I know most people have moved on from the Zoe Quinn saga and are focusing on whatever grew out of it, but I felt a bizarre kind of kinship with that mess that I have wanted to share for quite a while, but I’ve been too busy to until now. And this turned out to be good, because further information – which is relevant to this post – has surfaced.
I have a very different take on the whole Zoe Quinn saga than almost all the blogs and articles I’ve read and I think it’s mostly due to some family background: I have a relative, let’s call him “John”, who has been a source of much drama and pain in our family, and who will be central to this post.
How it all started
I first found out about the Quinnspiracy-mess when I read a message which stated something like “The developer of Fez has been hacked”. I knew about Fez, but I didn’t know about Phil Fish. I love indie games, but I don’t particularly care to know about all the individual developers. My initial reaction was something along the line of “Not again..”, and it soon became apparent that Phil Fish had openly been provoking elements which tend to hack when they get provoked. “That was stupid, but I still feel sorry for the guy … but what’s this about that he rallied to support another developer?”. That was the first time I had ever heard of Zoe Quinn.
The hacking debacle led me to “waste” a whole Sunday reading about the unfolding Internet soap opera. I found out about Depression Quest, GameJam, The Fine Young Capitalists, Quinn’s tumblr, her twitter, The Zoe Post, and much more. In the beginning I was entirely on Quinn’s side, but The Zoe Post changed that, and it was a pretty painful transformation; it’s not the cheating part which got to me, it’s was everything around it.
What happened as I began reading through The Zoe Post was that I started getting a weird “Hey, I know this”-sensation. It was the John (my relative) mess all over again. (Side-note, I started to severely dislike Phil Fish throughout the day, but that was simply from reading nothing other than the writings of Phil Fish).
So much of what Quinn says and does can be mapped to things John has said and done. How much and casually they lie. The way they lie, the way they handle being caught lying, they way they clumsily try to cover up things, the way they employ incredibly stupid short-term solutions to hide their lies. The way they shift blame. The way they “misremember”. The way they take a little blame only to then masterfully push that blame on to others. The way they cry about how bad they are. How they make being a victim into an art-form.
I can’t go into some of the more identifying specifics now, for reasons I’ll explain, but I could go through so many detailed examples which translate so perfectly to things Zoe Quinn has said and done not only according The Zoe Post and the article on skepticink.com, but also in other stories, including her own blog and her own twitter feed.
Though John has been at it for a longer time, and he has – in a sense – accomplished more (and in one or two cases, worse) pain, drama and suffering, I want to be clear with that he hasn’t directly physically hurt/abused anyone. If it were that simple we would have dragged him to the authorities.
In the core of it, what he has done is exactly what Quinn has done: Lie, lie about lies, lie about lies about lies. Risked getting and spreading STD’s. Made people up. Made events up. Caused people to start second-guessing themselves. Manipulated. Worn down people’s self-esteem. And all of it for his own benefit. Again, just like Quinn.
Déjà Vu Renaissance
The main reason I’m glad that I had to wait to write about this, was because in the meantime the piece which covers Mallorie Nasrallah’s experiences with Zoe Quinn appeared — you would not believe how mind-blown I was when I read it.
First, John has been telling people a completely unsubstantiated tale about having been assaulted and (almost (depending on whether you go by the earlier or later versions of the story)) killing the assailant while defending himself (heroically), and not reporting it to the authorities.
Oh, wait, it gets “better”..
Once we were going on a extended-family vacation, they invited John’s then-girlfriend to come along, but although it was clear she would have loved to join, after a short discussion they all decided that it would be easier if she’d stayed home and take care of their dog. John expressed excited to go and said he couldn’t wait for the trip.
Weeks go by..
Almost literally in the last minute before going to pick John up he called to say that his girlfriend was being “a fucking bitch” (pretty accurate translation from the original language) and didn’t want him to leave, so he would be staying at home. His good-hearted mom, instinctively wanting to believe the best about her son, and wanting to make sure there was nothing bad going on between his girlfriend and them asked if she could speak to her. Oddly enough, she wasn’t able to talk just then. I knew that there was something fishy going on, and told his mom that she should let it go. So we left without him (and had a good vacation, for what it’s worth).
I know it may seem petty to squabble about money, but a hotel reservation had been made – and paid for by his parents – for John, and it was way too late to find anyone else to fill his spot. Had he told someone just a day before .. it would have been tight, but I’m sure we could have found someone to take his place.
When we came back we spoke to John’s girlfriend, and she turned out to have a very different story about what had happened, and she was shocked to find out what he had said; both about the event that took place, and – without us saying it explicitly – what she, roughly, figured out he must have said about her.
To this day I can’t help wonder why he didn’t just tell us he didn’t want to go. We would have been a little disappointed, but accepted it without any drama or complaints. Why throw his girlfriend under the bus like that? With time (these types of things tended to happen around him) I started to realize that it was probably because lying came so easily to him, and blaming others made the whole lying process so much smoother (short-term). This is one of the things his female counterpart, Zoe Quinn, appears to do as well; she lies, and it’s natural for her to use other people as lubricant for her lies.
Stupidity as a tool
The whole thing about Quinn setting up the Rebel Jam to pour money into her personal account is an archtypal John move. It’s not necessarily malice, it may be plain stupidity — but that’s the thing with John, you never really know, because he’s not afraid of pretending to be ignorant/stupid when it suits his needs. Much as Zoe Quinn uses the “broken brain” excuse to not remember certain things when she’s caught in a yet another lie.
Only seen the bright side? Lucky you!
So this is the thing which gets to me: I haven’t really seen anyone, on either side of the argument, address this specific aspect of the story, other than those who are defending Quinn saying “Eron Gjoni says he wants to warn people about Zoe Quinn, but we know that it’s physically impossible for that to be an actual reason and hence the only other alternative is that he’s just acting like a bitter teenager.”.
No. Seriously, no. Some of us in my family, do warn people about John. Though this isn’t the time to go through his entire story, and while he’s done some things which are worse than what Quinn has, his and her modus operandi are more or less identical. Given enough time, I’m as certain as one can be that she’d score some of the drama jack-pots that John has.
The situation differs in that we don’t go public in the same way as Eron Gjoni did, we just warn people who he builds a relationship with. And the reason is sadly enough sentimental: John’s parents are very good people, and, despite being direct victims of his, have tried to do much for John throughout the years, but they aren’t taking all this too well, and they deserve none of it. So for as long as they live, we’ll be spreading it by word-of-mouth rather than to post a public service announcement on the Internet.
The way we go about it is leave John with whatever people he meets, and once they first mention to any of us that they noticed a peculiarity, as they eventually always will, like a little lie which seems slightly odd, then we tell them what they need to know. Having done this a few times, people who haven’t been mistreated by John always say the same thing; they can’t in the beginning understand what we’re saying about him. “He’s such a nice guy”, etc.
This all probably sounds much more formal than it really has been; it’s not like we have plans set up or have meetings, it has grown organically over many years, but certain things repeat themselves and sometime along the line you start feeling like you “know the drill”.
There will come a day when I’ll document some of Johns adventures in very much the same form The Zoe Post exposes Quinn, and believe me when I say that the similarities with the stories about Zoe Quinn are so striking that you will ask the same question as I did: “Does John and Zoe Quinn have the exact same mental problem?”.
I can understand the criticism of the way Eron Gjoni chose to go about it; there are proxy-victims, but at the same time, I can’t fault him for it. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s some bitterness there which caused him to do it as well, but from where I’m coming, I see so much of John in Quinn, that in the end I truly believe that Gjoni primarily does want to inform people about what kind of person Zoe Quinn is, and not in the “she broke my heart!”-way that the Quinn-apologists in media are portraying it as.
I really hate to be the kind of person who uses this argument, but the way people dismiss Gjoni’s stated motive for The Zoe Post makes me think that none of them have had a drama generating machine like John in their families. And they should be happy for that, because it has taken so much energy to keep up with it, and (attempt to) fix the mess that he causes. On the other hand, the entire lack of such experiences may also be what’s keeping them from even entertaining the idea that Zoe Quinn perhaps is, fundamentally, a person who will treat you like garbage without blinking if it serves her purposes.
Perhaps her new-found exposure will cause her to change to the better, and I sincerely hope that is the case. But there’s also a risk that when so many uncritically and blindly defend her, her mind will register all of this as “a successful strategy which earns me perks”.
They aren’t the same — only almost
One obvious difference between Quinn and John is their gender. Ironically, I think there’s a slightly perverse twist to gender neutrality going on here in the sense that despite being of different genders, John and Quinn are so very much alike in how they treat others. Though the gender difference definitely means that they themselves will be treated differently. Although John has become quite the master at getting new women when he wants (and this happens way too often), and everyone likes him in the beginning (he’s handsome and charming, unfortunately), once we’ve explained the situation to women nowadays, they tend to work their way out of the relationship for their own sanity. (There are some more and less successful stories which I’ll share when the time is right).
Quinn has some perks as a female which John doesn’t have. Guys stick around, give her the benefit of the doubt and defend her because there may be sexual favors for loyalty down the road.
And earning the complete loyalty of the type of women she surrounds herself with is trivial; just make a public speech about feminism, strong women, what a victim of male oppression you are and that any criticism of you must necessarily be due to misogyny, and then you have loyal feminist friends for life. (Although I am a feminist, I feel that there’s a worryingly large amount of religious structures in modern feminism which I don’t like. The immediate sainthood of feminists who say the Right Things™ is one of them).
Despite these differences, their behavior towards others seem to be largely identical (i.e. unaffected by how they are treated back).
Perhaps they mean what they say?
In the beginning of The Zoe Post there’s this:
This exists to warn you to be cautious of Zoe. It is here to paint a portrait of her actual personality. It is here to warn you that she is overwhelmingly likely to do all of those things she makes active efforts to convince you she would never be capable of doing.
After having read the whole thing, that, to me, is the most important paragraph. That is eerily close to what I wrote in a letter about John a few years ago.
And yes, of course there’s the remote possibility that everything written about Zoe Quinn is made up. I’m going to give Mallorie Nasrallah and, in particular, Eron Gjoni the benefit of the doubt, because not only does everything they’ve written about Quinn fit way too perfectly with the personality of John to be entirely made up, but also because I see John’s archetypal bizarre logic and professional victimhood in Quinn’s own writing.
Zoe Quinn as a Role Model
Looking at this from a wider perspective, I can get that people are upset about how Quinn is being treated; she has been getting a lot of shit and no one deserves having an Internet hate-army come knocking at one’s door (almost literally). We went through a period where we gave John the “you piece of shit”-treatment — not planned but rather since everything else had failed it kind of grew out of frustration. This “call him a piece of shit” strategy worked surprisingly bad; not only did it not change anything about how he treated others, but he also stopped answering his phone and opening the door for a while.
Speaking of being the target of Internet rage; Quinn proclaimed herself to be the “the most hated person on the Internet” in an article. If I were the most hated person on the Internet — I wouldn’t poke at the hornets’ nest further, I would go about my business, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to make the problem worse. Though I guess Quinn is just doing what a professional victim does; tries to stay in the spotlight of rage as much as possible in order to get more attention, maximizing the victimhood.
I can understand skepticism against some, or even most, of the claims made about Quinn — but there has to be a point at which you think to yourself, “While I don’t believe all of it, it’s at least highly likely that some of it is true. No sane person would go through all the trouble to make up all of this, let alone multiple people having different stories, but with striking similarities with regards to her personality.”. Surely at some point you have to start wondering if she’s really completely innocent; and I’m not talking about the infidelity, that’s the least relevant part, I’m talking about the all the other types of personality quirks I’ve been writing about in this post.
I have seen/heard Quinn be used as an example of “women in game development”, and once even be used in the context of “a positive role model for women who want to get into game development”. This is truly a bizarre proposition, and it’s an affront to real female developers; and there are plenty of them, many you haven’t heard about — not because of any kind of oppression; but rather because they just want to develop games, not be icons.
Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of people who are seriously screwed up but who do good things (John is very good at very shallow relations with people, and is very good with tech, but is extraordinary bad at having real, honest and balanced relationships with people). Eron Gjoni has stated that Quinn has talents which are relevant to game creation, and I’m going to trust him on that, but I wish she would put that talent to use; I’m sure that if she stops being a professional victim and instead puts all the energy into actually making games, she can do good for the gaming community/industry. So far, I have yet to see her doing anything of value. (And yes, I have played Depression Quest). Currently Zoe Quinn is no more than the Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian of the gaming world.
All of those of you who are parents, can any of you honestly say that you want your children to look to Zoe Quinn as a role model? Professionally, personally, as a woman? If you say “yes”, I honestly think you’re lying, you’re unsuitable as parents or you’re terminally naive.
Bad for feminism
Zoe Quinn is the kind of feminist who I think is doing feminism a major disservice; she uses feminism as a shield to protect her erratic and down-right bizarre behavior against criticism. Whenever she screws up, it’s the fault of men who hate her because she’s a “strong and successful” woman and is smashing down the wall of male tyranny, or some other romanticized fantasy. She makes false accusations against others, but no one is allowed to call her out on her bullshit. Because feminism.
We need strong women who are actually accomplished to represent feminism.
Understanding the relationships with John
This section is for those of you who read this far and are thinking “Why don’t you just forsake John?” and “He seems absolutely evil, like a psychopath, turn him in for psychiatric care!”.
It’s far more complicated than that. We can’t force him to seek help, and we’ve on occasion tried to get him to talk to someone. We thought we had some success once, but ended up finding out that he had lied about it, of course.
Here’s the thing.. Most of the time we love him; like I wrote earlier, he’s very charming, he’s intelligent and he kind of gives the false impression that he’s compassionate, which makes him likeable in a strange way. He truly loves animals; he would never hurt a cat or a dog, if all he had to do was to care for a pet, he’d be one of the best people in the world. That vacation I mentioned earlier, we really wanted him to go with us, because – like I said – most of the time he’s not a wandering drama generator. And we have family photo albums of vacation pictures where we all had a terrific time and he was an absolute delight.
He has been in a few somewhat long relationships, and a few times (like with the woman with whom he had a dog) we thought he’d found “the right woman” and I guess in a fit of romantic stupidity thought that “love had cured him”. Yes, I realize how pathetic that sounds, but you kind of hold on to hope.
And despite the way I have portrayed him, he is a human. Sometimes he cries. I suspect almost always just doing it to manipulate us, but regardless — sometimes I’m sure it has been real, and seeing someone you love cry and tell you that they hate themselves will get to you sooner or later.
This will also answer those of you who ask why, if Zoe Quinn is so bad, are so many people hanging out with her and say there’s nothing wrong with her? I suspect it’s the same thing — most of the time she’s a jumpin’ happy girl. Until she wants to do something which basic empathy, morality and common sense of decency would stop a normal person from doing.
Sociopath + Sociopath = Success?
I can’t know if everything written about Zoe Quinn is true, but you need to follow the evidence, and all the evidence points to her being a liar, and Eron Gjoni telling the truth in this matter. Furthermore, anyone can read Quinn’s social media entries, and if you dig around you’ll pretty quickly find that she does lie openly, big lies, with ease. Until someone can actually disprove what Gjoni has said, I’m going to stick with his version of events, and by proxy I’m going to give Mallorie Nasrallah the benefit of the doubt, because those puzzle pieces fit right in with the rest of the Zoe Quinn puzzle. And so much about her is .. John.
So, assuming for a moment that what has been written and reported about Zoe Quinn is true, I can’t help wonder what would happen if Zoe Quinn and John would have a relationship. Apart from the entire world getting destroyed due to the violent vortex of lies around them — I wonder if they could find happiness together? They definitely deserve each other.