It seems gaming culture has come full circle.
It wasn’t that long ago that video games were a niche activity, popular with computer enthusiasts, young boys etc. After the crash of 1983, nobody was putting a ton of faith in games as an industry. So like comics, fantasy, sci fi and tabletop gaming it was easy to see video games as “for nerds”, an activity that could be safely mocked by the cool kids. Gamers were nerds, dweebs, pathetic, losers, dumb, morons and fat … I could go on but I’m getting sad.
That was what you had to deal with if you liked video games, and clearly a lot of us did. Gaming grew from a curiosity to a bigger industry than movies. The insults became less and less common as more and more people became interested in video games. More people were earning their living in the industry; promoting, producing or commenting on video games. It stopped being a part of your life you would hide and became one you could celebrate. Bottom line, the achievement of mainstream attention for video games was a good thing.
Which is what makes what’s happening in the gaming media right now so depressing.
With the growth of gaming as an industry came growth in the gaming media and journalism industry, gaming journalists (if thats the right word to use) became less homogenous. They bucked the “straight white male” stereotype and they helped demonstrate that the gaming world was for everyone.
The issue arose, as we have seen in recent years and especially in the last month, when these members of the gaming media dispensed with true journalism and began to push an agenda upon the gamers who they ostensibly write for.
They decided that there weren’t enough female protagonists and that the women who did appear in games were too token, too sexual, too useless. They decided that gamers were largely sexist and that the actions of gamers in-game reflected that.
Gamers are homophobic, gamers are racist, gamers hate women, gay people and non-white people; the thesis was that games need to change dramatically to meet their approval.
Personally I don’t believe either gender is represented perfectly in video games. If you have a problem with the stereotypical femme fatale or damsel in distress, you should also take issue with the testosterone fuelled psychopath role that men so often take on in games. But that doesn’t make as good a headline so I understand why you won’t see it. (Youtuber ScannerBarkly made a great video on this topic and I recommend you watch it)
Now I’m not saying that women are perfectly represented in video games, I’m not saying that video games should not contain depictions of gay people and I’m not saying that games should only feature white people. I’m saying that instead of creating games that met their standard or advocating positively for representation of X group in the medium; these “journalists” vilified games that didn’t pass muster in their eyes and did it repeatedly.
These were the people who crusaded endlessly for games to be considered art and as soon as they began to reach that point, they turned to the artists and said
“your art is bad, here are the things you need to do to make your art suit us”
Understandably there was hesitance, but as this was carried out under the banner of equality and justice it was hard for game developers or media personalities to disagree without being painted with the brush of the bigot. When the gaming media is the one leading the push, the best thing for game makers to do is capitulate, lest the media decide not to cover their projects.
To give companies a choice of “agree with us or be doomed to irrelevancy” is not a different viewpoint, it is not progress, it is bullying. For a group with major concerns about oppression and silencing they are incredibly quick to push an agenda without concern for disagreement or dissent.
This shouldn’t be the method by which progress (however loosely you define progress) is made. If this is your method for getting a message into the world, it does not mean everyone agrees with you, it means they’re scared of you
#GamerGate however provided more pushback against an increasingly agenda driven gaming media. The proponents of #GamerGate (myself included) have demanded the gaming media be accountable and transparent to its readers about conflict of interest, nepotism and cronyism. The dissidents claim that we are all misogynists who hate that women are becoming involved in video games.
I don’t have a problem with dissident opinion, not at all. The only way progress is made is through discourse; #GamerGate supporters shouldn’t unilaterally dictate the future and neither should the social justice advocates of the gaming world. There are people who use the #GamerGate movement as an excuse to be toxic and misogynist, just like there are people who abuse social justice to further their own career. NOBODY is 100% correct, but instead of reporting on the issues fairly the gaming media committed what I believe is their greatest betrayal.
They burned their base.
They turned on the gamers. The people who provide the ad revenue that keeps them employed, the ones who turned them from basement bloggers to respectable journalists, the people who created their career via their support of a fledgling industry; these people weren’t good enough anymore. “Gamers” don’t have to be your audience anymore. “Gamers” are over, they said. Once these “journalists” received enough attention from the social justice crowd, from mainstream media and any number of other sources they announced to the world that gamers don’t matter anymore; thanks for the money, now piss off.
As a lifelong gamer, that hurt, but it was nothing compared to what happened next. Gaming “journalists” and #GamerGate dissidents started getting creative with their criticism of #GamerGate supporters. We weren’t just “over” or “dead” we were;
Confederates, Neo-NAZIs (https://twitter.com/devincf/status/509120907000823808)
Enablers of child pornography/Pedophiles: (http://38.media.tumblr.com/60d8774d77925c6c2b33da61a320fcc9/tumblr_nbgx6jSebG1tkhroeo2_1280.png)
Peddlers of child porn: (http://i.imgur.com/KJiOEB4.jpg)
Threatened with violence (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BwYqklLIQAAJRrt.jpg:large)
And best of all — Trash: http://i.imgur.com/E4kRwKN.png
(Thanks to JW at medium.com for this handy list)
I don’t want to portray #GamerGate supporters as thin-skinned babies who can’t handle criticism but it isn’t pleasant to hear these sort of insults directed at you. Especially when the reason for this abuse is a desire to have more clarity in video game journalism.
Anyone with a pulse would bristle at being called these things, it’s not fun to be called a fat, basement dwelling manbaby child-porn peddler, but here it feels worse. It feels worse because these people were supposed to represent us. They grew up with games, they were called nerds, losers and shut-ins and they understood what it meant to love a hobby that could get you labelled uncool. We thought that with those people in positions of influence and respect then those labels would no longer be applied to video gamers. Instead it meant that the gaming media just has an intimate knowledge of fun insults to use against us.
They were supposed to understand, but as soon as we disagreed with them they did not hesitate to twist the knife where they knew it hurt. Those terms; nerd, dweeb, basement dweller, neckbeard, loser etc. they aren’t the worst thing you can be called, far from it. But they were supposed to be things of the past, relics from an age when games weren’t important, they were a hobby for losers. To hear the people you used to respect speak to you in that way tells us that not only do they not care about us, they used us. They built their career, their success on your attention but now that you aren’t toeing the line they’ll tell you what they really think.
That is the behaviour of a manipulator, of a two-face, that is the behaviour of a bully. The attitude of these bullies is best demonstrated by a tweet responding to a #GamerGate supporter; “Get on the right side of history or fuck off”. Essentially saying, if you don’t agree with us then your opinion no longer matters.
Whether it comes from pushing agenda into games and news media or from dismissing criticism with insults; its clear that the bullies here aren’t the ones holding the controller, they’re the ones holding the pen.