Sunday, March 15, 2015

About #Gamergate, Ben Kuchera,and Gatekeeping

If Electronic Arts executives have any stones whatsoever, Polygon opinion editor has fouled up epically.

In fact, it should wind up being one of the most epic foulings up in any genre of journalism in journalism history.

Just what did Kuchera do?

Well, EA's director of digital communications, Chris Mancil, wrote a blogpost praising Breitbart UK writer Milo Yiannopolous. In passing he mentioned that Kuchera had some worthy ideas on how Twitter could better handle harassment on its site.

For this, Kurchera freaked out. He tweeted EA demanding that someone at the company intervene with Mancil to remove a link to a column Kuchera published at Polygon.

From this we can glean the full extent of Kuchera's irrationality: apparently one may not praise Kuchera if they happen to be praising Yiannopolous at the same time. And if they do, Kuchera will complain about it to that person's employer. That's how authoritarian, how stunningly eager to abuse his power, Kuchera has become.

Since his meltdown many other social justice warriors have joined Kuchera's chorus, going even further than Kuchera and demanding that Mancil be fired.

This brings us to a very interesting question: just how much power does Kuchera have? How much power do games journalists have?

At first glance,it might seem that they have a great deal of power. They're considered by many to be the gatekeepers of the industry. They have the power to decide which games get coverage, and which games don't.

So surely games developers and publishers must be sensitive to their whims and demands, right?

Well, perhaps not so much.

The relationship between the games industry and games developer is far more symbiotic than many might give it credit for. While  games journalists may have the power of gatekeeper at their end of the relationship, games developers and publishers have the same power at their end.

They have the power to refuse to grant interviews, or even release review copies of games, to journalists with whom they are unwilling to interact.

Therein just how badly Kuchera has fouled up.

It takes no more than a cursory look at Mancil's blogpost to recognize that Kuchera is being hilariously unreasonable and, in fact, unprofessional. To give in to Kuchera's demands would only reward that unreasonability and unprofessionalism from someone who writes for a publication that EA actually pays for advertising.

As an online website with no paywall Polygon literally has no source of revenue other than their advertisers. Kuchera is literally making demands of the hand that feeds him even as he embeds his incisors into it.

There's really only one way EA can respond: they must pull their ads from Polygon, and refuse to restore them until Kuchera is no longer employed by the publication. Other games developers and publishers should also recognize Kuchera's behaviour for what it is and do the same.

In other words, if Polygon will not fire Ben Kuchera, the games industry must fire Polygon.

No more ad revenue, no more review copies of games, no more access of any kind. The games industry must exercise its gatekeeping power and cast Ben Kuchera outside its gates. If Polygon insists on remaining attached to Kuchera, it should share his predicament.

If this seems unreasonable, games developers and publishers must remember: Kuchera would enthusiastically do the same to them.

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