We are seeing a divide between two groups of people in the gaming community these days: the gamer, and the gaming professional. But before I immediately ignite yet another flame war, let’s start by defining what I mean when I say gamer, and gaming professional.
“Gaming Professionals” are people who, somehow, make money through gaming. Gaming is, quite literally, their livelihood. There are a lot of different gaming professionals. Game developers are professionals, as are “pro gamers” who make their money off competitive tournaments. Publishers, journalists, testers, PR guys, voice actors, artists, sound engineers, professors that teach classes based on games, art critics that put games in their showcases; all of these people are gaming professionals. You don’t have to be paid well to be a professional. Heck, you could be doing something like a web video let’s play series, in the hopes of being paid someday. Either way, the thing that defines a gaming professional is that somehow, gaming and your own livelihood has somehow become intertwined.
Gamers, on the other hand, are people who self-identify as such but have no monetary stake in the video game industry. Gaming isn’t their career, or their life, it is their hobby. If gaming dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow it would suck for them, but in the end they would survive, as opposed to gaming professionals who basically would have the central core of their life gutted. Gamers can be passionate about games and are an important part of any gaming community, and without them, gaming professionals would have no jobs.
I know that’s not usually the way people use the term gamer, but we need words to describe these two groups of people and that’s what I’m going with.
Recently, gamers and game professionals have butted heads over what some are calling “Gamergate.” Basically, this is the long string of harassment that has hit people like Phil Fish, Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and more. It includes live-streamers getting the SWAT team called on them, death threats being posted to twitter, planes being grounded due to bomb threats, and personal information being leaked to the internet for malicious reasons. All of these actions have taken place under the umbrella of gamers targeting gaming professionals.
And other gaming professionals aren’t standing for it. You may have heard of the open letter to the gaming community asking it to, basically, stop all the bullshit. The letter includes over 2000 signatures from professionals, ranging from simple game testers to important figures at AAA studios. Several internet celebrities have come out in support of the very people who were harassed by Gamergate. Professional gamers in several gaming communities have either stayed out of this or flat out called it childish. Granted, there are some journalists and celeberities who support #GamerGate as well, but thus far it seems like more just want this loooooong bad week in gaming history to end.
Yet, the gamers who support the actions taken during Gamergate hide behind the excuse that they are “real” gamers. They have created a shield of paranoia and excuses that paint them as the one true saviors of the gaming world. They believe game designers are in the pocket of political organizations. They believe that critics and analysts are flat out lying to them in order to serve some agenda. They believe that game journalists are being paid off by companies or independent sources to give a particular spin on their articles or reviews. It can’t just be that gaming professionals disagree with this violent and nasty form of behavior. It has to be that the gaming industry is corrupt and these true gamers are standing up for what gaming is really about.
OK, not only is that incredibly delusional, but god if only it were true! Unless you managed to score a gig at one of the biggest names in gaming, and that gig is a prominent position of power, game journalists AND game designers don’t make a lot of money at all. I’m sure several would give anything for the chance to sell out, ironically enough. If I had a nickel for every night I had Ramen noodles for dinner, I’d probably be able to afford a few more nights of Ramen noodles. Most of the game developers I know work long and hard hours, rarely seeing their families. Some even sleep in the office during crunch time just so that they could work from morning till night. Gaming is truly a labor of love to almost anyone involved.
And the gamers of Gamergate have warped these people into some sort of dark kabal of gaming overlords that are trying to turn gaming into something that it’s not, wrenching it away from the hands of the true gamers and toward "social justice warriors."
To be honest… that’s scary. Gaming professionals get into the industry because they love games, and the lengths that some gamers go to vilify them shows a deep inability to accept anyone who has an opinion differing from your own. That’s fanaticism.
Now I’m sure some of you are going to #NotAllGamers me and say that “but I’m not like that, and my friends aren’t like that.” Well… good for you. But that doesn’t change the fact that so many gamers who ARE like that exist, and that’s a problem. Swatting has made the mainstream news at this point and I've seen plenty of threats linked to #gamergate to SWAT supporters of Zoe Quinn. Heck, I saw a really disturbing 4Chan post that was organizing people to break Zoe Quinn's knees next time she is at a convention. Is this really what we want gamers to be seen as, people who will physically assault a woman because they disagree with her? Do we want gamer to become synonymous with the type of person who makes death threats and runs people out of their home? Is this what “true” gaming is? Is this honestly bringing about an end to corruption, or is it just making an excuse for the horrible behavior that has already happened.
I always thought true gaming was about loving games not hating people.
Former Contributing Writer