We’re All In This Together – Game Journalists Quit Over Abuse
Gaming has been seething the past few weeks, as GamerGate has effectively demonstrated the very best and the very worst the industry has to offer. As collectives have formed around tags such as #NotYourShield, showing just how broad a spectrum gaming has developed, doors have equally been opened for non-stop channels of abuse and harassment to blight every view point, and stand in the way of all progress. This past Monday , the climate came to a head for one long-term industry writer, Jenn Frank, as she became the misinformed target of attack.
I have talked about my views on feminism and tolerance within the industry in the past, as well as how we can avoid potential conflict of interests, however the fundamental goal of the movement is to open channels of discussion, and rectify current accusations of dropped standards within games journalism. While the primary focus is perfectly reasonable, and has a vast number of kind, caring and vastly diverse voices behind it, this has allowed a rampant and inexcusable undercurrent of vitriol to glide, predatory through the climate taking frenzied lunges at perceived targets. While this kind of behaviour can never be condoned, it is especially tragic when the circumstances play out the way Frank’s has.
At the centre of her story, Jenn Frank has received a massive backlash for an article published through The Guardian – “How to attack a woman who works in video gaming“. The article was sympathetic, and a call for a level-headed and reasonable approach to the abuse suffered by women such as Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. Whether or not you agree with what she says here, the climate was an undeniably volatile place at the time of publishing and drew a massive and undeserved backlash almost immediately. The real issues arose from the ‘revelation’ that Frank had known and supported Zoe Quinn in some small way, which initially broke out through an image posted by InternetAristocrat. On top of this, it was suggested that she had ties to Anita Sarkeesian after the two met briefly some time ago.
The only problem is that people that work within the gaming industry, tend to cross paths with other people that work within the games industry. You don’t have to be in cahoots to have met somebody! Moreover, Frank actually did include a disclaimer in her original article, she had been completely transparent in this small connection to Quinn, and this had been the first article she had ever discussed her, or her work in. An editor at the Guardian actively removed her disclosure themselves, believing it redundant since the article (by their standards) did not breach publishing ethics. Following the incredible and honestly sickening abuse and harassment Frank has suffered in wake of the article, editors at The Guardian added this disclaimer below her work,
*The following footnote was appended on 5 September 2014: An earlier footnote, appended on 1 September, made clear that Jenn Frank had purchased and is a supporter of Zoë Quinn’s work, although this is the first article she has written on the developer and that Frank has also briefly met Anita Sarkeesian. These facts had been included as a footnote by Jenn Frank when she filed her copy before publication but removed by editors because they did not fulfil the criteria for a “significant connection” in line with the Guardian’s editorial guidelines. However, the Guardian wishes to make clear that it was an editorial decision originally to remove the original disclosure, not one made by the author, and we are happy to have restored it in the interests of full disclosure.
Jenn Frank has announced she will be leaving the industry for good, and one look at her Twitter mentions is enough to grasp the gravity of the abuse she has received. Unfortunately this is far from an isolated incident. Frank is not the first, and I am saddened by the suggestion that she may well not be the last.
I’m sure there will be a great deal of disagreement on this matter, as there are still those that believe Jenn Frank is not a victim of brutal injustice. I very strongly believe she is, and I have to question the intentions of those that do not sympathise with her case. I have to say that GamerGate has hundreds of fantastic voices behind it; amazingly well meaning individuals, that are bright and widely tolerant. It is by no means a whitewash of misogyny, almost every single GG supporter I have had the pleasure of conversing with has been incredibly respectful and willing to hear out opposing views, most importantly that have been vigilant in their attempts to keep the tag abuse free. Through my own coverage of the shifting climate, I have been on the receiving end of abuse from both parties, and am qualified to indeed state that the shit talk from Gaters is in no way worse than from those opposing.
GamerGate is continually being defined by the abuse that is enacted beyond it, rather than by the voices that maintain it. When discussing the abuse of figures such as Jenn Frank, that has been attributed to the culture, as well as its self-policing attitude, one Gater at the heart of GG said this,
It’s not us, for the most part, but then again, that’s hardly something to be enthusiastic about. These are assholes taking advantage of the movement to stir shit, and even if they are not directly under us, we must take responsibility.
There comes a point when you have to address not the ‘intentions’ of GamerGate, but the actual, real consequences we have witnessed. The name both houses and facilitates abuse, which is simply unacceptable. The abuse of both prominent figures within the industry, as well as individuals gamers has to be the number one concern of anybody in any way invested in this situation, and stricter, more immediate measures must be taken to separate ourselves entirely from those individuals, show them we do not stand with them and shut them down. There may be an inherent divide between the two sides of this hostile culture, however we must be entirely unified in the abolition of abuse within it. At the end of the day, we are all in this industry for the same reason – this is self-destructive, we are simply attacking our own.
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.