Editor’s note, disclosure, the RIGHT thing to do: I want to first say, by way of trying to have some ethics, I am a supporter of the group that is fighting games journalist corruption and has adopted the tag #GamerGate. The image on the left says it all.
If you want to get past the personal stuff jump right down to the first section. I just wanted to give a little background before I jump into this one. I’ve been debating, for awhile now, about writing an article. In all honesty most of my hesitation was out of fear. People are getting attacked for publicly speaking in and out of Twitter, on both sides of this issue. Personal information is being released, jobs are being lost, and lives are being threatened. Whether it’s real, imagined, a threat someone intends to carry out, or just someone being a jerk, it’s all bad and it causes people to hesitate. I’ve been a supporter of this consumer revolt since about week three, when I started looking up what this tag meant and why it was starting to fill my Twitter timeline. It didn’t take long to see what the problem is, and who is actually trying to do something to fix it. So now that I’ve been on the ride for awhile, and have gone to some efforts to secure my private information (but nothing’s perfect) I wanted to share some thoughts. Not about what happened to start this thing, that’s been explained by some, and twisted by others far better at this than I. I want to talk about the changes we have already seen, and those I expect we’ll see, and whether you like it or not this thing will have a significant impact on the industry going forward and I think that’s a good thing.
People have to remember that gaming, as an industry, and sub-culture, is still in its infancy. It’s now the largest entertainment industry in the world and it did it in less time than movies, television, and radio did. When compared to books as entertainment, gaming is still a swaddling newborn. To put that into perspective it’s estimated that this year the gaming industry will be double that of the international film industry’s worth from 2013. As gamers we are experiencing those growing pains much quicker, and much more pronounced that any other industry did. We also have a greater attachment to this industry because we aren’t just passive observers of entertainment. We actively participate, engage in the story, become the characters, and virtually live the experience. It creates an emotional attachment to this thing we love, so when this thing we love is vilified, attacked, and stomped on by insiders and outsiders, we feel it more profoundly. Like a forest fire that clears underbrush, cracks seeds, and fertilizes land, this newest flare-up will eventually end, and the landscape will be different. It will be better. Will it be perfect? No, only the naive think that any industry involving money will be perfect. But, gamers have stood up as consumers and reminded a certain segment of the industry, the journalists at (mostly) online outlets, that they need us more than we need them. At the end of this we will probably still have some bad sites out there, but we’ll know who they are. We are already seeing, however, an upsurge of previously little-known sites gaining readers, and we are seeing a small group of larger sites taking notice and making efforts to address the very ethics issues that have been pointed out in the scandal.
Social media has been our benefit, and our Achilles heel that the other groups did not have. I’m an old guy in this, comparatively. I’ve watched tabletop gaming and comics, my other two major hobbies, go through similar changes with the fanbase, consumers, left with no recourse but to watch it happen. The changes have not all been bad, but they haven’t all been good either, and there was no real way for those consumers to discuss the changes, and voice their concerns, complaints, and ideas in a unified manner. Now, with Twitter and other sites (that have not silenced/banned discussion) consumers can discuss, coordinate, and say with one voice, “Stop, I am tired of being marginalized.” That is honestly what is happening, and it’s just another growing pain of an entertainment industry that is getting bigger, faster than anyone is ready for, or even willing to admit. When games journalists write articles that state their audience, gamers, are just a group of whining man-babies, living in basements and lacking in social skills, they willfully ignore the fact that more money is spent on games than any other media in the world. To think that will go by unnoticed is pure ignorance. So this growing giant stood up from his console, his PC, or his tablet and refused to be bullied.
Perception is one of the things that will change when this is all over. Perception of the industry, gamers, ideology, and stereotypes are all being tested, questioned, and in the end I believe will settle into a more normal (but still flawed) level.
Gamers are over, dead, not your audience: When the dozen or so articles with this narrative hit can probably be called the spark that lit the real inferno that became #GamerGate. Not for their laughable message to the industry that gamers aren’t their audience, but because of the terrible and often slanderous stereotypes in those articles. This all followed studies that show more people identify as gamers than any other time, including casual, hard core, and any type of gamer in between. The media had just finished hyping this report to show how huge the gaming community was becoming, then a few journalists went completely against this narrative to say gamers don’t have to be the audience of gaming companies. This ‘logic’ speaks for itself and requires no real debunking, even people that do not support the consumer revolt still identify as gamers.
#GamerGate was started to harass women and still does: Date and timestamps on tweets and posts prove this to be factually false, and a browsing of the hashtag on Twitter can back that up. One thing needs to be made clear. Before #GamerGate women were getting harassed by jerks online. When this is all over, if it is ever over women will still get harassed online by jerks. There are a couple of verifiable instances of idiots using the tag to harass people, but they are quickly pointed out, reported, and blocked by the very people that are supposedly only interested in harassing women. Let’s make a greater point here, however. PEOPLE get harassed online daily. Men and women, even children. I’ve seen screenshots of an anti-GamerGate user on Twitter threatening to kill a minor, and I have seen an idiot under the GamerGate tag threaten to kill a woman. In all cases these are psychopaths, who are responsible for their own actions. No one else, no other group is responsible for this. To blame a group of people only causes more harm to the victims, and the innocent people involved.
There is no diversity in the industry and that must change now: This is what I would call a half-myth. There is diversity in the gaming industry, and it’s getting better year by year. I’m convinced it’s not getting better fast enough for some people, but they are going at this issue the wrong way. In all my experience in the work place, tech industry, and talking to devs/designers, no one is actively attempting to keep anyone out. There will always be jerks, sexists (of both gender), and people who don’t like change, but as each generation of gamers get older, more and more young people are getting interested in gaming and they’ll grow up to learn the business, and get involved. This is not something that can be forced, and won’t be fixed by talking about how bad it is. The real myth is that gamers want to keep things less diverse. In all honesty we don’t care who made a game, what their gender was, or the color of their skin. We just want good games and good gamers to play them with, period. Anyone that doesn’t fit that is on the extreme fringe and not enough to keep things from getting better.
There is no diversity in games and that must change now: Another half-myth. There are diverse games out there, but there can be more, of course there can be more. A quick search though, will give you a plethora of games with female leads. More games with LGBT themes are coming out, and people of color are in almost every game whether in primary or support roles. The myth that’s being perpetuated is that gamers don’t like this and that’s just plain false. If we had a problem with it these games wouldn’t sell, and they do, in huge numbers. The thing gamers have a problem with is including diverse characters or stories just to check off a box and make yourself feel better. Don’t include a female character just to have a female character, we’ll see right through it, and it’s condescending to women. Don’t include social issues in a game just to push social issues, again, we’ll see right through it.
#GamerGate is about keeping women out of gaming: This one is so obviously false it almost shouldn’t be talked about, but it is being talked about. I will just say, prove it. For my side, we have supported The Fine Young Capitalists drive to get more women in gaming. We support gaming developers regardless of gender, and women are a huge factor in the consumer revolt under #GamerGate. A quick look at the #NotYourShield hashtag on Twitter would be easy enough to shut this one down. If anyone can show me a viable connection to the consumer revolt trying to block a woman from getting into gaming because of her gender let me know.
#GamerGate is just made up of right-wing conservatives: Again, a quick run through the hashtag puts this one down quickly. Most of the people that have taken any sort of online ‘political scale’ test has shown to be left-leaning libertarians and liberals. The problem is they are not liberal enough for the extreme left so they must be right. In all honesty we don’t talk politics except when this joke crops up, and in this instance, we don’t care. We are united in something more important than party lines.
Gamers are just ~ists that promote ~ism: This is the most disturbing trend in social media in recent years. Disagree with a woman, you’re a sexist. Disagree with a minority, you’re a racist. These ~ists and ~isms are being used in arguments to dehumanize people and try to shut down discussion with shame and guilt. They know, no one wants to be called these things so they do it anyway. The problem is it devalues these words and when they truly are appropriate they lack meaning. They’ve become the tool of people too insecure to accept criticism, or too ignorant to handle debate. In any case, these things, people that fit these descriptions exist everywhere. When you use them to describe an entire group of people blindly consider that you are doing it to yourself as well.
#GamerGate is just a bunch of white men…: #NotYourShield, look it up. It’s sad that the people using this hashtag have had to make the uncomfortable choice of putting pictures of themselves online just to prove they exist, and then when they do they are called stupid, misguided, and even still not real. When people that call #GamerGate a group of misogynists then turn on a proGG woman and tell her she just doesn’t understand how much she is being hurt by her own choices I’m killed by the irony.
These are just a few of the myths that have been packaged up as easy to swallow pills for people who don’t know, don’t want to know, or are to focused on something else to find out. That’s the drawback of our society that learns in soundbites, 140 character sentences, and six second video clips. We want someone to explain an issue to us fast, simply, and as neatly as possible so that we can get back to whatever it is we were doing. Only when we truly sit down and start doing our own research do we find out that almost every headline, tweet, and meme is completely incapable of explaining a real issue in any significant way.
One of the greatest things to come out of this, and something that will carry forward, is the confirmation of something we have all known. Gamers, in and out of the consumer revolt, are a beautiful tapestry of people. I have seen people of all races, genders, creeds and ideology band together to support each other and their love of gaming. The people on the other ‘side’, the gamers that are lumped into anti-GG are part of this tapestry too, and when this is all over they will still be gamers. We all have to remember, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of people that are opposed to GamerGate have been lead to believe a lot of awful things by the few people that are the focus of this revolt. I can’t blame them all, if I had been told what they are told, by people I trusted, I’d be upset too. Luckily I never gave much credit to the media in the first place. Gamers have become one of the most diverse sub-cultures that I can personally think of and that’s something that gives me great hope. Our tapestry is frayed around the edges of course, and some very ugly people hang onto those frays. Some people are working to fix them or cut them away, and others are shining a light on them, but in the end the edges don’t devalue what we have. Every group or movement, hell anytime a large group of people get together to share ideas there’s always a fringe element. Those who capitalize on that, use it to devalue the issues and innocents involved, are just the fringe on the other side. I don’t think that will ever detract from the beauty of seeing all of these people, from all walks of life, stand together and firm in their belief that things have gotten out of hand. We are united by our love of games, all sorts of games, and whether we ever agree on everything or not that’s one thing we can bond over.
Hope for the future
I have a great deal of hope for the future, even while things seem very dark. There’s a lot of hate going around, a lot of loud and angry people trying to be heard over each other in a completely silent medium known as Twitter. Despite the condescending, hateful and sometimes violent comments, we truck on, keeping our heads down and trying not to feel like we’re back in high school. Things will change, no matter how hard people fight for or against it, it’s too late for things to stay the same. Some sites won’t make it out of this with a reasonable readership, and others will come out of it with much more. Some will adapt, and others will become extinct. The games industry has already taken note, and will continue to, and that’s good. Gamers, who have long been stereotyped in just about every form of media, and have embraced many of those images and proudly ‘let our freak flags fly’ have shown that we will only take so much before we remind people that we will not be bullied. I think that will evolve into a more solid identity for gamers, and a better community as gamers will start to cross over our own divides like PC vs. Console, PS4 vs XBOX and remember that while our little rivalries can be fun, we are still gamers and in the end we stick up for each other. We have, through this, brought to light a lot of female developers, journalists, and gamers that do support ethics and want their voice heard. It wasn’t long ago I read articles by women that said they generally didn’t speak up, logged in to game and never used voice, and troubling comments like that because they felt unwelcome. Now we have women speaking loudly that they are gamers, and they will not be told what to believe, how to act, and that they are perfectly capable of defending themselves when they are offended, without some white knight riding in to speak for them. There’s no telling how long this will go on, as every time we think things are settling to some normalcy someone comes along and pours a cup of gasoline on the smoldering coals, but when it’s all said and done I think we will be left with a much better, much more inclusive, and much stronger industry and culture.
In all honestly I post this with a fairly high level of anxiety, but I feel it needs to be said. I’m a small fish out here, and there’s a lot of bad stuff going on. Some of this might not make sense, and I’m sure someone will find some reason to be offended, but it’s my thoughts, and hopes, for the future of a hobby I’ve loved for just about all of my life. Please feel free to share your thoughts below. I have to approve the first post of every new user but don’t let that deter you. I will, however, not tolerate flaming, trolling, hate, threats, and excessive cursing. Family and friends, including young people read this site. I love to hear everyone’s thoughts, but will not have the ugliness I’ve seen at other places. I hope that this message helps those who are feeling down, overwhelmed, or just wondering if we’ll have any affect in the end. It may have just been a bunch of rambling, take it how you will.