The International Game Developers Association has come under fire multiple times over the course of the past few months for a number of reasons. Who have they come under fire from? Angry consumers, anonymous developers and gamers all utilizing the GamerGate hashtag. Well, after a recent video from internet super sleuth Camera Lady recently went live, various diggers associated with #GamerGate have been looking for ethical breaches and possible fiduciary violations by the IGDA. Well, one of the lifetime members of the organization has stepped forward to finally address some of the allegations of corruption regarding the IGDA.
While I was unable to get anyone from the IGDA to go on record about the issues concerning the #GamerGate Autoblocker that was and has been used by senior members of the IGDA, Derek Smart, a lifetime member of the organization and a game developer for over 25 years with titles like Battlecruiser 3000AD and Line of Defense under his belt, decided to step forward to address the issues in a public missive he posted on Pastebin. The respected member of the game development community stated…
“What I do want to tell you is that my support for the IGDA remains as it was from back when I joined it decades (!) ago and right up to my going the extra step to become a Lifetime Member.”
“I have a reputation for being a no-nonsense kinda guy; the outspoken part is just a side effect.
“People don’t scare me.
“No, what scares me is the very notion that I could wake up one morning and this, all of this, everything I’ve worked so very hard for and to be a part of, could be gone or changed for the worse.”
It is true. This “culture war”, as deemed by individuals like Jonathan McIntosh and Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, has created quite the divide in the gaming industry. On one side there are the free speech activists and on the other there are those who carry the banner as “diversity progressives”.
The tactics employed by some of the so-called progressives, oftentimes labeled by detractors as “SJWs” or “Social Justice Warriors”, is censorship, bullying and content policing. We’ve recently seen the Modtalk leaks reveal that individuals like Zoe Quinn and Patrick Klepek had the pull to get massive threads and discussions about #GamerGate censored and shutdown. We’ve seen the Game Journo Pros secret e-mail list used to blacklist individuals who were deemed “gross”, or individuals like Ben Kuchera bullying fellow journalists into shutting down discussion surrounding the corruption in games journalism at rival websites. We’ve had these same journalists appeal to Valve’s staff to pull a game off Steam Greenlight because they didn’t like the content. We’ve also seen individuals following this pattern of behavior fabricate lies to get a game like GTA V banned from Target and Kmart in Australia.
Nevertheless, Derek Smart takes the side of a neutral moderate. According to Smart…
“…for as long as this #GamerGate bullshit has been going on, I have refused to take sides. People have stopped asking me why that is because my response has always been, why choose a side in a conflict that affects us all? Why not LISTEN to both sides, meet somewhere in the middle – and end up with meaningful and reasonable discourse?”
“…when you relegate a group of people to nothing short of anarchists or nincompoops, refuse to listen or even engage in meaningful discourse, then accuse the majority of being something they are not, you shouldn’t be surprised at the fallout. It’s madness. Nobody wins. Instead, those who feel disenfranchised just dig in.”
We’ve seen this digging in take place in the form of consumers and gamers of all types rallying together under the umbrage of the “Gamers are Dead” articles to devise ways to get back at the gatekeepers of old; utilizing good old fashioned letter writing to advertisers to pull support from unethical sites and developing a hashtag called NotYourShield to give minorities, women and those who identify as LGBT a platform to speak up and be heard throughout all the media noise created to drown them out and silence their voices.
Smart goes on to say…
During the course of this whole #GamerGate fracas, both sides of the conflict pretty much declared open season on gamers, gamedevs and the gaming media, and with no reservations as to the damage that is being done, not only to all of us, but also to the very ecosystem that is “gaming”.
Smart brings out the point that during this onslaught gamers have picked “targets” across the board that they deem are pointing their lasers at them, from game journalists to DiGRA to UBM Tech and even the IGDA. However, Smart feels as if the IGDA may be falling under undue salvos from the diggers and muckrakers, writing…
“Most of the people who are engaging in this attack mode conduct, don’t even know what the IGDA does, why it was formed or even how it’s run. This despite the fact that the org’s charter is not only public knowledge, but as a non-profit, it has to adhere to very strict rules, regulations and guidelines.”
“Who can remember that cringe-inducing 2013 party fiasco? Or the blockbot fracas months back? I could go on and on; and those aren’t even the best ones; because those, they, like most corps, tend to just figure it out internally before it all goes nuclear.”
“In the last round of IGDA targeted attacks, it came to my attention that the IGDA, via Kate Edwards, the ED, was being accused of some highly questionable and ***legally*** actionable conduct. Serious stuff. Lawsuit type stuff. Especially for a non-profit.”
“The allegations are 100% bullshit and have no merit. Here is the historical connection.”
The allegations that Smart is referring to comes from information that was dug up and made public by various groups looking into the individuals who run the IGDA, noting that Kate Edwards, the current executive director of the IGDA, may have had a potentially unlawful conflict of interest between an old consulting firm and the position she carries at the IGDA. In a lengthy post over on Kotaku in Action, one user actually agrees with Derek Smart and dismisses the calls of corruption, with TalesOfAnnis writing…
“I don’t think we have anything here. As others have mentioned Ms. Edwards profiles (including the one on the IGDA’s own site ) make her relationship with Geogrify explicitly clear. She’s also been working with the IGDA for years with Geogrify’s site listing examples back to 2007. The idea that the board didn’t know about that relationship is a remote possibility at best. It may not look good for someone to get two pieces of the pie and it may not be something people really want made public but in terms of breaching fiduciary duty it’s a long-shot at best… and that’s probably overstating it.”
I did reach out to one of Geogrify’s former clients about the consulting work that Edwards’ firm did for them, and Cascade Game Foundry’s managing director, Kathie Flood, simply stated…
“I remember the consulting done by Geogrify. Top-notch work – a valuable service in a complex field. We have worked with them as Geogrify, Englobe, etc. since the mid-90’s.“
Smart verifies that the name of the firm had undergone changes, but also further notes that Edwards, the IGDA and the consulting firm are not in breach of any conflicts of interest, writing…
“The only connection between the IGDA and her firm, is related to the work that the IGDA hires her to do, that being, running the IGDA. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“There is no scenario whereby Kate’s firm would be giving money to the IGDA in any capacity other than to submit, as I would expect, expense reports for reimbursement.
“There is no scenario under which the IGDA, as a non-profit mind you, would be funneling funds to Kate’s firm other than for the aforementioned services rendered.”
“[…]these protracted attacks and allegations against the IGDA, not to mention Kate, are unfounded, without merit and have no basis in reality.
“And they need to stop. Like, right now. Let’s go back to arguing about “ethics in game journalism” because these distractions are just that, distractions.”
While the issue of Edwards’ corruption allegation was addressed, it still left a bit of an unresolved matter of former IGDA chairman of the Puerto Rico division, Robert Rosario, and the closure of the Puerto Rico division, as well as the IGDA’s employment of the #GamerGate Autoblocker. While blocking out average users would be understandable, some of the members utilizing the tool to also widely sweep indie developers under the rug has caused quite a stir. I previously wrote about my encounter with GG Autoblocker software support engineer Toby Fee, who opted not to discuss the matter further. Back when the IGDA first endorsed and then stepped away from their endorsement of the GG Autoblocker, I contacted IGDA founder Ernest W. Adams about the issue regarding indie devs inadvertently ending up on the list, but only received a curt response about how they could be approved to be whitelisted on the GG Autoblocker list.
I also asked various members of the IGDA about the implications of indie developers being auto-blocked by an organization that’s supposed to help represent them, but the issue hasn’t been addressed fully, yet.
I did ask one individual who identified as an indie developer how he felt about the IGDA and if he would be reaching out to them, but he responded saying…
For now, a lot of indie developers fear speaking up lest they undergo a public shaming, which is what happened to indie developer Russ Roegner when he made some unpopular statements regarding gender politics that didn’t go over too well in a Twitter conversation.