I wrote this in reply to a friend’s email about the ongoing games journalism conversation which is just the veneer of a campaign of hate against a woman who made a videogame. I was happy with it so here it is for everyone else. Ultimately I’m discussing the weird conundrum we’re in where we have to acknowledge that, yes, there are criticisms to be made of games journalism but these people and their abusive campaign are that problem. Sorry I’m still writing about this.

The whole thing is such a mess. Yes, there are problems with games journalism that can be summed up with the fact that games journalism is just, by and large, consumerist writing that acts as a semi-autonomous arm of gaming PR, nurturing a certain audience for certain games. What all these people who are part of the attack on women who make games don’t seem to understand is that they are exactly the status quo that is fostered and served by games journalism and its problems. The good parts of games journalism (the critiques of the industry, the coverage of non-commercial games, writing on gender and race and the such) are a sign of games journalism getting better, but, to these people, it is their privileged position being brought down a notch so all they see is conspiracies, helped along by famous youtubers who, despite being even more status-quo than mainstream games journalism, somehow get to be the ‘alternative’. Like the Tea Party getting to look like a real alternative to the Republican Party or something. 

There are criticisms to be made of mainstream games journalism that are synonymous with the ones these people are making, but they are about press being flown across the world and put up in fancy hotels to go to Ubisoft press events. They are not about a single indie developer maybe sleeping with a journalist who didn’t even write a review of her free game. But these people wouldn’t dare go after a triple-a game because those are exactly the games they want to play. They want the status-quo. 
The lack of coverage isn’t because everyone knows each other. It’s because mainstream games journalism, as loathe as it is to admit it, is primarily propped by this mainstream ‘gamer’ audience that it nurtures. Their main readership is the exact type of self-important gamer douchebag that needs to see conspiracies in games journalism. These trolls are scared of the games journalism boat being rocked, and the games journalism editors are afraid of rocking that boat. So instead of adamantly written editorials decrying the harassment, we get silence and a “oh this is sad” on twitter. 
I am pretty confident in saying that nepotism has nothing to do with what is currently going on. Yes, there are a lot of friends, but indies don’t get famous because they have friends who are games journalists. They have friends who are games journalists because they made really good games (or, at least, really good games within a certain, sellable-to-that-nurtured-gamer-readership slither of what can be a ‘good’ indie game). The people who are angry about Zoe Quinn are angry, primarily, because they come from such a narrow-sighed slither of ‘gamers’ that they can’t even comprehendhow Depression Quest might be a good game. They can’t figure it out. Like, it doesn’t even have graphics! Therefore there must be a conspiracy. 
So the problem with journalism here is the fear of rocking the boat when the whole thing needs to be capsized and the rats drowned. The thing is those decrying games journalism at the moment don’t realise they are the rats.

Why political engagement is critical to games journalism


Earlier tonight, someone tweeted at me, “Not to be rude, but you’re part of the problem. You’ve compromised your integrity as a journalist by being an activist.” 

There are always a few things that come to mind when I hear this viewpoint expressed. First of all, my role at GameSpot was not that of news reporter. I was a critic. And I believe that a critic’s role involves engaging with media on multiple levels, and that to not engage with media on a political level often results in a woefully incomplete appraisal of a work.

Games, like film and television and books and music, have political meanings. They reinforce or sometimes challenge certain ideologies and value systems. And I sometimes commented on this aspect of games in my reviews, always in the larger context of also talking about the game’s mechanics, visuals, world, or whatever other facets of it also seemed to me to warrant discussion in my attempt to offer some sort of evaluation of a complex, multifaceted work. And I think that to call me an activist for doing this is just silly. 

In her piece “The Trouble With Blue is the Warmest Color," New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis said this:

The truth is, if I were hung up about every predatory director or every degrading image of a woman, I couldn’t be a film critic. So I watch, loving movies that don’t necessarily love or even like women.

I feel much the same about games. Many games disrespect or insult or hate women, reinforcing patriarchal and sometimes deeply misogynistic ideas about the roles of women and the value of women relative to men. Yet rather than commenting on this in my reviews for every game that reinforced regressive views of women, I reserved criticism of the treatment of women for only those games that I felt were the most egregious, troubling, or absurd in this regard. The number of reviews I wrote that comment on representations of women is very few. Yet, both sadly and hilariously, the fact that I ever did it at all painted me as a feminist crusader in some readers’ eyes, and in the comments section of just about every review I wrote were suggestions that I actually gave game X whatever score I gave it based on its treatment of women, even when I didn’t raise such issues at all. 

Given those comments and the other critiques and harassment I’ve received for ever raising such issues, and the critiques and harassment I’ve seen other women (and, to a lesser extent, men) receive for raising such issues, it’s pretty clear to me that this quote, which I reblogged yesterday, hits the proverbial bull’s-eye: 

Gamer culture has pushed the argument about women’s roles so far to one side that most of them honestly believe the status quo of default objectification and women-as-rewards is the “neutral,” “nonpolitical” starting position.

Games are not politically neutral. Neither are mainstream romantic comedies, or action films, or any novel I’ve ever read. They may sometimes appear politically neutral if the values they reinforce mesh with the value systems of the larger culture, but our culture is not politically neutral, either, and it is not outside of the role of a critic to comment on or raise questions about the political meanings embedded in the works one evaluates. In fact, it is often impossible to review something apolitically, because to not comment on or challenge the political meanings in a work in your review is to give them your tacit endorsement. 

This teaser for Battlefield Hardline, for instance, seriously glorifies and fetishizes the militarization of police hardware and firepower. This has always been deeply political, and recent, tragic events have made it impossible to ignore the political nature of such imagery. 

Which brings me to the other thing that comes to mind when I hear this viewpoint expressed. Inherent in the statement that, by being an “activist”—which, here, I take to mean “someone who has attempted to raise certain questions and concerns about the meanings present in some games”—I’ve failed at being a “journalist,” is the idea that journalists don’t ever try to challenge existing power structures or political ideologies or give a voice to the voiceless or any such thing, that the role of journalists is always to simply dryly report the “facts” in such a way that never favors one “side” of an issue over another, but always presents both as equal, even when those sides are not equal at all. And I would never suggest in a million years that writing about video games is remotely in the same sphere of importance as covering the real news of the world, like, say, recent events in Ferguson, or Gaza. I don’t believe for a second that it is. Rather, this is just to make a point about what journalism is and isn’t. News coverage of Ferguson that offers a full and complex picture of events there should naturally raise questions about the abuse of authority, about institutionalized racism and oppression. That’s not activism; that’s part of what journalism should and must do.

Games aren’t the same sort of thing. Thank goodness. But, like film and books and TV, they are a meaningful medium that both shapes and is shaped by the culture at large. Games are worthy of being taken seriously, of being treated with respect, and part of that means that, like books and film and TV, they warrant serious coverage and criticism. To suggest that journalism about games shouldn’t ever raise questions about or challenge the politics of the games industry or of games themselves is dead wrong. Games journalism needs to do this. Any journalistic publication or writer covering games that never seriously engages with games politically is failing to do journalism.

Once again, I will not negotiate with terrorists.


Ok, let’s try this again. 

This has nothing to do with games and is not a matter of legitimate public interest, but is simply a personal matter. I would hope and request that the games press be respectful of what IS a personal matter, and not news, and not about games. This is explicitly about my private life, which has been regrettably forced into the public and framed by people who pose a threat to my safety and well being as well as that of the people I love. I would hope that the effort people have gone through to dress it up as anything more would not be enough to have those who see it for what it is take the bait.

I am not going to link to, or address anything having to do with the validity of the specific claims made by an angry ex-boyfriend with an axe to grind and a desire to use 4chan as his own personal army. This is not a “she-said” to his “he-said”. The idea that I am required to debunk a manifesto of my sexual past written by an openly malicious ex-boyfriend in order to continue participating in this industry is horrifying, and I won’t do it. It’s a personal matter that never should have been made public, and I don’t want to delve into personal shit, mine or anyone else’s, while saying that people’s love and sex lives are no one’s business. I’m not going to talk about it. I will never talk about it. It is not your goddamned business.

What I *am* going to say is that the proliferation of nude pictures of me, death threats, vandalization, doxxing of my trans friends for having the audacity to converse with me publicly, harassment of friends and family and my friends’ family in addition to TOTALLY UNRELATED PEOPLE, sending my home address around, rape threats, memes about me being a whore, pressures to kill myself, slurs of every variety, fucking debates over what my genitals smell like, vultures trying to make money off of youtube videos about it, all of these things are inexcusable and will continue to happen to women until this culture changes. I’m certainly not the first. I wish I could be the last.

Because I’ve had a small degree of success in a specific subculture, every aspect of my life is suddenly a matter of public concern. Suddenly it’s acceptable to share pictures of my breasts on social media to threaten and punish me. Suddenly I don’t have any right to privacy or basic dignity. Suddenly I don’t get to live out normal parts of life, like going through a bad and ugly breakup in private. I have forfeited this by being a blip in a small community, while those who delight in assailing me hide behind their keyboards and a culture that permits it, beyond reproach.

My life and my body are not public property. No one’s life and body are public property.

Sexuality is one of the most personal, hurtful, and easy things to demonize a woman over, and also has nothing to do with my games. Yet large swaths of the gaming community are either unable or unwilling to separate the two. I’m convinced that my ex chose 4chan as the staging ground for his campaign of harassment and character assassination because he knew this; he knew that someone claiming to be “from the Internet” has shown up at my house once already, and he is counting on the most reviled hubs of our community to live up to their sordid reputations. This is another example of gendered violence, whereby my personal life becomes a means to punish my professional credentials and to try to shame me into giving up my work. I’m still committed to doing my small part to create a world where no woman is at risk of experiencing this. That said, I am thankful that even boards with a reputation for being the most hostile places online have been able to tell the intent behind these threads and banned them outright, seeing the hate speech for what it is, and not-news for what it is. 

As much as those leading the charge against me will do mental backflips to make posting pictures of my tits about “ethics”, the real agenda is plain as day if you give it even a moment of sincere critical thought. No one who would terrorize someone and the totally uninvolved people they love in this way on such a massive and public scale could ever honestly claim to be interested in “ethics” of any kind. These kinds of accusations have been levied against any woman of status in any industry, ever. I have been judged because, if you are a woman, you are expected to constantly “prove” yourself, and even mere accusations can somehow undo all the good you’ve done and justify any measure of depraved brutality against you. Meanwhile, I see major support thrown the way of my male colleagues when they are accused of any sort of wrongdoing. Neither of these attitudes is correct, and they are patently unfair and reductive. Nobody exists in a vacuum, and anyone can change and grow into a better person. Heroes and villains don’t exist - just regular boring-ass people with scars and fuckups and moments of brilliance. And every single boring-ass person deserves the space to keep personal matters private and handled outside the shark tank of anonymous internet boards.

Once again, I will not be addressing the specific validity of any statements about my private life. If you have good-faith questions or doubts, I am more than happy to discuss private matters in private, where they belong. But I refuse to be coerced into making my private life or anyone’s private life a matter of public record, and I refuse to be continually emotionally terrorized by people who have long decided to hate me regardless.

I’m looking forward to moving on and getting back to work. To anyone else who has had to deal with this kind of indignity on any scale, you have my undying support and my ear if you ever want to talk to someone who might understand. To the people who support my work and can see this crusade for what it is, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those people, I love you, I always have, and I always will.

Releasing Depression Quest on Steam Today



After a long uphill battle since getting Greenlit in January, Depression Quest was planned to, and approved for, launch on Steam today. Literally minutes after we got the notification, beloved actor Robin Williams was found dead from a suspected suicide after a long struggle with depression. We were all ready to hit the big red button the minute that the news broke.

So now I’m left with the question - do we launch, or not? I turned to twitter and my most trusted friends for advice because I can see going a few different ways. It’s not an easy decision.

The game is available for free online using a pay what you want model including absolutely nothing, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity to combat the stigma and culture of silence around this debilitating disease. A question that held up the porting process on Steam was the question of how to implement pay-what-you-want in a backend that doesn’t support it. The two ways we could ape it would be in app purchases (microtransactions) or through providing DLC that had different payment tiers. Both of these seemed suboptimal. The microtransactions require getting a secure server that I don’t have the money to maintain while praying that those who have already been very vocal about wanting to destroy both myself and my work wouldn’t be able to take it down, in addition to adding in ugly interface elements that hurt the design of the game. So that’s not really an option. The problem with adding in DLC with nothing that really offers much to the player is that is a good way to breed misunderstandings, and I don’t think it would be ethical to charge someone knowing that there’s a percentage of people who would feel ripped off or misled. I don’t want to take that chance.

So then the choice becomes do we charge or not? Many people were pushing me to charge, citing the help we could offer charities and the value of getting paid for your hard work and taking that money and making more things that could help people.

But none of that felt right. When making something you have to ask yourself what’s the spirit of the thing you’ve made. Why have you made this particular thing? And with Depression Quest, the answer has always been clear as day.

Depression Quest has always been an attempt to make a tool to help people understand depression and reach out to others living with the reality of this disease.

There is no way, in my mind, to ethically put something intended to be a tool for helping people behind a paywall. None.

This was the same guiding principle behind putting the game back on Greenlight after withdrawing initially due to threats and harassment. It’s a really really fucking hard thing to accept - that you have made something that can help someone else, especially when you yourself suffer from depression and have a very hard time accepting that you could do anything for anyone and aren’t totally worthless. But I’ve heard from too many people, heard too many stories from you wonderful fucking people, to ignore that. I love all of you too much to discount your lived experiences, so I accept that the game can help people seek help. Someone getting help or even feeling understood when they feel like an alien on their own planet is too rare of a thing to gamble with, too important to flinch from because you’re worried what people will think of you or say to you.

Similarly, that is why today leaves me conflicted. Majorly, massively conflicted. The last thing I want for the game is for the launch to seem opportunistic or like it is capitalizing on a massive tragedy like we’ve seen today. So again, I’ve turned to you. I’ve thought through a number of possible scenarios, and I feel like I have a responsibility to release today. I know there may be a worst case of people assuming the launch somehow is trying to capitalize on tragedy. However, I would rather have those people hate me than the people who are currently quietly suffering with this illness sit at their dinner tables tonight and hear the discussion of today’s news, hear people not understand how someone who had so much could kill themselves, and lack a resource they could have needed right then to point to and say “this is why”. I’d rather have people flood my inbox with threats again and call me a monster if it means that one person who was shocked by today’s news and maybe thinking of trying to reach out and get help could use this tool I’ve made to take the vitally important first steps towards clawing their way out of the hell that is this disease.

I feel like I have a responsibility to those who could be helped. Depression Quest was never ever meant to be just a game, and it has definitely done more than a traditional game might. I get regular emails from therapists who use it with their patients and families of depression sufferers to build a dialog and a bridge to understanding. It’s been used in classroom settings, people have played it with their parents and significant others to start showing them things they had a hard time verbalizing. Not taking those stories and those people seriously and accepting the role that this game was able to play in their own massive undertakings of self care would be disrespecting those people’s struggles. And I can’t do that.

There’s something here that people who don’t live with depression might not understand. When you suffer from this, the small windows of opportunity you have that you feel like you have the energy to and self-worth enough to try and take steps to change things, to want something more than feeling like you barely have your head above water, those chances and that motivation is fucking *rare*. I can’t in good conscience hold back offering someone something that could help them start making real changes in their life or even just offer a temporary relief or better understanding for the sake of reducing the risk of offending people or hurting my own reputation. If I was sitting down across a table from someone who asked me “how could you release the day Robin Williams took his own life” I would know how I could answer. I’d know why I did it, even if I felt conflicted about doing it. But if I sat down across from someone who asked “How could you hold back on releasing this game when I needed it” I would feel ashamed.

So I am launching the game. Quietly. I will not be promoting it until a respectful time later. But I want it to be out there and available in all the ways I can make it be available so that if someone needs it, they have it. After agonizing over it and asking the general public, they’ve overwhelmingly responded with pleas to release it. Especially among depression sufferers.

I never feel like I know what I’m doing, and like all I can ever do is do what feels right after consulting with people for outside perspective. This isn’t an easy choice, but I think it’s the right one.

Please, please, please take care of yourselves. Tell the people in your life you love them. Don’t stop pushing for more understanding and better care of those battling mental illness.

The game is available for free/pay what you want in the following places:

Web version is here at www.depressionquest.com

Itch.io downloadable version is here at http://the-quinnspiracy.itch.io/depressionquest

Steam version available at http://store.steampowered.com/app/270170

I love you all.

Sex and Heavy Rain


Oh gosh I am going to talk frankly about sex and videogames because I very much like both of those things and have found a weird parallel since I’m a pattern recognition machine, so here’s hoping everyone decides to be a fucking adult about it. That sound you can hear right now, from whereever you are in the world is me laughing at the impossibility of that statement. I know you’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes but the laughing stops me from screaming so hey. Pick and choose, friend.

Also this gets rambly. But it’s a blog so fuck the police.

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What a perfect analogy.

I’ve heard of gameplay described as performance, similar to music or theater. You know, actually requiring a degree of skill to be involved with.

I’ve used the analogy of language to describe video game controls.

But using sex to describe the co authorship of gameplay. Brilliant.

No rest for the wicked

No rest for the wicked

Dear Dethstrobe.com,

Ah, my old personal website. How you look so interesting yet so functionally bad. Sadly, I don’t have the time to update you my wonderful test ground for JS and CSS. No, I got myself a fancy job at a mega corporation. So its not like I need this website for much of anything right now. I haven’t had the time to work on my personal projects as much, and I’ve signed NDA’s so I…

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No Bullshit Pixel Art Tutorial — Week 1

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is my attempt to start sharing everything I know about pixel art as concisely as possible. It comes in the form of focused tips, packaged into 10 second videos. The intro + first two are already online. The rest of Week 1 will air one per day for the rest of the week. Go view them at:


The slides above expand on the videos and act as cheat sheets on the topics I cover. Like & reblog if you want to support this project.

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To Tumblr, Love Pixel Union