GamerGate: Let's talk about ethics when you start showing them

The debate over journalism ethics in videogames is overblown. 

The debate over journalism ethics in videogames is overblown. 

I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with some sort of response to the whole Gamergate fiasco/protest/whatever you call it. I’ve tried ignoring people talking about it, I’ve tried teasing them, I’ve tried having a basic conversation.

All of these methods have revealed exactly what we already know:

People just simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

I could talk about how GamerGate is really a manifestation of the jealousy so many people feel about journalists being able to write about games. I could talk about how people outside of an industry just have absolutely no clue about how that industry works, how people are employed, or hell, how to even invoice a publication – because they’ve never been able to break past a certain barrier.

This isn’t a “holier than thou” speech, it’s just fact. Because here’s the difference between those who support GamerGate and those who don’t: Most journalists don’t write about games because they love games. Most journalists write about games because they love writing.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the people who have been on the Crafting podcast, it’s that if they weren’t writing about games, they’d be writing about something else. They don’t have an identity crisis over games because they are well-rounded, interesting people who have the ability to think beyond a medium they tend to enjoy.

Kirk Hamilton loves music. Brian Crecente was a crimes reporter for years. Russ Pitts worked in video production.

None of these people would call themselves a quote-unquote “gamer”. Or at least, I don’t think of them identifying themselves by a stereotype. I think of them as people who have fantastic skills and like to enjoy video games.

On the other hand, we have “gamers”. Self-proclaimed gamers who identify so much with their medium, they respond harshly to op-eds suggesting the term might be broadening out to something beyond their control.

(In reality, the death of the term “gamer” really just refers to an expansion of the medium rather than anything being taken away – don’t worry, your Call of Duty will be here for a while yet).

Over the past few days I’ve talked with people who want ethics and transparency in games journalism. Usually these come from Twitter profiles of people who call themselves “gamers” and might even write for small fan sites.

Here’s the problem with that: Most of the people who call themselves “gamers” at industry events are some of the worst when it comes to displaying ethics and a sense of decency.

Every single time I see them, they are:

-       Clapping during press conferences

-       Making inappropriate statements during demos by developers and interrupting them to ask questions like, “will I be able to use a batarang when fighting Aquaman?” (This actually happened).

-       Getting as much swag as possible before moving on to the next booth. (There's a huge difference in being given a t-shirt on the way out and blocking the entrance trying to get as much stuff as possible). 

-       Chatting up developers about other games while performing an “interview” that is 90% the interviewee talking

-       Being the first to respond whenever Xbox or Sony people try to drum up the crowd: “Who’s excited to be here?!”

-       Not bothering to do any research on the people they’re interviewing

-       Wearing sweaty t-shirts and posing for pictures with booth babes and having the gall to wear a press badge at the same time.

Want to know what the writers so-derided by “gamers” are doing? They’re running to their next appointment, in between going to the press room to make sure content is up online. They’re foregoing parties to go back to their hotel room to write, even though they’re exhausted and they have to be up at 5am the next day to do an on-camera with the producer of Super Football Adventures 5 - and they have to ask insightful questions while doing so.

More importantly, they keep everything in perspective - they understand the difference between real corruption, like Watergate, and small-town stuff like the relationships between game makers and a trade press.

You want to talk about ethics? Sure. Let’s talk about how it’s unprofessional for developers and journalists to live together and be friends. There is an honest-to-god necessary conversation we need to have about disclosures when it comes to Kickstarters and Patreon contributions.

But I’m only going to have it when you wear nice shoes, tuck in your shirt, and get your fucking act together at an industry event. I’m only going to engage with you when you display the type of ethics you want everyone else to have, and I’m sure as hell not going to have it when you’re talking about hijacking panels at PAX.

If you want journalists to display ethics, (which the vast majority already are), then awesome. I completely agree.

Just start displaying them yourself.