Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bridging the Gap: How Developers and Gamers are uniting without help from Journos

       Mark Kern, former team lead on World of Warcraft, Diablo II, Firefall and Starcraft and founder of Red 5 studios, wants to set some things straight.  Yesterday (At the time of writing this), he created a petition to Games Journalists in an effort to "heal the rift between the press and gamers". Think of it as an olive branch being extended in an effort to push things forward from the conflict that's been going on in the gaming press and community.  Below is the mission statement of the petition

On Feb. 11, Law and Order SVU aired an episode about video games called “Intimidation Game” that is being called the “Reefer Madness” of our times. It was a relentless and histrionic parade of slander against video games and gamers. It has helped set back the public image of the video games by years if not decades. It made absolutely nobody happy in the gaming industry.

This result, this episode, shown to millions of non-gamers worldwide is the inevitable result of months of gaming press coverage on the rift between gamers that currently plagues our hobby. A rift that the gaming press are accountable for conflagrating through a slew of articles that only served to fan the flames, celebrate the extremists on both sides, magnify the rift and sensationalize the issue. There is a term for this, called yellow journalism, and it has started wars before. It has no place in a gaming press that is supposed to support our industry and gamers in particular, of all walks.

Now we're asking you, as the vanguard of the face of gamers to the mass media and the wider non-gaming masses, to help heal this rift and fix the damage you have caused.

You are our first line of defense when our industry and our hobby is attacked by a mass media and our own law-makers bent on either trivializing or demonizing our past-time, or worse, legislating it out of existence. You were there for us when Jack Thompson attempted to shut us down. You were there for us when we won 1st Amendment protection for video games in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. We want you to be there for us now.

At stake is no less than decades of work that we have all put in to win the right of games to stand alongside other media as art, as free speech, as valuable learning tools for our children, and more.

Help us. Help us restore the damage that has been done. Help us stop this wasteful, self-defeating, sensationalist coverage that does nothing to solve our differences, but only serves to drive us apart. Find the common ground, drive productive dialogue, and find solutions instead of simply pointing fingers.

We know you can do it. You've defended us before and we need you now more than ever. Wield your pens not as swords, but as the connective, collective narrative that will pull us together once again. Don't let “Intimidation Game” stand as the last word on our hobby and the face of gaming to the public. Do not go silent into that good night...

Mark Kern
@Grummz on Twitter
CEO of MEK Entertainment, Inc., President of League For Gamers, and Game Developer: Firefall, World of Warcraft, Diablo II, Starcraft

As strong a statement this was, It was felt at the time, that this would be met on deaf ears. The current conflict has been going on for nearly half a year, however the build-up has been going on since at least 2012. The final straw, of course were the August 28th "Gamers are Dead" articles, a series of articles all released at the same time throughout eight major game/technology themed journalism sites, as well as the blog of one Dan Golding, director of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. While the articles themselves were worded in varying degrees, they were all targeting gamers, and lambasting them for being sexist, Misogynistic and apparently to them, expendable. The most notable coming from media darling, and Editor of Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander.

“Gamer” isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use. Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad. 
These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had. 
There is what’s past and there is what’s now. There is the role you choose to play in what’s ahead.

If you have the time, please read that entire article as well as those others linked in the wiki. Now, Getting back on track, It was assumed this petition was taken as a admission of both guilt and compromise in order to patch things up, and make nice, hence the apprehension people had for it. For a group of journalists who decided that their own audience is "over" there seems no need to apologize for any perceived wrong-doing that  have nothing to do with, personally, that's the same as being mugged by someone months ago and then being forced to apologize to that mugger in order to appease the judge during trial. With that being said, many ultimately chose not to sign the petition, but mainly due to being unsure of the intentions of what many assumed was a "treaty". Fortunately, Mark had written additional information about the nature of this petition, which actually came as a breath of fresh air.

Since then, there have been as many as 1000 signatures (ED: at the time of writing this), and a lot of discussion in places like /r/KotakuInAction as well as twitter, but no response from the journalists whom this petition was aimed at. And then the journalists decided to respond. And respond they did!

The heroes that Games Journalism Deserve..

Patrick Garratt, writer for VG 24/7 writes a charged response article starting out with this quote:
"The popular video games press is not responsible for gaming’s enormous community problems, says Patrick Garratt, and developers proclaiming otherwise would do well to adjust their stances."
Yes, reader. Patrick found that he was so quotable that he quoted himself in the first paragraph of his own article. He also goes into a discussion about "Yellow Journalism", and then goes on to promote that same kind of behavior in his own writing.

What exactly is “yellow” journalism? According to Wikipedia, it’s “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension, the term yellow journalism is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.”
So what if a TV show says some gamers are nutters? It’s true, and it isn’t Kotaku and Polygon’s doing. Some “gamers,” based on the events of the past year, really are dangerous, violent, sexist idiots operating on the wrong side of the law. They belong in jail. That’s a fact. I can easily see a future in which some of the morons who’ve found a cosy home within Gamergate actually kill someone, and, hopefully, get locked away for life. The events of 2014 in relation to the feminist gamer movement, “Gamergate,” and threats made towards certain individuals, are not the fault of the fan-facing video games press. To suggest so is truly bizarre. It’s like calling the BBC responsible for the failure of Unkrainian antagonists to observe a ceasefire.

Because, clearly you have interviewed every gamer who has actively posted the #GamerGate hashtag to utilize this data in your work, right? This teamed with your extensive knowledge of  law, has made you the definitive source on who is on the right and wrong side of the law, correct? This can be seen in the large number of #GamerGate supporters being hauled off to jail for their wrongdoings.. Except, the fact that this has not happened. Not now, not ever.

In this strange new world, that has been crafted by out-of-touch journalists and their "narrative", Not only can you be arrogant enough to quote yourself, you can also place the definition of  a terribly manipulative journalistic practice in the sidebar, and then set it ironically next to a paragraph of you doing that same thing! Patrick, can we ask you a personal question? Are you fucking high? Please tell us that is the reason why this dense masturbatory piece of fluff you call an article exists. Please explain that the journalists who still are holding out, after six months of conflict, aren't absurd jackanapes who hold their sense of self importance higher than their own integrity. The expected response would be to say: "well that's just silly, of course we're interested in reporting the news and being fair and balanced", but our collective idiocy-to-English translator is apparently broken, and all these articles are just confusing people to a standstill.

what really hits home in Garratt's article is the way it ends; A paragraph that's considered as both a sort of a  cautionary advisement as well as a half-hearted thinly-veiled threat.
I’m going to finish this article with a call to developers thinking of jumping on this particular bandwagon. Please don’t. You’ll only make yourself look foolish to anyone other than the people that really are to blame for the negativity recently, and rightly, placed on “gamers” by the mainstream media over misogyny. You’re being suckered, and certain elements are obviously confused as to the real issue here, which is helping to ensure the video games industry – be it development, the press or simply the action of playing games – is inclusive, non-sexist and non-abusive. As was made blatantly obvious by Gamergate, the last thing the gaming community needs at the moment is more ill-informed bigots getting angry on the Internet. Think before you sign. It may be very difficult to erase the ink.
Wow! this, guy...
Obviously he's not the only Journalist who won't have anything to do with this petition. Ben "You would have to be willfully ignorant to believe that Soviet music in children's programing in 1984 was apolitical" Kuchera also tweeted that he wants nothing to do with anything concerning "that movement". This comes after the Polygon Editor was revealed as trying to get a Dick's Sporting Goods employee fired due to the person's Pro #GamerGate stance, which of course if you were following his antics in the "Tetris Effect" post, back in December, this falls in line with his Modus Operandi.

Aww, Ben. That's over half of your entire audience.. 

The problem with Ben's "no comment" stance, is that he has been the largest contributor to this issue. Ben, along with many others, were part of a now defunct Internet mailing group known as the "Game Journo pros" list, which allowed journalists from Kotaku Polygon, Ars Technica Destructoid, Game informer, The Verge, Game Politics and Cinema Blend, to discuss the events that eventually lead to #Gamergate, as well as colluding to financially help their friends, while protecting them through the use of their editorial abilities. In the revealing Brietbart article, Kuchera has been seen bullying people like former Escapist Senior Editor, Greg Tito into censoring forums because of discussions Kuchera, Editor of Polygon disapproves of.

And then there's Leigh Alexander, The aforementioned Editor of Gamasutra. In a recent tweet, she goes on to talk about the press and how the mainstream media loved games, before these Kotaku and Polygon articles came out.

above: cognitive dissonance in action.

Have you ever seen a cyclist race Le Tour de France backwards? because that's the level of backpedaling needed in order to wash your hands clean of this Exxon Valdez sized mess. Gamers aren't going to ignore the fact that you willfully threw your collective audience under the bus in order to avoid the fact that there was any hint of collusion underneath the surface of one of your fellow Journalist hubs.

The sheer arrogance just emanating from responses such as this and the following, just proves that there is a severe problem in Gaming Press space, and that a reform is in dire need of  happening. Or else we'll see more arrogant talking heads respond to scrutiny with declaration that they are the very model of a major modern journalist.

Sure you are.. 

The turning tide..

While the last remaining members of the Gaming press attempt  Pontius Pilate levels of absolution, Developers are actually coming forward, and speaking out. Alexander Macris (Archon) fired shots at Kuchera in the light of his tweet, and probably gained many more readers to his website, the Escapist. Adrian Chmielarz, Co-Owner/Creative Director at The Astronauts, vocally expressed his disinterest via twitlonger post.

I look down and whisper "no"

Mark Kern, himself has gone on via twitter and discussed the results of this petition, which was posted as followed:
 First, despite angering some GG and getting a lot of heated feedback, I have received zero harassment. Zero, zilch. You guys are good eggs. 
Second, many have suffered too long to want peace. I understand, but I am still about common ground if not this way, perhaps another. 
I also learned writing petitions is hard. Every word is important and scrutinized. I need to get better. 
I also learned that the issues run far deeper than i thought, and that the gulf between some Journos and gamers may be to wide to bridge. 
Finally I learned hashtags are like flags, and must be used carefully. it paints you with a broad brush. Another reason i avoid labels 1/2 
2/2 labels are too broad to represent individuals, who are complex and have different shades of opinion. But they are still useful. 
To be clear, I am not asking journos to ignore issues. I am telling them to write more constructive articles without Yellow Journalism. 
Also, Journos should not become the news themselves. Threatening to blacklist devs is about as smart as blacklisting customers. 
There used to be a law in journalism about "equal time" where each side gets a spot to make their point. they could start with that 1/2 
2/2 and then edit the articles to remove smearing and vitriol, and run side columns for fact checks on both sides, you know, their jobs. 
I support journalism. But journalism has hit hard times and that is distorting their behavior. Trying to find a better sustainable model.

This is actually a very interesting point of view on the state of journalism. Especially, bringing back some of the elements that made objective journalism what it was in it's time. It's felt that sensationalism, and the hunt for more "buzz-worthy" content is the cause for the tabloid nature of Journalism, today. It most certainly seems that's the cause for Games Journalism, at least. People like Kern wanting to fix that, means that despite the press eroding away due to Youtube, gamers and developers still feel there is a place for game journalism to exist.

 If certain members of the press choose not to go forward in a means to both change the way they do things, and help mend the divide, then it is on their own heads. Gamers aren't to blame for the loss of a job or the end of a business. An unchecked ship sinks itself, and once it's recognized that there are leaks in the boat, it's up for the people in that boat to come up with a plan to fill the holes, and get the water out, before it's too late.

It's interesting to watch this situation play out, because it really puts things in perspective for any future writer who wants to be involved in the gaming press, but wants to know how to go about it properly; The biggest rule would be to definitely not try to make yourself so important as to think you're above the ones you're writing about and the ones who you are writing for.

 the funny thing about being the support structure between two heavy slabs, is that once integrity is gone, you'll find yourself being crushed between the two almost instantly.

- Game on.

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