An Alternate Response to Recent Controversy – Media, Abuse, and Women in Gaming
This is a difficult piece for me to write.
The recent controversy that has broken out over the past few days has stormed every corner of the gaming community, and moved so fast that everybody knew the name ‘Zoe Quinn’ before they even knew what she had been accused of. Gamer Headlines has been one of very, very, very few sites that have reported this story, that have not censored comments, and have allowed free discussion on the matter. The censorship and attempts to discourage discussion by major gaming media sites has fuelled notions of conspiracy, cover ups and some frankly ridiculous notions that aren’t even worth the time it would take for me to repeat them.
The problem is that, in this situation, it feels as though the anger a lot of gamers have felt over ignoring of the issue has completely over shadowed the reason that response and censorship was ever put in place, and rather, encouraged more animosity, more scandal and more screen time. But please, please trust me it’s not because of some video games industry ‘conspiracy’.
The central focus of the cast allegations involved the manipulation and bargaining of media integrity – a serious accusation that definitely should be talked about, definitely should be called out and definitely should be dealt with. The reason this wasn’t picked up by sites was not in an attempt to bury the information deliberately, it was completely and totally in attempt to avoid the humiliation and inevitable abuse of a real human being that came with publicising the origins of the accusation. The fact of the matter is, when this hit the fan, it was immediate, pure, unabashed slut shaming over a woman’s personal life. Which, let’s face is, isn’t anybody’s fucking business.
We could argue the viability of the evidence presented in favour if these allegations till we’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that when a person’s life and career is collateral damage, you gotta weigh up your options and you gotta make a choice.
The problem is that a total media blackout leaves a void just waiting to be filled with imagination. The fact of the matter is that Quinn is not, and should never have been the centre of this storm. It should have been the journalists; the integrity of those who would sell their opinion for the right price. The controversy, from the second it went live, was pulled in the wrong direction. I wont attempt to justify the deletion of tens of thousands of comments, but I will say that women in the gaming industry can be with whoever they want, for whatever reason they want, and not one of them is required to justify decisions they make in their personal life.
Journalists, however, are required to disclose, they are required to make, in some cases, personal relationships very clear. Forget about Quinn, because I really don’t believe she is the issue here.
Harassment and Misogyny
When I said this would be a difficult piece for me to write, it’s because I’ve been a part of the gaming community for nearly twenty years. I know our shit by now. I’m virtually bulletproof at this point, but 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 my 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. The norm is that we deal with 10x that crap in an average week – you don’t have a like it, you don’t have to care, but you do have to accept that’s a fact we can all attest to.
Zoe Quinn’s story, like many other scandals in gaming, never had to be a feminist issue. As I’ve said, the scandal in this instance is that there are people working within the media industry that are selling their professional integrity to the highest bidder. I’ve seen a good deal of people confused about how misogyny has entered the arena here, with a lot of people claiming it’s “just because she’s a woman”. Which yeah, it is.
Because Nathan Grayson isn’t being attacked for selling his work. And it’s him entirely at fault. It becomes misogyny when you can look at a woman’s Twitter mentions and see nothing but slut shaming, rape threats and abuse – not comments regarding ‘journalistic integrity’, but regarding their personal life. The response that the central male and female involved has received is entirely disproportionate. Grayson compromised the integrity of not only his own work, but the entire ethics of Kotaku. He has left gaming journalism in the centre of a storm that calls into question the trustworthyness of the industry as a whole. Zoe Quinn did not do that, she endeavoured to have a personal life and although she certainly made her fair share of dickmoves, the one thing she cannot and should not be criticised for is her own sex life.
Generally our commenting community are great, I’d like to think I’ve established a fairly reasonable reputation for not chatting shit, but I’ve seen a lot of dragging the term feminism through the dirt in regards to this, and I’ll tell you now that isn’t going to work. Harassing women in the gaming industry becomes a feminist issue, when the same is not being applied to the men involved that are far more at fault. I haven’t seen anybody discussing Grayson’s personal life. I’ve barely seen his name so much as mentioned. This disproportionate treatment harbours a thick and heavy misogynistic climate, that gives people the freedom to use scandals such as this to belittle and abuse women for being women, with the guise of justified anger.
By the same token, nothing gives Quinn supporters the right to stand against abuse and harassment, whilst at the same time, abusing and harassing other prominent figures in the gaming industry. I feel as though that really shouldn’t need to be said, but the abuse of figures such as TotalBiscuit and JonTron has been ridiculous, as those that may have at once carried valid points, have dragged their own virtue through the dirt to verbally abuse people they have in turned, accused of abuse. It’s hypocritical, and it invalidates your own points.
You have every right to be angry – no matter what side of the fence you’re on.
Quinn is not the problem. The media blackout is, the journalists are.
I am entirely prepared for those zealot lovers and haters that are deeply engrossed in this scandal. I am not invested in, tied to, or even a supporter of Zoe Quinn. I am, however, invested in the gaming community not hurting its own reputation in the name of a witch hunt. I am invested in women exactly like myself, not being asked who we fucked to get where we are, and I’m invested in outing and shaming the blatant misogynists that will now use her name to justify their hatred and belittling of women in this industry.
But most importantly, I am invested in these so-called “journalists” answering for their own actions. So long as the spotlight is deflected from them, they are getting away with deceiving their audience, for neglecting their responsibilities, for being all-round dickheads.
***Quick edit: A lot of people seem to misunderstand my point on abuse and harassment. Quinn is not without fault, and I am in no way stating she should not be criticised for many of her actions - Her personal life, nor the personal lives of anybody in the gaming industry, is owed to the general public, therefore the abuse regarding her sex life is entirely redundant, wrong, and yes - misogynistic.
Gaming culture and industry critic. A little sharp tongued, and a little short on patience. Follow me on Twitter at @Auseil, or firstname.lastname@example.org to contact me directly.