People like a fuss.
Clearly I’ve been provoking a lot of that fuss in having written frankly about the last two days’ activities, but things have gotten a touch out of hand. So…
First thing I want to make clear: My concern and the anger behind my two posts has not been based on the actions of one or two people, but on wide circles of the UK games journalist/PR industry and their behaviour in reaction to the events. The shock, disgust, flippancy, sarcasm and straw-manning that has been exhibited from so many who don’t want questions asked, don’t want certain behaviours challenged, and don’t want their boats rocked. It’s abysmal, and it’s what drove me to write about it.
This afternoon’s post was more immediately about Lauren Wainwright’s successful censoring of Robert Florence’s article, and my fury at a journalist who would seek to use legal threats to silence another. But further, it was once again about so many in the business leaping to defend her, throwing around unsubstantiated allegations of libel where there was none, and besmirching a journalist who asked awkward questions to defend another who deserved awkward questions to be asked of her. The cowardice implicit in this is like a plague in the industry, and it deserves to be called out.
But perspective is also needed here. Here’s what Lauren Wainwright – in my opinion – has actually done wrong:
1) She foolishly defended clearly improper actions by journalists. She didn’t actually commit the action she was defending – she never tweeted to win that PS3. Whether Wainwright was supporting the GMAs out of a sense of loyalty to her employer, MCV/Intent Media, who are the organisers of the awards, I do not know. Or maybe she genuinely cannot see why the actions were improper. All that she had done at the time of Florence’s EG piece, was loudly and repeatedly condone it, in public. And she did this, to her own misfortune, on a personal Twitter page that one could easily mistakenly believe contained a takeover advert for Tomb Raider. This, Florence observed, could be misconstrued, and her fervent defence could lead a reader to suspect her of other actions one might see as corrupt. Which of course it could – I had wondered the very same myself earlier that day.
2) She took actions that meant Eurogamer removed the lines referring to her from Florence’s article.
Those are the two things she did wrong. Both, I believe, were stupid. The latter, I believe, was despicable.
And now, thanks to the magic of the Streisand Effect, which Wainwright undoubtedly brought down on herself, means things have gotten a touch out of hand. People are now digging through her trash, attempting to expose every possible scrap of poor behaviour or possibly dubious action. Silly things she’s done, like leaving Square Enix listed as an employer on a public page, and apparently denying that she reviews Square Enix games while she reviews many of them, get highlighted and declared across Twitter as evidence that she’s a flagrant criminal – rather than someone who sometimes does silly things. I suspect what Wainwright actually did for Square was write a mock review of one of their games, which she has described as being a consultant. I’m not sure why a rookie games journalist would be a consultant on a game, and I very much doubt that happened. But a little CV tweak has now meant the rope is getting pulled tighter.
This led, with depressing inevitability, to a torrent of abuse heading her way. A section of the gaming audience leaps on any opportunity to abuse and insult any woman in the industry who steps out of line, and these wretched people pour down vile insults and threats, then followed by the “but you wouldn’t say that if she was a man” vultures who love to come and shit their pro-misogyny agenda on any argument corpse they find. And I’ll merrily delete every one of their comments that will inevitably appear below.
After Florence’s article was published on Eurogamer, those in the industry who shifted uncomfortably at the sight of their boat being nudged immediately began shouting “IT’S A WITCH HUNT!” It was not. It was far easier to shout that and pretend that it was, than to actually take on board the arguments being made by the article. Now, sadly, it has become a witch hunt, and that needs to stop. Wainwright absolutely should be condemned for her actions this morning, but that’s where it should stop. She’s young, she’s inexperienced, and she’s fucked up. She has the right to apologise for that and to be forgiven. An angry mob acting like pricks provides an unhelpful perspective when trying to highlight issues that need changing.
And most of all, the noise is providing exactly what many want – a distraction from the core points of Rab’s article, thus allowing it to all settle down once the big fuss is over, letting everyone carry on just as they were.