I tweeted my link to my Depression Quest review the other day, and accidentally walked into the Zoe Quinn Twitter battle. I try to tweet my games journalism multiple times, because I’m a narcissistic attention whore, or working freelance writer, tick where applicable, but this is the first time I’ve had to immediately block Twitter burners saying awful things to me about it.
Game designer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend has written a pretty scathing tell-all blog post, with dates and names and screenshots of chatlogs, accusing her of sleeping with several guys in the games industry. This would just be weird gossip about people I don’t really know, except for the disturbing number of people (gamers, male) who decide that a post from an angry ex is 100% true beyond all doubt, and proves that the female designer slept with reviewers for positive reviews of a clearly awful game. For large numbers of angry gamers, an ex’s blog post completely legitimatized the shadowy spectre of the talentless and immoral woman, sleeping her way to success, and so the angry hordes took to the internet to vilify Zoe Quinn, in the particularly terrible ways gamers are constantly awful to women on the internet, usually involving Photoshop and porn, or rape threats on burner accounts.
Info from an angry ex is often unreliable (source: Existing on earth), and social media screenshots can also “prove” that Aeneas was on Facebook. Not that I’m saying the ex made it up — I don’t actually know either of them, so for all I know, she cheated even more, with more guys in the industry, and he never found out. For all I know, his manifesto is the tiny tip of the cheating iceberg! She could have banged every man in the state while her boyfriend wasn’t looking! That doesn’t really have any bearing on the quality of her game design work, though.
For the record, I reviewed Depression Quest positively for Indie Game Mag, over a year ago, before any of this happened, and I chose to reshare the post during a wave of conversations about suicide and depression following Robin Williams’ suicide. Also, no one offered me sex or cash or kickbacks for it. Also if there really is a lot of money and prestige in reviewing indie games, I am definitely doing it all wrong.
Shaun at Discover Games has a really good take on it:
The difference in this case is that the developer is a woman, and the game she’s selling (as pay-what-you-want, I think it should be noted) is the exact kind of nontraditional game that makes myopic hateful nerdbros apoplectic with unrestrained rage. So, instead of people either ignoring it or reviewing the journalists’ writing and questioning their ethics as we do with every other case, all those angry nerdbros have turned this into the Scandal of the Century, and it’s all about the deceitful woman using her sexuality and feminine wiles to extract positive press for her terrible game that could not have gotten good press by any means other than her prostituting herself.
Ultimately, of the many accusations flying around, I have no idea which are true and which are not. And I mostly don’t care. I find it difficult to believe someone would sleep with people they didn’t want to sleep with just to get a few positive nods for a game they’re basically giving away for free. But even if it’s all true, I’m more interested in the way the story is being framed, and the way in which it is different from the numerous other instances of similar situations.
Anyway, Depression Quest is a good, thoughtful game, I hope you play it and I hope you get something out of it. Encountering angry dudebros on the internet is neither good or thoughtful, and I’m embarrassed that this kind of harassment and attack is (still, frequently) happening in my industry.