THQ Nordic, publishers of the recent Darksiders III and the remaster of Titan Quest, recently had the idea to host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on the infamous image board 8chan, known for its issues with child pornographers and white supremacists.
Before that, an investigative report from Lynzee Loveridge at Anime News Network uncovered a long history of sexual harassment and abuse of other professionals, con-goers, and fans alike from voice actor Vic Mignogna (Fullmetal Alchemist, Sonic Forces).
And before that, according to Jason Schreier at Kotaku, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford (Borderlands, Duke Nukem Forever) became embroiled in a legal battle where he’s accused, among other salacious crimes, of leaving behind a USB drive with a mix of corporate documents and possibly underage pornography at a Medieval Times restaurant. According to Ars Technica, Pitchford confirmed on a recent episode of The Piff Pod that the USB incident happened, but also stated that the pornography was “barely legal,”and calls the camgirl “a fucking magician” for her actions in the video.
Though these three stories are not the only bizarre and gross headlines to come out of the gaming industry this year, they are united in their horribleness. Given that the THQ situation began not even two weeks ago, it feels like we should have a rolling conversation about sexual misconduct and appropriate behavior. These kinds of stories just keep dropping. Yet, news flies by so fast these days, we’ve already moved on – choosing instead to discuss Devil May Cry 5‘s critical reception and new Anthem patches. Some industry writers have attempted to keep the story going with rebukes of THQ’s public apologies, but there’s not much to add to the story, since we don’t know who, if anyone, suffered serious consequences as the result of the AMA.
Once upon a time, these stories would have stayed in the media for weeks, as the public came to terms with their implications. Now, without any further developments to speak of, all three stories risk getting left behind, forgotten in favor of newer topics. Forget that there’s hardly been time to have long-lasting conversations that could help our industry, people have already moved on, ready to forget.
For me, this is impossible. These stories weigh on my mind – I can’t sit back and pretend they never existed. Mignogna is a prolific actor whose alleged history of sexual harassment grew alongside his career as a voice over artist. THQ Nordic and Gearbox are major publishers and developers that have considerable power and acclaim in the industry, and need to be held accountable for the actions their employees take. We shouldn’t be tossing these stories aside; instead, we need to hold on for answers. If we don’t push for consequences, then nothing is stopping another person or company from doing something just as bad or worse.
If the gaming community doesn’t do anything, we’ll look disingenuous. Like we’re only able to wear our shocked expressions when the news breaks, and then toss them aside, free of any responsibility, once the fervor dies down. I mean, I get the thought process here. THQ apologized for their actions. Mignogna has been fired from a number of projects. Nothing has come up about the Pitchford scandal since it dropped, likely due to it being related to an ongoing legal issue. It’s easier to accept a resolution to the story, no matter how weak, than to think about a scandal in any long-term way. It’s harder to deal with the fact that some of the people who create video games, movies, and other pieces of media, sometimes the same people we look up to, can also be pretty shitty.
When I was younger, I thought much the same way. I loved to Michael Jackson’s music despite the allegations against him. I continued to watch Woody Allen films because of his work ethic and importance in film history. Back then, their pasts appeared isolated. Easy to ignore. But, as I got older, and stories started to emerge about more and more artists (especially in the wake of the Me Too movement), I just felt gross. This grossness seeped inside of me the more I tried to keep my head down until, finally, I broke.
The breaker came when Alice Glass, once part of my favorite band in high school, Crystal Castles, posted her own story, detailing why she left the band and the toxic, predatory relationship she alleges was at its core. This was a band whose albums I listened to on repeat for hours. I went to see them live. I cherished their music in a way only someone who grew up addicted to their iPod as a teenager can understand. Knowing Glass suffered so long and so completely in the wake of the band’s success devastated me – and plenty of other fans, too.
So, believe me when I say that I don’t have the compassion to excuse artists for their shitty actions anymore. It takes up too much time. This makes it hard for me to objectively cover a studio like THQ Nordic as a writer, when I remember – oh yeah, they just tried to cater to their fans on a site so horrible, it got delisted form Google. If pushed into it, I could probably hide the excess emotional baggage and work as normal – but why should I do that to myself? This is my blog; I control the content from start to finish. I’m responsible for what comes out of here, and if I don’t feel comfortable with one topic, I can just move on to the next.
Right now, I feel like if I were to cover a game with Mignogna’s voice in it, or next month’s release of Darksiders: Warmastered Edition on Switch, or a potential announcement of Borderlands 3, it might come across as some kind of implicit acknowledgement of what these companies and celebrities have done, and an attempt to normalize their actions. This feeling may dissipate eventually – but we’re barely out of February, and look how 2019 has gone already. We all need some time to heal, I think, and my coverage would be a guilt on my conscience I don’t need to think about.
What I will say is this: I don’t like that these stories are being buried so quickly. There may not be much to add right now, but they’re worth keeping on the periphery, as a reminder that these things keep happening, and unless we work to stop it and hold people accountable, more stories will pop up and similarly be cast aside.
In the end, I believe that art is an extension of the artist, and that a person who speaks for a company or organization is an extension of the same. Unless there’s a move to separate one from the other, like some kind of disciplinary action, there’s no reason to believe otherwise. I don’t believe that the stories and allegations about THQ Nordic, Vic Mignogna, and Randy Pitchford have had their moment yet. I also don’t want to just stay silent and let it all slide by. If you feel the same way, then I encourage you to express it. Take those feelings seriously. Push for accountability now, so it’ll be easier to call for it in the future when we need it again.
As always, if you want to contact me, you can do so via Twitter, or by emailing me at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com.