In light of our revelations about the secret gaming journalism mailing list GameJournoPros, few can doubt that damaging groupthink has taken hold of the video games journalism establishment.
But quite how absurdly close to their subjects some gaming journalists are has been laid bare in black and white thanks to the leak of hundreds of emails from this private mailing list, which has been used by some games industry journalists to aggressively influence the opinions, policies and reporting priorities of other publications.
The emails below, copied verbatim from a chain about games developer Zoe Quinn and shared with Breitbart London by a sympathetic source in the games industry, spell out in disturbing detail how gaming journalists threw objectivity out of the window and became cheerleaders for Quinn after it was revealed that she had started a sexual relationship with a journalist just days after she appeared in his reporting.
Not only did at least one of their number have sex with Quinn, but, in an astonishing breach of critical distance, games journalists can be seen in the leaked emails proposing that members of the list together to purchase her a “feel better” gift, and even a “signed letter of support.” They call her ex-boyfriend, on whom Quinn cheated with five other men in the games industry, a “psychopath,” asking why a VICE interview with him wasn’t more hostile.
In a long apology published today on Ars Technica, senior gaming editor Kyle Orland, who founded GameJournoPros four years ago, admitted that comments we drew attention to yesterday had been “an error in judgment.” Orland was anxious to stress, contrary to our observations, that GameJournoPros is merely a discussion forum, and its existence does not indicate collusion.
But what emerges from closer inspection of the leaked emails is, if anything, more damning than allegations that journalists used it to reach consensus about breaking news. Dozens of prominent journalists in the gaming world are seemingly unaware of basic journalistic obligations and appear incompetent, unethical and confused.
“There is an ocean of distance between ‘hi we’re strangers and we’re aware of your dirty laundry’ and ‘Hi, we’re your colleagues, and we appreciate the work you do for our community. Illegitimi non carborundum’,” writes Andrew Groen, a contributor to WIRED, seemingly unaware that Quinn is not a “colleague,” but the subject of reporting. Describing Quinn as a colleague shows how paper-thin the barrier between reporter and reported has become.
The emails also show journalists reluctant to engage with questions of propriety. “As sympathetic as I am to the horrible harassment Zoe faced,” writes Kotaku reporter Jason Schreier, “I think this incident has raised enough questions about the incestuous relationship between press and developers already.”
Attempts to shut down enquiries in this way will strike most professional journalists, not to mention readers, as shocking. They demonstrate that the elite club of games bloggers and editors did not want to engage with allegations made by readers about their handling of the Zoe Quinn affair, perhaps for fear of what might surface.
Even after being exposed as conflicted, games journalists are still being less than straightforward about the extent of their collusion. In his apology today, Kyle Orland said, “No one else in the group took [my suggestions] seriously.” That is not what the leaked emails show.
Breitbart London is today releasing a selection of emails further to the messages published yesterday that demonstrate how urgently reform is needed among journalists who cover an industry worth over $80 billion. The emails cover journalists whose writing appears in almost every major gaming outlet and many technology publications, including Polygon, Eurogamer, GameSpot, Joystiq, Kotaku and WIRED.
Readers will be left asking whether these writers and editors have any idea what journalists are for, what their obligations and responsibilities are, and why evidence of conflict of interest and collusion are so troubling to their audience.
I had a thought. Maybe a bad one. You tell me: I remember a few years back when Patrick Klepek hit on some tough circumstances we all pitched in to get him a “feel better” gift. Anybody think something like that could be appropriate to address the circumstances that have been forced upon Zoe? Even if it’s not monetary. Maybe a signed, joint letter of support from the Game Journo Pros. I know she’s not a member of the group like Patrick was, but I do know that this is part of a broader theme of the industry losing talent to the toxic culture. And that’s our business. In my mind, it’s a joint show of solidarity to match the trolls’ joint show of force … The last thing I think we want is Zoe thinking she’s under attack *alone.* The brain has a way of convincing you that silent people are against you.
— Andrew Groen, WIRED contributor
As the person I’m going to assume is the most irrationally optimistic person here, I like this idea. Small bits of kindness can do a lot, even when found in oceans of shit.
— Dan Starkey, Eurogamer, GameSpot, Joystiq, Kotaku
This is barely a game-industry story, no matter how some people want to frame it. This is a story about a person who happens to be in the game industry and their personal relationships (no matter how it may weave back into “the industry” and however poor the person’s judgments may have been) and public expose of private materials by that person’s partner as revenge, so I don’t think we, as games press, should support furthering the story by commenting, editorializing or even allowing others to ruminate on it.
— Andy Eddy
Who here hasn’t slept with a PR person or game developer? #AMIRITE
— William O’Neal, editor-in-chief, TechRadar.com
I like the signed letter of support idea. Even better if we can get some developers in on that. Anyone want to volunteer to draft something?
— Kyle Orland, Ars Technica
I’d also suggest that – if others think the letter is a good idea – we should do this entirely under the radar, organizing it through word-of-mouth and email rather than Twitter. I made the mistake earlier of publicly voicing support and in doing so drawing more attention to the issue. I’d rather not make that mistake again.
— Andrew Groen, WIRED contributor
As sympathetic as I am to the horrible harassment Zoe faced, I think this incident has raised enough questions about the incestuous relationship between press and developers already.
— Jason Schreier, Kotaku
Silver lining: Quinn is getting a bunch of new Patreon patrons today, apparently.
— Kyle Orland, Ars Technica
I would prefer not to be associated with this. It feels wrong to me. I think it feels very off to reach across the fence from journalist to subject in this way. I prefer professional distance, especially given the accusations being levied at us from outside.
— Mike Futter, Game Informer