Yesterday I posted a follow-up to my original post about Avalanche Software Senior Producer Troy Leavitt and the smear campaign against him by members of the gaming press.
In this piece, I included passages from Kirk McKeand, Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer, who accused Leavitt—without evidence—of running a “grift.” Leavitt had promised a video explaining his side of the story and why he decided to leave his role developing Hogwarts Legacy. This video, McKeand warned us, would be the launching pad for Leavitt’s next move into high-profile anti-SJW YouTubery.
“Leavitt will release a video claiming he’s left to save the project,” wrote McKeand, “a selfless act to defend the developers there. You see, he aims to become a martyr in the eyes of his supporters. The video will likely demonise games journalists as the root cause of his problems, rather than being used for introspection or to admit that his actions had consequences.
“Once he does this, the views on his channel will skyrocket, thanks to both his supporters and people who are morbidly curious. The algorithm will reward him for it and he’ll get back to putting out videos about why he hates Brie Larson or some other asinine shit. Along with people like Shapiro, he will become another cog in the hate machine on YouTube, his videos revolving around the algorithm and reinforcing the beliefs of people who already watch similar tosh. Either that or he’ll go the crowdfunding route and promise to lead development on a game “free of politics”, and the suckers will eat it up. If he was being assigned to a Hogwarts house, it would be Griftindor.”
I already quoted this entire passage in my previous piece, but I think it bears repeating now that Leavitt has released his video for all the world to see.
Leavitt posted the video last night, just hours after I had posted my own piece. Was it everything his detractors, and McKeand in particular, hoped it would be—a “raging” “hateful” “anti-social justice” “far right” screed designed to drum up support for his brand new Patreon?
Well, I mean, it’s a Power Point presentation so…you tell me. Watch it yourself:
A few things.
First off, Leavitt’s video is framed as a message to his former co-workers at Avalanche. It’s an explainer designed to lay out his side of the story. It’s incredibly mild-mannered and upbeat. Some key points include:
Leavitt was planning to leave Avalanche months prior to any of this current manufactured controversy. He was moving to Nevada to deal with family issues and was headed for retirement. He stuck around a bit longer after he moved, but set the ball in motion to retire for good in February. He left on good terms with both Avalanche and Warner Bros., companies that were helpful and supportive of him throughout.
Leavitt does blame game journalists but not to get clicks. Rather, he points out that basic, rudimentary requirements of journalistic integrity demand things like fact-checking, contacting the subject of the story and so forth. Few actually asked Leavitt for comment (I hope to post an interview or podcast with him next month) or phoned Warner Bros. for a statement. Few actually even watched the videos or quoted Leavitt’s own words from those videos except to note that he had disclosed his YouTube channel to Warner Bros. Nobody I’ve seen has issued a retraction or apology when they got the facts wrong.
These include the fact that Troy Leavitt is no longer lead designer on Hogwarts Legacy, but rather Senior Producer. This is a fact I myself got wrong and I’ve updated my previous posts. It is, as Leavitt points out, a simple thing to check. A quick trip to LinkedIn should clear things up. I admit I didn’t even question this detail when I saw it originally published—I should have.
Leavitt accuses the press of pushing propaganda and an agenda rather than anything like the news, and he’s not wrong. This is exactly the shape this whole fiasco has taken. Game journalists, already with their sights set on Hogwarts Legacy and J.K. Rowling, simply ran with a misinformed, highly misleading take and never looked back. It’s an example of how deeply irresponsible this profession has become.
He also defends his videos, pointing out that if people had actually watched them they’d have a completely different understanding of his positions. His video on Ben Shapiro is in fact critical of Shapiro; his defense of Lasseter was actually an argument in favor of forgiveness; his video about The Last Jedi isn’t an attack on Rian Johnson or the movie, but rather just some ideas on how it could be more palatable to fans (a version of something many of us have written a version of).
Leavitt also talks about how we should attempt to rid ourselves of extremism and tribalism and be “building bridges to one another” and compares everyone to individual notes as part of the grand symphony of life. Hardly the rantings of a far-right zealot.
He does, however, defend J.K. Rowling, asking people to actually read her statement on trans issues and women’s rights carefully and make up your own mind. He says there are things he agrees and disagrees with that she says but ultimately concludes that she’s “worthy of conversation, not cancellation.” Perhaps this will be enough to make him persona non grata regardless of all the rest, but it shouldn’t.
If you haven’t, you should read Rowling’s full statement and do so with an open mind and with, as she implores readers, “similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.”
That this entire conversation has become so one-sided, that activists have cast out so many potential allies thanks to a rigid dogma that brokers no dissent, that any discussion that deviates from accepted speech becomes a kind of wrongthink worthy of bullying and harassment and cancellation, is a testament to how completely and utterly broken our discourse has become—especially around anything having to do with trans rights, but also surrounding anything to do with a bevy of social justice issues touted by the woke movement. This is not a healthy state of affairs.
This brings us back to Freddie’s observation that “too many in the media have adopted one of social justice’s most destructive tendencies: the notion that the righteous have no responsibility to try and convince the other side.” Indeed, the righteous have no responsibility to fact-check, contact the subjects of their articles or engage in journalism at its most basic level.
Freedom of speech is dangerous in the wrong mouths. Wire them shut. Certainly don’t give them a fair trial.
Maybe if we’d engaged with Leavitt from the beginning rather than rushed to conclusions that fit a very specific narrative, and then echoed and amplified those as “facts,” everyone involved wouldn’t have made such fools of themselves. Or made such a mockery of their profession.
What’s next for Leavitt? He’s self-publishing his second fantasy novel which, he points out, is more of a hobby than anything—just like his YouTube channel. And he’s going into retirement, and maybe make some more videos for fun, and maybe write more books. And live.
Now that’s what I call a grift.