In an interview with Eurogamer, John Hemingway said a gaffe. In all of the commentators both condemning his words and the two I could find being idiots about the matter, no one seems to have called what he said what it is, a gaffe. A gaffe is usually a term referred for politicians, but I see no reason why it can’t be used in this case. For those who don’t know a gaffe is when a politician unintentionally tells the truth. In this case it is an offensive truth that perpetuates the status quo of women in gaming being second-class citizens. It is the truth in Mr. Hemingway’s mind.
Now I will grant that he called it girlfriend mode by his own admission “for lack of a better term” and really didn’t put any thought into it. In some ways that’s even worse. This is where the lead developer’s mind goes to when put on the spot to describe a feature in his game. His boss has come out not like a white knight defending his charges (employee) and more like Dontos Hollard from A Clash of Kings. I wont fault him for the effort, just the way he went about it. Instead of attacking those offended it would have been easily resolved with a quick two line apology from Hemingway, while you quietly, but resolutely stood behind your man. “I’m sorry that I unthinkingly used a term that offended members of the gaming community. The feature is not called girlfriend mode and I should never have nicknamed it as such.” There I did your PR’s job for you.
But another meme that has come out of this episode is the idea that Eurogamer is to blame for blowing up the issue. What’s kind of frightening is that this isn’t coming from forum trolls or commenters, but from members of the video game journalist establishment. There’s a lot of ill informed, logically faulty and down right factually wrong with Colin Moriarty’s piece in response to the issue and I could go line by line pointing everything wrong in it, but I’d rather not. Others have pointed it out already and he or anyone whose mind could be changed will never see it. However, even disregarding the sexist apologism and overall ignorance of an entire issue the major thing that gets me is when he brings up Jason Schreier’s post on developers not wanting to talk to gaming press and be more open and uses this as fodder to why that is. In essence what Mr. Moriatry is advocating for is abolishment of journalistic principals to appease gatekeepers. I went over it a few times because I thought I must have read it wrong. But no he is saying that we shouldn’t hold people accountable for what they say in interviews if its off message, shouldn’t ask follow up questions about what was said and just sweep it all under the rug.
People reacting to the Eurogamer piece have been called out as sensationalizing it or taking it out of context despite the fact that those responding have done neither. Hemingway’s own words have sensationalized the piece, because what he said was sensational and just because you don’t know the context doesn’t mean those you disagree with are in the same boat. People haven’t just taken the phrase ‘girlfriend mode’ they’ve pointed to the whole paragraph in which that phrase appears and what it means in the larger context of the gamer community. They may just understand it better than you do.
I could go on for pages, but others have already done so.
To get you caught up, Johnny Kilhefner was kind enough to create a Storify post about it.
Stephen Totilo of Kotaku comments, saying there is a better term and it came with Super Mario Galaxy, “co-star mode.”
Tami Baribeau aka Cuppy uses this as an opportunity to drop some Feminism 101.
Miss Lemonade (couldn’t find her real name) talks about what “The Girlfriend Experience” really is.
Ian Miles Cheong, editor in Chief of Gameranx, throws his hat into the ring saying “…it doesn’t mean Gearbox should get a free ticket form being “called out” for using the term.”
Cohen Edenfield writing for Medium Difficulty writes a piece starting off with the inflammatory title “John Hemingway Must Die” but thankfully the piece itself doesn’t follow up on the tone of it.
David Wildgoose, over at PCPowerPlay, adds on with “Girlfriend Mode” And the Definition of Sexism.”
Tyler Wilde at PCGamer also comments that we shouldn’t let things like this just slip by.
Mary Hamilton at UK’s The Guardian weighs in on the Hemingway’s comment.
Carol Pinchefsky at Forbes adds her two cents. Forbes, this is the place that ran the fake girl gamer article.
I do want to thank this incident for introducing me to a new blog, Play Like a Girl written by Clarice Meadows and her response to it.
Phil Hartup at New Statesman misses the point entirely but in the area of what games are by looking only backward to what they were rather than forward to all the things they could be. Though he is against the term as well.
Denis Farr writes a short piece on his blog Vorpal Bunny Ranch airing out his issue with Gearbox and what they represent in the wider community.
And Jonah Stowe at Game Church weighs in and I was with him until he perpetuated that it was also somehow Eurogamer’s fault.
Robert Florence in his Lost Humanity column addresses not the incident, but what happens next or rather what always fails to happen next.
Dennis Scimeca uses his weekly column at The Escapist to talk about the tactics used in such a teachable moment as this.
There was also a response by David Jaffe that I haven’t the stomach to read and I am utterly confused why he weighed in on this at all.
[Addition] I just found this post by Anjin Anhut of How To Not Suck At Game Design, some two months after the fact. It’s clear and to the point about the issue as a whole, but the main reason I’m including it is because it has screenshots of all the relevant tweets by Randy Pitchfork and Gearbox Game’s official twitter account.
[Addition +1] Jen Shaffer has just gotten around to posting her thoughts on the subject and how it connects to the larger scope of advertisement in and out of the gaming community.