A little while ago a Twitter user reached out to me to introduce me to William O’Neal, former Editor in Chief at TechRadar and former member of the GameJournoPros list. It must be said that the allegations of discussion going on amongst the members have been particularly damning. From the accusation that Dale North, former Editor in Chief of Destructoid attempted to blacklist his former employee, Allistar Pinsof using the mailing list, which featured over 150 people from within the industry, to the persistent remarks of Ben Kuchera of Polygon suggesting that Greg Tito, Editor in Chief of the Escapist, shut down forum threads regarding Zoe Quinn, the suggestion of collusion and corruption in gaming media was rampant.
While charges against the activities within the list are widespread, I wanted to give a member a chance to speak in defense of it. O’Neal, by his own admission, was a fairly active member of the Google Group, and is now infamous for posting “Who here hasn’t slept with a PR person or game developer? #AMIRITE” on the thread discussing Zoe Quinn. In defense of the validity of this statement he said “It was totally a joke. And one that, at the time, I thought was kind of funny.” Despite this O’Neal has admitted to and decried the corruption within businesses in general in another thread.
“When I did marketing and PR for ASUS (a Taiwanese company), one of my coworkers casually asked me how much I paid editorial outlets to write good reviews of the products for which I was responsible” … “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s right.”[O’Neal explained to his co-worker, they did not]… “I’ve worked for companies that had rules about accepting gifts of more than a specified dollar amount. $50. $100. “
The way O’Neal describes the group and its inception seems innocent enough:
“I think I found out about the group when Kyle Orland posted about it on Facebook saying that he was creating an email group for gaming journalists. As far as what we discussed, we talk about so many things. Also, it’s important to remember that there were more than 150 people in that group and the overwhelming majority of those people were lurkers. A lot of us used the list to post jobs and freelance opportunities but we also talked about issues in the gaming industry. Basically, we just talked about things. I liked to make jokes because I thought folks had a tendency to take things too seriously but that’s just how I am.”
When asked specifically about Ben Kuchera encouraging Greg Tito to shut down the Escapist forum thread:
“In all honesty I don’t remember that thread when it was happening and only really caught up on it after the leaks came out. One of the things about the GJP list that was interesting is that you had people who wrote — and cared about — gaming culture and those of us who just wrote about games. I never really cared about all the gaming culture stuff.”
He did however kept up to date with the thread accused of blacklisting Alistair Pinsof:
“I didn’t know what folks were talking about, since I didn’t really dabble in a lot of the hardcore gaming culture. Kyle told me about the Pinsoff situation but I didn’t care enough to really dive into it.”
I asked whether Kyle had been talking to many people about Pinsof:
“I don’t really think so. I think that the GJP folks who cared about that already knew about it. I just reached out to Kyle because I was curious. The thing is, I don’t really see the PInsoff situation as him being “blacklisted.” I’ve had plenty of employees who didn’t work out for whatever reason. Let’s say someone applies for a job with me and I check their LinkedIn profile and see that they worked with or for someone I know. I would totally ask that person what their experience with that employee was like. That’s why references exist. With the exception that the applicant chooses the references. In the world of LinkedIn however, it’s more difficult for prospective employees to control that narrative. I honestly don’t understand Gamergate’s interest in the Pinsoff affair.”
While some of the threads and discussions in the GameJournoPros list was certainly questionable, O’Neal made a case for its existence:
“I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who work in the same industry talking. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. The interesting thing about the idea of the GJP list being exclusionary is that, in my opinion, it’s exactly the opposite of that. Kyle made the requirements to join extremely lax. Many of us already know each other and have each others’ email addresses. What I find sad about the destruction of the GJP list is that it was a great way for new journalists to break into the industry. So many people would post about freelance opportunities and the thing is, there were people on that list who I never would have met or known about if not for it. Now that it’s dead, we only talk to the people we already know.
I actually don’t think there was anything unethical about the existence of the GJP list. The collusion that Gamergate accused us of never happened. The Zoe Quinn thread never resulted in anything. The PInsoff thing, nothing came of that. There were so many really good conversations that happened on the GJP list that William Usher and Greg Tito didn’t leak.”
Note: I reached out to Milo Yiannopoulos, who released the leaks, who has told me categorically that Greg Tito did not leak the emails.
Finally, I asked him the intentions behind the thread relating to the Zoe Post, and whether their websites should cover the story regarding Zoe Quinn:
“I think people were mostly upset at how Zoe Quinn was being treated. That whole scene was something that I’d never seen before. I think the GJP reaction to the whole situation was based on that. I think the people asking others to not continue to foment that situation was just people trying to work through an ugly and difficult situation. Ultimately though, people are gonna write what they wanna write.”
I would like to thank William O’Neal for taking the time to talk to me, and for reaching out to TechRaptor.