Zoe Quinn: GamerGate must be condemned

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Media caption,

Extended interview with Zoe Quinn about 'GamerGate'

Games publishers and industry figures must "stand-up and condemn" the movement referred to as "GamerGate", developer Zoe Quinn has told the BBC.

Ms Quinn has been at the centre of a furore which some argue is about ethics in journalism, but others consider to be a largely misogynist hate campaign.

The 27-year-old was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats.

She said publishers must "say GamerGate, and what it's been doing, is wrong".

"The fact that so much of the responsibility is offloaded to the people most harmed by it, when somebody in a much safer position than I am can stand up and condemn it... it's frustrating."

Intimate details

In a highly-emotional interview, Ms Quinn told the BBC how her life had "completely changed" after she had become embroiled in the row.

In August, an ex-boyfriend of Ms Quinn published a blog post, that ran to thousands of words, detailing intimate details about their relationship.

The posts detailed that Ms Quinn had had a relationship with a journalist at prominent games site Kotaku - prompting accusations from others she had done so in an attempt to get positive reviews for her game, Depression Quest.

While the relationship happened, the review did not. The debate continued, however, and is now approaching its third month.

Ms Quinn, who has not returned home since the initial threats, had been speaking at the annual Gamecity event in Nottingham - despite a previous threat she would suffer a "crippling injury" the next time she went to a games conference.

"I used to go to games events and feel like I was going home," Ms Quinn said.

"Now it's just like... are any of the people I'm currently in the room with ones that said they wanted to beat me to death?

"It's terrifying. It sucks to not have any privacy. This has all been so public. It's more scrutiny than a politician faces - it's living with constant fear in a place I called home."

The ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, has said he did not support the "abuse and harrasment" of Ms Quinn.

'Horrible misrepresentation'

Some firms - such as Ubisoft - have come forward and said they were strongly against "harassment, bullying and threats".

The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group for US developers, released a statement saying: "Threats of violence and harassment are wrong."

But Ms Quinn said she did not feel it went far enough.

Image source, Zoe Quinn
Image caption,
Zoe Quinn's game is based on her own experiences with depression

"We need everybody to stand-up and condemn it - and not in this milquetoast 'harassment is bad you guys' way - because they don't think that what they're doing is harassment."

She added: "When people that are prominent in the industry can stand up and say 'I'm part of games, I love games, this hate mob doesn't speak for me, this is not welcome in games', it has the two-fold effect of making it less damaging to those that this can hurt, and it does something repair this horrible misrepresentation of this medium that so many of us love.

"Condemning them and say they do not speak for games - it's so fundamental, otherwise this is going to keep happening."

'Pure toxicity'

Analysis of discussion about GamerGate has indicated that misogynist abuse - and vitriolic messages in general - is not limited to either "side" of the argument.

Journalist Allum Bokhari, a writer for TechCrunch, has said there was credible evidence that at least one well-known trolling group was "working to provoke both sides against each other".

Meanwhile, some people previously offering highly vocal support of GamerGate have backed off.

Image source, Twitter
Image caption,
Brianna Wu is another developer targeted by online abuse

"Through a snowball effect of misinformation, trolling, and ideological/emotional bias on both sides, the issue is quickly descending into a quagmire attracting trolls, extremists, and opportunists needlessly stirring the pot of controversy," said one prominent figure who backed GamerGate, but wished to remain anonymous in this article.

"The harassment is ultimately an unfortunate variable affecting both sides of this situation, and it distresses me to see anyone live in fear.

"Dismissing GamerGate as a misogynist hate movement is not going to make it go away, because it just simply is not that - it's a consumer boycott.

"Until we act like adults and come together to have a conversation on the ethics of games journalism, it's only going to get worse and worse - that's why I'm now choosing to distance myself from the issue."

Ms Quinn herself suggested that the gaming ethics argument could progress - but only if it distanced itself fully from GamerGate tag.

"If you have any care for this industry, if you have any care for the future of games, you need to leave.

"If you have actual concerns, start over without [GamerGate]. If your concerns can't exist on their own, if they have to be supported off the backs of ruining lives, then how legitimate are your concerns?"

'Maybe they'll be back'

As well as Ms Quinn, other women in the games industry have had to leave home due to threats to their safety, including Brianna Wu, a developer in Boston, and Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist writer and commentator.

Ms Sarkeesian had published a series of YouTube videos criticising the depiction of women in many popular games. Some felt it was applying a level of political correctness not needed in gaming.

Image source, Feminist Frequency
Image caption,
Feminist video blogger Anita Sarkeesian also said she had fled her home after receiving death threats

Ms Quinn said it was important to keep talking about the issue openly.

"I don't want to set an example that you can do this and get what you want.

"I have a folder on my desktop called 'those who left' - every time somebody sends me a message saying 'hey, I really admire your strength, but it's not worth it for me, I'm leaving', I save these.

"I'm going to hopefully go back through it in a few years, and maybe they'll be back."

As for whether she would be able to continue her own career, she said: "I love games more than they hate me."

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

An extended interview with Zoe Quinn will be published later on Thursday.