Yesterday the Law and Order episode about harassment in the gaming culture aired. I’ve not seen it, I don’t have access to it, but based on the twitterfeed from Zoe Quinn (aptly named sighborg for the time being), it was a huge disappointment. Or rather, the upsurge in harassment from GamerGate following the episode was a huge disappointment. Or possibly both, I won’t pretend to know based on a few tweets. I do know that the hashtag was very active after that, spouting the usual nonsense. Nobody has been harassed, no one has been threatened, they’re all liars, including the police and FBI investigating. They did it to themselves, right? To get attention. Because having people you don’t know sealioning you for the crime of having an opinion or doing stuff while simultaneously being a woman is wanting attention, right? Right?
Well. One could argue that GamerGate at least contributed to entertaining people for a while in a fictional universe, but in the real world, Zoe Quinn has still not been able to return home, due to the extensive threats against her. (Threats, I might add, she did not make up.)
From the first rumblings of GamerGate, it took about two months for press, gaming companies and law enforcement* to pick up on the heavy harassments being sent her way. Then it spiralled out of control with Adam Baldwin’s awful hashtag #GamerGate. The misogyny within gaming had been given a name, and, unfortunately, legitimacy by numbers. The violent hatred toward marginalized groups within gaming had never been that apparent. I’ve seen it previously, I’ve even been a target now and then, although never to the extent of Quinn, Wu or Sarkeesian. It started with Quinn, but other women stepping up and saying “this is not acceptable” have become targets as well. Sarkeesian poured gas on the fire with unfortunately timed release of one of her videos, and that in itself should tell you that this movement is not about ethics in game journalism. If it were, the reaction would not have been that violent.
But the worst part about August last year was the silence. It took ages before anyone except us “SJW’s” reacted. The silence was deafening. It was telling. The larger companies were slow and plodding in their response, and meanwhile, half-truths and outright lies continued to flourish among those who actually believed the crap spouted by those who set the tone in GamerGate. It started with the demonizing of Zoe Quinn. I tried to stand up for her, in my very limited way. Tweeted my support. Tried, even, to mobilize people within the company I work for with limited success. The result – the most telling result – was that I got a mail from a co-worker, urging me to stop with the “SJW activism”. It was making my co-worker uncomfortable. Well. The hatred I see against women in the industry every day is not even close to making me merely uncomfortable. It’s scaring the shit out of me, causing me to lose sleep, worrying about what’s going to happen next. I don’t feel safe. And I’m not even a target for GamerGate. Yet.
The continued assault on Quinn, painting her as immoral, irresponsible, selfish and manipulative reminded me of something I read in “Ondskans filosofi” by Lars Svendsen. He proposed that the first step towards violence is to make the opponents inhuman. It’s done in the same way as various adherents to the GamerGate movement tried to do it to Quinn. By defamation, by saying she’s manipulative and evil. By reducing her (and other people who took a stand) to inhuman. Lesser than.
It is still ongoing, and I do not have the power to stop it. If I did, I would.
So to those of you with power within the gaming industry and culture, be it Pewdiepie or EA, you can not remain silent. The consequences are devastating, not just for those with targets painted on their backs. The consequences for the gaming culture – a culture that has slowly been brought forward to the 21st century – is a huge step backward. Misogyny and plain old sexism is being touted as ethics, with the support of people not even involved in gaming, but very invested in the control and subjugation of women. Women and girls are leaving a culture that never wanted them in the first place, giving up something that can be so very rewarding on its own, now turned toxic by an enviroment that encourages behavior that is frankly despicable.
The consequences for the gaming industry is even more devastating. I have not had one conversation about GamerGate with my colleagues that has not contained the words “I’m getting so tired of this shit, maybe it’s time to leave”. The gaming industry risks a hemorrage of competent and brilliant women** because of the silence of the companies they work at. There are no internal updates on what is being done with respects to GamerGate and diversity, not on any company that I have friends at. So DO something.
I have NO power over this situation. Nobody gives a fuck about what I say. I can not change ANYTHING regardless of how loud I am. It takes people with the power to influence to change this situation. With money, resources and will.
Zoe Quinn tweeted today.
She said “August never ends”. It won’t. Not until someone with the power to influence does something. She can still not return home. These are the consequences of silence. The industry and culture is complicit as long as it remains silent.
* According to her boyfriend (@alexlifschitz)
** Trust me, to be hired as a woman in the gaming industry requires both brilliance and competency, more so for a woman