GamerGate Interviews
Brad Wardell GamerGate Interview

The Escapist Staff | 10 Oct 2014 16:30
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Almost every game developer who participates online has seen a friend or colleague wrongly smeared by these so-called "social justice warriors".

What would they say to someone who says that being in favor of GamerGate means being against having more women and minority representation in gaming?

I would say that they're either misinformed or perpetrating an ugly misrepresentation. Frankly, I've been embarrassed at some of the facile arguments being made. I mean, seriously, do these people really think that a gamer gives a crap who else is playing games? I'm embarrassed for them that they're making that argument.

The typical #GamerGate supporter is probably someone who has begged and pleaded with their wife/girlfriend/sibling to learn League of Legends or Dota 2 in order to have a more reliable team. Can these #GamerGate antagonists honestly say that they can't see that happening, regularly?

What would even be the basis for this fear or opposition to women in gaming? It's such an irrational and transparently dishonest allegation.

My wife, who probably knows more on game development and programming than most of the anti-GamerGate people said it best, "Men don't like whiners." Less whining, more game playing would snuff out a lot of the criticism that some women have received.

Gamers want everyone to play games.

Gamers want everyone to play games.

What about the women who have received death threats?

Death threats typically come from those lurking on the fringes of any movement. I get death threats on a pretty regular basis. I've had some pretty serious ones over the years, sometimes on the strangest issues. The people who make death threats aren't representative of anything or anyone. Anyone who makes death threats is not a rational, healthy person. People try to empathize with them but you can't. Crazy people do things for reasons that we can't understand.

Death threats become genuinely serious when the target person has been dehumanized. That is one reason I don't like it when I see individuals being demonized whether that be Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian or anyone else. It paints a big target on that person for the crazies to latch onto.

When some forum goer posts my home address and Google Maps images of my home, it's not the obnoxious regulars or even the jerk who posted my address that I need to look out for. It's the crazy lurker in the thread who decides to go drive by my home and send an email describing my house and how they're going to come over real soon and kill me, rape my wife and sodomize my son (this happened to me after the Kotaku article).

And when someone does post a Google Map of my house now, I tend to react very aggressively to discourage them or their friends from doing so in the future. Not because I think they're dangerous but because of the crazy lurkers out there. And every time my address or personal information has been posted, it's been a self-described social justice warrior who did it.

That said, this crap does happen more often to women than men because the crazies tend to be men who have existing psychological issues with women. But these crazies aren't representative of any side.

No one should be getting death threats. But to blame them on a particular ideology is irresponsible.

Every time my address or personal information has been posted, it's been a self-described social justice warrior who did it.

Why do you think #GamerGate has remained such a hot topic this long?

Normally when self-described "social justice warriors" attack something, their target can't really fight back. This time, I think they've bit off more than they can chew.

Gamers don't like being bullied. Moreover, unlike the usual SJW targets, gamers have the means and will to fight back. They're not going to sit back and let themselves be smeared.

Ironically, this issue would have disappeared already if the gaming media wouldn't have stooped to the misogyny smear and instead addressed the concerns that these gamers had.

One developer explained dev support for GamerGate by saying "devs don't appreciate being called misogynists by association". Any comment?

Game developers are about as misogynistic as the typical gamer which is to say, not at all. Labeling them as such is about as responsible as saying that feminists want all men dead because some self-described feminist posted that all men should be executed.

Are there particular articles, journalists, or sites that are considered particularly egregious by developers?

I tried to find something on The Escapist to complain about but I found nothing objectionable. There are so many articles out now that are egregious and ridiculous that it would take many hours to even scratch the surface. The dozen or so strawman articles that tried to label gamers as "nerds" and "misogynists" should be saved for future reference though.

I've debated with my Brand Manager (who has the opposite views from me on everything) on whether those articles were coordinated or not. He comes from gaming journalism and said that these things just happen organically and that the only pattern is one we ascribe to them. My opinion is that they communicate with each other via their mailing list and did coordinate it in an effort to change the narrative.

I have been told "the distrust of the press by developers has been building up for years now." Do you agree?

Absolutely. The argument that a bunch of men decided to randomly beat up on Zoe Quinn because she slept around with journalists as an excuse to show their hatred of women is silly. That incident was simply, in their view, the smoking gun that the gaming media really is choosing who and what to cover based on their politics and intimate relationships.

I am quite certain that there is no wide-ranging "corruption" in gaming media. But just because it's not systematic doesn't mean that editors don't need to adapt their editorial policies to the post-advertising meltdown world to keep activist writers and freelancers from using their sites inappropriately.

Normally when self-described "social justice warriors" attack something, their target can't really fight back. This time, I think they've bit off more than they can chew.

The #GamerGate people say that the answer is transparency, do you have any comments on that?

I am not in total agreement on that. I would rather see the issue resolved with strictly enforced editorial standards. For example, you should not be paying money to individuals (like Patreon) you cover. You should not cover individuals you have an intimate or business relationship with. Period.

I don't want to read a glowing review of something only to read some blurb at the bottom that the game was written by the writer's girlfriend. Sure, that's transparency but MetaCritic doesn't care.

Have you had to deal with conflicts of interest with the media before?

Definitely. For example, I am the publisher of Neowin. When the "sexual harassment" crap came up, Neowin did not publish a single article in my defense. We recused ourselves which was really tough as Neowin gets tens of millions of visitors monthly.

And when Neowin covers software (it's a tech site) that is made by our company, they disclose their relationship with Stardock. It's important to us that our readers know they can trust Neowin to provide unbiased, transparent reporting.

So while Neowin can cover our products as long as it provides disclosure, we don't allow it to provide coverage about me and it is not allowed to review our software. And mind you, I'm not a journalist. But I think right and wrong are pretty straight forward on this sort of thing.

What about with friends in the gaming media?

I do think it's unreasonable for someone to say that a game developer and a journalist can't be friends unless every article includes some sort of notice of this. That's what editors are for. It's a fine line but you can't substitute policy for judgment in every case. Good editors know where that line is. Bad editors don't.

A decent percentage of my friends are journalists or former journalists in the gaming industry. Their editors know we're friends and make the decision whether they should cover a given game we're working on. That's the way I think the system should work.

So what's changed?

What's changed is that in the post-advertising meltdown, editors are working a lot more with freelancers who they don't really know. It gets harder for them to make those judgment calls.

The friends I have in the media are professionals. They will and have recused themselves in covering us or our software/games if we've been working together on something related.

For example, if I send copies of a game to a journalist to get critical feedback on before it ships, they have always (as in 100% of the time) recused themselves. Which sucks for us but demonstrates their inherent integrity.

What impact has this had on gamers?

They simply don't trust the gaming media. Even though most it is professional and with a great deal of integrity, they've seen too much dishonest reporting slip through.

When did this distrust begin?

The distrust has always been there. In the old days, it was because gamers thought (wrongly) that most game sites biased their coverage for ad dollars. But that is an issue that happens in every industry. My friend Jeff Green ran Computer Gaming World for some years and I can tell you, he would sooner be homeless on the streets than to have tilted a review because of an advertiser.

I've known many of the reviewers and writers for RPS, PC Gamer, IGN, Shacknews, Joystiq, Gameranx, Eurogamer, Strategy Informer, Worth Playing, Games Radar, Game Informer, Polygon, QT3 and so on. They'd quit before they wrote something that they believed intentionally biased. They are passionate gamers.

How has this distrust grown to such a dramatic level?

The distrust really started to take off many gaming sites started slipping in blatantly activist articles that insulted their audience. Gradually, articles covering strange, niche games started appearing, often written by the same people who wrote articles railing against gamers. People started to wonder if those journalists were allowing their personal politics or maybe friendships affect what and who they were covering.

Before the advertising crash some years ago, these freelancers wouldn't have made the cut. But when the advertising revenue dried up, a lot of veteran journalists were forced out leaving a vacuum of content that is now being filled by people with an agenda.

And Gamers can see the results and the bias is real.

Here's another thought experiment: In what other industry would an unvetted, early 20s Communications Major making YouTube videos be considered an authority on...well anything? On what basis should this person's videos be getting coverage over the thousands of other, better produced videos on gaming by people with a longer history in the industry?

It's not like the bias has been subtle. The dishonesty and bias has been blatant, in your face and shameless. And when they're called out on, they smear them by saying they're misogynists. But who's really being sexist here? The person asking for equality and meritocracy or the person publishing nonsense on the basis of the sex/politics of the author?

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