A profile of Leigh Alexander.
is a writer for Boing Boing’s Offworld, and former Editor At Large for Gamasutra. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Slate, Paste, Kill Screen, GamePro, Vice, Kotaku and numerous other publications. She also writes regularly about gaming and internet culture on her personal blog.
Alexander is arguably most famous for her article that was published on 28 August 2014 at Gamasutra, titled ‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over. The article itself is a scathing attack on what she perceives to be the “gamer identity”, which described it as made up of “obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers” as well as a somewhat in-congruent argument to the industry to stop developing products for “gamers”.
On that same day, eight different articles either directly citing Alexander’s work, or referencing similar themes appeared on eight other gaming journalism websites. Members of the gaming community have called this event the “Gamers are Dead media blitz’’ and have hypothesized that these articles were orchestrated either directly, or indirectly, through the GameJournoPros mailing list, which Alexander has been historically connected to.
In addition to being a regular contributor to several gaming websites, Alexander has also authored two e-books. These two books are Breathing Machine, which she describes as “a 66-page digital book exploring a childhood alongside primitive computers and the mysteries of the early internet” and Clipping Through, which is “a personal digital book exploring life and work in the games industry through the lens of the Game Developers’ Conference and interpersonal relationships. Self-published for pay-what-you-want, as an experiment in creating sustainable revenue for myself and others.” At the XOXO Festival 2014, she admitted to deliberately leaking her book Breathing Machine online ahead of its publishing date. Despite accepting their money, she did so to sabotage the book’s publisher, Thought Catalog, after disagreeing with some of the content that they published online.
Overall Themes and Criticism
Much of Alexander’s work focuses on critical analysis of the video game industry and gaming culture, in particular aspects related to issues such as social good, feminism and increased diversity in tech spaces. However she also has a history of defending the industry and/or specific publishers, with the most notable example being her defense of Grand Theft Auto IV from criticism by feminist blog Feministing as well as her response to Forbes Contributor Erik Kain’s criticism of BioWare’s Mass Effect 3, in which she writes in response to Kain:
Kinda gross; first, there was this piece about how the writer’s inexperienced outsider status somehow made him more qualified to tell BioWare fans they deserved a new ending for Mass Effect than we industry-bought jaded game journo types; actually, there were multiple different blog-style stories from multiple authors that seemed pretty transparently geared to exploit the environment of fan ire toward BioWare and toward game reviewers — Leigh Alexander
Kain responded with the following criticism in the article titled Do Gaming Journalists Need To Grow Up?:
Alexander’s commentary surprised me at the time, as she seems like a journalist much more inclined to critical analysis of the industry, and one who isn’t uncomfortable writing pieces like, well, her piece in Edge
So what, precisely, should journalists do to “grow up?”
If being critical of BioWare, the gaming press, and the “artistic integrity” arguments made at the time is reason to simply dismiss Forbes altogether — Alexander wrote at the time that Forbes had likely “hired new writers that they don’t have to pay very much, and relying on the guaranteed forum and Reddit hits that come from telling superfans of “geek culture” what they want to hear” — (and this is from a journalist who is actively asking the press to be more critical) then I’m just not at all sure what the gaming press ought to do. — Erik Kain
Alexander has also been open on her stance on biased journalist writing, saying, at XOXO Fest: “Whether I’m doing interviews, criticism, anything, no pretense on being unbiased.” Regarding her ethics policy, she has stated that she wants to “make sure that those I love stand the longest”, which corresponds with the lack of disclosing her conflicts of interest.
Allegations of Abusive Speech and Harassment
Alexander has a history of making questionable or offensive comments on social media, particularly Twitter. A rather infamous series of tweets shows her attacking the game Twisted Metal, as well as several other disparaging tweets attacking the sex lives of developers, which sparked off a long feud between her and David Jaffe.
She has been accused of making thinly veiled racist tweets against African-Americans, supports ‘doxing’ (the practice of revealing personal information to the public), which she has done so herself, and has publicly threatened to end careers and blacklist aspiring developers or writers based on their political views.
In August 2007, Leigh Alexander published an article on Destructoid titled “Karma’s a bitch: Jack Thompson has heart trouble”, in which she mocks Jack Thompson’s heart condition. “You reap what you sow”, she writes, “and now the elevated blood pressure that Jack Thompson causes all of us gamers with his ignorant mouth-frothings is giving him a big bushel of reciprocal come-uppance.” She ends the article by jokingly suggesting her readers to send him “some (…) poison candy”.
In June, 2013, Alexander went on a vitriolic Twitter rant against prominent Penny Arcade cartoonist Mike Krahulik for allegedly “transphobic” behaviour. Krahulik subsequently apologized and donated $20,000 to the LGBT charity The Trevor Project. Despite the apology and donation, Krahulik was still widely criticized by the wider feminist blogging community and his intentions and sincerity were cast into doubt.
In February 2015, Leigh Alexander commented on both TotalBiscuit and the developers that commented on #GamerGate during that period of time, such as Mark Kern. Leigh called TotalBiscuit “total chode” and then further went on to sarcastically claim “life is hard for him” despite being well aware of his ongoing battle with cancer, even going so far as to favourite the tweet of someone who called it the “most easily treated form of cancer”. You can see an image compilation of TotalBiscuits replies here. On the developers, she stated “most of the devs who have been pompously ‘neutral’ or in favor of GG are over a certain age and work in outmoded design forms” On Ken Levine, she stated “I wonder if Ken Levine is ever kept awake at night, haunted by how many poorly-read objectivist gamers he unwittingly created” though later stated that it “was a joke” and “not meant as an insult” towards Ken Levine.
On November 16 2015, Offworld published a tweet on its Twitter account about an article that Leigh Alexander had written about the game Trumpiñata, a game in which you could beat up a Piñata version of Donald Trump. One Twitter user noted that if Alexander approved of this game, " then surely you approve of the game “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” too?’’, to which she replied by saying “pls get hit by a bus today’’.
Conflicts of Interest
1. Andy Schatz - Alexander wrote an article for Vice about Andy Schatz’s game Monaco, which was published on 30 April 2013. Although she admitted to being friends with Schatz in April 2011, she failed to provide disclosure of this friendship in the article, as is also evident in a number of Twitter conversations.
2. Anna Antrophy - Leigh Alexander has written a total of 7 articles about Anna Antrophy in which she failed to disclose their personal relationship, as evident in numerous tweets. The articles were published on 29 August 2011 for Kotaku, on 20 October 2011 for The Escapist, on 30 March 2012 for Gamasutra, on 5 December 2012 for Vice, on 7 January 2013 for Edge, on 2 April 2013 for Kotaku and on 9 September 2015 for Offworld.
Alexander has herself commented on her relationship with Anna Anthropy in her book Clipping Through. In the book, written in 2014, Alexander mentions two occasions in which she spent leisure time with Anthropy. The first occasion was when Anna was at Alexander’s apartment and read a story Leigh had written as a child. The second occasion was when Alexander and Anthropy went to drink at a bar in New York. According to Alexander, this happened “about two years ago,” probably around 2012 since Alexander’s book was written in 2014.
3. Babycastles - Alexander first wrote about Babycastles, a gaming collective/venue in New York City, for the LA Times on 15 August 2010. Although referring to them as friends on her personal blog in July 2010, she fails to disclose her personal relationship with two of the founders of Babycastles, Kunal Gupta and Syed Salahuddin in the article.
She wrote another article about Babycastles for Gamasutra on 17 September 2012, which was primarily a promotional profile. Within the article, Corbetta’s game Hokra (part of the Sportsfriends collection) is promoted with direct links to a purchasing portal. Alexander has been Facebook friends with Corbetta since as early as May 2010. During the same month, the two started to communicate through Twitter and socialise with each other in person. On 5 August 2010, a status update from Alexander’s Google+ account shows her in the presence of various indie gaming figures such as Phil Fish, Corbetta and Indiefund member Simon Ferrari, joking about to “drunk-dialing” the former Gamasutra Editor, and former Independent Games Festival Chairman Brandon Boyer from Babycastles. On 15 July 2011, Leigh Alexander curated an admission-only event entitled Bad Bitches at Babycastles. On 4 November 2011, a tweet demonstrates that Alexander and Ramiro were again being social with a group of indie developers at Babycastles, while Corbetta also published favourable tweets about the articles that Alexander wrote about Babycastles. No disclosure about this friendship could be found in the article.
4. Christine Love — On 4 September 2012, Alexander wrote a promotional profile of indie developer Christine Love’s games, Digital: A Love Story and Analogue: A Hate Story, for a reoccurring column in Vice. Upon closer investigation, several Tweets were recovered that demonstrate that Love and Alexander have a personal, non-professional relationship. Alexander did not disclose this conflict of interest in her piece.
5. Gone Home/Fullbright - Gone Home is a video game made by the Fullbright Company, a small game developing company consisting of Steve Gaynor, Karla Zimonja, Johnnemann Nordhagen, and Kate Craig. Johnnemann would leave Fullbright on 2014 to start his own company. Leigh wrote two favourable articles about the game on 15 August 2013 for Gamasutra and on 11 September 2013 for The Atlantic. Neither article included disclosure of Alexander's friendship with several of the people who had prominent roles in the making of the game:
- Chris Remo - Remo composed Gone Home’s original score. He has been friends with Leigh Alexander on Facebook since August 2008, while also being Gamasutra’s Editor at Large between April 2008 to August 2010, a period in which he and Alexander were co-workers.
- Johnnemann Nordhagen - Nordhagen had been having friendly Twitter conversations with Alexander since May 2010.
- Karla Zimonja - Zimonja and Alaxander had been having Twitter conversations since January 2013. In a conversation from April 2013, Zimonja praised Alexander, who in return expressed hope to hang out with Zimonja in the future and explicitly called her a friend of hers.
- Kate Craig - Craig and Alexander had been having friendly Twitter conversations since March 2013. In a conversation from April 2013 Alexander expressed hope to hang out with Craig in the future and explicitly called her a friend of hers.
- Sarah Elmaleh - Sarah Elmaleh is a voice actress who voiced Katie, Gone Home’s playable character. Leigh Alexander and Sarah Elmaleh have been conversing through twitter since October 2010, and also became Facebook friends during that month. In between that time and Alexander’s coverage of Gone Home, Alexander and Elmaleh had hung out with each other several times.
- Steve Gaynor - Alexander and Gaynor have been communicating via Twitter since October 2008 and have been Facebook friends since May 2009. Some of the Twitter conversations Alexander and Gaynor had prior to the her articles about Gone Home show them to be quite friendly. According to Alexander, as she wrote in her book Clipping Through (p. 18, p. 50), Gaynor had told her that her writing about her father may have unconsciously influenced the character of the father in Gone Home. The possible connection between Alexander’s father and the Gone Home character has been referred to in a Twitter conversation Gaynor had with Alexander.
6. Ian Bogost - Between April 2009 and December 2010, Leigh Alexander wrote 6 articles for Gamasutra about Ian Bogost and his games. In these articles, she failed to disclose that she and Bogost had a professional relationship, as they wrote for the same media outlet. Numerous Twitter conversations show the two to have a personal relationship, and Alexander would later write an article for Kotaku on 3 October 2011, in which she admitted to being friends with him since 2007. She would later go on to write 11 more articles for Gamasutra, Vice and Boing Boing about Bogost. She failed to disclose their personal and professional relationship in all 17 articles.
7. Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris - On 17 January 2014, Alexander wrote an article on Gamasutra about Redshirt, a game developed by Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris. Not disclosed in the article was Alexander’s friendship with Khandaker. The two have been communicating through twitter since 2009, the same year in which they also became Facebook friends. Twitter conversations from March 2013 show Alexander and Khandaker to be very close, and likewise Alexander referred to Khandaker as “my friend” in a blog post from post April 14, 2011.
8. Naomi Clark - On 3 May 2013, Alexander wrote a Gamasutra article about Sissyfight, a game made by Naomi Clark, Ranjit Bhatnagar and Eric Zimmerman. In another Gamasutra article from 3 November 2014, Alexander praised Clark and Consentacles, a card game Clark had developed. A third article about Clark was published on Offworld on 2 June 2015, in which she writes favourably about a series of essays that Naomi Clark had launched on her website, to which Alexander links in the article.
Not disclosed in either of these three articles was the friendship between Alexander and Clark. The two have started communicating through twitter since February 2012 and became Facebook friends a month afterwards. Their twitter conversations appear to be quite friendly, and they have also made plans to meet with each other in person in April 2012, 25–26 March 2014 and 30 March 2014. Gaming journalist William Usher, who has identified Clark as part of the same inner circle Alexander belongs to, has asked Alexander for comment regarding her coverage of Clark. Usher found Alexander’s response as having “lots of evasion”, as she stated the following:
I’d suggest leaving this one alone unless you know exactly what’s going on and people are coming to you with facts. — Leigh Alexander
9. Robert Yang - Alexander wrote three articles about Robert Yang’s games on Offworld: one about Stick Shift on 6 April 2015, and two about Rinse and Repeat on 21 September 2015 and 25 September 2015, in which she also links to Yang’s website. Alexander failed to disclose a personal relationship between the two, as she and Yang made plans to hang out with each other in May 2013. Shortly before hanging out, they also moderated a panel together with Mattie Brice and Haitham Ennasr at the Different Games conference.
10. Robin Arnott - Alexander has covered Robin Arnott’s SoundSelf when it was an IGF finalist on 27 February 2014 on Gamasutra, without disclosing any sort of a relationship with Arnott, despite the numerous Twitter conversations that Alexander and Arnott had on Twitter as far back as July 2011, some of which were quite friendly. Arnott and Alexander also went out for drinks with Zoe Quinn on 16 March 2014, less than one month after Alexander covered SoundSelf.
11. Zoe Quinn - On 20 March 2014, Zoe Quinn was quoted by Leigh Alexander in a Gamasutra article about LGBT characters in video games. No disclosure was made in the article regarding any personal relationship between Alexander and Quinn, despite the fact that just five days prior to the article being published Quinn and Alexander made plans to drink with each other.