My E3 Meeting With A Pro-GamerGate Developer

My E3 Meeting With A Pro-GamerGate Developer

“I actually tried to fight in armour myself,” the game developer Daniel Vávra said. We were in the middle of a demonstration of his game in progress, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which is nothing less than an attempt to make a no-magic, realistic answer to the epic role-playing game Skyrim — set in a historically accurate recreation of 15th century Bohemia. Swords slide off armour or smash it, rather than effortlessly slicing through it. Stamina fades fast.

He was telling me what it’s like in real life. “If you are hit in the head, it is like a grenade exploded next to you,” Vávra said. “You hear this whistling noise. Most importantly, it’s about exhaustion. So after a few minutes you are totally exhausted. And you are lucky if you can walk. It’s very hard to breathe.”

This was the fruit of his field research: Endless combat depletes the combatant. Sometimes you’re better off lifting the front of your helmet, so you can breathe freely. In the game he wants to make, there will be more interesting options than fighting all the time.

Combat is exhausting in the game Vávra is making with more than 70 developers at Warhorse, the studio he helped found in the Czech Republic. Maybe in real life, too, where he and I might be seen in different sides of a battle, him a game developer who proudly and loudly supports the GamerGate movement, me the editor of a site that has both covered and been at odds with that movement for months.

I was meeting with Vávra at E3 out of curiosity about his game — one of our writers has been reallyinto it. A PR firm had invited us to see the game, and I was sure it’d make for an interesting meeting.

I was also curious about what makes Vávra tick. I’d only seen him from afar, in figurative armour. I’d spotted him as a pugnacious user of Twitter who would mix Tweets about game design with angry complaints about so-called social justice warriors and charges that, as he put it last October, “the future of our biz is at stake and ‘progressive’ media are destroying it with their hateful narrative.” He was one of those people I didn’t think I had much in common with, angry last fall when he felt gamers were being attacked by the gaming press and participating in a cycle of outrage that I’d come to see exemplify GamerGate and its opponents, moving from controversy to controversy about discussions of race and gender in games.

Our styles are different, to say the least, as I saw then and even in the weeks since. My outlet would write, say, negatively about the ham-handed decision by Apple to wipe all games with Confederate flags in them out of the iTunes App store, whether they were based on history or not. We identified a pattern by Apple of not treating games like a respectable art form. Vávra went way further, taking to Twitter to liken Apple CEO’s vow to remove, as Tim Cook put it, the symbols that feed racism, to ISIS’ attempts to destroy monuments and eradicate history.

Maybe I didn’t agree with every single thing feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian said about how women are depicted in video games — plenty of it seemed reasonable and obvious — but I’d never been troubled by what I saw simply as critique that would compete in a marketplace of ideas. Vávra, however, would liken her to book-burning Nazis. “This is the ultimate goal of social justice warriors,” he would write. “Destroy all that which is offensive.”

He came off as playing to Twitter fans, as someone who vilified people he disliked. But there had been an interesting twist on the eve of our meeting at E3 last month. He had written a bunch of Tweets about violence in video games and how the gaming press and gaming public lapped it up. He suddenly found himself in sync with his intellectual enemy.

“Ehm… It’s strange, but I have to agree with Anita that it’s pathetic to hear ecstatic screams from journalists seeing cheesy violence,” he Tweeted, reacting to a demonstration by Skyrim‘s development studio of their next massive game, Fallout 4. “The last thing that interests me in Fallout is slow motion gore and tower defence killing spree. But it seems that I am the only one. Seriously, I would love to see a day when people will be more interested in actual story, characters & gameplay rather than prolapsed guts. Not even the most brutal action movies … concentrate on the actual execution and display of violence as games do…I am speaking about general trend in games we see for years.”

Daniel Vávra and Anita Sarkeesian on the same page. Unexpected.

Vávra and I met on the final day of E3. We’d wind up meeting a couple of times that day, first in a meeting room in the Los Angeles Convention Center for his company, Warhorse, and then later at an Irish pub where there was a party for their game. I found him to be an interesting thinker about video game design, but I found us expectedly far apart on the cultural drama in gaming that dominated last fall.

If you were sitting in on the game demo at Warhorse’s room at E3, you wouldn’t have known that Vávra supports GamerGate. In my mind, when it comes to the game, it doesn’t matter much, but he’s also not shied away from letting fans of his game know he’s into the movement. Last year, he appeared in a video updating fans about Kingdom Come wearing a shirt that read: “#BASED: White privileged able bodied cisgender basement dwelling manbaby virgin scum phallocratic MRA neckbeard shitlord.” That’s basically a roll call of the kind of terms GamerGate supporters say they have been called by anti-gaming people. At E3, Vávra was more toned down. He wore a shirt that had a lizard on it. He was friendly.

Vávra’s game demo lasted about 20 minutes. He spoke while another member of the Warhorse team played a build of the game. Another journalist and I sat on a couch, watched and listened. Because I can’t help myself, eventually I started asking questions.

Vávra classifies Kingdom Come as a first-person open-world, realistic role-playing game, one that emphasises player freedom. “We put a lot of emphasis on interesting, not-black-and-white characters and also most of the quests are playable by non-violent ways,” he said during the demo as his colleague walked a character through grassy fields. “The combat is important but it can be avoided most of the time.” The emphasis on historical accuracy means there are no dragons and no spells. No tomatoes or corn either, because he said those were brought into the region from America in the 18th century.

Kingdom Come is no small-scale indie. It has been in development for about three years, but it’s still about a year out from completion, when it’s set to come out on PC and console. Warhorse has raised more than $US2 million from gamers interested in backing the game and has delivered a small playable stripped-down section as an alpha build. At E3 they were showing a more expanded alpha, featuring three square virtual kilometers of a final game that they expect to be a few times larger. This newer build, they hoped, would be available for backers to play this week.

The game’s plot involves real war in the early 1400s and a struggle between the sons of the emperor Charles IV. There was “an ugly civil war in which you lost your family,” Vávra explained, “Your hometown was burned down so now you are in the service of a noble who is trying to help the king from captivity.” At every turn of the demo, Vávra was speaking of some ambitious feature — of orchestral music that would change moods while you were playing without you initially noticing, of a crime and justice system that would spread an awareness of your actions to every one of the game’s characters and that would punish imprisoned players in some “next level way compared to what is usual for RPGs.” It’d be better than Skyrim‘s approach, he vowed.

Vávra apologised for the new alpha build’s jumpy framerate, saying it was due to a newly-implemented but not-yet-optimised artificial intelligence system that would give some level of virtual brains to “several hundred living entities in the world…even the chickens.” He spoke of a computer-controlled blacksmith who might wake up, go to work, go to the pub and then go home to bed but who would also be motivated by a set of preferences, so that if the pub was full he might alter his routine. “Even if you mess with the world or if something goes wrong, the [non-playable characters] are able to adjust to the changes,” he said. “If the player messes with the world, it should be interesting.”

He showed some combat, first with a sword and then with a bow, promising more realistic physics-based battling. In his team’s game, swords slide over armour rather than penetrate it. Players strike in eight directions and — forgetting about the realism thing for a moment — activate a slow-mo feature if they land enough combos.

The combat stuff got me thinking about his violence comments. I’d heard him say combat would mostly be optional but I sensed it’d be used plenty by the game’s players. Video games are about interaction, after all, and combat is a popular way to interact. Still, I wanted to ask him about what he’d said about agreeing with Sarkeesian about gamings’ emphasis on violence. “I see your Tweets once in a while,” I said. He laughed.

I noted that he’d been Tweeting about violence but I suggested that combat is often a means to fun and that fun is often what game developers are going for. I asked if fun was even the right word to be using about his game.

“Well,” he said. Then he paused, thinking. “Have you played the Witcher, the Red Baron quest?” I took it that he meant the Bloody Baron quest, which I hadn’t played but that another one of our writers had chronicled and praised. It involves a fractured family, abuse, deceit and difficult justice. “The Red Baron quest has a lot of moral choices,” he said. “It’s quite controversial.” Then he caught himself. “Actually, I don’t think it’s controversial. It’s quite human.”

He continued. “I think people are interested in stories about other people…I would say that the combat in games is over-used so far, because the games didn’t have other means of expression. Conflict was the easiest mechanism to have, because you can’t show emotions and a lot of other things in simple games or shooters. But today when we can have quite sophisticated [artificial intelligence] and a lot of events and choices, it can be interesting even without combat. But at the same time we are not limiting anyone, so if somebody wants to play it violently, he can and that’s his problem or his choice. We are definitely letting him do it.”

This is exactly the kind of talk that many a game creator and critic across the political spectrum has given when discussing ways that video games can advance as an artform. These are the kinds of talks about game design I’ve enjoyed having with the scene’s creators for a decade.

A new set of reporters was arriving to see the game. I was gathering my things and trying to talk to Vávra about fears he says his colleagues had last fall that their game wouldn’t get covered because he’d sided with GamerGate. (Kotaku, for what it’s worth, would never deny coverage to any video game because of its creators’ political views.)

“The thing is, that didn’t happen and that’s great,” he said. “It’s better than I expected, I would say. But the difference between us apparently is I think I maybe even call myself ‘progressive’ because we are trying to achieve a lot of the stuff that you are writing about. But I am trying to achieve it by different means.”

What a cliffhanger. We were badly out of time and his PR guy was cutting in. No time left to explain. Maybe we could meet up again later.

(Above: Daniel Vávra (left) with fellow Warhorse developer Tobias Stolz-Zwilling, who demoed the game with him at E3)

We would indeed get to talk later, some of it over beers and some of it over email. I asked him why he got into GamerGate and what he felt it was all about.

“Its all about political correctness,” he wrote to me. “The corruption and ethics are just the result of it. I believe in freedom of speech, even when I hear things I despise. The only way to deal with a bad idea is to provide a better idea and convince people about it with arguments. Nothing good ever came out of censorship. What we saw over the last couple of years is lot of articles in gaming media that were exaggerating some problems to absurd proportions and creating [an] atmosphere of hostility against people who disagree with them. We heard only one side of the story all the time for some reason.”

He said he wanted more discussion. I thought there’d been more than he’d acknowledged. Not everyone freaked out about, say, women in Assassin’s Creed (I didn’t) or refrained from talking about journalism ethics issues (I talked about them a lot). But also, I just didn’t find it so bad if people were debating how much it mattered to play a game as a female character. I didn’t expect that there was a right answer.

He wanted people to hash out their disagreements with each other partially through our emails. “I think that it would be great if we had some discussion even if it could be quite [a] loud one and I hope this could be the start. Hopefully I am not too naive.”

His experience with GamerGate is dramatically different than those of the people with whom the movement dislikes. It can be maddening to see Vávra talk about GamerGate members always being nice to him, to see him celebrate what he says are new voices speaking up, to hear him tell me that the only unkind things ever done in GamerGate’s name were by trolls and teenagers and are therefore not to be taken seriously — all the while being aware that no matter how positive GamerGate meet-ups are, no matter how much community GamerGate members have built, the abrasive rhetoric from the movement and the roving social media pile-ons so many of them favour have chilled the voices of critics and creators with whom they disagree.

Vávra’s views on a lot of this were partially shaped by criticisms of Kingdom Come for its lack of black characters. The messy backstory is that a blogger who writes about people of colour in medieval Europe had been asked if it was realistic for a game like Kingdom Come to not have people of colour. The blogger said it’d be inaccurate and scoffed at the lack of inclusion of a playable woman in the game to boot. They got hate mail for their efforts. Vávra felt he was being called a racist and that, based on his research of his country’s history, he was in the right.

“Our game isn’t even out yet, but these people already know that it’s gonna be racist, because we said we will not have people of colour in 15th century Bohemia,” he told me. “It doesn’t matter that we are writing [a] story dealing with very touchy and controversial topics as hatred between Czechs and Germans, about anti-semitism or religious fanaticism. It doesn’t matter, that we are the first game about Czech culture and history. That’s not enough! We need to cover all the problems of all the people in the world in that one game, otherwise we are very bad people. And that is A — impossible, B — Insane, C — bullshit. It took me years of stress, hard work and risks to be able to finally create a game I always wanted to make and I will do it the way I want. If you want something, do it yourself. But it’s not as easy as barking at someone.”

For Vávra — and we definitely disagree on this — the footfalls of censorship are always close behind. Unlike him, he suggests, the “social justice warriors” who critique the depiction of women or black characters in games, ultimately want to erase that with which they disagree. “I don’t demand people to be fired like some of them tried to get me fired. I just say ‘Hey buddy, I think that what you did there is kinda shit and I think you can do better.’ If it changes something, good. If it doesn’t, I can live with that, in the end, people have different tastes. I am also willing to take the blame and stand behind my opinion in discussion.”

I get him, though there’s that whole book-burning thing, and I also feel like he’s sparring with strawmen. It’s easy to think that the people you disagree with are histrionic and immune to reason, especially on Twitter, a platform that strips the nuance out of most arguments thanks to character limits and a culture dominated by a quest for validation through retweets.

Our vantage points differ. I’m not very worried about critiques about video games, no matter how harsh they are. Why? One of my formative experiences when I think about the risks of censorship and games is sitting in the U.S. Supreme Court and listening to lawyers for the video game industry successfully defend gaming’s protections under the First Amendment. For Vávra, one of his is growing up in a former Communist country.

“I had the ‘privilege’ of growing up in a totalitarian communist regime,” he told me in an email, “so I have first hand experience with censorship and other ‘advantages’ of true socialism like going to prison for your opinion or shitty propaganda on TV, in literature and even music. Thanks to socialist central planning, we didn’t have anything that could be called computer industry. Genius compadres from central planning office kinda didnt saw this technology coming as well as other details like the need for production of enough toilet paper, so we had to use newspaper from time to time. They were shitty propaganda anyway. So I really don’t think that political correctness, which is just a fancy word for censorship, can solve anything. It never did. it only makes things worse.”

When we spoke over beers, I noticed a pattern. Anita Sarkeesian’s name came up, and he dismissed her as a “totalitarian,” said her research was poor and that she was making demands. When the game developer Zoe Quinn’s name came up — recall she’s the developer whose ex-boyfriend wrote a post shredding her reputation that somehow kicked a lot of this GamerGate stuff off, and, yes, Quinn briefly dated one of our reporters — he snarked about how her game Depression Quest was just a web page and got attention because it was about depression. I sort of get his issues with Sarkeesian, though I feel her influence is exaggerated. Quinn seemed like a weird fixation, a vestige of Twitter fuming that seemed less relevant when said out loud. The pattern, though, was that people might be paying attention to them and their ideas.

Time and again, I sensed, he was annoyed about who was listening to whom, about who got attention, about whose voices were heard, about who was making an impact on games and games culture. That was the pattern.

Then, in its own weird way, the pattern walked up to us. Two guys in the bar approached where we were sitting. I assumed they were there for the game, that they’d recognised Vávra and wanted to say hi, maybe talk to him about his game. That wasn’t the case. They were Kotaku readers. They’d only recognised me. This kind of thing had happened when I’d been talking to game developers before, and it’s always awkward. I’m just a reporter and a critic, I always tell them. This person is the one who makes the cool stuff you like playing. This is the person you should be more excited to see. I explained to them that Vávra was a game developer, that he was making an ambitious game. I pointed to the back room where he was about to give a demo. You should see the game, I told them. I think you’ll like it. You should hear what he has to say about it.

I can sympathize with Vávra and others like him when they say they just want to be heard. Who doesn’t? But it remains hard to sympathize with so much of GamerGate that still traffics in ugly, angry debate, that swarms those with whom they disagree. Some figures in that scene, such as the developer Adrian Chmielarz, have indeed tried to flesh arguments out and make things more civil. More of that and fewer reasons for people to self-censor for fear of GamerGate’s wrath would be a godsend.

After those guys approached us, Vávra and I were pretty much done. He did have to show the game. We shook hands. We’d talked, maybe to each other a bit, probably past each other a lot. He headed off to do the demo. One of his colleagues approached me as I was leaving. “He’s a bit of a badboy,” they told me. Yeah, I said. I got that.

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.


  • When it comes to censorship, I think that that’s exactly what Anita & co bring to the table rather than any discussion inclusive of every one. Disagree with her on her twitter and she (or one of the page admins) won’t engage you in a debate on whatever issue it is (usually modern day feminism), they’ll just block you. I’ve been blocked and not one word I said was malicious in any way, I just disagreed with her.

    But hey, I care not, I’m massively looking forward to Kingdom Come and the new AI system mentioned I hope works. It’s a shame in this article that the game has been largely drowned out about talk of gamergate, and one that seemed to indicate you should approach anyone ‘pro gamergate’ with a degree of caution and hesitation.

    Split your interviews with him into two articles, one that discusses gamergate (I’d love to see more articles with ‘pro-gamergate’ industry people to bring some balance to the reporting on Kotaku) and one that actually covers the game because in any article like this, the focus won’t be on the game which is ultimately why we’re all here in the first place.

    • It’s not censorship if someone doesn’t want to engage with your stupidity.

      Demanding that they do, and whining when they don’t, is how we got Sealioning.

      Given 99% of GamerGate comments come back to I’M AN OPPRESSED WHITE MALE HEAR ME WHINE, it’s unsurprising people don’t want to engage in ‘debate’.

      There is no ‘debate’. Feminists and people of colour are not stealing yer jerrrbs or vidya gamez. There’s no socialist conspiracy between feminazis and journalists to create a New World Order through destroying the ethics in games journalism.

      There’s just a bunch of butthurt people who are threatened by change and progressiveness entering what they see as ‘their’ space as it provides an oasis of safety from their own life issues.

      Understandable, but the minute you try making a psychological issue into an ideological one then you’re not deserving of reply. That goes for the hardcore ‘SJWs’ as well.

        • I didn’t, but thanks for your passive aggressive response.

          Your post made a massively sweeping generalisation about how anyone disagreeing with Sarkeesian etc. is blocked, using the generalised ‘you’.

          The first sentence of my post responds to that generalisation in the same format.

          You’re welcome.

          • You kind of implied he was. Also there’s been heaps of cases of people being blocked without them trolling or being aggressive.

            She’s not really out to have a debate – more to convince people of her point of view.

            Granted it’s hard for her to leave avenues of communication open (like say comments on YouTube clips) given that she’ll unfairly receive a lot of hate and trolling.

          • I’m not sure I ever saw any instance where Anita agreed to a one-on-one with someone who doesn’t agree with her. I think she likes to control the terms of engagement (not that I blame her for doing so). I’d love to see her go on a televised panel such as Q&A or Insight where the host could could control the forum and encourage an exchange of ideas and a civilised debate.

          • I’ve been blocked and not one word I said was malicious in any way, I just disagreed with her.

            It’s not censorship if someone doesn’t want to engage with your stupidity.

            Given 99% of GamerGate comments come back to I’M AN OPPRESSED WHITE MALE HEAR ME WHINE, it’s unsurprising people don’t want to engage in ‘debate’.

            No, it’s this kind of attitude that prevents discussion and dirties anyone claiming to be pro-gamergate. If someone is going to champion (modern day) ‘feminism’ in gaming and criticise a lot of aspects in video games, then by not engaging in discussion with the other side of the fence means that they can not be taken seriously. Comments being deleted & people being blocked, you might be surprised to find out, are not 99% bs posts made to troll. And even still, this is the internet, expect trolls on the internet. It’s not hard to pick out the serious comments actually wanting to discuss the issues from the not serious ones, but hey, guess which ones get focused on

          • If you’re pro GamerGate, you’re one of two things:

            1) A misogynist, using the ‘movement’ as an excuse to vent your issues;


            2) A moron, who for some reason doesn’t have the reasoning skills to grasp that if there IS a lack of ethics in game journalism, it’s got nothing to do with a handful of indie devs and an alleged shadowy global conspiracy of feminists and everything to do with AAA companies spending millions of dollars on advertising and promotional events for journalists.

            Either way, identifying as pro GamerGate basically means you’re not someone who should be ‘debated’ with as the amount of crazy and/or stupid you bring to the table will be painful.

          • I’d be interested to know how many people identify themselves as ‘pro GamerGate’ and how many have the label applied to them (or their arguments). If you want to discuss ethics in games journalism you may end up being targeted as someone who is ‘pro GamerGate’ instead of people listening to what you are trying to say. I think Vávra has a real point where he says “I don’t demand people to be fired like some of them tried to get me fired. I just say ‘Hey buddy, I think that what you did there is kinda shit and I think you can do better.’ If it changes something, good. If it doesn’t, I can live with that”. If you disagree with someone’s opinion on ethics in journalism, or if you think they are promoting gender discrimination, feel free to say something about it, but please consider saying it in a way that isn’t an attack on the person. I think some people get carried away and forget that deep down, most of us are decent people who are, more or less skilfully, just trying to express their thoughts.

          • If you can discuss ethics in game journalism without mentioning Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, SJWs, Anita Sarkeesian and instead discuss the CEOs and marketing teams of Ubisoft, EA and Sony then congratulations, you aren’t a moron or a misogynist.

            I’ve not seen a single ‘Gamergater’ do this. Not one.

            It’s very, very simple.

            Gamergaters make an assertion as the basis of their ideology – ‘it’s about ethics in games journalism’)

            When that assertion is challenged with reason – ‘so why are you not ACTUALLY talking about ethics in game journalism – advertising and promotion’


            Those women have very little to do with ethics in games journalism. They have a lot to do with discussion of OTHER issues to do with the gaming community, but not journalistic ethics.

            Yet Gamergaters ignore this, and continue their crazy rants on pages splashed with thousand dollar adverts from AAA companies.

            ‘There’s no ethics in game journalism because Zoe Quinn once sexed a guy’



            There’s no ‘debate’.

            There’s just scumbags pushing an agenda and people who don’t take five seconds to engage their brains.

          • @burnside: Your posts are still filled with little more than invective and supposition.

            You’re just shutting down “GamerGaters” simply for saying “I support GamerGate” rather than actually listening to an opinion or hearing out whatever argument they have to say.

            It might be that their arguments are terrible. It might be that they are simply misogynists. But to simply declare them “not decent people” or say “they’re climate change denialists” or otherwise engage in widespread, generalised ad hominem as you are doing is plain terrible as an argument and exactly the sort of behaviour that the dev in the article is complaining about.

          • @Amstrad

            So you believe child molesters and nazis should be given free platforms in which to justify and endorse their respective beliefs and behaviours?

            You mistake my commentary. I don’t ‘hate’ gamergaters. I see them for being psychologically disturbed people and I pity them for that.

            Giving them soapboxes just encourages their mental issues – which is bad for them – and spreads their problems into other peoples’ spaces.

            Same with SJWs.

          • I don’t identify with Gamergate, but I agree with Daniel Vávra, and I really dislike Anita Sarkeesian’s opinions. It’s unrealistic to demand that every developer take account of every coloured groups of humans in the world, and if they don’t they’re being racist (which is moronic, because racism is only when someone is actually being oppressed).

            My second point. Anita Sarkeesian has not right to demand how people create art. If I want to create a game with only white people I will do that. And if I only want a male protagnist I will do that. Neither of this doesn’t mean that I’m racist or misogynist.

            Just because I exclude religion from my life doesn’t mean that I necessarily hate religion.

          • The pro-gamer gaters are so anti-censorship that they feel the overpowering need to censor anyone who thinks maybe women can be more than mere damsels and pretty faces and bikini models.

      • A human failing is to get defensive when someone attacks something you believe to be true. It is almost impossible to have a dialectic discussion on the internet because we can hide behind online personae and exhibit extreme views with relative impunity.

        If a reasonable Gamergater and a reasonable feminist (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive) sat down in person, you might find that the result would be agreement that:

        1. Yes, there are discrepancies with how men and women are treated, including in video games and in the games industry;
        2. Yes, there have been occasions where journalists have not acted ethically;

        That’s pretty much it. All the rest is just people lashing out at others either defensively or in the hope of causing hurt to others. It’s very tribal.

      • burnside: Your post in general was pretty much just trying to shut him down and discredit him through strawman attacks. That’s not helping or contributing to the debate in a meaningful fashion.

        “Given 99% of GamerGate comments come back to I’M AN OPPRESSED WHITE MALE HEAR ME WHINE, it’s unsurprising people don’t want to engage in ‘debate’.”

        Here’s the signature statement. Now, I’m no fan of some of the extremely offensive and reprehensible behaviour done under the GamerGate banner, and for that reason, I wouldn’t say that I support GamerGate. But what you’re doing here is effectively saying “anyone who thinks GamerGate had some points is a [insert offensive language here]”. Which is exactly the wrong thing to do.

        That said, anyone with points of debate to refute or argue points of discussion about what constitutes a sexist game, or a racist game, or any is EVERY bit as valid as debating whether a game is “good” or “bad”. Attempting to dismiss those claims is every bit as invalid as saying “No, Ride to Hell IS the best game ever, you’re just playing it wrong” or “Arkham City is better than Shadow of Mordor and anyone who says otherwise is just a neckbearded inbred”. It stifles debate and helps no one.

        Some of the things said under the GamerGate banner were despicable. Some of the things said by anti-GamerGate people were also pretty damn objectionable.

        I find Anita Sarkeesian’s analysis of games and her tropes videos to be shallow, cherry picked arguments, and on more than a few occasions lacking context that actually undermines and disproves the point she is trying to make. I don’t begrudge her desire of wanting to make games “better”, but when her definition of “better” is “must match Anita Sarkeesian’s personal preference”, and people start to accuse games that *don’t* meet her arbitrary definitions as being sexist, then she’s overstepped the mark and is actually having a negative impact on the medium she is supposedly trying to improve.

        Does this make me sexist? Does this make me a neckbeard who just beats women? No, though I’d potentially be accused of that, just as other people would throw around insult against those such people calling them “men-haters” or make similarly offensive comments. The hate and aggression goes both ways, and is to the detriment of the overall quality of sensible debate and discussion on how we could improve the art and entertainment that we all love.

        • You’re arguing as if I believe one ‘side’ is ‘better’ than the other.

          I do not.

          All of these people need to book themselves into extended therapy and deal with their childhood issues.

          95% of Gamergaters and SJWs suffer from poor relationships with their fathers.

          Fix that, all this goes away.

          • 95% of Gamergaters and SJWs suffer from poor relationships with their fathers.

            Where do you come up with this crap?

            There’s only one person who has mental issues buddy.

          • Firstly, you’re changing your tune significantly from before. Your initial raft of posts were bile-spewing tirades about how “GamerGate” people were misogynists, neckbeards, not decent people, hell, you effectively compared them to child molesters and Nazis.

            Upon being called out on this, you’re now adding “SJW” in closing – this comes across more as a “cover your ass” approach rather than a genuine belief of balance. If you were truly balanced in your opinion, you would have also decried the more offensive behaviour of anti-GamerGate people as well. Fairness works both ways.

            Also, this “poor relationships with their fathers” – I’m not sure if you’re trolling…

            I don’t support “Gamergate”, but if there are legitimate issues in terms of disclosing relationships between a reporter and the company (or individuals within it) that produced/developer/released a particular game, then that is indeed an issue within the game journalism industry.

            That being said, I don’t see what gaming journalism ethics (let’s call that GJE) has to do with personal attacks on people like Anita Sarkeesian or Brianna Wu. There is zero reason to attack either of them in relation to GJE, because they are not journalists. If a journalist/site has a personal relationship with such an individual, then any hard questions (but no personal attacks) should be directed to that journalist/site because *they* are the one potentially not making the disclosure. The entity that is the subject of the article should not be called to account *UNLESS* they are taking actions that would penalize negative articles or reward positive articles – e.g. “We’ll pull our funding if you talk about all the bugs in X” or “We’ll pay you $50K to give us a glowing review”. That is the *only* time the subject of an article should be called to account.

            Personally, “GamerGate” looks like it was pulled in several directions. Firstly, there was an outcry about potential issues in GJE relating to Depression Quest. That turned into a public slanging match of he said/she said and while I personally don’t believe there was a case to answer, that’s just my opinion. If there are other examples of potential GJE issues, I’m not aware of them, but at that point the GamerGate banner was adopted by some individuals who went a different direction.

            The “GamerGate” banner was used by some people to launch invective, hateful tirades against individuals like Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian. Hate speech and threats, under any pretense, are not okay. They also have nothing to do with GJE. “GamerGate” as a tag has been tainted by the actions of a number of individuals who attacked (mostly) women with threats of violence, rape, death and more. This behaviour is not acceptable. Ever.

            As a result, I would not use the “GamerGate” banner for any reason, because it has been tainted by the utterly deplorable actions of these individuals. If people have legitimate complaints about GJE, raise them, but I wouldn’t say “GamerGate” because that name is associated with those attacks. Criticism of Anita Sarkeesian’s videos/arguments (and note her *VIDEOS/ARGUMENTS*, not Anita herself), is also a perfectly legitimate thing to raise, but again, doesn’t really have anything to do with GJE, and again, I would not advocate the use of “GamerGate” because it was associated with the hateful attacks on her and others.

            I think there are people still trying to hold the “GamerGate” banner up as a “We need to discuss GJE” or “I want to debate Anita Sarkeesian” or a bunch of other things – one of which includes “I want to write hate speech against women”. Because of the association with the last of those, I would consider the “GamerGate” banner tainted. I would not touch it, and I think the people who want to do any of the things others than the last one need to adopt another name (or simply don’t adopt a name at all) to raise those issues. “GamerGate” is no longer seen as being about GJE. It’s seen as a banner for hate speech.

            I’m not for GamerGate. I’m not for hate speech. I’m not for dividing the game community on whatever arbitrary boundaries people choose to create.

            I am for consoles. I am for PCs. I am for professional, hardcore, casual and new gamers. I’m for pushing our entertainment artform forwards in new ways. I’m for having reasoned, credible debate about the issues that surround the gaming industry and the people within it. I’m for games.

          • Before it was Gamergate it was DoritoGate and before that it was Gerstmanngate…. There has been a rumbling against gaming “journalism” for a while now. This time, however, there were females involved so the “SHUTUP YOU’RE ALL MISOGYNIST WHITE MEN” got a good work out.

      • Straight to abuse @burnside seriously… And they say gamergaters are abusive.

        It’s not censorship if someone doesn’t want to engage with your stupidity.

        And where do you get the 99% from? Is that like the time you said 12 out every 5 women are being killed by males? Never turn the hyperbolic out your backside exaggerated stats down from 12 billion Burny, turn it up to 44 billion.

      • Oh the irony of the anti-abusers loving this abusive post makes me laugh.

        Feminists and people of colour are not stealing yer jerrrbs or vidya gamez.

        No they’re actually pro-Gamergate.

      • Wow, the upvotes and downvotes on this one comment tell a damn interesting story, and I highly doubt every downvoter would call themselves “pro-gamergate”.

        • Here I am, metaphorically with my dick in my hand thinking “I think both sides actually have some valid points, yet both sides are too stupid to understand neither are absolutely correct…”

          Sometimes being a fencesitter has its benefits.

      • Ah, didn’t see the ones covering the game. I’d like to see a proper post E3 run down of the game though. I’m still yet to back the game, it’ll be one of the few games I loosen the purse strings for

        • Seems like an interesting game, I’m yet to see if they can pull off what they hope to.
          Seems kinda like mount and blade but on a much smaller and more personal scale.

          • It’s certainly ambitious, especially with the new AI system they mentioned, but I’d love to see it work and be different from all the RPGs where your actions don’t really have any impact on the World except for what’s scripted.

            Looking at the backer rewards though it looks like they’re splitting the game into 3 ‘acts’ making it more episodic in delivery rather than a full game up front.

    • I tend to agree. And my personal GG feelings (Feel free to skip to paragraph 2 if you don’t want to hear em) are that these two separate issues should be made separate topics for discussion instead of made to share the same banner, so that they can both be addressed in a civilised way instead of people continuously debating which is the ‘real’ issue. They both are IMO.

      Anyway, I also want to say, as some one said below, there’s a difference between censorship and choosing not to engage with you. What I think differentiates them is that the censorship approach sees your voice snuffed out as opposed to simply choosing to not engage with you.

  • Very interesting read, thanks for having the courage to discuss some rarely considered perspectives on game culture.

      • The ones were Kotaku back down from their anti GG stance and try to ameliorate the damage they caused to their specific market and revenue. Soften their stance and speak of misunderstanding, rather than posting blatant unsubstantiated attacks.

  • about who was making an impact on games and games culture

    He, like many others, are probably ticked off that some of the people making an impact on gaming culture are people who don’t even really play games themselves – like Sarkeesian for instance.

    I’ve seen most of her videos and agree with bits of it but then she’s quoted as saying “I’m not a fan of video games” and it makes me cringe that she’s the ambassador of the ‘new age of gaming’.

    Daniel Vávra and Anita Sarkeesian on the same page. Unexpected.

    See, people aren’t completely black and white in their thinking. Just because they may stand on different sides of the fence when it comes to a particular topic, it doesn’t mean that they disagree on everything.

    Also do we need to keep bringing this GamerGate thing up? It just divides people more. Let it die already.

    • Also do we need to keep bringing this GamerGate thing up? It just divides people more. Let it die already.

      that kind of thinking is exactly the reason GG exists, just because some people find some things uncomfortable to talk about doesn’t mean they should be shoved in the bin.

      • I like to talk about these issues, I just don’t see why Kotaku keeps needing to bring up how much they hate GamerGate. It’s like, we get it, they hate the movement.

        • they may hate the movement but in terms of journalistic ethics reporting about it like this is a step in the right direction

          • However, Kotaku lets Klepek post about the buggy Batman AK PC port release. When he has a personal relationship with the CEO of the company that did the port. No disclosure, same old bs from Kotaku.

          • oh yea in no way is kotaku perfect but this is a step in the right direction

  • Every time GG is dicussed on Kotaku, we get all these shrieking MRAs coming out of the woodwork to decry the supossed misdeeds of Anita Sarkesian and basically every outspoken woman in history. This is all garbage. GG supports the violent harrasment and ongoing victimisation of women, simply because they speak their mind. If you support GG, you support sexist hate speech. This isn’t a negotiation or a discussion where both sides have valid arguments. GG has no valid arguments.

    • If you support GG, you support sexist hate speech. This isn’t a negotiation or a discussion where both sides have valid arguments. GG has no valid arguments.
      aka – “either you’re with us or you’re against us”

      Only a sith deals in absolutes.

  • “Given 99% of GamerGate comments come back to I’M AN OPPRESSED WHITE MALE HEAR ME WHINE, it’s unsurprising people don’t want to engage in ‘debate’.”

    Comments like this, in part, are why white males are now killing themselves at a desperate and alarming rate. Life is not hard for us, nor challenging, or difficult, or frightening. No excuses. Never. And while you’re at it, don’t you dare have an opinion on anything … you’ve had your chance.

    Also… Sexist and racist.

    Nevertheless, I will always respect your right to speak freely burnside.

    • Comments like this, in part, are why white males are now killing themselves at a desperate and alarming rate.
      Please cite your sources if you’re going to make such ludicrous claims.

      • You’ll find the statistics easy enough to find if you go looking for them.

        • We probably agree on a lot of things, but I don’t think you should make some claims if the best you’re willing to do is “it’s easy to find, look it up yourself”

          • You’re right John.

            In my defence I’m badly time poor atm, and there really is a lot of information readily to hand.

      • The claim is hardly ludicrous. In ‘A Crisis in Modern Masculinity:
        Understanding the Causes of Male Suicide’ (November 2014), one of the five largest factors identified as contributing to male suicide is negative stereotyping. The trend of dismissing the opinions of white males on the basis of their race and gender most definitely fits the category.

        Being attacked, criticised or shut down on the sole basis of race or gender is something nobody should have to experience, regardless of whether they’re men or women, black or white.

    • People should always be free to metaphorically hoist themselves with their own petards. It seems burnside has given an effective demonstration of how blind prejudice exists on both sides.

      The idea that someone’s voice should be silenced not on the merits of their argument but on who they choose to affiliate with is deeply disturbing. One cannot claim to believe in and fight for equality in one breath while advocating such unequal treatment in the next. It’s rank hypocrisy, and hypocrites tend to be harmful to their cause, all the while believing they’re an asset to it.

  • I find it funny that people are saying that Gamergators hate being ignored or blocked yet will downvote someone into oblivion to prevent them from replying.

    • Downvoting is a way of showing people that you don’t agree with their comment – it’s not a way to prevent them from replying.

      For instance, people should downvote this comment to oblivion. I’ll still reply. 😛

      • Actaully, you get downvoted enough and you get sent into auto moderation.

        • Damn, I didn’t know. I’ll unvote any negatives in that case because censorship isn’t what any of us want. @neo_kaiser

      • Once you reach about 5 downvotes you are pushed into guest status and have to wait for a mod to allow your next comment/s to go through. So it can be used to prevent replies.

          • May be good information but I am sceptical people are down voting for that reason. Heck I down voted because he was pretty passive aggressive to some one who largely had done nothing wrong.

            I think kaiser is just reading too much into peoples intentions, this whole topic brings the difficult side out in every one.

        • It’s not really censorship though. Those replies will still go through, unless they’re full of vile nonsense.

          It just takes a while.

        • Wasn’t actually aware of that at all.

          @burnside made some offensive and aggressive comments and that was why I downvoted him.

          • Don’t let @neo_kaiser influence you…. He uses the same method to ban into moderation any view he doesn’t believe in. Burny deserves all the grief he’s getting for his hyperbolic bigotry.

          • Yeah, sorry, I have to give mypetmonkey that one. The positive votes you’ve given to posts in this very thread (and they’re for burnside’s more bile-filled posts, to boot) makes your believability on this point questionable.

    • I rarely downvote here, and never to prevent someone replying. I’ve argued many times in the past that downvotes shouldn’t trigger post moderation, and I’ve even had some of those posts deleted.

      That being said, burnside’s posts were aggressively prejudicial. You can’t expect people to not express their disapproval using the voting system. I’d much rather see the system changed under the hood than to deny people the ability to show their disagreement.

      And you shouldn’t be voting based on how the system works under the hood either, you should be voting on the basis of whether you support or do not support the content of the post.

  • I honestly don’t “get” gamer gate.
    I don’t understand the whole thing about it – and I regularly read video game articles every day. I must have missed something massively.

    For me , I can’t understand why this Anita woman can’t have opinions (no matter how simple or dramatic as they might be) without being threatened.
    Gamers have hard opinions about everything but they’re never given the hatred that this person is.
    I’ve read some small snippets of what she’s said and nothing really blows my mind.
    I’ve simply thought “nah.. I don’t agree with that” or ” yeah I can see what she’s saying here”
    And simply moved on.

    Anyway, all seems very overly dramatic and childish to me. I’ll just play all the games and have a good time thanks.

    • @keiranj posted the results of a study on source of abuse above, but the gist of it is that the vast majority of the abuse people like Sarkeesian receive are from people who aren’t associated with Gamergate. GG doesn’t particularly care about Sarkeesian except perhaps in the broader context of what was at the time a coordinated attack on the gamer identity.

        • Gamer identity is when you identify as a gamer. A coordinated attack on the gamer identity is when several articles come out at the same time proclaiming that ‘gamers’ are dead and that it’s no loss because they were all basement dwelling sexist neckbeards in the first place.

    • A key thing to remember is that Sarkeesian et al angers a lot of people. She* fails to realise that if you attack something that we adore you have to do your homework, but this is something she fails to do time and time again. For every salient and well-reasoned point she makes there are a dozen poorly-researched, cherry-picked examples she’ll bring up, or obvious counter-examples she’ll ignore. She uses her agenda to find supporting facts, not the facts to inform her agenda. It’s well and good for her to have an opinion but she cannot be surprised if her opinion is justifiably criticised.

      The vitriol comes from people who cannot/do not articulate their criticism in a productive way. Unfortunately for most people it’s easier to post abuse then craft their actual opinion. Thus something like this post becomes “Sarkeesian is a dirty lesbian and she should die! LULZ!”. And somehow these people have become the only voice of the anti-Sarkeesian movement.

      *Obviously Sarkeesian is not the only one I’m referring to here but she’s an obvious representative.

      • The trolls and fools who are abusive towards Sarkeesian aren’t the only voice, there are thousands of reasoned, rational rebuttals of her conclusions. The problem is she seems particularly susceptible to confirmation bias – she selects evidence to support her conclusions while ignoring or dismissing evidence that refute her conclusions, and similarly she selects abusive criticism to support her conclusion that her detractors are hostile sexists while ignoring or dismissing rational criticism that shows that many of her critics are normal non-sexist people.

        I don’t blame her for wanting to shut out the abuse, but just because the abuse is wrong doesn’t mean all criticism of her work is wrong. And similarly, just because she’s been subjected to abuse doesn’t make her conclusions automatically right, nor beyond reproach.

          • There’s nothing inherently sexist/racist/homophobic/etc when someone points out to someone else that their knowledge of a particular subject is lacking. Calling someone sexist for pointing out your lack of knowledge of a particular subject is plain dumb.

            Also she openly stated that she doesn’t like or play games. Fair enough that video is old, so we can give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she’s into them now. But I suspect that’s probably not the case.

            Still, you point all these things out, and you’re automatically a ‘GamerGate sympathizer’, misogynist and probably someone who eats children for breakfast or some shit.

  • I came into the comments expecting to find a shitstorm. I only found a light smattering of shit in the first thread – I’m impressed!

    And no one has hated on the developer yet! Amazing!

    Also I’m sure a lot of people will gloss over his background. He’s not a typical Westerner. There are other issues out there than what typical SJW Westerners see. His life experiences helped shape his opinion, respect that.

  • Here’s a good way to tell is someone is an unpleasant and foolish person: if they use the phrase “SJW” seriously. Wanting social justice for powerless people is not a negative. Having basic human empathy for groups that have been marginalised for decades is not a negative.

    It’s kind of incredible that the vast bulk of the commenters here come from a cultural hegemony that has dominated western society for hundreds of years, and all of a sudden, when women are given a voice, when LGBT people are given a voice, when minorities are given a voice, all we hear about is how terrible it is for them as white men, and how all this criticism is hurting them.

    I mean according to someone above, according to one (ONE!) non-peer reviewed ‘study’, criticism and stereotypes of white men is leading to their increased suicide. Because women and minorities do not experience anything like that. No woman has ever been stereotyped. Especially not in gaming. It’s usually stereotypes about rabid, cheeto-dusted SWAT calling neckbeards that move units.

    • It’s kind of incredible that the vast bulk of the commenters here come from a cultural hegemony that has dominated western society for hundreds of years


      when women are given a voice, when LGBT people are given a voice, when minorities are given a voice, all we hear about is how terrible it is for them as white men, and how all this criticism is hurting them.

      All of whom are also in the pro-gamergate camp.

      I mean according to someone above, according to one (ONE!) non-peer reviewed ‘study’, criticism and stereotypes of white men is leading to their increased suicide. Because women and minorities do not experience anything like that. No woman has ever been stereotyped. Especially not in gaming. It’s usually stereotypes about rabid, cheeto-dusted SWAT calling neckbeards that move units.

      Report doesn’t fit your narrative so ignore it. Got it. Issue no other report, just off the cuff dismissal.

      Complain about stereotypes by issuing a stereotype. Couldn’t make this stuff up.

      • The report doesn’t fit my narrative because it is not a believable report. It takes a tiny sample group, asks them tremendously broad questions, which you lot then apply to a situation it is not related to.

        “Complain about stereotypes by issuing a stereotype. Couldn’t make this stuff up.”

        Well I’m more saying that the stereotypes that Sarkesian etc. are combating are (once again) hundreds of years old and deeply ingrained in society. Stereotypes against white men are straight up not comparable to that.

        Also, if I’m making some terrible assumption that these commenters come from a cultural white patriarchal background, then why do you agree with me that all these white men complaining about criticism that is hurting them are in the pro-gg camp?

        • The report doesn’t fit my narrative because it is not a believable report. It takes a tiny sample group, asks them tremendously broad questions, which you lot then apply to a situation it is not related to. None of which disqualifies the content. I can’t find one article or analysis saying that it’s wrong. It was carried out by CALM a charity for mental health issues and the suicide rates don’t lie.

          Also, if I’m making some terrible assumption that these commenters come from a cultural white patriarchal background, then why do you agree with me that all these white men complaining about criticism that is hurting them are in the pro-gg camp?

          You read wrong I said there are plenty, gay, multicultural, women, minorities and feminists as part of pro-gamergate. The “you’re all just white guys” is false.

          • So you seriously believe that anti-GG sentiment has caused an increase in the overall levels of suicidie amongst men in the UK? Because that is a fucking insane suggestion.

          • The report says negative stereotyping is a factor in male suicide rates. Dismissing white male opinions on the basis of race and gender is negative stereotyping. I don’t see what’s difficult to follow. The report doesn’t say women don’t also experience negative stereotyping, and I frankly don’t see how negative stereotyping of women would factor into suicide rates in men, which was the topic being discussed.

        • What evidence do you have to suggest the results of the report are invalid? Surely if you’re going to dismiss the results of a study you have more to go on than just ‘I don’t agree with it’?

          If you think the sample size is small, you clearly have no grounding in science and research. This study used just over 1000 participants with a 3% margin of error at 95% confidence. A sample of 1000 at 3% margin of error is sufficient to describe a population of 300 million at 95% confidence. By all objective standards that is a highly accurate study.

  • Well I have been looking forward to this game since I first heard about it but Ive had enough contact with that group to find the politics distasteful so they have lost a sale

  • “me the editor of a site that has both covered and been at odds with that movement for months.”

    No sir, you really haven’t covered the movement, quite the contrary you have failed to cover the movement and instead been busy spinning a very one sided narrative that happily ignores any events not supporting that agenda. The only thing that’s been covered is one’s own ass.

    • @Nera: if you’re going to make claims like that, then you should be making a reasoned argument and putting forward your point of view along with evidence to substantiate your claims. Just as burnside was told – you can’t just make accusations and not actually contribute anything to the debate.

      If you have credibility and rational, factual arguments on which to mount some criticism of Kotaku or other journalism sites (as that is theoretically what GamerGate is about), then you should be putting those forward instead of just attacking the author/site. An attack is not argument.

      • You are right of course, but to do so would be wandering further off-topic from the article above, so to keep things simple how about I compile a list of links to all the GamerGate coverage here on Kotaku that doesn’t simply follow the Editor’s preferred narrative, that doesn’t misrepresent facts or do little but demonize the movement instead of responding to criticisms aimed at game journalism.

        Please take your time to browse through the rather lengthy list of articles…

        /end list.

        • That entire post is a cop-out. “Kotaku hasn’t supported GamerGate therefore it’s biased” is what you’re saying. But this very article pretty much serves to undermine your claim. It’s not presenting GamerGate in a wholly negative light. This developer is opinionated, he cares about games and lo and behold, he’s presented here as a human being.

          You’re claiming Kotaku is only critical of GamerGate. Any article I read from Kotaku that was critical of GamerGate was critical specifically of the individuals issuing personal attacks (or threats of violence) on specific individuals. I would not fault Kotaku for such action. I would applaud them for it.

          As I said in a post above, “GamerGate” as associated with these attacks because individuals were carrying out these attacks under the “GamerGate” banner. This may have been done without the knowledge of the “real GamerGate” and may have even been disliked by the people behind the “real GamerGate” but I have seen very little to suggest that.

          If GamerGate is associated and/or synonymous with these kinds of personal attacks despite being nominally about ethics in game journalism, then Kotaku is well within its rights to criticise a movement or group associated with that kind of behaviour. Personal attacks and threats are not acceptable.

          Again, if there are *specific* issues about how GamerGate has raised factually supported complaints about a lack of ethics in game journalism and this has been ignored or attacked by Kotaku, then state your evidence. So far you’ve done nothing to support your case.

          Again, I would suggest that if “GamerGate” has issues with game journalism ethics or political correctness or freedom of speech or whatever – ditch the GamerGate moniker and just debate those issues. Leave the taint of personal and violent threats behind.

  • Saying “surely we have progressed to the point where we can have games where women are more than just damsels and pretty faces?” is sensible.
    If this offends anyone, and they are against censorship, then why do they want to censor anyone who wants equality – even going as far as calling for boycots against any company who says equality is not something to be scared of like a dark ages peasant about magic or science.

    • Is anyone actually suggesting otherwise?

      I’ve never seen anyone say “no, we can’t have women being anything other than damsels and pretty faces”. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone oppose more diverse female characters, so suggesting that anyone is seems a little weird to me.

      The main complaints I’ve seen in response to “female game character advocates” (for lack of a better term without choosing any particular individual) have more been the arguments put forward by these people – and insinuations that games that have “damsels” or “pretty faces” are inherently sexist, even when some of these women may also be strong characters as well.

      Sometimes a plot device or artistic choice is just that, not a misogynistic ideal given malevolent form.

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