John Bain

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John Bain

Aliases TotalBiscuit, TotalHalibut, The Cynical Brit
Occupation YouTube producer
Affiliations Polaris Network

John Bain, widely known as Totalbiscuit, is a popular YouTube reviewer and Let's Player. He has made several notable statements regarding GamerGate, and is generally considered to be a supporter of it.

Involvement in GamerGate

On August 19, after being asked for his opinion on the Zoe Quinn Scandal, TotalBiscuit posted a message on Twitlonger that condemned the takedown of MundaneMatt's video on the subject, calling it "unethical" and an example of "disgusting behaviour".

TL:DR - If Zoey Quinn did engage in censorship via the abuse of the DMCA on Youtube then I thoroughly condemn her actions as being both fucking stupid and unethical. If outlets did provide her favourable coverage because she had intimate relations with some of the writers, they're goddamn idiots for doing it, why the hell would you compromise the trust of your readers for that? The shitstorm is too insane right now to make a huge amount of sense of and I have no idea what is true and what isn't. Cooler heads prevail, heard of that phrase? Calm the fuck down and things might become clearer. Also please stop shouting at me, thanks.[1]

The link was posted onto the r/gaming subreddit and collected over twenty-five thousand comments, of which over twenty thousand were deleted.[2]

Shadow of Mordor Incident

Before the release of the game Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TotalBiscuit was told that he needed to make a brand deal in order to receive a review copy, which he refused to do.[3] He made numerous comments critical of those who didn't "know what he's complaining about, if he wants it early he has to give something in return",[4] saying: "It is the worst case scenario in which a company withholds review copies to maximise potential exposure while keeping critique at bay, it's about as anti-consumer as it gets."[4] He later released a video titled WTF... Is Shadow of Mordor? on September 30, without a brand deal.[5] On October 1, he commented on how non-brand deal videos were being taken down due to registered content in the Content ID database, believing that it wasn't malicious and hoped Warner Bros. would correct the mistake, "lest people assume a more malicious goal of censorship and undue control of the media narrative on their game".[6]

On the 2nd of October Jim Sterling, of The Escapist, requested details regarding the brand deal offer.[7] On October 6, Sterling released a video on his show, Jimquistion,[8] where he shared some excerpts from the contract, such as the clauses requiring the signer to "Persuade viewers to purchase the game" and demanding that the "video must not show bugs or glitches that may exist". Kotaku published an article on the subject on the October 10th, citing Sterling as a source.[9] The writer of the article, Nathan Grayson, ended with:

"Blurry lines. That's the big problem here. And as all of us—from journalists and video-makers to gamers who just want to know what's worth their time and money—try to navigate through the cloudy waters of YouTube ethics and paid coverage, total transparency may be the only way to stay afloat."

Multiple anti-Gamergate figures have made comments suggesting that #Gamergate did not care about the scandal. Zaid Jilani, writer for Salon, commented: "[This] highlights a core problem with the movement: When a legitimate corruption scandal not involving women, or feminism, or any real misogynist angle arises, it’s more or less ignored. It seems to be deemed not exciting enough to raise Gamergate’s hackles."[10]

TotalBiscuit responded to these criticisms, both on his blog[11] and on a SoundCloud post,[12] saying that the controversy only involved "3 key things. Youtubers, who primarily consist of Lets Play-creating entertainers, PR firms, specifically the company Plaid Social and the publisher of the game Warner Bros.",[11] none of which are journalists, and trying to claim that YouTubers, who are mostly Lets Players, are journalists, is either intellectually dishonest, or simply downright ignorant".[11] He then goes on to point out that he, an outspoken supporter of GamerGate, was the one who blew the whistle on the deal in the first place and that it was discussed by people within GamerGate. He also pointed out that the issue had been resolved, stating that "Plaid Social were caught in the act, exposed and revised their contracts", so there was no need for an on-going scandal.[11]

Arthur Chu, during an interview with David Pakman, said: "If [#GamerGate] cared about ethics, they would care about, um, Shadow of Mordor actually paying people, actually telling people they could get early access review copies and perks only if they made YouTube videos that criticized Shadow of Mordor in a certain positive light. That was an extremely blatant form of, er, people, marketers trying to influence reviews in a way that subverts journalistic ethics, but because it was in a field as they see as cultural[ly] theirs, which is YouTube as opposed to traditional sites, and it wasn't in favour of what they as feminist ideology: they didn't care. There was hardly any reaction to that compared to tonnes of people talking about [Zoe Quinn]."[13]

TotalBiscuit responded in the comments section of the video, stating: "Shadow of Mordor was not only not an issue of journalistic ethics BUT it had the whistle-blown it by someone pro-Gamergate (ie. me) and the PR company in question was pressured into changing their contracts. The idea that "Gamergate" did not care about this issue has no basis in reality. Revisionist history, nothing more."[14][15]

Response to Censorship

When a petition which requested that the developers of the game Hatred should pull the plug on their project, threatening them by mentioning that the creator of the petition was "a member of many, many groups on Linkedin including those of AAA studios [and] on top of that, [he's] an editor for two large gaming blogs",[16] TotalBiscuit made a Twitlonger post saying that he was not okay with "indie devs and bloggers banding together to try and censor a game, no matter how awful its subject matter."[17]

When Dreamfall came under fire for using "ableist" language,[18] he responded by saying:

"This is of course highly relevant these days as some people believe that there are people within the industry who are actively looking to sanitise parts of games they disagree with. I don't believe there are that many of them but I certainly believe there are some who exist. The "nobody wants to take away your videogames!" argument is for the most part correct but there are certainly people that want change when it comes to writing and character representation and some of that is not necessarily positive. If we are to appreciate games as an art form, we must also accept that art can be offensive, it can be ugly and it can be upsetting. I maintain that writers should be able to write whatever characters they want and if they want that character to use offensive language so that they are less likeable, so be it, that's an effective writing device and it also conveys a sense of realism, since that sort of language is alive and well in todays society, even if we wish it wasn't."[19]

Sound Cloud

TotalBiscuit has done a number of talks involving GamerGate and people involved in GamerGate, see the list below.

Co-Optional Podcast

The Co-Optional Podcast Ep. 66 ft. Jason Schreier [strong language - Feb 5, 2015]

TB's soundcloud page

Totalbiscuit's soundcloud page

Further reading ( )


John Bain has a Steam Curator Group:

The Framerate Police:

See Also