THE TRUTH ABOUT ZOE QUINN
I have a friend who makes games. She’s funny and brilliant and brash, never hiding her thoughts and so quick-witted that keeping up feels like a sport. She’s also a brilliant designer who can’t get enough— she can take apart the popular text-adventure engine Twine and put it back together and make it do things that a text-adventure engine built on wiki markup has no business doing. She’s working in multiple engines and genres at once, and she made a game called Jeff Goldblum Staring Contest that involves staring at Jeff Goldblum— one of my favorite pastimes. But the point is— you meet enough developers and you see things. You see the devs that are here because they wanted to be when they were little kids, you see the devs who have broad ideas about how they want to very deliberately push the genre— and then you see the devs who are artists, for whom making games is their primary mode of expression. The kind of dev who’s more likely to make you a game for your birthday than bake you a cake.
The truth about Zoe Quinn is that no one in the world deserves the shit that she has gotten. The truth is that these witch hunts over journalistic ethics and transparency and whatever bullshit dog whistle that 4chan and its ilk are using for their issues with a woman’s sexual agency are driving women out of the industry.
The truth is that Jade Raymond’s horrific harassment that lead to a prominent webcomic making an awful pornographic comic about her— suggesting that she was trading sexual favors for positive buzz about her game— that happened eight years ago.
We keep trying to change the industry, we #1reasonwhy and #1reasontobe and protest and thinkpiece and organize, but the truth is not much has changed. We talk about how the most recent IGDA game dev survey says the number of women in the industry has doubled, but the truth is that women still make up less than a quarter of the industry’s work force.
I have met some of the most amazing women I have ever known through the game industry. Larger-than-life, funny, warm, sweet, razor-sharp, overeducated women, the kind who laugh too loudly in quiet rooms. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard most of them laugh. One of them IMed me today about how she was leaving the industry and she couldn’t handle the idea of disappointing me but she just couldn’t take it any more, and I told her it was okay, it’s fine, self-care is so important, because it is.
The truth is that after our conversation ended, I put my head in my hands and cried.
I could tell you stories about the voices we’ve lost, the women we’ve scarred, the people we’ve left behind. I want to, but I’m not sure you’d get it. I tweeted earlier today, We should have a war memorial for all of the women we have lost to this. We should lay flowers and grieve and see our reflections in stone. And I meant it. I wish there were a way to honor the people our industry has wronged, and a way to visualize the enormity of what we have lost because of it— some representation of the gap between what games are and what they can be, and the pieces of the bridge between that have fallen away.
The truth is sometimes I have survivor’s guilt, and sometimes I have panic attacks about being the only one left fighting, and sometimes despite all of my tough words and the fact I literally cannot imagine doing anything else with my life, the truth is that I can’t stop thinking about maybe leaving the industry. I don’t want to; the thought is like an involuntary tic, tugging at my consciousness. Maybe it’s a survival instinct.
I keep using the word “survive” but I can’t help but wonder: is this surviving? What parts of me are surviving? Can any woman escape this whole?
That’s the thing. The truth is, a lot of the women who are being driven away have never met or interacted with Anita or Zoe. A lot of the women in our industry exist in a constant state of fear. Women who make games and would never dream of connecting their face or real name with a Twitter account, just in case. Women who would never go indie. Women who are terrified of starting a crowdfunding campaign but who can’t get their dreams funded any other way, and so their dreams just die.
Are you okay with this? Is this the industry that you want?
Because this is war, and the truth is there’s no balanced reporting. There’s no “hearing both sides.” If you’re not speaking out with us or fighting for us, then you’re not some reasoned logician who is letting cooler heads prevail— the truth is you don’t give a shit about the women in the industry. You don’t care about the casualties. And you are part of the problem.
The truth about Zoe Quinn is that every woman in the industry is one unhinged ex-partner away frombeing Zoe Quinn, and if that doesn’t scare you, there’s no hope for us at all.