A few weeks ago, TechRaptor published an interview with an anonymous developer who spoke out on a personal blog about his perceptions on the gender issues of gaming, the existence of corruption and political correctness in the industry, and the controversial hashtag turned consumer watchdog known as GamerGate. The developer interviewed hid his name from the public, fearing backlash, and discussed how this fear was rampant in the industry. He said that he hoped more developers would speak out.
Since then, the SPJ Airplay event was held, reinforcing some of this fear after being targeted by bomb threats. At the same time though, it introduced GamerGate to many new ears, and seems to have reopened the discussion on the anniversary of the hashtags inception. Before Airplay, TechRaptor got in contact with another triple A developer, with his own thoughts on GamerGate and the issues that surround it. Like the previous, he too chose to keep his name and information private. The culture of fear has not completely gone, but this developer also had some poignant views. We held our interview the day after Airplay was over.
The developer interviewed had his identity confirmed by our site owner, including the company he works for and his name. For his privacy, as noted above, none of this will be revealed except that which he gave his explicit permission to reveal. This interview was conducted by email.
TechRaptor: Can you briefly give as much information as you can on what your role is in the industry?
Developer: I am a developer for a popular studio under Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC (SCEA). The majority of my career has been in the AAA scene, but I have made my own small-time indie game and helped others in their small projects as well.
TechRaptor: Is this your first time commenting on this or have you written about GamerGate or similar controversies in the past anonymously?
Developer: This would be my first time talking about Gamergate at all, or anywhere for that matter. Due to how volatile the subject it, from my perspective, it truly feels like there isn't a safe way to have an open dialogue about Gamergate without the threat of harassment or worse.
TechRaptor: How does AAA regard things like GamerGate and gamer led “movements”? Is there any sort of written policy when dealing with things like that?
Developer: Publicly and at the corporate level, most AAA companies will try not to actively engage in the movement, unless it obviously directly effects them. I am personally not aware if there are any set protocol or policy about Gamergate or other "movements." We have a good amount of trained PR people who handle that whenever it focuses our attention to us.
Inside the studio, it is not really a subject that is brought up. Part of the reason why is that we are too busy working on it, which is the prevalent attitude among most of the developers. However, for those that do want to talk about it, it can be very difficult to have a private conversation among like-minded people.
TechRaptor: Is it hard to find those like-minded people, or do you and your coworkers just not feel comfortable talking about it in the current atmosphere?
Developer: Its mostly because of the current atmosphere of the situation. Many of my co-workers have put so much (metaphorical) blood, sweat, and tears into the projects they love, there isn't any real incentive to talk about something that could get you in a large amount of trouble or danger. It has almost become an unspoken rule not to talk about Gamergate, without any real planning.
TechRaptor: Do you know of anyone who has gotten into trouble for talking about Gamergate, positively or negatively?
Developer: Thankfully, I don't know anyone in particular who has been in trouble for talking about Gamergate, positively or negatively, in my company. I do know various people that has been on the public eye that has had their names smeared though the mud. Each time something like that happens, especially when it's a famous veteran I look up to or a personal friend, I want to be able to defend that person with all my might. But, I know that would expose me as well.
Its mostly because of the current atmosphere of the situation. Many of my co-workers have put so much (metaphorical) blood, sweat, and tears into the projects they love, there isn't any real incentive to talk about something that could get you in a large amount of trouble or danger.
TechRaptor: What do you think about GamerGate the movement? The things they tend to tackle—corruption, censorship—are those big industry problems from your point of view?
Developer: I have always seen Gamergate as a group of passionate people rallying behind the platonic cause for honesty and accountability. While the Gamergate movement did have a rocky start to begin with, I feel the Gamergate movement has become quite clear with its intended mission. The video game industry has always been both a global community and very tight-knit. Because of how close we are and that we are an entertainment-based industry, it does allow of nepotism and corruption when money is on the line. These are large problems that I feel any entertainment-based industry has. But, what is unique about the video game industry is that we have consumers willing to speak up and demand that we strive for a better way.
Unfortunately, there are individuals who don't feel comfortable about changing how they do things, especially when it works out so well for them in the past and the present. To those who fight against Gamergate, I can understand the feeling when a large amount of people are saying how you do your job is wrong. Within the game journalism part of our industry, it does seem like the Wild West. Media companies will make deals and write articles that help them grow and keep their employees. However, that stubbornness or misguided grandstanding doesn't improve the industry or game journalism as a whole. The corruption and censorship that Gamergate is fighting against is after years of such "deals" and how some game journalists have their ingrained mindsets. It is an uphill battle, but it needs to be done.
TechRaptor: Does that corruption impact your ability to create or put undue limits on your projects?
Developer: I am blessed to be in a position where it mostly doesn't affect our work. We don't make games so that a gaming website will like it. We make a game so that our fans will like it. In truth, our biggest and most important critics will always be the people that buy and play our game, not the journalists that cover it. However, we always look at reviews and how it is received. If a review is biased against us from an ideological standpoint instead of the content of the game, then that can theoretically cause unnecessary issues for future projects.
TechRaptor: Something that has come up a lot in recent months is the move towards political correctness, is that something that is considered a lot in AAA and taken seriously when making games?
Developer: Political correctness as an issue is mostly addressed on a project-to-project basis. I have seen projects that have bowed to the ideas of political correctness and others that how thrown caution to the wind. Regardless of the project, its has to be considered in some fashion. Ideally, a project can make systems and characters great enough that it doesn't need hit against the political correctness attitude. In the projects I am been a part of, the political correctness has either been glanced over or it has tailored a project in some degree. Political correctness can become a balancing act, but an act we shouldn't have to deal with. However, I have seen that affect the Indie scene alot more than the AAA scene. Political correctness has never stopped a project from making a great character or gameplay feature that I have been a part of, and it never should.
TechRaptor: Have you or your company or your coworkers been targeted for censorship or told to remove anything? Or is that also more of an indie issue?
To those who fight against Gamergate, I can understand the feeling when a large amount of people are saying how you do your job is wrong ... However, that stubbornness or misguided grandstanding doesn't improve the industry or game journalism as a whole.
Developer: For the AAA scene, "censorship" internally is not the right word. While there are many hands in a game's design and story, that leads to different viewpoints and ideas about how the project should go. Ultimately, it could come down to a Lead Producer or Game Director making a final call. Even after that, someone in QA could point out a major flaw that needs to be resolved. Censorship really doesn't come into play until after a game is released. While I won't go into any real specifics in my company, I have talked with professionals in both the AAA and Indie scene about how a vocal minority doesn't appreciate what was put in their game. While that can provide constructive feedback, it has occasionally turned to be politically fueled judgement instead of honest critique. I would say that it would happen more toward the Indie scene, but I also see that with how open Indie developers are with their fanbase, especially with the age of Kickstarter and promises of Alpha/Beta builds out to the public.
TechRaptor: How much impact do you think gaming journalists have on the AAA industry as compared to alternatives like YouTubers and podcasts?
Developer: I think that YouTubers and podcasts have definitely gained alot of ground to show how much effect they have now. Personally, I find Egoraptor's "Sequelitis" series to be one of the best critiques of modern and classic game design methodologies. As for reviews, Angry Joe has been brutally fair and honest with his videos, which I enjoy as well. In the studio, we talk about these YouTubers and Let's Players all the time, where some fellow employees have even done their own Let's Plays and podcasts themselves. For YouTubers and podcasters, their critiques, if fair and well researched, are listened to.
TechRaptor: If you could make any one improvement to the industry right now, no questions asked, what would it be?
Developer: Would you mind if I answered that in a Realistic improvement and an Ideal improvement?
Developer: Thank you!
Realistically, there is one improvement that we need to make in the online part of our industry: No more Doxxing. Period. It doesn't matter what its trying to accomplish or who it is effecting, if you are for or against Gamergate. doxxing is a bane on the internet, and tangentially, our industry. The fear of being doxxed stifles the ability to speak freely, which is one of the greatest virtues of the internet. Doxxing is a tool to silence people and hurt their way of life, just because of an opinion. I have heard numerous arguments for Doxxing on both sides of the Gamergate controversy, ranging from how it "weeds out trolls on the internet" or how MovieBob said "I 'believe' that there is (almost) no such thing as a bad tactic - only bad TARGETS." Doxxing is, and always will be, a bad tactic that should be shunned and punished severely. That fear is the reason why I am talking anonymously today. It is not only for the protection of myself, friends, and family, but also my company and my co-workers.
The ideal change is how the game industry is viewed by the mass populace. I would like to see a large media push toward who developers and gamers really are. Possibly something along the lines of a fair review/critique/story of a studio or group of developers. Currently, the mass media still portrays gamers and game developers as a failure to grow up. We see that in movies like Pixels and Grandma's Boy, and with weird advertisements to get game degrees like the infamous "tighten up the graphics on level 3" commercial. While we might make fun games for all ages, our professionals and veterans are not treated to the same esteem as a football coach or a movie director. Thankfully, I see that as something that is on the horizon, so long as we keep building our industry instead of attempting to tear it down from inside.
TechRaptor: Is there any message you'd like to give to GamerGate and advocates in the industry?
Developer: We are listening. We are paying attention to everything Gamergate and Anti-gamergate does. Every action, good and bad, is documented and view-able. We go over forum and Twitter posts. Now that SPJ Airplay is done and traction has been made, Gamergate needs to maintain its commitment to keeping game journalism honest and fair. One of the most deciding moments for me was how 4chan donated to The Fine Young Capitalists to help young women make a game. That is a proper example of how we should support the growth of the industry and I encourage people who agree with Gamergate to keep doing that. Make GameJams, sell rare and antique games, and do what you can to show that you care about the industry you love.
As for my fellow developers who support Gamergate, I would say to speak your mind, even if its anonymously. Your words mean the world to gamers. It wasn't until I heard Edward Snowden say: "If we sacrifice our values because we're afraid, we don't care about those values very much." that I realized that if I truly value how gamers are represented in our industry, then I had to speak out. I would encourage you to do the same.
We are listening ... Every action, good and bad, is documented and view-able. We go over forum and Twitter posts. Now that SPJ Airplay is done and traction has been made, Gamergate needs to maintain its commitment to keeping game journalism honest and fair.
TechRaptor: Anything you would like to say in closing?
Developer: I don't have anything more to say, really. I think that about covers it from me. I think the biggest thing I would like to reinforce and remind is to say in the interview as a disclaimer that my opinions here are NOT reflective of Sony, SCEA, or any company related to Sony in any way. They are mine, and mine alone.
TechRaptor: Of course. Thank you so much for your time!
Developer: Thank you for helping my voice reach out to people. I can't wait to see it on TechRaptor. I hope its a small step to a positive change.