"Xbro" is a Microsoft Xbox developer that announced his support for the #GamerGate movement over 4chan's /v/ board. He has been part of Xbox for 2 years, and previously worked at another console manufacturer and games company before that. The Escapist was privately provided with evidence that confirms XBro is in fact an Xbox developer. We interviewed Xbro over Skype and followed up over email.
What initially prompted you to speak out about GamerGate?
It was mostly the fact that I've been a gamer for a large part of my life, and obviously the recent events have affected me more than it should have.
I've personally been against the phenomena of 'social justice warriors', as well as the path certain gaming publications have taken in recent years (more and more discussions on morals, feminism, misogyny and other non-game related issues, and less talk about actual games and the industry). Initially I didn't want to speak out, thinking it was just another drama, but I think it has reached a point where gamers became fed up with being called all those things.
Given that you've kept your anonymity closely guarded, it seems fair to ask what you fear would happen if your identity were known.
It's pretty tricky to answer that question, because frankly, I don't know. As mentioned in my previous answers, our company doesn't have clear policies regarding public debates. It goes without saying that we, as employers, are allowed to participate in said debates, as long as we are clear on the fact that they represent our personal opinion. But then again, I did mention the fact that quite a few of my colleagues are supporting #GamerGate, which, although not entirely implying that the whole company does, it still sends a pretty clear message.
Messages like these could be interpreted the wrong way both by the public and Microsoft itself, and I have no clear idea how either of them might react if I came out publicly. Would I get a strongly-worded e-mail from HR? Would they call me in and let me know that I am fired for breaking an interpretation of a clause in my contract? Would they even care at all?
I've personally been against the phenomena of 'social justice warriors', as well as the path certain gaming publications have taken in recent years (more and more discussions on morals, feminism, misogyny and other non-game related issues, and less talk about actual games and the industry).
And that's just one side of this dangerous coin. I've changed my job twice so far in this industry (It's a common thing among most devs, as you probably know). If I decide to change my job at some point in the future, how do I know for sure that I wasn't called back after that one interview because of something I've publicly said in the past that has caught wind because of my former position in a big company?
Or what if game 'journalists' write a few articles about how that Xbox dev that stood in support of #GamerGate and brand him as a misogynist gay hater? They've told my kind (gamers) is dead, what if they come for my head and make my name a big red flag for most game companies' hiring departments?
These are the questions that constantly go through my mind. It's the excruciating uncertainty of whether you are analyzed, scrutinized and measured by others based on your opinions and the things you've said on the internet.
Do you think that game reviews have reached the point where a game cannot receive a good review if it does not satisfy the progressive standards of inclusivity?
Well, that depends on the publications that review said game. However overall, no, we haven't reached that point yet, but we are clearly on that path. If people want inclusivity, they need to work for it. It may seem harsh, but that's essentially the way supply and demand governs a lot of things in this world. I am sure that there are a fair number of people that feel that their ethnicity/culture/sexuality should be represented more in games, but you cannot simply stick it in places that it doesn't belong. The wonderful thing about this industry is that almost everyone can now create things. Mods for existing games, stand-alone indie games etc. If you think that the gaming industry is in demand of something that you stand for that isn't common in games, feel free to try and create it.
Look at Minecraft, for example (on my mind with all this news regarding Mojang). Apparently there was a very high, unknown demand for a block-based sandbox. And then someone made it. You can say he made it by accident, but that's irrelevant. Supply and demand took over and here we are today: it's the most famous indie video game in history.
If you think your idea is special/unique/deserving of attention and fame, go out there and give it life. But don't slander, harass or criticize game devs for not making it for you. It's not how the world works.
Do you think game journalists/media sites will recover from this debacle or has something permanently changed?
IMO, we can't say what's going to recover and what's permanently changed yet, because the conflict has not ended. But I believe that ultimately the game devs coming out in support of the gamers is what will end this whole scandal, or at least tip the balance so much in our favor that they (the SJWs and other groups of 'special snowflakes') will simply stop trying to interfere with our games and culture in such an aggressive way.
From your insight into private discussions, what percentage of game developers would you guess are on the gamers' side in this?
Well, as a rough estimate in my studio, I would say above 95%. In the rest of the AAA industry numbers should be more or less the same. The percentage drops as we get closer to the indie market, as quite a few of them (plenty examples as we know) are using controversial, yet non-issue subjects and topics to garnish attention for their own games.
But then again, if game developers are not 100% behind gamers, than what's the point of going to work in the morning? To make something for a target audience that apparently is 'dying'? That's just silly, the marketing guys should be pulling their hair out and start popping (even more) pills!
Our audience is huge, and extremely diverse, so we all know to expect people with less moral fiber to be part of it. But again, I re-iterate my statement that I made a while ago. We are against harassment of any form, and any other illegal or immoral activities, no matter where they are coming from.
However, to have people like SJWs using that against gamers (i.e. their famous list of support from the devs) is completely wrong. A lot of people added their names to that list without knowing the context; some of those people are not even devs, and some are just simple names that don't identify anyone. It was a pathetic attempt to squash #GamerGate in its infancy, and it was also the point where I decided to step out and tell people that they are not alone, and the devs are with them.
If game developers are not 100% behind gamers, than what's the point of going to work in the morning? To make something for a target audience that apparently is 'dying'?
At the level of studio heads and publishers, do you think there is more support for the agenda pursued by game journalists and the other Anti-GG coalition members? In other words, is there any difference of opinion between "the soldiers" and "the officers"?
Well, the guys in suits as I like to call them will ultimately want to please as many people as they can, in order to drive the sales up as much as possible (see how EA reacted in regards to the gay support in their games). That's normal, because at the end of the day they work for a company that tries to make a profit. However, I believe that they will never directly support such an agenda now that it has caused so much stir.
It also all boils down to the genre and targeted audience of games. In The Sims for example, you can have your characters marry if they are the same sex, so there are no issues there, and everything is fine in the world. But that's because Sims is a big sandbox, other games on the other hand are more like a story. You either like it or not. If you think the gaming industry needs a different story, they go and write one, but don't impose your agenda on existing games.
[Xbro then emailed us some additional thoughts, presented below.]
This scandal has sadly also caused a lot of damage to the pursuit of inclusion in this industry, and has set back the work of a lot of good, kind people that fight for equality or want to share their unique ideas with the rest of us. Feminism is now associated by some (if not most) of the gaming public with "the bitches that wanted to kill us". Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, organizations tying themselves to that ideology and name fight so that women have the right to vote and be protected from constant abuse and violence.
The so-called feminists involved in the #GamerGate scandal only stand to profit and gain fame from the masses of gullible people that like to call themselves SJWs. They constantly lie, cry wolf and go as far as to fake attacks on themselves to become the ultimate victim.
But let's look at the 'big bully' that is 4chan. What happened when a homosexual person (Milo Yiannopoulos) posted on that site, a place where people have turned the word 'fag' into a common suffix on top of using it to address themselves?
There were thousands of replies and messages of support in mere minutes. Going through them, you couldn't even believe that was /v/. It's like people there don't even care what you like to do or believe in as long as you don't stand to profit or slander someone else by using it as a shield.
As a final word, I would like to let every #GamerGate supporter know that despite the ongoing censorship going on on various websites (especially on 4chan recently), we, as gamers, must not give up on our cause. Such setbacks are always to be expected when facing corrupt individuals that would do anything to bury their wrongdoings. When #GamerGate finally comes to a conclusion, it won't be because we were silenced, but because we were right.
[We later re-connected with Xbro to ask him some follow up questions.]
What is your definition of "gamer"?
I don't particularly have a well-grounded definition of what a gamer is. In my opinion, a gamer is just a person who finds himself relaxing and unwinding when playing video games.
Do you make games for gamers? (I'm using "gamer" here to mean "core game enthusiast")
[The question is] not applicable, I'm not a game dev anymore, but a software dev (for a gaming platform nevertheless)]. However, I did use to make games for gamers, and always had out targeted audience in mind. We didn't expect our titles to be popular for absolutely everyone, and we were fine with that because that's how this industry is like.