GamerGate Interviews
Brad Wardell GamerGate Interview

The Escapist Staff | 10 Oct 2014 16:30
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Brad Wardell is founder, president, and CEO of Stardock, a software entertainment and computer games company. His specialty is the design and programming of AI and game mechanics for turn-based strategy games. (Source: Wikipedia). Follow him on Twitter @draginol. We interviewed Mr. Wardell over a series of emails.

I have heard that game developers who are coming out in favor of #GamerGate are being blacklisted, harassed, and/or stonewalled by game journalists. Have you encountered this, or do you know anyone who has? Do you have any examples of someone doing this?

It would really surprise me if anyone was getting blacklisted. But is there behavior that might be inappropriate? Absolutely! I have seen the same people who have participated in very hateful activity in the past turn right around and post and tweet things such as "No one deserves to be harassed." I agree with their statement. I just wish they lived up to it.

Consider this brief discussion between Cara Ellison and myself last week. After she gets angry, she pulls the ".@draginol" thing with a "funniest conversation ever" which is the Twitter way to sic your followers on someone.

Now, unfortunately for her, she didn't check to see how many followers I had. But it's a small example of where I'm trying to have a civil conversation with a journalist who claims to write about game developers who, when frustrated, tries to sic her followers on the other person.

Consider this: If she had been a male gamer and I was a female game developer, that would have been used as a "smoking gun" example of misogynist behavior by gamers.

When the allegations are about someone who shares their agenda comes up, even when those allegations have merit, reporting on them not only gets snuffed, those making the allegations are accused of being "nerds" and "basement dwellers" or "misogynists".

What kind of bias have you experienced?

Probably the most infamous example was the Kotaku article reporting that I was being sued for sexual harassment. Now, I think you could have a civil debate on whether that's newsworthy or not (the tech press didn't think so).

What made it ridiculous was that Kotaku actually linked to her court pleadings and posted emails devoid of any context. Anyone with experience in lawsuits can tell you that lawyers always make their pleadings paint the other person as a complete monster. The ones about me were no exception, and contained endless false allegations. A lawyer can make a ham sandwich appear to be the greatest threat in human history. That's their job. Kotaku shouldn't have linked to one-sides court pleadings. That was inappropriate and biased. This is the image that the article used.

Every one of those allegations had been completely fabricated. Now, putting aside the fact that we ultimately won the case and that the plaintiff had to issue a public apology, I am, as one anti-GamerGate person posted, "tainted".

Nearly every single time there's an article covering our games now, there's some comment from someone saying no one should buy it because they don't want to support Brad Wardell -- whose company's best known game had a woman as its lead developer (so does that make them a misogynist or a SJW?).

What was the effect of this bias?

The mere allegations were sufficient for guilt as far some people are concerned. Yet, when the allegations are about someone who shares their agenda comes up, even when those allegations have merit, reporting on them not only gets snuffed, those making the allegations are accused of being "nerds" and "basement dwellers" or "misogynists".

Do you have other examples of bias or corruption in coverage?

The Zoe Quinn incident versus what I went through gives a rare opportunity to see how similar situations are handled differently based on the agenda of the media:

A male game developer is accused of wrong doing and not only does it get wide reporting, the female accuser's hundreds of pages of vile, unsubstantiated claims are linked to and quoted as well-Including photos from the court documents-as part of the article.

By contrast, when a female game developer is accused of wrong doing and that wrong doing involves the gaming media itself, nothing.

Try this exercise. Go to Google and type in Zoe Quinn. Now, go to Google and type Brad Wardell. Compare the results with the knowledge that one of the two has been making and releasing software used by millions of people for 20 years all the while promoting and supporting women in gaming the entire time.

What is ironic is that a year ago, when Stardock acquired the rights to Star Control, Zoe Quinn was on Twitter proclaiming to her followers that we were bad people because of the false allegations that were listed at Kotaku.

How should the media have covered this?

In my opinion, neither item should have gotten coverage.

The Zoe Quinn incident could have been handled as a wider article about concerns of bias in gaming journalism or something. But I wouldn't expect Kotaku to cover either. We're not public figures in the traditional sense and we don't run publicly traded companies. There's no "public good" being served here.

But if you're going to cover one, you better damn cover the other in a similar way.

I think most #GamerGate supporters would prefer the issue not to involve Zoe Quinn at all other than as an example of a wider issue. I think a lot of people feel like those with an agenda are using Zoe Quinn as a kind of human shield to prevent them from having to address the underlying issue of the politicization of the gaming media.

I honestly feel very bad for her. No one deserves the crap she's gone through.

How does the corruption and/or bias manifest in media coverage?

I think the main problem is less about bias through omission and instead biases of commission. It's not that there's a coordinated effort to keep developers from getting coverage. It's more of an issue where the "correct" developers are getting coverage and promotion that their game doesn't merit.

How should the media cover #GamerGate?

The issue at the heart of #GamerGate is this: Stop allowing what and who you cover to be driven by your personal relationships and personal politics.

Anyone reading the gaming sites has seen the trend over the past few years of activist journalism creeping in. We just want to talk about video games and play video games. We don't need the media to promote the lectures of some melodramatic 25 year old kid from the Bay area who has no real life experience outside their bubble on how bad our hobby is.

The media should acknowledge that there's a problem and that their customers are getting fed up with it.

Stop allowing what and who you cover to be driven by your personal relationships and personal politics.

Do you think there is a coordinated effort to blackball game developers who have publicly defended #GamerGate?

No. Most journalists have immense integrity. The problem is that there are bad actors in gaming journalism just like there are bad actors in gaming. The difference being that a lot of the gaming media is circling the wagons and trying to paint all gamers with broad strokes because of a few bad actors while ignoring the bad actors in their midst.

Can you name any studios that you could say have developers which are pro-gamer/GamerGate?

Most studios don't have any opinion on the matter. This issue is only followed by those who are passionately involved in gaming communities. The average developer is too busy making games to pay attention to what's going on in social media or the gaming press.

In fact, the misrepresentation of gaming, as a hobby/medium/entertainment is a big part of the issue here. Demographically speaking, core gaming is 95%+ men. Any game site that tries to claim otherwise needs to talk to their advertising reps.

It has nothing to do with being inclusive. For example, 95% of our Start8 (not a game but a piece of software every Windows 8 user should have) are men. If a universal utility is overwhelmingly used by men, there's no scenario where core gaming is going to do better at attracting women. Women simply have different hobbies than men. And that's fine, even if it does make it harder to get that 4th for League of Legends sometimes.

We also know, statistically, how men feel on a wide variety of issues. If the anti-#GamerGate people think they're somehow representative of the majority of gamers, they seriously need to spend less time on in their echo chambers.

That said, despite some of the petitions I've seen floating around, most game developers tend to share many of the same views as the gamers themselves. If you were to take an actual survey of game *developers* who are following this issue... the overwhelming percentage of them (>75%) are sympathetic with the #GamerGate people.

Demographically speaking, core gaming is 95%+ men. Any game site that tries to claim otherwise needs to talk to their advertising reps.

Why do you think so many developers support it?

In the past decade, since the rise of social media, almost every game developer who participates online has seen a friend or colleague wrongly smeared by these so-called "social justice warriors". Even if they initially considered themselves aligned with their goals, they realized that SJWs were simply demonizing others in order to feel better about themselves.

I recommend to those reading this to take this thought experiment: Imagine if you've spent the last two years of your life programming, modeling, or animating something for a game only to have a certain group online attribute your work to sexism or misogyny or racism or something else? How might that change your perception of those making those false claims?

The problem with attacking people is that eventually you create a constituency of opposition.

Do you fear any retaliation for posting your viewpoints on GamerGate?

Even at Stardock, I have colleagues who proudly consider themselves "SJWs" who wince whenever I tweet or post. But that is why I have confidence in most of the gaming media too. I have no problem with my SJW colleagues disagreeing with me or posting their views publicly and I have the same faith that the gaming media that covers us won't retaliate against me for my view points.

We'll know soon. We have a lot of major announcements coming out in the next few months. If there's any sort of blacklisting, it'll be pretty obvious.

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