In August 2014, female game developer Zoe Quinn released a game called Depression Quest. In spite of receiving critical acclaim, the game was met with backlash from gamers around the world. To make matters worse, a rumor that Quinn had an affair with Nathan Grayson, a video game journalist for the blog site Kotaku surfaced. Grayson was accused of trading positive coverage of female game developer Zoe Quinn’s game for the opportunity to sleep with her. Quinn has since reported receiving death threats and harassment.
Who knew the gaming industry could be so cruel? According to the Entertainment Software Association, 48 percent of the total gaming population are females. The classic stereotype of the teenage boy holed up in his basement is apparently not your average gamer. Surveys say that female players feel like a despised and disrespected minority, regularly met with hostility in the male-dominated culture of gaming.
The first question I would like to discuss is whether or not the gaming industry should be more regulated in light of the recent scandal. The rude comments, harassment, and threats are clearly a problem. Women have been forced to create false identities in the gaming space because of this fact. As a game developer, Zoe Quinn would certainly benefit from some sort of regulatory action punishing the authors of death threats and cyberbullying. But will that really change the culture divide between males and females in the gaming space?
The second question is should game developers be held accountable for designing games that perpetuate this behavior? As we learned in class, utilitarianism is the belief that the outcome that provides the greatest amount of ‘good’ is the best option morally and ethically. Focusing on game developers, as long as the games are enjoyed by more people than disliked, the game developer is ethical. I think this approach could be problematic. Rather, game developers need to take into account the different potential cultural perspectives of the wide spectrum of gamers in order to act ethically. As long as they are keeping up with trends and listening to the game forums, they are doing their due diligence.
Here’s a thought-provoking clip from the Colbert Report featuring a feminist activist talking about Gamergate: