Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, Metaleater Media as a whole.
This year I briefly considered quitting gaming. It seemed to me to be going down a dark path thanks largely to outside people coming into it and attempting to change it to an image they approved of. I also got very sick of the way games were coming out, as this year it seemed to focus less on content and more on squeezing money out of the customer, and it has made me readjust the way I buy games for the better as a result. However, in among the doom and gloom there were some bright moments for me, what follows are those moments and how they have given me hope for 2016. As a reminder, these are from a personal view point and I welcome any comments.
5: Pre Order Program for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Cancelled
The pre-order program for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looked like something out of Kickstarter and had this have stayed I fear that future pre-orders for different games would have gone into dark territory and not come back. The more tiers unlocked through people pre-ordering the game, the more "bonus" content would have been available and the final tier was the game's release four days early. Gamers felt that this was going too far and after a mountain of complaints, Square Enix and Eidos Montreal cancelled the program and instead chose to give all bonus content to those who pre-ordered the regular way or who brought the Day One edition. Score one for the consumer.
4: Ice T Responds to the Criticism of the Law & Order Episode "Intimidation Game"
The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Intimidation Game" was inspired by abuse suffered by Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and, of course, the Gamergate consumer revolt. The plot centered on a female game dev who was trying to bring out a non-violent video game and received multiple threats for it and ended up almost being killed. It was a horribly written episode and was insulting to gamers everywhere because of that writing and how it was filmed, especially with Ice T's character having to explain what various gaming terms meant. Some of the lines in the episode are still mocked to this day, such as "go home Gamer Girl!" and "they leveled up" to name a couple. Ice T eventually became aware of Gamergate much later on and asked what it was on Twitter. He came under heavy attack for the "Intimidation Game" episode and his part in it but defended it as a work of fiction and nothing more. In episode 37 of his Final Level podcast with his co-host, Mick Benzo, he talked about it and went even further talking about it, explaining that the writers take a story from real life and twist it, creating a back story in the process and giving Bill Cosby as an example, making a character based on him a school teacher. He went on to further explain that the Law & Order writers would take any story in the news and spin it to make a story for an episode of the series and that they were not attacking anybody. Finally, he advised gamers to "do their shit" regardless of what was said of them and "F*** the press" and then "I am a gamer, I'm riding with y'all till we die."
As much as the response from him was appreciated there was at least one section of the online press that tried to twist his response and turned it into an attack on the gaming community. Writing for the quality website *cough* The Daily Beast, writer Jen Yamato claimed with her headline that Ice T "schools Gamergate Punks, tells them to "Eat a D**k" when in fact he had said that gamers should say that to the press. Reading over the tweets that Ice T put out, it was so impossible that they could have been misunderstood in that way unless Yamato intentionally lied in order to put out a piece that was guaranteed to get clicks. Articles like that sadly only served as a reminder that large sections of the online press really cannot be trusted and have very few guidelines on how to behave and clearly have a low bar when it comes to reporting.
As for Law & Order Special Victims Unit, they redeemed themselves somewhat with an episode called "Devastating Story," which took elements from the Rolling Stone (now known to be false) story "A Rape on Campus" and showed the lesson needing to be learnt from crying rape on men who did not commit such a horrible act. The episode ended with a memorable quote from Benson which summed up the whole thing perfectly: "They thought this would be the case to change rape culture, and it did. It set the clock back 30 years."
3: Personal Faith Restored in Kickstarters (slightly)
This one seems like a leap but hear me out. There was a time when I would never have gone near Kickstarter. It simply had too much of a bad reputation due to various projects funded through it going wrong, such as Godus, Broken Age and Tropes Vs Women. Some good games have come out of it, such as Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 2: The Director's Cut, but I still could not bring myself to go near it. However, some projects came along that caught my attention and in the end I chose to back them. They were Friday the 13th, Battle Chasers and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. These three games sounded cool and they were being made by people who seemed trust worthy, although Battle Chasers did cause me concern, as I have blogged about before, but I chose to stay the course and see what happens.
I do feel still that some Kickstarters are worth looking at and backing to either a small or large degree but I will still use caution. I have also backed some board games and have found them to be very cool when they arrived in the mail. I also backed a graphic novel, but my feelings toward the end result were somewhat mixed. Win some, loose some, I guess.
2: The SPJ Airplay Event
This was essentially Judgement Day for those who supported Gamergate, such as myself. We were all watching it live over the Internet to see if our concerns would be vindicated. In many minds, mine included, we were as it was admitted by panelists of the Society of Professional Journalists that reporting on your friends/lovers/room-mates was indeed unethical. Of the two panels the morning one was the more productive of the two, those representing the SPJ were president-elect Lynn Walsh, journalism trainer Ren LaForme and game developer Derek Smart sitting in as a neutral party. The first Gamergate panel featured YouTuber Mark Ceb, Breitbart reporter Allum Bokhari and DC Examiner and Observer reporter Ashe Schow. Miss Schow in particular was the strongest of the three, as she started off the listing the examples where the gaming press had been unethical with regards to its treatment of Max Temkin, but also pointed out that when simple ethics policies are practised, such ethical breaches would not have happened. The morning panel was ended when it reached its time limit but it is regarded to be the more constructive of the two.
While the SPJ panel remained the same, the second Gamergate panel featured reporters for multiple websites: American Enterprise Institute scholar Cathy Young, Professor Christina Hoff Sommers and Breitbart reporter Milo Yiannopoulos. This panel was more of a heated debate and not much was really gained from it, as it mainly seemed to be a pissing contest between Yiannopoulos and host Michael Koretzky, although Yiannopoulos made a good point when Koretzky pondered the best way to cover a leaderless movement by simply replying to him "I've been doing it for a year; it's not that hard. It's not that hard; I just did the work." The second panel was also cut off but this time by a bomb threat being called in and was eventually finished behind closed doors.
The funny thing I have found after this was that those opposed to Gamergate seemed to ignore that the event had happened and continued to attack it regardless. Gamergate supporters that were watching the first panel over YouTube were talking in the chat section and someone began doxing them, forcing the SPJ to shut off the chat for the afternoon section, which had as much presence from those against Gamergate that could be found. Those who had been invited to the event had refused to come. I have never supported anything like this before in my life and I doubt I will again. It was a unification of gamers against something we still see as crooked and took a stand against it. I do strongly feel that it will be talked about for quite some time.
But what of the sites that were involved, and how were they affected since all this began? The Escapist was the only site that apologized for its mistakes and upgraded its standards, even hiring some new staff who were pro Gamergate, such as Lizzy Finnegan, Brandon Morse and Oliver Campbell. Finnegan in particular was responsible for a fine article which took a very critical look at the behind the scenes of the game Star Citizen. It drew fire from its developers as a result, as well as Jason Schreier of Kotaku, who inadvertently admitted in his criticism that Gamergate had indeed been about ethics in game journalism. Gawker Media admitted they had lost "seven figures" in ad revenue after sponsors had pulled out, forcing them to hide their sponsors page and certainly look to fall in the new year when various lawsuits hit them, most notably from wrestler Hulk Hogan. Kotaku and writers for it such as Luke Plunkett, Nathan Grayson, Patricia Hernandez and even Stephen Totilo himself have all been made to look like hacks. Totilo even revealed that the site had been blacklisted by Ubisoft and Bethesda after the site had written so many hurtful articles about them.
Polygon's reputation was damaged mainly by the behaviour of some of its staff who were also made to look stupid. Ben Kuchera attempted to have a man fired from his job by tagging his employer in an argument on Twitter and also publicly went after the head of communications of EA, Chris Mancil after he had linked to an article of Kuchera's in his blog. Chris Plante would later go on to write one of the more infamous articles on Dr. Matthew Taylor's now famous shirt, essentially using the piece to publicly bully him over it. Arthur Gies would use his "review" of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt to complain that the game had an "oppressively misogynist" world and also complain of the lack of non-white characters. The article was seen as a massive attempt at click baiting even to this day. The site itself also came under fire about other things, such as crediting developers Bungie of making Halo 5: Guardians even though it was 343 Industries, mistakenly calling the new Star Wars film "The Force Unleashed" in an article and even published an article about the book WTF is Wrong With Video Games, and did so in such a manner that the article was basically a giant advert, and did not apologize when viewers went after them for it. The website VG247 even made itself look bad, writing an article attacking developer Mark Kern and his petition against Yellow Journalism, including what looked like some thinly veiled threats to any other developers that dared to question journalism.
I could go on, but I would advise anyone interested to go on the DeepFreeze website. It is a huge data base of information on all this. Those of us that supported Gamergate have been labelled many things. We have been called a hate group, terrorists, informed that we needed to be gassed or worse, and received threats of all kinds over the Internet. People have received things in the mail such as knives and syringes filled with an unknown liquid, received threatening phone calls, emails and text messages and even had their employers contacted in attempts to have them fired. Of course, you will not hear of this in the news because the coverage was always against it and always will be. Only those of us who were involved knew what really went on and why those who were against it are still attacking it, mainly to keep themselves in the limelight and keep that sweet sweet Patreon money rolling in.
In my eyes, the SPJ Airplay event will always be vindication and it has been a wild ride, but it is one that I choose to jump off of now. From a personal perspective, I both need and want to progress forward with my writing, both for Metaleater and my own personal work, and I would rather be moving forward productively than constantly stopping to look behind me. But make no mistake about it: I have no regrets about supporting Gamergate and nor will I, because unlike those who attacked me, I spoke to a lot of those like me and even though there were a lot of trolls involved, I got to know those I spoke to -- and even became friends with them -- and they sure as hell were not the monsters they were made out to be.
1: The Decline of Feminist Frequency
The law of physics is a simple one in this case: what goes up must come down. Events like Gamergate and even the threats Anita Sarkeesian received gave her a platform to put her face out there, and she used them both to her advantage, raking in donations with people who had more money than sense. It all started to slowly go downhill for her and Jonathan McIntosh after the video 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male, a daft list blatantly being read from an overly bright autocue, was brilliantly countered with a video called "25 benefits of being a female while gaming" by the YouTuber QueenyMartha and friends. Feminist Frequency's video views on YouTube have been cut in half from what they used to be and it is not surprising, as the content of these videos has been easily argued against. Anita is also showing the stress or discomfort of it all. She looks tired, has clearly put on weight, dyed her hair slightly and, as Liana said in one of her videos, "Anita is looking more like a person reading a hostage letter in a video than a confident advocate for women."
Both her and (#full) McIntosh made absolute asses of themselves at E3 2015, as they criticized things such as the latest Doom game (for which one of the developers laughed at her for), their badge holders being sexist and making mistakes when addressing costumes in the latest Tomb Raider game, which long-time fans called her out on. The previously mentioned Milo Yiannopoulos even challenged her to a debate at E3 and promised to give a large amount of money to a charity of her choice if she did. Anita never responded. After McIntosh criticized Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon was bombarded with abusive tweets from feminists which eventually forced him off of Twitter. He would deny that this was the case, but after seeing a montage of many of these tweets, I really don't believe him. The similarities between Anita's and McIntosh's tweets have given rise to speculation that he writes them for her. Strong indication of this can be found in past tweets where she has repeated something he has said and gotten more attention for doing so. Recently Feminist Frequency appeared to rebrand itself on Twitter by changing not only its logo, but its description is now much more vague as to the company's purpose -- perhaps deliberately so -- and after she tweeted an appeal for more donations, which was told "no" by large numbers of people (some of which even pointed out that her first series of videos were almost four years overdue at that point). This serves as a good example of how riding a storm for profit can certainly bring in the cash, but once things start to die down -- as Gamergate seems to be at this point -- so does the income. Brianna Wu is another example of this as at one point, the Patreon she had opened during the height of Gamergate was at $13,000 a month. It now sits at just below $2,400 a month, and that has got to hurt.
The best part for me though was when I spoke to someone who saw Anita Sarkeesian in person at E3 2015 and he described her as looking miserable. This, to me, is someone who isn't unwelcome in the games industry, but has made herself unwelcome, and that bares thinking about, because one lesson I was taught while growing up was this: you keep complaining and people will get tired of you eventually. It is just a question of time.