With #GamerGate well into its third week and not showing any signs of slowing down, I think it’s time to examine some attitudes on both sides of the big issues. Today, I’m going to talk about the notion of “real gamers.”
I’ve written a lot about the very concept of real or true or pure gamerism. My stance is that it doesn’t exist and that gaming belongs to everyone. However, I’m not going to beat that dead, rotting, still unburied horse. I’m going to come at this from a different perspective and start my whole argument by assuming that “real gamers” do exist. I’m not going to talk about who they are or what makes you a real gamer or not. I’m just going to assume that there is some criteria that makes some people out there more qualified to be a gamer than others. (Note, I still don’t believe this, but I’ll accept the premise for the purposes of this article.)
The thing that worries me, is that there is an assumption that only real gamers get to criticize gaming. Anita Sarkeesian is frequently brought under scrutiny for not being a real gamer. The whole “fake girl gamer” craze a while back said that much of the female gaming population were not real gamers. These fake gamers’ opinions are dismissed as instantly invalid and wrong.
But, I think people are missing a very important point here. When someone who isn’t a “real gamer” criticizes gaming, they are giving you a very important piece of information. They are telling you what gaming looks like from the perspective of an outside observer. They are showing you what we look like to the outside world and… well frankly… it’s not pretty.
When Anita Sarkeesian criticizes the use of women in games, there is this huge push back against her saying “real gamers don’t see it that way.” Well… OK… even if that’s true, isn’t it terrifying that the outside world DOES see it that way? Is our major argument in defense of ourselves really “no no no dude, you got it all wrong. See it just looks like we are being violent and demeaning to women in games because you haven’t played enough of them. If you played a lot of them, like me, you’d see that it’s all cool.”
First of all, how does that make any sense? Second of all, isn’t it possible that we are just used to seeing something that is actually pretty horrible, that the outside world is still shocked about? Third of all, what sort of knowledge, truthfully, do gamers have that non gamers don’t? No one has ever explained that to me.
You see, there is something called the echo chamber effect. Essentially, it states that beliefs are amplified when transmitted and repeated within a closed system. Better put, it means that when you aren’t exposed to groups of people who hold different beliefs than you, you become more resistant to discourse about those beliefs. That’s exactly what this concept of “real gamers” is trying to do, create an echo chamber in which everyone in gaming holds the same belief, and where other beliefs are censored. But it’s fairly obvious that all gamers do NOT hold the same beliefs. Several have come out in support of Sarkeesian, and many don’t support #GamerGate at all…
And that’s a good thing! Discussion is a good thing! It means beliefs are challenged and opinions have to held up to scrutiny to continue to be held. That’s why outside opinions are so valuable.
Look at it this way. Say you were a wealthy bath of tyrants on some remote island nation. You get your wealth and power by murdering all those who disagree with you. To you and your other tyrant buddies, life is pretty damn good. You have all the money and food and weapons and women you want. What could possibly be wrong with that! If no one was allowed to criticize you, you might be tyrants for life. But when the outside world steps in and goes, “Hey guys… maybe stop killing and oppressing the common folk in your island nation” that usually goes over as a good thing. Granted, the outside world isn’t part of the tyrant club, but their points of view matter quite a bit in the long run.
So maybe we shouldn’t be gaming tyrants and run everyone with a contrary opinion out of our gaming island nation?
Or maybe I just want to play Tropico again.
Former Contributing Writer