A writer and editor turned game developer who has previously worked for websites such as Destructoid and the Escapist, TechRaptor was lucky enough to talk to Allistair Pinsof for a series of interviews about the current state of the gaming media. In the final part of this series Allistair talks about the events leading up to him being fired from Destructoid and his thoughts on GamerGate. You can read the rest of our interview here and here.
Disclaimer: Allistair's interview had been re-arranged into sections, with Allistair's permission, to make for more manageable reading. No edits have been made to the interview save for spelling and grammar.
All views are the interviewee's own and not necessarily shared by TechRaptor.
TR: What is your general opinion of GamerGate and the actions it's taken?
When even I am considered part of GamerGate by some -- despite not joining it, frequently talking against it, and barely interacting with its more moderate voices -- how can I decide who is GamerGate? How can I have an opinion on its actions when these actions are often attributed to other parties and its own achievements are debated from within and outside its main hubs?
My general view is this. People don't like being labeled under a group. People also don't like being silenced. People don't like being bullied. Every time a celebrity, journalist, or social critic says a stranger they don't know is a misogynist, terrorist, or bigot, it will only make people who associate with this group angrier.
GamerGate lacks values, standards, and direction -- thus I never joined -- but it is not a hate group. A hate group is a group that discriminates against another group; women, according to the media, in this instance. Yet, I've seen more outspoken women in the GamerGate tag than woman speaking against it. Yet, I haven't seen general misogyny or attacks against women from it, outside chan shitposts (designed to garner negative attention from critics monitoring) that few members of the group realize exist, not to mention promote.
Misogyny and hate exists in GamerGate but by that standard, the internet is a hate group. What popular news site, forum, online game, or chat room have you been in where there isn't a noticeable air of misogyny and shit-talking? This doesn't make these attitudes and actions okay, but to present the game community as being disproportionately misogynist in comparison to other online communities is dishonest and manipulative.
The biggest crime the media committed against the public and industry in regards to GamerGate is conflating internet trolling, sexism, female representation in games, female representation in industry, ethics, and online abuse into one issue. While progress was made on each of these subjects in recent years, they are now all combined into one toxic ball that no one can clearly address in any positive or progressive way. GamerGate has become an empty hurrah word. "I STAND AGAINST GAMERGATE!" What does that mean? Well, it means whatever your allies and opponents want it to mean, because it no longer means anything in and of itself. Issues are no longer discussed, people are just beating the drum in a pointless online war. People who want to stay on the sidelines and say "Well, that's messed up" somehow get dragged into, or at least that's how it happened to me.
There are women in GG that want their voices heard but they are silenced due to this smear tactic of conflating feminism and censorship debate with abuse. I can imagine, done intentionally or not, that media justifies this as necessary to slaying the beast and ending abuse campaigns against Anita, Quinn and Wu. The ramifications though will set the industry back in ways people don't realize. You have celebrities RT'ing that women in games aren't allowed creative roles. You have national newspapers saying that women -- not three specific women for various specific reasons -- are hated and abused by gamers. These statements are not true and presenting these statements, free of factual reporting and sourcing all parties, to the non-gaming public will damage funding, creative control, and community interaction in years to come.
As someone who wants everyone in games to be judged individually and have full creative control, without fear of sensationalist dogpiling or peer pressure, this has been a distressing time. I feel for the women under attack and those silenced, whether by online mob abuse or media's intellectual bullying. What side the victim or abuser falls under has no bearing on the situation. It was disgusting to see individuals in media and development block and criticize me when I voiced me being upset over GamerGate members (including female, LGBQT, and minorities) being threatened, abused, and silenced. These people who turn their back on their fellow enthusiasts because peer pressure and media framing are no allies of mine or the brave, creative individuals who will rebuild this industry in years to come, with or without the mainstream media.
TR: For those who are unaware, you lost your job at Destructoid following you outing a developer’s IndieGoGo campaign as fraudulent on Twitter and unfortunately outing her as a trans woman in the process. If you could go back, how would you handle the situation differently? Do you still feel it was your duty as a journalist to make people aware of her misdirection?
The decision to out her was one of the hardest decisions I made in my life, and having to reflect on my mistake and be honest with myself and others about it was a process that changed me.
It’s the worst feeling to know who you are, who you identify with and have them refuse to know you and think of you as an enemy. A lot of this was due to how my employer manipulated the story and certain trolls lied about me, once I deleted my tweets, to make the situation even worse.
Let me start by sharing the original tweets. I’m ashamed of them but I’d rather people see my mistakes and ugliness than buy into someone else’s far more sinister story about me. Or for people who compare me to that Grantland writer who outed someone for a story -- that was never what this situation was like at all. There was no story; only compassion to help the developer and later compassion to help charity staff in harm’s way due to the situation.
Coming out like that on Twitter was awful of me, especially saying the surgery she wanted was “non-vital”, lecturing others on suicide, mis-gendering, and suggesting she threatened me.
That last point is especially important for me to address. I took time off the internet to find some peace again after I was fired. When I came back, I saw the developer making angry posts about me -- We ceased to be friends even though we left on good terms -- due to her seeing I said she threatened me. This was bad wording on my part. She never threatened me with harm or self-harm, she only said in passing she’d commit suicide if people knew her identity.
Sadly, this is what happened. 4chan, Reddit, TheIndieStone forums and NeoGaf found the truth about her and some of the bigots of these boards harassed her. In combination with her fundraiser being shut down, she decided to stream her suicide on Twitch and YouTube. This resulted in people sending death threats to the staff of these sites and IndieGoGo, allegedly.
I say allegedly because this is how all this started. My employer told me this was going on in a hysterical email that made me hysterical, guilted me for covering up for her (I was on a mission for her to come out on her own terms on a LGBQT-friendly site), and pressured me to come out with the truth to our readers. I should have ignored but I was in an emotionally vulnerable state and lacked good conscious. I thought I was preventing the possible harm of the staff of Twitch, YouTube, and IndieGoGo. I should have had stronger character, waited to verify the significance of the threats, and if necessary acted in a way that least harmed her in the process.
My employer knew how dangerous it'd be if the truth got out so he told me to be silent during damage control, threatened me after I was fired, and then told other journalists to silence me so the truth didn't get out. By that time, all sorts of rumors about me and wrongful accounts of the situation were spread on everything from LGBQT tumblrs to neo-nazi forums.
It was like if a mom slipped and dropped her baby on the ground and all these people come up like “Oh man! You’re a babykiller too? Sweet! Want to write for our babykiller blog?” And you’re just like, what the fuck -- this is awful I didn’t want any of this, and all those people you actually care for and made a career and life caring for are hurt and hate you now. You’re just left by yourself and with some hateful bigots.
I’ve tried to correct people who think I’m a bigot, tried reconnecting with the developer through apologies (and a misguided attempt to rally GG to donate to her Patreon along with me), and tried to be supportive of other LGBQT gamers. But, it’s too late. The narrative has been set. I still get death threats, people block me without knowing who I really am or what’s my actual story, and I just have to live with it. I doubt people have forgiveness for SWAT teams that shoot an unarmed citizen when a troll SWATs someone saying there’s a hostage situation. The officer made the shot. No context outside that matters. There is no undoing the harm. They just have to live with that. I can’t imagine how hard that’d be, as I can’t expect people who don’t know my real story to understand how hard this has been for me. And, let me acknowledge that I know this has been even harder for the developer who continues to receive harassment.
[Ed Note: Allistair wanted me to mention that at the time of his tweets, he was still unsure if the developer was raising money for a sexual reassignment surgery or if these were lies to get away after being caught due to sources at the school knowing her by a different name and her social media accounts being created only weeks before]
TR: Do you have anything to say to members of GamerGate who supported you during and since this incident?
Outing someone in a way that puts their personal safety and privacy on the line is never okay. I wish certain GG members would realize approaching the developer is mean, fruitless, and paints the entire group under the hateful, transphobic umbrella the media claims. So, please leave her alone and don't use any bullshit about a scam to justify attacking her. If GG is really about ethics, they should ask why my employer pushed me toward outing a trans woman via lies and manipulation and colluded with industry via a private email list to silence the truth from reaching the public -- certainly, if the games media is really LGBQT-friendly they wouldn't have covered up the truth of an outlet's transphobic actions. If you look at the history of my actions previous to that event and those of my employer, who has a history for this sort of thing (transphobia, silencing and manipulating staff) the story should become clearer. Kuchera was a close ally of Destructoid's EiC and owner so I knew how screwed I was with them controlling the narrative through the whole GameJourno Pros thing and silencing the true story. I had allies who knew the real situation but they knew their careers would be on the line if they spoke out and GJP weren’t happy with it. I’m not mad at them for remaining silent. They have their families and careers.
My values aren't so complicated. I believe in treating people how you like to be treated. And, I believe in looking at people as individuals and not applying unwanted labels to them. I feel bad when I see someone who I believe to be good at heart but is denied these things. This is why I originally wanted to work with her to find a legal way for her to fund her surgery and it's why I'm upset over so much of the hate I see out there in the gaming community; and, yes, perhaps I'm responsible for some of it due to my previous fuck-up.
UPDATE: This paragraph was missed from the original. Allistair went on to remark
We need to remember we aren't so different from each other and when the labels are stripped away, we share the same ideals and goals toward equality and honesty in the community. There are LGBQT individuals on both sides of recent controversy that have been targeted and hurt a lot. I hope anyone reading this takes the time to check on their friends and make sure they are doing okay. I know these issues surrounding games are really important to us but nothing should be more important than the health of each other and our friends.
TechRaptor would like to thank Allistair for talking to us. You can find what else Allistair had to say about GamerGate, industry relationships and what happened at Destructoid in the rest of our series You can find him on Twitter.
Has Allistair's interview enlightened you? What are your thoughts?