Greg Costikyan, a writer for the gaming website “Gamasutra”, released an article in which he roundly attacks gamers who have rallied under the banner of what is being called GamerGate. His attacks are focused on these gamers as if they were all men when, in fact, those who are flocking to its banner are an incredibly diverse crowd of gamers. These gamers are fed up with what they see as corruption and nepotism in not just the gaming media, but also among game developers, large and small. It is clear that Costikyan feels it is only the men in this uprising that he needs to address as he completely ignores the women in the movement.
Costikyan literally challenges these gamers, these “poor examples of men”, to a physical fight for having the audacity to speak up against perceived corruption within his own ranks. He is one of many who reports on games and has taken to figuratively defecating on his primary audience by claiming they are “Maxim reading horny boy-men” and “blinkered idiots”. He used his post to attempt to slap the gamer collective across the face with an empty glove and challenged any and all gamers to meet him “on horse or afoot, with sword or pistol”. While many gamers have a love for retro gaming, this Neanderthal of a man seems to have a love for retro living.
Misogyny and GamerGate
Despite many women participating in GamerGate, Costikyan thinks it is nothing but a bunch of misogynists. However, his article is rife with plenty of its own misogyny and unintentionally highlights many current issues, as well as potential future issues, for women in gaming. He begins by lamenting about how horrible the gaming industry used to be, and shows signs of a cognitive dissonance to his own misogyny as he recaps what gaming has had to deal with in decades past.
For decades, he says, we had developers focusing on making “tits bounce in the next beach volleyball title”, as if beach volleyball was one of the top games in the sports genre. Wikipedia only has pages for 18 beach volleyball videogames, and the one that was seen as controversial because of tits that bounce, “Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball”, came out in 2003, just over one decade ago.
For decades, he claims, we had managers employing “high-breasted bimbos” to pose at E3 booths. With just three words, Costikyan objectifies these women by focusing on their breasts while at the same time assuming that they lack intelligence. I say this because I doubt he spent much time getting to know them beyond staring at their chests and writing them off as “bimbos”. Also, the first E3 was in 1995, so it’s 20th anniversary until next year.
For decades, he says, the most creative people were shut down whenever they proposed any kind of game design innovation. He gives no examples of this, such as who these people were or what innovative ideas we missed out on. With no examples given, we cannot challenge how good these ideas were or if they would have resulted in increased sales, something the industry often sees as a primary concern given the investments they put into making games.
Though this may be true on a micro scale, at the macro level we have seen huge changes in design innovation in videogames throughout their short history. One need look no further than Nintendo to see this, as they have been anything but stale in the realm of innovative game design despite rehashing the same characters repeatedly. For perspective, Nintendo is the oldest game company that is in both the console and game development market and the Nintendo Entertainment System, which debuted in 1985, is only now approaching its 30th anniversary. In less than three decades, we have seen plenty of design innovation with just the Mario franchise, to say nothing of the numerous changes the hardware that houses these games has gone through.
That is enough lamenting on all those “decades” past, let’s get back to the rampant misogyny in Costikyan’s article. He brings up Zoe Quinn and her sexual escapades that, although not the reason for GamerGate, can certainly be viewed as a catalyst that exploded what has been a brooding sense of corruption and nepotism surreptitiously going on behind the scenes of gaming journalism and promotion. Zoe Quinn’s one game development credit is a poorly written and easily designed “choose your own adventure” story. Do you know how to insert a hyperlink? Congratulations, you could be a game designer too. Personally, I’d rather read a copy of “Wizards, Warriors & You”.
Does Costikyan give us any reason why her game is good? Why her game deserves any positive press? Why people should go buy it or at least check it out? Nah, he just says that it’s not our business who she had sex with, or who she didn’t have sex with. He’s right on that count; it is Zoe’s garden and she can plant in it whatever she wants. However, he takes it a step further and says that if we, the collective gamer community, had any brains, we would give a kidney to have sex with Zoe; that we as a community are unlikely to ever touch someone with so much as a scrap of her intelligence or talent.
No example of her intelligence, no discussion of her talent (or lack thereof), just sexual objectification of her by placing her upon a pedestal which gamers, who Costikyan assumes to all be heterosexual men, should be willing to remove our vital organs to be graced with the privilege of being allowed to “fuck” her. This from someone who says it is the gamers who are the misogynists in this debacle. Classy.
What really concerns me about Costikyan’s lack of objective perspective is actually not the dishonesty and favoritism in journalism. It is that this is the message that he is sending to other indie developers, particularly female developers, on how to get publicity. He is essentially saying that game developers should be allowed to have sex with all the journalists they want in order to get as much press as they can muster because they don’t have the millions of dollars that large game companies have.
Costikyan asked who had more power, Activision or an independent game designer? Unfortunately that question is incomplete, as he forgot to include a gaming journalist. If Activision gives you $100, advertising revenue, etc., is that the basis you use to judge their product on, or would you be honest and review their game based on its merits? Jeff Gerstmann, as an example, got fired from one of the top gaming websites for giving an honest review of the game “Kane & Lynch” because the website received substantial advertising revenue from the game’s publisher, which they threatened to withdraw.
Now Costikyan is setting the stage for sexual manipulation of female indie game developers. If they don’t sleep with you, will you not give them a positive review, or any positive press? If you would give your kidney to have sex with Zoe Quinn, is it that unfathomable that you would accept sex in exchange for a simple “hey, check out this game”? Would you be fired from your job if you still gave her a negative review after she gave you sex for favours, similar to Gerstmann’s situation? No, you would not, even though that would be tantamount to skipping the bill on a sex-worker, something many people would consider rape. So who has the power in such a relationship? Gaming journalists do.
This is where I, and many behind GamerGate, see an issue with journalistic integrity. On the one hand, you can view Zoe as playing indie game developer on easy mode, but on the other hand you have Nathan Grayson holding all the power. One could easily make a comparison to a student sleeping with their teacher for a good grade; in this case it is a good review or simply positive press.
Now we have a rich cornucopia of diverse gamers, who are being belittled by that very media for asking for a little journalistic integrity, for a little transparency. Journalistic integrity that would actually help protect women in the gaming industry from shady journalists such as yourself (sorry, I meant “expert blogger”), who justify having sex with those they report on as none of the consumer’s business; consumers of both your gaming news and the developer’s product. This further hurts female game developers, as now people may question when they get good reviews, especially if the so-called journalists feel they are allowed to have intimate relations with developers feel they do not need to recuse themselves from reviewing their product. This has clearly hurt the reputation of those who report on the gaming industry, but worse, it may have sullied the perception of other indie developers. If you want gaming to grow and change, that means those of you who report on it need to grow and change as well. You are clearly collectively lacking professionalism when you gang up on your readers for calling you out on shady business practices and an absence of journalistic integrity.
This is to say nothing of all the other indie developers who are trying to legitimately garner positive press for their games through the quality of their product, not through currying favour with journalists on a personal or intimate level. Did you ever think game developers may want to just market their product and not be your friend, not want to have sex with you? What do you think is the message being given here to other game developers and to the fans of gaming? Where is the justice for those who make a superior product but are passed over in indie game competitions and gaming press because they, ironically, didn’t “play the game”? I suppose this mentality shouldn’t be too surprising from someone who writes for a gaming website that got its name by bastardizing the title of an ancient sex-guide; Hindu, not Prima.
Costikyan started his article by mentioning he has a daughter who felt his opinion, “as a male voice in the industry”, was worth hearing. I hope Vicky isn’t in the gaming industry. It would be kind of stomach churning considering she has a misogynistic father who thinks indie developers need to do whatever they can to get a little positive press, which may apparently include sleeping with journalists, and that this is something that should be kept secret, kept quiet, and kept behind closed doors. And he says those within GamerGate are the misogynists.
I may do a piece touching on the homophobia, transphobia, and the misandry blatantly displayed in Costikyan’s piece, but I didn’t want this article to last longer than the attention span of us gamers.
Until then, to the opponents of GamerGate, look, the people you are after are the people you depend on!