So, I've read and re-read this Escapist piece several times now, and it's a doozy:
There's some good points raised, and Pitts goes to great lengths throughout to condemn GG and laboriously describe exactly what it was.
But. (You knew there was a but.)
While the tone of the piece is strenuous condemnation, among the decrying of Milo Y's alt-right grift, and the very on-point "profit-driven hate mongering" as plenty of sites and individuals did cash-in on hate... There's these nuggets of text where the author throws GG a bone.
And I include the link because I actually want folks to read the piece for themselves, and trust that I'm not taking this out of context, because littered between the overt condemnations, there's moments like this.
This little "wait, what?" bit of eye-brow raising revisionism.🤔
The idea that it was GrumbleGrunt that brought the idea of something being wrong with games journalism? That's straight up wrong. We were talking very publicly about something being up in the world of games journalism for years beforehand. It was the other GG:
I'm a "vintage millennial" so I was very online for well over a decade before GG, and I remember all of that. The huge controversy when Jeffy G got canned from GameSpot and years of people speculating that it was because Squenix didn't like his Kane & Lynch 2 reviews...
Then we found out some years later, once Jeff was free from non-disparagement agreements, that he was indeed reprimanded and then fired for his negative reviews! We were all having these conversations about whether publishers just used gaming outlets as an extension of their PR.
So this part on Pitt's piece? That's not true.
We were having that very conversation for *YEARS* before GargleGoat! Gerstmann was let go from GameSpot in 2007, beginning years of speculation over the reasons, until those reasons became public in 2012. That was 7 years before GG!
We were having a very public conversation about games journalism, the role of games media, its relation to marketing, and the influence of publishers over review scores, all for the best part of a decade!
GobblyGuck didn't start that conversation: It *ENDED* it.
And that's the thing. GarfunkleGrip didn't bring up an uncomfortable conversation here, the entire reason the flimsy "ethics in games journalism" excuse flew in the first place, was because we were suspicious of gaming websites' relationship to publishers in the first place!
Quite honestly, I broadly agree with the sentiment of that Escapist piece that we do need to have these conversations again. However, that's not something we can do if we're crediting the movement that killed those conversations with bringing up an uncomfortable truth. It didn't.
I want everyone to consider something.
In 2015, Kotaku said that they had been blacklisted by Bethesda in retaliation for leaking the existence of Fallout 4. Y'know, publishing news. Actual journalism that you might expect from games journalists.
The response from the GruntleGrumps? Celebration!
The existence of industry blacklists wasn't a revelation that was met with condemnation of the publishers doing the blacklisting, but by cheering them on. Somehow a "consumer revolt" was okay with less informed consumers. 🙄
I'm convinced that the games industry as a whole didn't speak out against GG's harassment, was because they saw GlumurphonelGurn as useful to have around: Industry attack dogs ready to harass reviewers for not giving big AAA titles enough of a high score or being overly critical.
In a single year, GG took us from a conversation we've been having for years:
"Games publishers have too much influence over review scores."
To this one:
"We need to protect publishers from these unethical journalists who'll ruin games metacritic scores!"
There was a raging firestorm over Carolyn Petit's (utterly glowing) review of GTAV for Gamespot. There's over 22K comments on the review, for sheer the indignity of awarding the game a less than absolute perfect score, an insulting 9/10! Poor, poor Rockstar, how wounded you were.
That's what GawkingGoofs did. Their targets always women and minority, or indie game devs, but what was just as telling was who they defended: Publishers. They always went to bat for big AAA publishers, and always protected their games from even the mildest scrutiny.
The fact that we've had quite frankly stunning levels of crookedness from major publishers since GravityGnome, shows that the only influence on this "conversation" GG had was to enable publishers further.
Remember WB paying "influencers"? Remember that?
The fact that the stink of shit from *PAYED* positive coverage of Shadow of Mordor hasn't clinged to Kjellberg to this day shows both that GG never cared about ethics, and that the industry was only emboldened by it. There's your unethical practices, and it's rewarded by Gamers™
The same time GoggleGrass was warning "Don't trust games media, it's corrupt! Journalists are sleeping around and doing favours for friends!" they were saying "You can totally trust these YouTube/Twitch influencers!"
Every action they took was favourable to industry interests.
Frankly, I will straight up say that GobberGabber enabled the very worst of the games industry. The conversations we're having today about lootboxes and unregulated gambling? Those are happening in spite of GG, and something I think would've happened a lot sooner if not for GG.
And it's this idea in that Escapist article, that there was something of value, some uncomfortable truth that GrammarGripe brought to the surface, that I find so objectionable and revisionist. It's this right here. The bones being thrown to it.
It was never a consumer movement.
And I find within that piece, that same sort of fawning capitulation to big publishers. They're the ones who are "well within their rights" to do whatever, free of criticism! But the gaming publications? They're the ones who should be wary, those naughty little unethical journos!
This here, this assurances of transparency? It's just shade being thrown at the rest of the games media, and it's kinda slimy. But more than that, it's ignoring the elephant in the room:
Perhaps you should hold the AAA games industry to a higher standard?
Perhaps there wouldn't be such a need for "transparency" and talk "conflicts of interest" if folks actually took aim at the ones responsible for that conflict in the first place? Hold major publishers to the same sort of standards you expect from colleagues maybe?
And damn, I really don't want to put the Escapist on blast here.
I go back a long way with that site, and to this day I still watch Zero Punctuation every time without fail. So the idea of a rehabilitated Escapist to me is something I really wanted to see!
It's like seeing an old friend who fell in with a bad bunch and became an angry abusive drunk, but now he's cleaned up and wants to apologise for vomiting in your gym bag. But when you trust him he's back on the sauce and stealing your instant noodles.
I wanted to trust you!
But honestly? It's just dogwhistle support for GrimacingGonads:
Disavow the harassment, while offering winking support for the possibility of another "consumer movement" and giving the hatemobs credit for sparking a conversation it actually killed.
So to the question Russ asks in the headline: "How Do We Finally Talk About Ethics?"
I think I know a place we can start. We dial back the conversation to before GattlingGrate started: "Does the games industry hold too much influence over review scores?"
And if we have any hope of actually having that conversation again? We do it without GleefulGlomp. We do it without those industry attack dogs, and we recognize that that's exactly what they are.
Or as someone who has so beautifully summed them up:
And god damn, I can't get over how perfect that is.
From now own I'll be referring to GravellyGrave as the gaming industry's Pinkertons.
As an addendum to this thread, there's something that I didn't touch on that is quite essential to the history of GG: it didn't start as GummyGronk in the first place. It was the "Burgers and Fries" hashtag and was already in full swing when they decided to use ethics as a cover.
You see, the entire thing started because an abusive ex accused Zoe Quinn of cheating on him with 5 different guys. Hence the hashtag; Five Guys Burgers and Fries. It was decided after the fact that they'd pretend it was about journalistic ethics, after the target was decided.
That's where the accusations that an indie developer slept with games journalists for good reviews (reviews that didn't exist, I should add) came from in the first place, from an abusive ex making allegations and trying to hurt her.
And that's the problem with this revisionist take. GunganGang had been from its inception about the targeted harassment of women; one woman in fact. It never had any good point, it never had any core idea about ethics that was salvageable, none of it can be taken in good faith.
And again, if any conversation about games journalism is to happen in future? To even have a hope of it not being immediately derailed by those acting in bad faith? Then it absolutely must be done without any involvement of GlitterGroin or any shred of their ideas tainting it.
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