Get it? The title image? ... it's a pun.
I want to talk about #GamerGate again, but in a different way. I want to talk about the one thing that makes me unable to support it. I want to talk about the thing that truly and honestly makes this whole movement so worrisome.
I am afraid.
I’m not afraid that I am going to get fired, or that someone is going to disagree with me, or that somehow the gaming industry is going to change in a way I don’t like. I am afraid that someone is going to read my article, think it’s bullshit, and then ruin my life. I am afraid someone is going to call a SWAT team on my house. I’m afraid that my personal information is going to get leaked to the internet, causing me to lose what little money I have saved. I’m afraid someone is going to take vague death threats and plots of physical violence that you see on 4Chan seriously, and that one day someone will show up at my house and physically assault me, all because of an opinion I have about the gaming community.
And I’m not a high profile writer. I’m some random schmuck on a Cheat Code site that just so happens to have a platform to talk about his views. I can’t imagine how Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, or Phil Fish have felt over the last week.
I’ve spent most of yesterday actually talking with members of the #GamerGate movement. A lot of people say, “That’s not what the movement stands for” when threats of physical violence are brought up. A lot of people say they personally loathe threats of physical violence of any kind.
In addition, there actually is corruption in the gaming industry. We all remember the Kane and Lynch scandal from a few years back, right? Remember Team Bondi which ran their studio like a slave ship? No industry is 100% clean.
And it is important that these sources of corruption be talked about. It is important to make game journalism more honest, and it is important to make game development more safe. To that end #GamerGate has a small nugget of truth and goodness to it.
But, I hate to break it to you, Zoe Quinn is not getting publicity due to large scale corruption. Anita Sarkeesian is not still making YouTube videos due to large scale corruption. Phil Fish… well geez he didn’t even DO anything other than support people like Sarkeesian, and he has been hugely harassed, as has anyone else who supports any sort of equality in gaming.
Social Justice Warriors or SJWs, is a term that is used pejoratively in these discussions. There is this current of thinking that SJWs are this fringe group that wants to take real gaming away from gamers. It’s an opinion that the desire to see more equal representation of gender, race, and sexuality in gaming is not an honest opinion or preference, but rather a tactical political agenda that is trying to say “NO! YOU CANNOT HAVE WHITE, MALE, STRAIGHT, CIS CHARACTERS IN GAMING ANYMORE!”
Please #GamerGate. If there is any good in you, heed these words. Those people, that you are fighting against, do not exist. No one wants to say, “You can’t have your straight male characters.” All they are saying is “let’s see some variety.” Let’s see some deep female characters. Let’s see some interesting and non-stereotypical gay characters. These are things we WANT to see, in addition to the straight male role which has been done time and time again since games were created.
These articles that you see time and time again talking about equal representation in gaming are not a product of corruption. They are a product of desire. I, myself, as a person, am writing this article because I, as a gamer, feel this way. This is my preference that I am writing about in an editorial. No one has paid me. No one has corrupted me. I just want to see more female characters, more characters of color, and more gay characters. I think if 40% of gamers are female, 40% of game protagonists should be as well. That is my preference.
But it feels as if people would call me “not a true gamer.” It feels as if people would say that the very fact that I get to post this here is proof of the “corruption of game journalism.” It feels as if my preferences are vilified as a member of the gaming journalist elite trying to take real gaming away from real gamers who… apparently… don’t care about these issues. It almost feels like you CAN’T care about these issues while still being considered a true gamer.
Now I am afraid to share these views with the internet. I am afraid because, even though #GamerGate’s central base may not believe in scare tactics or acts of cyber terrorism, some of them do. I am scared because I HAVE seen tweets with the #GamerGate hashtag that have talked about raping people or killing people. Even now I am typing this because the posting of yesterday’s #GamerGate article has put me in such a panic, that the only way I can deal with it myself is by writing about it more.
This is not an environment of progress. This is not an environment of discussion. This is not even an environment of protest. This is an environment of fear. The opinions of those that would dissent with a large group of people are being threatened into silence. Several publications have said, “We are not going to talk about #GamerGate” because of the threat that involvement carries. #GamerGate is trying to prove itself right not by way of political or social action, but by sheer threat of force. Dissenters are not tolerated. That is not social progress. That is fanaticism.
I’m not saying every member of #GamerGate is like this. Heck, I’m not even saying that’s what the core #GamerGate even stands for. But that is the tone that this discussion has taken, and it’s terrifying. No matter how much #GamerGate supporters say, “This is not about misogyny” it still stands that there are those under your umbrella who are using that hashtag as an excuse to spread a message of hate. No one can be proven right through force and force alone. If they succeed, it only makes them a dictator and tyrant, not a force for social change.
What worries me is that i have not seen one #GamerGate supporter come out against the harassment of Quinn, Sarkeesian, Fish, and the like. Perhaps I am not looking in the right places and I am open to being proven wrong, but it always seems to be the case that #GamerGate says "we dissaprove of Zoe Quinn's actions, and so the harassment is OK." With so many people linking #GamerGate to harassment, injustly according to some #GamerGate supporters, shouldn't #GamerGate be saying something like "stop the harassment, fight the real corruption?" After all, if the allegations against Quinn are true, (and because of their vague and muddled nature I am truly not sure they are) isn't the responsibility equally or moreso placed on the journalist who wrote the "corrupt" article? Why aren't there harassment tweets or death threats going toward him?
Once again, I'm afraid that even asking this simple question will be seen as a product of corruption rather than an honest inquiry.
I’d like to end this article with a plea to the good people in the #GamerGate movement. If you truly believe that your movement is about corruption and corruption alone, distance yourself from those who would use your message as a vehicle for hate. They are delegitimizing you, and they are using you as a tool to wipe anyone with an opinion that disagrees with theirs off the face of the internet. Their goal is not to reduce corruption, but to wipe articles with the “social justice” theme from gaming journalism websites. Like it or not they are attached to you right now. They are using your movement and if any progress is going to be made, you need to kick them to the curb and you ABSOLUTLEY need to stop defending them.
There are elements of corruption in this industry, are there are in almost any industry, and they deserve to be rooted out. But turn your wrath away from Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. Turn it toward AAA developers that grossly underpay their workers. Turn it toward publishers that use false advertising in their marketing materials. Turn it toward companies that buy out smaller studios only to lay off the workers that work there.
Don’t turn your wrath on those who disagree with you. That is not spreading a message of anti-corruption. That is just silencing dissenters with fear and threats of physical violence, and it’s not OK.
A lot of this erupted because we were talking about what it means to be a gamer. Many journalists posited the death of the “gamer” as an identity in the days following last week’s events. Perhaps #GamerGate came around as a way to say the gamer identity is alive and well. I have self-identified as a gamer for a very, very, long time, and I would hate to think of the "gamer" or "gaming" itself as dying, but I personally also could never identify with something that could make so many people feel so much fear.
So maybe these games journalists weren’t saying “gaming is over” when they said “the gamer is dead.” Maybe they were saying “If this is what a gamer is these days, I don’t want to be one.”
Heck... I'm so scared, I'm not sure I wanna be one anymore.
Former Contributing Writer