Today women make up around 50 per cent of video game market, yet in 2011 they directed just two per cent of games. That's according to The Fine Young Capitalists, whose stated goal is to give women the opportunity to layout the creative vision for their own game which will then be turned into a reality. They also have an initiative intended to bring more black characters into manga.
With seemingly noble goals, The Fine Young Capitalists is a partnership between Canadian company Empowered Up and Colombian transmedia production company Autobótika and earlier this year, they began accepting submissions for a game made by women.
Some protested that this discriminated against men, but other organisations ranging from the European Union to engineering groups have arranged contests exclusively to promote women within male dominated industries. Worryingly however, those who made successful pitches were asked to work for free with the only compensation for their efforts coming from any potential profits from sales of their game.
Not the best way to compensate someone for their work, but with the objective of introducing more women to the world of game development, The Fine Young Capitalists appeared to be very much an organisation worth supporting.
Today, the group has five games created by women who have never before designed games and are seeking funding to produce what the internet deems to be the best title, with all profits going to charity, apart from eight per cent set aside for the successful candidate. On the surface, it looks like a fine continuation of The Fine Young Capitalists' goals. Yet it is the source of their support which raises eyebrows about the entire initiative. Given their stated aims of improving the position of women with gaming – and the inherent feminist ideology which goes along with such a pursuit – it seems The Fine Young Capitalists are, or should be, at odds with those who support them.
Within the last month, Zelda Williams was forced temporarily offline by the abusive comments of those who mocked the tragic death of her father; a host of female celebrities were met with a wave of apathy concerning the gross violation of their privacy, and Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave home due to threats more virulent than usual.
Even PewDiePie has disabled comments citing the “sh*t” remarks on his videos. The problem with misogyny and vicious comments is by no means limited to the gaming community, but it seems especially voracious and that is why The Fine Young Capitalists, and their supporters, must be questioned. It is true that a IndieGoGo campaign has no more say in who backs it than a Kickstarter or a Patreon, itself a platform which has come under much scrutiny of late (which is also one of the few places where women and people of colour in gaming have found success), but not once has there been a rebuttal of the vicious attacks made by some of its supporters.
Following the leak of hundreds of nude celebrity images this past week, Reddit predictably jumped on the pictures like sharks who’ve caught the scent of blood. Then they felt bad about it. So bad in fact, that quite a number of its members tried to donate to prostate cancer. I say ‘tried to’ because the charity in question, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, aware of where they were getting the money from and why, rejected the donations.
It would send a powerful signal if The Fine Young Capitalists took a similar stance in relation to money raised from known abusers and harassers.
Nor has there been any condemnation from The Fine Young Capitalists of the fact that they are being used as a proxy by those who believe social justice is somehow seeking to undermine an industry with more games and more genres than anyone could ever play to excuse harassing and, often threatening, commentary.
Some of these people are well known; be they notable YouTubers or Adam Baldwin, yet the majority are not, and a cursory glance at mentions of The Fine Young Capitalists on Twitter or Reddit is enough to attest to the fact that they are very much involved in the ongoing harassment of women within the industry – attacks purportedly spurred by a desire to see greater 'ethics' in games media – regardless of their stated goals.
The Fine Young Capitalists have nevertheless entered the fray, stating on their Tumblr page, "Please members of serious social justice movements. When you say that 4chan cannot take part in a project, you are oppressing them. By the very definition of the word you are. "
4chan – the internet equivalent of Mos Eisley – is being oppressed, really? Are “serious social justice movements” the equivalent of the Galactic Empire in The Fine Young Capitalists’ eyes?
That same Tumblr post concludes, "Changing the mind of the small minority that are misogynists is far more important." Yes, it is, but that mild mannered rebuke is the closest they have come to criticising the harsh rhetoric of those on either side of the debate.
When the 'Quinnspiracy' broke out in light of allegations (and that's all they are) of favourable coverage from Kotaku in exchange for sex, a Redditor using the handle SillySlader claimed that Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn deliberately sabotaged The Fine Young Capitalists' efforts in order to promote Rebel Jam, a similar event she's currently organising.
It was alleged that "facts" proved Zoe had either fabricated or severely embellished, the threats made against her. Yet they do no such thing, instead being little more than implications and innuendos.
The Fine Young Capitalists' founder claimed on August 19th that he had been 'doxxed' (had his personal information shared online) by one of Zoe’s “associates”. The following day he wrote on the group’s website, “I do not feel Zoe understood the ramifications of what her associate was posting or how it would affect me professionally and personally.”
It seems highly unlikely that, having seen Phil Fish’s information similarly shared over his support of Zoe, she would have been unaware of what doing so might entail. The label “associate” also suggests that this was done by someone with whom Zoe was not particularly close, or perhaps did know at all, and most likely without Zoe’s knowledge or approval.
The Fine Young Capitalists’ founder wrote on their website that the fallout from recent events has cost him $10,000 and adds, “I have paid this money and it has not affected my standard of living. The fallout she (Zoe) is receiving, from what she personally described to me, is.”
This money was lost, he declares, because his business partner walked away as a result of negative publicity while a sponsor withdrew over transphobia concerns. Those issues must be addressed before The Fine Young Capitalists can truly be considered inclusive and progressive.
Absolutely nothing is wrong with wanting to encourage more women to make games and nothing is wrong with wanting to see more black manga characters, but for as long as The Fine Young Capitalists draw on the support of those who harass Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, or anyone else for designing and criticising games, their legitimacy and their intentions must be questioned.
A quick look at the comments of their supporters shows a major recurring theme, that major gaming sites have not provided coverage of The Fine Young Capitalists, and that is a fair point. They deserve to be reported on, and they deserve to scrutinised, just like Sarkeesian deserves the right to critique video games. Their founder did not deserve to have his personal information shared publicly but for an organisation seemingly so intent on helping minorities break into new mediums, they draw far too much support from the same tired old clique of misogynists and harassers.
If they will not outright reject the donations of abusers, then they should use this opportunity to at least condemn their actions.
The actions and comments of some on both sides of the #GamerGate debate have reflected badly on all involved but only The Fine Young Capitalists can speak for themselves and their supporters and so far, they have utterly failed to do so.