I think the thing that was most outrageous to me during GamerGate – in some ways regardless of what people actually thought about the GamerGate “movement”1 was the unwillingness or inability to even try to find out the facts.
The same videos were regurgitated on the GamerGate side, none of them with a shred of proof or truth to them. Honestly, after a while, sitting through another vile ad hominem attack on whoever was on the chopping block that day (most commonly Zoë Quinn or Anita Sarkeesian), it became both tiresome and exhausting. After al, this happened to women making games and critiquing games. Who says it couldn’t happen to me?
My point is that a lot of the critique around games is not very well informed. And by well informed I mean that the person levelling the critique must at least have played the game they’re addressing. You might think that could be a prerequisite, but so much noise around games is either pure speculation, untrue or founded on falsehoods or preconceptions about “how the gaming industry works”.
Coming from a marginalised group as I do, I also know that depending on who you are, your voice carries different weight. Being a woman, my arguments have to be ironclad to be even considered. Even then it’s easy to be dismissed because of who I am rather than because of my opinions.
What this has left me with though, is the fact that if you decide to talk about or critique something, you have to read or play or understand the subject. Feelings are not enough. Baseless opinions are not enough. I’m probably not surprising anyone by saying this, though.
I do have countless examples, not just from GamerGate but from other communities as well, where witch hunts have been similarly started and flames fanned based on supposition and guesses and plain untruths.
My plea is this. Don’t do it. Find out the facts and then base your opinion on those facts. Find more than one source, or – for a game – go straight to the source. Use your own judgment. Don’t let yourself be swayed by “public” opinion, no matter how comfortable it might be to just follow along.
Be a person. Make up your own mind. Find out the facts.
I believe, honestly, that before we can divorce ourselves from the uninformed influencers (those basing their opinions on “feelings”) we’re always going to be held back as a serious art form. I also believe there’s room for everyone with an informed opinion, just as there’s room, or should be made room, for deeper critiques that not only looks to the surface but beneath it.
We need to get rid of the chaff though, in order to reach the substance of real critique. There’s a beautiful future somewhere. We just need to reach it.