I, the creator of LazyDog Films, bring an unfiltered opinion into what GamerGate brings.
The GamerGate controversy, like a rolling snowball, has gained momentum and built up becoming larger and larger from excess it collects the longer it rolls downhill. LazyDog writer Lawrence Alger wrote a brilliant piece on Saturday about some of the side effects of GamerGate or, at least, what it has turned into. What began as a raw discussion, and backlash, of allegedly using one’s body and sexuality for favors in the world of gaming journalism, has turned into a harsh debate about women in games that has taken a toll for the violent.
When Zoe Quinn released her indie game Depression Quest back in early August 2014, critics praised it for its sense of educating gamers rather than purely entertaining. Quinn was a sufferer of depression and developed the game as a way to educate other people of her struggles. Here lies the inception of the controversy. Rumors have it that Quinn slept around for funding of her game plus used this alleged form of ‘gratitude’ as a means to garner and generate critical praise for Depression Quest.
This rumor brought up an interesting point, one that has now been buried under shouts of threats, misogyny and racism in games, and downright stupidity from people claiming to be gamers or those with loud voices wanted to be heard: Are journalists, not just gaming journalist, being incentivized to make sure an artist, developer, or filmmaker receives only positive reviews? I think that’s an interesting question and one that is brought up on every single IGN review video you can ever find on YouTube.
The fight over whether or not video games are misogynistic and/or what can be down to fix it is clearly a wholly different discussion, though threats and allegations of Quinn’s actions overlaps in both topics. Yes, games can be misogynistic, as seen in Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games (highly recommend watching the series) but it’s unfair to link these two topics together. I can understand why as the threats and tweets of so-called ‘gamers’ are misogynistic in nature and are either reflecting or culturally influencing misogyny found in games. Most of the tweets regarding GamerGate are incredibly vile and disgusting and, in no way, reflect my personal beliefs; I distance myself from that filth but it’s hard to when I’m lumped into a group that is known, right now, in the media as a dragon spewing fire across anyone who comes near the princess of the castle (clearly an ironic analogy).
As a so-called ‘critic’ or entertainment journalist, I’ve been contacted by people to review their feature length or short films. I’ve never once had incentives or been bribed in order give good reviews, yet I have been told to hold off on bad reviews; I gave in to have my review out there but I've learned my lesson. Fanboys, Internet lurkers, and downright ignorant people call fowl whenever a good review comes out for a game they deem as ‘bad’ or vice versa. The biggest speculation with video game and entertainment site IGN where many people believe that they, as a company, receive bribes from big name publishers to positively review their games. While this may prove true or not, people wholly believe this as fact and dismiss reviews possibly affecting the game industry as a whole, negatively or positively. Mostly negatively.
Earlier this year, a producer from Respawn Entertainment denied that he or his company paid bribes or gave incentives for positive press for their game, Titanfall. An amusing article on the site Play4Real claimed that reviewers can be bribed for as little as a fifty dollar bill or a lunch date at Applebees. The entire article reeks of fanboy-ism and is unsubstantiated by any annotations or hyperlinks to support its facts.
In a brilliant seven-minute video from Adam Sessler regarding the XPlay review of Killzone 2, Sessler likens being accused of being bribed by developers and publishers as being asked if “you fuck your mother?” Clearly the answer is no, so why should you even bother to ask.
The video game journalism industry has been scrutinized about their “supposed” briberies for good scores but other industries suffer from this. Hotels are bribing guests to write positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. Even a hotel in New York warned on their site that any negative review of their place of stay would warrant a $500 fine. The claim has since been removed but the problem is universal. It’s a problem that has plagued, not only the gaming industry, but almost every industry.
However, if gamers believe that sites like Kotaku and IGN are easily manipulated into padding review scores to the biggest bidder, why has Quinn’s game sparked a huge controversy splitting the gaming community into two opposing forces?
I’ve been depressed and understand what it feels to be depressed but I wanted to know why the community was up in arms; so I played her game to get an understanding of the backlash. While not the “game” every made it seem out to be, it’s a choose your own adventure book but way more bogged down by melancholy than any Hardy Boys book I’ve read.
I can see where the backlash is coming from; the interactive fiction can hardly be called a game in and of itself due to the lack of aliens being brutally murdered with a space rifle. However, Depression Quest is rather quite intriguing and does what it sets out to do extremely well. I had to pull away from the game fifteen minutes in because I started hyperventilating.
Was it because Depression Quest challenged the norms of what video games can do? A literary quest of the likes of Zork that makes gamers feel the trials of depression to an alarming degree. Or was it just a small group of people with loud mouths “speaking for the betterment” of their group?
The gaming community, along with the occasional sports community, suffers from bad apples. A select, loudmouthed few conjure threats and behave wildly grabbing the attention of the outside world. One person flips over a car and lights it on fire and the rest of the group are labeled as arsonists. The amount of misogynistic statements, comments, and tweets divided gamers into two groups: those in support of GamerGate and those against it.
Due to that small number of loudmouthed misogynists, this debate of review bribery has added more fuel to the are video games misogynist? take a look the people who play them debate. There has always been that underlying layer about video games favoring men over women on top of the violence discussion talked about at least once a year. GamerGate has certainly become are video games sexist? To a degree, I agree with it but we must take smarter leaps and bounds to rectifying that issue. Sarkeesian has faced threats about her stance to fix the issue of misogyny. Because of her differing opinion, she had to move from her home momentarily for safety concerns.
The gaming industry is a fairly young one, dwarfing in comparison to any other entertainment industry. While there is still a long way to go to even get recognized as an art form and not just a game for children, as a collective group we need to act and speak rationally to get our point across. Because the gaming industry is being challenged to change, those few Willie Loman's are ruining it for the rest of us.
As for the briberies in the gaming industry, whether its occurring or not, it affects the industry negatively. I meant to be an honest critic when I started writing back in 2009 and that became more evident and prevalent when I went to school for journalism. Bias is a dangerous tool to use when critiquing or reporting on an event, or piece of media. Giving into bias means that I haven’t done my job of informing my readers with an unfiltered opinion of a review or a news story that is now presented polished with a beautiful bow; it gives my readers and myself a faux sense of worth and tarnishes my brand that I’ve worked and am working so hard to build.
I’m all for what GamerGate is meant to stand for and what it stands for now; reviews need not to be influenced by incentives and games can benefit from a more strong female centric market as seen and proposed by Sarkeesian in her series. However, the actions of those with the megaphones speaking for everyone else are not. I stand separate from threat makers and shall take a stand in this heated issue.