GamerGate Interviews
Tadhg Kelly GamerGate Interview

The Escapist Staff | 10 Oct 2014 12:30
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Tadhg Kelly is a game design consultant and creator of leading design blog What Games Are. He has previously written extensively about GamerGate for Gamasutra, TechCrunch and on his own site. We interviewed Mr. Kelly over email.

What is your definition of "gamer"?

I think it means anyone who's a gaming enthusiast. So not all players everywhere, but a broad church nonetheless.

GamerGate's root cause is ignorance.

Do you make games for gamers? (I'm using "gamer" here to mean "core game enthusiast")

At the moment, largely no. Although I have done so in the past.

Do you think gamer culture more toxic than other enthusiast cultures on the web (political enthusiasts, fashion enthusiasts, car enthusiasts, gun enthusiasts, etc.)? (I'm using "gamer" here to mean "core game enthusiast").

It's a mistake to apply a broad brush to all (even most) gamers and say that, but I do think gamer culture has a toxic sub-community. Lately, by way of distinguishing the two, I've taken to calling those people "gaters" rather than "gamers".

What is your reaction to this sentiment, expressed in Gamasutra: "Gamers are over. That's why they're so mad."

I think in context that article isn't using the broad meaning of "gamer". Depending on who you are or what you're talking about, it can mean many smaller things, such as self-identified cultural groups like gaters. Leigh's article targets some of those smaller groups. And yes, I think some of those groups are being disrupted out of existence.

Briefly stated, what is your opinion of GamerGate?

GamerGate declares itself to be a movement about journalistic integrity and not-your-shielding, about a perceived leftist takeover of the industry. GamerGate is actually an extreme rightist reaction to an imaginary enemy, a Tea Party movement essentially, predicated on a "small island" political view of how the industry and its media should be.

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What is the root cause of GamerGate? Do you see it as part of a larger "culture war"?

To be blunt: GamerGate's root cause is ignorance. So many of the targets of the movement have been those who've been trying to build an artsy scene around games (indie game developers, journalists, critics etc). People who have formed some sense of a support community, people who are mostly poor as hell and yet believe in the power of games to change the world. But rather than embrace this broadening of the medium and considering games from all sorts of angles, gaters reject it. They maintain this very conservative ideal that games should all be judged on "merit", or "objectively". This essentially means that games should be evaluated as products, as fun engines, and all that icky content stuff should be thought of as secondary. Depression Quest? That shouldn't be successful because it's not a "real game". Therefore the fact that it is must mean there's a conspiracy to make it so.

Do you feel there is corruption among the game press? If so, is it primarily mercenary corruption (pay to get a good review) or primarily ideological corruption (toe the party line to get a good review), or a mix, or something else?

No. I think the games press operates much more freely and with much greater authenticity today than at any time in its past. Publishers can't get away with the same sort of sleazy crap that they used to.

What are the primary concerns that developers have, vis a vis the game press?

Mostly being noticed. As a game developer your primary reason for engaging the press is for coverage, so most of the time it's about trying to draw press attention, which is not as easy as it sounds.

What are the primary concerns that developers have, vis a vis gamers?

Their capacity to be a self-destructive and exclusionary group. Developers generally want as many players for their games as possible, but some fan communities can end up forming a cultural wall around a game that makes it harder for new people to join in.

I believe GamerGate is a situation that has been brewing for years. Do you agree? If so, when did the situation begin brewing?

I agree. I think it goes all the way back to the origins of New Games Journalism, if not earlier. A certain core of gamers (proto-gaters) has always had this reflex reaction to reviews that seem too personal, that talk about the product in terms of what it means rather than whether it does what it does well. Recent events have coalesced that energy into an Internet-fueled web of madness.

Are you or developers you know changing their interactions with gamers or press as a result of GamerGate?

Not that I'm aware of, no. Most are expressing private disgust or disappointment, but essentially just waiting for the storm in a teacup to pass.

If you have concerns with the press, what could the press do to improve relations with you?

I don't really have any concerns with the press. On the whole I think the games press does a great job. It caters to a wide variety of readers well.

If you have concerns with gamers, what could gamers do to improve relations with you?

I really want to grab the collars of some of these gater people, sit them down in front of a bunch of books and games that would broaden their minds and demand they read and play them before aspiring to have any opinions. :) More seriously, I don't know that it's for gamers (particularly gaters) to change who they are. It may be for those of us working in other ends of the medium to work harder to find different players.


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