A response to Brianna Wu

Brianna Wu, who may or may not be the former Bruce Freeman, has successfully sold his sob story to the Washington Post:

They’ve taken down women I care about one by one. Now, the vicious mob of the Gamergate movement is coming after me. They’ve threatened to rape me. They’ve threatened to make me choke to death on my husband’s severed genitals. They’ve threatened to murder any children I might have.

This angry horde has been allowed to wage its misogynistic war without penalty for too long. It’s time for the video game industry to stop them.

No. What part of this does he not understand. “You could say all gamers drink the blood of innocents under a full moon and I still wouldn’t give a fuck.” – Phasmal. That is exactly how the average gamer feels about this. Whether Wu ends up being ritually tortured and force-fed Ebola before being sacrificed to Cthulhu on an altar made of desert-aged E.T. cartridges or not, his fate is not going to alter any of our opinions on the matter in the slightest. We don’t care. People are dying of Ebola in Africa too. We are still going to design, develop, and play exactly the sort of games we want to design, develop, and play.

And as for those hypothetical children, well, to paraphrase the immortal Zaphod Beeblebrox, count the chromosomes.

Gamergate is ostensibly about journalistic ethics. Supporters say they want to address conflicts of interest between the people that make games and the people that support them. In reality, Gamergate is a group of gamers that are willing to destroy the women who have invaded their clubhouse.

No, #GamerGate is a broad spectrum of gamers who have no intention of permitting a small group of pinkshirted SJWs do to games what the pinkshirts have done to SF/F literature, namely, destroy it through hyperpoliticization. And we are well aware that the so-called “game journalists” are conspiring with those pinkshirts to do it.

The next day, my Twitter mentions were full of death threats so severe I had to flee my home. They have targeted the financial assets of my company by hacking. They have tried to impersonate me on Twitter. Even as we speak, they are spreading lies to journalists via burner e-mail accounts in an attempt to destroy me professionally.

Boo-freaking-hoo. Even if we assume those “death threats” are genuine, Wu destroyed himself professionally when he lined up with the pinkshirts in the media against the gamer community. No serious gamer will ever play one of his games, no matter how many ideological sympathetic game journalists write favorably about it.

We’ve lost too many women to this lunatic mob. Good women the industry was lucky to have, such as Jenn Frank, Mattie Bryce and my friend Samantha Allen, one of the most insightful critics in games media. They decided the personal cost was too high, and I don’t know who could blame them. Every women I know in the industry is terrified she will be next.

We don’t want them, and it is entirely obvious that we don’t need them either. There are more than a few real genuine women who are part of GamerGate. Obviously Wu doesn’t know any of them, because unlike him, they are not pinkshirt-wearing political activists who are more considerably interested in ideological propaganda and self-inflating genre than in electronic entertainment.

The culture in which women are treated this way by gamers didn’t happen in a vacuum. For 30 years, video games have been designed by men, marketed to men and sold to men. It’s obvious to anyone outside the industry that video games have serious issues with the portrayal of women. It’s not just oversexualized examples, such as Ivy of the Soul Caliber series. Games are still lazily falling on the same outdated tropes involving women. Princess Peach, of Nintendo’s Mario games, has been kidnapped in 12 separate games since 1985. Perhaps the most disturbing of all is the propensity of games to have women thoughtlessly murdered as a motivation for the male hero, such as Watch Dogs.

The consequence of this culture is male gamers have been trained to feel video games are their turf. In stopping Gamergate, the men who dominate it – not just women — must address the culture that created Gamergate.

No. In a word, no. We don’t have to do anything of the sort. Nor do we wish to do so. It is our culture. Also, I note that Wu is dismissing the work of very single genuine female in the industry over the last 30 years. Roberta Williams, Jane Jensen, Brenda Laurel, Scorpia and Charlotte Panther at CGW, just to name a few. (To say nothing of Dani Bunton.) As for the “women thoughtlessly murdered” in video games than the men, surely Wu doesn’t imagine that the virtual body count is even remotely close to being distributed equally on sex grounds.

Some have. But many more have been silent. In the male-dominated video game media, many have chosen to sit by and do nothing as Gamergate picks us off, one by one. IGN has not covered Gamergate. Game Informer has not covered Gamergate. Ironically, the people who most need to hear this message are not hearing it, because of an editorial choice to stay on the sidelines.

He spoke too soon; Andy caved earlier today. So, it is an absolutely ludicrous lie to claim that anyone in the game industry is not hearing the absurd message, especially when anti-gaming pinkshirts are openly bragging about how the media is in their back pocket.

There are many straightforward steps we can take to change this.

First, major institutions in video games, which happen to be dominated by men, need to speak up immediately and denounce Gamergate. The dam started to break this week as Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb broke the silence at their publication on Monday. Last week, the industry’s top trade group, the Electronic Software Association spoke out against Gamergate, saying “Threats of violence and harassment have to stop. There is no place in the video game community for personal attacks and threats.”

No one, literally no one, cares what “the Electronic Software Association” has to say. Considering how successful they were attacking video game piracy, if they’re on the anti-gamers’ side, the pinkshirts ought to raise the white flag now.

Secondly, I call upon the entire industry to examine its hiring practices at all levels. Women make up half of all gamers, yet we make up only a fraction of this industry. While it’s possible to point to high profile women in the field, the fact remains. Women hold a shockingly disproportionate number of high level positions in game studios, game publishers and particularly in leadership roles. There are just 11 percent of game designers and 3 percent of programmers, according to The Boston Globe. Game journalism also plays a critical role. It doesn’t matter how many women we get into game production. If the only people evaluating the work we do continue to be men, women’s voices will never be heard.

Women no more “make up half of all gamers” than Brianna Wu has two X chromosomes. Playing Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds or Kim Kardashian’s Mutant Butt Destroys the Sheboygan Mall doesn’t make one a gamer any more than playing Myst did. “Gamer” is derived from “wargamer” and it is shorthand for “core gamer” or “serious gamer”. It does not refer to anyone who happens to play an electronic game any more than it refers to someone who plays hopskotch. No one is stopping women from starting their own game reviews. That’s exactly what I did in 1991 when virtually no one was reviewing games in the mainstream media and that’s how I ended up being nationally syndicated, with a game review column running weekly everywhere from Boston to San Francisco.

My friend Quinn told me about a folder on her computer called, “The Ones We’ve Lost.” They are the letters she’s gotten from young girls who dream of being game developers, but are terrified of the environment they see. I nearly broke into tears as I told her I had a folder filled with the same. The truth is, even if we stopped Gamergate tomorrow, it will have already come at too high a cost.

To dream of “being game developers” is not at all the same thing as doing the hard work of developing games. Those young girls may desire the status, but they show  absolutely no sign of wanting to actually do the work involved. Anyone who really and truly wants to make games will do so, and will not permit anyone to dissuade them. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be a game developer. You don’t need anyone’s encouragement. You don’t need hugs and a welcome mat. Thanks to the panoply of great tools available, it has never been easier to develop games. Wu can cry if he likes, but the fact is that none of “The Ones We’ve Lost” were ever going to develop a single game. Ever. Not even if they were welcomed into the industry with pixies, unicorns, and rainbows.