I recently talked with actor, writer, and Project X star Jonathan Daniel Brown to talk about his recent endorsement of #GamerGate and the ensuing reaction, the mainstream media, and Project XX.
Charlie Nash: So you started off as anti-GamerGate, then moved to a neutral position, and you’re now a pro-GamerGate figure, right? What prompted such a change from one position to the other?
Jonathan Daniel Brown: I think GamerGate is more of a left-wing consumerist movement than most people are willing to give it credit for. When I first started reading about GamerGate stuff I was like, “What the hell is this I’m seeing on Kotaku and Polygon and Destructoid, that women are being attacked in the world of gaming,” and I personally have seen a lot of shit talk in online games, but other than that I’ve never felt that, besides immature kids, video games are an unwelcoming place for women. I’ve been a life-long gamer, I love video games. It was very hurtful at first, I guess, to see all these people attacking a hobby I love as something that’s “inherently sexist” or “inherently shitty,” and when I started seeing all this stuff come more and more from the game publications themselves, I was getting very concerned.
When I was a kid, I was also anti-censorship. I was always for raunchy comedy. I grew up listening to comedians like George Carlin and Lewis Black, comics who taught me to question authority a lot, and I started to see what Jack Thompson was doing with Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat with Joseph Lieberman, and what the Democrats did with video games. It was very weird for me to see, because I’m left wing. I’m not right wing by any means of the imagination. So when I see the stuff that I love start to be attacked by people that are supposedly for free speech, it’s a very confusing thing. Not to mention video games have always been a place where, as far as I can see, has been a more welcoming community to women than, frankly, the TV and film industries, so the hypocrisy coming from the news media was very confusing to me.
A lot of fans of mine were for GamerGate, and it was like, “Well, I don’t wanna shit on my fans. I don’t wanna shit on the people who like my stuff. They must have something they want to talk about.” So when I went to Twitter and to KotakuInAction, I saw that none of these people actually cared about the drama surrounding Zoe Quinn and stuff, they cared about slanted coverage… That has nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with consumer rights. Something that Ralph Nader has spent his life fighting for. So the more I talk to these people, and the more I realize that though a lot of them lean conservative, it was actually a liberal position, in my opinion, that they all shared a common sort of love for. And that’s free speech; journalism that wasn’t necessarily connected to PR and publicists, but was more objective about the games that were being previewed and reviewed, and basically separating advertisement and editorial content which in these days have changed dramatically.
We’re living in a weird world where we don’t know what is an ad and what is an opinion. That line has blurred. Especially on the Internet where most people don’t know whether the media they read is actually trustworthy, whether the opinions they get are fair. There’s so much payola and money at play that it’s hard to see if the journalists you’re reading are telling you the truth or not.
I guess it’s been about two years since all of the GamerGate stuff started, and so my mind has really changed. What started as really a skepticism towards these mostly teenagers and young adults, turned into sort of admiration. I see what they’re doing as rebellious and interesting, because they’re challenging an advertisement-based system. They want journalism that covers their hobby objectively. They don’t want their own publications insulting them. They don’t want the publications they enjoy to be talking down on them, to be condescending, and the more and more you read these gaming sites, the more you realize there is a contempt for the readership. There is a contempt for the audience. That bothers me greatly, because I’ve loved games my entire life, so when I see stuff like that happening it’s like, “Hold on a second, what’s really happening here?”
I see GamerGate as a consumerist movement that happens to have a young, bi-partisan, mostly teenage/young adult crowd interested in it, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s a good thing. I think young people becoming interested in journalistic ethics, and also in the way that the sausage is made, and how the things they love are covered, is only positive.
CN: You’ve been having a lot of arguments with other movie industry people recently, particularly since you came out for GamerGate. Have you had quite a negative reaction from people because of your views on the topic? Has anyone agreed with you in private?
JDB: Here’s something interesting. Twitter.com is a chatroom. Twitter is a chatroom where there are no negative repercussions. I’ve talked about this stuff with some friends and most of them are like, “Yeah, the media sucks.” There are people who have gotten mad at me on the Internet, but the people that get mad at me on the Internet are the people who think Twitter.com is the place where everything essential to life is decreed upon. It’s nonsense. Twitter is a chatroom. It’s just a place where people talk about stuff.
I admit I like being a little inflammatory when I talk about this stuff, but it’s mainly just for fun. People get way too angry about the stuff they see on Twitter, they don’t realize that 3/4th’s of the people are dicking around.
So people have gotten mad at me online, but no one has gotten mad at me in real life because the truth is, in the end, video games are a hobby of mine, they’re not my entire life. I don’t think they’re anyone’s entire life.
I’ve pissed people off, but I haven’t lost work. I mean, I don’t think in the end that the majority of people care enough to make it something worth blacklisting someone over, at least in my experience in my industry. That said, on the journalism side, you see it online… How they all circle the wagons around each other. It’s not just gaming journalism. That is a big problem for movie and TV journalism too. The only place I read now for film journalism is the Hollywood Reporter. They’ve been fantastic in their coverage on everything from talent scams, to class issues, the election, they’ve been pretty fair. But I don’t really read any other sites right now when it comes to movie and TV journalism. I don’t trust them.
Journalism is supposed to be about the truth. I remember when I was a kid, I would always be really surprised when something I would see gushed on by IGN, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or Game Informer’s preview section, when six months to a year later the critics would shit all over it, and I’d be like, how did it go from “this is the game everyone has to play” to “this game is an irredeemable piece of dog shit?” Well, because they work really closely with advertisers and with publicists to get the best stuff out about the game and not necessarily the previews that will tell you what’s really going on here.
The majority of games journalists today don’t feel like they like games very much, and that bothers me. It feels like a lot of them are people who wanted to do other kinds of journalism and then ended up trapped in games journalism, and they just begrudgingly do it.
CN: Obviously the games industry is rampant with social justice, virtue signalling, identity politics, and cronyism. How does Hollywood/the movie industry relate to this? Is it better or worse?
JDB: I believe in social justice at its basic level. I believe in economic justice in its basic levels. But we’re in a weird time where entertainment is being treated like politics, and politics is being treated like entertainment.
I don’t understand people who get more offended by violence in a game than violence in real life. I don’t understand people who will lose their minds over a rape on Game of Thrones, but don’t care about rape in the real world. I’ve met people who will get offended over drug use in a movie. Well, there’s people doing drugs on the street corners everywhere.
Art and entertainment are reflections of our society. They’re reflections of the world we see around us. So if you get upset over something you see in a video game, or hear in a piece of music, or see in a movie or on TV, maybe you should get upset about the world around us that’s created whatever has come to mind and let an artist manifest that.
I really believe people who politicize entertainment are doing it to cover up for essentially their own shitty behavior, and I also think they do it as a way to get clicks, and bait controversy. I don’t think that these people genuinely care. I don’t think the writers of Polygon give a shit about any of the issues they talk about, they’re trolling their fans. That’s what they’re doing. Yes, you have that in the movie industry too, of course.
I’ve spoken to people who worked on Ghostbusters that thought the movie was a pile of shit. They all knew. The movie itself wasn’t that bad, but it was the marketing campaign. It was the marketing campaign and insulting the fans that really turned people off from the film. I don’t understand this new trend in the last five years in hobby journalism, whether it’s tech, whether it’s gaming, whether it’s music, whether it’s film or TV, to shit all over the people who pay for the stuff. It makes no sense to me.
If I didn’t have people paying for my stuff, I wouldn’t be able to afford my rent. It’s very baffling. I love the people who watch my stuff, I love my fans. I mean, I get approached like every other day and it’s a self-esteem booster. If I can make somebody’s life easier for a couple hours or an hour and a half, if I can make something they enjoy, something they think about and makes them question the world they live in, or at least have a good time and escape from their problems, then I’ve done my job.
It’s very confusing anti-populist rhetoric in the world of entertainment and I don’t get it.
CN: Have you got any upcoming projects coming out, or anything you’re working on at the moment?
JDB: I’m doing some voiceover work on an animated series. I have a pilot coming up that I’m very excited about. Project XX has been in development the last couple of years, and it’s something that people really wanna see. I get asked about it by a lot of people online, and just people coming up to me asking, “When’s the Project X sequel coming out?” And it’s chugging along, but development in the studio is very slow. The fans have to essentially, for lack of a better word, lobby the studio. They have to let Warner Brothers know that it’s something they really want, and I do think it’s something they want, because they made a ton of money off of it, no matter what any of the critics wrote. People like it, and it stuck around. A lot of movies don’t stick around, so I think that’s very cool.
I have a short I wrote that I’m going to be producing this summer I’m really excited about. It’s called ‘Horseshoe Theory’, and it’s a ten minute gay romantic comedy between a white supremacist and a member of ISIS.
I like rustling jimmies. I like pissing people off with the stuff I make and I think it will offend some people, but then I’ve done my job.
To read what Jonathan Daniel Brown had to say about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the Bernie Sanders campaign, Dr. Jill Stein, and the DNC email leaks, make sure to check back for part two of the interview.