So as most of us took this unfortunately departed weekend to unwind from the week, one man took his time to carefully lay out his personal experiences in a romantic relationship with the creator of the fantastic Depression Quest, Zoe Quinn. If you haven’t read the story yet, Quinn allegedly cheated on the author with multiple people while sending him into a spiral where he couldn’t tell if he was being paranoid or something was wrong. Whether or not the story is true is far from the point. As it stands, it is an incredibly personal matter that really shouldn’t be on the Internet for all to see. But this is 2014 and if you can even slightly be considered a public figure, expect your dirty laundry to be draped in the open with a spotlight on it.
Who is Zoe Quinn?
Zoe Quinn is an independent video game designer. She is most notable for her project Depression Quest, a free-to-play narrative experience that aims to show what the experience of depression entails. Depression Quest is a fantastic game that should be experienced by all, as I found it did accurately represent how I felt when I was depressed and provides quality insight as to why depression is such a problem. Quinn became ‘Internet famous’ after she submitted Depression Quest to Steam Greenlight and became the target of intense, unrelenting harassment. As a result, she has become a spokesperson in the constantly growing movement in the video game community to fight back against the sexual harassment of women and general injustice. She took a public stance to fight back, labelling her as a “Social Justice Warrior” and forever pissing off swaths of the gaming community. Quinn was also one of the indie developers involved in the infamous Game_Jam reality show that attempted to shove product placement down the throats of the developers involved and also sexually harassed the women involved. If you haven’t read that story, you definitely should as it is factually corroborated and a shocking look at humanity.
Why is this news?
So why is this news? Why are people freaking out that someone may or may not have been an adulterer? Isn’t this none of my god damn business unless I want to romantically pursue said person, and even then, it’s said person’s responsibility or choice to reveal certain aspects of their past to me, not some dude on the Internet? Allow me to answer that writing from the assumption that the accusation that Zoe Quinn is an adulterer is true, as most of why this would be news revolves around that. If it isn’t true it is just another example of someone harassing a prominent female figure for reasons that are unbeknownst to us. This story would be the same one you keep hearing and some of you keep trying to tune out, that women are being harassed for simply being female at a staggering rate that is not only difficult to comprehend, is almost impossible to understand without also being a victim. If this is true, however, it presents a much larger problem and poses a serious question that consumers have to ask themselves. Quinn stands, supportive of and supported by, side by side with fellow feminist gamers such as Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian in the raging fight against sexism in the video game industry. Say what you want about their methods, their hearts are in the right place and their intentions are good. The fight against sexism is far from over. That is not the issue here. The issue comes from a figurehead going against what they preach.
The Actual Problem
As a feminist, Quinn has stated that having sex with your partner also engaging in an affair is tantamount to have non-consensual sex with your partner, as they essentially ‘don’t know where you’ve been.’ By cheating on her then boyfriend, she was moving against everything she stands for in the public. Cheating is never a good thing, but where this becomes more than a private issue is due to her strong feminist voice in the public. Whether or not Quinn should be forgiven or punished for her actions has absolutely nothing to do with her public persona. It is an issue that rests solely in the hands of the person she wronged, who has clearly decided to punish her, and her own mind. Further harassment is nothing more than ‘slut shaming’ and should be treated like all misogynistic bullshit. We are all human and we do all make mistakes, but we aren’t all public figures. Quinn’s actions will be used as fuel in the fight against feminism. As a spokesperson in the feminism movement, these action can now be used to throw all of her legitimately good ideals and actions into question. After all, if Zoe Quinn, Miss Feminism, can use a person just like she claims men use women, is how society is right now really wrong? That conclusion may be garbage, but it can be the convincing factor that doesn’t help teach misogynists that their actions are wrong, but instead reinforce their awful behavior. That’s what being a public figure is about, knowing that you are being watched by an audience and your actions will be judged by them. Quinn’s silence about the issue, be it from not wanting to fuel the incendiary fires by denying it or refusing to accept what happened, only exacerbates the problem just as commenting either way would only be met with more hatred. She is in the most precarious of positions with no real way out.
Do you care?
Whether or not you care about this comes down to whether or not you can separate the art from the artist. Does it bother you that Matthew Broderick killed two people in a car accident? Or that Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, likes to use his money to oppress homosexuals? Or does your love for Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood let you forgive Doug Tennapel for also being an antigay bigot? Depression Quest is an incredible experience, but can you play it or any other games that Zoe Quinn makes without thinking that she betrayed the person closest to her? If none of those values or actions make their way into the content I want to enjoy, I’ve been content with knowing that while I don’t like the creator, I can still enjoy what they create. This is an immensely personal decision that you have to make on your own, and it took me a while to accept as well. Ender’s Game is still one of my favorite novels of all time and I still recommend it to people. I haven’t seen depression so expertly conveyed as in Depression Quest and I will continue to recommend it as a powerful force in understanding this problem.
Whether or not Quinn did commit the accused acts is ultimately pointless. The damage has been done and anything further will only be considered a lie or further proof that this voice against oppression is a cheating scumbag. I’m going to keep playing her games and continue to remind people that women are harassed on a daily basis and we should do something about that. I’m also going to never talk about this again, because while it’s important to mention, Zoe Quinn does not deserve the venomous hatred and disgusting comments she has and will continue to receive regardless of what she has or hasn’t done.
Since you demanded it, I will add some thoughts on the other issues in this controversy. Yes, there is a claim that Quinn made up the death threats. There isn’t any proof, just hearsay and a recollection of events in terrible infographic form on imgur. If true, that is the work of a seriously troubled mind in craving attention and in need of help. But it is too unsubstantiated to claim as anything more than a rumor. As for Quinn allegedly sleeping with the Kotaku writer who then reviewed her game, sex isn’t a commodity. People like to bone out for fun too. Sure, it could have been the complete and utter failure of the integrity at Kotaku, or it could have been drunken boning. There’s nothing to say that the writer was so sex deprived he would review her game favorably just so he can marinate his nether rod in her squish mitten. If so, that’s really sad, fucked up and finally the proof that so many of you desperately crave showing that the video game ‘journalism’ industry is a corrupt sack of shit. It still doesn’t invalidate the point I was making.
Another add since it’s needed. So while there wasn’t any proof that Zoe Quinn used sex to get positive review scores. The sex scandal has been confirmed and everyone commenting as to why I said alleged in the article, this was written before any of this was confirmed. So yes, it seems pretty likely that Zoe Quinn is going behind the scenes to try and censor discussion about this and may be pretending to be hacked along with Phil Fish. It’s an incredibly fucked situation that has gotten worse and worse. I don’t know if there is, nor do I really think that there is widespread corruption in the game industry, but I can damn sure say confidently that this whole scandal has revealed the game industry, especially the indie scene and journalistic communities, are a completely juvenile world run by friendships and petty popularity contests. It also properly raises the concern that corruption is occurring and that some sort of investigation should be done to see if there is or not. While I believe that the original point of this article stood at the time of its publishing, it is far from that now. This is now an issue of censorship and a serious question as to why. Does any of this justify the harassment Quinn has received? Fuck no. Does any of this justify the questions to Quinn about if she’s taking money and promising fake bullshit and to elaborate on this whole situation in general? Yes it does. Has this revealed that she is a terrible person that has done nothing but fuck up her career by trying to cover this up constantly from the start? Yep. Let’s see just how worse this gets.
So today I realized something about myself. Zoe Quinn revealed the research and evidence she gathered into the whole #GamerGate thing and it sure is fascinating. This whole time I’ve been trying to advocate that we gather as much evidence as possible, and that screenshots aren’t really the greatest evidence, as they’re easy to doctor or manufacture. But you know what? Fuck everyone, I believe these screenshots and I’m already fucking sick of people who still insist that this is a giant conspiracy and that those screenshots are bullshit, but hey, our screenshots are real and prove a point. Yes, they do prove a point, the point that you’re a fucking asshole who doesn’t understand that you can’t denounce a medium of evidence if your entire point rests on that medium of evidence.
That doesn’t really say anything about me though. Today I learned how intense peer pressure can be and how group think and impatience can fuck over what is important. I slowly came around on the whole issue because I watched friend after friend switch sides due to very flimsy evidence and impatience. We were angry and we wanted answers, but we didn’t want to take the time for the actual truth to come out, because we were angry and wanted answers now dammit. All it did was hurt ourselves.
Now I considered writing something else about this. I even considered wiping this and writing new thoughts. Instead I would rather people read this entire story and the notes posted because I fucked up and I want to learn from my mistakes and be an example for other people. Don’t do what I did. I’m still happy that I wrote about the situation, I’m just ashamed that I got venomous and angry just like the people I was chastising. Being passionate can keep you going when things get bad, but it can also blind you to the truth.
Zoe Quinn, I’m sorry for the things I said. Whether or not you cheated on your ex is your business. It doesn’t automatically make you a terrible person or ruin what you stand for. As someone who made Depression Quest (which is still brilliant, fuck the haters), you know what it’s like to be fucked in the head. And as someone who related to the game and has been fucked in the head, I know it can lead us to do things we’re not proud of and will always regret. But that’s something that we deal with, not something to be used to disprove us, and that’s what we did to you. It’s awful and I feel awful knowing you not only had to deal with that, but the entire shit storm of harassment that came with it. The fact that you weathered it to gather this proof only shows how amazing you actually are.
You deserve better than this. We should be better than this. Is corruption in the game industry a topic that should be discussed and investigated? Yes. But we have something far more important to handle first. The fact that we live in an environment where people can coordinate assaults on someone’s character or well-being simply because we don’t like them is absolutely disgusting. We have generated such an environment of hatred and anger and fixing it needs to be our top priority. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but until we work together to move forward the only way things can move is further down.