Indie Devs Vs TotalBiscuit — Who Won? Who’s Next? You Decide
Epic Crap Battles of History, I suppose would be an eloquent way of putting it. It’s funny that we’re entering a time where both YouTube personalities and indie developers have come under more and more scrutiny in recent times, previously being placed on pedestals in our controversy-filled gaming industry. YouTube personalities were more honest and truthful and perfect than traditional gaming press, while indie developers were these infallible balls of purity compared to our publisher-infested and oppressed developers. Of course that’s taking it to extremes, because when there are people involved there will always be faults, but either way the bubble is popping a little and reality is here with some nasty messages.
The story that’s been going around the internet on this is that very popular and quite lovable YouTube personality TotalBiscuit has been caught in a shit storm involving Zoe Quinn, an indie developer of a game called Depression Quest. I didn’t have much of an idea about this issue until I read what TotalBiscuit had to say on it, and I will get to that later. The gist of it, however, is that Zoe Quinn has allegations against her for apparently getting favourable coverage of her game from people she had ‘intimate relations’ with. Sounds like an episode of Scandal already. It’s absolutely horrible that personal crap like this has to get in the way of making games, and ruin reputations, but on the other hand if there is any truth to it then surely unethical behaviour like that must be brought to light.
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Anyhow, I’ll give you the perspectives straight from the horses’ mouths, rather than feed you opinions about it.
The first interaction I had with this story was from TotalBiscuit himself. The man was asked about his opinions on the ‘Zoe Quinn’ scandal, and chose to ignore them believing it was pointless drama. Keep in mind that TotalBiscuit did coverage on Depression Quest, Zoe Quinn’s game. After catching a glimpse of the kind of cesspool this issue had created, TotalBiscuit took more interest in it, and took to investigating the matter. He wrote up all of his thoughts in a Twitlonger post, to which I’ll paste a portion of right here:
The long and short of it is that Zoe Quinn the developer of Depression Quest is being accused of exploiting the nepotism that tends to plague this industry by getting a bunch of favorable coverage from people she has supposedly slept with. In addition to this, videos supposedly critical of these actions have been taken down from Youtube with copyright claims, including a video by a smaller channel called MundaneMatt. It’s difficult to tell what is true and what is not. 4chan is all up in arms over it which means that alongside any truth there’s always going to be ridiculous stories and trolling attempts. 4chan is a blunderbuss. It’s a giant cannon filled with fuckin screws, nails, bodyparts, shit and waifu. When it fires, maybe 1% of it hits and the other 99% just goes everywhere and makes a mess. Added into this whole drama shitstorm is a cadre of SJW types and whoever it is that is opposed to that, MRAs? I don’t even know the terminology at this point and frankly I don’t fucking care. The kind of places posting information about this whole thing are also places I’d take with a pinch of salt or who already have a clearly outlined agenda. Internetaristocrat did the main video on this, a channel mostly dedicated to debunking SJW topics and complaining about how prevalent they are in todays media. A fair cause for the most part, though it’s a fine line to walk at the best of times. Honestly that whole debate is something I try and stay the hell away from because the people involved in it are fucking terrifying.
That gives you an overview of the issue, but I’d strongly advise that you read the full post before jumping to any snap judgement, because we as people love doing that.
Don’t worry though, it gets much worse. The original source of these allegations seemed to have come from Zoe’s ex-boyfriend, who claimed that she had been cheating on him with multiple press members so that Depression Quest could get coverage and subsequently get greenlit on Steam. This dude has a blog, in which he wrote about some of this.
Now, there have indeed been a wide number of claims that Zoe has been trying to silence discussion of her alleged press exploitation through the use of false DMCA takedowns on YouTube videos. Youtube user TheInternetAristocrat highlights this particular thing and discusses the issue in a video:
Now it gets to the part where this becomes a whole lot more ugly and personal. Zoe proceeded to give a full update on her blog providing her stance on this issue, and it’s basically along the lines of how horrified she is that her personal life is the matter of discussion on the internet, and the behaviour against her is totally uncalled for. While the allegations themselves are another matter, I will say that I agree with her that the disgusting behaviour directed at her from the internet is the lowest of the low, and unfortunately we live in a world where the anonymity of the internet breeds parasites such as those. Anyway, you can read her statement down below:
This has nothing to do with games and is not a matter of legitimate public interest, but is simply a personal matter. I would hope and request that the games press be respectful of what IS a personal matter, and not news, and not about games. This is explicitly about my private life, which has been regrettably forced into the public and framed by people who pose a threat to my safety and well being as well as that of the people I love. I would hope that the effort people have gone through to dress it up as anything more would not be enough to have those who see it for what it is take the bait.
I am not going to link to, or address anything having to do with the validity of the specific claims made by an angry ex-boyfriend with an axe to grind and a desire to use 4chan as his own personal army. This is not a “she-said” to his “he-said”. The idea that I am required to debunk a manifesto of my sexual past written by an openly malicious ex-boyfriend in order to continue participating in this industry is horrifying, and I won’t do it. It’s a personal matter that never should have been made public, and I don’t want to delve into personal shit, mine or anyone else’s, while saying that people’s love and sex lives are no one’s business. I’m not going to talk about it. I will never talk about it. It is not your goddamned business.
What I *am* going to say is that the proliferation of nude pictures of me, death threats, vandalization, doxxing of my trans friends for having the audacity to converse with me publicly, harassment of friends and family and my friends’ family in addition to TOTALLY UNRELATED PEOPLE, sending my home address around, rape threats, memes about me being a whore, pressures to kill myself, slurs of every variety, fucking debates over what my genitals smell like, vultures trying to make money off of youtube videos about it, all of these things are inexcusable and will continue to happen to women until this culture changes. I’m certainly not the first. I wish I could be the last.
Because I’ve had a small degree of success in a specific subculture, every aspect of my life is suddenly a matter of public concern. Suddenly it’s acceptable to share pictures of my breasts on social media to threaten and punish me. Suddenly I don’t have any right to privacy or basic dignity. Suddenly I don’t get to live out normal parts of life, like going through a bad and ugly breakup in private. I have forfeited this by being a blip in a small community, while those who delight in assailing me hide behind their keyboards and a culture that permits it, beyond reproach.
My life and my body are not public property. No one’s life and body are public property.
Sexuality is one of the most personal, hurtful, and easy things to demonize a woman over, and also has nothing to do with my games. Yet large swaths of the gaming community are either unable or unwilling to separate the two. I’m convinced that my ex chose 4chan as the staging ground for his campaign of harassment and character assassination because he knew this; he knew that someone claiming to be “from the Internet” has shown up at my house once already, and he is counting on the most reviled hubs of our community to live up to their sordid reputations. This is another example of gendered violence, whereby my personal life becomes a means to punish my professional credentials and to try to shame me into giving up my work. I’m still committed to doing my small part to create a world where no woman is at risk of experiencing this. That said, I am thankful that even boards with a reputation for being the most hostile places online have been able to tell the intent behind these threads and banned them outright, seeing the hate speech for what it is, and not-news for what it is.
As much as those leading the charge against me will do mental backflips to make posting pictures of my tits about “ethics”, the real agenda is plain as day if you give it even a moment of sincere critical thought. No one who would terrorize someone and the totally uninvolved people they love in this way on such a massive and public scale could ever honestly claim to be interested in “ethics” of any kind. These kinds of accusations have been levied against any woman of status in any industry, ever. I have been judged because, if you are a woman, you are expected to constantly “prove” yourself, and even mere accusations can somehow undo all the good you’ve done and justify any measure of depraved brutality against you. Meanwhile, I see major support thrown the way of my male colleagues when they are accused of any sort of wrongdoing. Neither of these attitudes is correct, and they are patently unfair and reductive. Nobody exists in a vacuum, and anyone can change and grow into a better person. Heroes and villains don’t exist – just regular boring-ass people with scars and fuckups and moments of brilliance. And every single boring-ass person deserves the space to keep personal matters private and handled outside the shark tank of anonymous internet boards.
Once again, I will not be addressing the specific validity of any statements about my private life. If you have good-faith questions or doubts, I am more than happy to discuss private matters in private, where they belong. But I refuse to be coerced into making my private life or anyone’s private life a matter of public record, and I refuse to be continually emotionally terrorized by people who have long decided to hate me regardless.
I’m looking forward to moving on and getting back to work. To anyone else who has had to deal with this kind of indignity on any scale, you have my undying support and my ear if you ever want to talk to someone who might understand. To the people who support my work and can see this crusade for what it is, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those people, I love you, I always have, and I always will.
That’s the background information to this story, sadly. What’s happening now is that TotalBiscuit is getting a lot of flak for his opinions on this situation, and it’s bringing to light many indie developers who have turned on him, despite the fact that he’s spent more than four years giving exposure to indie developers and helping their games. The flak appeared to have been fueled by everyone’s favourite indie developer Phil Fish, creator of Fez, who posted a series of tweets (that have since been deleted) where he basically attacks TotalBiscuit, aka John Bain to give his real name. The tweets were really silly, and basically nothing more than childish insults, but since they’ve been deleted I have to post a screengrab here, captured by the good people at GamesNosh:
To give some context to this, Phil Fish is a known supporter of the controversial idea that game developers are entitled to royalties from YouTubers who partake in Let’s Plays and such, using footage from their games. This line of thinking has led to a history of disagreement with TotalBiscuit, who spoke out against Fish’s comments. I side with TotalBiscuit entirely on this matter, but regardless it’s easy to see why Phil Fish would still hold a grudge. If you are interested in taking a sidetrack and revisiting the past, you can watch TotalBiscuit’s discussion on exactly that issue in a lengthy video, though it’s not relevant to this story. It’s just here for extra information.
Back to the story. After these tweets from Phil Fish (I won’t say they are the cause of the backlash against TotalBiscuit, but they certainly poured gasoline over those fires), a number of other indie developers including Zoe Quinn herself took to commenting on the matter. Basically, some are saying that TotalBiscuit is a parasite trying to capitalize on the Quinn scandal in order to promote himself and boost an apparent harassment campaign from MRAs (Mens Rights Activists). Below you’ll find pictures, again captured by GamesNosh, regarding some of TotalBiscuits thoughts on the backlash.
However, it’s worth pointing out that Quinn claims her initial tweet (pictured above) was not directed at TotalBiscuit, although she only said this 12 hours after it went up. I guess you could say that that is way too late and whatever damage you intended or didn’t intend was probably already done at that point.
Despite all TotalBiscuit has done for indie though, he still got flak, a little of which I will present momentarily. Before that, here’s another tweet from TotalBiscuit in which he points out this exact, sad fact.
It is interesting. Spent 4+ years helping indie devs wherever I can with huge exposure, yet many turned on me the last few days.
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) August 20, 2014
While the flak TotalBiscuit received and the general outrage is too vast to cover, I can put forward exhibit A, captured by GamesNosh, which shows Adam Atomic, developer of Canabalt, angrily seeming to threaten DMCAs on future TotalBiscuit reviews on his games.
remind me to never let totalbiscuit or any other dismissive bullshitter ever review any of my work
— Adam Atomic (@ADAMATOMIC) August 19, 2014
Below is a heated exchange that followed that tweet, which includes a reply from TotalBiscuit.
Before I present a brief opinion on this, I’d really like to say kudos to GamesNosh for putting the majority of this together. I say ‘brief’ opinion because I want to leave most of it for you to draw your own conclusions on. What I will say is that I find it disgusting that anyone can be tortured about their private life on the internet, and there really is no justifiable excuse on the planet for it. Sadly, that’s the kind of cesspool the internet can be at times. However, if there is any truth whatsoever to the allegations against Zoe Quinn, then those should be addressed as a matter of unethical behaviour, and not as a fucking platform to rip apart her character, private life and destroy her dignity, even though a case of this nature will obviously have repercussions against someone’s character. It should be about the ethical implications, basically, and not a personal attack.
Finally, I have to say that I support TotalBiscuit in this. I feel, despite how much I love indie and have supported and helped indie developers myself, there are those out there who are not the decent folk we expect them to be. There are those who are entitled and parasitical and extortionate and all the rest, just like those camps of horrible gamers we despise, and TotalBiscuit does not deserve flak from indies after spending over four years helping in their cause. The day we start censoring fair and constructive criticism is the day the planet should just implode on itself. You can only take action if factual information is incorrect or misrepresentation is taking place, something along those lines, not just because some person with the right to an opinion decided not to like your game.
There are many sides to this, and many angles, and I’m not here to preach whose side you should take, if any. I would rather that you assess the situation and look for what is fair in each scenario. Perhaps we shouldn’t be perpetuating a nasty story involving someone’s personal life, and if that is your stance then by all means tell us down below. However, I am of the opinion that we can learn something from most bad situations, and in this story full of negatives, there are surely lessons to learn about conduct, etiquette, the internet and fairness.
To both Zoe Quinn and TotalBiscuit, I wish you the best of luck in dealing with this. As for Quinn specifically, however, I would hope that if there are any truths whatsoever to the allegations that it can be a lesson in unethical behaviour as well, and something to grow from in the year’s ahead.