Quinnspiracy

Quinnspiracy

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About

Quinnspiracy refers to the online controversy surrounding indie game developer Zoe Quinn’s alleged affair with a number of men working in the video game industry, including a staff writer at the Gawker-affiliated video game news site Kotaku, supposedly in exchange for publicity for her and her 2014 text-based indie game Depression Quest. In August 2014, the scandal came into public’s light when Eron Gjoni, her now-former boyfriend, chronicled the details of her affairs in an expose blog post, which prompted online discussions regarding the validity of Gjoni’s claim and ethics in video game journalism at large. Due to the scandal’s online amplification in reaction to perceived media suppression, the event has been cited as an example of the “Streisand Effect”.

Background

On December 4th, 2013, Quinn submitted her game Depression Quest to Steam Greenlight[1] to be selected for release on the software distribution service. On December 12th, Quinn (@Quinnspiracy) posted several tweets complaining about harassment she had allegedly received for placing the game on Greenlight, specifically from the *chan board Wizardchan.[2] On August 11th, 2014 the game was released on Steam.[3]


Note: click on the image to visit the website and play the game


On August 16th, Quinn’s ex boyfriend Eron Gjoni launched a Wordpress blog[4] titled “The Zoe Post,” featuring screenshots and pictures providing evidence that Quinn cheated on him with five different men, including her boss Joshua Boggs and video game journalist Nathan Grayson, who writes for Kotaku and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Gjoni later released a video proving his chat-logs were authentic.[30]



Note: click on the image to read the original post in full-length

Notable Developments

Online Reaction

On August 17th, Redditor MannoSlimmins submitted a series of screenshots to provide evidence that Quinn faked being harassed by Wizardchan users to garner support for her game to the /r/TumblrInAction[6] subreddit. The same day, Tumblr[7] user KC-Vidya-Rants published a blog post denouncing Quinn for using Robin Williams’ suicide to promote her game and faking harassment for sympathy. In the first 48 hours, the post gained over 940 notes. Meanwhile, Escapist Magazine Forums[5] member Rebant submitted a thread about the scandal, which criticized Quinn’s behavior and video game blogs for ignoring the story. Later, on August 20th JonTron made multiple tweets about Zoe which garnered attention around Twitter.



Wizardchan Counterclaim

Prior to the release of Quinn’s game, on April 11th, 2014, Wizardchan, the site Quinn said she had allegedly received harassment from for placing the game on Greenlight in December 2013, counterclaimed that they did not doxx her in a series of images that conveys their side of the story with a chronological breakdown and an explanation why they didn’t target her.[15]



Note: click on the images to view and read the contents

Phil Fish’s Twitter Rant

Also on August 17th, indie game developer Phil Fish defended Quinn on Twitter, calling those who were attacking her “cowards” and claimed he was “canceling projects” in retaliation (shown below).



Fish at one point went as far as to compare the people who were attacking Quinn to rapists. However, he deleted this tweet moments after posting it.



Quinnspiracy Theory and “Five Guys Burger and Fries”

On August 18th, YouTuber Internet Aristocrat uploaded a video titled “Quinnspiracy Theory: The Five Guys Saga,” which criticized Quinn for using sex to influence journalists and for portraying herself as a victim to receive donations and support (shown below). The name spawns from the fact that Quinn allegedly slept with five different men who had positions in the video game or video game journalism industries. The following day, the video was submitted to the /r/videos[14] subreddit, where it gained over 2,200 votes (87% upvoted) and 460 comments.



In homage to this video, 4chan’s /v/ (video games) board began using references to the Five Guys chain restaurant as a way to make threads about Quinn without it catching the attention of mods. On August 22nd, Internet Aristocrat published a follow-up video attempting to expose further speculation about Quinn using her relationships in the video game industry for personal gain (shown below).



Hacking & Doxing Claims

On August 19th, Quinn claimed that her Tumblr and Twitter page were both hacked and that she had been doxxed by users from /v/. The post was subsequently deleted. That day, Tumblr[12] user The Spectacular Spider-Girl pointed out several inconsistencies in the story as evidence that Quinn fabricated the hacking.



In addition, the phone numbers included in the Tumblr dox post were found to have no connection with Zoe. The number listed as “Dad’s Work” is no longer functional and was associated with a closed down motorcycle store called, “Twin-Tech Motorcycle Shop.” The number that was listed as “zoe’s Cellphone” connected to a text to land line phone located in Hawaii.



Rebel Game Jam & The Fine Young Capitalists Doxxing

During the immediate fallout of Eron Gjorni’s blog posts, a Reddit user going by the name of SillySladar has raised allegations that Zoe Quinn intentionally sabotaged a female-centric game development event on the grounds that the idea was oppressive, in order to promote her own similar event, Rebel Jam, which is currently being organized[18].



On August 19th, The Fine Young Capitalists released a SoundCloud recording as their explanation as what to what was going on and why they were doxxed.[20] On August 20th, the founder of The Fine Young Capitalists conducted an interview with Invision Game Community about the whole ordeal. The following day, YouTuber PressFartToContinue uploaded a video with the project’s founder explaining the story behind how Quinn led a crusade against The Fine Young Capitalists game jam (shown below).



Pepsi GAME_JAM

Around the end of March 2014, Pepsi was arranged to sponsor a televised ‘Game Jam’ that would feature game developers working in teams to create games. Zoe Quinn was one of the selected participants of this game jam. On the same day it began however, the game jam was halted due to disagreements about it’s terms.[25] Some time after the failure of Pepsi’s game jam, Quinn wrote a blog post vaguely detailing the events surrounding the game jam’s failure, essentially indicting herself as the catalyst for the debacle.[26] On August 25th, Eron Gjoni, Quinn’s ex, later shared his view on her role in these events in a Reddit AMA (shown below).[35]



GamesNosh Article

On August 19th, the video game news blog Games Nosh[10] published an article accusing Quinn of “exploiting games press for coverage.” Hours later, the @GamesNosh Twitter feed announced that their host had asked them to remove the article (shown below). That day, the page was removed and redirected a HostGator 404 page. The article was subsequently mirrored on Pastebin.[13]



N4G Article

On August 19th, the video game rumor site N4G published an article that Quinn “was being accused of exploiting games press for coverage.” Hours later, the article was removed. N4G has not made a public statement on why the article was removed.



Total Biscuit’s Response

Also on August 19th, British video game critic Total Biscuit published a blog post which denounced Quinn if she had abused the DMCA to take down criticism of her product and lamented the cronyism present in the gaming journalism industry. The post was subsequently submitted to /r/gaming,[9] where comments were mass-deleted by a subreddit moderator. A screenshot of a Twitter conversation between /r/gaming senior moderator @ElChupacupcake and Quinn began circulating, with many speculating about his involvement in the deletions (shown below). Gamesnosh later wrote an article[19] about the situation detailing the hate Total Biscuit received. On August 21st, MundaneMatt confirmed that the DMCA takedown notice had in-fact come from Zoe Quinn.[22]



On August 28th, Total Biscuit released a lengthier second response on his blog[38] and subsequently as a SoundCloud recording[39]. In his response he expressed the perspective of the average “gamer” through the unfolding of this whole ordeal, and critiqued the style discourse taken by both ‘sides’ of the debate.

Kotaku’s Response

On August 20th, Kotaku writer Stephen Totilo released an article on Kotaku[16] related to the questions surrounding their writer Nathan Grayson, one of the five men Zoe Quinn had allegedly cheated with. In the article, Totilo stated that Kotaku’s leadership team found no compelling evidence that any of the claims surrounding the suspected cronyism between Grayson and Quinn were true. Totila also stated that Grayson had only written an article[17] that involved Zoe Quinn when they were still professional acquaintances, and that their romantic relationship didn’t start until after that in early april of the same year, which allegedly provided evidence related to Eron Gjoni’s claims regarding Quinn’s romantic affair with Grayson around that time.



As investigations into journalistic integrity continued over the days after the article was posted continued, Kotaku decided to make a second statement surrounding the events,[36] this time instilling a ban on all of their journalists from contributing to the Patreons of game developers.

Censorship Controversy

Soon after the release of “The Zoe Post,”[4] several online social media sites began deleting discussion threads surrounding the topic in attempts to prevent a “witch hunt”. Sites involved in such activities included N4G, The Escapist, NeoGAF, Reddit’s /r/games /r/gaming, Steam’s Depression Quest Forums (shown below), and 4chan’s /v/ board. Several of the blogs reporting on the Quinnspiracy issue (including Kotaku and Vice) also took part in heavily moderating and/or blocking comments on their posts[37].



On August 23rd, an imgur album was published detailing reddit’s automated banning of any users who had simultaneously visited 4chan, and participated in discussion threads.[23][24] Around the same time, a Reddit moderator leaked a private message he’d received from Zoe Quinn requesting for the deletion of posts about the incident (shown below).[33] Soon after the leak, reddit administrators took it upon themselves to remove the suspected leaker’s moderator status. This resulted in a large backlash from users against reddit’s mods and admins.[31][32] On September 7th, a SoundCloud interview with the banned /r/games moderator was published, detailing many of reddit’s internal moderation practices.[40]





Zoe Quinn’s Response

On August 19th, Quinn published a post on her Tumblr[11] blog about the scandal, claiming it was about her private life, complaining that members of 4chan had doxxed her and thanking moderators for removing posts about her across the web.

This has nothing to do with games and is not a matter of legitimate public interest, but is simply a personal matter. I would hope and request that the games press be respectful of what IS a personal matter, and not news, and not about games. This is explicitly about my private life, which has been regrettably forced into the public and framed by people who pose a threat to my safety and well being as well as that of the people I love. I would hope that the effort people have gone through to dress it up as anything more would not be enough to have those who see it for what it is take the bait.


I am not going to link to, or address anything having to do with the validity of the specific claims made by an angry ex-boyfriend with an axe to grind and a desire to use 4chan as his own personal army. This is not a “she-said” to his “he-said”. The idea that I am required to debunk a manifesto of my sexual past written by an openly malicious ex-boyfriend in order to continue participating in this industry is horrifying, and I won’t do it. It’s a personal matter that never should have been made public, and I don’t want to delve into personal shit, mine or anyone else’s, while saying that people’s love and sex lives are no one’s business. I’m not going to talk about it. I will never talk about it. It is not your goddamned business.

What I am going to say is that the proliferation of nude pictures of me, death threats, vandalization, doxxing of my trans friends for having the audacity to converse with me publicly, harassment of friends and family and my friends’ family in addition to TOTALLY UNRELATED PEOPLE, sending my home address around, rape threats, memes about me being a whore, pressures to kill myself, slurs of every variety, fucking debates over what my genitals smell like, vultures trying to make money off of youtube videos about it, all of these things are inexcusable and will continue to happen to women until this culture changes. I’m certainly not the first. I wish I could be the last.

Because I’ve had a small degree of success in a specific subculture, every aspect of my life is suddenly a matter of public concern. Suddenly it’s acceptable to share pictures of my breasts on social media to threaten and punish me. Suddenly I don’t have any right to privacy or basic dignity. Suddenly I don’t get to live out normal parts of life, like going through a bad and ugly breakup in private. I have forfeited this by being a blip in a small community, while those who delight in assailing me hide behind their keyboards and a culture that permits it, beyond reproach.

My life and my body are not public property. No one’s life and body are public property.

Sexuality is one of the most personal, hurtful, and easy things to demonize a woman over, and also has nothing to do with my games. Yet large swaths of the gaming community are either unable or unwilling to separate the two. I’m convinced that my ex chose 4chan as the staging ground for his campaign of harassment and character assassination because he knew this; he knew that someone claiming to be “from the Internet” has shown up at my house once already, and he is counting on the most reviled hubs of our community to live up to their sordid reputations. This is another example of gendered violence, whereby my personal life becomes a means to punish my professional credentials and to try to shame me into giving up my work. I’m still committed to doing my small part to create a world where no woman is at risk of experiencing this. That said, I am thankful that even boards with a reputation for being the most hostile places online have been able to tell the intent behind these threads and banned them outright, seeing the hate speech for what it is, and not-news for what it is.

As much as those leading the charge against me will do mental backflips to make posting pictures of my tits about “ethics”, the real agenda is plain as day if you give it even a moment of sincere critical thought. No one who would terrorize someone and the totally uninvolved people they love in this way on such a massive and public scale could ever honestly claim to be interested in “ethics” of any kind. These kinds of accusations have been levied against any woman of status in any industry, ever. I have been judged because, if you are a woman, you are expected to constantly “prove” yourself, and even mere accusations can somehow undo all the good you’ve done and justify any measure of depraved brutality against you. Meanwhile, I see major support thrown the way of my male colleagues when they are accused of any sort of wrongdoing. Neither of these attitudes is correct, and they are patently unfair and reductive. Nobody exists in a vacuum, and anyone can change and grow into a better person. Heroes and villains don’t exist – just regular boring-ass people with scars and fuckups and moments of brilliance. And every single boring-ass person deserves the space to keep personal matters private and handled outside the shark tank of anonymous internet boards.

Once again, I will not be addressing the specific validity of any statements about my private life. If you have good-faith questions or doubts, I am more than happy to discuss private matters in private, where they belong. But I refuse to be coerced into making my private life or anyone’s private life a matter of public record, and I refuse to be continually emotionally terrorized by people who have long decided to hate me regardless.

I’m looking forward to moving on and getting back to work. To anyone else who has had to deal with this kind of indignity on any scale, you have my undying support and my ear if you ever want to talk to someone who might understand. To the people who support my work and can see this crusade for what it is, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those people, I love you, I always have, and I always will.


Conflicts of Interest and Journalistic Integrity

As Quinn’s intimate ties to journalists were being revealed, it was discovered that several games journalists were actively contributing money to her via Patreon.[27] Journalist Patricia Hernandez soon came under fire as well, as gamers began investigating other questionable journalist-developer relationships. Similarly, Robin Arnott, one of the “five guys” that were allegedly involved with Quinn, was also part of a game competition judging panel in which Quinn’s Depression Quest won, despite having competition from other widely successful and critically acclaimed games.

Related Memes

5 Guys Burgers and Fries

In “The Zoe Post,”[4] Erjon makes the statement, “Now I can’t stop mentally referring to her as Burgers and Fries” as a reference to the fast food chain, 5 Guys Burgers and Fries. Though Erjon did explicitly state not to use this reference on “The Zoe Post,” people found this reference to be humorous and continued to use it.



Vivian James

Vivian James is a fictional character created through the cooperation of 4chan’s /v/ board and indie game developer group The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC) following a series of events in response to Zoe Quinn’s attack on TFYC while they were trying to fund a Game Jam with the intention of encouraging women to get into the gaming industry.



*nods respectfully toward you*

*Nods respectfully toward you* is a phrase originating from the @Marcoos93 Twitter account following a tweet in which he shared his support towards Zoe Quinn. The tweet quickly made people brand him as a white knight, resulting in the phrase being used to mock both @Marcoos93 and other male supporters of Zoe Quinn.





External References

[1]Steam Community – Depression Quest

[2]Storify – Depression Quest Harassment Campaign

[3]Steam – Depression Quest

[4]Wordpress – The Zoe Post

[5]Escapist Magazine – Zoe Quinn or how video game media may have been exposed as a pro-feminist hugbox

[6]Reddit – Depression Quest dev claims harassment and misogyny

[7]Tumblr – Zion Quinns Kotaku Staff Cheating Scandal

[8]TwitLonger – What the hell just happened??

[9]Reddit – TotalBiscuit discusses the state of games journalism

[10]Gamesnosh – Zoe Quinn Scandal

[11]Tumblr – Oh Dear God Bees

[12]Tumblr – TheSpectacularSpider

[13]Pastebin – GamesNosh Article

[14]Reddit – Quinnspiracy Theory

[15]Imgur – Zoe Quinn is a liar

[16]Kotaku – In recent days I’ve been asked several times

[17]Kotaku – The Indie Game Reality TV Show That Went To Hell

[18]Rebel Game Jam – Rebel Game Jam

[19]Gamesnosh – The Ugly Side of “Justice”; Total Biscuit denounced over Zoe Quinn Scandal Comments.

[20]Soundcloud – The Fine Young Capitalist Confession

[21]Twitter – @Marcoos93

[22]DMCAMundaneMatt DMCA Takedown Notice

[23]Reddit ShadowBanning – Reddit ShadowBanning

[24]Reddit Banning Thread – Reddit Banning Thread

[25]Game Jam Failure – Game Jam Failure

[26]Pepsi Game Jam Blog – Pepsi GAME_JAM Blog

[27]Patreon – Patreon

[28]Zoe’s Tumblr Acquaintance – Tumblr Acquaintance

[29]PAX Protest – PAX Protest

[30]Eron Video Proof – Eron Video Proof

[31]Reddit Admin Backlash – Reddit Admin Backlash

[32]Reddit Admin Testimony – Reddit Admin Testimony

[33]Reddit Mod Leaks – Reddit Mod Leaks

[34]Invisioncommunity – Journalists Game Developers on Zoe Quinn Fiasco

[35]Reddit r/Drama – I’m Zoe Quinn’s Ex AMA

[36]Kotaku – A brief note about the continued discussion about Kotaku’s approach to reporting.

[37]Kotaku Comment Moderation – Kotaku Comment Moderation

[38]TB’s Second Response – TB’s Second Response

[39]TB Response SoundCloud – TB Response SoundCloud

[40]Reddit Mod SoundCloud – Reddit Mod’s SoundCloud Interview

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Recent Images 651 total

Top Comments

CrowTheMagician
CrowTheMagician

in reply to ImmaSpookySkeletor

She slept with five known game developers and journalists to get her game good reviews and is using her connections with them to censor anything bad about it and herself. This incident also shows the corruption and nepotism that’s plaguing both video game journalism and development. Of course we can’t forget about the feminist and SJWs who only make situations like these even worse.

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