On Zoe Quinn and the “Quinnspiracy”


If you at all follow games journalism, you’ve probably already heard the news: female game designer (and figurehead in the feminist games space) Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, published a series of blog posts about breaking up with her after finding out she cheated on him with five guys. He goes into pretty great lengths about the messy breakup, and the conversations he had with her throughout the relationship. What’s really caught the interest of readers, however, is the name of one of her alleged lovers: Nathan Grayson, a writer for Kotaku (and former writer for Rock Paper Shotgun).

Cries of nepotism and accusations of Zoe sleeping with Nathan in order to receive better press resounded. Gamers, who are already notoriously skeptical about the integrity of games journalism found this whole ordeal to be emblematic of how developers and the press are figuratively (and now literally) in bed with each other. Some even call it a conspiracy (or Quinnspiracy, if you will). Who can we trust in our media when developers are exchanging sex with the press for better headlines?

Except that’s not exactly what happened, or even what’s happening. Let’s just stick to the facts. First are the accusations from the boyfriend. So far they seem… well let’s just say they appear to be decently substantiated, and the conversations he’s had at least appear to be legitimate. Stephen Totilo at least appears to have confirmed that Grayson and Quinn has a relationship other than personal on his Twitter account, however, so yes, it does appear there was an affair going on there. Confirmed: A developer was sleeping with the press.


It’s important to note here that Nathan doesn’t appear to have actually written about anything involving Quinn since the start of the affair. I think that’s really the most important part of the story when we’re discussing it in relation to games journalism, or even the industry as a whole.

Press and press subjects sleep with each other all the time. That’s a part of working closely with each other. Hell, Kevin Smith met his wife when she was interviewing him for USA Today. The only real moral failing is if Grayson was actively writing about Quinn at the time without providing full disclosure of his relationship. It’s true, from what I have seen, that Grayson at least in passing mentioned Quinn’s game Depression Quest in at least one of his articles, and that placement may have been because of the relationship. If that’s the case, his integrity becomes at least somewhat suspect, however Quinn never appears to have been the full subject of any of his articles.

It is also true, if the original blog post is accurate, that Quinn was at least somewhat aware of the risks of sleeping with the press. According to a screenshot of a conversation posted between her and her now-ex she said, “I can tell [Nathan Grayson] now if you want. I just know he is covering my event and prone to hysterics and I was just trying to avoid a public meltdown.” Later on she says “But yeah i will tell him. I was just worried about the journalist thing.” That in itself is morally suspect, but again this all boils down to one simple fact: Nathan never wrote anything substantial about her or anything she worked on. Also for the record, Zoe has responded with a post of her own stating “I will not be addressing the specific validity of any statements about my private life.”

It should also be noted that a video criticizing Zoe Quinn was removed via a copyright claim, allegedly by Zoe Quinn. I say allegedly because the original claim looks fishy (her name isn’t capitalized in the claimant, and it isn’t through her company, just through her name). If she did make that claim, then that is absolutely wrong, and an attempt to suppress criticism via DMCA. That, however, is a different discussion than the one everyone seems to really be focusing on.

Look, did Zoe Quinn cheat on her boyfriend with five other guys? I really don’t give a shit. It might be true, it might not. It might be that her actions are antithetical to her apparent worldview or stated morals. Welcome to the real world where living up to standards is harder than stating them. That’s a burden all of us deal with every day. If true, were her actions moral? No, but at the same time, this should be between her, her boyfriend, and whomever else is directly involved. It doesn’t actually affect us as gamers, or me as the media. Mind you, this would actually be a very different story if Grayson had actually written in-depth about her. Instead, all I have found are all of two articles that mention her in passing: One involved the failed Game Jam, and the other is back in January that amounts to little more than a list of Steam Greenlight titles coming out.

Whether Zoe slept with 5 guys, or 50, or none doesn’t really matter, at least not to the gaming community. As far as I can tell no illicit promises were exchanged, and no media boost was given because of the relations. Some claim she slept with the person who would eventually become her boss and that’s why she got the job, but again, I ask: So what? There’s no real evidence to show that’s why she was hired, and I’m absolutely not willing to comment on that. Nepotism happens, and if a developer wants to hire someone for personal reasons over professional ones, fine. That will be reflected in the end product.

Zoe is an easy target for this kind of controversy for the statements she makes and the moral posturing that surrounds her. Just because she fails to live up to her own moral code doesn’t invalidate that moral code or the ideas she has shared. Alternatively, living up to the moral code doesn’t necessarily mean the moral code is correct either, or that her ideas have merit. Many are looking at this and saying “Look, this is how awful feminism is!” and making it somehow a symbol of a whole movement, but that’s just silly. Ideas need to be judged on their own merit, and not necessarily on the merit of the speaker.

I know this isn’t the article many of you wanted when at least some of you asked me to comment on the situation. It would be easy for me to come out guns blazing and flaming about how awful either her, or her ex, or all of the games press are, but that’s never what Armed Gamer has been about. Armed Gamer is here for taking the reasonable approach and stepping back. The story is out a day later than most other sites, but that’s okay. That’s a feature, not a bug. Rushed articles lead to sloppy stories and misinformation.

There is one final point I would like to make: A lot that has been said about Zoe and what has been done to her is wrong, and undeserved. Nude photos of her have been spread over the internet and an alleged campaign of harassing phone calls have been made against her. This needs to stop, especially any time a controversy arises regarding someone in the gaming scene. It tarnishes the image of all gamers. We need to be better than this.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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