thoughts

GamerGate: how intelligent gamers are being hoodwinked

2014 is a confusing year to be a gamer. Suddenly the gaming culture is called into question where before it was relegated to a level that did not deem it worthy of criticism. As the spotlight falls on the industry, gamers are pushing back against the criticism and pointing out the hypocrisies they see in games journalism. GamerGate has turned into one of the most divisive moments in gaming history.

Let’s address something right out of the gate (bad pun), doxxing and threatening people is wrong. Something really disturbing about human nature has emerged from all the volleys shot over the last few months. People get really sarcastic, angry and hateful and start threatening and abusing other people. We have had little logical open debate, it’s either black or white. Everyone is so quick to point out how incredibly stupid the other person is, to ignore their words in favour of pushing their own agenda. Here’s some examples:

Anti-Gamergate Person: “Hey, here’s an idea, let’s not attack female game developers because they are female. Being female is a good thing, which is lucky because they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter…”

Pro-Gamergate Person: “It’s about accountability in games journalism! “(And if they are of the particularly eloquent variety: “F*** you! You stupid s****, go f*** yourself, i hope you choke on a f**** **** and then **** all over your stupid *****.”)

or

Pro-Gamergate Person: “I am for accountability in games journalism, I don’t like the clearly biased views I see in media. I am in a minority and I self-identify as a gamer. ”

Anti-Gamergate Person: “You’re shifting the goalposts, you are an idiot, you are evil (insert profanities as above if the person similarly can’t be bothered to pick up a dictionary).

This is not how debate works in the real world. The clamouring, raging voices are a sign of the times and, for me at least, are the death knell to the idea of digital democracy.

Now onto the meat of the matter…

Zoe Quinn’s boyfriend uploaded a pathetic revenge video about his ex. I’ve been through some insane relationships and yet I’ve never felt the need to go all “loose change” on my former lover. It’s over, move the hell on and get over it. If it was really so bad be glad that you got out when you did, but for christ’s sake don’t go posting it all over the internet like a teenager looking for attention. The first occurrence of the GamerGate hashtag came to us courtesy of Adam Baldwin, the guy from Firefly. My favourite character in Firefly.

God damn it.

Of course he has to use his fame to promote a video that makes the revenge video look relatively sane. As soon as he used it to humiliate Quinn, gamergate became a thing to reject. If gamergate is so concerned with accountability and corruption in games journalism, why did originate in puerile garbage? Because the entire point was to harass a woman.

Make no mistake about it, that was the first use of the hashtag, anything after that point is cynical rhetoric, and if you are sucked into it you are falling victim of people who have way more time than you to sit around being hateful. It’s truly horrible stuff; feigning outrage and injustice in this situation is the most delectable irony for the puny little humans who masterminded the entire debacle on 4chan. They must be very pleased with themselves.

From the other point of view…

There are a lot of folks who are getting sucked into the pro-gamergate argument because they are legitimately interested in changing the definition of a “typical gamer”. It’s not surprising that if you put out a whole bunch of articles telling people “gaming is dead”, and that all gamers are “neck beards” and the like, those who identify as gamers are going to get angry. Sam Biddle, a writer for Gawker came under fire for trolling gamergaters (I shudder to use this collective pronoun) by tweeting:

“Ultimately #GamerGate is reaffirming what we’ve known to be true for decades: nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission”

Clear satire and fun-poking, but ammunition for the trolls to launch a counter offensive declaring Sam Biddle (and by extension anyone who works in journalism/has hair/drinks water) a bully.

If you are a gamer and you have represented gamer gate online, it’s OK. You probably didn’t know about the background, believed the hype and jumped on board. Everyone does that at some stage and you won’t be judged for it. Go ahead and hop off right now though. Corruption in games journalism is a thing, and it’s most definitely something you should actively fight against. #GamerGate is not the way to do it. Breaking through gamer stereotypes is a noble pursuit. #NotYourShield is not the way to do it. No matter what anyone tells you, the first occurrence of the tweet is all you need to know. Nothing born out of ridiculing a woman leads to any good.

The people at the fore of gamergate think that social justice is not something you should fight for. Smugness and cynicism doesn’t make them right. By the same token snobbery doesn’t make anti-gamergate right. If we want to change the industry we need to be inclusive. It is very easy to dismiss someones views as insolent and ignorant when we are not walking in their shoes. I don’t think the majority of gamers are misogynistic, gamers come in many flavours. The scoffing loathsome folks behind gamergate have been able to use the generalisation of gamers made by journalists recently to their advantage. Not all gamers are white male and cisgender. We cannot win the battle against the deplorable sides of the industry without enlisting these people. We certainly cannot win if we imitate Sam Biddle and feed the troll.

The frustrating side of this is that the contingent that are suckering in recruits to the gamergate cause come across as exactly the stereotypical gamer. Unwilling to accept women into the industry, hateful, violent, simultaneously intelligent and moronic, young white and male (that’s not to say that there aren’t female trolls out there getting their rocks off at ruining a woman’s life because they also deem her a slut). Perhaps they’re so cynical, they don’t even buy their own message. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they merely enjoyed the chaos they have created and, by continuing to feed the trolls, we do nothing but extend that chaos.

Lets stop responding to anyone who doesn’t want to engage in an adult debate. Lets agree that there are people on both sides who just want what’s best for their favourite past time. Lets get critical; that doesn’t mean we don’t get any more Grand Theft Auto, it just means that we actually think about how ALL humans are represented in games. Being critical of something doesn’t preclude enjoying it. What’s more, by thinking about how some females are being represented (i.e. as hollow characters and MacGuffins) we can actually improve games. We might evolve past the various narratives that relegate women to these roles, and build more complex and realistic games.

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