The gaming media this week has been rocked by a lengthy blog post from Eron Gjoni, the ex-boyfriend of games developer Zoe Quinn. You can read the full thing here, but in summary: it appears that Quinn cheated on Gjoni with several other men. Normally, this thing can be dismissed as a private matter. But a closer investigation reveals that this is something that is most definitely in the public interest. Here’s why.
The crux of the situation is this: according to Gjoni (and the many chat logs he published), Quinn cheated on him with other members of the games industry. Most importantly, those involved included Joshua Boggs, Quinn’s boss; and Nathan Grayson, a reporter for Kotaku who has previously covered Quinn. This raises all sorts of ethical issues and quandaries – did Boggs treat Quinn more favourably (or even hire her) because of their relationship? Has Grayson’s, or indeed Kotaku’s, coverage of Quinn’s games been influenced by Grayson’s private affairs with Quinn? Now, I am not saying that either of these things are true – there is every chance that Boggs and Grayson are professional, upstanding individuals, and can detach their private and public affairs. Indeed, Kotaku’s EIC Stephen Totilo says that “at the time of that article [Boggs] had not begun a relationship with the developer”. But the possibility that decisions could have been swayed by sexual relationships remains.
But these ethical reasons aren’t the only problem. Of greater interest is that all involved have been revealed to be (allegedly) at the very least dishonest (Boggs was married at the time of his relationship with Quinn, and Grayson was supposedly aware of Quinn’s relationship with Gjoni), and at worst manipulative. If Gjoni’s logs are to be believed, Quinn pathologically lied and continuously misled him. Although I would hesitate from making a moral judgement on having an affair, the knowledge that Quinn and co. are (allegedly) not trustworthy individuals has profoundly affected my opinion of them. Can we trust anything they say in future? Is there anything underpinning Quinn’s social justice campaigns, considering that she appears to have callously ignored her own principles of sexual consent?
Knowing that these people are (allegedly) not as honest as we may have first thought is an important and useful thing to know, and in the context of the industry it is crucial. In politics, the revelation of an affair is considered to be a big deal, as it calls into question the integrity of the individual. The same is true here, if not more so. In fact, if it was discovered that a senator or congressman was having an affair with a journalist, the politician would basically be forced to resign. That gives you an idea of just how serious this matter could be. For games journalism (and the games industry) to mature and be taken seriously, we can’t dismiss events like these as “private matters”. The people in games are just as important as the games they make and cover, and we must try to gain as good an understanding as possible of who these people are. Knowledge like this provides a necessary insight.
Of course, the abuse that Quinn has received in the aftermath of this is utterly unacceptable and unhelpful. Gamers, too, need to mature and address events like this in a calm manner, rather than attacking people. But when Quinn and her proponents (such as Fez developer Phil Fish) try to stem the abuse by sweeping the whole issue under the carpet or slandering Gjoni, they are trying to bury a matter that is too important to bury. The public have a right to know the inner workings of this industry. Often, exes dig up dirt in an effort to vent their anger. And admittedly, it seems that this is why Gjoni published his blog. But it just so happens that on this occasion, a vengeful ex-boyfriend brought something both interesting and significant to light.
Update: as some Twitter followers have pointed out, the affairs haven’t technically been proven to have taken place – although Grayson has confirmed his part, Quinn has not yet commented on them. Thus the article has been updated to clarify that the scenario is still an alleged one, not a confirmed one.