Why, Wu?

Not being a gamer, the name Nolan Bushnell meant nothing to me. But what he created did, as I, like most young people in the ’70s, spent many hours with Atari’s magical game, Pong. And it seems right that the Game Developer’s Conference would choose to honor Atari’s co-founder with its Pioneer Award. Until it changed its mind.

Brianna Wu took to Twitter to disagree.

Note: Bushnell was at Atari in the 1970s, not the 80s.

What followed was the #NotNolan campaign and a quick article in The Verge that would result in the GDC rescinding the award the very next day, instead choosing to honor “the pioneering and unheard voices of the past.”

Why? Wu didn’t work for Atari. Wu made no claim of being subjected to any impropriety by Bushnell. Wu wasn’t there, and couldn’t have been there. She wasn’t yet alive. So why?

Brianna Wu is a former game developer currently running for United States congress in Massachusetts. She is an outspoken feminist activist who has been highly critical of the video game industry’s alleged misogyny and hostile treatment of women. She appeared on NPR on January 9 of this year to lament the lack of a #MeToo moment in the video game industry.

“You know, it’s hard for me because I want to have a hopeful message, especially for young women that are out there listening to this, but when it comes to the game industry itself, we are not having a #MeToo moment at all.”

She followed this up with a tweet saying, “If I am elected to Congress, I fully intend to launch hearings on hiring bias against women and PoC in the tech industry. It’s time to hit this culture of silence and abuse head on.”

Wu has a cause, and seized upon this award as an opportunity to promote it. Granted, her attack on Bushnell only impacted his receiving an award (and for the thinking impaired, no, there is no “due process” right to win an award). But attack she did.

Several hours after Brianna Wu’s tweets, Elizabeth Sampat, who bills herself as a game designer and activist, posted the first of the #NotNolan tweets. Two minutes later, Jennifer Scheurle, another game designer and activist, followed it up with her own tweet. The #NotNolan campaign had begun.

The early stage of the #NotNolan campaign consisted of a total of 26 tweets sent out by 18 accounts. Several of these accounts are listed as game developers, including a developer from Bungie, one from Blizzard, and one from id Software. These 26 tweets received a cumulative total of 221 retweets and 645 likes — and likely fewer than that when The Verge wrote about them, as I’m counting them several days later.

#NotNolan: why game creators are speaking out against the founder of Atari” appeared that night on the popular website, The Verge.

And so it became real. Not factual, but true in the sense that people so inclined chose to believe. Rather than face up to the mob, the GDC immediately caved. Bear in mind, awards are supposed to be good things, happy things, not controversies designed to foment outrage.

The Verge article was posted at 8:46pm that night. On the next day, at 11:20am, the GDC rescinded the Pioneer award from Nolan Bushnell.

Although many people disagreed with the decision based on the information available, it was later that day when an “unheard voice of the past” would make her voice heard and the defense of Nolan Bushnell would begin.

But as Brad Glasgow shows, by speaking to the women who actually worked at Atarai, the #NotNolan campaign was nothing more than a sham of false and twisted accusations by women who neither knew nor had anything to do with Atari.

From the stories of women who had personal knowledge, Atari was a pretty wild place in the ’70s, and everyone, women included, liked it. One of Wu’s “facts” was about Bushnell’s holding board meetings in a hot tub, and forcing women with whom he wanted to have sex to strip naked and take a dip.

Carol Kantor also talked to me about the hot tub. “[Bushnell] invited anyone to the hot tub who wanted to. It wasn’t a sexual thing. That’s the way it was in the 70s. Wasn’t Marin County known for hot tubs? It was a hot tub town. They were the in-thing at that particular time.”

This is but one of the many stories about sexual atrocities at Atari in those days. It was good for the men. It was good for the women, of which there were many as Bushnell hired on merit, and that meant smart women had a job at Atari. These were great times that younger people will never know.

“If it’s dirt you’re after — then it’s both men and women there, equally, who were sexual and laid back and brilliant and creative and they all helped to shape the very early pioneering days of the gaming industry. They all have nothing to be ashamed of or accused of. It was that very environment that would create the best games ever by the brightest people ever.”

Jennifer Scheurle, a woman who didn’t “create the best games ever,” blue tick next to her twitter handle, jumped on Wu’s attack against Bushnell, and against former Atari employee and Bushnell defender, Loni Reeder.

In the exchange, Scheurle said to Reeder, “There are people who are not like you, who have been survivors and who don’t want to speak up.”

Reeder asked Scheurle to provide her with the names and contact info for the individuals who stated that they were harmed or offended by Bushnell, so she could speak with them and hear their stories, to which Scheurle replied, “You don’t understand. I don’t have to prove anything to you and neither do they. It is your job to practice empathy to an experience that might differ from your own.”

Nolan Bushnell likely won’t lose sleep for having the Pioneer Award taken from him, but will Wu win election for attacking him? As Lee Keller King, who was kind enough to send over Brad Glasgow’s post, said, Scheurle’s twit captured the essence of what’s happening.

That is apparently the standard amongst the woke. Facts don’t matter; the presumption of innocence doesn’t matter; only the accusations and the “experience” of the accusers matters.

In a post-fact, post-logic world, the duty shifts from proving wildly false and irrational accusations to disproving them. Why did Brianna Wu attack Bushnell? It’s a lot easier than creating Pong, or whatever its equivalent today would be, and will certainly gain her more likes from the useful scolds who could never accomplish what Bushnell did.

30 comments on “Why, Wu?

  1. LTMG

    Wu, and those of her ilk, would excoriate Jesus for having spoken with Mary Magdalene. Perhaps Wu’s forbears did.

    1. SHG Post author

      That Wu, et al., indulge their fantasies is a small part of the problem. There are, and always will be, puny people riding the coattails of people who actually achieved important things in their life. The larger part is that anyone would give a shit or lack the skepticism to doubt her “truth.”

      1. PseudonymousKid

        You don’t need to be a skeptic to know that Wu didn’t speak to anyone involved and wasn’t there herself. Abigail is crying, “witch!” again. Even the puritans eventually saw through the ruse.

      2. B. McLeod

        Our politics today are extensively blighted by these single-issue nutjobs. Each party has a fanatical core group of people with their special, little one-thing-they-care-about. Both parties are afraid to push back against their respective nutjobs, because the polling margins are so close the candidates feel like they have to pander to “their” extremists. It has given us two ostensible “parties” completely out of touch with the concerns of the mainstream citizenry. The only way rationality or a focus on the national interest can ever be restored is if candidates agree to hold hands and concurrently jettison all of these imbeciles.

  2. Lawrence Kaplan

    The issue is not Wu’s attack. The issue is that GDC caved in so quickly and if Ignominiously m.

    1. SHG Post author

      That GDC caved at the hint of controversy was cowardly. That said, there can be more than one issue. Expand your view.

      1. Lawrence Kaplan

        True. I should have said the issue is not so much Wu’s attack as that the GDC caved in so quickly.

  3. B. McLeod

    Well, we have to change history for “the people who don’t want to speak up.” Because the batshit crazy ones who are ignorant of the facts, yet never shut up, demand it. So, take the people they unilaterally judge out of the history books. (Looks a lot like Stalinism).

      1. B. McLeod

        Well, that would have been an interesting alternative history, better at least for several million Ukrainians, and probably for the world as a whole.

  4. Skink

    “You don’t understand. I don’t have to prove anything to you and neither do they. It is your job to practice empathy to an experience that might differ from your own.”

    That says it all. Don’t ask these people to confront the real issues of the world. Don’t ask them to solve a complicated puzzle of facts. Please, don’t dishonor them by trying to teach the proper use of a syllogism.

    All the feelz people, regardless the subject matter or goal-directed plan, are the result of logic set aside. It’s not a refusal of thought, but an inability coupled with a stubborn refusal to recognize the error. They can’t run the world this way.

    1. SHG Post author

      All true, yet unavailing. They believe and hide within a shell that reason can’t invade. Worse yet, it’s not just the Wus. There is a contingent of woke lawyers incapable of rational thought, but allowed to hold other people’s lives and fortunes in their hands. They lack both the capacity and desire to be rational, but they’re filled with righteous indignation.

      Remember William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2? There’s no longer any need to kill the lawyers. They’ll kill themselves.

    2. Patrick Maupin

      But where is her empathy for my lived experience of a testosterone-poisoning induced empathy deficit?

      After all, I will never be able to know and experience the full range of empathetic feelings that Ms. Scheurle can, unless I…

      Never mind. I’m good.

      1. PseudonymousKid

        You aren’t understanding. She doesn’t have to prove anything to you. Your reluctance to walk a mile in her shoes means #youtoo hate women.

        1. Patrick Maupin

          You aren’t understanding.

          Exactly. Testosterone-poisoning induced empathy deficit, remember?

          Your reluctance to walk a mile in her shoes…

          I tried. The damn things won’t fit, and I was too heavy and broke a heel. TBH, that may be one of the reasons she hates me.

  5. Dan T.

    Are any of the people speaking out against Bushnell actually somebody who worked for Atari at the time he was running it, or are they all just speaking from second-hand or third-hand hearsay?

  6. Jardinero1

    Our blog host and commentors do not appear to have a full appreciation of the amazing, absolute, depth of this rabbit hole. Please google “Brianna Wu gamergate” or “Brianna Wu John Flynt”

      1. Patrick Maupin

        I believe you are correct, and additionally believe that most regulars fully appreciate that, for good reason, ad hominem arguments often don’t gain much traction here. Now if the rest of the world would only follow suit…

  7. Fubar

    You don’t understand. I don’t have to prove anything to you and neither do they. It is your job to practice empathy to an experience that might differ from your own.

  8. Geezerette

    Brianna Wu is a transexual woman(?) who was on the losing side in the gamer gate war a couple of years ago.

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