Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gaming, Gates and Greenbacks


So there I was, perfectly happy sleeping in my Hall when I heard the rumble of something in the distance. Something Dark, Ugly and decidedly unholy. Something so Grievous I felt the need to comment on it.


Now, in fairness, the storm known as GamerGate has been going for weeks now and this is a decidedly tardy commentary but my general apathy towards Social Media has left me insulated from the worst of it. However it’s now beginning to leak into the mainstream media and giving ammunition to a whole new generation of Jack Thompson-esque censors who can ring their hands and cry out “Won’t somebody please think of the children!”.

Look, I’m not going to comment directly on the shocking levels of misogyny involved. People have literally fled their homes because douchebags on the internet decided to share personal data with a bunch of self-professed would-be rapists. Presumably ‘for the lulz’.

The world is a very sad place the day a Viking needs to tell you that threatening rape is not OK. Noone should need to be reminded that women have every right to work in one of the fastest growing tech industries on the planet free from harassment or threats.

McGruff the Crimedog here, reminding you to stop being an ass

No, what concerns me more is the moderate gamers who have been swept up into the howling vortex of the GamerGate ‘movement’. Somewhere, buried under all the vitriol, there is supposedly a grand point being made about journalistic integrity in Games Journalism. At the heart of it is a claim that Zoe Quinn used her feminine wiles to seduce various game reviewers and so boost the scores and coverage of her indie title Depression Quest (sadly the game title isn't the most depressing thing here).

Now, if this was true (the claims were made originally by her ex boyfriend, emphasis on the ex) it might be reason enough to look askance at any coverage of Depression Quest but as some kind of lowpoint in journalistic integrity? This barely registers.

Want to know the real corruption eating away at gaming media? I’ll give you a hint.


Money makes almost any claim of impartiality these days pretty laughable. Games journalism is still, at its heart, an extension of the marketing process for the big Publishers. The Publishers decide which games get shipped out for review, who gets copies (not to mention what 'bonuses' those copies come with) and when the reviews can appear. This creates an atmosphere where there’s a constant unspoken threat – say something we like or you won’t get to see our next AAA release. This in turn feeds into the average review score being heavily tilted to the positive end of any scale.

They’re able to have this level of control because, more then any other popular press, Games Journalism is an online phenomena. The majority of people read their reviews online and the biggest players are all websites (Kotaku, Polygon, EuroGamer, IGN etc). Because they’re web-based they rely mostly on Ad-revenue to pay staff and make a profit. Ad-Space that is bought predominantly by the big Publishers to advertise their next games, or even the game that is being reviewed. Furthermore, thanks to this model, if a Publisher doesn’t send you a copy of their latest AAA title, a title people are hungry to learn more about, you are literally losing money by not having any clickthroughs.

So we have a situation where the Publishers control the content available for review, the timeframe for those reviews and how much money the review sites will make from them. Yet these complaints have barely cropped up among the most vocal proponents of GamerGate who prefer to focus on Nepotism...which is easier to switch around to women using their natural assets to turn executive heads (To be fair, some commentators have spoken out about this but more on that later.).

Hey, but at least no one is getting fired right?  

Eidos here, reminding you to get back in your cage Peon

So to summarise, there is an issue with integrity in Games Journalism but it has nothing to do with those nasty women seducing all you innocent male bystanders with their irresistible wiles...No, it is much more to do with the far less sexy world of big business and profit.

Now, some people will no doubt claim that they are part of GamerGate to fight excactly these issues. Or perhaps they are retroactively supportive of Gamergate because of the massive backlash in various media outlets against Gamers (which even Forbes points out is a bit much). To be honest though, it doesn't matter:

As long as you are tied up in 'GamerGate' noone is hearing your legitimate concerns.
If you want to get heard, time to find a new home.

Or to put it another way, noone is watching the zookeeper when the monkeys start throwing their poo.

On that depressing note, let’s say Skol! And drink together.

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