OK, so many of you have probably seen this around and, you probably didn’t know what the hell was going on, and in fairness I’ve watched it unfold for months and I didn’t get it until just now.
This is one of those examples of something being about everything except the thing people say it’s about, but I’ll give a brief history anyway.
1) Zoe Quinn makes something that is objectively the worst video game in history. It has no video, and no game. It’s like a choose your own adventure book in HTML, if that book was written by an asshole. Seriously I’m not using hyperbole. The “game” doesn’t involve any kind of puzzle or anything, it’s just 1-3 word choices you can click on to navigate between marginally different (sometimes even the exact same) pages of the most awful writing anyone has ever seen. Quinn manages to break the literarary critic scale by writing awful that’s simultaneously purple prose, and insipidly non-descriptive. It’s a paradox in text form. At least “It was a dark and stormy night” tells you it was raining. Zoe’s prose is supposed to be immersive so the main protagonist is androgynous, the protagonist’s SO is androgynous, and they live wherever you do, I guess. So her shitty writing of “It’s an unseasonably warm evening” is meaningless and immersion breaking. Unseasonably warm for what? Where? It’s complete garbage. If I wanted to do a lot of reading, I’d get a book about a depressed character that was written by someone who isn’t a complete asshole. I’m not exaggerating either, this is what the “game” looks like
Also there are usually choices that are red and crossed out because you can’t do them because you are too depressed! It would have been hilariously stupid, had it not been so critically acclaimed.
2) She alleged she was being harassed for posting the game to Greenlight, a steam program to help make and publish independent video games. Despite these claims, I went through literally every comment on it at the time (it was only like 10 pagesX 10 comments per page at the time) and literally couldn’t find ONE personal attack against her. Despite there being no proof of any actual harassment other than her saying she was harassed (in the wake of Sarkesian’s immensely successful kickstarter that was propelled by 4chan’s /v/ posting all over her videos that they hope she is hit by a bus or raped by a polar bear or similar shitty things), Kotaku and others run with the story.
3) A massive outpouring of support comes her way. Her “video game” which is neither video, nor game wins several awards from blogs. People leave messages on the greelight page that literally say “I don’t play video games but I made a steam account so I could vote for this”
4) Jilted ex-lover post a blog post about her alleging that all of the journalists that gave her initial favorable reviews, for what is objectively an awful game, reported the harassment and gave her awards were having sexual congress with her while he thought she and he were in a committed monogamous relationship.
That all made sense, but what happens next doesn’t. Let’s stick to what can be proved and ignore the red herring of sex. Zoe Quinn had personal relationships with people who then gave her favorable reviews on gaming blogs. Not a huge deal, but it is a deal to some extent to people who (ha ha) care about the journalistic integrity of Kokatu.
People who speak ill of Zoe are actively being shut down. Journalists are refusing to back down from various stances. It’s bizarre.
The discussion at /r/gaming
The news sites are holding on to this thing like a dog with a bone to the point where people started calling it the “Quinnspiracy”
The more gaming blogs defended her, and shut down comment sections the more ugly things like this started to pop up.
It should have occurred to me as soon as I heard “Quinnspiracy” I’m an American. When someone says there is a conspiracy, even in jest, I’ve learned to follow the dollars. If there is a credible and easy way to make money on some kind of collusion, someone is doing it.
Someone is doing it here, too.
It didn’t occur to me until I was reading this really shitty article on Slate, clearly written by an asshole subtitled
Some ground rules to keep in mind in the wake of an ugly, sexist scandal.
where he says among other idiotic “rules”:
Stop publicly criticizing Quinn. Go after the men. Criticize the games themselves. But leave the women alone, even if you think they merit criticism
That seems a bit extreme… the rule is don’t criticize women even if you think they deserve it? It’s like the convergence of white knighting and red pilling. Don’t pick on girls, their feelings are too sensitive! They are weak and can’t defend themselves! Pick on the men instead! Let’s see how he justifies that idiotic sentiment:
targeting Quinn will drive away the next Kim Swift.
That doesn’t follow logic though, because it didn’t stop Kim Swift, and in fact the only reason anyone knows about this shit “game” called depressionquest is because she tried to tap into the outrage machine.
Also he went on to complain BUT THEY HACKED HER AND ARE CIRCULATING NUDES OF HER!!!!
That’s when it clicked. The “nudes” in question that are being circulated are from a commercial site which she received payment for and to frame such nudes in the frame of “hacking” is disingenuous. It made me think, I wonder how many people reading this even bothered to look at the game? Which like the pieces of one of those stone temple puzzles in a bad Indiana Jones rip off, they all started sliding into place. How many of them play any game made since Super Mario World? Hell how many of them even care about this outside of the context of the idea that 4 chan is beating up a woman?
Answer: none of them
Then the question, “Who even reads big gaming news sites anymore?” Most people don’t. We’re living in a time where one can merely click a subscribe button and get tweets that have up to the minute releases on projects of interest. Game and tech blogs can’t possibly hope to keep up with that. The only things that people read now, are those tweets and opinion pieces made by writers they are interested in. Gawker style click traps can’t hope to build up that kind of personality, so they’re shifting the market. That’s why the articles about that look like these
The reason is now clearly obvious to me. I feel stupid for not getting it earlier. Outraged 3rd wave radical feminists/ Social Justice Warriors may be a small percentage of the population, but they are very linked in and they vampirically feed on the imagined pain of any woman anywhere. Imagine if you will that just one of the power hitters of twitter’s peculiar brand of over the top feminism who has 50K followers tweets one of those stories. Assuming a small amount of retweets, that could drive 100,000 clicks. If their site is properly monetized like a gawker hole, that’s a nickel a click for 5 grand. That’s not chump change in the blogging world. If a writer who gets paid maybe 100 dollars an article can get something that draws 100K hits, you tell them to keep typing them out until their fingers bleed.
The problem with that is if users push back against what Sarkesian would call a damsel in distress, the well gets poisoned and they become a target rather than a resource for these hundreds of thousands of affluent privileged American and Canadian consumers that advertisers want, so this sort of thing begins to happen:
As Alfreb Einstime said about the invention of internet blogs dickery
You can fool all of the people some of the time, and sometimes you can fool all the people all of the way, but most of the time, you’re only fooling the fools all of the way and the rest of everyone else part time.
Meaning, that people feel the invisible wall inside the game pushing back at them. Gamers are no longer the targets for big tech blogs writing stories about games. Also this isn’t the number 1 trending story on Kotaku anymore. Today it’s “Is Hello Kitty a cat or not”
What made anyone think a site like that wasn’t cynically skewed to whatever idiocy will get the most hits? They’re selling outrage to both sides and taking it to the bank.
(Spoiler, yes it’s a fucking cat. If it was something else the drawing would be called hello something else)