Gamergate and the RPS response

Published on Monday, September 8, 2014 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

Today Rock Paper Shotgun put up this article with regards to the recent turmoil in the gaming community: Videogames are for everybody.


RPS is one of my favorite game sites. RPS is not just “another game site”, they are very important to both game developers/publishers as well as gamers. I say this because they have assembled an exceptionally high quality team of writers and reviewers. Anyone who thinks getting people with good writing skills and good judgment is easy has clearly never run a business before.

Now..that said…

There are a lot of good parts to that article. But there are some parts that I’d like to address:

Claim: I don’t believe the harassment is real. People are faking it to get attention.

RPS Response: You are wrong. Sorry. We’re getting some of the abuse. John particularly has been told to kill himself multiple times, with specific, ugly descriptions of how, and been sent repeated wishes that he die of cancer. And those have been the extremes. There has also been a non-stop flow of lies spread about him and RPS, abuse sent to us, including alarming videos designed to discredit both John and RPS. Nothing fake about any of that.

This is the first element I took issue with. No one is claiming that nobody is getting harassed. This is a case where semantics actually matter.  What gamers are getting tired of are certain female Internet celebrities trying to claim any harassment / trolling / flaming = sexual harassment and turning those claims into easy coverage for their (surprise surprise) upcoming new project. The media, predictably then responds lecturing gamers on their so-called misogyny.

As a reminder:

misogynist: Noun. A person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.


Gamer Claim: Your site is corrupt. We know this because of the evidence presented in various videos and diagrams and put together by concerned individuals.

RPS Response: We’ve seen all this material, too. If any of it genuinely exposed corrupt practice, or if any of it could be verified with concrete evidence, we’d surely act on it…

I don’t have any issue with this response.  You don’t think there is any widespread journalism corruption.  I tend to agree with this as well. I don’t think there’s systematic corruption with gaming journalism. This would have been a great response from the media two weeks ago.

..Instead, gamers were treated to THIS (courtesy of jw)

The #Gamergate thing could be described in two parts:

  1. First, the original allegations about Zoe Quinn which were a tempest in a teapot
  2. Second, the absurd, embarrassing response by some in the gaming media.

It wasn’t until the second part that the media lost a lot of gamers and game developers and #gamergate really took off.

If someone makes allegations that there is corruption, the best way to deal with that is to answer it (like today’s RPS article tries to do).  But that’s not what happened.  Instead, the media smeared gamers. 

So to recap, a bunch of gamers got upset at what appeared to them to be a pattern of corruption in the gaming media.  And instead of addressing these concerns they got called (again, from jw).

Terrorists (

Pathetic (

Racist (

Nerds (

Parasites (

Worthless (

Deserving death (

Misogynists ( (Note: I’ve been informed that this post may be a troll account. I’ll replace this example shortly, but I’m taking a break from the #GamerGate issue for a bit.)

Subhuman (

Sociopaths (

Scum (

Morons (

Fat (

Nonexistent (

Hateful (

Autistic (

Deserving violence (

Bullies (

Racial slurs ( (Note, the veracity of this instance is in question as a possible troll. The blog where I got it from, as with the rest of these,, is unsure of the source. I’m leaving it up so as to not just pretend I didn’t post it, but I’m going to add that this link is questionable in intent.)

Enablers of child pornography/Pedophiles: ( (This added in replacement of the Racial Slurs one as an example of some of the vitriol.)

Manbabies (

Terrible people (

And best of all — Trash:

Needless to say, this upset some people.

You hate gamers. When we criticised you, you “spat on us”.

No, we don’t, and no, we didn’t. This statement is in quotation marks because that’s actually what someone said to us. That we spat on them. We understand that this person was speaking figuratively, but even so it does not reflect the truth. We banned people for being unexcellent on the forums and in comments, we blocked people attacking us on Twitter, and some of our writers expressed their frustration by lampooning what was said on social media. We make jokes when we’re unhappy, and we do tend to get sarcastic when faced with honest insults. It’s difficult.

All I can say to this is: See above.

We do not hate gamers. We object to, and will fight, harassment and abuse. But that has little to do with gamers, and little or nothing to do with the ethics of the games industry. Not everyone who objects to how the games press works are harassing and attacking, but the ones who are are causing enough disruption for this entire thing, whatever it actually is, to be a mess of resentment and recrimination. For any progress to be made, in any direction, it has to stop.

I would hate to get into a “but they started it” type of argument but, if game sites start publishing a mass string of articles claiming that anyone who is concerned that coverage is less about merit and more about who’s sleeping with who is really just a horrible misogynist and needs to grow up and get out of their parents basements, I think that the recipient of this abuse is going to not take that well.

The problem is this: If you insult enough people, eventually you will have a lot of opponents. I’m not referring to RPS but to the self-described “Social Justice Warrior” dominated press (I don’t really have any serious criticism of RPS specifically, I am just hoping they can see the 10,000 foot high picture of this).  Five years ago I would have been a lot more sympathetic to the Social Justice Warriors.  I wonder how many on the fence gamers the SJWs lost during the whole “Dick Wolves” insanity.  Eventually, non-snowflakes get fatigued at the deluge of first-world victim/outrage stories – and don’t forget, if you complain, you are blaming the victim. Each time they smear someone, they lose another small group. Drip. Drip. Drip.

And it is. We love games. We hate harassment, prejudice, and abuse.

Most gamers hate harassment, prejudice and abuse too. So why are so many in the gaming media subjecting them to harassment, prejudice and abuse?

I know of many others who would be natural allies of “social justice warriors” but have suffered at the hands of sustained harassment and death threats courtesy of SJWs.  So when they see the media march lockstep with these people, they think that either you guys aren’t aware of their true nature or worse, you think that death threats and harassment are fine as long as it’s against people who “deserve it”.

If anything good comes of this #gamergate debacle it’s this: It is likely that the SJW movement into the games industry has reached its furthest extent. They’ve managed to alienate a critical mass of people with their shenanigans.

I, like many others, wasn’t just neutral but didn’t really care until the August 28 deluge of insult articles appeared. That’s where you lost a lot of game developers. And make no mistake, like the gaming media, we have our own mailing lists as well and most, if not nearly all, were appalled by that series of articles. 

RPS posts that contain controversy about sexism are just clickbait. You do not actually believe this stuff, and you are just doing it for hits.

Nope, we actually believe it. If you believe that we actually don’t, well, it’s going to be hard to change your mind. But there would be easier ways to generate traffic, with less abuse directed at us, if what was really on our minds was traffic. Why wouldn’t we just do that?

Good for them for saying this. And I agree. News items are much easier to get page views from than original content. It's one of those urban legends that game sites live/die on click bait.

You are doing it for sexual favours.

Wow. No.

Well I am. Winking smile 

Nevertheless, I believe changing games will ruin them. They’re supposed to be about escapism.

Escapism is great! We love it. We all need to escape. Even the people analysing and criticising want to escape for a while. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do. It’s not all that games can do, though, is it? Games can be about real world situations. The same systems that run games are used to train pilots and soldiers. Game developers are using them to talk about social situations, personal issues, and to explore the real world from an interactive perspective, just as books explore it from a literary perspective. There are games about politics and social lives, economies and history. Games are a big old toolbox, and using them as escapism is just one application. Let’s not limit them.

Women tend to like different types of games than men and vice versa.  It has nothing to do with how “inclusive” the community is.  5 of the most popular games for women include Candy Crush, Bejweweled 2, Crosswords and Soduku, Cake Shop 2 and World of Warcraft (this is before Sims 4 was released).  In short, generally speaking (WoW aside) women tend to like different games than men. And that’s fine. 

Gaming really is for everyone. But gaming is a relationship between the people who make the games and the people who play them.  The level of “inclusiveness” in the communities nor the sensitivity of the journalist has little to do with attracting women to a given game. It’s mostly the game itself. Is the game fun and interesting to a woman? 

My disinterest in playing Cake Shop 2 is not because the women playing it are filled is misandry. It’s really not their fault.

This is horrible, why can’t we keep the politics out of games? Why can’t we just talk about the games?

This is one of those deeply tricky philosophy type things: not talking about politics is actually taking a political stance on them. It doesn’t keep the politics out. Tricky, right? It seems like a trick. But it’s really not: just talking about the games, without questioning anything, is you taking a political stance on games because it amounts saying that you completely accept the games at face value. Your stance on their politics is: this is fine. You can’t just talk about the games, because they can’t be pulled apart from the ideas and circumstances that brought them into being. You can ignore problems, or just not see them, and that’s okay. But if you talk about games, you talk about politics.

When we discuss how a woman is presented in a game we are talking about the game. She’s part of that game. If she’s a prostitute who gets killed by a pirate, then that happens in the game. That imaginary murder is part of the game content. Furthermore, games are not a disconnected dimension, even while they are being amazing escapist outlets for fantasy. They have a context. They reflect the world, and they are expressions of what the people made the game were trying to achieve. Some people want to examine that. They want to look at why a prostitute being murdered by a pirate is what happens in that game. They want to examine what it means. You don’t have to – it’s totally fine for you to enjoy whatever you like, and completely ignore any possible criticism, or even any possible meaning – but please don’t attack others for wanting to do so.

So basically this policy of “just talking about the games” isn’t really anything of the sort, and it can lead to saying that people who do analyse them politically, and point out how they might be problematic for themselves or others (if not for you) should shut up. It is silencing criticism, which is the thing that everyone wants to avoid. Let’s not do that, no matter what.

I think that’s all fine. But it seems like the gaming media can talk about things other than games without attacking their readers.  The objection isn’t about whether there’s a discussion on whether murdering prostitutes should give you HP is a good for society or not.  The objection is saying that people who play that game are bad people.

If we game a game that is offensive, then tell us. We can take it. To emphasize: Game developers have a tremendous level of respect for gaming sites like RPS. We trust you.  Your candid article is great thing. I wish it had come out 3 weeks ago before the well was poisoned by a dozen+ “gamers are losers” articles.

Well, you still won’t engage the other side of the debate. Why isn’t that represented on RPS?

Because we are this side. Our own side. The chaotic nature of this debate, and the way it has been pursued, make things very difficult for us, but we’re doing our best to address some of it in this article. We already believe that we behave ethically, and don’t yet see anything that requires changing. If the current line up of issues could be separated from the abuse – as it clearly can and should be – then perhaps there would be something more concrete and useful to go on. Until that time, we can only present our editorial policy, and our philosophy towards writing about games, in response to the questions we have been asked.

We’re against sexism, we support feminist arguments of various kinds. We encourage you to disagree with these arguments, but we are not obliged to disagree with them ourselves, or to publish arguments attacking them at any level of vehemence. We do not have to present anyone else’s argument. RPS is a curated space, privately owned by individuals. It is our own website, which we use to say the things we want to say. That is bias, and we are completely happy to accept that. We are not objective robots, or a corporation trying to be “neutral”, and wouldn’t want to be. Yes, we invite some discussion, but we also get to police that, and decide when enough is enough. We have a huge platform with millions of people reading it. There are many things we just don’t want posted on our site, because this site is not for them to promote themselves. In 2014 people of all kinds have all manner of platforms to work from, they don’t need this one, and we’re certainly not obliged to allow free reign in using it.

This was my favorite part of the article because, to me, it represents the most earnest, honest part of the discussion.  This would have been a great statement for the gaming sites to make – 2 weeks ago.

If an RPS or Kotaku or Gamasutra wants to publicly acknowledge that they have an agenda to promote games and personalities based on their politics then how can anyone object to that? It’s their site. 

At the same time, however, the gaming media will continue to decline, and make no mistake, it is declining, if the readership continues to lose trust in the objectivity of the site.  If a gamer is just interested in finding fun games, they’re going to be disinclined to visit sites that determine their coverage based on their politics rather than any sense of objective merit. That isn't the same as saying they should/need to be "neutral".  Write interesting things and people will come.

I read RPS every day. I expect I’ll continue to read RPS every day as long as the stories and content are things I’m interested in. They’re under no obligation to cover things I’m interested in.  If they switched their coverage to focusing on handheld games, I’d probably stop reading it just as if they started bombarding me with articles telling me I’m a misogynist because I like Grand Theft Auto.  That’s how the free market works and I say good for them.

Make sure you read the whole thing: