In the Wake of an Ugly, Sexist Gaming Scandal, Some Ground Rules for Young Male Gamers

Decoding the tech world.
Aug. 27 2014 3:14 PM

Letter to a Young Male Gamer

Some ground rules to keep in mind in the wake of an ugly, sexist scandal.

(Continued from Page 1)

I know you want, more than anything, a world free of hypocrisy and cronyism and cool kids. This is not an impossible goal. But you have to be strategic, as your fellow gamers say on 4chan and Escapist:

Trying to shame Zoe more is derailing us from useful endeavours like brainstorming more ideas for inclusive video games … which are far more productive than bitching about one woman's sex life.
We need to stop focussing on her and focus on the journalists. ... We need to not make this about Zoe.
Trying to find new and inventive ways to hate Zoe Quinn, however, does nothing to build or improve your case that journalistic integrity is at the heart of this issue.
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I read many comments like this, and they are absolutely right: Don’t make Quinn the target. Indie game journalist Sarah Auseil agrees with you. “Quinn is not, and should never have been the centre of this storm,” Auseil writes. Go at the journalists, not at Quinn. Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo took the matter seriously enough to conduct an investigation as to whether Quinn received biased coverage and has changed policy to bar reporters from donating to game developers, so people are listening, and your concerns are legitimate.

Women in gaming have it way rougher than men, and to be blunt, it is simply not the end of the world if Quinn gets a free pass for whatever sins she may have committed—if you can call what’s happening to her right now a free pass. As Auseil wrote:

I am a woman in this industry and I have dealt with the abuse, the harassment, the misogyny in every area. I could tell you all about my rape threats, dick pics, about being physically confronted by dudes, having people demand I prove I ‘even play games’, but that’s the norm for women. ... You don’t have [to] like it, you don’t have to care, but you do have to accept that’s a fact we can all attest to.

It’s because of that ubiquitous abuse, young gamer, that the “adults” in the room (and I use that term loosely) have to stop the bloodshed in pretty blunt ways, which means taking away the toys from the kids. Unfortunately, gaming means that you, as a mature human being, get temporarily lumped in with the misbehaving kids. This is why the moderators kill every thread concerning Quinn on Reddit; it’s why mentioning Quinn on game-streaming site Twitch.tv will get the channel shut down immediately. It’s depressing that you’re getting censored along with the assholes. But if it’s a victim contest, the women will always “win.” As gaming writer Jenn Frank says, “the TRUTH is, it turns out being a girl professionally, or on the Internet, etc., is VERY HARD.” Feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian, a popular target for harassment, is getting “very scary threats” against her family, and all she does is talk about video games. Even Tea Partiers and socialists manage not to do that to each other.

Now a harder suggestion: Police yourselves. When an impetuous member of Anonymous “revealed” the wrong person as Michael Brown’s shooter, many other members aggressively and publicly condemned the member. You’ve got to do that, too. When the more infantile and hateful members of the online gaming contingent harass a woman, you should remind them what the actual goal is, and tell them that they’re tripping themselves up. Remember that you’re talking to a child, in spirit if not in actual fact. If you police yourselves, Reddit and Steam moderators won’t have to. This is not an easy task, but it is possible. Self-organizing communities are one of the miracles of human civilization.

To be honest, Quinn’s Depression Quest left me fairly unimpressed, at least compared with lesser-publicized games like Emily Short’s Blood and Laurels, Sophie Houlden’s Rose and Time, or Georgina Sinclair, Anita Sinclair, and Michael Bywater’s Jinxter. (Please write about them, Kotaku!) But next to atrocities like Dungeon Keeper or Rambo or SimCity, I just can’t get too worked up over it. But I see what it represents to you: the indie game scene being infected by the same publicity-crazed and nepotistic mentality that pollutes every facet of our capitalism-driven lives. But you know how you like to talk about the Streisand effect—how trying to get rid of something on the Internet only draws attention to it? Take your own advice, and ignore Quinn. Better to light a candle than curse Depression Quest.

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