What drives me to write about the internet troll horde is how often its characters do the very same things that they decry. For example, Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign and subsequent video series “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” are commonly denounced as scams, failures, or unacceptably poor products. Sarkeesian stands accused of being a ‘professional victim’, who profits from having her business singled out for harassment by an angry mob. In the eyes of her aggressors, Anita is a liar who distorts her image to appear more progressive and marketable to the public.
I find it hypocritical that Feminist Frequency is routinely denounced as a scam by a movement plagued by much scammier crowdfunding operations, many of which seem to merely enrich whoever’s collecting donations. I find it hypocritical when causes that are by-haters, for-haters, are held up as an example of the “empowerment” of women or the good work Gamergate has achieved. And this brings me to the Fine Young Capitalists.
The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC) are an opaque and ill-defined company, who in fact may be just one guy named “Matthew Rappard”. His mission statement is to “create the means for production” for women in the video game industry, but in practice TFYC generates more drama than content, and seems to more interested in stirring the shit than sitting at the table. To date, TFYC has created the means of production for six women at a price of approximately $80,000.
Matthew Rappard’s company’s logo looks like a feminist logo, or at at least it would, if feminist logos looked like posters for blaxsploitation films. The business model, it seems, is for Rappard to instigate slapfights with prominent feminists via social media, so that people who dislike those feminists will donate to his feminist-looking company out of spite. Rappard’s products, if I had to name them, are #Gamergate fanart and the illusion of inclusion. In reality, TFYC benefits a only a token number of women.
Instead of teaching women how to make games, TFYC proposes to make games for them, using their ideas. Many women compete for their game idea to get produced in an American Idol-like online selection process. Once a winner is selected, TYFC hires some other women (offshore, at a cut-rate price) to do the work of actually coding the game.
This is like the Barbie Dreamhouse version of women making video games. On the front end, women compete against each other so their game idea will get selected. On the back end, women code the game as third-party contractors, with no ownership of the product they are making. At the end of the day, the women who can’t make games still can’t, and the women who can are simply getting paid for their piecework. Both the women on the front end and the women at the back end remain dependent on TFYC to develop and fund these projects, which does not sound that empowering to me.
TFYC has done a lot more to damage established women in tech than it has to incubate new talent. For example, Rappard alleged that game developer Zoe Quinn doxxed him, which was not the case. (For those interested, Rappard seems to have been doxxed by a games reporter named Jonathan Ross.) Ultimately, Rappard retracted the allegations Quinn doxed him, posting a catty non-apology entitled “On Apologizing for Getting Punched in the Face”.
But if I was cynical, I would wonder if Rappard blamed his getting doxxed on Quinn because the Zoe Post was popular on 4chan. And I would wonder if 4chan only started donating to Rappard because he would inoculate them against accusations of sexism with his Potemkin village of a feminist company.
Thankfully I do not have to be cynical, because there is evidence that that is exactly what happened. In fact, TFYC created Gamergate’s gamer-famous cartoon waifu Vivian James as a reward for the many 4chan backers.
TYFC’s first (and to date, only) funded game, Undead Empire, ships August 14. Looking at the trailer, it doesn’t look like a game that cost $71,000 to make. It looks like a reskin of The Sims with some tycoon elements. It looks like the kind of women’s game that would get made if white dudes controlled every aspect of its production. It also kind of looks like TYFC tried to make the game as cheaply as possible, so they could keep the rest of the money they raised. At least, I think cheapskatery would explain why it’s only available on PC and Mac, when its graphics scream “mobile game.”
For what it is worth I do not believe Matthew Rappard is a bad person. He may have even started TFYC with the best of intentions, and just gotten caught up in the whirlwind of anonymous #Gamergate money. I just wish he would stop pretending to be a girl on the internet, or that his brand is somehow empowering to women. It is not, and he is not, in fact, Rappard tears down women who actually work for workplace equality and gaming.