Coverage of false crowdfunding
On April 2013, indie developer Chloe Sagal used Indiegogo to launch a crowdfunding effort to pay for medical treatment https://web.archive.org/web/20130405061748/http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-am-going-to-survive. The alleged condition was metal poisoning caused by metallic detritus left in her body from an old car crash, and the surgery was claimed to be life-saving.
Amidst the support she received from the gaming community, she became friends with Allistair Pinsof, then a writer for Destructoid. His article about it https://archive.today/ULMqB was one of many positive messages her campaign got. The crowdfunding was successful, but Indiegogo cancelled it soon afterwards https://archive.today/0584d, on the basis that the stated goal of life-saving surgery counted as charity, which was forbidden by the site’s terms of service.
Amidst their correspondence after the cancellation, Sagal confided on Pinsof that the life-saving surgery story is false, and instead it’s aimed at paying for her sex reassignment surgery. Under threat of suicide if he were to reveal this, he acquiesced and talked with her about seeking support.
On 12 May 2013, Sagal attempted to commit suicide after posting a short note on an online forum and mentioning she would do it live on a stream https://archive.today/Mk0vL. Authorities were notified on time and she survived.
The next day, Pinsof decided that, since she had already decided to attempt suicide, he should reveal the truth https://archive.today/3dM9H. He came under heavy criticism for this, seeing as she kept her status as a transperson as a close secret, and revealing that right as she was recovering in hospital was considered a great mistake. Sagal and Pinsof soon reconciliated over it,a fact which was later publicized in a roundtable https://archive.today/EH4aO in order to try to achieve some closure.
As far as the public knew, the whole debacle ended there.
GameJournoPros collusion in Pinsof’s dismissal
On October 2014, Pinsof came forward to reveal what he thought was his mistreatment by his bosses at Destructoid following the controversy around Sagal, according to the story broke by William Usher https://archive.today/Mo0fe https://archive.today/hq580, based on a post that Pinsof had written up and intended to post to Reddit, but instead shared publicly on Pastebin https://archive.today/YDDer.
Pinsof claims that after his ill-fated reveal on 13 May 2013, he had been been suspended by Destructoid’s owner, Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez, and the exact date he was supposed to be terminated was nebulous, with Gonzalez himself providing conflicting information. Pinsof now alleges that this ill-defined status was fostered on purpose, so that believing himself no longer attached to Destructoid, Pinsof would supposedly make a public show of his termination which could be then used by Gonzalez as a post facto justification of public bad behavior. Attempts at mediation failed.
As Destructoid is headquartered in Florida, an at-will employment state, Pinsof supposedly had no recourse. However, throughout these days when Pinsof’s employment status wasn’t defined, Gonzalez consulted with the GameJournoPros list, among other professionals, which might mean Pinsof’s termination by Gonzalez as illegal. To quote Usher:
However, there’s also a law in the state of Florida regarding wrongful combinations against workers. In other words, blacklisting. The Florida Senate Statues states under title 31, chapter 448, section 045…
Wrongful combinations against workers.—If two or more persons shall agree, conspire, combine or confederate together for the purpose of preventing any person from procuring work in any firm or corporation, or to cause the discharge of any person from work in such firm or corporation; or if any person shall verbally or by written or printed communication, threaten any injury to life, property or business of any person for the purpose of procuring the discharge of any worker in any firm or corporation, or to prevent any person from procuring work in such firm or corporation, such persons so combining shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
As Pinsof reached out to people, it turned out that Dale North, a Destructoid editor-in-chief and also a member of the GameJournoPros list, in a supposed effort to blacklist Pinsof. Days after Usher’s article went online, North resigned from Destructoid https://archive.today/G1oPf. Usher tried contacting North seeking clarifications, such as whether he had acted by himself or on orders from higher up when attempting to blacklist Pinsof on gameJournoPros, but receive no answer https://archive.today/JOsgq.
Pinsof’s experience with gaming journalists
Several parts of Pinsof’s unpublished Reddit post corroborate Gamergate’s accusations of corruption and cliqueism within the videogame journalism industry:
I do not aim to take down Destructoid. I could have sued months ago but I never wanted to give up months of productivity for that (which would lead to little, as they are on the verge of bankruptcy, not just figuratively). I only want the full truth to be out there so people can make informed decisions on who you support in game journalism and how you support them.I feel game journalists have failed me, but as someone who now neither writes the news nor reads the news (except Giant Bomb!), that doesn’t mean much. What’s important is that game journalists are failing you.What happened to me isn’t an isolated phenomenon but rather indicative of the corruption within game journalism that comes from financial factors leading ethics (ex. article on game that objectifies women while having headline close-ups of breasts on other articles) and game journalists being too close to each other.Sometimes that’s good, as when journalists protested Jeff Gerstmann when he was fired for giving a negative review to a game the site promoted. But in my case, that camaraderie made way for a culture where it’s okay to turn an eye to corruption because there is no easy way to make it right and no immediate financial benefit in doing so. And by ignoring another’s corruption, you can feel safe knowing they’ll ignore YOUR corruption in the future.
On 24 October, Pinsof made a ank-me-anything thread on Reddit https://archive.today/GHiG8. Claiming to be critical to both Gamergate and games journalists, he wrote of his opinion and experience about the industry, including how gaming journalism outlets are extremely averse to criticize each other, which contributes to an atmosphere of collusion. To this, he specifically cited Polygon’s review of Bayonetta 2 and how some other journalists felt like criticizing it, but the publications themselves were against that. Related to this is his claim that gaming journalists have become an elitist group, of which the GameJournoPros list is the most clear example and how many of them have intentions of getting into game development itself:
Dug through my email last night and found one where a writer linked Russ Pits saying 9/10 people on GameJournoPros said they want industry jobs. Sterling said that’s one of many reasons he’d never join. I laughed.
In regards to his dismissal, he stated that he was aware of the GameJournoPros blacklisting a year ago and looked into pursuing legal action, but decided against it as it would be long and costly.
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