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  • eacaraxe 8:27 pm on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    An angry, drug-aggled, and flu-laden response to Raph Koster 

    There are many ways I would much rather spend this afternoon — chugging Theraflu; alternating between sleeping in the shower, on the deliciously cold floor of my bathroom, or in my bed under a mountain of blankets; or watching my favorite shows on Netflix during fevered inability to sleep — but unfortunately for me I saw this wonderful nugget of wisdom from Raph Koster on Reddit:

    A couple of reasons.

    1) It’s actively damaging developers’ lives. Harassment has become prevalent all over. Many, particularly women, are talking about quitting games altogether.

    2) It’s actively damaging developers’ lives. Social media has basically been destroyed for us, and it’s an important part of both professional networking and customer outreach. We can’t have the sorts of discussions we would like to, because of GamerGate.

    3) It’s actively damaging developers’ lives. GG is attacking the institutions that provide us with ongoing education, awards shows, job listings, networking, and so on, that we need for our professional careers.

    4) It’s actively damaging developers’ lives. People are getting polarized and as reasonable discourse fades away, stupid arguments erupt and friendships of long standing are damaged.

    5) It’s actively damaging developers’ lives. Our ability to even do customer outreach or launch something these days is fraught with peril. For the first time in my memory, developers have active fear of their audience.

    6) GG hasn’t been effective at fixing anything we care about, and keeps trying to fix things we don’t think are broken.

    So much for that. It’s bad enough I’m missing out on sweet, sweet overtime pay due to being sick, but now here I am on my computer fueled by anger despite being able to sit upright for long, responding to this. Thanks Raph.

    [By the way, none of the above is an appeal to empathy. I don’t want it. I write what I do to underscore the severity with which I perceive this comment, and seriousness with which I write this. Judge my comments by their own worth, not because I’m sick.]

    See, here’s the thing. Harassment has become prevalent “all over”. Or perhaps I should say “harassment”, since the definition seems to have become awfully context-dependent of late. It seems that, for some, so much as a mention in an otherwise innocuous tweet constitutes harassment while for others, doxxing, death threats, outright and undeniable abusive comments, and publicly and unironically advocating all those is entirely harmless (perhaps even handwaved as “just a joke”, never mind this is claimed by people who adhere to similar beliefs that “just a joke” is a way to enforce and justify social privilege).

    As for those “talking about quitting games”…why should they stay in the industry when they’ve found something vastly more lucrative — other than to perpetuate their meal ticket (at the cost of others’ suffering), that is? The fact there are individuals in, or at least peripherally-related to, your industry who personally profit from abuse and toxicity, and therefore have a vested financial interest in its perpetuation and maximization, on its own should be cause to rethink your position, rather than embrace it.

    That is to this point, saying nothing of shunning, blacklisting, ubiquitous gossip, apparently-coordinated attacks against individuals in the industry, and sociopolitical viewpoint- rather than quality- or merit-based gatekeeping by their colleagues for holding views perceived as distasteful, regardless of the quality of their work. Nor alleged contest-rigging and collusion that, if true, crosses the boundaries from merely unethical to outright racketeering. Except for the fact this has apparently been occurring for years prior to “Gamergate” even started. If the hive of groupthink, collusion, and corruption that has been uncovered by the last three months is indeed what you “need” for your professional careers, I would strongly urge you to rethink your career choice rather than cry harassment for being rightfully criticized for it.

    [On a serious and more personal note, Raph, my personal background and education is in American politics, specifically campaign finance. I’ve done work in politics since I was a small child, on the stump for local candidates with my granddad. I’ve “officially” worked on campaigns, I’ve lobbied at varying times on behalf of industries and non-profit groups. I spent nearly a decade in university researching campaign finance and election law, and I got the fuck out after Citizens United and the 2010 election because politics had become too disgustingly corrupt for me to stomach any longer.

    The shit that’s gone on, and been uncovered, in the last three months makes me regret that choice, because at least there is something of a social compact and rules of ethics in politics. It’s not a good one, but at least there is one, which is a hell of a lot better than I can say for vidya.]

    Next, “customer outreach”. Well, first, it’s good that you implicitly acknowledge the commodification of games, the treatment of games as consumer product opposed to art in and of its own right, and the importance of consumer relations when dealing with your audience rather than hide behind “games are art” as a shield against criticism on precisely that basis, as many of your colleagues do. Of course, how this relates to social media is that you claim it’s “ruined” for your industry.

    How is it ruined, exactly? let’s look to Occam’s razor. Which is more likely; that thousands of gamers, the overwhelming majority of which like myself universally condemn harassment, abuse, and toxicity, regardless of the source, have organized in a campaign to do exactly what it is we condemn by picking apart developers’ social media use; or dozens of your colleagues are, quite frankly, thin-skinned prima donnas with chronic foot-in-mouth disease (who are, coincidentally enough, the very last people I think of when I think “reasonable discourse”)?

    I think you know the answer, given you’re on-record in the past as stating the need for PR for developers given their general lack of tact (we’ve had exactly that conversation via social media before). I know I do. having put myself through college by working in an IT job that was described to me in a single sentence by my boss as “keep the customers as far away from [the admins and developers] as humanly possible”.

    It’s not on our heads your colleagues are endless and apparently unregulated fountains of incendiary bullshit, with tact and subtlety to make intercontinental ballistic missiles look quaint. We just call the bullshit out when it is invariably spewed. Perhaps you should be urging your colleagues to act as if they grew up in civilized society with a fundamental understanding of how the internet works (and it still blows my mind game developers of all people seem to lack this), employ people with that skillset to speak on their behalf, or at least stay away from platforms on which they can deal themselves and their colleagues lasting damage by running their mouths.

    That is, people to speak on their behalf who do so without paying off or exploiting personal relationships with the press for positive attention, or who cut out the middleman by simultaneously being part of the press to do it themselves.

    “…The sorts of discussions we would like to have…” Which discussions, exactly? I’d love to hear an answer to this that doesn’t include the very unethical if not illegal activities we know have occurred (or have been alleged to be occurring with strong evidence), nor includes viewpoint-based gatekeeping, that aren’t improved by transparency and engagement with (at least, merit-based selection of) audiences. Frankly, opacity and viewpoint-based gatekeeping are how the toxic atmosphere that enabled Gamergate occurred, and it seems to me honest developers who are serious about their work and relating to consumers would want an end to it.

    All of this considered, maybe developers damn well ought to fear their audience. Unabashed disrespect, which as far as I can tell is and has been the case for some time, certainly doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. especially when put on such blatant display as it has the last three months. That the gaming press, people who by all rights and reasonable expectation ought to have some idea how to speak to consumers, is also in on the game is absolutely beyond my ken. No, not fear abuse, harassment, or threats — that particular straw man doesn’t fly with me — but fear rightful criticism (and remember, criticism regardless what some would claim is never in and of its own right, harassment)  for all the aforementioned illicit and unethical behavior, and making complete jackasses of themselves online in the wake of revelation after revelation; and the inevitable backlash in a consumer-driven market, which is that people stop consuming in protest.

    Otherwise known as the logical consequences of their own misdeeds. Which is, apparently, something many of these individuals in question have never had to face…and it’s about damn time they did. So, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m considerably less than sympathetic to the plight of the developer in all this, especially as (emphasis mine),

    6) GG hasn’t been effective at fixing anything we care about, and keeps trying to fix things we don’t think are broken.

    This is the problem. It’s not about you, it’s about your audience, otherwise known as the people who put food on your table, and pertinent to you how they perceive you and your industry. Your audience has grievances with the way business in your industry is conducted, and has spoken quite clearly what those grievances are and why.

    If you don’t care what your customers think of you, or what issues are important to your customers…well, good luck with that. As a consumer I’m perfectly happy playing that game and speaking with my wallet, and now that your industry has put viewpoint-based gatekeeping on the table, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

     
    • Raph Koster 9:47 am on November 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I promised you that I would give you a detailed reply, since something this long and well-considered deserves one.

      “It seems that, for some, so much as a mention in an otherwise innocuous tweet constitutes harassment while for others, doxxing, death threats, outright and undeniable abusive comments, and publicly and unironically advocating all those is entirely harmless”

      I think it’s more that each side doesn’t want to acknowledge how much this is happening to the other side.

      “As for those “talking about quitting games”…why should they stay in the industry when they’ve found something vastly more lucrative ”

      I am not talking about commentators. I am talking about game developers.

      “The fact there are individuals in, or at least peripherally-related to, your industry who personally profit from abuse and toxicity, and therefore have a vested financial interest in its perpetuation and maximization, on its own should be cause to rethink your position, rather than embrace it.”

      Is this not just as true of GG? I can think of several YouTubers for whom this has basically been bonus revenue moment. It is absolutely to their benefit to keep the rage stoked high.

      “If the hive of groupthink, collusion, and corruption that has been uncovered by the last three months is indeed what you “need” for your professional careers, I would strongly urge you to rethink your career choice rather than cry harassment for being rightfully criticized for it.”

      We greatly disagree on the amount of any of those things going on, is all.

      “How is it ruined, exactly? let’s look to Occam’s razor. Which is more likely; that thousands of gamers, the overwhelming majority of which like myself universally condemn harassment, abuse, and toxicity, regardless of the source, have organized in a campaign to do exactly what it is we condemn by picking apart developers’ social media use; or dozens of your colleagues are, quite frankly, thin-skinned prima donnas with chronic foot-in-mouth disease (who are, coincidentally enough, the very last people I think of when I think “reasonable discourse”)?”

      What I meant was “opening your mouth can now ruin your game and career.” I didn’t even tack on “for having X opinion” because we are at the point where it doesn’t *matter* which opinion you hold.

      “It’s not on our heads your colleagues are endless and apparently unregulated fountains of incendiary bullshit, ”

      No, it isn’t, but that wasn’t my point at all.

      “Perhaps you should be urging your colleagues to act as if they grew up in civilized society with a fundamental understanding of how the internet works (and it still blows my mind game developers of all people seem to lack this), employ people with that skillset to speak on their behalf, or at least stay away from platforms on which they can deal themselves and their colleagues lasting damage by running their mouths.”

      Look, I watched a colleague of mine go through a week of hell for daring to post up an article about “ways to get more women applicants.” This is a thoroughly innocuous topic. It’s not even particularly feminist. It is at best, the sort of equalist feminism that GG says it favors. It was a week of spamming, harassment, and she handled it wonderfully, but *she shouldn’t have had to.* She did not say anything at all inflammatory. She did not court any controversy. She did nothing wrong.

      “Which discussions, exactly?” Ones like THOSE. The fact is that devs currently can start a discussion about damn near anything, and get sealioned in the middle of it. THAT is what I am referencing.

      “This is the problem. It’s not about you, it’s about your audience, otherwise known as the people who put food on your table, and pertinent to you how they perceive you and your industry.”

      Developers LOVE their audience. They wouldn’t be making games otherwise.

      But a huge amount of GG has not been about the audience at all. It has been about politics. It has been about feminism. It has been about digging through academic papers, it has been about tracing Patreon links bteween dev and dev, never mind the press.

      “Your audience has grievances with the way business in your industry is conducted, and has spoken quite clearly what those grievances are and why.”

      The audience is also, no offense, pretty unaware of how business in the industry is conducted, and therefore has reached incorrect conclusions. That is why I have spent so much time trying to offer up information on how it all works.

      “now that your industry has put viewpoint-based gatekeeping on the table, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

      ALL gatekeeping is viewpoint based. And ALL curation and ALL markets have gatekeeping, implicitly.

      So let’s be straight here: the issue isn’t that issue-based gatekeeping is going on. It’s over what issues.

      Like

      • eacaraxe 6:55 pm on November 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Okay, now that I’m feeling better and calmed down, a counter-response to keep the conversation flowing and hope to illuminate a few key points brought up. Thanks for reading and responding, especially to an angry post made at a point where I likely would have done much better for myself taking a step back and waiting to cool off.

        The issue isn’t merely a lack of of empathy or acknowledgment of any abuse occurring on the other’s part, or more key to mention third parties and agent provocateurs. As I see it, there’s an active double standard being perpetuated by certain key figures against Gamergate and their supporters, leading to a general culture of blame, blame-shifting, and denial entirely unsupported by fact or evidence. Take, for example, Jason Schreier’s recent article on ‘Kotaku’ regarding Mateus Prada Sousa,

        http://kotaku.com/the-anita-sarkeesian-hater-that-everyone-hates-1658494441

        in which, despite no Gamergate supporter claiming support for, or personal affiliation with, Sousa — in fact, it was Gamergate supporters who uncovered the identity and personal information of this individual to remand it to federal authorities — Schreier cannot help himself but blame the movement anyway, on some nebulous notion of enabling Sousa’s activities. Never mind that Sousa has clearly engaging in these activities long before Gamergate began, nor that Ms. Sarkeesian only now claims to have taken action against him (albeit without evidence, when she has provided such in the past regarding action against harassment or threats) which for someone who is typically quite outspoken regarding harassment and threats against is at the very least out of character.

        This is by far the only instance of this culture at work, merely the most visible at the moment. Discounting, of course, the events of last evening (two Gamergate supporters having been SWAT’ed, and a third — himself a games journalist and person of color — physically assaulted the night previous), which I feel uncomfortable discussing at length at the moment due to lack of hard evidence. Then, of course, there were the doxxing and abusive behavior levied against Milo Yiannopoulos (harmful and threatening objects sent via mail) and ‘KingofPol’ (who was SWAT’ed during a livestream) which do have evidence.

        Frankly, one side does acknowledge the abuse and harassment of the other. That’s why individuals started the ‘GamerGate harassment patrol’, and target abusive behavior against the movement’s opponents as well. The other — or at least, key figures positioned against the movement — not only does not, nor does only justify abusive behavior against Gamegate supporters, but goes so far as to advocate it. Need I remind you of the commentary of Sam Biddle, Geordie Tait, and many others?

        And no, the fallacy of relative privation does not justify it. Nor is this a new development — Gamergate opposition has been laden with this speech and worse from the beginning.

        https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/the-source-of-my-anger-at-gamergate/

        I can only speak for myself, but my ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ moment was when Devin Faraci publicly fat-shamed Youtuber ‘boogie2988’ on social media, the last week of August — right around the same time Tadhg Kelly published an article on Gamasutra which was a veritable — at the time as some of the language was retracted without acknowledgment, comment or apology after being called out, by me, on it — cavalcade of ableism.

        http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s78175

        I have approached numerous individuals within the gaming press about the deeply problematic nature of this language. Mr. Kelly himself, along with Luke Plunkett via social media, Schreier, Stephen Totilo by extension, Bob Chipman…the list goes on. I have yet to receive so much as a simple acknowledgment this sort of language, let alone pervasively employed or saturating Gamergate opposition’s language as it is (or at least, was at the time) just might be a problem, let alone actively harmful to the socially underprivileged groups for which they claim to speak.

        That’s the atmosphere of unaccountability to which I spoke earlier at work, and that needs to end.

        In regards to individuals who have found ways to personally profit from abuse within Gamergate opposition, I was speaking to certain developers and not merely journalists or commentators as well. In regards to individuals who have a vested interest (out of a need for attention and drama, if not financial) in ensuring the well stays poisoned on Gamergate’s side, I certainly will not deny their existence especially as I have spoken out in the past against them myself (and faced the consequences for it), and condemn them as I have in the past. It’s certainly my hope that, in light of the events of November’s first week, now that many of those individuals have been discredited and “left” (certain to return soon once their pathological need for drama, or meal ticket, runs dry, as that is how these sorts of personalities operate), Gamergate supporters remember the lessons learned (unfortunately, the hard way) and apply social pressure to allow more rational individuals to speak.

        Returning to social media, to be quite honest the phenomena to which you speak is hardly unique to gaming. It is now pervasive to the point the National Labor Relations Board keeps tabs on it and releases annual reports,

        http://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/fact-sheets/nlrb-and-social-media

        If social media has only recently been “ruined” for the games and tech industries, then congratulations to them and the consumers for remaining resilient against a phenomenon that exists in practically the entire private sector. Social media is no more “ruined” for the games and tech industries than any other at this point. Of course, that’s a matter of employer/employee relations and intersects with a vast number of other pressing political issues — privacy in the private sector, corporate personhood, right-to-work, the general degradation of labor rights in the face of rapid globalization. Whether or not it’s right is a conversation certainly worth having, and needs to be had, but that doesn’t change the notion it is much larger than the games industry.

        It should go without saying this phenomenon is also politicized — or exploited by the media. Look at Donglegate, or Gawker’s spat with Pax Dickinson. Look at the backlash against the Ender’s Game film for Orson Scott Card’s homophobia. Merely the mention of Roman Polanski (chiefly, whether his criminality invalidates his work as a filmmaker) on social media kicks off a shitstorm among film buffs. Outside tech or entertainment, look at Chik-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, or Papa John’s boycotts organized via social media and driven in no small part by the social media commentary and personal views (not merely corporate policies) of affiliated individuals. I make no judgment here on any of those collective actions, I’m just bringing them up for the sake of consideration.

        This is as good a time as any to bring up gatekeeping, however ‘out-of-sequence’ it may be. Of course all ‘gatekeeping’ is issue-based, and the relevant part of the discussion is what issues justify gatekeeping. After all, education, raw talent, merit, and work history are all ‘issues’ in this since around which ‘gatekeeping’ is not just prevalent, but accepted and considered mandatory. Convicts will never be in the Secret Service, I can’t walk into a courtroom and argue a case because I don’t hold a JD or have Bar approval, and someone who doesn’t so much as know BASIC has little place in the technical side of game design. But, discussing gatekeeping in such broad language strips the term of relevant context and negative connotation so as to render it functionally worthless — really, in that light we’re discussing “what constitutes gatekeeping?”.

        And, in this context, I would claim what is important to Gamergate supporters is whether industry gatekeeping on the basis of social, political, cultural, and ideological positions, as well as personal connections, is superseding merit. I’d say it’s a fair concern to have, given the information revealed, and stories told by individuals within the industry and its peripheries several of whom are women and persons of color (calling into question the notion of ongoing gatekeeping as a way to uplift minority and unprivileged voices), over the past three months.

        So, when you say Gamergate is politicized…of course it is. The issues raised by Gamergate supporters, at the very least, intersect with numerous sociopolitical issues. The dwindling culture of denial of many well-meaning, but misguided, Gamergate supporters does little to aid the recognition of that fundamental reality. I’ve never denied it, in fact I’ve gone to great lengths to urge others to accept and embrace it. I wholeheartedly reject the assertion this is an anti-feminist crusade to drive women out of the industry, of course.

        Where the audience, and information-gathering (some, not be, but some would say muckraking) enters the picture, is…you’re right, few people have any idea what occurs behind closed doors in the game industry, the gaming press, and how those interact to present information and image to the consumer. We are angry, ill-informed consumers.

        That’s the problem, but not in the way you think.

        It doesn’t matter whether we’re discussing elected officials, executive agencies, “commanding heights of industry” multinationals, or an indie game company, opacity is never healthy for an institution in the long run. Opacity breeds corruption, malfeasance, and unaccountability, serving the interests of a few and harming the rest. The games industry is overwhelmingly opaque to the consumer, and the people responsible for making (and keeping) it transparent — the press — are so derelict in their jobs one cannot even rationally invoke Hanlon’s razor to presume mere incompetence; if anything, the gaming press busies itself ensuring that opacity (see, Doritogate) and poisoning relations between developer and consumer (we’ve had that conversation before; also, see Brad Wardell and his spat with Gawker media).

        To what it boils down is, gamers are sick of the opacity in the industry and the excessively poor state of the gaming press (and it should tell you something when even the most ardent anti-Gamergate games journalists are among the first to admit their beat has serious problems, despite the fact they never seem to act on their grievances). We’re taking it upon ourselves to find out what goes on behind closed doors — if this leads to conclusions with which you may disagree, please urge your colleagues to open the doors (and keep doing what you already are) rather than stay the course and defend opacity.

        Like

    • A happy Gamer 4:21 pm on November 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      See how great it when people have a discussion and don’t just snipe each other on twitter? more of this please.

      Like

  • eacaraxe 5:38 pm on November 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , IGF, ,   

    The appearance of impropriety, a quickie 

    Okay, this is going to be a fast, short post because I’m busy today and really didn’t feel like writing about this at all, yet here I am. With the recent drama involving Mattie Brice making statements that are at the least impolitic, even if we accept statements made after the fact they were in jest, I would like to bring up an aspect of all this that doesn’t receive remotely enough attention in Gamergate.

    That is the appearance of impropriety. It is, according to Wikipedia (a sufficient source for paraphrasing information and informally defining terms), a circumstance in which a layperson who is ignorant of circumstantial details and context, would question the ethics of a subject. Real impropriety is immaterial in this case, what is material is that improprieties reasonably appear to have occurred, or are present.

    Generally, even the appearance of impropriety is to be avoided, and for one key reason: the importance of trust in the subject of inquisition (in this case, the gaming press). A circumstance with so much as the appearance of impropriety can, and does, shake trust, and a media that cannot be trusted is of little, if any, value to its audience save entertainment value.

    For example, relevant to Gamergate, when Nathan Greyson and Zoe Quinn entered into an (undisclosed) sexual relationship, it had the appearance of impropriety. I’m willing to accept, for the sake of charity, Stephen Totilo’s remarks about the relationship are true and that no impropriety occurred; however, that does not erase the appearance of it. After all, how many of us really trust at this point Totilo’s remarks about Greyson and Quinn? I certainly don’t.

    “But Eacaraxe,” you might say, “that link is about the legal profession and judicial ethics! What does that have to do with journalism”? The notion is present in journalism as well…nor is it new to journalism. Nor is it new, even, to gaming journalism.

    What any of this has to do with IGF and Mattie Brice, is that she made statements that allude to her decisions as a judge being influenced by personal bias. In jest or not, that is a wildly inappropriate statement for one in her position to make on a good day, and on its own carries the appearance of impropriety. Unfortunately for Ms. Brice and the IGF, these statements were not made on a good day, but rather amid a major scandal involving the indie game scene and the gaming press, during which allegations of contest-rigging and fraud have come to light, that may or may not be under investigation by federal authorities. For a statement even the IGF acknowledges as inappropriate,

    The impact of the statement, though — and what caused us concern — was that it raised suspicions that judgment would be made on games without due diligence. We also take seriously the impact of our judges making public statements about the process of on-going proceedings, including which games a particular judge is assigned, impressions on unreleased games in the festival, or how any of our judges intend to vote in the festival.

    the timing could have certainly been better. Yet the IGF, acknowledging this appearance of impropriety and at first rescinding her seat as a judge, has since re-extended their invitation and issued a public apology to Ms. Brice…in response to pressure by others also implicated.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but to me such willful disregard for the appearance of impropriety itself raises serious questions about the personal ethics, integrity, and trustworthiness of these people.

     
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