Rambilicious 100% Ramble-y Goodness

30Apr/150

“It’s about ethics in game journalism.”

It's become the punchline among industry professionals to the movement widely known as GamerGate, and it's kind of vexing me that nobody is taking it seriously.

Oh, not the wider "movement" or the disgusting behaviour being exhibited by many in and around it. No, it's deeply concerning that nobody seems to be taking the notion of ethics in our field seriously.

When asked to cite the genesis of the movement most will posit it was either the beginning of Adam Baldwin's involvement and the creation of That Hashtag, or they will point to the bitter ramblings of an ex-lover and the assorted accusations arising from it. Both have certainly served as nucleation points for the whole fizzing mess, but the truth requires digging a little deeper.

The common thread between both supposed starting points is that of alleged unethical behaviour within the gaming industry. What people initially latched on to was the belief that Zoe Quinn garnered undue attention for her game (Depression Quest) by sleeping with an assortment of men in advantageous positions.

That it was probably untrue never mattered to a lot of gamers. It was the impetus people needed to start digging, looking for further confirmation of a long held belief that games journalists and developers are colluding with one another in a dishonest fashion.

You see, GamerGate may have got its label and a level of coordination due to recent events, but the sentiment behind it has been boiling away for more than a decade. You could see it expressed in comments sections across the internet, where professional journalists would be accused of accepting kickbacks for positive coverage of a game, even when the games were generally well received.

And why? Well, partly we have ourselves to blame. A large segment of the gaming commentary community (journalists, critics, bloggers, et al) are in the business because they're gamers. It's almost an extension of our hobby, even when we're getting paid for writing about it.

And that's kind of a problem. Because it's primarily a fan based medium and the barrier to entry is so low, there's essentially no oversight. There's no central authority checking that everything is above board and nobody to lodge a complaint with, should anything suspicious be noticed.

Equally, there's no central body "we", the commentators, can approach for a tick of approval. We can't pin a badge on our online presences to indicate a respected authority has approved of our standards, nor is there a centralised set of standards we can sign off on upholding.

None of that means we're all unethical scumbags, of course. Far from it. As interested parties I'd argue we're actually less prone to corruption, since we don't want to see it happening any more than the general public. There'll be instances where people accept things they should not or are unduly influenced, but largely the people talking about games do it for the love of gaming rather than money or material goods.

Yet this is why GamerGate persists. For as much as people want to paint the sideshow as anti-women or anti-minorities or anti-gaming, the core concerns run much deeper and have been around for much longer than you might think. And we're probably not making our best effort at addressing those concerns.

Ultimately, it really is about ethics in game journalism. And I think we can do better than sweeping it under the carpet with a shared chuckle.