The Truth About Zoe Quinn

I have a friend who makes games. She’s funny and brilliant and brash, never hiding her thoughts and so quick-witted that keeping up feels like a sport. She’s also a brilliant designer who can’t get enough— she can take apart the popular text-adventure engine Twine and put it back together and make it do things that a text-adventure engine built on wiki markup has no business doing. She’s working in multiple engines and genres at once, and she made a game called Jeff Goldblum Staring Contest that involves staring at Jeff Goldblum— one of my favorite pastimes. But the point is— you meet enough developers and you see things. You see the devs that are here because they wanted to be when they were little kids, you see the devs who have broad ideas about how they want to very deliberately push the genre— and then you see the devs who are artists, for whom making games is their primary mode of expression. The kind of dev who’s more likely to make you a game for your birthday than bake you a cake.

That’s Zoe.

The truth about Zoe Quinn is that no one in the world deserves the shit that she has gotten. The truth is that these witch hunts over journalistic ethics and transparency and whatever bullshit dog whistle that 4chan and its ilk are using for their issues with a woman’s sexual agency are driving women out of the industry.

The truth is that Jade Raymond’s horrific harassment that lead to a prominent webcomic making an awful pornographic comic about her— suggesting that she was trading sexual favors for positive buzz about her game— that happened seven years ago.

We keep trying to change the industry, we #1reasonwhy and #1reasontobe and protest and thinkpiece and organize, but the truth is not much has changed. We talk about how the most recent IGDA game dev survey says the number of women in the industry has doubled, but the truth is that women still make up less than a quarter of the industry’s work force.

I have met some of the most amazing women I have ever known through the game industry. Larger-than-life, funny, warm, sweet, razor-sharp, overeducated women, the kind who laugh too loudly in quiet rooms. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard most of them laugh. One of them IMed me today about how she was leaving the industry and she couldn’t handle the idea of disappointing me but she just couldn’t take it any more, and I told her it was okay, it’s fine, self-care is so important, because it is.

The truth is that after our conversation ended, I put my head in my hands and cried.

I could tell you stories about the voices we’ve lost, the women we’ve scarred, the people we’ve left behind. I want to, but I’m not sure you’d get it. I tweeted earlier today, We should have a war memorial for all of the women we have lost to this. We should lay flowers and grieve and see our reflections in stone. And I meant it. I wish there were a way to honor the people our industry has wronged, and a way to visualize the enormity of what we have lost because of it— some representation of the gap between what games are and what they can be, and the pieces of the bridge between that have fallen away.

The truth is sometimes I have survivor’s guilt, and sometimes I have panic attacks about being the only one left fighting, and sometimes despite all of my tough words and the fact I literally cannot imagine doing anything else with my life, the truth is that I can’t stop thinking about maybe leaving the industry. I don’t want to; the thought is like an involuntary tic, tugging at my consciousness. Maybe it’s a survival instinct.

I keep using the word “survive” but I can’t help but wonder: is this surviving? What parts of me are surviving? Can any woman escape this whole?

That’s the thing. The truth is, a lot of the women who are being driven away have never met or interacted with Anita or Zoe. A lot of the women in our industry exist in a constant state of fear. Women who make games and would never dream of connecting their face or real name with a Twitter account, just in case. Women who would never go indie. Women who are terrified of starting a crowdfunding campaign but who can’t get their dreams funded any other way, and so their dreams just die.

Are you okay with this? Is this the industry that you want?

Because this is war, and the truth is there’s no balanced reporting. There’s no “hearing both sides.” If you’re not speaking out with us or fighting for us, then you’re not some reasoned logician who is letting cooler heads prevail— the truth is you don’t give a shit about the women in the industry. You don’t care about the casualties. And you are part of the problem.

The truth about Zoe Quinn is that every woman in the industry is one unhinged ex-partner away from being Zoe Quinn, and if that doesn’t scare you, there’s no hope for us at all.

22 Responses to “The Truth About Zoe Quinn”

  1. Matheus Gregório Marques Lima says:

    As a person who actively fights against harassment, I’m standing by the side of everyone that is against it too.

    No matter what have been, no matter what people think, harassment is a serious issue and it can’t be left unchecked.

    More people need to fight it, not just accept that it’s there. Boys will be boys is no excuse. When boys don’t behave, we ground them. The same should be the same for the internet.

    People, call out when you see harassment, ask for help, fight it upfront, report on it, do something, just don’t let it happen without consequence. Harassment is not something a civil person should be exposed to, because civility and civilaztion are both part of the same thing. When you lack civility, you lack the structure that makes the civilization what it is.

  2. Emily Merkle says:

    Holy cow, did this ever strike a chord.

  3. Rory says:

    I maytired of the other guys in the gaming industry. I see the treatment they give women, and I cry. To be honest; I feel like the kids at my school are part of the problem. My school is full of racist, sexist c***s who are constantly hurting others.

    This is the reason why I hate this world.

    Do they even think about how it effects people psychologically? Is this a game to them? I am on the verge of writing to a very large number of very important people, to try to get this to stop. I feel like I’m the only guy with these feelings and I really want to end the sexism problem in the industry. Hang in there

  4. John says:

    This whole Zoe event has made me rethink my views.

    I understand that the gaming journalism industry is a corrupt and biased joke, but people have made this particular movement about Zoe, rather than about the journalists, and the only reason that I really can think why they would do that is because they don’t want women who want to discuss gender politics. Yes, she brought SJW wrath down on anyone who disagreed with her sometimes radical views, but that still doesn’t justify what’s happened.

  5. theUncommon says:

    I 100% agree with this. I’m male and white and therefore will never feel what you and these other warriors are feeling, but I’m here and willing to stand shoulder to shoulder against the waves of bullshit.

    There’s a phrase that I hear a lot, and that I used to use a lot: “Never read the comments.” After what happened with Zoe I’ve decided to change my opinion. Read the comments, write your own positive ones, drown out the toxic negativity with positive messages supporting the people who’s work you love. We’ve been the silent majority for long enough, allowing the vocal minority of arseholes dictate what people think of those who play games.

    We are not spoiled children, we are not misogynistic assholes, we are not the subhuman wretches that send death and rape threats. We are people who love games.

  6. Thank you for this post.

    I am consistently amazed by the women in games who persist and stick around. I’ve considered leaving more times than I can count, and that was simply because of the base line stress of making games. Which is literally nothing compared to the bullshit that women have to put up with regularly.

    Women who not only persist in this industry, but manage to be public figures and do good, are legit super heroes. Like, with super powers. Because that’s the only way I can understand how it is that you survive this industry, faced with all the layers of shit that gets flung at you, both internally and externally.

    Keep fighting. Don’t leave. The medium needs you, and it is good for everyone, even if they are too dense/ignorant to see it.

    Thank you.

  7. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this well written piece. I am afraid the message will be lost on those who need to be educated the most. Still, even with that sword of negative energy hanging over our heads, I’m glad you spoke up spoke out.
    It pains me greatly to see these tactics played out against any woman
    (or anyine who identifies as a woman) in this industry. My only hope, the thing I cling to, is seeing voices like yours speak out. Women and men saying, this is enough. I look to other proffesions and tgeir histories of gender inequality. It can change, it will change. We just need to try and find that silver lining each day that will support all and keep the movement going.

  8. CyclingSage says:

    So it looks like war, the “vocal minority” have made it so. I don’t usually comment on much, not a member of many boards but that is one of the problems. The majority, the reasonable, let me do my thing, you do yours people(basically all the gamers that I know, anyway)need to speak up now. THESE ASSHOLES DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME!

  9. Gersande says:

    Thank you for this. Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

  10. Devin Horsman says:

    Hey! I don’t know you, but I think you put this up to start a conversation. I’ve noticed something in this article that I’ve noticed in a number of activist writing across different causes. Know that I speak to you in good faith as a supporter of the cause of equality & movement away from the status quo.

    All that being said theres something that really bothers me about this article:

    Because this is war, and the truth is there’s no balanced reporting. There’s no “hearing both sides.” If you’re not speaking out with us or fighting for us, then you’re not some reasoned logician who is letting cooler heads prevail— the truth is you don’t give a shit about the women in the industry. You don’t care about the casualties. And you are part of the problem.

    This suggests 1) that someone (the reader’s) emotional well being and self-determination is less important than the cause, and 2) that ‘feet on street’ activism is the best way for everyone contributing to a cause to act.

    I think that language alienates a large group of allies to the cause and would respectfully ask that you reconsider the wording, or perhaps clarifying you viewpoint for these cases.

    I for one will continue to be a “cooler head” prevailing: I can support this movement better by:
    1) hiring underrepresented groups
    2) making games that support this cause with their content
    3) teaching and offering my support to underrepresented groups
    4) using my money to support artists who are creating works that support this movement with their content

    than I can arguing on twitter and getting little done because I’m overloaded by the negative emotions flying rampant.

    Well, I hope this is a viewpoint you consider moving forward, and thanks for sharing yours. I hope we can high five some time soon at a thing; I doubly hope that in time that thing is a safe space for everyone.

  11. Dusty Morgan says:

    This and the Anita Sarkeesian story breaks my heart. No one deserves what these two have gone through. I can’t imagine an ex being that bitter, and having that bitterness drive them to literal heinous behavior. If Zoe is your friend, let her know that the vast majority of us who play and talk about games are on her side. The silent majority isn’t the misogynist dickheads that are trying to destroy lives, it’s us and the silence has to end.

  12. Aaron Doherty says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    I truly hope the industry doesn’t scare away women. Their contributions are needed now more than ever.

  13. Andrew Grabish says:

    No, no it is not ok. And there is no way that this kind of garbage should even be a thing. It really shouldn’t be.

    I am ashamed at the antics of people. It almost physically hurts to share a Y chromosome with these folks. I do what I can with the audience I do have. People I work with, trying to call out the casual sexism, racism, bigotry from all angles. It is uncomfortable. But it has to be done. I want my kids, of which I have two little girls, to be able to follow me into the games industry should that be their wish. So I have to help change it. I slip, because I am not perfect, but I try. I have an audience, I have people who respect my opinions. I can effect them on a small scale.

    I invite anyone who reads this, especially the men out there, who work in the industry to join me. Not in making grand gestures, but in making small ones.

    Before you say something, listen to yourself. Think about what you are saying. It just takes a moment. Are you presuming hetro-normative male as a default? Are you calling something non-hetro-normative male ‘weird’ or in otherwise a negative light?

    If you hear something, call it out. You don’t have to belabor the point but make the person aware of what they are saying. Casual sexism/racism/homophobia is a part of our basic social matrix. Most people won’t even think they have said is insulting half the population.

    If you agree that this kind of stuff isn’t right, join me in effecting your corner of the world. The big bus of society can be turned around, but it takes all of us to help.

  14. Todd Robinson says:

    Thank you for this! I am in charge of 2 gaming degrees at an Art college and am trying to support my students dreams of getting into the game industry. This sort of behavior can not be tolerated. I have an active audience with a 30% base of women in the classrooms. Any suggestions on how we broach this topic and make people feel safe? The last time I tried was with the fighting game tournament issues that popped up a couple of years ago. I was amazed at the resistance that some of the students presented when asked, is it OK to make rape threats to opponents? “They should grow a thick skin” “They know we don’t mean it” etc… My goal is to help change this industry a little at a time by graduating students who understand what it means when you engage in this sort of behavior. Every little bit counts, right?

  15. fluffy says:

    There’s also this insane conspiracy theory around her trying to discredit both her and Phil Fish at every opportunity. At one point I publicly replied to one of her Tumblr posts with general sympathies, and someone else sent me an anon “ask” telling me to “look at both sides of the story,” accused me of spreading misinformation, and then proceeded to list out a whole bunch of misinformation based on distortions and easily-fabricated circumstantial evidence that’s been spread as pure truth in the incredibly rabid anti-Zoe “community.”

  16. Maboroshi says:

    I have no idea if Zoe Quinn did whatever the hell these people are saying she did and frankly at this point i don’t care, it’s not my business.

    Also i am not a regular watcher of Anita Sarkeesian’s videos, it’s not out of any malice or due to political reasons, i just don’t watch her videos (in the same way i don’t watch Linkara’s for example) and while i didn’t always agree with what have seen of her i hold no malice towards her and i think the very idea of what she’s doing is incredibly admirable, especially since we need proper academic criticism of gaming in addition to the humourous AVGN or angry joe style shows which tend to not take themselves too seriously and focus on different areas of criticism.

    that last paragraph got out of hand but i needed to say my peace about the two most visible people in this shitstorm before saying this. nothing and i repeat NOTHING justifies the terrible things being done to those two people, as well as the others who support them. i’m not some “SJW” or “White Knight” or whatever the terms for “not an asshole” are. i’m just a gamer who supports inclusiveness in gaming, whether those who want to game are male, female, other, gay, straight, black, white, alien whatever. just be awesome to each other. or at least civil.

    • Maboroshi says:

      oh and as an addendum. if this makes sense. Anita Sarkeesian, just by existing is proving the need for her existence. this whole situation proves that.

  17. When I was younger, I wanted to be a game designer like most young gamers. I didn’t believe that it was a job that I’d spend all of my time playing games, I knew that it would be hard work. I inevitably had to give up on my dreams of becoming a designer because I didn’t feel that I was smart enough to do it all but instead decided to focus on writing. I have my own reasons why that part of my dream died as well, and I mourn it every time I see a game that’s released that uses a concept I planned in my (probably far too ambitious) game idea years ago.

    However, reading this article has been painful for me. I always felt that the gaming industry was not unlike the movie or music industries in that you either had to be a genius at the craft or “know someone” in the industry. With the proliferation of indie developers and smaller studios cranking out some majorly innovative games, I had a small measure of my hope restored for those would come behind me with a dream to be the next Yuji Naka, Hideo Kojima, Peter Molyneux. However, as I have learned in this article, there is an inherent problem with that thought.

    After consulting the mighty Google, I could find no female game designers of note, which is both surprising and saddening. I didn’t dare look for game designers of color because after seeing that the outlook for women was so bleak, I didn’t want to deal with the fact that as an young black male, I had just as small of a chance or worse, a better opportunity just because I was a “minority” and not because I was better, or smarter or more innovative. Then, an epiphany: I could make a difference for them where I was too scared to make a difference for myself.

    You mention that there are women who are too afraid to start a crowdfunding campaign because of the industry “trolls” out there. Well, although my voice is small, I promise here and now to do my best to support any and all indie or crowdfunded game developers but to put special emphasis on support those who are trying to shatter the glass wall that exists in the gaming industry. I’ll take the fight to those trolls who would “casually harass” female developers for no better reason that they have nothing better to do.

    Like I’ve said before, although my voice may be small, sometimes perseverance is the small voice in the back of the room that says, “Don’t give up now. I’m still here with you, behind you, beside you.”

    To all of those women that you know in the gaming industry that tell you that they want to quit, tell them that there’s one anonymous gamer out there that is waiting with bated breath to support them. Not because they are women, but because they are brilliant and no gamer’s dream deserves to die.

    -K.W.

  18. crawlkill says:

    it’s terrifying the way these men’s rights-style internet monstrosities can behave so badly that it actually becomes impossible even to be comfortable asking yourself if the psycho ex might have had a legitimate personal grievance (which is in no way to suggest that that giant filibuster blog would have been a legitimate way to air that grievance, even if he had).

    can they really all just be horrible teenagers? is it really just a bunch of self-loathing disenfranchised nerds turning their rage at their own powerlessness outward? what’s the psychology behind the ever-hungry ever-watchful roving misogynist internet lynch mob? how can people even work that way? and how the fuck can it be stopped?

    when you can no longer feel safe sitting in a locked room and typing “I’d appreciate being treated more like a human being,” something is disastrously wrong.

  19. Kav P says:

    Yeah… I gave up my dreams of being in the game industry after 5 years, just the other month. As it is at the moment, it´s just, not, worth it. I have invested so much of my time into becoming a part of something that I love, and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do for a career now, but whatever I do it will be better than facing rape and death threats for daring to try making games better for everyone.

    Having said that, I have so much respect and admiration for the women who refuse to give up. I will support you all wholeheartedly so that one day I might be able to join you.

  20. Allison Hill (@Alli893) says:

    Thank you.

  21. Simon Magid says:

    I have followed Anita Sarkeesian for a while now and I am deeply impressed with her work, her conviction and the sheer power of her presentations. I have long been dimly aware of the problems of misogyny in gaming. Anita Sarkeesian made me understand just how serious these problems are. And the contemptible excuses for human beings that persecute her underline how important that these problems are dealt with — and the need for a safer Internet for the women struggling with them.

    There is no excuse for the cretins who persecute Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and countless other women simply because they have the courage to speak up and point out that there is a problem. And they do not speak for me.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sometimes you just feel like giving up | Turn the Page - […] journalists who report on gaming face it.  Elizabeth Sampat wrote about this just yesterday in her Truth About Zoe …
  2. Showing the DudeBros the Door - […] Read the article on Elizabeth’s site […]
  3. Rounding Up the Sexist Cyclones of Gaming in August 2014 | Feminism/geekery - […] The Truth about Zoe Quinn by Elizabeth Sampat […]

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