Between yesterday and today, word started to circulate that some unverified number of media outlets are preventing their employees from talking about #Gamergate in any way, shape, or form. At least one confirmation has come from the sea of rumors and it is for none other than The Escapist, home to Zero Punctuation and former residence of Jim Sterling whom has left to venture forth on his own.

It was also the site where Ian Danskin used to be employed. Before we get into his reasons for leaving The Escapist, let's take a quick look back what Danskin used to do for The Escapist.

Danskin was offered a job with The Escapist after the site's Zak Sabbath saw Danskin's work on the "This is Phil Fish" YouTube video. The video currently sits at over half of a million views and shines a light on how Internet fame can take anybody down some dark paths in life. Sabbath wanted Danskin to breathe some life into an old Escapist show called I Hit it with My Axe. This show was a pseudo-reality series that had alt-porn stars playing Dungeons & Dragons. The original run of the show naturally caught the ire of a number of people that, for lack of a better phrase, found the show to be rather "inappropriate."

Danskin was brought on to create essay segments for a potential "I Hit it with My Axe" reboot. While not specified by Danskin, I can simply assume that the essay segments would be to provide a more intelligent perspective on a show that featured porn stars playing a game. Danskin soon realized that the amount of work needed to create these episodes was far beyond what he had initially imagined it to be. He notes that it took "twice as much work for about a third less money" than he had hoped for.

With these conditions at work, Danskin started to make up his mind on whether or not he would leave the position after just a few months of work. With just a few episodes in the bag, it happened. Gamergate.

When Gamergate began, websites and various outlets were slow to give it much attention. Let's face it, I also thought very little of it at the start. It was just another case of whiny brats stamping their feet, right? It really seemed like nothing more than the kind of nonsense you'd hear from other players in most online games. However, the end never really came. Born from a lie about being nothing more than "about ethics in video games journalism" came the monster we know as Gamergate. It grew and it grew as more and more women started to be harassed and threatened. It grew more as the friends and family of those harassed women were, in turn, harassed themselves. It grew as families were driven from their homes out of fear. It kept going to the point that the authorities were brought in on multiple occasions and still it continued. It continued to snowball out of control to the point that media outlets started to take notice.

Those outlets that did notice, the ones that looked at what was going on from those that associated with Gamergate, almost unanimously denounced the group and their actions. Anybody with any good sense about them could easily see that under the false pretenses about being a "consumer revolt" or being about "ethics in games journalism" that Gamergate was simply a hate mob of misogynists that are hell bent on ruining lives. There was one notable site that didn't denounce the actions of Gamergate. One site that seemed sympathetic towards the Gamergate movement.

It was The Escapist.

The Escapist put up a highly controversial article about Gamergate, an article that drew quite a bit of criticism. See, the article in question pulled quotes from various developers about what they thought of Gamergate. The article also incorrectly stated that Gamergate began due to ethical concerns, which has been shown time and time again to be factually incorrect. On top of that, The Escapist had two different headlines. One curiously had to point out that they talked to "female developers" while the other one omitted the "male" qualifier from the headline and simply said that they spoke with "developers." It almost seemed as though they thought that women in the industry were somehow lesser than men. Male or female, everyone in the articles were still "developers," right? They have since corrected this little oversight.

The outrage doesn't end there, however. When looking at the articles, it was easy to note that they had a decided pro-Gamergate tone to them. Why was that? Well, The Escapist sourced all of their "developers" from 4chan. As it started to grow, Gamergate was born and nurtured on 4chan prior to the site outright banning all Gamergate discussion. Yes, Gamergate was even too much for a site like 4chan. Think about that for a moment.

One of the people sourced for a quote in The Escapist's articles was Slade Villena, also known as RogueStar. For those not familiar with him, he was one of the more prominent figures in the old Gamergate IRC chat that pushed to attack Zoe Quinn by directly harassing her, hacking into her various accounts, and publicly sharing her private information. Even to this day, RogueStar spends most of his time harassing people through Twitter instead of working on his game that was crowd funded over two years ago.


For a more complete picture of just how The Escapist screwed up in their articles, feel free to read through this Storify timeline of events as compiled by Alex Lifschitz. This brings us closer to the present with Ian Danskin and his departure from The Escapist. I'll let Danskin's own words do the talking here.

In the immediate aftermath of this article being published, I asked myself a lot of questions about where I wanted my work hosted and whether I wanted to be driving traffic and ad revenue to The Escapist. I talked to Zak, saying that if I was going to be on this site I wanted to be sure we were adding a dissenting voice to that conversation. It seemed I could be more valuable as a positive voice on the site than simply by walking. To his immeasurable credit, Zak backed me up every step of the way.

I wrote to The Escapist's Editor-in-Chief, Greg Tito. He had done a fair bit of backpedaling in response to the article, removing one of the most problematic interviews (with one of the most vocal proponents of hacking game developer Zoe Quinn's data and sharing her private information) and publicly stating that The Escapist is against harassment. In my email, I suggested he back that statement up, asking him to let me write an article or even create a video talking directly about GamerGate.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out the way Danskin hoped they would. Greg Tito and Danskin spoke on the phone a few days after the above events transpired. During the call, Tito informed Danskin that The Escapist's parent company, Defy Media, wanted there to be no more pieces run on Gamergate, be they positive or negative towards their cause. Yes, The Escapist's parent company was literally censoring employees.

This effectively meant that Defy Media is stopping their sites and their employees from speaking publicly about Gamergate. That also means that more sites beyond The Escapist are also under a similar censor from Defy Media.


Why then, did the original article ever get published on The Escapist in the first place? The developer interviews were conducted by Defy Media's Alex Macris. As Macris is technically higher up on the business totem poll than The Escapist's Greg Tito, the article was pushed forward without the site's usual review process. Macris also interviewed prominent Gamergate figurehead, Adam Baldin, for Marcris' own show, Everyday Joe. To say that Macris was pushing for a pro-Gamergate slant from the start may not be that much of a stretch. The Escapist and their staff suffered as a result.

As Jim Sterling parted ways from The Escapist, so too did Ian Danskin.

While his departure was not directly a result of Gamergate, Danskin did at least confirm that some outlets are actively stopping their employees from being open and honest with their readers.

I'm in a unique position here where I can freely speak my mind about issues within the industry. I am, for all intents and purposes, my own boss. I can choose to put up a story or I can choose not to. I have nobody standing over me telling me that I cannot put something on this site that I really want to put up. To censor your employees as Defy Media is censoring The Escapist and their other outlets is just downright pathetic.

I have no doubt that there are other outlets that are under similar, restrictive conditions. However, due to NDA's and similar restrictions, we may never know the full extent to which outlets are keeping things under wraps. Without a doubt it is as much disheartening as it is upsetting. If you still want to read a bit more on Danskin, you can read his full post on Tumblr about his departure from The Escapist.

I will wrap this up with Danskin's own words about what can be done to perhaps stop situations like this in the gaming industry.

If you actually give any shits about real journalistic integrity, I recommend you write to Defy Media and tell them you want their sites to start talking about GamerGate, and start submitting articles about it