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Gameverse | April 28, 2017

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Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest Sparks Debate Over Gaming Journalism and Misogyny

T.L. Bodine

Depression Quest PillsIf the name “Zoe Quinn” doesn’t immediately ring alarm bells in your mind, you’ve probably been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks (or busy slaying mobs in Azeroth).  The Internet has been abuzz recently about this new scandal, an ugly bit of business that’s brought all the wrong kinds of attention to the gaming community.

To sum up: Zoe Quinn is a game designer who created a text-based simulation called Depression Quest, which follows basic life-sim mechanics to tell a story about life with depression.  The game’s been a critical success, getting a huge amount of publicity before and after launch, and some of the proceeds from its “pay what you will” sales model go toward organizations that offer help to people suffering from depression.  It’s a simple game, but one with a lot of heart.  Unfortunately, none of these qualities are what’s keeping it in the news.

Before the game was fully launched, Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni started a blog to slander her, apparently intending to sabotage the game’s release in retaliation for problems within their relationship.  Curiously, while his blog makes many remarks about Quinn’s character, it never explicitly stated the rumor that went on to fuel rage against her – that she was trading sexual favors for positive reviews of her game.

How and why this rumor got started isn’t totally clear, but once it spread, the internet burst into a frenzy. A crowd of angry trolls mobilized from 4chan and similar sites to wage war against her – utilizing everything from Twitter harassment to phone calls and even death threats – despite there being no evidence to support any of these allegations.

Now that the storm has been raging for a while, it’s become less about Quinn herself and more about the greater issues that seem to be at play.  For one half of the people debating, it’s an issue of misogyny in gaming, apparently proving that gaming culture is hostile toward female developers.  The other side insist that it has nothing to do with Quinn’s gender and everything to do with a corrupt style of gaming journalism, one that favors nepotism over quality. Depression Quest, this side claims, is not a game worthy of all the positive attention it’s received, and its nearly universal critical acclaim is unwarranted.

But attacking developers like Zoe Quinn is going about this the wrong way, putting focus on the wrong issues and discrediting otherwise valid concerns.  Rather than looking at the game itself to see whether its execution is successful, personal attacks against Quinn only manage to make the gaming community look immature and sexist.  And considering the bad reputation gaming has for misogyny, that’s hardly the image anyone should be trying to promote.