Deconstructioncraft: #Gamergate Pt1, The Quinn Claim

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One of DeconstructionCraft’s goals is to inform and empower our readers, and NLGO as a whole tries to bring more and—if possible—better material to discussions about and within the gaming sphere. This is both for the sake of a deeper exploration of the medium we love and for the challenge of strengthening our understanding. There are problems inherent in our approach, and these come from the fact that there is always more to discuss in a topic even though our work must come out on a regular basis. While it’s entirely possible to fill books full of information and argument about the kinds of topics we like to tackle, it is neither efficient nor necessary. A measure of a good argument is its ability to quickly and effectively convey the necessary information to lead to the conclusion. Within any topic worth discussing, there are many angles of approach, and it’s nearly impossible to completely cover every point within a scholarly paper let alone a small internet column. With this in mind, we’re going to approach one of the biggest–some would argue most important–discussions happening in video games right now: the Gamergate movement, the Zoe Quinn scandal, and journalist ethics. For many, this topic has overwhelmed social media and forum boards, but for the benefit of those that either haven’t paid much notice or haven’t been exposed to the discussion, I’m going to reiterate the crux of the argument. On the side of Gamergate, the claim is that video game journalism is corrupt. This is strongly supported by the premise that Zoe Quinn slept with journalists for good press coverage of herself and her work, and secondly that there is a journalist mailing list that has controlled the games media coverage of this and other discussions. On the opposing side, the claim is that Gamergate is a primarily misogynistic movement, with the premise that the claims against Quinn are sexist, and that the journalist ethics argument are an excuse.

 

(If there is a better representation of these two sides please feel free to include them in the comments’ section below.)

 

The most important thing to be said for this argument is that the two claims are not opposed in nature. It is entirely possible for Game Journalism to be corrupt and simultaneously for the Gamergate movement to be misogynistic, but this is not an argument in the truest sense of the word. What is happening here is that both sides mean to discredit the other because any admission of truth on one side becomes interpreted as an absolute admission. In other words, in accepting that there is misogyny in Gamergate there seems to also be the assumed repeal of the claim that gaming journalism is corrupt. The admission of existing corruption in gaming journalism does not disprove claims of misogyny in the Gamergate movement. Because this is not an argument with opposing points, the argument functions whether we accept premises from either side. I simply ask the reader to keep this in mind to allow a fuller understanding of the situation as we continue to deconstruct this discussion.

 

The specific premise ‘developer Zoe Quinn slept with journalists for favorable press coverage of her work’ was, in a way, the rallying cry that started the Gamergate movement against unethical journalist practices. The most fundamental issue here is that Zoe Quinn is not a journalist and therefore can’t be held accountable for practicing unethical journalism. Were the claim focused on the journalist–for instance; ‘Nathan Grayson accepts sex from developer to embellish review’–then it would be a logical claim connected to the conclusion. However, Nathan Grayson is not the focus of the premise being used to support the Corrupt Games Journalism claim–he is a side note–his name is rarely mentioned in this discussion: the focus is a woman who has nothing to do with the claim. The focus of this claim is literally ‘woman slept her way to top’. If the argument was ‘Developers use sex to sell’ then it would be perfectly valid: but in that instance you’d also have to oppose the triple-A industry using models at conventions or with press coverage, sexual imagery in marketing to remain ethically consistent, and then argue how this is inherently immoral.

 

This is a problem Gamergate faces as a movement–even if the premise is true–the specifics of it make for an invalid argument. A recurring critique of the Gamergate movement is that by associating with misogynistic elements, the movement has been overall compromised beyond repair. The proposed solution to this–for those whose concerns are for the video game journalism–is to distance themselves from what #Gamergate has become, focus on #Journalistethics, and abandon this Zoe Quinn angle entirely. This critique has come up against opposition amongst many of the Gamergate members who consider it an attempt at shaming a legitimate argument by discrediting it as sexist. But to argue in a means that conveys sexism more than the facts of your argument can only lead to the branding of your argument as sexist. By ignoring or failing to recognize the smear campaign against Zoe Quinn instead of working through the correct channels to have these claims investigated and earning the respect of the industry, the Gamergate movement has doomed itself to the appearance of a radical, if not paranoid, movement, in many cases bullying their way into a position of influence. It should be clear that criticisms of these inexcusable actions, the smear campaign, threats, and sexist elements of Gamergate are not a dismissal of the root concern that incentivized the movement: the two claims are not opposing.

 

For the sake of thoroughness we must move from discussing the validity of the Zoe Quinn premise, to the soundness of it. A brief side note; validity is when the premise leads with necessity to the conclusion in an argument; soundness is the truth value of a valid premise. As the Zoe Quinn premise is proven invalid for the argument, it cannot be sound, but for the sake of discussion, if we are to correct the premise to make it valid to the argument ‘Journalist Nathan Grayson accepts sex in return to embellish press’, then we may discuss soundness of this premise.

 

(side note) The following argument is based off testimony from Eron Gjoni, Quinn’s ex, and recorded conversations; all of which can be found here. While working through the testimony reading the conversations can be difficult, and while it is irrelevant to the discussion of journalist ethics I there is something important enough to be said about the dialogue that happened between Gjoni and Quinn. Fortunately youtuber SdoctmdPlays has done a better job covering it than this writer ever could.


Based on the conversations recorded between Gjoni and Quinn, by admission Zoe Quinn partook in infidelity with five individuals. Two of which, Nathan Grayson and Joshua Boggs, have positions within the industry which warrant inquiry to a breach in professional ethic. Nathan Grayson, a journalist for Kotaku, could potentially affirm the breach of Journalist Ethics claim. This incident receiving the most attention though, has been debunked, there is no history of Mr. Grayson reviewing Quinn’s game Depression Quest. There are only two pieces written by the journalist in question that include Zoe Quinn. One in early January –this does not match up with our timeline and so we are ommiting it– and one in late March that does line up with the timeline of when their relationship began. But reading the March article in question, it does not exhibit the kind of favoritism implied in the claim. Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo, after an inquiry into the allegations and material provided, had this to say one the issue.

 

“Nathan has been accused of in some way trading positive coverage of a developer for the opportunity to sleep with her, of failing to disclose that he was in a romantic relationship with a developer he had written about, and that he’d given said developer’s game a favorable review. All of those are troubling claims that we take seriously. All would be violations of the standards we maintain. Having spoken to Nathan several times, having looked closely at the numerous messages sent our way by concerned readers and, having compared published timelines, our leadership team finds no compelling evidence that any of that is true.“ (full article here)

 

The intent on the part of Mr. Grayson to accept a bribe, by way of sex, in return for an embellished coverage of Quinn would be a clear abuse of his power and breach of journalist ethics; but there exists no compelling evidence of this intent as exhibited by his actions as a journalist. The thing about business ethics is that what really matters is the appearance of a wrong doing. From an outside perspective, it appeared Mr. Grayson could have done something wrong, but without evidence there are no grounds to hold him at fault. These facts considered, this premise is no longer supportive of the Gamergate movement against corrupt journalism. The attacks and focus on Quinn is invalid in the argument and results validating the criticism of misogyny, even if only acted in ignorance. The base concern of sex for coverage, while valid and legitimate, was investigated and shown unsubstantiated in this instance, further use of this premise without definite proof acts only to discredit the legitimacy of the movement, more so when posed in the Zoe focused premise as it validates the criticisms of misogyny within the movement.

 

There are many serious concerns about the future of game journalism and gaming media held by both the readers and the creators; but, if as an industry and community, the gaming world is to move forward it must maintain a healthy standard of discussion. The presence of harassment can only break down the space in which constructive communication would exist. Each side not only has the responsibility to make sound valid arguments individually, but to critique and discourage unsound or invalid arguments wherever they exist as well. If Gamergate as a movement wants others to take it seriously, it must first disassociate itself with those that would validate the criticisms leveled against it.

 

The discussion surrounding Gamergate and Journalism is a serious one that demands the industry’s concern and focus as much as it demands patient deliberation. Deconstructioncraft will return to discuss the Gamergate movement and Journalism as there is a great deal that needs to be looked into. That being said, Gamergate will not become a fixed topic on Deconstructioncraft. We will explore new topics before returning to this discussion, this is for the sake of the reader as well as it is for the quality of the resulting article.

 

Part 2 can be found here

 

 

 

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