I’ve been looking at writing this article for a couple of weeks now and the recent video from The David Pakman Show, #GamerGate: Will Everyone Hate This Video?, spurred me to push up the writing of it. First off, if you haven’t seen it go watch it. No David, not everyone hates it, though I’m sure you got some negativity. I personally found it to be a very accurate image of the scandal. There’s just one portion, probably the longest portion unfortunately, that I felt missed the point. It’s not David’s fault at all though. The idea that the gaming industry isn’t all that important is a fairly common concept. David’s right, the average person doesn’t wake up in the morning and think of gaming, or view their world through the lens of ethics in gaming journalism. I covered why in a previous article about the gamer trope. But, I will expand on that, and explain why even the average gamer might not consider just how big this ‘hobby’ is. That it’s not ‘just gaming’ anymore.
There are a number of reasons why ethics in games journalism is important, and why gaming can’t really be shoved off as ‘just gaming’ anymore, but the most obvious one is money. The Consumerist wrote a lengthy piece in June, before the scandal hit that said a lot. There are two paragraphs though that hit home in light of #GamerGate and highlights why we should take gaming more seriously.
Games, like film, TV, and literature before them, are commercialized art and products of our culture. They can be great or terrible, memorable or forgettable, and everything in between. They can be five minutes of dreck you play on your phone on the bus, or 500 hours of life-changing tramping around a richly imagined virtual world.
In 2013 alone they were also a $21 billion business in the U.S. And still, in the rare instance that the nightly news even mentions video games, it’s likely to be an ill-informed pundit grandstanding about violence in games, or video footage of “booth babes” and cosplayers at a convention, without considering the huge amount of money, time, and people involved.
The article breaks down to basically this. Gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the U.S., and the world according to other sources. Anytime you have that much money flowing through a corporate machine, or machines, ethics is always important. Now, David made some great points. There are issues in the world that are far more important to some people, that seem like they are in more need of notice. I won’t deny that war, famine, human rights, disease, and political issues are important. They very much are, but to many people gaming is what drives them, their sole purpose, whether it be their way of making a living, their way of dealing with the world, or their outlet to help deal with their struggles.
I would agree that most of the things David mentions are more important to the world at large than games journalism. What I would say to that, however, is that we must pick our battles and help in the best way we can. Not all of us have money to donate to cancer research, or medical aid to 3rd world countries. Not everyone can serve in the military to help defend those who can’t defend themselves. Not everyone can leave their homes to help the less fortunate by building one for them. Some of us see an injustice and we hate that it’s there, we speak out against it, but we can’t always do something about it. In this case, most of us can. So, we’ve picked this battle, because it is important to us. It may not be important to our neighbors, or to our parents, or to a reporter for the Washington Post, but it is to us.
It is also important for some of us that are parents. We see a shadow of what the gaming industry will look like in the future and we don’t like it. We see journalists talk about bullying neuroatypical people, or just nerds in general and it angers us. Not only because we were bullied ourselves, but because our children are. For many gaming is how our children deal with the world, how they find acceptance and a way to communicate. We see these things and that makes it important.
@Adobe I’m not a gamer. I do have an autistic son who is a gamer. Gawker staff bragging about bullying people on the spectrum sickened me.
— Janet Mackay (@jmackay1962) October 22, 2014
This amazing mother stepped into a world that would be ugly, because journalists thought it would be funny to talk about bullying. She’s not a gamer, but that didn’t matter, she stepped up for her kids, to make sure they could be who they are without being told they don’t deserve to identify as a gamer anymore. This is why it matters that journalists, gaming or otherwise, accept a responsibility for what they do and say. Later Janet shared why she’s worried about what will happen when this is all over, or worse, if we lose and the informational gatekeepers of the gaming industry are left to continue business as usual.
I’m concerned that when the gaming press has fallen into line to the satisfaction of the majority using the Gamergate hashtag, that the hashtag will no longer be viable. And maybe that’s right. However, without that tag I do worry that people like my son and daughter will go back to being unheard, a casualty of all this. As TotalBiscuit said, he has a huge following and he doesn’t need a hashtag, well, I do and so do my kids.They have always faced prejudice. but nothing on this scale and it is set in people’s minds like never before. It won’t go away without re-educating people after all the negative press they’ve heard and seen.
She’s not the only one who have been honestly and irreparably hurt by the stereotypes spread by the media. I’ve spoken to many for whom gaming is not just a hobby, but their way of dealing with the world, and their own struggles. They’ve found acceptance, and an outlet to express themselves through gaming that they don’t find anywhere else.
For others gaming is their livelihood. Whether it is development, media, writing, or competitive play, gaming is their life, not just a hobby for children. When games media gives preference to a company due to a gift, they may take money from another company whose game might actually be better. You have companies who don’t, or can’t give journalists favors and gifts who get less air time, and it hurts them when those journalists accept those gifts, without disclosure, and give unfair priority to those less ethical companies. When a big media outlet accepts gifts and gives favorable reviews they also hurt smaller media outlets that either can’t get the free review copies, or won’t accept gifts. It skews the marketplace toward the unethical companies and media, and hurts those who don’t ‘play the game’.
David did mention problems with the corporate media and the relationship with politics and money being an issue, and I see these things already related. If they aren’t now, they certainly will be soon. Does anyone believe the largest entertainment industry in the U.S. will stay out of politics for long? We are hearing about gaming companies forming PACs now, and you bet your prominent Solid Snake ass that they will be giving money to politicians and lobbying for laws concerning games, and those same unethical journalists will be involved in both delivering news about it, and helping companies spin that news. That’s also assuming that this movement won’t evolve into something larger that starts to take on that same corporate media.
Can #GamerGate take on MSNBC, CNN, and FOX now, with the current numbers? No, but the movement also hasn’t stuck to just the gaming media. Look at Gawker. They stepped into the ring, thinking to take on #GamerGate, and it backfired spectacularly. Every time the MSM runs a negative interview, or someone appears on a satirical talk show, more people learn what #GamerGate is and the ‘fire rises’ as people like to say. According to a less than scientific block bot on Twitter there are about 15k people using the hashtag without bashing it. Of course that bot has caught up some neutrals, even David Pakman himself, but that’s to be expected. We are seeing more non-gamers, more developers, and hordes (and alliance, thanks BlizzCon) of gamers coming in every day to find out what all the fuss is about.
Finally it’s important, because many of these journalist actions are illegal under FTC regulations related to disclosure of gifts and compensation. Oh I know, disclosure and the FTC, it’s not murder or grand theft, but ignoring it is no better than a speeder telling the cop that pulled him over to go hassle real criminals. Even if a reviewer gets a free copy of a game, book, or movie, they are required to disclose that. This hasn’t been happening. Free trips to expensive hotels, allegations of hired escorts, and expensive gaming systems with the game installed are just a few of the ‘perks’ of being a journalist in the gaming media if reports are accurate. No one is saying companies can’t get review copies, and even consoles to review a number of titles on, but those things must be disclosed. The consumer is entitled to be informed if the review he or she is reading was written from a $150 dollar a night hotel room in Hawaii after having been treated to drinks and free food all day while playing video games. Not because of some sense of entitlement itself, but because it is the law. An article by Dianne Jacob, a food reviewer, breaks it down for those of us who don’t read legalese.
So, I agree with David, that there are very important issues in the world, that there is harassment on both sides of this issue, and that there is a real issue with gaming journalism in relation to ethics. We agree that to many people, gaming journalism isn’t important, but we also know, for many others it is. At the very least it is one of the multitude of important issues that people worry about. It’s not curing cancer, or stopping war in the Middle East. It’s not solving immigration or fixing the economy, but for many of us it is making the world a little bit better. We can’t fix the entire world, but we can work to make our small part of it better, and that’s why we are in this until the end.