I’m sure that some of you, maybe even most of you, have seen the continued faux pas from notable (and unfortunately Swedish) gaming personalities such as Markus Persson and Felix Kjellgren, a.k.a. Notch and PewDiePie lately. Notch more or less abandoning any pretenses at being anything but a bored and kind of lonely guy in his huge mansion, and Felix Kjellgren repeatedly using racist language and expressions to create his videos.
Notch is, for me, a sad case. He used to be a role-model while he was still working on Minecraft. Personally, I think him selling his company the way he did tipped him over one edge or the other.
Notch doesn’t seem to be very happy, but as the creator of a hugely influential game, his word still carries weight in gaming culture, although less so year after after year. His relatively open and moderate stance on issues such as gender equality and diversity has taken a sharp alt-right turn, and he nowadays uses language more closely associated with men’s rights activists rather than an enlightened human being – and yes I went there. Because who in their right minds would consider mens’s rights activists and the alt-right being enlightened? Their philosophies – as far as I understand them – are built on the supremacy and power of white, heterosexial men. They’re eager to reclaim whatever power they felt they’ve lost with the rise of women’s liberty and women’s rights.
Notch is a special case in that he’s not only a rich white dude with issues. He’s also – or he was – very influential in gaming circles. People looked up to him, and then he does things like go after women developers on Twitter. There are multiple examples of Notch blowing up or causing drama, all of them on a similar level as when he called developer Jennifer Scheurle out for making a joke on Twitter.
Among other things, he claimed the term “mansplaining” was derogatory towards men, and introduced a vocabulary of his own (cuntfusing) to counter. He then proceeded to call another woman a cunt (tweet has been deleted) and presumably enjoyed the rest of his day as the internet rained down unholy fire on Scheurle, now elevated to prominence and presumably one of those pesky cuntfusing women who should be silenced.
3.8 million followers will definitely help with that.
Notch himself in an interview has acknowledged that twitter is a soapbox for him. He also stated “so that felt like I have, not a responsibility, but maybe an opportunity to help show that it’s actually possible to have opinions on Twitter without making sacrifice.” The next minute – in the same interview – he sees no problem with using his power (because make no mistake, a huge following is power) to step up on his soapbox.
As far as I understand it from the interview with Notch, calling people on bad behaviour is oppressing their freedom of speech. He goes on to say that everyone should be free to speak their mind, apparently not for a minute reflecting on the fact that if you – as a woman game dev – speak your mind and get targeted by someone like Notch or a movement like GamerGate – life as you know it has been replaced by threats, harassment and fear of speaking up.
This is the wobbly ground that Notch’s arguments rest on. That we’re somehow all equal and that money, power, gender has absolutely no influence. As a thought experiment, or maybe as a naïve view of the world, sure it might work, but we’re not living in that world. We live in a world where there are actual differences in how you get treated based on gender, money, influence, skin color, and yes they do make a difference in what you dare or dare not do, much less say.
I find it fascinating that someone like Notch can make the connection between being restricted from speaking out on Twitter about things like sexism towards men, but can’t see how sexism towards women is ever present and punishes women hard, sometimes just because they made a joke about mansplaining.
What irks me the most is that people like Notch believe in freedom of speech and freedom from oppression, but only as it applies to them. Refusing to see that feminists talking about systemic oppression might have a point, and at the same time claiming systemic oppression by the feminists (or SJWs, White Knights, cucks, you name it) is to my mind a mind boggling feat of logical gymnastics. If one is true, how come the other can’t be? And to be fair, I don’t subscribe to the theory that white, heterosexual men are being oppressed.
Notch is a role-model, whether he wants to be or not. He acknowledges this and then dismisses it a few sentences later, when the question of consequences comes up.
The truth is, being white, being male, being heterosexual, being rich – all these things put Notch in a position of power, and really, just because he doesn’t see it, the rest of the world isn’t as oblivious.
Notch uses his power to reinforce beliefs about men as oppressed, about the myth of no freedom of speech because opinions are being met with counter opinions or, in many cases, facts.
As a woman in game development, i really don’t have the luxury of letting powerful individuals like Notch or PewDiePie remain unopposed.
Power and influence are no doubt ephemeral and sometimes hard to gauge. It sneaks up on you. Regardless, and as Uncle Ben says in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Neither Notch nor PewDiePie seems to have understood what that really means. For me, the eye opener was sudden and not altogether pleasant, and I’m writing this not to paint myself in any particularly flattering light, but to point out that I recognise the pitfalls.
What power and influence I have is primarily within Swedish table-top RPG circles. I’m not entirely certain I’m very well liked, mainly because I review RPGs in one of Sweden’s only table-top RPG gaming magazines. On more than one occasion, I’ve been told what gamers, primarily game developers think of me. These have not been very flattering judgements. On the other hand, I’ve also been recognised for my influence through awards, and more recently through an Honorary PhD.
This implies that I do have some influence, and with my power and influence, I could potentially do some real damage if I wanted to. I certainly have the firepower in the form of behind the scenes information to do so.
Because of this power and influence, I was asked to be quiet, primarily on social media, in order not to reflect badly on my employer at the time. I was asked to run everything by them before speaking out on things I was previously pretty outspoken about.
What I felt when confronted by these demands was distrust, sadness and – to be fair – a certain amount of incredulity. To my mind I had no power whatsoever. Nobody cared what I wrote. Except of course they do, and did. Not to the extent of Notch or PewDiePie, not even close, but enough that I have to be careful in how I express myself.
I do feel restricted on social media. I do feel I can’t go off on an angry rant and use words like “cunt” or, more commonly in my case “imbecile”. Not because I’m particularly prone to keeping my opinions to myself, but because rants are seldom productive. Instead, they contribute to an already toxic atmosphere.
I can’t say everything I want to say. But ultimately that’s okay. I don’t have to say that people are assholes because they don’t agree with me. I can counter their opinions with my own or as the case may be, with facts.
It’s easy to lash out. It takes a lot more effort to be thoughtful, careful and do research. It’s easy to attack a person. It’s much harder to counter an argument or speak to your own opinion, which is why the gaming culture and the debate climate is toxic in general.
The thing is, it starts with us. It starts with you. It starts with me. When PewDiePie blames just about everyone but himself for using racial slurs or creating really bad antisemitic jokes, thereäs really only one person who could have avoided those and that’s him.
Media didn’t tell him to use the n-word in a life stream, he did that himself. Media didn’t make him use sexist language, he did that himself.
For me, being on the “left side” has been very interesting when it comes to what gamers will defend or not defend. What this culture attacks.
As a feminist, I always have to be careful what I say. I can’t go off on a rant. If I paid fiverr to make a sign that said “kill all men” and had that broadcast, I’m pretty sure the gaming culture would go berserk. Look at Anita Sarkeesian’s well researched and measured videos. Look at the hatred she’s subjected to. She can do no right in certain circles of the gaming culture.
For PewDiePie, the response is the opposite. “Kill all jews” and using the n-word? Everyone rushes to his defence.
The difference is, Sarkeesian does thorough research, which is why her videos took so long to get to YouTube, something she’s also been criticised for, whereas PewDiePie is a stream of consciousness with no filter.
In this scenario, for me, Sarkeesian is the better person. Pewds is someone who does the easy thing. Gaming culture in all it’s toxicity and ugliness applauds Pewds and threatens Sarkeesian. I think it’s a sign of the subconscious of the culture. “Don’t take away our outlet for racism, sexism and homophobia. Don’t make us have to think before speaking.”
2017-10-30 at 14:29
I was 100% with you until you said that Anita Sarkeesian’s work is well-researched. She took so many things out of context, and built so many arguments on pure speculation and by (in best case) jumping to conclusions, or (worst case) making up her mind and then trying to far-fetch “evidence” to support her point, this is what damaged her point.
2017-10-30 at 16:50
Well, that’s your opinion and I can hardly change that. I disagree with your opinion and know for a fact that she’s done some very in depth research on the games she’s talking about.
2017-10-31 at 00:57
After having watched the first few videos Anita Sarkeesian put out there, I was thoroughly disappointed. She had made up her mind beforehand and was scouring games to find anything she could shape into support for her views.
I found her videos to be the essence of not doing in-depth research. It is funny that you write “She can do no right in certain circles of the gaming culture.” For me, in certain circles she is beyond reproach. Anyone pointing out that something might not be fully researched is met by derogatory remarks hinting that you are a misogynist.
Research must always be susceptible for criticism and scrutiny. If not, it is neither good research nor science, and should not be posed as such.
I was initially happy that someone wanted to improve the gender imbalance and shed light on unwanted stereotypes in the gaming community. But Anita Sarkeesian is not that person, and we still are waiting for someone to do a great job, the job that needs to be done. Fueling the flames with more toxicity is NOT the way to go forward.
Having said that, the s**t she has been subjected to is unwarranted and have no place in any community. That PewDiePie is looked up to by some elements is pitiful. Those are the trolls of the gaming community, don’t feed them.
In both cases, don’t make someone your “house god”. When you believe someone to only be able to make everything they touch gold and that they cannot do anything bad, that is when you have lost perspective.
2017-10-31 at 10:26
No. That is not an opinion. It’s a fact.
She has misconstrued the narrative in multiple games, including hitman, where her selective commentary is staggering, essentially just watching the images and using her imagination to describe what is going on… lifting it out of context. A game where you are actively punished for killing ANY civilian, she picks a play moment where a player has chosen to kill a female civilian and construes it as an example of women being used as objects. And in watchdogs, where the main character works to expose and bust a trafficing-ring, she misconstrues it as an example and depiction of how games like those see women as purchasable objects (examples lended from below video):
Cherry-picking scenes and then creating her own narrative to describe them to fit her agenda only dilutes her message (which is genuinely a problem in the gaming industry) and can hardly be seen as “well researched and measured”. It’s the equivalent of opening Orwells 1984, reading a page about Big Brother and calling it a propaganda book for mass-obedience.
2017-10-31 at 13:24
I find it hilarious that you accuse Sarkeesian of cherry picking when every criticism about her research boils down to a few specific examples, which is in itself cherry picking.
I don’t in any way think her research is infallible, and to infer like Mats does that I’m hero worshiping her is inaccurate.
Another thing, I’ve put both you Tobias, and Mats in my moderation cue, because this piece is not about Sarkeesian. It’s about PewDiePie and Notch and toxic gaming culture. If you want to discuss Sarkeesian, you can do that somewhere else. I’m not interested in having the same conversation about her over and over and over again. My stance is that she’s done her research, and that she knows what she’s talking about. If you disagree, fine, but I’m not giving you additional space to harp on her. You’ve had your say about her, I’ve not moderated so far, but I will moving forward. If you want to talk about PewDiePie and Notch, you’re welcome to do so.
2017-11-05 at 18:23
I don’t expect this to pass moderation and at this point I don’t really care. If you put Sarkeesian to such high standards and cannot have that questioned, why do you use her as a “good example”? You know that she is controversial, and not only because of the internet trolls. Moderate gamers wanting a more nuyanced view are not all too pleased with her simplistic view of their favorite medium.
I really TRIED to see redeeming qualities in Sarkeesians works but it became hard for me to not cringe when she twisted some (NOT all) things around to fit her agenda. She didn’t have to do that, there are plenty of really painfully obvious examples that were open goals for her and just using those would have made the whole series so much better. She might have several good and valid points, but those become pretty moot if the bad ones are plenty enough AND the author is unwilling to meet any criticism and debate openly.
As for Notch and PewDiePie, I have nothing to add. I don’t defend them, I do not condone what they have done and said, and especially in the case of PewDiePie (as I have not followed what Notch has done lately) I outright think he should stop, shut up and just hide behind the rock that all trolls should hide behind. IMHO he is the definition of a troll that makes the world more toxic.
Does it matter what I think about them though? Probably not, since I do not agree on Sarkeesian with you. So then you seem have put me in the bin with all those that like PewDiePie and Notch. My world is far from that black and white, and I like those shades of gray. It more accurately paints the world as complex, and a complex world does not have simple solutions. In my world, someone like Sarkeesian might have a good intention, and wants to do something good but might do a poor job of it. That does in no way say anything about his/her character, I have only seen their work. But I judge that work on it own.
But you have found your niche and I see that I was wrong to assume that you would show me something I have not already read ad nauseam in this confirmation biased toxic little world called the internet. So feel free to read or not read this and remove it from the moderation queue in the knowledge that I will not follow you/your blog any longer and thus not be able disagree with you. I have no interest in participating in a filter bubble/echo chamber. The internet is already too full of those.
2017-11-05 at 19:58
You do what you want, you follow, you don’t follow.
None of the things you’re stating here are true, though. What I said, and I quote, is that “this piece is not about Sarkeesian” but from that you infer a bunch of different things about me, what I’m thinking and if I’ll let you post or not. Wow.