We don’t post much in the way of editorials, but it seems inappropriate to remain silent on an issue that is making everyone who plays games or is associated with them look bad.
If you’re not familiar with the issue, there’s a hashtag on twitter called #GamerGate (that link will take you to see it, be warned that it is often nsfw when it gets bad.) It’s been covered in traditional media such as the New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN, and almost everywhere else.
This hashtag recently became a bit more popular after the people posting in that hashtag decided to harass an indie game developer for having sex with other people who work in games.The actual name was recently coined by an actor, Adam Baldwin, but this kind of harassment has been going on for a long time.
I’ve met the developer briefly at Steam Dev Days, and used her games as an example about why voting systems like Steam’s Greenlight might not work out for games that aren’t game-y, but are more serious than fun if they’re about a topic like her Depression Quest, which is also available for Linux. That’s about as much relation to Linux as there would be, if not for people like this posting to the Kernel mailing list after a developer stopped working on Intel’s drivers for Linux due to Intel withdrawing an advertising campaign from Gamasutra after Gamasutra posted an editorial article the GamerGate community didn’t like.
All of this comes after years of harassment to other women who work on games or write and speak about them. Of course this has happened in tech and with Linux as well. In 2000 I saw pornography displayed during the Linux World convention in New York City at a booth run by the Window Maker team, I’m sure there are many other examples that are more recent. At the time I didn’t know what to say about it, and didn’t even begin to think critically of the actions of my peers who did that. Of course that kind of thing could cause someone to not want to be involved in that free software project, or the project I was involved with at the time and wasn’t appropriate.
What is new is that people who come to that hashtag unaware of the backstory might be drawn in by the recent #GamerGate creed of going after unethical games journalists. The thing is, there have been plenty of real ethical concerns in video games. They just haven’t been as motivating to the people who are in this hashtag as the idea of a sex scandal for review coverage. As has been pointed out, it doesn’t even make sense to attack a game developer for increased game journalist ethics.
Supporters of GamerGate’s ethos have created lists of websites to not read because they disagree with the content of those sites or their editorial integrity. They’ve also created lists of people to attack and then later others who support the GamerGate ethos have cried foul and said the list-makers and attackers didn’t represent them, and all that they’re concerned about is ethics in video game journalism.
That hashtag. It’s so obviously for those that want to harass women and other writers who have spoken out about it in tech and games. Things have even escalated to threats of harm against people and parents getting concerned about their kids joining up with gamergate.
I don’t understand how anyone anyone could buy into the notion of this sex-for-review-coverage scheme after it has been thoroughly debunked and the main proponents of it have names that include the term “Fart.” I don’t understand how someone could look at that name, and the things that are in that hashtag on twitter, and go “Yep, sign me up!”
What I do know is that games are changing. There are now “walking simulators” like Gone Home and Dear Esther, to name a few games from one genre, that don’t fit in with what everyone wants. You don’t have to like them, or play them, or even read the reviews and coverage to understand that it’s OK for new games to exist.
You can still be critical of something while you enjoy it. It is okay to play Hotline Miami and also be a little bit concerned with the amount of violence and how enjoyable it is, or the way that women are displayed in it. I love that game, it won’t stop being fun even if I take a minute to think about what I’ve played.
This is ridiculous. If you’re actually concerned about video game ethics your concerns will not be heard amongst those who promote violence and harassment of all kinds. Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb said it best:
I’m a man in the media business. I’ve been doing this since I was 16. I could sit here and defend my line of work, which I think is largely just and on the level, but if you’re deep into the ‘Gate, your only reaction will be to probably say “of course he would say that.” That’s fine. Some of you have been politicized so completely that this is just another “left vs. right” issue to you, and many of you are using the same language used in arguments over other hardened political issues. So keep on “rolling coal” on video games journalism if you think it’s actually that corrupt. I’m not here to tell you what to do. But you might want to really look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re spending your time crusading for the right fight. That’s all. Make sure this is the position you want to take and, more importantly, how you want that position to be represented. If you genuinely care about ethics in games journalism, GamerGate is not the spot for you. To some of them, “unethical” is being used as a synonym for “a viewpoint I don’t agree with.” That’s not an ethics discussion. That’s an attempt to silence criticism. Again, if you do care about ethics in games journalism, GamerGate is destroying your message.
I have personally done some questionable things on LG in the past that I look back on and realize weren’t ethically appropriate. I’ve written reviews of games for LG where I knew the person who brought them to Linux maybe too well to be critical of the game itself. When Loki Games was still around I sometimes had to justify my request for a review copy of a game to Loki, and in so doing I might have corrupted the review. I wanted more games for Linux and for that to succeed I was sometimes very picky to only review games that would review well and I would like.
You could read that and ask “Why should I trust your opinion on GamerGate?” You don’t have to. Please read what others have written and what I’ve linked above, you’ll probably know if you want to get involved with it or not very quickly. Hopefully we won’t have to post about this again and we can resume our regular crawl of Linux releases and the occasional review. There is plenty of good news for gaming on Linux. #GamerGate isn’t good news for gaming or anyone.