What the hell do you call this whole Gamergate thing, anyway? I was about to use the term ‘movement’, but that implies a lot of people all moving in one direction. Even the most cursory look at what some people of this persuasion (Is that enough qualifiers for the ‘BUT YOU’RE JUST MAKING MORE GENERALIZATIONS!’ crowd?) are complaining about shows an almost comical lack of consistency not just in the claimed roots of the problem, but also in the ‘ethical’ standards they demand, and those to which they’re willing to hold themselves.
Ask Felicia Day. The actress, whose career has remained inextricably linked to gaming due to her hugely popular web series The Guild, put up a tumblr post the other day giving her own take on the Gamergate controversy – opinions she confesses she has kept silent up to this point because she has been afraid of possible repercussions as experienced by so many prominent women in gaming recently.
She explains the impetus for breaking her silence as being a moment of clarity experienced while out and about in Vancouver. Spotting a couple of guys wearing gaming shirts walking down the street, she suddenly realizes that her reaction is different than normal:
“…seeing another gamer on the street used to be an auto-smile opportunity, or an entry into a conversation starting with, “Hey, dude! I love that game too!” Me and that stranger automatically had something in common: A love for something unconventional. Outsiders in arms. …But for the first time maybe in my life, on that Saturday afternoon, I walked towards that pair of gamers and I didn’t smile. I didn’t say hello. In fact, I crossed the street so I wouldn’t walk by them. Because after all the years of gamer love and inclusiveness, something had changed in me. A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all. That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt.
I went home and was totally, utterly depressed.”
Day’s attitude is not combative or aggressive; she in fact confesses to disliking herself more for letting fear silence her than the people committing this harassment, and implores people to not let the behaviour of a cowardly minority turn them away from enjoying gaming to its fullest:
“Games are beautiful, they are creative, they are worlds to immerse yourself in. They are art. And they are worth fighting for, even if the atmosphere is ugly right now. A small minority are putting up barbed wire walls between us who love games. And that is sad. Because odds are 99% certain that those guys on the street who I avoided would have been awesome to talk to. I realize that letting the actions of a few hateful people influence my behavior is the absolutely worst thing I could do in life. And not an example I want to set, ever.
So to myself and to everyone else who operates out of love not vengeance: Don’t abandon games. Don’t cross the street. Gaming needs you. To create, to play, to connect.
It’s one of the best pieces of commentary on this whole thing I’ve read so far: intelligent, sincere and honestly kind of heartbreaking. Ultimately, however, it’s inspirational to see someone who loves gaming so much get driven to such profound fear and despair come around and realize that as gamers, we should be proud of this medium, our medium, and display to the world that these people do not represent us.
And what happens? Within an hour, she gets doxxed and her home address is posted for the world to see. One of these noble, defiant and heroic keyboard warriors took the easiest target anyone could possibly imagine and didn’t even think twice about confirming her worst fears. What gets me is, you can at least understand why someone would do this to Anita Sarkeesian, or Zoe Quinn, or any of the other women who have taken positions that have been unpopular with the bottom of the gaming barrel. Not to condone those actions one bit – quite the opposite, in fact – but you can at least see how they’ve pissed these people off.
But what the fuck has Felicia Day done to deserve this? The answer of course, is ‘nothing’. Squat. Zilch. Not a sausage. All she did was confess a paranoia depressingly familiar to most women in society, and try and put forward a message of positivity and pride in ourselves.
And there we see the true face of ‘Gamergate’.
Ethics in journalism? Don’t make me laugh. I’ve tried engaging on this subject. I’ve heard the mealy-mouthed monologuing about shadowy conspiracies to conquer gaming’s cultural heartland, to kow-tow to publishers for financial gain, to team up with vain, embittered minority developers and create some incestuous Axis of Pretension, to stubbornly uphold corruption and unprofessionalism in the industry and silence those who oppose it, to gargle twice a day with the blood of virgins, etc etc… And while there are elements that lead to things that can be improved in the industry, the kicker is that these people never actually want to talk about these things in a rational manner. They just want the fucker burned down wholesale and don’t want to think about it. They want to hit the pinata, not examine it, and then when people fail to take them seriously they want to feel the burn of indignation and protest and hiss all the more.
So we’re supposed to hear them say that all this harassment is about journalism and keep a straight face? So why is this behaviour directed almost exclusively towards women? This shit’s happening here in Australia too, to women who don’t have a fraction of the influence of an Anita Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn. And speaking of Quinn, don’t go thinking that that particular barrel o’ chuckles is done yet either, with one rocket scientist declaring that he’s going to hire a private investigator to track Quinn:
The internet has always been like this. You don’t have to have reasons to hate something, or proof for that matter: you just have to smack that pinata over and over, untiring, unwavering and unlistening, and eventually that sweet, sweet justification will come tumbling out. The fact that it never does is no reason to stop believing that it will, and it’s everyone else’s job to come round and believe you rather than demand that you back up your claims. What we’re getting at the moment is a particularly virulent strain of this attitude wrapped around a volatile nucleus of several issues hitting the zeitgeist all at once. Maybe it’s because of this fact that many, myself included, have tried to approach those who hold these beliefs in the context of whatever thread is bothering them personally, treating the journalism stuff and the misogyny/abuse stuff as separately as possible, in an attempt to stop these debates grinding to a halt with screams of ‘Generalization! Generalization!’.
But what’s become increasingly clear that these Gamergate types and their supporters for the most part don’t give two shits about meeting any of us halfway on this. Many don’t even have the class to condemn the abusers without needing to shove their own agenda in at any possible moment, as if to say ‘Don’t think I’ve given up yet!’ Oh, they’ll bitch and moan about the rest of us lumping them in with the doxxers and misogynists and threateners, but it seems more and more that that’s just a diversionary tactic, a way to toss a guilt bomb in the hopes of throwing their opponents off their stride. But when the serious stuff goes down, too many are unwilling to engage with the situation and disengage their own bruised egos, like this post I found on reddit:
So, Gawker doxxed Felicia Day? Well done for being a Gamergate supporter/sympathizer/gold class member/whatever who disapproves of this kind of abuse, but this kind of halfhearted ‘concession’ to stalking and threatened violence being – newsflash! – bad, immediately nullified by the twisting around of the issue to suit one’s personal bogeyman.
And you know what? They’ve been given enough chances to have their grievances taken seriously. There are genuine discussions to be had about misogyny, about social issues, about games journalism, to be had, but they’re not being had because the people with these problems just can’t fucking let up for a minute and engage with the other side, to even attempt to look at the wider issue past their own self-indulgent conspiracy theories. It’s funny that the term ‘white knight’ keeps coming up in mocking reference to those who defend these women, because some of the conspiracy/anti-SJW crowd seem to be straight-up dragonslayers in their own mind. But debate isn’t about that: it’s about the exchange of ideas, about point and counterpoint, about little things like logic, analysis and statements that don’t just make you sound good or are meant to make the other side feel guilty, but are backed up with solid, contextual evidence. I haven’t seen any of this. Some people may think that they’ve shown me ‘evidence’ but what they’ve presented has without exception been woefully thin and lazily-constructed. When I’ve called them out on this, the responses I’ve received have positively dripped with indignance, as if the fact that I would dare question the evidence they oh-so-graciously provided me just proved how awful and unreasonable I really am, like I was supposed to gratefully snarf up whatever scraps they deigned to toss me.
It’s indicative of the delusional arrogance of the whole thing. These people don’t want change; they just want to break things and pat themselves on the back as the rubble goes flying. Sure, not all of them are sending death threats or doxxing or abusing people on the internet, but it seems like the point has come where if you can’t put aside your own pet theories to at least speak against these bullying fuckers without qualification, you might as well be considered a symbolic, if not active, part of the problem. What’s more, if you can’t define your grievances and argue them like a functioning adult be prepared for nobody to listen, because the world at large is already struggling to understand what the fuck you want. That’s the sentiment I’ve gotten from talking to non-gamers over the last couple of months, who understand that Gamergate is not indicative of gamers at large and for the life of them cannot work out what the problem is. Clickhole have wondered the same thing, leading them to post a rudimentary definition of ‘Gamergate’ they have openly invited those who identify with that banner to come and edit to best reflect its position. I don’t expect much, but at least the opportunity is there for those who may actually care more about standing for something than simply opposing everything.
And with that, I’ll get off my soapbox before I repeat myself too much. I know I’ve hit this topic pretty hard over the last couple of months and have tried not to let it dominate MCP content, but this shit keeps happening and it’s important. I still firmly believe that we’re on the cusp of the most important period of this medium’s – our medium’s – young life, and the conversations that need to happen are too important to waste on those who only care about their own comfort zones and unwillingness to engage with the world. As I said before, it’s increasingly important for the 95% of us gamers who aren’t prejudiced and who do want to see gaming grow, to remind the world that the abusers, theorists and destructive ones don’t represent us or the medium, and that we want no part of what they represent. Because the fact is, the more some people stubbornly parrot the same old fantasies about grand press conspiracies and shady conglomerations of SJWs, the more foolish they look to the world, the more they will be associated with the genuinely harmful minority and the less their own opinions will be heard. The longer all this goes on, the more I see a schism developing in the gamer population and the more I wonder if it’s inevitable.
I’d rather it didn’t happen – like Day, I’d like to see everyone celebrating the good times together – but some people in our world have created an apocalypse, not one of corruption and cultural occupation like they believe but the very maelstrom they have kicked up and are feeding with conspiracies, fingerpointing and at worst, directly threatening behaviour towards the safety of people who have done nothing to deserve it. These people will not be there when the genuine questions get tackled; they don’t want to be. They don’t want solutions, and I can think of no better retort than for us all to create solutions faster than they can attempt to knock them down, solutions we can create by promoting inclusion, promoting debate and the active evolution of the medium, not just on a large scale but day-to-day, in our everyday interactions with everyone around us, be they gamer or not.
And as for the ranters, the grumblers and the Gaters? If they can’t sack up and argue like functional adults, forget ’em. That’s what history’s going to do.
Thanks to Chewers Reasor, Michael Shaver and Paul C for pointing me out to some of the materials referenced in this piece.