Quinnspiracy: Fear-Mongering, Controversy And Why Indie Gaming Is Not Ready To Be Taken Seriously

It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the gaming sphere; last week there was bad blood between console gamers surrounding the announcement of Tomb Raider’s sequel as an Xbox One exclusive, and this week saw the scandal — and it really is just that — surrounding Zoe Quinn that resulted in one of YouTube’s most beloved gaming personalities becoming a target of the indie gaming world. Aren’t you all so sick and tired of this by now?

The Zoe Quinn saga is one that I initially stayed out of, mostly just because I had a lot going on in my life this week and I couldn’t really get a chance to sit down and read up about it. I saw some tweets, and actually read TotalBiscuit’s initial Twitlonger post about the topic, and finally last night I got a chance to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, immediately after reading it I felt ashamed to have ever called myself a gamer.

There is vitriol in this industry right now.

I don’t know whether it’s because nothing is really coming out at the moment and so without that old panem et circenses we’re basically turning on each other, but a lot of animosity seems to be coming to the surface and erupting like volcanoes all over the gaming industry. It’s upsetting for those of us who see just how frivolous and unnecessary a lot of it is. But hey, we’re here to talk about that ostentatious title, so let’s get to it.

If you need a quick rundown on the Zoe Quinn saga, and you’re too lazy to read the article linked above, basically what happened is that Zoe — who worked on a game called Depression Quest — was accused by her ex-boyfriend of trading sexual favours for favourable coverage of her game, with industry journalists. This story then blew up all over the internet until Zoe posted a blog post explaining things but not addressing the claims. From there, things spiralled far out of control and the end-result seems to be something of a war between indie gaming and games journalism, as detailed in the article linked above — seriously just read it.

Now there are a few aspects of this story that must be discussed if we are to get a full picture. I’m going to throw in my own thoughts on the matter since, after all, that’s why I’m typing this thing up in the first place.

Let’s first talk about the actual claims made. Now I don’t care if you’re a Social Justice Warrior or a Mens Rights Activist or any-fucking-thing else. These are some serious claims that feed into a whole other aspect of gaming. The idea of developers and publishers being ‘buddy-buddy’ with journalists is not a new one, and it’s certainly a very contentious topic for obvious reasons: It brings objectivity into question.

Locally we have distributors who are quite close to some sites, and in the past accusations of favourable coverage have been thrown around. Not many people would throw around actual names but it’s typically known more or less, who tends to favour who. Personally, I don’t see our local sites as journalistic but rather as gaming portals of a sort; we exist to localise international news and to provide some cool locally-relevant opinions of our own. In this way, I don’t think the whole ‘journalistic integrity’ is as much of a concept here but I will still argue that it’s necessary until I’m blue in the face.

When he was still here with us, Alessandro and I actually got into quite a massive email fight about my belief that a games journalist who moves into a PR position at any company involved in the games industry is a complete sell-out. It really is one of the most heated topics of gaming; I mean we all remember the likes of Doritosgate.

All of this said, there is a level of necessity to covering games. For example, we might get review copies for free but they’re for the purposes of review, which means we are doing a job with them. Likewise a lot of other things that some consider to be ‘benefits’ of writing about games. Nobody begrudges Jeremy Clarkson for driving his supercars in Top Gear, but he does. I think the fine line here comes in showing that stuff off. Journalists, stop being complete cunts douchebags and showing off the free stuff you get; it’s not part of your job to do that.

But I digress. The point here is that when we talk about the relationships between developers and journalists, shit gets really awkward. And it is my opinion that an angry ex fed off this sort of awkwardness and created what effectively amounts to fear-mongering, a controversial scandal with the sole purpose of causing permanent professional harm to Zoe Quinn and her reputation. She could quite easily have come out and defended herself and ended all of this, either accepting responsibility if the claims were true or denying them vehemently, but I think that the choice she made in the end was the correct one; she doesn’t need to defend diddly squat.

It might not put the controversy to bed but it’s the right call if you ask me. This is the equivalent of conspiracy theory and she is in no way accountable to us as either the gaming industry, or the gaming community. We have no right to force her to defend claims made against her unless there is compelling evidence to substantiate those claims and in the absence of such, we should be siding with her, or just not picking a side and leaving it be. The problem is that, as I said, this is a contentious topic. And it’s very easy to immediately get angry and jump on the bandwagon of hating that chick with the piercings who makes games because she’s obviously fucking every journalist to get that great review.

Depression Quest might well just be a great game, and as someone who has seen how depression can ruin lives I would also provide coverage for it. What if Zoe Quinn just created a really great game that deserved the coverage it got? But you see, it’s just easier for the gaming community — and the internet as a whole — to hate on someone because of their own insecurities regarding this industry. And I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Not at all. I’ve had testimony from at least one person who says that there are women entering this industry and hoping that their good looks will take them further than their skills can.

But as much as the sexism debate is rife in the industry right now, it doesn’t necessarily lend credence to every possible case. So my thoughts on Zoe’s alleged sexual favours? Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, I lean towards the latter because I just cannot take an ex’s account of things seriously, and he certainly did himself no favours in his manner of execution. This played out exactly like a witch hunt, and so I’m forced to treat it as such.


Poor TotalBiscuit… Here we must come to the second aspect of this story, and it’s related to the indie world’s alienation of YouTube. As previously explained, TotalBiscuit initially commented on the Zoe Quinn story by saying that he was not getting involved and encouraged everyone to take the internet’s claims with a pinch of salt. Later Zoe tweeted about parasitic YouTubers, to which TotalBiscuit reacted. The end-result was a lot of indie game developers turning on TotalBiscuit and making it an us-versus-them styled war between indie gaming developers and YouTubers, as they’re called, with even the man who is doing more and more to vindicate my initial (pre-Fez) claims that he’s a man-child with too much attention on him, Phil Fish, throwing some insults into the mix.

Why were indie game developers picking on TotalBiscuit? Well they saw his stance as one that was against Zoe Quinn and took it personally. They said they would pull support and not allow TotalBiscuit coverage of their games. And this, readers, is why I wrote an article back in February about indie gaming just not being ready for popularity. Indie gaming is like an adolescent teen being asked to do an adult’s job. Oh they showed some promise as children and there were great expectations for them, prodigal sons and daughters that they were. But at the first real responsibility, they dropped the ball and showed their immaturity, proving that they still have a lot of growing to do.

Look, we who write about games do not do it for ourselves. TotalBiscuit might earn a living from his games coverage but that doesn’t mean he does it for the money. Furthermore, if he wants to do coverage of a game then there is nothing in any legal statute that is going to stop him; the law just does not work that way. So all of these indie game developers threatening to pull their games from TotalBiscuit’s channel by abusing YouTube’s copyright claims system are being extremely petty, above being immature. And that’s not all, folks! Because before this, they were more than happy to benefit from all of the coverage that so-called ‘YouTubers’ the likes of TotalBiscuit and PewDiePie offered their games; in fact, the developers were the ones who were approaching YouTubers in order to get that sort of coverage.

And now they all turn on TotalBiscuit, why? Because they must defend one of their own? What are they, twelve? Indie gaming is not ready for the spotlight, and it proves it time and time again. I’ve said this for years now. And I said it knowing that all of us want to see the indie gaming sphere grow and reach a stage when it can compete pound for pound with strong triple-A titles. But it’s far, far easier to hide behind a company’s name, than to go and put out a game on your own and incur the wrath of the internet. And this is why triple-A shows more maturity even though it has its own set of — perhaps ‘adult’ in this gaming metaphor — problems to deal with.
So at the end of this entire fuss, what have we learned? A few things:

  • The gaming community is so insecure about the accusation that journalists and developers do unscrupulous things that all you need to do is create a story and whether it’s true or not, it will turn into a massive argument and engulf the internet in hate and anger for days, if not weeks. Not unlike other very human conspiracies, the likes of religious debate and even vaccination.
  • The indie gaming world is far too defensive and therefore also insecure; very happy to enjoy the perks of game coverage but quick to turn around and alienate those who cover their games at the first sign of contention. Like adolescents they are not looking for a constructive discussion but rather just have a lot of angst and perhaps just need to get laid (inside joke).

It’s a tragic situation for Zoe Quinn and I would never wish that on anyone, guilty or innocent. She has had pictures of herself posted all across the internet and had her privacy entirely compromised. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine random people you’ve interacted with online, showing up at your door one night? That is ridiculously scary. And all this because of a messy breakup with a boyfriend who happened to understand the poisonous element that is 4chan. Perpetuated further down the line by a ‘picking sides’ mentality that is telling of a subsection of this gaming industry that just doesn’t understand how to be in the spotlight.

We always talk about how we should be positive about gaming and look for the good in everything; the more PR-like writers will tell you about the silver linings and bright sides and try to create euphemisms for otherwise bad situations. The undeniable observable truth here is that gamers are just the worst kind of human beings, when they want to be. And that’s an unavoidable aspect of being a gamer in 2014. There’s no point ignoring it and pretending everything is great. It isn’t, and the sooner we realise that, the sooner we can all play Depression Quest to help us feel better.

Insert facetious disclaimer here about how no sexual favours were traded for coverage of this topic.

  • ChatWraithUpsilon

    There’s an article posted via n4g that shows a photo of phil fish and zoe quinn online in a bar together, and more evidence that suggests they pretended to hack their own sites to draw attention off of the fact that zoe pocketed the entire rebelgamejam donation pool, and make themselves appear as victims.
    That implicates zoe in fraud, and phil fish for releasing the private information of those at polytron, and serving as an associate in their scam.

  • Bunny Mage

    I feel no sympathy whatsoever for Zoe Quinn. She is a pathological liar that even NOW is conspiring with her friends to make false claims of being “hacked” just to gain sympathy. It’s childish and pathetic and I wish this cult fraternity of insidious indie game devs and the agenda-obsessed game journalists they conspire with would just go away.

  • Kyle Sullivan

    I thank you sir for having a cool head and trying to be objective in this. Well done, other sites are just trying to sweep this under the rug, thereby making it worse, and Im sure we all want this to be over ASAP.

    However, I feel that you are not fully informed with this situation, allow me to elaborate, in no particular order.

    1) Zoe Quinn put those naked photos of herself into the public forum herself. It was for a charity event I believe. They werent hacked or somehow obtained innapropriately. Plenty of journos are saying such things, and it is just outright infuriating that people cant do their fucking job by actually investigating.

    2) Theres no “alleged sexual relationships” about it, that guy has proved it, screenshots, home video walkthroughs, you name it. It happened, with at least 3 men. Now whether she should have to defend these claims is debatable, I for one find it regrettable that shes been dragged through the mud but let me make a comparison… I don’t fucking remember anyone complaining about the right to Tiger Woods’s privacy when his affair with dozens of women came out! Non stop reporting for weeks, with the whole public saying things such as “disgusting” or “shameful”. Whats the difference here? Because shes a woman? That is not sexual equality my friend. Not at all.

    3) There are other allegations being made against her, that everyone is just fucking ignoring. Like how she molested someone by the name of Wozniak, and then Phil fucking Fish, bullied him into staying silent. No “allegations” there either, it was on twitter. She also allegedly doxxed The Fine Young Capitalists, to further her own ends. The’yre transgender btw, so its fucking rich that someone who preaches equality, shit shorted someone of that community.

    4) There’s some claims that her being doxxed was a false flag. Her apparent fathers work phone, which these harassers are calling, was a motorcycle shop in Hawaii… Now it cant be proved that its NOT her parents but… its been closed down… people are apparently calling her parents at their place of work… in a business that no longer exists -.0. Not happening. Plus there’s the fact that Phil couldn’t have been hacked and doxxed, due to the type of server his site has, without the hackers having access to his phone AND computer… they could hack the computer (maybe) but unless Tom Cruise crept in to the sound of Mission Impossible music, and physically allowed to the hackers from that phone, while Fish was in the shower, then it couldn’t have happened. Not happening.

    5) The whole industry is just handling this horribly… until they defend themselves with reasonable arguments against claims such as hypocrisy and lack of integrity, from the reasonable points we have made, this wont blow over. They keep straw manning the hell out of us by claiming its just about sexism and misogyny, completely ignoring our valid points, and censoring any who try to point that out. Its just making it a fuckload worse and frankly, Im sick of this bullshit from either sides, but neither will give an inch, and so the controversy and hatred will continue.

    There are other points that escape my mind right now but I do honestly want to thank you for trying to stay objective with this article, and doing your goddamn job, unlike every other journo that is trying to pull the sexism card.

    You have my respect.

    • http://egmr.net/author/cavie Caveshen Rajman

      I definitely agree that it’s getting far too easy to cover anything involving a women in that warm, cozy sexism blanket, and that’s not fair to anyone.

      I hope you understand that drudging through every single facet of the internet to find all of this proof, as someone who wasn’t involved from the start, would take quite a while and probably (possibly) drive me insane. :P

      That said, I must thank you for providing all of this clarity and filling in what gaps my article had, as well as where I was wrong. I’ll probably spend the weekend doing a bit more research and then put out a follow-up on journalistic integrity on Monday or something, so, thanks again for your comment.

    • Kyle Sullivan

      Wow you actually replied, I was just hoping you might view it and consider my thoughts, didnt expect a reply :D

      All good my friend, I understand your situation, and Ive only stumbled across all this crap through heavy digging when Id much rather be playing Diablo 3 on ps4 :p

      Keep up the good work man!

    • VoxOppressi

      Thank you for this. The most damning aspect is her involvement with the Fine Young Capitalists. What she did is fraud.

  • Mike Chedzoy

    Total Biscuit might be an arrogant twat. However his games reviews are amazing. The guy knows what PC gamers want. If the guy says a game is crap, you can pretty much guarantee that it is. Zoe slept with those guys, that happen to work as journalists? Do you really need Einstein to work out her formula?

  • Paladinlost

    I think part of the problem is that we expect Zoe to defend herself, which she doesn’t need to defend herself from any of this, there’s no validity in anything presented that she did anything worse then just being a promiscuous woman in a tight-knit community, and no matter what community that is, that always seems to make other members of that community view that as carte blanche for all kinds of hostility. Let’s make it clear – the gaming community’s continued harassment is absolutely uncalled for. It’s not like this doesn’t happen everywhere else, but seriously, could we try taking the high ground just once? However, the journalists, developers, and Game Jam judges DO need to explain their actions. The fact that nobody’s gone after Robin Arnott for potential impropriety with GAME JAM is a travesty. Stephen Totilo’s position on this is utterly ridiculous. They’ve done plenty of talking about rape culture and misogny on Gawker, but suddenly misandry and impropriety gets little more then a twitter burst, done? As for Phil Fish, I’m beyond tired of his schtick. Let’s be honest, Fez was decent, but not great, and if he wasn’t ahead of the curve on the retro platformer craze, nobody would have cared. Dean Dodrill (Humble Hearts) literally does EVERY facet of game construction better then Phil does – character design, graphics, sound, game design, coding, porting, everything better, and he’s a really nice guy to boot. Why don’t we talk about great game designers instead of Phil. He’s not going to make another game – why does the gaming community still care?

    • l984yearsofwar

      She did something much worse. She faked being a victim of a raid to gain publicity for her game. She did this knowing what happened with Anita (which was shameful). The difference between Zoe and Anita is that in Anita’s case, it actually happened. I thoughy the whole thing seemed fishy at first, but when her character came out it became obvious the whole thing was made up. Zoe has borderline personality disorder. This is painfully apparent to everyone except those involved with her, which is often the case with this disorder. We may look in and see these blatent manipulations and her playing the vicitim at every turn to garner sympathy from those she has wrapped around her finger. Borderlines get off on this. The whole shitty sjw movement makes this so much worse as huge swaths of sjws are easily influenced and manipulated. She saw a chance to rocket from an unknown to stardom by seeing what happened to Anita, pretending to be a sjw, and called said deaf dumb and blind sjws to her cause. It is frikkin gross.

  • BranndonFricks

    Do you think someone who is clearly a sociopath in their personal life will somehow never be one in their professional life? My first GF was just like Zoe Quinn, and I dealt with that pain for damn near a decade. By no means should strangers be showing up at her door, but she absolutely deserved to be called out.