Zachary Knight

Zachary Knight

I have loved gaming all my life and love the industry that makes them. Sure things can be a little hairy at times and I can be critical of the choices developers and publishers make, but I criticize because I care. Some of my favorite games are JRPGs and anything tactical such as RTS and Strategy games. I am currently loving my Ouya. Follow me on Twitter @EZKnight. Email me at zachary@randomtower.com

Just Stop With The Harassment And Bullying Campaigns Already

Harassment in Gaming, image by Extra CreditsThe last couple of months have really had me thinking about the harassment that happens around games and the gaming industry. Some of these campaigns get really disgusting and scary. It has gotten so bad, that not speaking out about the harassment can be seen as being complicit in it. I can’t let that happen in my case.

Last year, I wrote a brief editorial condemning such harassment campaigns. I mentioned specifically a few well known ones, such as the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian and Phil Fish. That editorial and the condemning of harassment still applies. But recent controversy over supposed games journalistic ethics brought to public attention by the GamerGate community has led to all new and very public harassment campaigns.

Much of this started with a harassment campaign started by the jilted ex-lover of game developer Zoe Quinn. Her former boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, decided to publicly shame Zoe and in the process posted what led many gamers to believe that she partook in some unethical activities to get positive press for her game, Depression Quest. Many gamers took this as gospel and used it as the catalyst for harassing her and several journalists associated with her. This campaign included doxxing, or publicly disclosing personal information such as address and phone number, as well as death and rape threats. All this because of the word of her a jilted ex-boyfriend. Think about that for a minute while I move on.

There has been a number of similar campaigns with other people in the games industry. The problem is particularly harsh when it comes to women in the industry. Other examples include further harassment of Anita Sarkeesian, which resulted in her canceling a speaking event at Utah State University, game developer Brianna Wu who was so scared of the threats she was forced to leave her home along with her family. Why? Because they spoke out on an issue that some gamers can’t seem to handle, the fact that women play games and would like more game that suit their tastes.

Of course it is not just targets of GamerGate that are harassed. I have seen some harassment targeted at supporters of GamerGate, particularly Milo Yiannopoulos. He was recently sent an unlabled syringe with the likely intention that he should shoot himself up with whatever the contents were.

Setting aside GamerGate related harassment for a moment, another form of harassment that is particularly disgusting and particularly deadly, is the rise of SWATting, or calling police and telling them there is an active shooter at a residence or business. Why is this dangerous and disgusting? Because this action can result in the death of innocent people. This particular action is essentially attempted murder. If you do not believe me, do some Google searching for deadly SWAT raids. The SWAT has been heavily overused in recent years and has resulted in a number of wrong door raids that end with the resident or officers killed in the action. Is that really the kind of result you are willing to accept if you call the SWAT on someone as a “prank”? Do you truly and honestly think that attempted murder is funny?

But what really troubles me, beyond the campaigns themselves, is the apologists who excuse the behavior of those who are doing the harassment. These people play lip service to the idea that harassment is wrong, but then immediately start ranting about how the target somehow deserved it because they hold a different opinion than their own. Or perhaps they dismiss the harassment of someone they don’t like because they heard that someone they like was also harassed. Kind of like an eye for an eye type scenario. Other justifications simply include the idea that these harassing comments and actions are merely empty, there is no intention of following through with them. This attitude is sometimes supported by mentioning the harassment campaigns against video game detractors like Jack Thompson and Leland Yee. The problem with this line of thinking is that no one other than the person doing the harassing knows this for sure if the threats are real or not. Which means the target must assume that the threats are real.

I am lucky that no one in the community of game developers, gamers and other industry folk I associate with have been on either end of such harassment. Unfortunately, others cannot say the same. Perhaps it is because my associations are with people who are relatively low key in the overall scheme of things. Most of the harassment I have seen is against people who are in the public eye, either by choice or the actions of someone else. Which is sad really. Such action against public figures has a chilling effect on others forcing them to avoid anything that would put a public spotlight, or target sight, on them. Is that really what we want, a games industry filled with people who don’t want to make waves and affect the industry?

Which I guess is kind of the point. The ultimate goal of those doing the harassing and those complicit in it, is the silencing of voices they don’t support. They don’t like what someone says, or what they think someone says. Instead of responding to speech they don’t like with more speech, they resort to bullying and threats. In reality, this is the last bastion of those who know they have no valid response. They know that no matter what they say or do, they are wrong. So they lash out and pretend that doing so justifies their position. If they can silence a critic or a voice of reason, they can safely hold firm to their outdated beliefs for just a little longer. They can enjoy their close-mindedness without worry of being exposed for the shallowness of it all. It is all about joy in ignorance. They simply can’t stand for someone trying to take away their bliss. So they lash out.

I am speaking out about harassment and firmly planting my feet on the side of ending it. It is counter productive and ultimately destructive to the gaming community and the industry as a whole. I don’t care who you are, what you believe or what your grievance is with the person you disagree with, harassing and threatening them is not the answer. So to those who are doing the harassing, Stop It. To those who are complicit in it, Stand up against it.

I will have more to say on other aspects of GamerGate and related topics at a later time.

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Super Podcast Action Committee – Episode 119

Super Podcast Action CommitteeIf you missed Saturday’s live broadcast of Super Podcast Action Committee (Episode 119), you can watch the video replay on YouTube or download it below. On this week’s show hosts Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight discuss the latest GamePolitics poll (“Do you want a Playstation TV?” – 18:28 mark), Hatred (27:22), the Indiegogo campaign to create a marketing/harassment campaign against Valve to release Half Life 3 (46:07); and Nintendo forcing Wii U users to agree to their EULA (53:35). You can grab an audio version of the show on iTunes or at the link below:

SuperPAC Episode 119 (1 hour, 5 minutes) 84.3 MB (the show was live so it is made available in its raw, unedited format).

As always, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and use our RSS Feed to add the show to your favorite news reader. You can also find us on Facebook, on Twitter @SuperPACPodcast andGoogle +. You can send us feedback on the show by dropping a note tosuperpacpodcast@gmail.com.

Credits: The Super Podcast Action Committee is hosted by E. Zachary Knight and Andrew Eisen, and produced by James Fudge. Music in the show includes “Albino” by Brian Boyko and “Barroom Ballet” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are in the public domain and free to use. ECA bumper created by Andrew Eisen.

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About Our New Disclosure Policy

So there has been a hullabaloo recently surrounding a movement called GamerGate. This is a loosely (and I mean that in the most literal terms) knit group of gamers and advocates for journalistic integrity and ethics. At least that is the jist of what they want to be known for. I will talk more about it in a later post, but that is sufficient introduction for now.

As a result of some conversations I have had with GamerGate supporters, I decided that I wanted to make a clear statement on what my disclosure policies are in regards to my reporting here and other game sites I own. I am still bound by disclosure policies for sites I write for but do not own and those policies may be different than here. So I wanted to go through each point of my disclosure policy one by one and explain a bit about it. These disclosure policy statements can be found under the About tab in our menu.

Unless otherwise stated, all games reviewed on our site were purchased with our own money or reviewed based on legally and freely available version/demo.

For some reason, a couple of people I talked with are under the belief that reviewing a game that I actually bought is somehow ethically compromised. I have no clue where these people are coming from. It really makes no sense. I would think that people seeking journalistic integrity would much prefer journalists and reviewers to buy the games rather than have them given to them by the developer or publisher.

However, I am more likely to buy a game than have one given to me, so I tend to do the former when I review one. However, I also do a lot of Ouya reviews and games there will often have a free trial or demo version available and those are what I base my reviews on. So most of the time, I have either bought the game myself or played a free demo prior to writing my review.

If on the off chance a developer does give me a free copy of the game I end up reviewing, I will absolutely disclose that fact. I will also disclose any stipulations or provisions the developer/publisher requires me to agree to, if I actually agree and end up reviewing the game. If I am feeling unusually unhappy with the terms, I will simply write about said terms rather than review the game.

We support Kickstarter and other crowdfunding campaigns we are passionate about. We treat this just as we do with games we have purchased.

Just as the above says, I treat crowdfunding the same way I do buying a game. If I see a Kickstarter, Patreon, IndieGogo or other campaign I like, I will most likely back it. If I really like it, I will share it on Facebook and Twitter. If I really really like it, I will write about here or on another blog. I think that is hugely important. Most of the time, I will state whether I backed the project or not, but I never feel compelled to do so.

I was again told that reporting on a crowdfunding campaign that I backed makes me ethically compromised. I don’t see how. If it is fine for me to share that news on Facebook and Twitter, why is it not ok to share that same news on this site?

I was also told that it is not so much that I backed the campaign but that I might have backed it for too much money. Take for instance a campaign that allows a backer to create and item or monster for use in the game if that backer pledges a certain amount. I am told that I could be ethically compromised because I now have a stake in the final outcome of the project. Sure, I guess I do, but I don’t have a financial stake in the outcome. The only stake I actually have is whether I get to make my object or not. I don’t get royalties or payment myself, just a neat feeling for having contributed.

So no, I don’t feel the need to disclose whether I have backed a crowdfunding campaign or not.

At Random Tower, we pride ourselves on our ability to connect with people in the industry. We believe that this is a healthy way to learn of new and interesting developments in the games industry. As such, we do not feel the need to disclose those relationships unless absolutely necessary.

Once again, some people feel that knowing people in the industry is the same thing as being vested in that person. Meaning, that if I report on someone I know personally at some level, I am ethically compromised. This, again, does not make much sense.

How exactly is one supposed to make it as a journalist without making friends and connections in the games industry? Are we just supposed to work from PR statements and what other people are writing about on the internet? That seems like a crappy way to do business.

As such, I don’t feel the need to disclose every relationship I have with people in the games industry. It should be a given. If, on some occasions, I report on a person who has benefited me in some recognizable way, such as someone donating to my site or flying me to Washinton D.C., then sure, I will disclose that fact.

Which leads me to my next point.

There are times when a game developer or other person in the industry we report on has financially or in some other way materially supported us. We will disclose those instances for a time frame of one (1) year after the last such show of support.

This will always be disclosed. I have no problem with disclosing such. Someone gives me money, I will tell you why and for how much. If someone buys or gives me something, I will tell you why and what it was.

However, I believe that there is a statute of limitations on this and feel that one(1) year following the last such material gift to be more than sufficient. Once that year is up, I do not feel the need to continue to disclose that fact. It should be well known by then.

We use a third party advertising partner. As such, we have limited control over the ads that appear on our site. We do have some control and if we feel a particular ad interferes with our ability to properly report on the industry, we will try to remove those ads.

Advertising is a tricky business. Without it, most sites you read on the internet would not exist. So it becomes a necessary evil. As such I do what I can to mitigate the impact it has on my reporting.

As such, I am currently using a third party advertising partner. However, I have limited control over the ads that show up. If an ad shows up that corresponds to a game or person I am writing about, I don’t have any control as that ad showed up under a deal between the company placing the ad and the third party ad provider I use.

If there is some occasion where that could be seen as a conflict of interest, for example the ad showing up for an extended period of time, thus appearing to be an endorsement, then I would be open to disclosing that, but for a brief time during the time the ad actually shows.

None of this applies to a time in the future when I might be large enough to have direct advertising deals with game developers and publishers. At such a time, I would more than be happy to disclose the nature of the agreement when reporting on said company.

Random Tower is a subsidiary of Divine Knight Gaming. Our Chief Editor, E. Zachary Knight, is also the Lead Developer/Co-owner of Divine Knight. Any article about Divine Knight or one of its games or subsidiaries will always include a disclaimer stating that fact.

Yes, I own this site, other sites, and an indie game development studio. As such, anytime I write about my game development work or work on another Divine Knight owned site, I will disclose that fact. I have no problem with it.

Conclusion

Alright. I hope that helps you understand where I am coming from here. I want to be open and honest with my readers, but I also want to make sure I stay sane. Trying to keep up with the journalistic integrity kerfuffle of the week and complying with that will drive me completely insane as I feel many don’t make sense or are contradictory to other supposed requirements.

I will guarantee that I will continue to abide by the above disclosure requirements and any new ones I come up with that I feel need to be followed.

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Super Podcast Action Committee – Episode 118

Super Podcast Action CommitteeIf you missed Saturday’s live broadcast of Super Podcast Action Committee (Episode 118), you can watch the video replay on YouTube or download it below. On this week’s show hosts Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight discuss the latest GamePolitics poll (“How will the 3DS Smash Bros Release impact the Wii U?” at the 13:25 mark), Disney pulling Tiny Death Star offline without telling its developers or players (29:55), Brad Bushman’s latest study (37:10), and the Shadow of Mordor PR debacle involving YouTubers (51:00). You can grab an audio version of the show on iTunes or at the link below:

SuperPAC Episode 118 (1 hour, 10 minutes) 88.3 MB (the show was live so it is made available in its raw, unedited format).

As always, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and use our RSS Feed to add the show to your favorite news reader. You can also find us on Facebook, on Twitter @SuperPACPodcast andGoogle +. You can send us feedback on the show by dropping a note tosuperpacpodcast@gmail.com.

Credits: The Super Podcast Action Committee is hosted by E. Zachary Knight and Andrew Eisen, and produced by James Fudge. Music in the show includes “Albino” by Brian Boyko and “Barroom Ballet” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are in the public domain and free to use. ECA bumper created by Andrew Eisen.

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