Brandon Orselli, founder and editor-in-chief of Niche Gamer, interviewed game developer Denis Dyack, former president of development studio Silicon Knights, director of the critically-acclaimed Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, and 2011 inductee to the Canadian Gaming Hall of Fame. Dyack endorsed #GamerGate’s desire for ethics in video game journalism and fight against video game censorship.
When asked by Orselli about his inspiration for discussing #GamerGate, Dyack cited Amy Hennig, a fellow game developer on action-adventure game Legacy of Kain. The former Silicon Knights president stated that Hennig “felt people were painting a false narrative of the industry” before stating that he, himself, thought “the games industry is a great place for women to work in.”
Attempting to rationalize the media’s association of traditional gaming with males, Dyack explained that gaming, “like every tech industry in history, it’s typically dominated by males, [but] as it becomes more creative, more females come into it.” He continued, saying, “everyone I know, all the major developers, directors… they’re all very encouraging for women.” Addressing former NFL punter Chris Kluwe’s claim that #GamerGate is a hate group, the developer stated that he “just fundamentally reject[s] that idea.”
“Most of the developers I know seem to be very pro-GamerGate. And what I mean by that is, again, they want journalistic ethics, they want their games reviewed fairly,” he explained. “They want to not go through having to jump through hoops. They just want people to look at, talk about, and enjoy their games.”
Dyack has reason to be critical of the gaming press. A 2012 article from Kotaku titled “What Went Wrong With Silicon Knights’ X-Men: Destiny?” author Andrew McMillen made damning accusations against Dyack and his management of Silicon Knights based on the accounts of anonymous sources who purportedly used to work at the company. Neither Dyack nor publishing partner Activision would comment on the story, as Dyack would later explain that “When I first saw this article, I [didn’t] believe—because there was not a single credible source where nothing could be verified—that anyone would actually believe this.” The article was damaging enough to Dyack’s reputation to impact the Kickstarter campaign for his attempt to crowdfund a sequel to Eternal Darkness that he provided a lengthy video response to Kotaku’s accusations.
Reflecting on #GamerGate’s opposition to academia’s involvement in gaming, Dyack said that “all the academic groups I’ve worked with are really progressive, they just want to study games, they don’t really care about sexual politics and gender issues.”
Moving onto another critical component of #GamerGate, Dyack stated that he’s “very anti-censorship… I think that’s one of the things that got the press in trouble with #GamerGate – when they started censoring all the threads about it… rather than admit up to the mistakes… they jumped to what I think is the false narrative of misogyny in the video game industry to avoid their own issues.”
Addressing sexual content that some, such as cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, may call “degrading” or “misogynistic,” Dyack said “if there’s full nudity in a game… if it’s for a purpose and it makes an impact, then great!” The developer remarked, “I have not seen any evidence or any research that says anything [Sarkeesian’s] talking about is true. I’ve seen some reference to outdated research… it’s all been debunked.” Indeed, a recent long-term study of gamers found no correlation between the playing of video games and sexist attitudes.
Commenting on the block bot purportedly used by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) to block those who are pro-GamerGate, Dyack called it “unethical and anti-consumer in nature… anyone who’s making games these days needs to be very in-touch with their audience.” He continued, “You should feel free to speak about these things, especially if your customer cares about them. And as the #GamerGate movement continues to grow, it is pretty clear that they do.”
Focusing on the theory that violent video games make violent individuals, Dyack said “there’s no evidence to support” such a claim. “I look for facts… a fact is a fact, and if you can’t agree upon facts, where are you gonna go?”
Follow Rob Shimshock on Twitter @Xylyntial.