April 23, 2018

Hugo Reading 2018: Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn

 Crash Override by Zoe  Quinn

This book surprised me. It's not very long, and it's a fast and at times harrowing read. Zoe Quinn was one of the first victims of the nasty Internet blowup from a few years ago known as Gamergate. Unfortunately, her life has changed forever because of it, and she admits she probably won't ever be the carefree, nerdy little game developer she once was. All because of a nasty ex-boyfriend and a slavering horde of sycophants who were all too eager to bring a torrent of abuse crashing down on Zoe's (and other people's) heads, for basically no reason. (I don't care if she did sleep with five guys--or any number of guys [which she didn't]--to get a review for her game. This in no way justifies the doxxing, the rape and death threats, the phone calls to her friends and family, the stain on her reputation, the lost jobs, and the overall vile actions of the mob.)

This book roughly splits the difference between a memoir--what happened to Quinn and how she dealt with it--and a how-to book--how you, as the reader, can protect yourself against online abuse. Some of it is pretty damn pessimistic, especially when the police and tech company representatives dole out such stupid advice as "If this is what the Internet is like, then get off it." That is nonsense. The focus should be on changing the culture and corraling the abusers, not letting them take over and harass people with impunity. I found the how-to chapters particularly interesting, full of practical and pragmatic advice. There is also advice for those who want to assist victims, starting with a simple bottom line: consent is key. Always let the victim set the boundaries of what should be done and when, or anything at all.

At the end of this book, Quinn shows how she is beginning to recover, even going back to making games again. I feel for her, and wish her well. She's managed to take a bunch of rotten lemons and make some tasty lemonade, but I certainly wish it hadn't been necessary.

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