Dear Reasonable #GamerGate(er)…

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Dear reasonable #gamergate (er),

This has probably already been said, but I’m boiling over so I’ll say it anyway…
Video games are going through a pivotal moment. In the popular consciousness, games are coming into the mainstream and its happening right now. The standard for games is shifting from disposable niche market commodity to a universally recognized form of media. Up until now, during games disposable commodity phase, the notion of credible game journalism was laughable. There simply wasn’t enough interest to be able to fund journalistic coverage. The attitude was that games were a small niche and ‘free journalism’ existed only within a small group of amateur users: fans reviewing things for fans. Advertisers – and to an increasingly smaller extent, subscribers – are who fund “free/unbiased” commercial and large-scale journalism and its distribution in western society. Up until this point, the only groups who cared enough about games to pay for anything to appear in print were those who stood to most directly benefit from their circulation. The biggest such group, the ones with the most invested commercial interest and the ones with the most funds to invest, were and are the game producers. This is more than a little problematic. Game publications that are funded almost exclusively by invested parties are in a clear conflict of interest. There WAS no game journalism in a broad sense: it was game advertising. There are plenty examples of this: Jeff Gerstmann and Gamespot; Nintendo Magazine; developer funded infomercials in mainstream tabloid press; etc. If you’re a gamer, you’ve seen it. But this isn’t an issue unique to gaming. If you look outside the gamer niche, these ‘controversies’ abound. Travel resort review publications, wine reviewers, shoe and skater mags (online and in print), among many others, accept premiums from producers to feature and assess their commodities. The honesty of reviews varies, depending on editorial policy, but you can usually pay a little more if you are confident in your product. This premium might allow you to run an ad featuring the review quote opposite the review, or bump your column into a feature. The justification is: we are a niche market with a niche audience based on a PRODUCT – we have expenses and limited resources to draw on. We need the extra cash.

This is a problem and the discussion about game journalism needs to be had. But how its being done and what its being conflated with is messed up. The GamerGate banner is at odds with its own cause. Lets look a little deeper. Because you are a reasonable GamerGat(er) I’m going to assume some background knowledge.

Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn (controversial figures in this story) are both doing something new – they are treating the game medium as a standalone creative platform. Anita is critiquing games as a text (applying all the methods of gender studies and textual analysis that have been applied to film and written narrative since the 1960’s). Zoe, as a developer, is messing with the conventions and expectations of the medium. Agree or disagree with their intellectual arguments, or their personal actions, what they are doing is the highest form of flattery. These people are IN LEAGUE with the idea that reasonable GGers claim to purport: holding the medium of video-games to the standard of analysis and accountability that is expected of any other mainstream artistic platform. Presumably, this is what you’re asking: you want good press ethics, those that match external journalistic standards. Yet the GG hashtag is historically based around attacking these producers. Through mental gymnastics many arguing for this movement towards serious analysis and reporting have flipped the switch, arguing that the conventional standard of universal decency is some kind of social justice censorship of free expression. Free? The freedom referred to in this logic is the freedom to be untouched by the common standard, free to stay as they always have been. A minority groups within gamer culture perpetuates this logic. They are a territorial, exclusive group and they consider themselves the core of the community and the gatekeepers of the cultural realm. For this group games are a sacred space, a fantasy escape from broader social expectations and daily realities and responsibilities of society. They have been drawn to games as games have been until now and they are invested in keeping games from becoming what they can be. The GG hashtag is, subsequently, arguing the OPPOSITE of what its reasonable proponents claim: for games and game communities to remain niche, adolescent, market driven commodities. This may not be what the reasonable people under this banner want, but it IS the historical base of the GamerGate movement.

Some reasonable proponents of the gamergate hashtag are worried about abandoning the movement towards good gaming journalism to the marginal, violent, vitriolic fringe. That without reasonable people under the GG banner the very idea of advocacy for good press and representation will be left to the reactionary, self-ordained gamer ‘core’. Don’t do it. You certainly can (and should!) campaign for games, good press and gamer communities. I’ll do it with you. But in doing so under the GG banner you are empowering the faulty logic and the empty narratives of those who want the opposite of games being taken seriously. What will happen if we leave the crazies unregulated under this hashtag? They will not be taken seriously. Dear reasonable GGer, the only reason nut-job ranting, misogynistic vitriol, harassment and the conflation between sexism and game journalism survives is because of you. In being there you create a shield of false solidarity for this fringe to hide behind. You justify their logic and their actions. If you restate your aims and abandon the reactionaries they will be revealed for what they are: an insecure, territorial and reactionary minority on the wrong side of gaming history.

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7 comments

  1. You seem to have a lot wrong here, and I’m going to respond but keep it very short. Most people in GamerGate are very reasonable though. However, video games aren’t barely coming into the mainstream, but have been mainstream for two decades, if not longer, with the coming of Playstation, although Super Nintendo was big before that. However, with the advant of the internet, and internet gaming it has gotten even bigger. With that, games are/have been very inclusive. Gamers accept everyone, they don’t become bias based on how to look, your gender, or anything superficial to gaming. They may haze you if you suck and are on their team, or they may haze you if you beat them, because it hurts their egos. However, as in every competitive sport, people are very aggressive and want to win, and threats come along, everyone who plays online games has been threatened. GamerGate isn’t a movement to keep women out, as Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, Zoey Quinn, and others believe. They’re simply pushing a political agenda, which has been seen before, if you want take a look at the Atheism+ movement, which haunted popular atheists, and non celebrities, alike. If they want more feely games, they can make them, we don’t care, but for gaming media sites to push their games because of friendly relationships, money, or even more intimate reasons, is wrong. Gaming is a biggest media industry right now, as you saw with GTA5 making more than a billion dollars it’s first weekend, if I remember correctly.

    We don’t, and are not, here to exclude women. We like that women play games. But, Anita is being “intellectually” dishonest, and making quite a bit of money, and becoming popular, off of this dishonest effort. She wasn’t a gamer, and admitted to having to learn a lot about games to critique it. Whenever these people are questioned, they play the victim card, becuase a few trolls may make fake accounts and threaten them. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is doing it just for this reason, apart of it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nick,

      I take your point about gaming being a massive industry. And I agree that gamers, are no more racist, sexist or just jerks than anyone else. But I think that people pushing a political agenda – introducing politics, morality, analysis, etc – is part of the maturation of any medium. It happens with movies, music, and traditional arts all the time. But that’s never restricted the rage of stuff they produce. As long as it makes money, people will make and sell it.

      I don’t think Anita ever said that dames are MADE to exclude women. From what I remember she was looking and sexist tropes in games. Most of those tropes are present in other media too. I don’t think she argues that games are PARTICULARLY sexist, just that they contain sexism that is representative of a historically engrained societal sexism… And that IS true. It’s changing but it IS true.

      And I don’t understand this stuff about her being a gamer… She’s a social critic, as long as the stuff she is describing is in the ‘text’ then it doesn’t matter how she found the material. This whole thing is being treated as an Internet argument not an academic discussion. Online when people say something they are immediately called to defend it. People and what they say are tied together. In the academy when a controversial argument is published (and they are published pretty frequently) the ideas are detached from the author and are discussed in their own right. This is why it doesn’t matter AT ALL if she is or isn’t a gamer. Who cares? We need to look at the ideas she is putting forth… and she isn’t completely wrong. There ARE problems with sexism and gaming – doesn’t mean that games are all hopelessly sexist. Hello, how ae you?

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  2. I would gladly drop advocacy of gamergate, except that if someone doesn’t push for ethics reform in video game journalism. Truth is, gamers built video games into a multi-billion dollar industry and now sites like Kotaku and Polygon have turned on us with ‘Death to Gamers’ articles. If you want gamergate to go away, show us you’re willing to talk about video game journalism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You defeated your entire point when you blamed all harassment and misogyny on reasonable GG’ers like me.

    ” Dear reasonable GGer, the only reason nut-job ranting, misogynistic vitriol, harassment and the conflation between sexism and game journalism survives is because of you.”

    Don’t pretend you’re trying to appeal to my logic and then insult me right at the end. I could argue the only reason GG is seen as toxic and vitriolic is because of people like you, blaming the vast majority of GGers with the actions of a few trolls.

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    1. Hey David,

      You misunderstand me. I suggested that the reasonable GGer is not a nut-job ranter, misogynistic, harassing or sexist, but that there ARE some people who fit that description under the hashtag. The reasonable GGer is about ethics and journalism. That the guys who deserve insulting are hiding behind the more reasonable majority. That, unwittingly, you are serving as their cover.

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  4. Or you can tell those that are using it to send hate to GTFO of it before they ruin what is and what has been the main way to get people’s attention to clean up ethics in the gaming media. Why do WE have to abandon something that is making progress when it could be easier for the people that are trolling it to GTFO?

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