The Quinnspiracy and Jimquisition: The role of crowdfunding in Gamergate

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Ms. Pac Man and Super Mario at odds. Credit: JD Hancock.

In the lengthy saga [the hashtag emerged last August and still 2,000 #Gamergate tweets are sent a day] that is #Gamergate, at least one chapter belongs to crowdfunding.

Some of the voices in #Gamergate claimed journalists practiced poor ethics when they crowdfunded game projects or bloggers and independent journalists and game designers at the center of Gamergate turned to crowdfunding for audience and financing.

That chapter could very well be titled “Quinnspiracy and Jimquisition” after two of the most prominent commentators who today look to Patreon and the crowd for support.

Jim Sterling may be the best paid currently brings in about $10,000 a month, perhaps more than any other game journalist (or any journalist for that matter) on Patreon.

Pre-Gamergate Sterling worked for Destructoid, then briefly for The Escapist before launching his Patreon campaign.

Now the video game critic is supported by more than 3,000 donors, subscribers and fans. For the money, Sterling produces a podcast, game reviews and his well-known weekly YouTube video where he stands in front of a pulpit and decrees the critique and puditry.

Freelance staff may join Sterling in the future, he said.

Unlike #ericgarner and #yamecanse and other clearly defined movements that inspired hashtags around the same time in late 2014, #Gamergate is a shapeless blob. Like a Rorschach test, a person’s interpretation of Gamergate can be as much a reflection of who they are as what actually happened.

Sterling shared his thoughts on #Gamergate in this 10-minute episode of Jimquisition.

TLDR version: There is no mass conspiracy at play. It’s natural for people with similar interests, like game makers and game journalists, to like each other. The harassment of women and independently funded designers and journalists isn’t just wrong. It fights the change many Gamergate supporters demand.

“When good writers, totally outside the PR spin and hobnobbery of most traditional media are driven out of the industry we all fucking lose,” he said in the video.

But the pro-Gamergate crowd did get a few things right, Sterling concluded. Some journalists are too close with their story subject and how to change that deserves serious conversation. It’s good to to have professional standards and transparency like disclosure of crowdfunding activity by employees.

Pro-GamerGate Reddit user A_Tree_ put together this list of prominent gaming sites, their employees and public Kickstarter/Indiegogo/Patreon accounts to document the flow of money from game media to crowdfunded game designers, bloggers or critics.

Editor’s Note: Through the Cracks does not vouch for the validity of every link shared by A_Tree.

It’s also good to resist an over reliance on advertising that can taint the , Sterling said.

“There are media powerhouses out there that are struggling, and their struggle is leading to changes in business that I am not comfortable with,” he said on his Patreon page. “I don’t want to be under the shadow of cooperate entities, and I don’t want to feel my criticism of the games industry exists by their good grace.”

Perhaps the best known person in games media on Patreon is Zoe Quinn. (@quinnspiracy on Twitter).

Her game Depression Quest, her ex-boyfriend accusations of infidelity, her allegedly sleeping with a gaming journalist to influence his review of her work and gamers’ reaction to it all started #Gamergate and #Notyourshield.

When Gamergate was at a fever pitch last fall, trolls threatened to bomb a lecture by gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian before she planned to speak at Utah State University. In 2012 Sarkeesian raised $160,000 on Kickstarter for a series of videos to analyze the depiction of women in video games.

Quinn has been on Patreon since 2013, back when she started to get harassed and criticized for Depression Quest.

During Gamergate some critics of Quinn said their only intent was to destroy Quinn. These days she’s making $4,100 a month on Patreon for her writing, videos, free games or whatever else she feels like making.

Several people choose to sign up for her account as a sign of solidarity at the height of Gamergate late last year.

Said one user:

“I figure that the best way to give the middle finger to the entire set of humans who I need to give the middle finger to all at once is to donate here.”

Has there been an influx in funding for game journalism or have more creatives from the game industry turned to Patreon since the start of Gamergate?

Patreon declined a request to talk about the matter with Through the Cracks.

Other game review or journalism operations make a pretty penny on Patreon, some funded by pro- and anti- Gamergate staff at game journalism publications:

The Sarkeesian Effect, an anti-Sarkeesian movie ($8,545 for each monthly update)

Lazy Game Reviews ($2,991 a month)

Mattie Brice ($1,224 per article)

Cara Ellison ($2,750 per article)

Erika Szabo ($650 a month)

Editor Khari Johnson contributed to this report.

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Robert Moreno
Robert is a full-time reporter for the Chula Vista Star-News covering local government and education beats and writing human interest stories. He is a believer in nonprofit journalism.

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