Zoe Quinn is a Terrible Person (but not why you think)
Recently the internet exploded with the news that Zoe Quinn, the creator of Depression Quest, had cheated on her boyfriend with five guys in the gaming industry in order to advance her career. I've done everything I can to stay out of this, and to avoid posting about it, but people keep making comments, both in support of Quinn and against her, that are either misinformed, not fully formed, or just plain damaging. The truth is that Zoe Quinn is a terrible human being, but not because of who she may have slept with. She's terrible because she's manipulative, deceitful, and a liar. And I can prove all of that.
First of all, there's her game Depression Quest. I've played it, and it's a piece of shit. It's a glorified website, with sad piano music playing the whole time. You advance the "game" by clicking on hyperlinks to make decisions. You remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from the 80's, where you'd read a passage and at the bottom it would say "To climb down the well, turn to page 56; to run and call for help, turn to page 31"? That's what Depression Quest is. That's exactly what Depression Quest is, except the only choices you get to choose are ones that highlight how pathetic your life is in the "game." It's not a game, it's a complete and utter waste of time.
Not surprisingly, it wasn't doing well on Steam Greenlight. Because who would ever want to play a game called Depression Quest that is literally about how shitty your life would be if you had depression, and which was nothing more than "read text then click a link to pick what page to go to"? When it became evident that the game was never going to pass muster, Zoe Quinn created a controversy. She did that by finding a website that was disparaging her and her game, and calling harassment. Then she claimed she was being harassed on the phone and to her face, without ever actually providing any proof of any of it; just her word that "no really, it happened." That started a groundswell in favour of female game developers, and Depression Quest made it through Greenlight because of a sense of social responsibility - not because anyone actually liked the game. Check out the reviews, they're universally bad.
The problem is, it wasn't harassment. Harassment, by definition, is something you do directly to someone. The posts she found? They were from a website called Wizardchan, which is entirely populated by depressed male virgins (that's not an insult, it's actually the truth apparently). It's not a gaming website, and it's not a place that anyone in their right mind would ever expect Zoe Quinn to show up. That means the two posts on the entire site that reference the game (and there were exactly two of them) were not made to harass her, they were made to discuss the game internally amongst the community. Zoe Quinn went searching specifically for any discussion about her game, and as soon as she found someone talking ill of it, she manipulated it into what she needed, so that she could play the victim. And then Depression Quest magically got through Greenlight, because guilt. This is all very well documented in this imgur gallery, complete with screenshots. You should go read it.
After that incident was over, people remembered that Depression Quest is a piece of shit, and both it and Zoe Quinn disappeared into the abyss for a year. Then her ex-boyfriend published a massive blog post detailing how she spent their entire relationship lying to him to his face, manipulating him, and cheating on him with people in the gaming industry in exchange for positive reviews and publicity. Now, there is some doubt about the truth in the favour exchange - one of the positive reviews she got apparently doesn't actually exist, for instance - but let's tackle the two aspects of that claim independently. Those two aspects are a) that she cheated on her boyfriend after specifically saying she wouldn't; and b) that she did so for professional benefit.
If she cheated on her boyfriend while telling him to his face that she would never do that, and indeed that cheating is equivalent to rape (her words), then she's a liar, a whore, and a terrible person. She has not ever disputed that this happened, so I think we can safely assume this is true. She did, however, eventually post a response to the issue, available from GamesNosh, in which she says that her personal life is personal, and she isn't going to discuss it. And as far as that's concerned, she's absolutely correct: who she sleeps with is nobody's business but hers and theirs, so long as nobody's getting hurt (boyfriend excepted because cheating). She also said As much as those leading the charge against me will do mental backflips to make posting pictures of my tits about "ethics" [. . .] - I went looking for those pictures on GIS, and it turns out they're from professional photo shoots. She consented to them being taken, and they were already publicly available; she just conveniently left that part out when complaining about it, so she could pretend it was some clandestine thing being done without her approval. Chalk another one up to fabricating shit out of thin air to play the victim.
I am a huge advocate of separating private and public life, and good for her for wanting to do the same. But here's the thing: if you're using sex as a tool to advance your professional career, then it's no longer a private matter, because corporate interests are now involved. At that point your sex life becomes intertwined with your public life in a way that cannot be undone. In fact, any transportation and hotel bills related to those conjugal visits could probably be written off as business expenses on her taxes, so she can save a bit of money next April. The point is that at that point, your sex life becomes fair game for public scrutiny, because you've chosen to make it a business matter. And that brings us to the second aspect of the claim.
If it's true that she traded sex for professional favours - and I'm not coming down on either side here, this is an academic discussion - then there is serious blame to be placed at the feet of the people she slept with. As far as the cheating on her boyfriend goes, that blame is all hers. As far as getting favours for sex is concerned, that's entirely on the people she slept with. She is fully allowed to attempt to fuck her way to the top. The problem is the ethics of the people who are plugging her agreeing to it.
Let's face it, women have been using sex to get what they want for centuries. Men like putting their dicks in things, and when someone gives us the opportunity to do it, we tend to accept that offer. The ethical problem is when the man doing the inserting then agrees to do something he shouldn't for the woman, purely on the grounds that he's been inside of her once or thrice. When your profession is providing objective content reviews for public consumption, and you then turn around and give some of that content a more positive review than it deserves because you managed to get your dick wet, that is a breach of trust and ethics, and a blatant conflict of interest. At that point you stop being a reviewer, and you become a John, paying a prostitute for sex with your words instead of your dollars. When you are friends/fuckbuddies with someone involved in the creation of whatever you're reviewing, you have an ethical obligation to divulge that relationship, so that the readers will know that your review might not be wholly objective. That's what's called journalistic integrity, and people do it all the time.
That's why the so-called Five Guys scandal isn't a reason that Zoe Quinn is a terrible person; she's not the one who actually did anything wrong professionally. On a personal level, it makes her a piece of shit for cheating on her boyfriend so promiscuously, but on a business level, believe it or not she's actually in the clear. She's allowed to try to trade sex for positive press all she wants; it's up to the reviewers to have the integrity to say no. However, the Five Guys scandal does shine the light back on all the shitty things she does.
You see, after she released that response, in which she says that she just wants this to pass so she can get on her way, she was apparently "doxxed." Doxxing is when you hack into someone's personal stuff and release their personal information online. It's what Zoe Quinn did to redditor SillySladar, from The Fine Young Capitalists, for having the audacity to try to run a Game Jam for female game designers - you know, that thing Quinn says she's supportive of. The thing is, Quinn wasn't actually doxxed by anyone but herself. And this has been proven.
- The supposed doxing included a claim of responsibility by 4CHAN.ORG/V/ - except there are two things wrong with that:
- 4chan doesn't capitalize like that - it's always /v/, never /V/
- 4chan doesn't claim responsibility for anything; they deflect to a place like 9gag or reddit
- The hacked accounts, namely her Twitter and Tumblr, were recovered within minutes. There was just enough time for her to draw attention to the fact that it happened, and then it was all undone, back to its original state. Tumblr in particular has a security feature where if someone tries to log in while being logged in elsewhere, the other login is disconnected. So if Zoe Quinn and a doxxer were both trying to use her Tumblr at the same time, they both would have been locked in an endless cycle of having to log in again, and the information would never have been successfully posted.
- The released information did not include any passwords or login information for anything. When a hacker enters your account and doxxes you, they make sure to spit out as many passwords as possible in order to cause as much chaos as possible. That didn't happen. Additionally, they didn't change any passwords to lock Quinn out and keep the information up for longer. If she'd really been doxxed, it would have lasted for more than a few minutes, and passwords would have been revealed.
- The information that got released was fake. The phone number was centred in Hawaii; Zoe Quinn lives in Massacheussets.
Then there's the more recent Adam Baldwin Twitter incident. Quinn posted a tweet condemning Baldwin for tweeting out links to her nudes and personal information, saying that with an audience the size of his, he had a responsibility not to do that. And she's right about that. The problem is, he didn't. He tweeted out links to the Five Guys YouTube videos. Chalk another one up to Zoe Quinn making shit up for publicity. You can read more about that here.
Zoe Quinn never got doxxed, and she never got hacked. While publicly telling people she just wanted this to go away, she pretended to be hacked, in order to play the victim card again, in a naked attempt to generate sympathy for herself once more. I really don't care if Zoe Quinn is getting it from the entire staff of Kotaku, but I do care when someone manipulates the public trust for personal gain, and I really care when they do so habitually. Zoe Quinn is a piece of shit, and the world would be better off if she crawled into a hole somewhere and never came back.
- Total Biscuit's response - the Reddit/gaming discussion of this post has almost 25,000 deleted comments, removed by robot. The moderator of the relevant forum is someone who communicates with Zoe Quinn by email. That might be a coincidence.
- Gamer Headlines: An Alternate Response to Recent Controversy - Media, Abuse, and Women in Gaming
- Badass Digest: Video Games, Misogyny, and Terrorism: A Guide to Assholes
- Indie-fensible! - The Maya "Legobutts" Kramer Story! - a video revealing even more nepotism in the indie game community, as regards the Independent Game Festival, Gama Sutra, and Zoe Quinn.
Editor's note: the article originally said that Adam Baldwin was a feminist, but recent research has been unable to back that idea up. The line has been removed since its accuracy cannot be verified.