Woman In Gaming. So What?

Woman In Gaming. So What?

This was written as a response to a comment in my latest blog article. It got long, so I made it a separate post so that it doesn’t get lost in the comments.

Hello Mr. Smart,

I just want to leave a bit of a female perspective of this whole thing here. When I read your posts, I can tell that you are against harassing Sandi. You’re posting real stuff that is happening in her life, and the things happening in Star Citizen. However, as a woman, I can definitely see where Sandi is coming from, and why she (or her fans) might pin this on you, or interpret your reporting as harassment. The effect is amplified because you’re also an outspoken male game developer (and everyone still has “gamergate” on their minds).

Nobody likes it when someone airs out their dirty laundry in public or exposes skeletons in their closet. If someone did this to me over a prolonged period of time (especially given Sandi’s past), and then I got a bunch of tweets from other people about it, I would probably think that whoever disseminated the information is responsible for harassment, too, especially if it was a man.

Please, please please, I ask you to be careful about how you bring up criticisms of Star Citizen (especially related to Sandi). Even your valid points will be ignored because fans will constantly point to the fact that you’re talking about a woman who is part of the project. They’ll warp whatever comment you make about Sandi or her family to make it look like you’re harassing her. They’ll make posts that say you’re obsessed with her, and they’ll paint you as a stalker. All the while, they will draw attention away from the valid criticisms you are making on the game itself.

I know you feel like you have to stand up and defend yourself (and you should), but in a case like this, the femme fatale has the media’s attention. She’s going to play the damsel in distress card for as long as she needs to, and you’ll be the dragon. I’m sure you’ve already got self-proclaimed “knights” on your doorstep.

Just my concerned two cents.

Hi, and thanks for your insightful commentary.

Yes, you are quite right about the perception. In fact, the whole “woman in gaming being harassed” bullshit, is the reason that I wrote this particular blog. I have never before found any reason to write a specific blog about something related to her. It has always been about the Star Citizen project; and by extension, the executives (of which she is one) attached to it.

People who know me, already know very well who I am, and what I stand for. I have always been a supporter of all the people in gaming; regardless of gender, race, color, creed, religion, political affiliation, or any other bullshit social construct which some people use to segregate others. I am old school, and hail from a time in gaming when, despite the fact that it was a male dominated field, wasn’t about all this SJW bullshit. My social media (especially Facebook), is full of my posts, articles, commentary etc about our women in gaming. I have engaged in all manner of discussion – most of which, not unlike this Star Citizen fiasco – ended up with me being attacked, harassed, and derided for my advocacy and opinions. NONE of that has EVER stopped me from voicing and/or standing by my opinions of same. It NEVER will. I know who I am. People don’t define me. I define me.

Sandi Gardiner no more fits the bill of a “Woman in gaming”, than Martha Stuart fits the bill of a “Woman in politics”. It’s all circumstantial. All of us started from somewhere. I didn’t start off a game developer. It took a long time of toil, trouble, hard work, and disappointment, to gain the experience and credibility awarded to those worthy of such a distinction.

She has never been a part of the industry. She was never a PC “gamer”. Every single interview she has ever had, and in which she has uttered any response to being asked about her gaming cred, has been fraught with lies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and inconsistency. And we have all of those interviews, complete with fact checked transcripts. Yes – playing Facebook and/or mobile games, does in fact make you a gamer. But in the context of PC gaming, the distinction is very clear, and not open to interpretation.

Does her lack of gaming street cred, let alone complete lack of qualifications (which she admits to in this archive of a now deleted spotlight) in marketing or game development, make her any less qualified as a “Woman in gaming”? No! And that’s because it’s largely irrelevant. As I said above, we all have to start somewhere. Not to make light of her capabilities, but if it wasn’t for her husband (something they hid and lied about until it was exposed last year), Chris Roberts, she won’t have been in game development at this moment in time. Period. End of story. And those are irrefutable facts. She was, up to that point in time, an unknown actress, struggling her way through Hollywood. And it is reported that she was working for Chris Roberts as an intern at his failed Ascendant Pictures studio, where they met. Many an accomplished actor or actress today, has hailed from all walks of life and prior profession. Nobody is looking down on her, let alone begrudging her for accomplishments, or lack thereof. Respect is earned, regardless of how much money you throw at it.

But there was that time when in a leaked email exchange with a backer, she made the bold claim that ““I’m pretty confident I am the most formally educated person in this whole company“”. So there is that.

In a society whereby an accomplished woman – in any field – is likely to be compared and associated with her male partner, we all have to be mindful of the social implications of ignorance and male dominance. The most recent example is of Hungarian swimmer and Olympian, Katinka Hosszú. She broke (OK shattered) a world record; but most of the media were putting the focus on her husband, instead of this accomplished woman. The gaming industry is full of accomplished women; most of them, unsung heroes of some of the best games ever made, and who are married to other game developers. Throughout my industry history, I have come to know, love, and respect a vast number of them; even those I have never actually met in person, let alone had the pleasure of working with.

But here’s the thing: you can’t have it both ways. If we are talking about women in terms of accomplishments, equality, respect, recognition etc, then by all accounts we should also be adding accountability, responsibility, derision, and everything in between. If a male game developer screws up, he can and will catch flak for it. And by all accounts, if a woman in gaming screws up, she should catch flak for it. Whether she is a woman or not, is irrelevant, has no merit, and is a bullshit argument borne of the same ignorance that permeates similarly heated discourse such as religion and politics.

For my part, I don’t give a shit if she was a trans-gender she-devil leather goddess from Phobos. As far as I’m concerned, she is a fraudulent, deceitful, lying, conniving, manipulative, no-talent-having she-devil, with no redeeming qualities. And those are just words which have no basis on whether or not she is ANY of those things. Point being; someone on the Internet said mean stuff about you? Stand in line, and go cry me a fucking river.

And she just happens to be the co-creator, alongside husband and visionary-without-a-clue, Chris Roberts, and Ortwin Freyermuth (that would be this guy who was somehow led to believe that trying to intimidate me was a great idea)

The issue most seem to be ignoring is that when it came out that she was playing the part of Mae Demming in tickle porn videos (which I mentioned in the article), it was just hilarious to most who were talking about it. But still others were on the bullshit bandwagon about “It’s in her past, that’s off-limits” etc. So all of  a sudden, just because someone found these videos – of an actress who now happens to be the “VP of marketing” and “wife of Chris Roberts” – we’re not supposed to talk about it. Because somehow, aside from it being on a porn (even prudes don’t frown at porn anymore) site, it’s now harassment, a low blow, off-limits, people are using it as an attack on her etc. I mean, seriously? Go ahead and show me one actor or actress who feels harassed or attacked because their videos were shared. Let alone actresses who shoot nude scenes all the time. It’s bullshit.

You can, right now, search for notable industry veterans such as Richard Garriott, Tim Schafer, Peter Molyneux, George Broussard or any number of those who have stumbled in some way or another in their careers, and you won’t run out of shitty stuff to read. Most of it horrid. Yet, I haven’t seen a SINGLE instance of ANY of them blowing a fucking fire whistle in a crowded theater about “Woe is me, I’m being harassed!”.

Back in 2012, when the brain trust at Kotaku came up with the 40 Most Powerful People In Video Games article? Number of women in that list? One. Jane McGonigal. Back in 2012, if they had actually looked hard enough, or you know, actually did the research, they would have come up with no less than 40 women (let’s start with Jade Raymond) for that list. But then again, go read their criteria for what “powerful” means, and you will find that, for the most part, it has fuck all to do with “game development”. Then again, my guess is that if they had actually sat down and started to compile a list with more women in it, they would probably have had to wade through a bunch of crap from shit-heads like Brianna Wu who spend more time creating drama, than actually, you know, CREATING VIDEO GAMES. Good thing that the list pre-dated the GamerGate fiasco.

But then in 2014, two years later, John Gaudiosi over at Forbes, came up with a list of 10 Powerful Women In Video Games list.

Hopefully by the time someone actually writes another list, they will manage to find more than ten women who aren’t hiding in plain sight.

But I digress. The point is that I am well aware of the gender divide in our industry. It’s a real and present problem. But the fact is that someone’s gender should have NO basis in their responsibility or accountability. NONE.

Whenever a game fails to meet expectations, or there are issues involved, the MALE DOMINANT SHIT HEADS responsible for it, are written about, attacked, derided etc. I know all about it. I’ve been there. So why then, in an instance whereby a FEMALE EXECUTIVE who is credited as the co-creator of a multi-million dollar project that has not only failed to meet expectations, but is also two years overdue, has blown through $118 million (that we know of) of gamer money to date without shipping a product, has a lot of controversy etc, we’re talking about her being harassed because she’s a woman?

As I stated* in an earlier comment, if she was being harassed – which, given the on-going fiasco I have no doubt that she has been in some form or another, if I saw it, I would most definitely denounce it. My beef with the project, and the execs (male or female) associated with it, have NO effect on my moral compass. And that compass isn’t defective or broken just because I am engaged in heated discourse. Again, those who know me, know precisely that about me.

*“The point remains: harassment, in any form, like cyber-bullying, is HORRID. There is nothing to be gained by making light of it. And if I had ever come across ANYONE harassing her, I would have stepped in. Heck, there is NO love lost between Ben Lesnick and I, but I genuinely sent him well wishes when he was in hospital, Tweeted that to his wife etc. That’s who I am. Being engaged in social discourse doesn’t mean that you lose the part of yourself that governs decency and morals. I know who I am, and I was raised right. I don’t always get it right, nor do I consider myself to be the beacon for good behavior. But I DO consider myself to be a decent person; and as result, I always try to make an effort to do the right thing. There is no shame in that, regardless of who the opposition is.”

The point remains: when people (male or female) are harassed, there is always some evidence of same. That evidence is what sparks the multitude of articles, blogs, social media discussions, and outrage. It’s not the sort of thing that you hide. If she is being harassed via email, that’s not social media harassment. If people are writing tomes about her, that’s not harassment. And for a public figure, not only is the harassment card patently WORTHLESS, you simply can’t just whip it out at will, just to create drama, manufactured outrage, and misplaced sympathy. Which is precisely what I believe she has done. And the point that most are missing here is that, on the face of it, we’re in the “cry wolf” scenario now whereby this action HURTS people (male or female) who ARE being harassed. Why? Because a precedent of someone – an exec no less – making shit up, ends up being discarded if it does happen to someone.

If she wasn’t an exec of a multi-million dollar project which is the subject of intense scrutiny; and if a well known laser-focused, borderline autistic (just ask my wife) no-fear-having man-child named Derek Smart, wasn’t the one on their case this whole time, and who is the target of those very same attacks and harassment from her “fans” (<—- just wait until the money runs out, and this shit-show collapses), NOBODY WOULD GIVE A SHIT ABOUT HER.


Because none of this is about her. It’s much bigger than her – or any one person. It’s about the Star Citizen project which, by all accounts, is looking more and more like a scam as each day goes by. She just happens to be caught up in it because, *gasp*, she is the credited co-creator, “VP of marketing” and main face of the company. Not to mention the fact that she has, many times, gone on the record to take full credit for the “funding success” of the project. Funny thing is, that’s pure and utter bullshit. We know it’s bullshit. She knows it’s bullshit. She’s knows that we know it’s bullshit. We know that she knows that we know it’s bullshit. Chris Roberts – who, with all his missteps, is the sole reason that this project exists and has reached this level of funding, knows that it’s bullshit.

So, she can’t have it both ways. If she is going to take credit, unfounded or not, for something, then she should be ready, willing, and able to also take the hits (not attacks, or harassment btw) if things don’t pan out.

Here’s the thing. They have a very capable and experienced PR company in the form of Conley Swofford Media. There is no scenario on this planet I can think of, whereby David Swofford would advise she or Chris, go into the public sphere and say or write half the shit that they have to date. That would be abject irresponsibility. And David (he probably hates me by now) is not a n00b. As others on this project have said, the brain trust on this project, simply can’t step aside and let those capable and experienced people they hired, do their jobs. So guess what we have for that? This on-going fiasco. This bullshit “I’m quitting social media because of harassment” is just one of those things that an executive of a multi-million project/company, let alone “VP of Marketing” simply DOES NOT DO. Unless they are looking to create drama as a deflecting tactic. And if David was party to that, then screw him too for being somehow complicit in this shit-show.

Want to see what I’m talking about? Good. Here is just one example where the “VP Of Marketing” for a $118 million crowd-funded project, is responding to rumors about the down-sizing (which did happen btw) of the Austin office, The Escapist article, her reported treatment of employees etc. Let that sink in for a moment. Watch.

Then there was that time when Sandi said she was the target of an “anonymous hate campaign” (which, again, there was no evidence of), then went completely over a cliff and said “Star Citizen speaks to the pure essence of humanity“. I kid you not, here, watch for yourself.

Then there was that time when an employee of CIG, in his capacity as Community Manager, went on a broadcast and in a backhanded way, called me a troll (a description which he totally botched btw). Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, flat out said that The Escapist article and drama surrounding it, had “involved their children” (Chris & Sandi) in the discourse. Something which, btw, had since been proven to be false. Because, again, it was someone else’s tweet that was retweeted. Neither I, nor The Escapist brought their children into it. Aside from that, they had their kids in the promotional material for the game.

Now that I’m hearing that this is quite possibly (I still don’t believe that) part of an on-going plan for she, and/or Chris to exit the project, it all makes sense. Thing is, I have no reason to believe that Chris, the Achilles heel of this project, is going anywhere. He can’t be fired because there is nobody above him. They don’t have investors or publishers who have that authority. So anything that even looks like that, is simply a PR stunt. However, Sandi being gone, and without making light of her contributions to the project, is largely immaterial. She won’t be the first exec (male or female) to leave a company or project for whatever reason. Many who were more capable, vastly qualified, and who actually had a hand in the actual development of the game, have come and gone. But as this recent flap shows, Sandi being gone due to “social media harassment” is better (especially if people blame their bogeyman for it), and has more drama to it, than you know, just saying “I am leaving to pursue other things. You know, like acting“. If someone became a millionaire on the backs of thousands of trusting people, they would probably bail before everyone finds out that the emperor really had no clothes this whole time. It happens all the time.

And in an industry where even the talented and capable developers (I used this term to collectively mean ALL who are part of a project) don’t know when they are going to be out of work, nor whether their next paycheck is forthcoming, it’s difficult to take a stand. That sort of thing is for hippies who don’t have any family or similar responsibilities. If the disillusioned developers at the four studios working on this project were able to stand up and stage a walk out or intervention, forcing the top execs on this project to step down, there would be a chance for a “game” of sorts to be released some day. But as long as these execs are still there, calling the shots, I am going to say this again: these games, as pitched, will never – ever – see the light of day. And when the collapse comes, all this money would be gone, along with any accountability. And SHE, being part of the executive team, is as much to blame as anyone else in that echelon. And when it comes to the money, amid insider rumors that several of the execs are pulling multiple paychecks for various roles, that’s where the unjust enrichment point of contention as to how investor and backer money is being spent, comes into play.

In my decades long career in the video game industry, not ONCE have I been accused of harassing anyone. It’s not something that I do. I don’t go picking fights, or looking for the next rush. I have a wonderful and supportive wife and daughter. I have a multitude of fans of my works who have supported me through over a dozen projects across three decades. I have lived a long and prosperous life that, if I keeled over and died tomorrow (not today though, because I have plans), I would do so with no regrets. In fact, if there is a heaven or hell, I’m probably one of those people they will be in a rush to reincarnate and kick right back out – without any plausible reason. I would land, right back here, and do this shit all over again. Assuming those assholes don’t reincarnate me as a cat or something. That would be weird.

So the very insinuation that my efforts and quest for accountability are now somehow tantamount to harassment, truly offends and upsets me. And I simply will not let it stand. I’ve been pissed about a lot less.

At the end of the day, again, this is all noise. No matter how this ends, there are going to be lawsuits coming from it. There is simply NO way around it. Either they foolishly sue someone, or as they have been doing, they make themselves targets of lawsuits and/or counter-suits. And that’s aside from all the poking by State and Federal officials. This project is too big, too notorious, and too controversial for them to even think that they can get away with ANY of this shit. But since hubris and ego apparently permeate all parts of the executive branch of this project, my guess is that they’re probably sitting there, comfortable in the thought that they are going to get away with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And the depositions are going to be one of the most eye-opening events to come from this because it will give backers a lot more info about what has been going on, what was true or false etc.

No matter what form legal action takes, either on a personal or corporate level, there is absolutely no way that they are getting around the whole “where are the games and the money?” issue. But they are, of course, welcome to try. They will be poked. They will be prodded. They will be interrogated. They will be intimated. They will be held accountable – for all of it.

For the record, I have stated time and time again, that I am only interested in THREE things listed below. Nothing more, nothing less. I am not even asking for reimbursement of my time, legal bills etc. I am a gamer with a cause, so this is par for the course. We do this shit for free. Because we can. Unless of course we end up in a bullshit lawsuit. At which point, they will be dealing with the best attorneys that a robust liability insurance can buy. And whether it makes it to a trial or not, there is NO settlement or conclusion where the things listed below aren’t included.

  1. A public apology (a press statement is fine) for the stunt they pulled in July 2015 whereby it was proven that they LIED in a press & public statements as to the reason for canceling my 2012 order
  2. Provide – no questions asked – refunds for those who ask for it, due to missed dates and failed promises. Backers prior to the June 2016 ToS change, ARE entitled to it
  3. Provide to backers, a full forensic accounting of what happened to ALL THIS MONEY. Backers prior to the June 2016 ToS change, ARE entitled to it

Though right now there are lots of people going through the painstaking process of getting refunds (some even higher than $11K) and thanking me for it, unless and until I get those three things – or they have me killed – there is NO WAY that this ends for me. And God help them if they don’t deliver the products (Star Citizen, Squadron 42) before the inevitable and impending collapse, because then they will have the media and thousands of irate gamers to answer to. They think things are bad now. Just wait.

The End.

Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living.
If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead
…but don’t be surprised if we don’t uphold them.”