“On Ethics Policies and Accountability”

Two of the most common arguments leveled at #GamerGate are “What exactly are your goals?” and “Why don’t you police the bad behaviour in your movement?” As is becoming the common theme of projection among anti-GG groups, these are very much problems within games journalism itself that need to be addressed.

I watched for weeks as Adam Baldwin asked for a good example of an ethics policy within games journalism and never received one. In fact, upon directly asking Patrick Klepek about it in a conversation, Klepek quickly withdrew and dropped discussion immediately.


In fact Patrick deleted his own comments so appeared as though he was never talking to him at all.


Well, there’s honesty, openness and disclosure for you. Adam has since asked, many times, for Patrick Klepek to have an open and honest discussion with him. All requests have been ignored.

Kotaku and Polygon did make some minor edits to their policies on Patreon. However, the vitriolic reaction to these changes was baffling. Feedback raged, with the other side claiming people needed this money to LIVE.  They were accused of enabling harassment. People stopped just short of saying “If you do this THE TERRORISTS WIN” (Not that anti-GG people have shied away from the comparisons at times.

Mere days after declaring it an unsound , Kotaku quietly changed their policy back to allowing it. Rock, Paper, Shotgun owner John Walker was among those arguing vehemently to maintain this conflict of interest, as if it were some sort of sacred treaty.

Polygons own staff were enraged at the very idea of having ethics. Disclosure was anathema to them, something to be derided and mocked, not an ideal to strive for, let alone a basic expectation.

Escapist on the other hand went full bore into hammering out a vast new ethics policy covering a wide umbrella of sites gamers never knew about. Alexander Macris took his years of experience and knowledge from even tangentially related media, such as tabletop games, and forged an ethics policy described as a noble accomplishment by many.

Going by the arguments made against Stephen Totilo for examining their Patreon policies, surely this concession by Escapist was the end of the world right? The flood gates were open, the terrorists had won, the misogynerd horde would be unleashed to unstoppable levels of hatred and abuse. Blood in the water, they’d relentlessly push for more and more until they destroyed everything. Well, no, actually. Escapist were praised and thanked with all the enthusiasm of an anime schoolgirl being noticed by her senpai. True to his pseudonym Archon, he was a leader to his people.

So just over a handful of sites: we see one going all out and doing great work, one making a change and resenting it hugely, one making a change then walking it back almost to the starting line and one vehemently refusing to change anything. Games journalists themselves cant come to any kind of agreement on what a good ethics policy is, yet they demand this of us.

Of course the ethics policy itself is useless unless it’s actually enforced, which brings us to part two of this article, Accountability, or lack thereof. I cant help but think so much of this could have been avoided if Stephen Totilo had set an example and given Nathan Grayson at the very least a slap on the wrist. Sadly, he desperately went out of his way to avoid this. Here’s a tip: If you’re trying to decide if their romantic relationship happened a week before or after he gave that person coverage, he was close enough that he should have recused himself anyway.

Patricia Hernandez (who covered her close friends such as Anna Anthropy) has repeatedly added disclosure to articles that are years old. No actual accountability, no punishment at all, as if adding a note years after people read the articles filled with direct links to purchase a game would even let them know they were deceived, much less return their money if they were unhappy with being deceived.

When Leigh Alexander went beyond poor journalism into borderline illegal behavior, revealing a persons real name and email address, she tweeted about the complaints being sent to her employer about it. Leigh mocked the idea she would ever be held accountable for it. Sadly, she was right. She was never held accountable for it.  So few ever are.

While the ethics policies themselves are a start, we need to see them being enforced, or else they’re only lip service. “He told me he didn’t do anything wrong and I believe him” is a poor excuse and an evasion of accountability. Adding disclosures years after the fact is worthless, and nothing but an attempt to evade accountability. If you cant enforce the rules and ask for accountability from your own staff, your own employees that you pay and have direct control over, asking that of millions of people united by nothing more than the GamerGate hashtag is nothing short of farcical.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest editorial was written and provided to me by a veteran source within the gaming industry. If any other sources wish to contact me, DM me on Twitter, or email me: [email protected].


UPDATE ON COMMENTS: Disqus comments accidentally got disabled on this post and Kat’s editorial, because I setup new user profiles. If you wish to discuss the piece, do so on Reddit, or in The Forum. I’m very sorry about this. It won’t happen again.