Not too long ago I was contacted by a journalist that said he is a reporter for the Guardian and is publishing a piece about toxic and abusive work environments around film, TV, and game composers.
He said that they were planning on mentioning my rape allegations against [Famous Composer], and that he had a couple of quick questions for me… asking if I had time for a quick call.
The email itself was fairly standard, but as you can imagine I freaked out. The last time I trusted a journalist with this I was drug out in the most inhumane way possible.
Just on it’s own, being asked to talk about it poses a thousand questions… Do I even get a choice whether or not I get drug out all over again? When will it end? Will the details of my assault come up again? If I said no, or asked them to keep me out of it, would they respect that? If I didn’t answer they would likely print that I “failed to comment” potentially framing me like a liar, right?…
And I went into a spiral knowing how this sort of thing can go, if it goes in the expected awful direction.
I cried a bunch, then I posted this thread on Mastodon, because I needed to vent.
To someone like me it seems like it will never end… with everyone with a blog, podcast, youtube channel… feeling entitled to your time, in the event that the most horrible part of your life becomes a talking point again.
The article has since been published. You can read that here.
It’s a good article.
Social media empowered us to share our own stories. To bypass the need for journalism altogether, but it has also empowered abuse of our stories. The twisting of words, things taken out of context, rumors that spiral, narratives that take hold in a way that seems forever. Places like Kiwifarms, 4chan, and others, made it a sport to hurt those most vulnerable.
When I came forward I remember a particular podcaster demanding my time. I blocked them and they took that as indication of my guilt. Everyone demands your answers. If you don’t answer then that’s used as a “gotcha!”
When abusive journalists get involved it is a nightmare.
Journalism is a big field. It’s an old field. It has been around longer than game journalism has been around. There are standards, basic guidelines, and basic things agreed on for treating sources. Social media, and the advent of blogging, has largely changed our relationship to journalism and how we tell stories.
The type of journalism that takes careful research, asking questions, following up… often seems overshadowed by the urgency for publications to quickly churn out “content”.
It’s what happened to me. I carefully documented how my story was treated by Kotaku, Cecilia D’ Anastasia, Shreier, and the whole awful Kotaku clique.
Here is a concise overview of that. I don’t know what could possibly be left to say, but I keep saying it.
I spent two years begging for help, asking for accountability… just that the very basics be extended to me.
In light of how the Guardian handled my story, I wonder if game journalism is even journalism? Can it even be? If you rush these stories, demand answers from victims, hound them to a point of near suicide (as documented here)… and other journalists outside of games look at this with horror, while game journalists largely defend it as “by the book”… something is wrong.
My reply to the Guardian inquiry was…
Links in the screenshot…
* “Abusing you was by the book” (documenting two years of abuse from Game Journalism, after sharing my #metoo… the whole painful story all in one place)
* An open letter to game journalists: #metoo, fighting with surviving abusive reporting, and the fallout of not caring
* What it’s like sharing your #metoo with Kotaku (a cautionary tale)
* Asking Kotaku for accountability, a collection of my threads (cries for help) all in one convenient place…
…Kind of chewing him out, giving links to my writing about how I was treated, and insisting that anything stays in email.
I didn’t expect a reply. Usually this tone is enough to offend any game journalist with the audacity to ask and earn a block from them over social media.
He actually answered back, compassionately, and explained the intentions of the piece.
He said that he respected my terms of this staying in email, and gave me his questions.
It was respectful. Nothing about it was demanding.
When I trusted Kotaku, I was badly burned for doing that over the phone. I didn’t have a record of the conversation, so the journalist that abused my story was able to control the narrative. The Editor In Chief of Kotaku at the time even benefited from that. They circled the wagon, and I was basically made out to be a liar (documented here). At best I was “too traumatized to remember right”.
Phone-calls with journalists is something I tell others to be careful with. You need a record of what you said so you can defend yourself.
I insisted this stays in writing.
After more email exchanges, each being incredibly respectful and compassionate, I was kept in the loop and reasons for things being done were explained to me.
So here is evidence that journalists do stand up for their sources, argue for them, and even argue with their editors.
I highlight this because, in the two years of arguing with game journalists that the way my story was treated was wrong, they largely hid behind “the book”.
I was expected to believe that the functions of journalism are too complicated for me to understand, that journalists are victims of “the system” as much as the sources that get abused are (nobody and everyone is responsible!), that treatment of me was “by the book”, and that I am just too traumatized to understand or make any sense.
If this is true, then why did the Guardian show this level of respect?
My appearance in the finished Guardian piece is small. It is minor. It would still be a good, researched, in-depth piece without me. Involving me hardly seems like that big of a deal… they could easily have decided that I’m not worth the effort or risk.
For something this minor, they showed me more humanity than game journalists did when my story was being treated like breaking news.
When I came forward, Kotaku wasn’t the only outlet that I talked to. I answered as many emails as I could, despite the frame of mind that I was in. It was hard to do. Some ghosted me.
Contrast that against being kept in the loop for this piece. I don’t understand the lack of professionalism in the game journalism field.
Why do sources mater so little here?
I feel like that’s a fair question given my experiences…
We live in a society that is fundamentally structured to support and protect powerful abusers.
I know this from watching too many predators be outed in the game industry, and then make a comeback, while the person hurt by them talks about the legal fees because they spoke up.
Abusers are outed but still host parties at GDC that boast a “safe space” policy.
Abusers that you hear about in whisper networks, that friends warn you about, who’s victims privately contact you about them so you can be safe… performatively take public stances against abuse. Showing what great of an ally they are on social media, because they put out such great takes against abusive people… until they are finally outed themselves and their public persona changes.
The longer you are here, the more you see the cycle.
The game industry is full of irony.
When the simple task of not playing a game because it hurts trans people by empowering a rich anti-trans advocate becomes a controversial talking point… you see that we do not have true solidarity. Even the simple things are too divisive.
How will we ever reject the rapists when even the people bringing attention to our stories are abusers themselves?
I have to wonder, with it’s admiration for the Gawker era, can game journalism even be something that is accountable to the most vulnerable people that trust it?
Gawker once published a video of someone’s rape. When the survivor asked them to take it down their response was similarly as callous as what I experienced.
““I am the girl in it and it was stolen from me and put up without my permission,” the unidentified woman wrote on May 11, 2010.
Gawker’s complaint department forwarded the message to Daulerio, along with a note saying, “Blah, blah, blah,” Vogt said.”
– Gawker’s internal emails show callous response to ‘rape’ victim
– Read Gawker’s Shocking Response to a Video of a Young Woman Possibly Being Raped
I mention that because I’ve seen a lot of game journalists pining for the Gawker era, and it kind of puts into context the quality of people that ran me into the ground.
Between their snark regarding my pleas for accountability was the obvious unspoken belief that they are entitled to write about anyone they want, however they want, and to bully or lie to sources to get them to comply.
Much like game industry predators posing as allies, game journalism is caught in a similar self-destructive loop.
Game industry discourse can be a tremendously traumatizing thing to be caught in.
Imagine peers objectifying you in their snarky tweets, watching this awful thing you went through being reduced to a talking point.
Again, I point to this post, where I kept a record of all the snark and witty takes that basically served as nothing more but to prop up the people participating.
That traumatic thing I went through was reduced to a belittling “learning moment”. A talking point. I no longer had a name. Quite a few of the subtweets just called me “the source”.
I’ll put this into a bigger context because, like I keep saying, our society is structured to benefit the predators…
Ted Bundy gets a Netflix show.
Ted Bundy has a movie acted by Zac Efron.
Ted Bundy has fans.
Ted Bundy was a serial killer.
The fact that this person was an untalented dumb murderer should be enough to let him vanish into the annals of history, nameless and forgotten. If we were that type of society that cared about the humanity of victims we would not prop him up so.
The judge that presided over the trial of Ted Bundy is famously known for the post-sentencing remarks:
“It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity, I think, as I’ve experienced in this courtroom. You’re a bright young man. You’d have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. I don’t feel any animosity toward you.”
I should slap you if you think this is empathetic. Women died, but it was a tragedy for the murderer. I have to wonder how the families of the victims feel. How their loved ones become invisible… just a prop in the life of a famous murderer. I don’t know the names of the victims. I don’t know what they wanted to do with their life, how they laughed, what they dreamed of being. I sometimes wonder if anyone ever asked the families, “what is the one thing about her that you would like the world to know?”
The families are reminded constantly. If you look at the true crime world, you see how easily it becomes entertainment.
Some time ago on Twitter this person put out a bad take about how feminist true crime actually is.
There’s a record of that conversation here…
A few people from families of victims chimed in talking about how they receive constant harassment from true crime podcasters wanting to ask them questions… The entitlement of people to know more, or think they have a right to even ask, because this awful thing is turned into entertainment… There is a fine line between “spreading awareness” and showmanship.
When the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial was dragging on over social media, at the peak of that discussion… Internet trolls started going after victims of other big name actors or directors, accusing them of being liars.
There was one instance where trolls started accusing victims of lying in a case where the director had already been found guilty in court. He had confessed. It was known that he was a predator.
One thing said by one of the victims was…
“When you talk about strangers you should remember we are real people with complicated stories, not just vessels for the opinions and outrage of others”
The Tweet is gone, so that’s as much context as I can offer. I saved that quote on my phone and read it sometimes. It resonates with me.
I am not a public figure or celebrity. I cannot afford things like therapy, protection, and a PR agency to make things right… I can’t pay people to professionally answer those prying into the ins and outs of what happened, why I didn’t report, what happened to the lawsuit…
Not me or many other people that come forward with their story have the ability to afford help.
A long time ago, when I didn’t know better, I looked at game journalism as our source of hope.
Now I know that we don’t even have that. We can only count on ourselves.
The journalist and editors that abused my story are still viewed in high regard, even after all they did. I am by no means the only one hurt by the same people. It’s known.
The former editor in chief responsible is even called a mentor by other journalists in games… so I wonder, is Gawker era exploitation really what we are stuck with?
When I was in the middle of the two years of asking game journalism for accountability, a lot of journalists blocked me and people that supported me. I still see people commenting that they were blocked by journalists they never even interacted with.
Journalism is not a new profession. It’s old enough to have academy award winning actors act in very dramatic movies about its peak moments.
Game journalism is not new or that young either. It has had time to grow up. It cannot indefinitely hide behind the argument that things are just “too new” and “too young” to really be accountable. It is not fair either to indefinitely hide behind the guise that any criticism levied at it is a byproduct of “Gamer Gate”. Gamer Gate is dead. Its perpetrators have moved on to bigger things, including “journalism”.
The Game Industry has serious issues with abuse. I don’t think things can change if the people writing about that abuse, spearheading discussions about abuse, are abusers themselves who collect more clout from talking about it than the actual victims ever receive any justice or closure for.
Is covering stories of abuse in the game industry just another form of entertainment too? Is it ever going to be more than just a talking point?
The only people that benefit from that entire cycle of abuse are abusers, and there is little incentive to change if everyone in that chain is happy.
When does it end?