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Zoe Quinn, Between Anger and Depression Quest

Posted on Wednesday, August 20 @ 08:30:00 Eastern by


What a cluster. A whole galaxy's worth of clusters.

I awoke early this morning to the Zoe Quinn controversy. After three long days of playing and a half-day reviewing Diablo III: The Ultimate Evil Edition, as well as anxiously shuffling around appointments for PAX Prime 2014 which takes place next week (how is it that soon?!), I was ragged yesterday. I didn't check Reddit or Twitter, and honestly, my take-out order of creamy chicken tikka misala over jasmine rice didn't help because all that did was make me want to collapse on my bed in a food coma. But maybe I'm lucky to have missed the hurricane and have had the time to read more into the situation, because now I feel like I can address it more clearly than I would have from within the storm.

First off, I don't know Zoe Quinn personally. I believe she was at GaymerX2 showing off Depression Quest, but apart from Jessica's piece on how she believes that the game matters, I only know Zoe Quinn as an indie developer.

For those who don't know about the controversy (and I want to add "to keep the long story short" here but I don't know if that's possible at this point), a Wordpress blog called "thezoepost" was created by Zoe Quinn's ex-boyfriend named Eron Gjoni who, as a lover scorned, alleged and shared evidence that she had cheated on him with multiple people. Now, I don't think anyone cares about Zoe Quinn's personal life (and I think the chances that Eron will have a future girlfriend has diminished...), but the point he was trying to make is that Zoe allegedly slept with various indie game developers and a games journalist named Nathan Grayson who has contributed to Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun. This has lead Kotaku's Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo and RPS editor John Walker to defend Grayson in several Tweets.

On top of that, a video response on YouTube from MundaneMatt was taken down for a copyright claim by Zoe Quinn or someone claiming to be Zoe Quinn. That last part might sound dodgy, but as TotalBiscuit writes in his blog response, YouTube's copyright claim system unfortunately makes it easy for someone to impersonate another person (so take that as you will). Regardless, anyone using the DCMA to take down a video just because it discusses a topic or has negative criticism is not only wrong, but a terrible idea because of the Streisand effect.

There are also accusations that Zoe is lying about harassment and misogyny, that she apparently ruined a female gamejam, and that's she a professional victim. Some people believe that this witch hunt is justified because they believe Zoe Quinn is a witch, because she symbolizes feminism, deteriorates feminism, or "insert any verb here" feminism. This lead to her personal information being leaked ("doxxed") and posted everywhere, leading the initial Reddit thread to become a stream of deleted posts by the moderators. Reddit has responded to the backlash, which has in turn received backlash. 

I'm going to go the George Carlin route (when it comes to voting at least), and not pick sides here, mainly because there are problems on both. On one hand, I don't like the heinous conflict of interest that this controversy shows in today's gaming press (what is this, House of Cards?); on the other hand, I don't support public cyber-harassment and internet mob mentality. I disagree with legitimate comments and videos that are within the bounds of the site's Terms of Service being censored, but I believe that social issues in gaming are worth discussing particularly if we want gaming to be considered an artform, though I think there's a noticeable absence of articles talking fairly about masculinity in gaming.

I agree with Daniel's response that GameRevolution is more of an enthusiast press outlet than hardcore journalism (I call myself a critic first), though that doesn't mean we don't that too when the occasion calls for it. It's true that there are many questionable and tempting practices in the gaming press: free review copies, goodie bags, industry events with food and drink, trips to other locales for event coverage, insider relationships with developers and publishers, and the list goes on and on. It takes the right critic not to let any of those privileges destroy his or her integrity.

That's part of why I love reviewing games so much, because no matter what perks I get, I can give my opinion on a game regardless of whatever relationship we supposedly have with a developer or publisher. Sure, some will get bent out of shape and blacklist or ignore us on future content (which sucks more for them than for us in our book), but terrible games should be called out for being terrible games. Our editorial coverage is not for sale, and that's how it should be.
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