What all that Zoe Quinn Stuff Was About — A Totally Objective Appraisal of Events, Written by her Ex-boyfriend.
Oh man. Can’t a guy even blog about his ex without making the internet explode anymore? As TotalBiscuit so wonderfully put it “What the Hell Just Happened?” What’s this about?
- Is it about nepotism within the indie dev scene?
- Yeah kind of. And we’ll get to that.
- Is it about nepotism between developers and journalists?
- Again, kind of. And we’ll get to that too.
- Is it about — as Zoe put it — “a manifesto of [her] sexual past written by an openly malicious ex-boyfriend?”
- Not really. Any references to her sexual past were specifically censored so as to minimize harassment. And I’ve been spending the past week trying to get people to have more levelheaded discussions.
- Is it about the effect of SJ in games?
- Well, only insofar as it ties back to the nepotism thing; and people’s views there seem to be less nuance and more keyboard smash. But we’ll get to it.
- Is it about — as Zoe’s totally not manipulative response suggested — “a desire to use 4Chan as my own personal army?”
- Well, this was originally posted on Something Awful and Penny Arcade as threads innocuously titled Cringe-Worthy Break Up Stories. So no. 4Chan just picked it up, and was the only place that didn’t proceed to ban any mention of it.
- Maybe it’s about censorship and suppression of information?
- Or is it about Zoe’s use of headlines from Robin William’s Suicide to make a blog post promoting her game? Is it about doxxing, or harassment, or misogyny?
I’ll address these issues here — from the viewpoint of someone who spent literally no more than a total of 2 and a half weeks trying not to let my jaw drop observing the scene as a fly on the wall; and from the point of view of someone who’s watched most of the events and discussions unfold since day 0.
Some of those discussions were hoped for but not expected, a few intended but not accomplished, and some expected but feared from the instant Something Awful deleted the thread. This can be about all of those things, because all of those things happened. But none of them were the primary purpose of that giant blog about my ex. And we’ll get to that too eventually. But first:
Nepotism is both the charm and the bane of the indie dev scene. At its best, it’s a friend asking a friend to work on a game with them in their mom’s basement, or a husband and wife collaborating on a project. At its worst, it’s a gigantic clique driven highschool, but with old people and money on the line.
This is incredibly toxic! I’ve had people contact me after reading the blog who want to speak out about things Zoe has done to them or their friends professionally or personally (or both, she mixes the two a lot), who are too afraid to go public for fear of repercussions from the community on which they rely.
A woman went so far as to write a pseudonymous blog post, detailing the extent to which she had to keep her religious beliefs a secret in the scene, because her livelihood depended on support from the loose cliques which would take offense to those beliefs.
Let me repeat that: she was afraid she would be ostracized for the things she would vote for!
Those are things that we have actual laws against, and for good fucking reason.
Imagine going in for a job interview and being declined because you voted no on marijuana decriminalization. Nepotism in the indie scene is sort of like that, except you don’t get to file a complaint, because the people who turn you down aren’t a company, they’re just a bunch of friends who don’t want to piss off their friends. Because their livelihood depends on friends too.
Unless you’re either already successful, or have a game so damn good you don’t need to worry about avenues of exposure, almost everyone’s livelihood in the scene depends on other people’s support.
Social Justice is something I’ve been inundated with questions about.
At their worst the questions are of the form “Why are you stupid enough to support SJ?” and at their best they’re of the form “Why are you stupid enough to support SJ in front of 4Chan?”
This ties back to the nepotism thing. Yes, SJ has become a big part of the scene. But for good reason — it has to be there. Because the scene without it was and would likely again become an Old Boys club. Again, if your financial livelihood is tied to support from people who are successful or connected, and those people are either actively hostile to you or simply too far removed from your life experiences to be comfortable establishing a meaningful friendship, then it’s going to be that much more difficult to break into the scene.
SJ needsto be there because the scene is nepotistic. However, because the scene is nepotistic, SJ forms a group of cliques (there are SJ cliques that don’t like Zoe, btw). Which means SJ cliques can then deny you their support or lead others away from supporting you if they don’t agree with your religious or political beliefs. This isn’t to say that the potential for SJ cliques to do that is wrong — they’re not a company or a business — they’re just what you would naturally expect. People won’t like you if you have beliefs that are hurtful or dehumanize them or are actively against their own interests, and then their friends won’t like you because that’s how friendship works.
The other thing to understand there is that SJ in games isn’t the problem. SJ in games is the thing that arose as a response to the problem. But instead of fixing the problem, it simply adapted to it.
But again, so long as the nepotism is there, SJ needs to be there, or else it will be impossible for anyone but a straight white guy to break into the scene once every two years. And yes, to be entirely blunt and apolitical, it can mean the scene becomes exclusive in other domains. It means things are more inclusive on average, but it’s still a trade-off.
Games Journalism — no I meant games “journalism” — is basically PR and rife with all sorts of nepotism that no self respecting publication outside of games would allow. Forget that Zoe had sex with someone who covered her game jam fiasco a few days earlier. Romantic relationships with people in the industry would only be a very small part of the problem. The issue is that in general journalists being close friends or romantic partners with people in the industry they’re covering can be prone to biases — not only because journalists can offer exposure to their friends, but because they can be influenced by those friends to give good reviews to their friends. Or even more toxic, they can be influenced away from covering the games of people who those journalist’s friends don’t like.
My personal opinion — if you want to address issues of nepotism in the scene, start by addressing nepotism between journalists and devs. Institute new standards, and think very very carefully about the effects they will have on the industry being covered.
That won’t fix the nepotistic monetary support issue, but it will at least help address the nepotistic exposure issue, and a host of issues that arise from that.
4Chan is not my personal army. 4Chan is not a collective. 4Chan is the only place that was willing to talk about something that got banned from pretty much the entire internet for the better part of a week. Everything that’s happened since SA and PA deleted the threads I made in the hopes of having a healthy discussion, has been exactly what anyone would have expected to happen. Which is of course, a flood of harassment mixed with only the occasional good point, followed by an increasing number of good points, followed primarily by good points and just some harassment. I didn’t expect the Polytron thing though. What the hell was that about?
Also, 4Chan seriously raised > $10,000 on a venture by The Fine Young Capitalists to support women in games! A group that made every effort to figure out why Zoe decided to cause a twitter storm telling people not to support them, and made every effort to address any grievances she may have had. A group which Zoe ignored the efforts of, because she, as far as I can tell, didn’t want to lose face by changing her stance after causing a twitter storm.
With tongue firmly in cheek, I will say I don’t know why it took this many months for her to finally change her mind about TFYC.
The “jilted ex” thing news articles keep referring to me as is stupid. That’s not what jilted means. I’m the one who dumped Zoe. Also, way to go publications: you’ve managed to ignore every important issue just so you can dismiss this as sexism.
doxxing is NOT A THING YOU GO ON TWITTER ABOUT. If you have just been doxxed, do not confirm, or deny, or even mention that you have been doxxed. A lot of people have been asking whether or not I believe she was actually doxxed. And I will not answer that question, because there is no ethically acceptable way to answer that question. But for future reference to a general audience, if you’re ever actually getting doxxed, ask yourself if you care more about letting it blow over so your friends and family feel safe, or if you care more about drawing attention to yourself at the cost of essentially shouting “yes doxxers, you’re totally doxxing the people you’re looking to doxx!”
Phil Fish went on angry rant on twitter, then told Wolf Wozniak to STFU after he tried to speak out about Zoe allegedly sexually harassing him, and Wolf Wolfgang promptly deleted the tweet and stepped the fuck down. Another woman called Zoe out on having slept with her boyfriend. Zoe acknowledged it. They had a tiffle, the woman deleted the tweet, and said something like “be kind to everyone, even those undeserving of your kindness.” Which I thought was just the greatest possible response, but anyway
That doesn’t mean Phil faked the Polytron hack (oh, if you’re lost, a few days ago the servers of the company behind Fez got hacked). He had nothing to gain from posting a bunch of SSNs and financial data on the internet. The more likely options are:
- He was doxxed.
- Someone who wanted to steal money took advantage of the situation and made it look like he was doxxed so as to divert suspicion.
I’m leaning toward he was doxxed, and I think that was a mean thing to do. And releasing SSNs and financial data was a flat out unethical thing to do. Whether the hack was retaliatory or opportunistic isn’t important.
What’s important is that I bought a copy of Fez, so if my data is there please don’t steal my money. Thanks!
Youtube DMCAs, sitewide reddit deletions of all threads linking to the blog, banned threads on a host of forums, banned threads on WizardChan, banned threads on /v/, then /r9k/ are all things that happened. I still have no clue why those are all things that happened. But I watched them happen.
I can imagine WizardChan did it because they learned not to get in any way involved with anything related to Zoe Quinn (a few threads popped up there right after Zoe’s tweet, and were promptly deleted). And I don’t blame them.
Reddit admins are claiming they deleted all relevant threads because they were noticing strange upvote patterns.
The Youtube DMCA take down notice on a video talking about thezoepost was either filed by Zoe, or someone claiming to be Zoe, but in any case the video was taken down on grounds that it used a screenshot from Depression Quest (the game Zoe made).
Threads in general sub-forums across a host of sites were being deleted on the grounds that the topic was not worthy of discussion.
In the meantime, thezoepost had been getting more unique visitors in five days than there are people in Samoa.
My opinion, if everyone is trying to discuss it, it’s worthy of discussion. It’s worthy of six different discussions, because that’s how many discussions came of it. If you’re modding a general discussion subforum, why the hell are you banning topics everyone wants to discuss?
The reason this exploded is that the entire industry has secretly been more combustible than Phil Fish’s twitter account. It’s not just that something was wrong. It’s that EVERYTHING IS WRONG.
The indie dev scene runs on nepotism, games journalism doesn’t only participate in and exploit the nepotism but actively exacerbates it, SJ adapts to the nepotism instead of addressing it, a very vocal minority of fans spend an inordinate amount of energy harassing devs with sexist or racist comments, and this is somehow all business as usual.
Zoe Quinn in the meantime, manages to take advantage of the sexist harassment which very very much exists, to propel herself to prominence by exposure, and finesses her way through nepotistic ranks until she has enough power to weaponize the SJ crowd against a group of people who are literally just trying to get women into games.
And yes, I’m aware that the whole “Zoe Quinn is only famous because she claimed harassment” thing is tired and tiresome. No, she didn’t just claim harassment, she almost certainly got it. That’s not the issue. Three things to note before we continue:
- Depression Quest was a good and novel game, and it deserved to be greenlit regardless of the harassment.
- Harassment increases her exposure every single time it happens. When she gets harassed (and she shouldn’t be getting harassed, stop doing that), she uses it to her advantage. The media covers it, and people hear about her, and her twitter follower counts go up (in the case of this particular harassment episode [I think this is her fourth?] her twitter follower count went up from 18.8k to 23k) and patreon support flows in.
- That game was a two person effort. She made it with someone else. Off the top of their head, does anyone know what his name is? Anyone?
Right — personal speculation here: He was male, so no one harassed him. No one harassed him, so no one heard of him.
And this is precisely the sort of insanity that just caused the internet to explode. Two people were working on literally the same game, and the only one who got famous for it was the one who had to deal with a ton of fucked up sexist bullshit four distinct times in one year.
This is not an acceptable situation!
This is not how anything anywhere should work.
There shouldn’t be sexist bullshit. There shouldn’t be people benefiting from sexist bullshit. There shouldn’t be people languishing because they’re immune to sexist bullshit. There shouldn’t be journalists buying devs hotel rooms to stay in their good graces because they got famous after a ton of sexist bullshit.
There shouldn’t be devs pretending to be friends with journalists so they can get exposure the old fashioned way instead of by being subjected to bullshit. There shouldn’t be people who are afraid of how they vote because it might cost them their livelihoods. There shouldn’t be a situation in which that sort of thing is the lesser of two evils, and there shouldn’t be a bunch of people in my inbox telling me they’re all too afraid to lose their standing in the scene by speaking out against the ways Zoe Quinn has fucked up their lives.
I wrote thezoepost with one main goal and a few side goals — because I figured I’d take the opportunity. The side goals have exploded. And I feel the main goal has more or less succeeded as a result.
That main goal was to warn people about Zoe Quinn. After seven months of dating her I learned that she is not the paragon of virtue she pretends to be (I did not even know people could be that self serving or convincing or cruel before I met her), she does not believe what she claims to believe, and all I know of what is wrong with the industry, I know from watching her exploit it.
Thezoepost wordpress isn’t there to convince you not to support her, or to convince you not to work with her, or even to convince you not to date her. It’s there to give you the information you need to make decisions that don’t harm your career, and don’t risk your physical or emotional wellbeing. And to that end I think the main goal has been accomplished. Everyone is aware that there is at least a thing about Zoe Quinn which they should read before they invest in her, and that’s all I needed to know to feel okay.
The side goals seem to be heading in a healthy direction, and I trust the people who cared enough to discuss them to address them.
I’ll still be around for people who have questions. Be they about any of the topics above, or general comiseration about patterns of relationship abuse discussed in the blog that started all of this, and I’m glad that everything is moving in a positive direction.
But I still want my headphones back.