I don’t intend to discuss this much, but here are my thoughts on the current controversy known as #Gamergate.
#Gamergate, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a campaign being carried out by folks in the gaming community that is supposed to be about ethics in game journalism. On the opposite side are people who claim that the Gamergaters, or GG side, is at its core nothing but misogynists who want to bully and threaten women.
At first I didn’t know much of anything about the nascent Gamergate movement, a name coined by actor Adam Baldwin. What I did see were about five articles, all released on or about the same day at five different gaming sites, that essentially told me that all gamers were angry young white guys living in their moms’ basements and that “gaming culture” was so very, very over. The fact that all of the articles sounded very similar was fishy, and indeed there was a coordinated effort to write these. They were, I’d later learn, a reaction to the harassment some women had gotten at the hands of the GG trolls, but one first read they sounded like a manifesto by game journalists against their very audience, including me.
But when I first read the articles, I was angry. Some of them made the point that they weren’t talking about every gamer. They were, they claimed, using “gamer” as a catch all for the angry mod that was threatening these women with vile, disgusting postings on twitter and other internet sites. However, those “this probably doesn’t apply to you if you’re not a douchenozzle” warnings weren’t exactly front and center in the articles, and a couple were completely missing them. People have defended them as reactions, not meant to be attacks, but coming into it cold not knowing anything about this, they felt pretty damned much like attacks. More importantly, they instantly broke any trust I had in those sites – if they hated me, then why should I listen or believe them?
So I poked into the Gamergate propaganda, and it sounded legit. There was an indie game developer, Zoe Quinn, who supposedly slept with a reporter for a good review. Wow, that’s bad! It also didn’t actually happen, but I didn’t know that. It’s also alleged that she had a relationship with two or three judges in an independent game contest, where her game, which is a text based choose-your-own-adventure clone revolving around depression, won cash prizes. That part I still am not clear on, nor her involvement in sinking a feminist game contest she didn’t like…but the truth is, none of it matters. I really don’t care about indie games at all, and so what if she fucked her way to the top…lots of people do, and it’s none of my business. However, stung by the nasty articles and looking for a justification, these half-truths and lies sounded good.
Then there was Anita Sarkeesian, a webcaster who reviews games to show where they treat women badly. I can honestly say I disagree with a lot of her conclusions, especially when she said killing women in the most recent Hitman game was misogynistic…no mission requires you to do so, and you can kill the men too…so…huh? But that’s just someone expressing their opinion poorly. It again doesn’t really matter to me. She might be a money grubbing pundit looking to cash in, but who cares? So are a lot of people.
For the record, both Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian may be totally awesome folks. They seem like they could be, but I don’t know them personally. They may be terrible people. Truth is, it doesn’t matter…because they weren’t the problem in the first place.
Both Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian were attacked by GG folks. They had death and rape threats aimed at them and their family, had their contact info leaked to the public, and basically had their lives ruined. While I didn’t look past that, I did sort of counter it with the fact that it was only a small number of folks making those threats, they were being outted by GG supporters, and death threats on the internet are a dime a dozen. What didn’t occur to me is that the battling over these women had nothing to do with the gaming sites that had pissed me off in the first place.
Not, that is, until I did my own checking. Sure enough, Kotaku, the main site involved in the Zoe Quinn scandal, had posted that they reviewed their ethics policy, and yep, there were problems. They eliminated the policy that allowed journalists to donate to games they would later review, and made sure no reviewer with a personal connection to a game developer would review that developers games. Ok, cool…that’s the win GG should have been celebrating! Only they didn’t even acknowledge it. Nor did they acknowledge that after the initial salvo of “death of gamers” articles, most of the sites had walked back their comments some, sometimes grudgingly, and often while pointing to the threats some of the GG people were making, but they did indeed admit there were ethics problems, it probably did deserve a conversation, and yeah, they were probably kind of dicks for their onslaught of articles. Woo hoo, victory! We can all shake hands and get down to the work of discussing how ethical bias should or shouldn’t appear in gaming journalism, right?
Well…no. See, the GG side hasn’t even noticed that they have, in essence, won. They got the sites involved to admit that maybe it’s not such a good idea to have reporters in bed with developers…sometimes literally. And that maybe opinion pieces shouldn’t be posted as if they were facts. And maybe it’s ok to criticize a female pundit for her opinions without being labeled a misogynist just because you disagree with her. All of that ground’s been given up already. All that’s left is whether it’s ok to harass and threaten women for either making mistakes or speaking up about their opinions…and honestly that’s not something GG will win, because it’s NOT ok. It’s NEVER ok.
So my brief infatuation with GG died on the vine as I realized these folks were too stupid or too angry to see they had already won. No gaming site is going to dare publish pieces with a perceived conflict of interest now…the national media is all over this, and even they agree that there are issues with gaming journalism ethics. They usually admit it in a throw away sentence before diving into whatever fresh hell GG has unleashed on some women who doesn’t deserve it, but they HAVE admitted it. Well done, GG, you won! You got what you wanted! Now…stop. Seriously…stop. It’s over. The movement is just about hating women now, no matter how much you want to say it isn’t. Your goals were achieved, your victory declared grudgingly and piecemeal, but declared nonetheless. Let it go.
And that’s why I am opposed to Gamergate. They got done what needed to be done, but they just won’t or can’t see it through the rage. When you get media sources to concede your basic point, you’ve won. When the rest of the article is about how you’ve forced women to leave their homes in fear for their lives, you’ve lost.