#Gamergate Fisking Chris Scullion

Screenshot from 2015-07-30 23:44:14

But all I did was write off a whole subculture as angry teenage boys! Why are people upset?!?

NB: Chris would prefer that we think of him as a lazy idiot who doesn’t put any effort into his articles, rather than a malicious propagandist. I’d actually prefer if this were true as it’s more forgiveable, so fair enough. Let’s consider him stupid and shit at his job, rather than actively malicious.

Chris Scullion is a games media writer who has recently written an article for Vice and a follow-up on his own blog.

Here’s the non-archived links.



Now, Chris claims to have been a games writer for a very long time, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t take him at his word. Given the content and nature of these two articles that either means he’s breathtakingly incompetent, or acting maliciously.

Having tried to talk to him on Twitter and having read both articles, I’m forced to conclude that, in my opinion, that he is acting maliciously. This would seem, to me, to be less insulting than being called stupid – which is the only other possible conclusion if we assume he did any of his research properly.

It does properly beggar belief that such a supposed veteran could get so much wrong.

Let’s start with the Vice article and continue from there.

Vice – We’re All Gamers…

In our conversation on Twitter, Chris didn’t seem to understand why people would object to this, or why they would see this as a turnaround from the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles OR why one journalist might be deemed to speak for another or as a bloc.

People object to it for the same reasons they objected to the ‘Gamers are dead’ articles. It eliminates their self-identification and in both cases is based around a total misunderstanding of what a ‘gamer’ is. In the case of the ‘dead’ articles the suggestion was that the identity should be gotten away from, that it was bad, nasty, toxic and should be eliminated. In Chris’ article the same end is achieved (rendering the identity meaningless) but in his case by over-extending it to the point of meaninglessness.

So it is possible, and is indeed the case, to both contradict the previous 10+ articles beating the same dead horse and simultaneously make the same mistake in a different way.

Why might one journalist be expected to speak for others or be seen as a bloc? There’s a large degree of homogeneity in games-press positions and ideas and dissenters usually stand out pretty clearly. Chris does not and is, furthermore, working for a publication that recently announced the hiring of some of the worse people who started off or contributed to Gamergate taking off. It’s unfortunate, but he’s going to be tarred with that brush and, given GameJournoPros, not without good reason to be suspicious.

As a long time gamer, Chris should know – if he’s being honest – what the term ‘gamer’ means. Not everyone who plays games is a gamer any more than any 14 year old, drunk off her tits on screwtop Lambrusco is a sommelier or someone who only ever reads The Bible is a bibliophile. ‘Gamer’ implies a hobbyist, someone who is engaged with and cares about games, someone steeped in the history, the lore, the process of making games in the way a film buff is engaged with Cinema.

This is the first hint that ‘something is up’.

And yet there are some gamers who are unhappy with the way things are going. Some who feel the definition of that very title – gamer – is being challenged, and they don’t like it.

To some, you aren’t a gamer unless you’re playing a traditional console or PC game: a first-person shooter, an RPG, a 3D platformer. If you’re the sort who only plays mobile games or are addicted to Pirate Kings on Facebook, you apparently don’t count as a gamer.

A sideways swipe at Gamergate obvious enough to anyone who has been abreast of events for the last 12 months, but also obviously erroneous to anyone who has kept abreast of those same events

There are people unhappy with the way things are going, but not so much because of the rise of mobile games etc, but because of moral panics, censorship and political interference in gaming. The same kinds of people who objected to Jack Thompson in the 90s, Pat Pulling in the 80s or Frederick Wertham in the 70s. There are also people unhappy with the way the games media has been acting – these articles being prime examples – seemingly being simultaneously out of touch with their audience and in bed with PR and agenda-pushing developers.

Games media no longer serves its customer base and, indeed, often treats them with contempt as this article does.

‘Casual gaming’ for want of a better term, does present a problem when it comes to the identity of gamers, but furthermore it also feeds into the issues of censorship and political interference.

By way of a singular example, the much-touted statistic that ‘half of all gamers are women’ only applies if you do count all those mobile and social media games, yet that statistic is used as a political bludgeon on console and PC games. While it’s true that gender disparity is closing across game genres and platforms it’s not accurate to say 50% when talking about ‘proper games’ and the women that do like ‘proper games’ tend to have as much of a problem with these gaming culture issues as the guys do (#NotYourShield).

So the immediate assumptions and aspersions cast towards the gamer community are almost immediately obvious here.

Of course, these people are wrong. Everyone who enjoys playing games, regardless of format or genre or budget, is a gamer.

And everyone who takes a picture of their penis and sends it someone is Larry Flynt. Right?

No. ‘Gamer’ is not the same as ‘plays games’, whether it’s computer games or otherwise. Grandma isn’t a ‘boardgame fan’ because she owns everyone at Monopoly every Christmas.

Back then it was almost as if playing video games was something to be ashamed of if you weren’t a schoolboy. If you knew of a girl playing games it was a big deal, and if you knew of an adult playing them it was even bigger.

The irony here, of course, being that now it’s people like the author who are shaming and bullying gamers, in large part via the spurious accusations of misogyny which this article just adds to by presuming this anti-female attitude or that women necessarily have a worse time of it in gaming. A claim with scant evidence reliant on shoddy research, which the recent ‘Losers‘ study serves as a fine example of.

Two things spring to mind. The first, frankly, is shush. Not only are the fears from some self-proclaimed gamers that their precious hobby is being taken from them by dreaded women and casuals completely unfounded, they’re single-minded and annoying to gamers like me who are adamant of one thing: they don’t speak for us.

The preceeding paragraph being a complaint that people object to the current model of ‘free to play’, DLC and ‘pay to win’ which this does nothing to support or to counter the objections. Instead it conjures up the spectre of of the misogynist gamer, a libellous accusation against a huge swathe of people and implicitly directed at Gamergate (despite all the women and minority gamers who are part of it).

This is a strawman argument, it always was. You’re the media, you’re supposed to speak for gamers, but if you’re that out of touch with gamers, how can you? Yet he – again – claims to have been a gamer for a long time, which renders it unlikely he’d be so utterly, breathtakingly ignorant of the community or would make these misogyny claims… unless he’s being disingenuous, which in turn suggests malice.

He goes on and on, further misdiagnosing the complaints, further throwing strawman misogyny etc claims and so on, again, implicit charges against Gamergate. Since the start Gamergate – and broader objections – have been against moral panic and censorship. People don’t object to games being open to more people, most gamers are evangelical about games, they object to certain practices and pressures upon games which are side effects of this, or the way in which this diversification is being used as a club to beat gaming over the head with.

Which Chris should know, if he knows gaming culture at all, which he should, which means this must – logically – be malicious.

Lots of people play games Chris, not all are gamers, which any gamer should know.

Now on to his blog post…

Game Journalism: That Prick

This was his reaction to the reaction he got to his previous article, which was – unsurprisingly – negative. People are utterly sick, at this point, of being mistreated, misrepresented and ignored. As a (very) late addition to the Gamers Are Dead articles AND a contradiction to them, little wonder he got angry responses.

The bulk of it is a rather tortured and extended metaphor with Games Journalism as if it were a real person growing up and doing various things as he does so. It’s pretty awful, so I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say it misses out a great deal and paints game journalism in a relatively glowing light.

While true early gaming journalism (Spectrum through to Atari/Amiga) days was a lot more fun and a lot more honest, the rot set in pretty early when you started getting ‘house organs’. Nintendo Power and the like weren’t actual journalism, they were PR mouthpieces and White Dwarf clearly stole the idea circa 1990 or so (around WD100) when it ditched being a general RPG mag and became a glorified shopping catalogue as well.

Mention of this aspect of early games journalism is conspicuously absent.

When he gets to the internet age he seems to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the consumer.

The immediacy of the internet also led to a greater need to report on this sort of gaming news. Magazines tended to focus on game previews and reviews because by they knew by the time they were printed and published any news in them would be out of date. But on the internet Games Journalism could now deliver news quickly.

We wanted to know things, we were interested in our hobby and, somehow, this was a bad thing and the demand could only be met by games journalists acting like dicks, apparently.

Because happy people are generally quiet people, this meant the majority of voices making themselves heard in Games Journalism’s comments sections and forums were actually those from the negative minority.

Listening to them, Games started writing negative news stories, thinking it would generate more traffic. It was right. As is the case in general news reporting, scandal sells: a story about a game running better on Xbox 360 than on  PS3 got many times more traffic than one simply showing screenshots of a new game. People on the internet like arguing, and Games Journalism gave people a place to do it.

‘You gamers are terrible people and you made us engage in clickbait and shitty journalism, because reasons’.

This is the justification behind Gawker, and look how badly they’re doing now. Even though practically every other ‘journalism’ site has followed suit with sensationalist pseudo-trolling, we may be witnessing a die-back in clickbait journalism and there’s definitely a chance, an opportunity, here to carve out a niche in terms of actual, factual, well researched and well thought out reporting.

More irony here in that the ‘we’re all gamers’ article was negative bait itself.

These days, these arguments are no longer confined to squabbles among Games Journalism’s readership. In recent times Games Journalism itself has come under criticism, mainly from certain groups of angry people. For example, last year Games wrote an article explaining that ‘gamers’ are dead which enraged a small number of people more than willing to be offended. Yet just this week, it wrote another, this time called ‘We’re All Gamers’.

It’s worth reiterating at this point exactly WHY games journalism has come under attack.

It has forgotten what it’s for. When it’s not troughing PR money and free laptops it’s prosecuting extreme political agendas. Rather than defending gaming as it did in the 90s against the far right, it’s going along with the far left, even though the claims and threats to free expression and creativity are much the same and for much the same reasons. It’s rotten to the core, it treats its audience with contempt and it keeps pulling bullshit like these two articles.

Small numbers? Active participants in Gamergate (the implicit reference here) are hard to gauge, but a small estimate is 150,000 and with 50,000 some people on Kotaku in Action alone, this doesn’t seem unlikely. GamerGhazi on the other hand, the site of the opposition – claimed to be in a majority – can only garner the support of around 8,000 people on Reddit.

Gamers as a whole are generally not fans of censorship, as previous experience with Jack Thompson etc attest. It is absurd to think that anger is limited to Gamergate, or to a minority of ‘proper gamers’. The games media appears to be very much in the minority on this, and that requires examination as well.

To suggest that it is the people objecting to this treatment that are the ones ‘willing to be offended’ is just absurd. Gamergate, and the broader reaction against this stuff, is a reaction AGAINST the terminally offended who think everything is racist, everything is sexist and that the only solution is the ban or control everything or force everything into a world of checklist diversity and box-ticking inclusion.

Gamergate is part of a broader cultural war AGAINST those who wish to be offended by everything and thence to control it.

The ‘Gamers Are Dead’ article – as it’s usually referred to – that I mentioned above was actually one entitled ‘Gamers don’t have to be your audience: Gamers are over’. It was written by Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra eleven months ago (and, incidentally, doesn’t mention the word ‘dead’ at any point, but why let facts get in the way of hyperbole).

It wasn’t one article, it was a spate of them, seemingly coordinated, some of which did use such terminology and ‘over’ etc, which lead to them being collectively termed the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles, but why let facts get in the way of minimising what was done and building another strawman?

I explained earlier why this was backtracking and contradictory, why it upset people and why journos are now seen as a hostile bloc already, so there’s no need to go over this again.

For good or ill, gaming journalism is now majoratively seen as hostile to its audience and as part of the problem. You have a lot to work against to overcome that Chris, and contributing – belatedly – to the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles with a contradictory yet supportive article, with no research and little consideration is not going to help you. Nor is a follow-up blog feigning surprise that shitting on your audience and parading your ignorance of them upsets them.

Mind you, given that some of them are so distrustful that they’ll actually link to an archived version of this very article instead of the article itself so I don’t get any traffic from it (a practice that is legally dubious at best… at least it would be were it not for the fact that I don’t actually make any ad revenue for this site so they’re looking at a poorly formatted pirate copy of my article for no good reason), it would appear I’m somehow no friend of theirs.

It denies shitty sites ad revenue (if you want to be whitelisted, do better work) and ensures that the article in question cannot disappear by being altered or deleted – something which has been happening a fair bit. So again, you don’t understand what you’re talking about and haven’t taken the time to do the research.

Regardless, despite having never actually been properly involved in making my specific and detailed thoughts known on that sort of thing, I have lost count how many times I’ve been accused of corruption, hypocrisy and lies because of what “Games Journalism” has said in the past.

My response to these people is always the same. My name is not Games Journalism. My name is not Vice. My name is Chris Scullion.

And by writing a shitty pair of articles that implicitly or explicitly shit on your audience and expose how out of touch you are, you’ve shown that you too, are part of the problem. It might be unfair, but if Gamergate is going to be held responsible for the actions of trolls who have fuck all to do with it, then you can be held responsible for any bad thing any games journalist does. Given that the issues in games journalism seem to be systemic, it’s probably a lot fairer to hold you accountable, especially after these articles, than it is an anarchic hashtag.

But if anyone is ever exposed of corruption – and I mean proper corruption, not fellow professionals discussing the industry in a private forum – in no way does that give you the green light to go “AHA! PROOF that Games Journalism is corrupt.” If one person is ever proven to be corrupt, that one person is corrupt. The rest of us are not responsible for their actions. If a footballer bites another player, they’re banned. Not their team, not their league, certainly not their entire sport.

Chris asked for evidence of hypocrisy, well here it is. He’ll happily paint whole swathes of gamers as ‘angry teenagers’ and collectivise and broad-brush their opinion and imagined wrongdoings, but reverse the flow of accusation and he pitches a fit. That’s hypocrisy Chris.

I also can’t stress this enough: if you can’t just let an article lie and need to tell the writer you’re peeved, do so respectfully. If you tweet them with an attitude, dropping snarky, passive-aggressive comments or outright dishing out insults or abuse, you won’t get a reply: if anything, you’ll be blocked. Contrary to what you may think, this doesn’t mean they’re “hiding from the truth” or that you’ve won. It means you’re a fucksmith.

I also can’t stress this enough: If you can’t let something lie and just have to slag off your own audience and libel them all as misogynistic, reactionary shitlords, do so with a modicum of respect. If you write shitty, poorly researched articles calling them names, misrepresenting their complaints or outright abusing them you’ll get an angry response. Contrary to what you think, this doesn’t mean your shitty article was right, it means you’re part of the problem.

Follow your own fucking advice and stop contributing to the problem. Make the minimal effort it actually takes to know what you’re talking about, get back in touch with gaming culture, learn how to filter trolls from genuine disagreement and write better articles.

Or you’re just a fucksmith.