jenn allen

About IGN's Statement on Gamergate

Like the pool in the center of Melrose Place, the lagoon of sewage was the center of the trailer park. Green and bubbling, it emitted a sickening smell of human waste. It was surrounded by cheap orange plastic netting.

In Mississippi, all politics are racial. A white owner of the land had one of the sewage mains explode on his property, a sewage line he was responsible to maintain. But the income he was getting from rent was so low, he didn’t want to spend $30,000 cleaning up the mess. So, he fenced it off and forgot about it. His black residents were up in arms, made keenly aware of the sewage lagoon with each nauseating breath.

They came to me, knowing my reputation reporting on crime cases and asked me to help. 

I’ll never forget the fight I had with my editor over that story, which he killed. The land owner was politically connected. It would upset the white readers that didn’t want to read stories about black problems. As the signs say as you cross the border to the state, “Only positive Mississippi spoken here.”

In my heart, I knew there was a reason that editor has lasted at that paper for so long. And I knew he was doing a job I would fail at.

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IGN released this statement today about Gamergate. I found it lacking. 

To be honest, only one of the Gamergate statements has felt direct and clear to me. Ranking the American ones highest to lowest, I’d say Game Informer’s was best, followed by Polygon, then GameSpot, and Giant Bomb. I didn’t critique these statements on Twitter, because I honestly saw them as the best I could hope for. 

I did critique IGNs statement today. And I’d like to explain why, because I respect the people that work there. 

My biggest problem with this statement is it feels very equivocal. There’s a 20 dollar word for this kind of writing - tergiversation. They don’t call it Gamergate, they call in “The Movement.” The word “woman” appears once. “Misogyny” does not appear. The terms “death threat,” “rape,” “murder” also do not appear. 

They allude to what happened to Zoe Quinn in generalities, but they don’t talk about the human cost. They don’t mention Samantha Allen or Jenn Frank. They don’t mention me or Leigh Alexander. The terrorism threats against Anita Sarkeesian are nowhere to be found. 

The bottom line is harassment is bad, which I leaned in first grade. 

Harassment is not the problem of Gamergate. Death threats are not the problem of Gamergate. They are a symptom of deep problems in gamer culture that IGN is failing to address. 

The central problem of Gamergate is for 30 years, everyone in this industry has been telling men, “games are your space.” Women, when we do show up - are largely eye candy, damsels in distress and bikini-clad rewards in your Smash TV Pleasure Dome. 

The biggest problem to me in this piece is, IGN sees the women targeted by Gamergate as being on one side of a two-sided issue. “Some in the industry have praised our reluctance to devote editorial space to this issue; others at the opposite side have called us cowards and worse.”

Being able to make an editorial decision to stay out of the path of Gamergate is a privilege only men have. I don’t have that privilege. Samantha Allen didn’t have that privilege. Zoe Quinn didn’t have that privilege. To me, it feels like survival, and I don’t appreciate the insinuation that the women and allies of women have unfairly hurt IGN’s feelings. 

To be direct, this is a fight about losing an entire generation of women in the games industry.

I also found this statement troubling. “Many at IGN feel additional visibility only encourages those who want to use the Movement as a means to stop rather than start discussions.” IGN prefers silence. They say they don’t want to “signal boost” Gamergate. 

What IGN doesn’t understand is ignoring these people isn’t working. They are going after any woman in the industry that speaks up about representation of women in the games industry. They went after Samantha Allen, they went after Jenn Frank, they went after Zoe Quinn and they went after me. 

Preferring silence is an easy call to make when it’s not your family that could be murdered. 

A systematic problem with the games industry is our “objective” viewpoint is currently white, straight and male. Women are seen as one side of an argument, and the other side just wants women to go way. When the “objective” viewpoint sees “I deserve to be treated the same as you are” on one extreme end of an argument, women will ALWAYS lose. 

I have to be honest. The real reason I’m disappointed is I think IGN is in a position to do the most good in improving gamer culture. 

In the many IGN podcasts I’ve listened to, particularly Damon Hatfield’s “Knocking Boots,” and Greg Miller’s “Podcast Beyond,” it’s clear to me that the men of IGN are a kind of father figure for many of their readers. They write in for love advice, life advice, career advice. 

When I read Reddit and 8chan forums on Gamergate, they talk about IGN in positive terms. I believe that for many Gamergaters, they are attracted to what IGN’s corporate office bragged about as their “Broverload” culture. I think, in giving such a weak statement - they missed a serious teachable moment, chose to not fight a battle that could win a war. 

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It’s not an accident that two of the women most vocal about this issue, Zoe Quinn and me, are indie developers. We don’t have parent companies. We do what we think is right, and we speak our mind. You, on the other hand, have to think about parent companies and subscribers that you could lose if you write a story they don’t like. Just like that editor of that Mississippi paper. 

When IGN reviews a game they don’t like, that’s not personal. For me, part of my job is to advocate for women in gamedev, and critiquing your company isn’t personal. This is not a job I wanted, but it’s a role I find myself thrust into.

IGN, I respect the hell out of the people that work there - but wish you’d run a real story about this giant shit lagoon. 

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Addendum - Some of my earlier Tweets unfairly minimized the input that women at IGN have on editorial content. Several current and former IGN staffers reached out to me, and I learned that many more women work there than I had given them credit for. I regret the error. You can see a list IGN says is “Up to Date,” here, and make up your own mind.