Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Best / Most Accurate Thing You'll Probably Ever Read About Gamergate: Kathy Young: Sex, Lies, and Gender Games

   One of the most prominent, most influential lies about Gamergate is that it started out as a sexist attack on Zoe Quinn. Actually, it started out with Zoe Quinn being an evil psycho to her boyfriend, and her boyfriend spilling his guts on 4chan... And if the roles had been reversed, she'd have been seen as a heroine "calling out" her evil, psycho, abusive boyfriend...
   Though she leaves out the part about Quinn's abuse of her bf, Young hits the other major points about Quinn:
1. The "Quinnspiracy" was not just—and not even primarily—about attacking Zoe Quinn as a woman. 
To be sure, discussions of the Quinn drama in free-access, unmoderated chatrooms can be easily mined for crude, hateful, disgusting comments. However, GamerGate blogger J.W. Caine makes a strong case that those chats reveal far more interest in attacking the "social justice warriors" and SJW-friendly tech media than in targeting Quinn herself. Indeed, many discussants warned that personal and sexual attacks on Quinn would undermine the larger effort—a fact conceded even by writer/blogger Jon Stone, a passionate GamerGate opponent. 
It is also absurd to suggest that Quinn was disliked simply for being an award-winning female videogame developer. (There have been no hate campaigns against far more prominent women in the field such as Ubisoft executive Jade Raymond, who helped create the hit game Assassin's Creed, or Kim Swift, designer of the highly successful Portal.) For one, long before the latest drama, Quinn had been widely seen in the gaming community as a beneficiary of gaming-media favoritism. The glowing reviews and awards for Depression Quest, a text-only game that has the player make day-to-day choices as a depressed person, rankled gamers who felt that it wasn't even a real videogame but a (dull) interactive fiction. There was a widespread feeling that it was getting praised due to "political correctness"—partly for promoting the socially conscious cause of mental health awareness, partly because of Quinn's earlier, widely publicized claims of harassment by users of a forum for depressed men. 
Was the resentment against Quinn at least partly related to her gender? Perhaps—though a male game developer widely seen as receiving undeserved acclaim, Phil Fish, was more or less driven from the field last year by relentless Internet abuse. (Having made a semi-comeback, Fish was recently targeted by hackers after publicly supporting Quinn—an incident that has been cited as proof that men in the gaming world only get ill-treated when they speak up for women. But Fish's troubles with haters long predated the Quinn brouhaha.) 
In any event, at least some of the anti-Quinn sentiment stemmed from an incident in which she appears to have engaged in truly appalling behavior—and which had nothing to do with her gender or sex life and everything to do with "social justice" zealotry.
Last February, Quinn learned about a women's videogame contest sponsored by a charity called The Fine Young Capitalists, or TFYC—artists and entrepreneurs who seek to encourage the creation of videos and videogames by women and minorities. Women were invited to submit ideas for videogames; the winner was to work with TFYC's designers and programmers to develop her concept into a game and get a cut from its sales. Quinn was outraged by what she felt was the contestants' "unpaid labor"—but even more so by the rule requiring transgender participants to publicly identify as female prior to the start of the contest. In dozens of angry tweets, Quinn accused TFYC of exploiting women and "policing transwomen's transition points," then gloated over accidentally crashing their website with her Twitter storm. (In August, Quinn claimed that she had only "posted 4 tweets saying I didn't know how I felt about their approach.") In a recent interview, a TFYC spokesman said that Quinn later continued to publicly attack the contest as "exploitative" and "transphobic," resulting in online harassment toward the group, loss of financial backing, and the cancelation of several planned articles about the project. Quinn and her supporters have cited a conciliatory statement TFYC issued in late August as a rebuttal of those accusations; but that statement was a "peace treaty" TFYC withdrew a few days later, saying that Quinn had not held up her end of the bargain. 
Of course none of this justifies harassment or threats toward Quinn. But the full story does not make her a very sympathetic figure. All of this complicated history has been almost completely erased from GamerGate coverage in the "progressive" media (gaming and mainstream), which reduced the Quinn saga to prurient revelations about her sexual exploits.


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