This is the first time that GamerGate has managed to make me seriously upset. As in really dejected and sad. I wrote a rant on twitter about it, and I think I’ll expand on it here on discordia.
“Today is a bad day. GamerGate is still in full swing and the more I read about the development the more depressed I get. Othering women and turning feminists into the enemy (creeping cancer, anyone?), because we want a more inclusive gaming landscape. Not getting that games has everyhing to win and nothing to lose by becoming more diverse, by offering more variety. Instead I read about dudes wanting to “create a safe space for heterosexual males playin video games” as if that is even an issue. You’re already safe! Seriously! You can’t be much safer! It’s an insult to those of us who are not in the least safe in gaming spaces. Who are driven from our homes, who date not speak up for the fear of being harassed. But no, we who have been fighting – sometimes for years – to be accepted into gaming culture, we’re the “cancer”. We’re the “threat”. In a few days Dragon Age Inquisition is released. I want to be part of that experience. I don’t want any part of gaming culture though. Stop GamerGate because of the toxicity, the excluding and othering of marginalized players within gaming culture. Just stop GamerGate. It’s hateful and depressing. Actually, it’s not at all about ethics in journalism.
The strangest thing? The strangest thing about GamerGate is that apparently non-gamers are welcome to participate, while women who have been working as game devs or as game critics are decried as “fake” while the pro-GGs can come from anywhere, and be completely oblivious to games. But that’s okay, right ‘cos they’re on the right side. Whereas we who try to make this culture more inclusive, we’re fake or a cancer, or we’re trying to take away the god given rights of white, straight men. ‘Cos we’re apparenty the oppressors. I hate it. I hate what the “movement” has done to something that has been such a large part of my life.”
GamerGate is indeed in full swing, and the echo chamber is being reinforced by #OpSKYNET, an operation intended to link GamerGaters together via Twitter. The danger of doing this is of course that the group runs the risk of group think and the reinforcement of certain ideas.
The narrative of “us” and “them” was created months back (actually years back) and is being heavily reinforced by the storytelling within the group. Assertions that GamerGate is actually an inclusive group while at the same time allowing language like that in the image above rings false.
The premise on which GamerGate was built has, in my opinion, slanted the whole movement from the beginning. GamerGate started as a tweet from Adam Baldwin promoting the highly prejudiced Quinnspiracy video by the Internet Aristocrat. In it, the Internet Aristocrat talks about gaming journalism, the fifth estate and how gamers could finally find a neutral outlet for their passion, video games. It’s not – Internet Aristocrat says – about Zoe Quinn. “Her ethical and moral failures are on her”. Right, there’s no prejudice there.
Wrapped around the main assertion that this is actually about ethics in gaming journalism is a language that is very hostile towards Zoe Quinn, and towards feminists and “social justice warriors” in general. Because of course, politics has nothing to do with games. When I publicly supported Zoe Quinn in August when this whole mess started, the video most tweeted to me was this piece by Internet Aristocrat. Since then, many of the assertions made in the video, based in turn on the long and rambling blog post by Eron Gjoni (Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend), have been disproven outright or even retracted by Gjoni himself.
Still, the “unethical” behavior of primarily women in games keep popping up. In August, the most commong “rebuttal” of the harassment that Quinn had to face was that she was manipulative and evil, that she suppressed positive initiatives and that she “stole” money for her game Depression Quest when in fact the game was free. They said she tricked people into giving her money on Patreon. They said she was immoral and a slut. This language (if somewhat milder) is present in Internet Aristocrat’s video. He is very good at implying that Quinn is both morally and etically bankrupt. This language reinforces the “us” and “them”, by othering Quinn and making her the enemy.
Michael Schnier did a very good infographic about what GamerGate says and what it does. In this a lot of the practices I personally find objectionable are listed. Among others the basis of the GamerGate campaign.
At the same time as GamerGate talks about ethics in game journalism, it also uses “consumer pressure” to get media outlets to withdraw or stop hiring writers who are writing the “slanted” think pieces “attacking gamers” and their identity. In some cases this has been successful. The question is however if this is an ethical way to behave. According to the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, one of the statements actually say “deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage”. Just about the opposite of GamerGate’s Operation Disrespectful Nod.
The infiltration of SJW’s into gaming may mean that my brother will have to put up with their narrative in his games. It may mean that his entertainment options become more limited because a developer was subtly threatened unless he inserted another “empowered female” in a game where such a character simply doesn’t fit.
– Roosh Valizadeh
This is a quote from the latest participant in GamerGate. The latest supporter to join the ranks. Valizadeh is by his own admission not a gamer. But according to GamerGate this is okay. Just as it is okay to let Milo Yannopolis speak for the movement, as long as the message is the right one, and in support of GamerGate.
In contrast women engaging with the movement are decried as fake gamers. Just look at the most common criticism against Anita Sarkeesian. She’s not a “real gamer”. She doesn’t qualify to criticize the gaming culture. Neither does Brianna Wu, who is in fact the founder of her own gaming company and has been a game developer for years. But we are constant outsiders, in an identity that keeps moving the goal posts in order to exclude the people it just can not abide. If I say – on twitter or any other social media outlet – that gamers now consist of 48% women, the immediate response is that “but they don’t play real games”.
What a “real game” is according to these gamers is usually very vaguely defined, because when you start to talk about PC gamers being 50% women and most playing RPGs, all of a sudden RPGs are no longer “real games”. Thus we are expected to live up to a standard where we are forever excluded, no matter what we do. Unless. Unless we support the status quo. Unless we say “hey, there are no issues in gaming culture, I’ve never been harassed and if you don’t like it don’t buy it”. Basically we’re given a choice. Be one of the boys and buy into the culture or be forever on the outside, no matter what we do.
The thought of being deprived an identity as a Real Man™ is apparently horrifying. One of the last bastions where men can be Real Men™ is within gaming. That thought is not that stange. Games are built by men for men, and usually they depict an ideal image of what it is to be a man. It’s a monoculture, supported by the homogenous environment that creates it.
GamerGate has given yet another boost to this monoculture, and the group think cultivated within GamerGate, painting SJWs as other, evil, manipulative thieves actually fits very well into the narrative of what it is to be a Real Man™. There’s a war going on, at least from the perspective of the GamerGate bubble. Gamers are under attack, and just as the valiant heroes of most video games, they have to defend themselves at any cost. The outside world just won’t see what incredible odds the culture is really facing, but the supporters of GamerGate do. And in that struggle against the forces that want to censor or even worse, take gaming away from the “real” gamers they are the heroes. The middle aged men with stubble on their chins and truth on their side, facing insurmountable odds in the fight against the creeping cancerous feminists and social justice warriors. And just as in games, the ends always justify the means.
There is no harassment, how could there be, they’re the good guys.
There are no threats, how could there be, no one has died yet (don’t laugh. This is actually one of the arguments I’ve heard lately as to why the threats against Sarkeesian, Wu and Quinn are “not real”).
Valizadeh finishes his blog post (that I will not link to) with this:
For better or worse, #gamergate has forever destroyed the innocence of gaming in that there will always be a cloud of politics floating above it, but I speak for the entire team in that we hope the reaction to such a random and spontaneous event will ultimately bring men together to better enjoy the hobby that brings value to their lives. As long as I’m alive, I will do all that I can to make sure men can just be men.
I will finish mine with this. As long as I live I will never again yield to the demands of silence. I’ve heard it so many times. From random people on the internet to colleagues that I (used to) respect. “Stop talking about that, we don’t need politics in our game.” “Stop talking about how women are harassed in games, it will frighten the women away.” “Well, you’re always so outspoken, you sorta brought the harassment on yourself.” “Stop talking politics in design meetings.” “Women can’t design games.” “You’re not a gamer.”
No. If the requirement for me to be a gamer is that I am quiet, meek, know my place and on occasion show my boobs to random dude on the internet, I’m not a gamer. I play games, sure, but I’m not a gamer.
And I will do everything in my power to create an environment, a culture and games that are more accepting of marginalized groups within gaming. Everything in my power to make sure that games are not restricted to the same old tired clichés.
We do create beautiful machines. From experience, a wide variety of perspectives improves the machines made, includes more players and makes the experience even more intense. Performing masculinity shouldn’t be the only reason to play a game. It can be one, definitely, but the possibilities available shouldn’t be stunted by the misguided idea that games can only be used to tell one story, the story of the ideal man.
– me, in another blog post.