Mark Kern started a petition recently calling for Kotaku and Polygon to lead the healing process in the rift between games media, gamers, and developers in the wake of the Intimidation Game episode of Law & Order: SVU.

The petition lays the blame for the SVU episode’s existence at the feet of Kotaku and Polygon “yellow journalism” and on those institutions to come to the defense of gaming…

And you shouldn’t sign it, because it doesn’t go far enough.

Don’t get me wrong, Mark Kern’s heart is 100% in the right place.  Games media is solely responsible for the 2 Minutes Hate on August 28, thereby igniting the GamerGate hashtag in the first place.  However, there are more organizations that house bad actors than just Kotaku and Polygon.  Ars Technica, Gamasutra, Badass Digest, The Mary Sue, and The Daily Beast all share the responsibility of opening the rift by telling gamers they needed to die, were dead, should be killed, and in the case of Gamasutra, how to assassinate them.

An Institutional Case Study from Sports

College Football in Texas has always been a big deal.  In fact, in the early 1980’s there was a football conference made up of 7 Texas colleges and Arkansas, called the Southwest Conference.  The level of competition in the SWC lead to allegations of rampant NCAA recruiting violations, including at Southern Methodist University.  Multiple NCAA investigations concluded SMU had repeatedly violated recruitment rules.  In 1986, the NCAA gave out the harshest penalty in its history, colloquially called the “death penalty”:

  • The 1987 season was canceled; only conditioning drills were permitted during the 1987 calendar year.
  • All home games in 1988 were canceled. SMU was allowed to play their seven regularly scheduled away games so that other institutions would not be financially affected.
  • The team’s existing probation was extended until 1990. Its existing ban from bowl games and live television was extended to 1989.
  • SMU lost 55 new scholarship positions over 4 years.
  • SMU was required to ensure that {George} Owen and eight other boosters previously banned from contact with the program were in fact banned, or else face further punishment.
  • The team was allowed to hire only five full-time assistant coaches, instead of the typical nine.
  • No off-campus recruiting was permitted until August 1988, and no paid visits could be made to campus by potential recruits until the start of the 1988-89 school year.

The penalties were so harsh, SMU has only had 3 winning seasons in a 20 year period from 1989 to 2009 and defeated only 2 teams ranked in the Top 25 in that same period.  The scandal also ultimately resulted in the dissolving of the Southwest Conference in 1996.

I am not suggesting that telling gamers they should die is equivalent to cheating.  However, writing baseless propaganda, not disclosing conflicts of interest in what is being written, projecting presumptive arrogance and being insulting on Twitter, refusing to even discuss—let alone write about—matters of public interest in public forums, privately colluding on what to cover and how to cover it, and blaming gamers for the media’s repeated malpractice seems like enough to qualify games media institutions as “repeat offenders” worthy of a “death penalty” akin to SMU. And yet, calling for the healing process to start on the ashes of SocJus Ministry of Truth games media also seems wrong.

Bad Actors

Calling for the end of games media institutions seems wrong; however, there are still bad actors in those institutions that should face some sort of sanction.  Ben Kuchera is a bad actor.  Leigh Alexander is a bad actor.  Patricia Hernandez is a bad actor.  Chris “fashion > rocket science” Plante is a bad actor.  Ian Miles Cheong is a bad actor.  Arthur Chu is a bad actor.  Casey Johnston is a bad actor.  Nate Grayson is a bad actor.  Christian Nutt is a bad actor. Carolyn Cox is a bad actor.  Devin Faraci is a bad actor.  Jill Pantozzi is a bad actor.

In much the same way the assertion, “The Tech Industry is sexist,” is an inaccurate amalgamation of bad actors into the entirety of the tech industry, suggesting shuttering the organizations that house the bad actors potentially hurts good actors trying to operate below the radar of the SocJus outer party.

It is on the metaphorical bones of the bad actors that the healing process should begin.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like: apologies, resignations, sitting down for coffee with someone from the “opposition” to talk business, or actual earnest discussions in public forums where ethical grievances can be heard and addressed and due deference given to the gamers who built the gaming industry twice in the last 40 years could be a start.

The Next Steps

Then, let’s find someone who gives a damn about video games beyond the industry’s potential for personal profit, and let’s have an earnest discussion of representation in video games and the industry in general.  Propagandists, anti-intellectuals, and the gaming academic elitists need not apply.  Let’s focus on facts and data.  Let’s think about ways to make Princess of Persia interesting so people would want to play it.  Let’s talk about STEM education and how to deepen the pool of qualified candidates for tech sector jobs, but let’s make that discussion a serious one—not one where Bay Area tech jobs are treated like an entitlement.

Then, let’s clean up the acronyms.  Let’s give IGDA and DiGRA the enemas they’ve proven over and over they are in desperate need of.  Let’s get people who care about real progress in the industry, turning 100 billion dollars worldwide into 120 billion dollars worldwide, vice faux progress, an ocean of crappy not-games to indoctrinate the weakest generation in the history of history into  the outer party of SocJus.  Let’s get people in the leadership of DiGRA who want to work with the will of the consumer and the creative process and will speak about representation in the gaming industry.

Oh, and this last one is for me.  As his last act as an employee of Polygon, Ben Kuchera gets to interview Zoe Quinn, but (and this is a HUGE but) he must ask the following questions:

  • Did you and/or Robin Arnott tank the Polaris Game Jam on purpose?
    • Was the Grayson piece designed to invoke sympathy in order to give Rebel Jam a boost?
  • Did you file a fake DMCA claim against Mundane Matt?

I’m feeling slightly selfish, since none of what I’ve proposed is going to happen anyway (projecting presumptive arrogance).  Had anyone in the “gamers are dead” camp had the courage to stand up and ask these questions in the first place there’s every possibility GamerGate could have been avoided.

I applaud Mark Kern for trying to begin the healing process.  The petition is a good first draft for just such an effort.  That said, the bad actors who insulted their core audience still need to be banished to their own personal blogs.

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.