I was tired of the whole thing last month, but since the gamergate bullshit has become a raging, untreated bout of syphilis that won’t die, here we go again.
I’m not a joiner. I’m smart enough to form my own opinions. I find groupthink abhorrent. I don’t need my views echoed to feel validated. Above all, being outside of any group allows me to associate with factions and ideals as I choose while not being beholden to one or another; it allows for continuous objectivity. This is considered bad in politics, but that’s just fame for ugly people anyway.
So while I avidly play both tabletop and video games, I’ve never felt like a gamer. And while I share most of the principles of feminism, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist either. As it stands now, at least in the communities of the online world, this is a very “pick your side” kind of fight.
The sheer volume of bullshit being shoveled around by the #gamergate tag (and right off the bat, that word is so devoid of any connection to serious scandal, but goddamn are they trying) should offend most people. A fairly small group of fringe assholes latched onto a letter full of (later disproven) claims that the writer’s ex, a developer, had had an affair with a game reviewer. And as inconsequential as that letter should have been, those assholes used it to build a virtual army- first blowing it up, and then using the confusion about why it was anything to further widen their umbrella. Here’s a quick breakdown of the major players:
-MRAs: the modern version of the he-man-women-haters-club, but with sad adults. Lump the pick-up artist bunch in with these.
-4chan/8chan/twitter trolls: just in it for the lulz, but willing to go the extra mile to share people’s private information. Also a lot of these are unsupervised 14 year olds.
-“gamers”: not a fiction, but this is what I’m calling all of the people who sincerely bought into the “this is about ethics in journalism“. Guys. Even real journalism is 90% paid b.s., and we’re talking about motherfucking video games.
– Everyone else who either has no idea what any of this is actually about and maybe think Jack Thompson has resurfaced, or that ISIS is somehow targeting people who play video games, or that this has something to do with ebola. The ones thinking that gamers are in danger, or games themselves are in danger. Slow to the party and often uninformed/misinformed.
The thing that really binds these groups together, like the rings of Sauron, are insecurity and fear that something fundamental about their identity is threatened. Most are willing to deny any accusation that they aren’t comfortable with.
The end result is that amidst the flags being waved, the most aggressive and vehement pushers of #gamergate are attacking women in the game industry through harassment, doxxing, and libel and spouting a lot of gender hate in general. And everyone using that tag is either culpable or ignorant. At this juncture, ignorance is less an excuse than willfully disbelieving the truth. This all seems completely silly to most people, especially since the mainstream media (3 months late and in-between ebola updates), has now convinced your grandmother that evil is coming for the children. On some level, this is fucking absurd. In the broad context of current events, this is farcical. And then people start getting death threats, and people in the industry are growing legitimately afraid, and those are real problems.
1. Death threats, etc. aren’t an appropriate response. And yes, this shit happens often because this is the internet and most of it is stupid people being stupid. But now that the scope has widened beyond the gaming community, the chance of some nutjob with an agenda harming any of these people has ramped the fuck up. See Elliot Rodger.
2. When women who aren’t even gamers feel threatened by #gamergate, it’s past time to retire the pretense of “it’s about journalistic ethics”. Because who the fuck cares. This is no longer about games, this is about a culture of assholes and misogynists in waking life. Now we are aware that these people exist, and we should know who they are because it sucks to give merit to someone who turns out to be a waste of space.
3. If you think there’s a problem with journalism in games, go research the history of game journalism (TL;DR- it’s always been advertising). Don’t lash out at the people who are analyzing and responding to games, particularly for having a POV because..
4. Games are art, and art is broad. There’s Art, revered and copied and put on pedastals for being original and amazing. There’s commercial art, to make your living room decor match. There’s art in advertising, all fluff and no substance but with the sole intention of parting you from your money. There’s porn, which is even officially loosely defined as art by SCOTUS. There are comics and performances and graffiti that all fall under the umbrella of art. And just like art, we need games that inspire and make us think and unearth a deeper connection with ourselves and the world. And we also sometimes need to throw grenades at cops and run over hookers and laugh about the fan service of whatever Square gives us next. But most importantly, we need to understand how and why this is, so that games can become better and more than they are. So that we can learn to appreciate the simple elegance of a game like Gone Home without writing “fag” on a message board somewhere.