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A lot of ink has been figuratively spent on #GamerGate, the bulk of it largely attempting to describe with some degree of finality what it is or isn’t. Usually this comes with some ham-fisted attempt to cram the controversy into the narrow worldview of the interpreter to paint the picture they want to see. I’ve no interest in boring you with my own version; rather, as an amateur sociologist, I’m much more interested in causation, relationships between groups, and lessons that can be learned from important cultural events; and make no mistake, #GamerGate is an important cultural event.

Recent happenings and interactions on Twitter have provoked me to think long and hard about the torrid on-again-off-again relationship between the traditional game’s media and their audience, mostly in the hope of finding some slice of common ground or a morsel of understanding that would humanize a coterie of industry professionals that seem all too eager to become an absurd caricature of Charles Foster Kane. After more than a year of being a small-time, two-bit, “games journalist” myself, I’ve formed an idea or two about the duties of journalists, critics, and audience that I would like to share with you in the hopes that we can move a fraction of an inch closer to a cessation of hostilities.

Like all great conflicts, the burden of blame falls on multiple parties. It’s easy to point at the contemptuous media and say “Look at how damn smug these people are—surely they’re to blame!” but I firmly believe that we are all guilty of certain sins, both big and small, that necessitated the cultural phenomena known as #GamerGate. In this three-part series I hope to explore the roles of the players in this great human drama, examine how they failed at their duties, ponder the motivations that lead to these failures as well as their consequences, and discuss possible solutions to a controversy that has come to encompass a myriad of sensitive hot-topics, such as online harassment, sexism, cultural Marxism, and journalistic integrity.

Before you begin knotting the noose, dear audience, it’s important that I establish context by sharing with you my beliefs on the duties of journalists, critics, and audience.

Death of the critic.

And so, feeling the cold pall of death take root in his heart, the corrupt journalist looked back on a happier time before slipping loose of the mortal coil. “Shitlords,” he murmured, the snow globe tumbling from his hand as the body of his work was heaped unceremoniously upon the fire.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to discuss the distinction between a journalist and a critic. While criticism may often fall under the purview of a journalist, the tenets of journalism do not so easily fall into the lap of a critic. In a perfect world, a journalist will objectively describe an event using primary sources and neutral language to present a reader with all the information they need to make a decision. Ideally they will remove themselves as much as possible from their work so that their readers may step in and come to a conclusion based on the facts presented, rather than spoon-fed what to think or how they should feel.

Contrary to this notion of objectivity stands the critic. Critics invariably come with certain tastes, agendas, or biases that will color their perception and bleed into their observations for good or ill. They have no use for neutrality because what they are offering you is their opinion, which comes with all the burden of their life experience, worldview, and education. Their job is best performed when they can marry their convictions with supportive evidence. It’s also worth noting that they often have a more sharply defined audience in mind than the journalist when they opine.

Where this becomes prickly is the Wild West nature of the Internet. In special interest publications you often find individuals that fill both of these roles simultaneously, and it can be difficult to distinguish whether they’re a journalist, a critic, or a blogger. Worse yet, authors further obfuscate this distinction by shedding these identities as a defense mechanism, shifting between these roles fluidly to suit the situation. As we will see later, however, it’s all a matter of semantics and ultimately inconsequential what someone refers to themselves as when held to scrutiny.

For the purpose of this article we will describe journalists and critics as though they are separate entities, keeping in mind that this is rarely the case in contemporary publications. Finally, this is not a consummate list of duties but rather three or four responsibilities I believe to be the most essential for each role.

Let us first begin with the role of the journalist. As we’ve already stated, their primary duty is to inform. In games journalism in particular they are often the intermediary between the industry and the fans. They sort through the press releases, trailers, and rumors and try to give their readership a picture of what’s going on without inundating them with useless information. A journalist has succeeded if they’ve managed to evenly consider all aspects and report on them without bias so that their audience can make an informed decision, whether it be what to buy, what to eat, who to vote for, or what stocks to invest in.

Another role of the journalist is to provide a voice to the voiceless. As you may imagine, this is a higher calling than simply relaying information and may be the reason why someone becomes a journalist to begin with. This role has greatly expanded since the indie revolution, given that indie developers without a PR firm or marketing budget rely largely on word of mouth and press to advertise their games. A journalist may be the difference between a hidden-gem reaching the hands of a consumer or staying forever buried in the labyrinthine bowels of Steam Greenlight.

The third role of a journalist is gatekeeping. It is their job and that of their editors to consider what is newsworthy. They must look at an event and decide whether it’s in the public’s interest to investigate or pursue a story based on the needs of their readership. If they decide a story is worth publishing, it is their duty to properly vet sources and perform routine fact-checking to ensure that they deliver the most accurate report they can. This is a role that has diminished greatly due to the influence of the Internet. With a dizzying array of blogs, publications, aggregate sites, and news feeds, it has become somewhat of a case of journalists guarding a gate while the walls are left to crumble.

anton 584x330 - Sympathy for the Devil: Understanding Relationships, Criticism, and Ethics in a Post-GamerGate World Pt. 1

I’m sitting at a safe distance, drinking wine, waiting on my entree and holding an internal monologue on the utility of turtle-neck sweaters in a post-industrial, service-based, society. I’m having an OK time. ©Disney 2007

The critic is another beast entirely. I’ve come to decide that the work of a critic should be regarded with the same candor as Texans have for government: it’s a necessary job, but you’d rather your son didn’t do it. It’s extremely easy for someone to pick apart the creative work of another from the relative safety of their office chair making poignant, sarcastic remarks that are written as much for the writer as they are the reader. The dull tedium of judging another’s livelihood can only be broken up with self-indulgent references and biting, evocative rhetoric that seeks to entertain as much as inform. Yet, that’s not to say that criticism doesn’t have its purpose.

It is a critic’s job to be an effective barometer in terms of identifying when certain aspects of artistry have been beaten to death or exsanguinated for every bit of intellectual sustenance they have to offer. Eventually someone has to say out loud “I’m getting really sick of zombie games.” It’s a little self-righteous and comes loaded with the arrogance that since you’re finally tired of it, everyone else should be too. Still, it functions as a prod for developers to hopefully move on and find more fertile ground in the same way a passive-aggressive roommate may wonder aloud why there are still dishes in the sink. The efficacy of this call-to-action is directly related to the amount of money a company can still rake in, which is in turn a reflection of the consumer’s willingness to tolerate yet another sequel. As such, this is perhaps the most tertiary duty that a critic can perform and can quickly turn an enthusiastic, bushy-tailed critic into a miserable, dead-eyed belligerent from the overwhelming feeling that they’re screaming at a wall.

The second duty that a critic has is to deliver their opinion within the framework of their experience. As we mentioned before, the critic may have an agenda, a bias, a particular audience, or an angle they’re known for. They may focus on novel gameplay, themes, social commentary, tropes, accessibility, how they felt while playing a game, or even whether it was fun or not. What separates a good critic from a bad one is their ability to convey these thoughts and feelings in a way that may promote discussion. A good critic will make you think about what they’re saying, even if you’re deeply offended by their position.

A perfect example would be if someone were to assert that Bayonetta 2 objectifies women or is sexually exploitative because of the provocative nature of Bayonetta’s attire or mannerisms. Someone may argue that she’s fiercely independent and in complete control of her body and identity, and is therefore an example of a strong woman who also happens to own her sexuality. The critic has successfully encouraged dialogue, which allows an errant reader to form his or her own opinion on the subject or possibly even go off and read more about the the subject. The industry, the critic, and the reader are all for the better thanks to an unabated flow of discourse.

Criticism appears easy because anyone can point at something and say it sucks. A true critic should be a master of their trade well-versed in dominating theories, genres, tropes, and industry-specific knowledge to provide the best possible critique. Not only does it help you put across your arguments more effectively, but makes you more credible and genuine. It’s absolutely critical to build a knowledge base that makes you an authority on the subject because enthusiasts will be able to sniff out someone who has no idea what they’re talking about with ease. It’s important that should a critic ever be caught with their pants down that they confess to their ignorance on the topic and make an effort to educate themselves, as the loss of face will be minimal in comparison to the monumental blow back of pretending you know something that you don’t and condescending to people well-versed in the subject.

Paramount to a critic’s work is that they must be able to present their opinion without allowing outside influences to sway their judgement. In other words, they cannot be afraid of their audience or they risk pandering to them and delivering pulled-punches in regards to their assessments. A critic that’s afraid to speak their mind is a damn useless thing. They must challenge their readership, attack their expectations and established conventions, and turn them on their heads in order to stimulate a dialogue. This comes with the expectation that their audience is mature enough to be confronted with controversial topics or beliefs that are outside their own without devolving into an angry mob.

This is, however, a two-way street; a critic can fully expect to have their observations challenged and should be prepared to defend themselves with supporting evidence. It is certain they’ll catch some vitriol as well, and it’s essential that they’re thick-skinned enough to endure a few cheap shots without spiraling into a full-blown Twitter meltdown.

Now dear reader we come to you. What are your duties as a reader? Should a writer even have expectations for an audience? Plainly, not really, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that if readers kept a few things in mind, it would help lubricate the whole process of exchanging ideas.

A reader should be prepared to have their ideas and preconceived notions challenged, even if they were not expecting to have them challenged. It goes without saying that eventually you’re going to come across something that offends you, and how you react speaks greatly to your character. It’s to the benefit of humanity that we be able to read something counter to our own opinion without acting like a juvenile. How many times a day are you confronted with something that you disagree with? Of those instances, how many resulted in you throwing a hissy fit? Simply because it’s a virtual space doesn’t mean you should regress into a primordial state of hooting wildly, banging your chest, and flinging feces at the wall in some exaggerated display to intimidate competition.

It’s also up to the reader to find sources of criticism that suit their tastes. This doesn’t mean you should seek out someone that makes you feel the most affirmed in your position, but someone who can present a controversial opinion in a way that you find palatable. For example, I disagree with a certain Breitbart author on a number of political issues, but am enchanted by his writing style and his ability to convey thoughts and ideas such that I’m not nearly as insulted as I probably could be

Consider for a moment if you did the opposite. What if you sought out a source that perpetually offends you? If you constantly visited their site and read their position and turned into a frothing, rabid, reactionary with every word—what does that say about you? Do the words “perpetually offended” remind you of anyone? Is that someone that you want to be?

Perhaps the final and most important duty of the reader, or in this case the consumer, is to hold authors accountable for the things they write and especially ethical misconduct. You keep us honest. You have a duty to yourself and others to bring it to the attention of a publication when they’ve failed to disclose, properly cite sources, or otherwise screw the pooch in terms of adhering to guidelines that, let’s face it, most of us learned in our introductory year of college. Sometimes it may be something honest and sometimes it may be something well beyond the curative properties of a “my bad.” We all make mistakes, but individuals who continue to fail at meeting baseline standards and actively engage in intentional dishonesty need to be excised with the detachment of a surgeon removing a cancer. Be the scalpel, if you must, but make sure you come packing evidence.

Now that I’ve explained to you my thoughts on the responsibilities of journalists, critics, and readership, we can talk about where it all went wrong. At what point did the state of the industry call for journalists to enact a scorched-earth policy and fighting-retreat into an indefensible position where lobbing disparaging labels became their only recourse? How did it devolve into this chaotic mess of accusations and attempts to get people fired?

Join me next time where we will attempt to topically address how each of these three roles failed in their prescribed duties, as well as examine possible motivators and casus belli for the war on gamers in Sympathy for the Devil: Understanding Relationships, Criticism, and Ethics in a Post-GamerGate World Pt. 2.

This is the first of a three-part series. Do you feel my assessment of these three interdependent groups was accurate? Do you think I missed an important responsibility? Let me know in the comments below.

Stuart Burns

Stuart Burns is aging horribly along with his world view. When not keeping his son away from choking hazards he sometimes plays video games and writes about them.

  • Dave Scoffin

    Started reading this article with understandable caution but with an open mind and finished it impressed with the thought and maturity put into it, well done Stuart, I’m sure the following articles will be just as well written

  • m0r1arty

    All’s good apart from the “Post-GamerGate World” part. GamerGate is alive and well!

    You also missed out the role of ‘Social commentators’ and how they are given a voice without any qualifications to support the opinions they seek to push.

  • ArsCortica

    While this has been an interesting read so far, I have one major issue with one of its arguments:

    “Consider for a moment if you did the
    opposite. What if you sought out a source that perpetually offends you?
    If you constantly visited their site and read their position and turned
    into a frothing, rabid, reactionary with every word—what does that say
    about you? Do the words “perpetually offended” remind you of anyone? Is
    that someone that you want to be?”

    It think it is crucial to understand that many gamers do not primarily hound after websites like Kotaku and Polygon because they want to be angry over something (okay, maybe this is the case for a few individuals).

    Rather, the issue many have with aforementioned websites is that they a) have multiple, documented instances of journalistic corruption (which are not just debatable opinions), they b) occupy a position of power that may lead publishers to think all gamers share the magazine’s opinion on various topics, and c) they have (and possibly still do) conspire to push certain opinions via groups such as GameJournoPros.

    A final issue is that it are these larger players whose scores and/or reviews are eventually used for review aggregate sites like Metacritic, even is these scores are lowered for completely arbitrary and nonsensical reasons (i.e Polygon making its entire review of Tropico 5 about the player having to play as a dictator and lowering its score over it, or the drama about Bayonetta’s outfit mentioned in the article).
    Add to this the frequently dramatic difference between player reviews and journalist reviews (i.e. Gone Home), and you will find that, even if these specific journalists only want to carter to their little audience and otherwise just want to be left alone, the influence they hold over gaming journalism (and to an extend, the games) is significantly to large for the minority they wish to represent.

  • DreamlessWindow

    I wanted to comment on this same topic. While I’m liking this piece so far, I think most people don’t care about what Kotaku (for example) writes or doesn’t write. They care about their influence, and how it affects games directly. We’re having a lot of games censored in the west lately, publishers don’t want to bring some games because of something as silly as swimsuits, and the narrative is hurting both gamers (that are being treated as misogynistic monsters) and people (specially girls) that want to get in the industry (since they are perceiving it as something much worse than what it really is). In other words: it’s not about what they write, but about the consequences it has.

  • Stuart Burns

    I totally understand the dislike towards Kotaku. I really do. If recent events are any indication, most people do.

    All I’m saying is that there is a demographic of people that are perfectly happy being angry. These are the people that hate Howard Stern but listen to him on their drives anyway.

    Just woke up and had no idea this article launched. I’ll comment further once I’ve had a cup of coffee and some breakfast.

  • Stuart Burns

    Hold on for part 2, then. I get into the whole social commentary thing starting next segment.

  • Stuart Burns

    Thank you. I wrote this piece nearly a month ago and have just been cleaning it up every few days. It’s become cumbersome, and there are places where I did fail to keep a neutral tone.

    I agonized for days with my editor on whether it was a relevant piece. We had numerous discussions on whether it was worth publishing before firing it off. I didn’t want to write something about GamerGate that was pointless.

    It will likely be the only time I ever write about GamerGate in an “official” capacity.

  • Stuart Burns

    Certainly. And we discuss consequences in part three, though I I will admit I’m not sure I covered that particular angle.

    Great point! We see a bunch of censorship happening with Japanese games recently, and that’s a very real effect of the perceived sensitivity of western audiences and nanny groups that moderate violence and sexuality.

  • Stuart Burns

    That being said, it’s interesting that a company like Rockstar sees these people and says “Screw it, I’m going to release it how it is anyway.” I think it’s a developer call. Then again, Rockstar has made so much money that they can probably take a beating or two without worrying too terribly much.

  • Screech Screecher

    Does tie into the resent Pew research showing 2/3 of Americans think the press has a negative impact on America. I would imagine that “gaming” press would fare even worse, even though their importance is much less.
    At some point our society will need to re-evaluate the role the press was to play and the role it is playing and adjust the liberties that we have given them accordingly. Good place to start would be “press” that has contempt for free speech.

  • Stuart Burns

    I agree with you. There’s also a large shift in how people get their news. YouTube is a thing, and it’s a big thing that threatens people like me who write. Mind you, my position could evaporate tomorrow and I wouldn’t be upset. It’s a changing of times. The new media has more hold and more relevancy than the old guard media, which is only expediting its demise by constantly crapping on its readership.

  • Stuart Burns

    Alright. Had some time to think about it.

    I get your points, but don’t necessarily think that they have much to do with the section you quoted. All that’s really saying is that if you’re visiting a site just to get angry, you’re probably doing it wrong. It’s not saying that the very valid concerns about their ethical integrity is unfounded—please do not construe it as hand waving.

    As far as aggregate sites, I touch on that a bit in the next part. Aggregate sites would be great if they were used responsibly. I will say that, and understand that it may be an unpopular opinion with GamerGate, it’s their right to dock points off a game for reasons that may seem silly. That’s their choice. They just have to back it up and will have to live with the consequences. Back to aggregate sites. I personally hate scores. I’d much rather just write about a game, what’s good, what’s bad, and give a general recommendation of Buy, Wait for Sale, or Don’t Buy. I hate having to somehow cram my review into a metric.

    You’ve got outlets that dock points for social reasons, and then you have users who bomb out the user reviews with 0’s any time they get their jimmies rustled, as well as 10/10 shills. The whole thing would be great if people used it fair, but they don’t. It’s a damn mess, and unfortunately the very existence of aggregate sites necessitates the continuation of using scores.

  • calbeck357

    Excellent writing, Stuart. Just one minor note: the world isn’t post-GamerGate… yet. It remains, for a variety of reasons, an ongoing controversy with a number of possibly major future results. We’ll just have to see, but it’s certainly not done with at this time.

  • william

    Looking forward to the other parts of the series.

    I think this particular cultural phenomenon boils down to journalists and critics thinking they are entitled to not just an audience, but a fawning one. No they are not. People are quick to pick up stakes and move to were the grass is greener. Consumers are equally inclined to take their business elsewhere.

    People had happily moved on from the irritating content produced by the folks being criticized. Only a few of them were actually leaving comments and down votes. Most people have no casual interest in engaging with someone who accuses them of being some species of bigot or pervert. (I guess you will be touching on this in the next part.) Yes we discuss among ourselves as is typical of the normal, sorting behavior that people do. The resentment existed under the surface. These journalists and critics were quietly regarded as an unnecessary evil.

    Then you had a post, then a scandal, then an even bigger scandal, then this phenomenon. Laid bare for any honest onlooker is that the mainstream media is not worth their status or paycheck. While with the gaming press, or critics you can choose who you read or listen to; the MSM is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of a modern democracy. It has revealed itself to be rotten to the core, particularly when it comes to paying lip-service to women and minorities. They do not care at all about humanity outside of making themselves look good, even if they have to lie for over a year for that high. They are responsible for this and have earned my lifelong contempt.

  • Stuart Burns

    Certainly. It’s still ongoing, but “Post-ZoePost” sounds weird, doesn’t it?

  • Stuart Burns

    Precisely. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the people who paid attention to these events and were effected by them will forever view media differently. The tag may die, but this sort of indignation will live long after in the hearts of the people who witnessed it. I touch on that in part 3, I think.

  • queazy

    I don’t go to sites that challenge my tastes to be angry at them. It’s more of a case of me just spending my limited free time where I want to (which isn’t at any game review website) and rather I keep hearing about these awful things the same few video game review websites keep doing again and again. What usually happens when I inspect the story further is that these same video game review sites do hold biases they are very arrogant about, do not acknowledge information presented that contradicts their narrative, and demonize those who do not agree with them. That’s where the anger usually comes from.

  • Stuart Burns

    Right. Perhaps my phrasing was poor.

    I guess to me it’s strange that people would continue to go back to a site that has shown they have no interest in them over and over again, especially if they show an unwillingness to change.

  • Robert Grosso

    One thing from this I wish to highlight:

    “A reader should be prepared to have their ideas and preconceived notions challenged, even if they were not expecting to have them challenged. It goes without saying that eventually you’re going to come across something that offends you, and how you react speaks greatly to your character.”

    I agree on principle, but in practice it is difficult at best to be open to new perspective, especially in social/political/ideological debates such as this.

    It is hard enough to teach different points of view and the historical and social implications of them, and how much nuance is involved in “taking a side”, but the majority simply don’t care because that is not what they wish to hear. Truth be told, I think you give the general public a bit more credit than they deserve in that realm here that they can even be open-minded enough to react properly, especially when the climate itself tends to reward extremist behavior.

    That said, the general public is also a bit smarter than we can give them credit for too. A lot of people are quite rational in what they believe in, the problem is the culture-at-large, I feel is what is so divisive.

  • Robert Grosso

    They kind of should though if you ask me.

    The content of what they write should be the gateway to that perspective; to that end, if Kotaku is an industry leader, what they write becomes a thought-leader kind of designation.This is why aggregate sites like Metacritic are popular too, it is an industry standard because it what people use, the general public.

    See, the recent hub-ub with Kotaku and Bethesda, for example, is a big deal because it shows the man behind the curtain, so to speak, regarding the gatekeepers of information within the industry. If Kotaku was blacklisted by publishers, then the industry suffers because it shows that the publishers are resorting to a dishonest, consumer-controlling method by barring journalists and critics from doing their job.

    People tend to cry jubilation regarding this event though because it’s Kotaku, who threatened apparently the same exact thing on the general public and because people just in general tend to hate Kotaku for their role in the entire GamerGate ordeal, but in reality the general gaming public should be standing with them in that regard; after all, Bethesda and Ubisoft are basically trying to censor their own materials from the hands of Kotaku.

    This, I feel, is the point Stuart is trying to get at when it comes to the responsibilities of the readers and their character; regardless of how it’s spinned or presented, what is happening at Kotaku is wrong, and flies in the face of any journalistic ethics that are touted by those on twitter. That deserves a much larger outcry vs. the chiding Kotaku gets for having a taste of their own medicine.

    I fully admit I am a bit more cynical though, because I expect the chiding to be the bigger point over the ethical problems presented with that whole ordeal. But it does illustrate why it kind of matters; regardless of GamerGate, people still listen to Kotaku, and Kotaku still has influence. It always will have influence until the website shuts down, really, so keeping in mind that we should call them out, while at the same time they should be part reporter, part watchdog, is how we should evolve from this socially and culturally as a video game community.

    Emphasis on should, in my opinion.

  • Stuart Burns

    Regrettably there’s no safe stance to have with the Kotaku/Bethesda situation.

    I’ve recently seen people on Twitter resorting to playing with words, e.g. “They’re not on any list, so technically they’re not blacklisted—Bethesda just won’t collaborate with them.”

    The fact is, as I’ve said many times on Twitter, Bethesda and Ubisoft aren’t exactly pro-consumer, given their history of supporting DRM and releasing buggy messes that have to be fixed with mods, only for Bethesda to attempt to monetize those mods.

    David Auerbach covered big dev corruption and Kotaku level corruption much better than I’ll ever be able to. He basically calls picking on indie devs and places like Kotaku low-hanging fruit. They were so inept at covering their corruption that they were bound to be caught. Meanwhile, AAA publishers have been engaged in what he describes as polite corruption, and GG doesn’t have boots on the ground where they can actively stop it.

    So we basically call out Indie devs and Kotaku and whatnot because they’re easy pickings. Not a lot of effort required due to their bumbling ineptitude at covering their sordid relationships coupled with their haughty holier-than-thou attitudes.

    David further goes on to explain that Kotaku and places like them are frustrated because they expected developer support against so-called misogynists. They never got it, and that’s because the developers will likely never vocally support GamerGate, but the very fact that they haven’t denounced them is evidence of their approval. They will stay quiet and allow GamerGate to eliminate publications that have been a vocal thorn in their sides for ages. GG is basically doing what they’ve always wished they could. Now all they have to do is stand idly by and let it happen.

    I hope that one day GG will take it to the top. Go after the AAA’s that have been manipulating games journalism from the get go. People try to excuse it as them looking out for their business interests, but it’s dishonest. Plain and simple. They should be taken to task along with everyone else.

  • Stuart Burns

    I’m a bit more optimistic about people, maybe. A lot of things in this series are how I think things should be, not necessarily how they are. Magical Christmas Land™, if you will. It’s worth putting it on paper that people should, in theory, be open minded. That’s not how it works, of course, but it’s how it should work.

    It’s not an instant process. For instance, I had to sort through a lot of old stuff when writing this disaster and a lot of it made me rethink my position. I’ve become more comfortable with being a moderate with GG sympathies.

    Next segment covers things like motivation. A lot of it is, admittedly, supposition—a mental exercise rather than a matter of record.

  • Stuart Burns

    Ironically, by saying that they’re how I think things should be, I become guilty of the very thing that I’ll later accuse corrupt journalists of, which is thinking they know what’s best for the industry.

    In the end, people are people. A lot of times they’re going to pass the buck or cut corners. I sincerely hope that GG doesn’t flicker out before it can start tackling the big boys, though. This problem with dishonest media extends well past the realm of gaming.

  • Italy GG

    Indeed. I think people is just tired that the megaphones of the gaming community are the intellectual equivalent of the liquid that comes out of the bottom of trash bags.

  • Italy GG

    I noticed mainly 3 recurring fallacies around this debate:
    1) Everyone attempts to rebrand things in order to build different narratives: either redefine GG or contemplate if slandering entire demographics with zero evidence is more acceptable when you call yourself “critic” or “blogger” instead of “journalist”.
    2) Media and ideologues making simple things look exaggerately more complex that they are (pulling absurd conspiracies out of what amounts to gamers whistleblowing evidence of politicized lobby/crony groups) or the opposite, GG trying to shrink the whole thing into a 5-word sentence (ethics in video game journalism) to dramatically lower the entry bar and get more muscle to get PR vindication for a hashtag anyone can use.
    3) People tip-toing around the issue, too afraid of being called sexist by irrelevant radicals to do something for the industry.

    When it comes to GG you are either ok with lobby groups forcing their demands on a global industry or you are not.
    Anything else is pseudo-intellectual sewage that just procastrinates resolutions of a problem that has been fully explained and analyzed in every minuscule detail for a year.

  • Stuart Burns

    Right. I do see a lot of that going on by everyone. There’s a lot of playing with words. Lots of attempts at redefining things to suit a narrative.

  • Robert Grosso

    But the problem, I would argue, is the culture being created by gamergate itself, but that really stems from the fanaticism that is growing out of it versus its role in possibly changing the industry.

    It reminds me of the social and cultural upheaval in France during the 19th century; the people are sick and tired of how they are treated, they rise up in protest and take over, only to turn their venom on each other because of staunch fanaticism. You have liberals fighting the far left, the far right getting involved in social-spherical debates and trying to politicize the issues (and succeeding I believe) and in the middle, the moderates who see both sides as flawed when the reality is we all want the same thing in the end, more than we realize.

    But will our voices carry any weight in the grand scheme of things as being those moderates. I would argue you are not guilty of anything, discussing how things can or should be is always a part of actual academic analysis, so long as we can back it up a bit. If we don’t use that, we never find the truth of the matter or the nuance to even comprehend this whole issue id say.

  • Robert Grosso

    IT also behooves them to stay quiet because of politics. Why rock that boat and alienate people by supporting or washing your hands of a movement?

    As for the low hanging fruit, the problem with that is nothing still gets done if we keep picking from the lowest branch of the trees, and accusations that some companies are anti-consumer in the slightest senses often hold no tangible water. Bethesda and Ubisoft by washing their hands of a journalistic publication is a clear-cut case of that, yet we keep harping on Kotaku because they are an easier target.

    GamerGate will likely never have those boots on the ground, if anything the current squeeze of far-right ideals is making that evidently clear that it will not grow into a massive movement, to be honest. The core idea of honest journalism is still just an idea that can be molded, but the culture war surrounding it is doing that idea little favors, which has made both the social justice stance and the gamergate stance effectively neutered since they are focusing on each other.

  • DreamlessWindow

    I would agree with you if somehow Kotaku was forbidden to write any article about Bethesda games. But they are not. If they want, they can buy the game like everyone else, and make reviews. They are just being stripped of the company’s recognition as journalists. They won’t get review copies for free.
    If Kotaku had done their work right, not only people would side with them, but also, it wouldn’t affect them that much to be blacklisted. I mean, if people cared about Kotaku’s opinion in games, they would wait until they release an article about the game before buying it (which would mean the company is hurting themselves by blacklisting them, since preorders would fall a lot) and Kotaku would keep its traffic. Instead, what we are seeing is a terrified Kotaku that’s trying to attack Bethesda like a baby throwing a tantrum (instead of being critical about their own behavior).

    Also, imagine I want to make a new games journalism webpage. Do I get my free review copies automatically and immediately? Of course not. I have to earn that right. First, you become a journalist, then you earn your journalist privileges. The opposite is also true. Stop being a journalist, and lose your privileges. Of course, we could argue if Kotaku is still about journalism or not, but the fact is that they went against the few rules the companies put in this deal.

  • Robert Grosso

    Yet those rules seem arbitrary at best.

    True, you need to build a rapport with companies, but those companies should not hold so much sway over you as to withold product or information when verifying sources.It is not even a case of review copies, really. It is, in effect, a publisher saying that Kotaku has no bearing to them, that Kotaku is unimportant in the grand scheme of sharing information, and thus as a journalistic outlet is impotent. It is a publisher exerting control over the people in what they, by telling the press that we will not reveal anything to you, or help you in informing the people, which is Kotaku’s job in the first place.

    That is quite Orwellian honestly, Kotaku now needs to fight for scraps to formulate the truth. It is now harder for them to do so, and in effect they lose their reputation and their ability to be effective at being a news outlet. Plus, it creates that effect of “whining” even though it was treated as a editorial expose into the inner-workings of these deals. It was part sympathy cry, part curtain reveal of what is going on.

    A week ago, you argued that Nintendo doing the same thing with Xenoblade Chronicles X was a bad thing. I just find it odd that when something that is frankly much more important and a real example of unjustified censoring than that issue is cropping up, you take the side of the company as they do flex their muscles against the gaming community.

  • chaosmosis

    I appreciate the effort, but you need a better editor. This is about 5x longer than it needs to be, and I’m saying this as someone who reads lengthy essays for fun in my spare time. I would have preferred less abstraction, more specifics, and that you get to your point more quickly. I think you’re trying so hard to be neutral that you’re describing your opinions indirectly and inefficiently. You say nothing that anyone reasonable might object to, and thus you say nothing interesting; I heard nothing in this article that I didn’t already know.

    Break down: You spent four paragraphs introducing your topic and saying that you’ll try to be fairer than most other people who discuss it, then you took four more paragraphs to say that we should distinguish between critics and journalists, even though those categories overlap, then three paragraphs to say that the role of journalists is to provide people with objective information, and then six paragraphs to say that critics are more subjective and try to persuade and influence people, and then six paragraphs to say that readers should engage with critics and critics with readers in an honest open minded discussion, and then two paragraphs to summarize your own article and tease the upcoming article.

    That summary skips over some nuances, of course, but the point I’m making is that none of the nuance your article provided was interesting enough to warrant the space it filled. The nuance was not interesting; I wanted to read about videogames and GG and aGG, not some random guy’s nuanced take on “The Three Responsibilities of Journalists” or other similar topics.

    So, since your lengthy paragraphs can so quickly be summarized, that shows this article has atrocious efficiency. I do understand that there’s not strictly any need for word limits when you’re publishing things online, but people’s interest in your piece isn’t automatic. Reading this was mostly a waste of time for me, so I hope your future essays in the series turn out better. Fairness is one thing, but fear of voicing any controversial ideas is something entirely different. You should be criticizing people’s ideas a lot more directly, on all sides.

  • Stuart Burns

    I accept and affirm your criticism.

    While I would love to be Ernest Hemingway, the fact is I’ve always had a plodding, meandering, writing style that perhaps spends too much time with embellishment. It’s something I’ve been aware of for quite some time but has been a difficult beast to struggle with.

    I understand the importance of brevity. I know that it’s incredibly valuable to be able to convey ideas in a short amount of time, especially given the attention span of most people and the nature of new media.

    I’m sorry that you feel as though I wasted your time, and perhaps you’re right in the fact I’m trying too hard to be neutral.

    I do have very strong opinions about this controversy, but when I look at them long enough i see the holes in my own thinking and am reluctant to share them because I know that a lot of my more passionate feelings about it are just that: feelings without basis. Even re-reading I can find places where I wish I had said something else.

    It’s unlikely you’ll like the next few pieces, but I will say that this was essentially an introductory piece just putting forward my thoughts about the nature of journalist and critics. A primer that’s needed before going into the next few articles.

    Would also like to say that it seems like you’re pretty well-versed in the subject, already. This is aimed more at people who may not know things like the purpose of a journalist. I have a feeling you were hoping to get something new out of this, maybe a fresh perspective, which I have failed to provide. For that I am sorry, but I hope it’s useful to people who may not be so intimately acquainted.

    Thank you for the time you took to provide your input.

  • DreamlessWindow

    But the point is no one is censoring Kotaku. No one is telling them what they can or can’t say (Bethesda is not the publisher of Kotaku like Nintendo is for Xenoblade, so I find that comparison you made kinda weird). The only thing they are losing is first hand information, that the companies had no obligation to give them in the first place.

    Look, it’s pretty simple. If someone does articles that are bad for you, you stop talking to them. And you’re in your right to do so. Now, if those people writing about you wrote about things that people cared about, then they would face no problem. People would still be going to them to get news on you. Because they write the good, critical articles, and everyone else is just lubricating their asses and putting them in line for you, wanting to get into your favor to get more privileges. If this was the case, I would be all for supporting Kotaku. Not because they’d have a right to get first hand information, but they’d be doing a great job.

    And this is far from Orwellian. There are many sites out there that are very critical with Bethesda and Ubi, and don’t put their games in a good light. I’ve seen many people complaining about many things (Fallout 4’s bugs on PC are one big example), but they don’t get their journalists’ rights revoked. No one is telling anyone what they can or can’t write. The most they are saying is when to write it (which has some interesting benefits for everyone, by the way).

    Also, it doesn’t matter if the rules are arbitrary. They are there. If you don’t like them, protest, write about how unjust they are, and convince the people that read you to support you in getting rid of them. But don’t act against them on your own and then be all surprised when consequences happen. If you act against an unjust law, you’ll still get detained, and the only people that will support you is those that think you went against it for a greater cause, even if some may not agree with you. But if people think you did it for your own, selfish reasons? Then, you’re all on your own.

    Now, I don’t know what are the real reasons why Bethesda blacklisted Kotaku (I mean, whatever they say is probably just an excuse), but what I know is that they are in their right to give a sneak peak to anyone they like, and to deny it to anyone they don’t. To trust or not those people that get preferential treatment is up to the readers.

    Finally, to put your comparison in the same level, this would be as if Monolith Soft didn’t receive swimsuit magazines from Nintendo while developing Xenoblade (ok, not exactly, since the value of a magazine can’t be compared to that of review copies and the other privileges, but you get the idea, right? Some kind of valuable resource to make the game). No one would be telling them what to add or not to add to their game, but they wouldn’t be helping them add it. And no matter how much that would affect me as a consumer and worry me about artistic freedom (that has nothing to do with Kotaku, since they are not artists), Nintendo would be in their right. What Nintendo did, though, was USE resources to FORCE a change. Quite different things.

  • calbeck357

    Just a little sensitive to the ongoing seasonal declarations of the movement supposedly being dead… at its outset, the following October, last February, then in June… seriously, “post-GamerGate” is a repeating narrative.

    At the same time, it’s the epitome of irony that GG continues to be dropped as the cause for any number of ongoing ills. So there’s a simultaneous desire to use outraged gamers as powerless punching bag, all-powerful boogeyman, and dead-in-the-ground victory declaration. So weird.