Zoë Quinn

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Zoë Quinn
Zoe Quinn at GDC 2016 (25777166301) (cropped).jpg
Quinn presenting at the 2016 Game Developers Conference
Born 1987 (age 34–35)
United States
Occupation Celebrity, Feminist activist
Known for Depression Quest
Website www.unburntwitch.com

Chelsea Van Valkenburg, better known by the alias Zoë Quinn, (born 1987) is a far-left American feminist celebrity. Quinn developed the 1980s style Text-based game Depression Quest, a Twine game released on Steam. In 2014, a blog post by her ex-boyfriend (Eron Goji) claiming serial infidelity and emotional abuse by Van Valkenburg sparked the Gamergate controversy, which was rooted in the claims many of her affairs were with gaming journalists and an exchange of sex for favorable reviews of her game. Van Valkenburg has claimed to be, and has been portrayed in much of the media, as a victim of extensive harassment due to the revealations by her ex-boyfriend.

On August 26th 2019[1], she publicised unsubstantiated allegations that Canadian game designer Alec Holowka had subjected her to abuse and sexual assault a decade earlier, causing Holowka to lose his job, and, on August 31st[2], commit suicide.

Early life

Quinn was born in 1987 and spent her childhood in a small town near the Adirondack Mountains in New York.[3] Growing up, she often played video games. One of her favorites was Commander Keen, an MS-DOS game featuring an eight-year-old protagonist who builds a spaceship with items found around his house and then travels the galaxy defending the Earth. As a teenager, Quinn suffered from depression; she was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 14. She has described receiving little sympathy or assistance from school district officials, who were, she says, "less than understanding about teens with depression and suicide issues".[4]


At the age of 24, Quinn moved to Canada, where she made her first forays into video game programming. Her first game was the result of a six-week course on video-game creation that she attended after seeing an advertisement in a newspaper. In a later interview for The New Yorker, she said of this experience, "I felt like I'd found my calling."[4]

Depression Quest

Through her early game-development work, Quinn met Patrick Lindsey, a writer. Like Quinn, Lindsey struggled with depression. He felt that existing video games that dealt with the subject did not adequately depict the real emotions associated with depression, instead utilizing metaphor and symbolism. He suggested to Quinn that they write a new video game to better help others understand their experience. Quinn thought a game would be a good way to depict depression, imposing a set of rules on players they might not otherwise experience in their day-to-day lives. Quinn and Lindsey teamed with Isaac Schankler for the game's music, and released the final result of their collaboration, the text-based Depression Quest, in February 2013.[4][5]

Depression Quest details the troubled life of a person suffering from depression.[6] Quinn attempted to publish the game on Steam Greenlight service twice — in December 2013 and later in August 2014, when it was accepted and released by Steam.[7] Depression Quest was featured in a Playboy article as one of several video games dealing with the subjective experience of depression.[8]

Other projects

In addition to her own game development projects, Quinn is also known for creating the Game Developer Help List, designed to bring experienced game developers and novice developers into contact with one another.[9] In 2014, Quinn was to be part of the cancelled YouTube reality television show codenamed "Game_Jam", which was intended to bring together a number of prominent indie game developers.[10] She has additionally worked on Fez, Jazzpunk, They Bleed Pixels and several jam games.[citation needed]

Quinn was a narrative design consultant[11] for Loveshack Entertainment's iOS game Framed.[12] Quinn is also working on a full motion video game starring Greg Sestero.[13]

Quinn contributed a chapter to Videogames for Humans, a book about games made using the Twine tool.[14] She also contributed a chapter to the book The State of Play: Sixteen Voices on Video Games, detailing her experiences making Depression Quest and the subsequent harassment she faced.[15] In 2015, she appeared in the documentary GTFO.[16]

Harassment and Gamergate

In August 2014 Van Valkenburg's boyfriend Eron Goji posted a lengthy blog post on Something Awful detailing his relationship with Quinn. Based on the contents of the post, Quinn was described as deceptive, emotionally abuse, controlling, promiscuous, and accused of exchanging sex for positive coverage of her game from a journalist. Her supporters later claimed that the journalist in question had only once briefly mentioned her work, and not while they were in a relationship.[17][18] These accusations sparked the Gamergate controversy. Quinn claims to have suffered a long period of harassment including doxing, rape threats, and death threats as a result of the controversy.[19] Harassment associated with Gamergate resulted in widespread recognition of misogyny in gaming.[20]

According to The New Yorker, the harassment escalated to the point where Quinn, "fearing for her safety, chose to leave her home" and began working with the authorities to identify those responsible for the harassment.[4] She detailed her experience in an interview on MSNBC's Ronan Farrow Daily, saying that Gamergate represented a rapidly shrinking fringe among an increasingly diverse gaming community and that those attacking her and other women in gaming needed "to just grow up".[21] Speaking with BBC News, she said the harassment had consumed her life, leading her to feel as if she was "surrounded by nothing but hate — it's virulent, it's everywhere" and that she was "just trying to survive". The attacks on her boiled down to "the same accusation everybody makes toward every successful woman: she got to where she is because she had sex with someone" and she said Gamergate had targeted "the people with the least power in the industry". "[I] used to go to games events and feel like I was going home... Now it's just like... are any of the people I'm currently in the room with, the ones that said they wanted to beat me to death?"[22] Quinn claims her therapist remarked of the harassment, "I don't even know what to tell you, this is so f-‍-‍-ing far outside anything I'm aware of."[23]

In January 2015, Quinn co-founded Crash Override, a private network of experts to assist victims of online harassment[24][25] which in March 2015 joined forces with Randi Harper's Online Abuse Prevention Initiative.[26][27][28]

Personal life

Quinn is interested in human enhancement, and has implanted an NTag216 chip in the back of her hand that can be programmed to perform various functions. Her first use of the chip was to load it with the download code for the game Deus Ex.[29] She also has a magnetic implant in her left ring finger.[29][30][31]

See also


  1. "Sexual allegation tweets".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. ""Night in the Woods Dev Alec Holowka Dies After Zoe Quinn Sexual Assault Allegations"".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Jason, Zachary (28 April 2015). "Game of Fear". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 14 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Parkin, Simon (9 September 2014). "Zoe Quinn's Depression Quest". The New Yorker. Retrieved 15 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "'Depression Quest' Now Available on Steam". Game Politics. 13 August 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Why the co-creator of Depression Quest is fighting back against Internet trolls". Edge. 23 January 2014. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Depression Quest Now Available on Steam for Free". AusGamers. Retrieved 18 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Rougeau, Mike (25 November 2014). "Resistance is Futile: The New Wave of Video Games about Depression". Playboy.com. Retrieved 27 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Wawro, Alex (18 December 2013). "Game Developer Help List rallies industry vets to aid rookie devs". Gamasutra. Retrieved 17 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Matulef, Jeffrey (1 April 2014). "Game jam reality show cancelled as indies wouldn't put up with its s***". Eurogamer. Retrieved 17 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Framed Press Kit". Loveshack Entertainment. Retrieved 3 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Griffiths, Daniel Nye (30 April 2014). "Quest Love – 'Depression Quest' Creator Zoe Quinn Joins Hot Indie 'Framed'". Retrieved 17 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Donaldson, Ricky (18 April 2014). "Zoe Quinn's Follow Up To Depression Quest is a FMV Game". Retrieved 17 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Joseph, Daniel (4 May 2015). "What's a Twine Game? Let 'Videogames for Humans' Show You". Motherboard. Retrieved 24 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Tremblay, Kaitlin (20 August 2015). "Review: What Is The State of Play in Video Games Right Now?". The Mary Sue. Retrieved 24 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Ito, Robert (6 March 2015). "In the Documentary 'GTFO,' Female Video Gamers Fight Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Stuart, Bob (24 October 2014). "#GamerGate: the misogynist movement blighting the video games industry — Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Parkin, Simon (17 October 2014). "Gamergate: A Scandal Erupts in the Video-Game Community". The New Yorker. Retrieved 9 February 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Heron, Michael James; Belford, Pauline; Goker, Ayse (2014). "Sexism in the circuitry". ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society. Association for Computing Machinery. 44 (4): 18–29. doi:10.1145/2695577.2695582. ISSN 0095-2737.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Levy, Karyne (2 September 2014). "Game Developers Are Finally Stepping Up To Change Their Hate-Filled Industry". Business Insider. Retrieved 7 September 2014. The game industry has been in the spotlight for the past week, with several incidents of harassment and sexism making headlines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Exclusive: Woman who sparked Gamergate". Ronan Farrow Daily. 20 October 2014. MSNBC.com. Retrieved 27 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Lee, Dave (29 October 2014). "Zoe Quinn: GamerGate must be condemned". BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Sheelah Kolhatkar (26 November 2014). "The Gaming Industry's Greatest Adversary Is Just Getting Started". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 26 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Mendoza, Jessica (20 January 2015). "Online harassment targets strike back against abusers. Will it work?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 21 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Hudson, Laura (20 January 2015). "Gamergate Target Zoe Quinn Launches Anti-Harassment Support Network". Wired. Retrieved 22 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Takahashi, Dean (3 March 2015). "Zoe Quinn and other female game developers speak out against harassment". VentureBeat. Retrieved 5 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Weunberger, Matt (4 March 2015). "Zoe Quinn, Gamergate developer: How to protect yourself - Business Insider". Business Insider. Retrieved 5 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Needleman, Sarah E. (4 March 2015). "Game Developer: The Gaming Industry Is Not Doing Enough to Combat Misogyny". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. 29.0 29.1 Hernandez, Patricia (7 May 2014). "Woman puts Deus Ex on computer chip in her hand". Kotaku. Retrieved 17 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Kleppek, Patrick (7 May 2014). "Zoe Quinn has embraced our cybernetic future". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 8 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Pepitone, Julianne (11 July 2014). "Cyborgs Among Us: Human 'Biohackers' Embed Chips In Their Bodies". NBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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