to support that argument.

  • Ms_Fortune

    I honestly pity her, I think she legitimately has issues and is just a melting pot of anger and hate.