This is a first-hand account of what went on in /r/Games between August 18th and August 22nd from the eyes of a moderator. It includes censorship, lies, insults, and much more.
This is going to be very, very long at the rate I’m currently writing. However it will also be the single most in-depth telling of what happened on /r/Games that’s currently out there. Since as of this writing I’m mostly going off of the IRC logs for simplicity there’s gonna be stuff I’ve left out. Feel free to let me know what I missed and I’ll add it in. I’m much better at answering questions than I am at coming up with information out of nowhere, so please ask if you’re curious. I can’t bear to leave anything out since any gap is going to have conspiracy theorists hounding me on them, so consider this your length warning. This takes place between August 18th to August 24th, and is essentially a play-by-play of our IRC for the most of it.
Update: After a week of writing and over 5,000 words in this post I’ve decided to just put this into two pieces. August 18th to August 22nd will be in Part 1, and August 23rd and up will be in Part 2. I doubt anyone will even read all of this so doubling the length would only make it impossible to get through. Sorry, but I’m a terrible writer and take too much time to get to the point.
The comments section is entirely open so feel free to leave questions for me to reply to.tot
Notice: Usernames of mods and admins will be shortened to the first letter or, when necessary, the first few letters. It won’t make a difference to those involved in the situation but for now I’d rather not have people claiming that I’m inciting a witch hunt against these people (though I’m sure it’ll happen anyway). My main priority is to get my story down so that I have something to link to the many curious people out there who’ve asked.
It’s been a hectic few weeks for the gaming community and the internet in general. Three weeks ago, on August 16th, a blog came up detailing the actions of indie game developer Zoe Quinn, which included affairs with journalists, corruption, nepotism, and a bunch of other stuff that’s not as important. Since then everything has gone to shit. We’re on Week
4 of what people are calling “GamerGate” and the end is nowhere in sight. Before that though, let’s back up a few weeks.
For some backstory, I was a moderator of reddit’s /r/Games community. I had been a moderator there for nearly two years and in that time had taken up a variety of roles that needed filling. Primarily, I was the public relations guy. I talked to developers, youtubers, journalists, and whoever else for various things. I explained rules, set up AMAs, and had a merry time of it. Not to mention that it was always me who wrote the big official posts and did most of the interaction with the community. I wanted to make /r/Games the greatest gaming discussion place on the internet and tried my best to achieve that goal, even at great personal cost. When drama came up I handled it as best I could, but primarily I handled it the way it should be handled for the community, not handling it just to cover asses. So when “TheZoePost” appeared on WordPress and took the community by surprise, I knew I’d be handling that too. Here’s what happened as best I remember it. I’m writing most of this post without any references, just this New Post page and my music. I apologize if I get something wrong chronologically, but I tend to do that. Let me know if I made a mistake. Here goes.
Late at night, or perhaps early in the morning, TheZoePost got submitted to /r/Games a day after it was first put up. Originally it stayed up because in my mind we shouldn’t default to “remove unless we approve it”. I knew who Zoe Quinn was so it was intriguing to hear about. I took some time aside from my duties in the modqueue (where all reports, user-made or through filters, are placed) and gave the post a read. I figured I’d be able to read it, approve or remove, and go to sleep. That didn’t happen. I’m a very fast reader so it wasn’t long before I was back in the saddle and deciding on whether or not to allow it. On one hand it had some personally identifiable information (real names), but on the other these were all public figures. It could incite a witch hunt, but we’ve allowed similar and worse content in the past without a problem. I decided to not remove it based on what it may do, but instead allow it and keep an eye on it to find out what would happen. I also questioned why, when looking at our Automoderator configuration, the text “Zoe Quinn” was automatically being removed from the subreddit. This lead to an argument with our primary night moderator, who I will refer to as N.
N being Australian, I really should’ve expected that he’d be awake. I didn’t expect him to argue with me about it, though. I wanted to keep it up because we don’t (or shouldn’t, at least) default to removing things that don’t specifically break our rules. He wanted to remove it because of a few different reasons. His reasoning changed each time I shot one down. A short list that I can see in my logs, direct quotes: “it’s utterly stupid bullshit”, “who cares who slept with who”, “it has no relation to games whatsoever”, “there’s also no evidence of anything that’s been said”, “no news outlet has covered it”, “because there’s no proof of anything”, “it’s just drama for the sake of drama”, “there’s no real discussion”, “I don’t think that fucking garbage belongs on any decent sub”, and my personal favorite, “no”. That’s from one single page (screen size) of IRC logs on a 1080p screen. That’s about 50-55 lines of text. The conversation effectively ended when, a minute later, I told them that he shouldn’t insult his own users and he called the people of /r/Games “fuckwits”. This argument started on August 18th at 9:42 AM EST, and ended at 10:08 AM after N denied banning anyone and stopped replying to my messages.
But wait, there’s more! At about 2PM the argument started up again after a dozen or so confused modmails, several posts, and many many bans had happened. Admins were angry, mods were angry, users were angry, everyone was angry. The argument started up with another mod this time, who I’ll refer to as F. It was somewhat civil until the crazy got dialed up to eleven. F stated that we should remove all talk of it until Kotaku or someone else big like them wrote their article about the drama. I didn’t believe this would happen as Zoe clearly had ties to major publications, and whoever posted that article would be in a world of hurt career-wise. This is when the Jews got brought up. I wish I was kidding. I had said that a Kotaku writer who posts such an article would have many complaints, probably from Jezebel readers at their sister website, claiming that Kotaku is full of misogynists who are slut shaming poor Zoe Quinn. Of course, this made me a Nazi. Literally. I’m not sure, it’s all very confusing for me. Anyway, the conversation started to break down when I replied to him with the following: “Honestly, I don’t even know why I’m doing this. It’s not up to me and [Redacted] to defend allowing it. It’s up to you to show that it must be banned. Innocent until proven guilty and all that good stuff.” It got silent for a bit after that, as far as this subject goes.
After a bit of time, at 4:40PM or so, the drama still hadn’t calmed down. I didn’t expect it to but my colleagues thought it’d die by the next day. I provided a suggestion in order to appease the users of /r/Games who didn’t really care, the people who wanted to talk about it, and get the people yelling for our heads off our backs. I would submit the drama myself with a very neutral headline and would moderate it heavily to make absolutely sure no doxing or witch hunting was going on. This didn’t sit well with F, who said we should wait until someone posts it and moderate that one. Doesn’t matter so long as the content is up, so that was fine by me. Someone posted it a few minutes later, and F removed it within a few minutes citing vote cheating. An admin, D, replied with this: “pretty much all the votes on it came in before it was removed … there’s maybe 1 after”. The post wasn’t reapproved.
Immediately after, another argument happened right on top of the previous one, at 4:56PM. F wanted to take over PR duties from me. I said no, perhaps much too bluntly, telling him that he’d been flipping out on people all day and was clearly not in a position to be handling such a delicate matter. I made a judgment call and decided to post it myself as a self post. Seconds before hitting the submit button, someone else submitted it. It was removed a minute later. I approved it. It was removed again for being irrelevant to gaming because of the bad title. The title was pretty bad though, which is exactly why I should have posted it. It got reposted with a better title, but the title then included “[Repost]“, which is against our rules. We had to remove it again and I told the guy to scratch that bit and repost it. Dumb situation overall.
Everything changed when, at 5:34 PM, I opened my inbox to find a PM from Zoe Quinn sitting there. I immediately took a picture of it and uploaded it to puush, then posted it in the IRC at about the same time as I finished reading it. In the same line I pinged the mods F and Del, as well as the admin D. Remember this picture, because it’ll come up again later. At first I started writing a reply about how we respected her opinion as a long-time user of /r/Games as well as respected her privacy and whatnot, but being that it’s related to gaming we were going to continue allowing it on the subject of gaming journalism. That is, until the admin D weighed in. He stated that since TheZoePost didn’t claim, as he read it, that Zoe specifically gave sex in exchange for positive reviews, it’s no longer relevant to gamers or gaming and shouldn’t be allowed. F then stated he’d tell Zoe this and agree himself, which would be a PR nightmare because he’s not exactly good at it. I told him not to around the same time that the admin, D, suggested we create /r/GamingDrama, “where shit like this and whatever bullshit TB spouted this week and so on can live” (direct quote). This had been brought up before by a few other moderators and will be brought up again. F and D came to the conclusion that it’s not relevant and should be banned from the sub. I decided to do my job and deliver this message to Zoe despite my disagreements, as F doing so would be bad for our public image.
Since we started banning discussion of it, a lot of posts started being removed for vote manipulation or brigading. Supposedly lots of alternate accounts being used to upvote posts quickly. I can’t confirm or deny that since only admins can see such data. Zoe sent me a PM at 5:50 PM (or so) thanking me for removing the threads, and another user sent me a PM at the exact same time thanking me for allowing the threads. This confused me and I decided to just take my ball and go home. I had successfully appealed to both sides and stopped the witch hunt against us. I could relax, and provided nobody did anything else we would’ve been in the clear. All would be well. I made a quick joke about how well this had all gone for us (relatively), as if it was all going to go “absolutely fucking bananas”. I was right. I had decided to relax for about an hour and watched Top Gear in that time.
When I got back, N was praising D for banning the discussion and they were all talking about Zoe’s nudeness. I made a quick joke about A Game of Thrones because I was a bit uncomfortable at the time. N stated that he pays for porn, and I called him a Rockefeller and suggested that he could even afford a bread. Us peasants have to make due with crumbs. F started fanboying over Dan Stapleton for a bit, then we talked badly about The Sims 4’s lack of review copies, then our 500,000 user milestone, and then I got off and tried to sleep. I failed. I ended up sitting on the computer all night watching Top Gear. It makes me feel British, if only for an hour.
When I decided to log back into IRC at 5:11 AM on August 19th, I discovered that someone had fucked up hard and the world went insane. Mod Fi started talking about me needing to placate “the hoards of angry moutbreathers screaming censorship” [sic]. I decided to make a post addressing it, and F told me to say that Nathan Grayson had never written about Zoe Quinn, so as to try and kill the accusations. I said that he did and that I had seen the articles. I decided to just start writing and stop listening. Around this time TotalBiscuit tweeted about the censorship and situation. The others were concerned that he would make a video calling us out specifically but I doubted it would happen. I would’ve welcomed it if it had, since TotalBiscuit is a giant force for change in the industry and him calling us out for censorship would mean I could have had more free reign to be transparent as I wished. Sadly he didn’t, though I can’t blame him.
F again asked me to lie and say that Nathan Grayson never wrote about Zoe or Depression Quest. I mostly just ignored him. He started comparing anti-SJW posters to Nazis, and P and N talked about shadowbanning users. This went on for a short bit. TotalBiscuit posted a video about Mountain, some shitty artsy “game”. It was an unlisted video for twitter followers, meant as a joke, but people kept posting it to /r/Games. It got removed and we talked about that for a while. I ate breakfast at 9:40 AM, and that might’ve been the last meal I had for quite a while. I had strawberry oatmeal. It was lackluster. Enough about food. The other mods started talking about Wizardchan. In the words of one of them, it’s an imageboard for male virgins. Never been there, can’t confirm or deny. After a while, at 11 AM, the conversation came back to the drama. Someone was going around telling people to message an admin, Da, asking him to remove the /r/Gaming mod El. N messaged the admin Ocr and pinged D in order to get him shadowbanned. I finally got off my Top Gear-watching ass and started writing our stickied thread. N nodded respectfully toward me at this.
The original plan was to put up a sticky about it and moderate it regularly. N suggested we lock the thread as soon as it was posted. Locking a thread through Automoderator means that every comment is deleted immediately upon being posted (besides mods and admins). This is what ended up happening. This was going to take someone far greater than I to justify so I said nothing and tried to work on other bits of propaganda that we’d need. Channeling the power of Goebbels I set off writing. N started boasting about getting people shadowbanned again, this time the shadowbans being done by admin Cu. N removed a few more threads but I was too busy writing to notice. I posted the stickied thread at 11:51 AM or so, locking the thread as N requested. Jokes about me sleeping with Zoe happened. N stated that I should’ve said that the journalists in question didn’t write anything about Zoe or Depression Quest, and even if they had it didn’t matter. I posted a link showing it did happen, but that wasn’t good enough. T, N, and No (No was no longer a moderator, but still had access to the mod room. He left because he was tired of yelling at people who didn’t like SJW viewpoints.) had a discussion about how people disliking Zoe were insane, performing mental gymnastics, compared them to the Boston Bombers, lots of “poor zoe”, etc. I didn’t care since I got gilded for my post, which is the ultimate way of saying that my writing is good. I love it when my writing is praised so I was pretty happy. A few comments about users being immature, angry, and thoughtless later…
We got off the drama for a short second because we got PM’d by someone asking us to take down some thread because it broke BioWare’s NDA policy. I never cared for the NDA policies since we didn’t sign them and had no reason to remove them. So we said no. Admin D showed up to thank me for the post I’d written and had a joke about a user being banned for 5 months, still commenting and posting, but not knowing that he’d been banned. Good times. We then joked about me being Zoe Quinn in disguise, but my deep voice and penis betrayed me. We talked a bit about the admin Da. I have always been of the opinion that inactive mods, admin or medical issues or whatever, should be removed until they’re ready to continue moderating. If I’d convinced D to do this prior we wouldn’t have had such a rough time. No called Zoe’s ex-boyfriend insane, and then we started talking about how great of a restaurant Five Guys is. It’s honestly amazing and I hear they added milkshakes, so they’re 10/10 in my book.
At 3:44 PM Stephen Totilo started tweeting about it. This was a big event for us. Totilo has some history with us (we would talk periodically on the subject of Kotaku’s status on /r/Games), and the others called him some nasty things over the many months we were involved with him. I always thought he was just really dedicated to his job. I respect dedication. Nothing interesting was said until 4:22 PM, when No and Te started talking about how Zoe’s ex-boyfriend has paranoia issues. Fo sent a large list of usernames to the admins for shadowbanning at 5:19 PM, and called the entire drama garbage, saying that the users (“crazies”) will die down in a few days. That ends August 19th.
I got on to Ph and N joking about the Gamergate people at 4:18 AM, which lasted until 5:14 AM (off and on). This left me with Ph, T, Fo, P, and N as they linked to twitter profiles and talked about who they would have sex with. Apparently it was an /r/Games user. D, N, and I had a brief talk on /r/Gaming and /r/Games, as well as defaults and a few private subreddits. Nothing terribly interesting. At 4:57 PM, Pi noticed that Automoderator was removed a lot more than it should be, and this was because of N’s latest condition where his regex removed any of the characters appearing in “” from all posts and comments. This is because he forgot to escape his brackets. About 99%+ of everything was removed for 2-3 hours. Pi listed a bunch of threads he removed at 5:24 PM and I declared “not it” on going through the modlog and approving all the things N removed. He had to do it. Makes sense. At 5:49 PM, a submission about TotalBiscuit being under attack was posted. It got 34 votes in 8 minutes before it was removed by F. D said he didn’t see any source of votes and that the votes are coming from regular /r/Games users. It didn’t get approved. So ends August 20th.
On August 21st, just after midnight at 12:02 AM, I noticed a post containing information on various people. In it, under a folder called “censorship”, was a picture of N telling someone that if he posted or talked about Zoe he’d ban them. I notified N, and immediately after, Zoe’s ex-boyfriend (from TheZoePost) sent us a modmail. I decided to handle it rather than let N do so. He wanted to do an AMA on /r/Games explaining everything, as well as clarifying some information of some sort. Our position had been made clear yesterday and I knew what D would say, so I told him no and suggested he try another subreddit. I followed up with another reply minutes after saying that while he can’t do an AMA we also can’t stop him from commenting as a regular user. I was hoping he’d do so, but I don’t believe he did.
Nothing else happened until 2:44 PM when more threads were getting posted and more people were getting banned. Someone posted the TFYC project in /r/Games, which we immediately removed. N’s reasoning for removing it was on the basis of it being a TFYC project. My reasoning was that I was told that’s what we were doing, and so I did that. Either way it got removed and the poster ended up shadowbanned. Someone sent us a modmail about us removing comments. Shadowbanned. There was a thread about it with 14 comments. 14 commenters shadowbanned. Here’s a quote from N: “everyone in there is shadowbanned every single one bwhahahahahaha 14 in one swoop”. He started talking about how it was a 4chan raid, but I mentioned that I checked /v/, /b/, and /pol/ and didn’t find any mention of our subreddit. Admin Cu said it was 4chan though, so it must be 4chan. I took a short break at 3:04 PM to watch the co-optional podcast since I figured they might talk about it. They didn’t. It was still entertaining though. Apparently nothing happened for the rest of the day, so that ends August 21st.
On August 22nd at 4:57 AM I had got back on IRC to N questioning a reply to a modmail. Someone had asked about a removed thread though I wasn’t sure which one, since many threads got removed that morning. There were two in my mind: a self post asking about what happened and discussing the ramifications of Phil Fish’s leak, and the other linking to the website itself. Both were removed. I told the guy in modmail that I wished I could’ve kept the first post up, which N had a problem with. We had another self post up saying the same thing as the first but was much more sympathetic toward Phil Fish, and that stayed up but was monitored heavily by N, according to him. A few hours before 5 AM he apparently reported the pastebin, but it stayed up and he got angry about this. Not much happened except complaining until 6:32 AM. At that point I decided that since Dacvak was still getting a large amount of harassment, I’d take a picture of our mod log showing that he’s done nothing in months. In the same sentence that I stated I did this I shared the picture in the channel and explained it. Remember this picture too as it’ll come up again later. Nothing much happened for a while. At 10:12 AM there was a brief discussion between N and F about how stupid the people doubting Phil Fish are.
At 11:30 AM I made a joke about how my existence as a mod keeps the world from destroying itself, and that if I left the sub would descend into chaos. Nostradamus.gif. This isn’t important but I found it funny. Shortly after someone made a comment doubting our credibility due to the mass deletions. It got deleted, and Del, T, and Pi made fun of him. I voiced my concerns, saying: “I’m concerned about our credibility, y’know. You guys just remove stuff. When shit happens I gotta deal with people asking me questions. Which is usually good since we’re great, but this is pushing it.” This didn’t go over well. Leading me to my second big argument with N at 11:46 AM.
N was very active in the Phil Fish thread, trying his best to make people believe Fish. I told him that “we shouldn’t be getting involved in this”, because “we’re supposed to be neutral and we can’t do that if we’re involved”. N again said that he had no agenda or biases, and that he didn’t even like Fez. We stopped talking about it for a while so that the others could make fun of Phil Fish’s name, then back to business. N tried to justify his actions by saying that he technically only distinguished the official mod comments, so as a user he’s within his rights to say whatever. Also, he technically never took a stance saying that Fish didn’t do it to himself, only that it’s stupid and super likely that it didn’t happen. He’s technically correct: he didn’t outright say that Fish didn’t do it. He just spent several hours making fun of people who thought that in private.
At 12:39 PM we got a post unrelated to the drama, but interesting to hear about nonetheless. It was an average, insightful self post that would normally be allowed. However, it contained the words “(x-post /r/Gaming4Gamers)”. /r/Gaming4Gamers is a subreddit that was once involved with its own slew of problems but has since taken up different leadership and ideas and has become a middle ground between /r/Gaming and /r/Games. D, the admin that originally busted the subreddit, has had a hard on for it ever since and could drool at the idea of finally catching them in the act of breaking rules and banning them. On /r/Games, at least so long as he breathes air, /r/Gaming4Gamers will not be mentioned (unless I silently approved something). Or maybe they’ll allow it after this to try and make me look bad. Who knows? Anyway, I had to tell the OP to take out any mention of the subreddit using some bullshit lie about how we don’t like cross promotion. Not half an hour later I told another guy in modmail that he was free to promote his subreddit the same way. Funny how that works. I didn’t like it since Gaming4Gamers is actually a pretty nice subreddit, but a job’s a job.
We talked a bit about people in modmail asking about corruption and oppression, then a talk on autism, then keyboards, then back to Phil Fish. Fo talked about shadowbanning (using automoderator) 3 people in 2 minutes. Then, Del stated that he wants to talk about video games but instead got “this dumb drama”. This is where another important bit comes in. To preserve formatting and save myself some time, here’s a snippet of the IRC directly (names still edited).
Aug 22 13:54:17 I think D suggested that someone needs to create /r/GamingDrama or something, and we can push all of this stuff there.
Aug 22 13:55:03 I’m not a huge fan of subreddit consolidation
Aug 22 13:55:37 And if we were to push things to its own subreddit someone would have to make sure it was high quality
Aug 22 13:55:51 It seems dumb to push things to a lower quality subreddit just because we don’t want to deal with it
Aug 22 14:00:30 <N> Del, I think the idea was just that
Aug 22 14:00:36 <N> so we have an excuse to just remove it from /r/games. :P
Remember this? Well, keep it in your mind. It comes up later. At the time I was watching TV (more Top Gear) and wasn’t paying attention. I got pinged a few minutes later at 2:02 PM asking my opinion of it. I said this: “I don’t see a problem with keeping drama in /r/Games so long as we moderate it. So long as it’s related to gaming in some way and we moderate it, I say we’re fine.” Fo stated that drama is “such a PITA” (pain in the ass), and I replied that so is the rest of our job. Then, at 2:57 PM, shit started going down. I brought up the PM sent to me by Zoe Quinn, which I had immediately linked to the others, and asked if they remembered it. N stated that he had no memory of it, nor what it might have said. I said that the same picture I’d put in that mod chat had been posted by someone else on Twitter. N brought up that I should set my puush to private and walked me through the steps to do that. He asked if it could be traced back to me, and I said that it could since whoever took it must know where he got it from. He told me to delete all of my publish puush uploads just in case, which I did. I kept local copies of the important stuff but a lot of smash bros screenshots were lost. I followed the person leaking it on twitter to see if he’d post anything else. We spent a bit going over what the tweets said, about N’s chats with the admins, and whether or not those chats were incriminating. This all lasted about an hour. Not much else happened on that day, so that ends August 22nd.
Part 2 of this should go up at some point within the next week depending on how lazy I become. If you’re dying to know something then leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. That, or tweet at me @XavierMendel.