Just over a year ago the Game Journo Pro group had a very interesting conversation about “nerd shaming”. Using someone’s hobby to publicly humiliate them. This hot-button topic casually bubbled up into the conversation after Patricia Hernandez wrote an article on Kotaku about “This Is What A Brony Party Looks Like”, which was basically a video of people dancing at a My Little Pony Party. Ben Kuchera, of Penny Arcade fame and a current editor at Polygon, took great offense to Hernandez’ article.
The exchange happened last July, in 2013. It seemed like a throwaway event. Hernandez wrote a culture piece about guys who like the cartoon My Little Pony and decided to have a dance party by dressing up like the characters from the show. The original article, before Kotaku had Hernandez update the piece, is right here. That’s what caused all the ruckus.
Kuchera fired back a few days later with a very, very interesting piece over on The Penny Arcade Report (back when he wrote there). On July 16th, following the July 12th publication of the Kotaku piece, Kuchera wrote “Kotaku’s nerd-shaming article about Bronies is both nasty and unnecessary.” [the article has been deleted, as of September 9th, 2014 according to the last entry on the Wayback Machine] As outlined in the GJP thread.
What’s interesting here is that Ben’s stance is completely against an individual, a group, or an institution using a platform to “nerd-shame”.
“Listen, we get about 80 years on this planet, at best. Much of that time is painful. The night is dark, and full of terrors. If you find something that makes you happy, and it doesn’t hurt you or others, that is a great thing.”
“Life is too damned short for the concept of “guilty” pleasures to have any meaning.”
I find it fascinating that his stance is so adversely positioned to that of the #GamerGate movement. A movement, I might add, that feels as if it’s come under attack from outside academics who don’t understand or even play video games, but want to inculcate a change away from the current culture of “fun” and one toward intellectia. Using social media platforms, websites and news radio to shame, belittle and dogmatically force gamers to “listen and believe” seems to stand in opposition to Ben’s own beliefs. Or at least, the beliefs he once held at Penny Arcade.
Those participating in the discussion within the GJP actually agreed with Kuchera.
The last e-mail goes on to say that the tone of the original Kotaku article came across as mean-spirited and diminutive towards that part of the community, in which case, Stephen Totilo was contacted about addressing the author of the article to make changes.
What’s interesting here is that Kuchera rallies to the defense of helpless “Bronies” but took the opposite stance in #GamerGate; gamers get no defense.
Kuchera’s reasons? Well, they were outlined in the Breitbart article containing the leaked e-mails. Ben felt it necessary to be a knight in shining armor against the threats, harassment and abuse levied at a certain individual. Except, no one actively supporting #GamerGate has condoned harassment, abuse or attacking anyone. Here’s one of the images that circulated early on to get the message out, but all the major gaming news outlets opted not to cover anything positive about #GamerGate.
And yet, following the incident involving the infamous Tumblr post relating to the Depression Quest creator, Kuchera completely switches gears; he decides to throw any sense of objective observation to the wind and completely blow off the audience he was supposed to represent.
Ben goading Escapist editor-in-chief Greg Tito to shutdown the forum discussion on The Escapist that surrounded the events of the situation – and at the time, one of the only places on the net that wasn’t being heavily censored – as gamers were being attacked as a community from all sides of the media over things they had no control over, seemed like someone turning their back on championing people who found a hobby that made them happy. Just so you know, Ben was very persistent in wanting that thread gone.
Funny Ben’s last comment goes both ways. I mean, why was it okay to print “demonstrably untrue things” such as the IRC chat logs that were used to form a narrative around content that proved to be factually incorrect but not okay for a personal blog to do the same? Or is “demonstrably untrue” one of those subjectivist notions that should only apply to fit a predetermined outlook on how news and information-perception is fed to the general public?
I can’t imagine what would have happened to the movement if The Escapist had closed the thread, seemingly since it was the only open place allowing discussion at the time, apart from 4chan (which, in itself, has now outlawed #GamerGate talk).
The turnaround from last year – where these journalists felt Kotaku was wrongly demonizing a group of My Little Pony advocates – to this year, with many big names from these larger outlets having morphed into the attackers against a community they were supposed to represent, is a strange and startling thing.
The sweeping torrent of “Gamers Are Dead” articles rife with inaccuracies and falsities against the gaming community were supported, spread and championed by the people who are the gatekeepers of information within the gaming industry.
Why was it not okay for Kotaku to take a pot-shot at a fringe audience, but it’s now okay to chuck the entirety of game culture into the fire? Why was it okay for media to propagate “misogynerd”? Or why was it okay when Devin Faraci attempted to fat-shame Boogie2988? Why was it okay to “nerd-shame” in the face of #GamerGate?
Why did Ben go from supporting “guilty pleasures” to siding with people who would rather see them go away? Even worse yet, he did so with as little to go on other than Tumblr posts and hearsay, a problem that also plagued both Brad Wardell [via Breitbart] and Max Temkin [via Archive.Today].
I suppose the last part speaks volumes about the current climate of gaming news media; jumping to conclusions, not asking questions, and ratcheting up the need for controversy with little of anything to go on other than loose strings and random Twitter noise, as evidenced by the media’s flimsy attachment of #GamerGate to Sarkeesian’s 10-post Twitter abuser.
I’m most curious how someone like Ben Kuchera could repair a relationship with an audience he alienated through brash and blind emotion? And in light of #GamerGate calling for better ethics, will this mean Kuchera will take better care in surveying all sides of a situation before jumping the gun? This was a problem Greg Tito also had to rectify regarding Wizardchan.
Some of the current ilk of gaming journalists don’t believe in objectivity (or even standing by the truth, judging by some of the articles published), and their carelessness has led to this fallout. A lack of fact-checking, a lack of proper information sourcing and the ill-use of employing their platforms to bully their own audience, has resulted in irreparable damage to the image of gaming journalism moving forward.
As it was mentioned in the previous article pointing out gaming media’s current flaws, it would probably be best if the gaming journalists who helped promote, spread and instigate the misinformation during this debacle offer official apologies to the gaming community and consider resigning from their current publications.
(Featured image courtesy of District Geek)