#GamerGate (Addendum)

So, having given myself some time to immerse myself more fully into the whole #GamerGate fiasco, here are my further thoughts.

1) It features two different arguments being argued against by no one.

There are two very distinct and indisputable issues that have arisen, and have (through the antics of one Zoe Quinn) become oddly entwined.  They are two arguments that really have no real counter-point… and the only reason that they have become part of an increasingly heated argument is because of extensive yelling through each other.

A) That the environment in games and gaming development is at best cold and at worst openly hostile towards women.  This is sadly an undeniable fact.  The number of female developers and the number of female developers that have faced gross sexual harassment at some point in their careers is pretty close to a 1 to 1 ratio at this point.  Meanwhile, women tend to face unique threats and reactions from the gaming community that men simply do not have to deal with (let’s face it, I don’t think anyone threatened to rape and slice open Mac Walter’s genitals after the ME3 ending debacle).  Men generally do not have to deal with “gamers” spreading nude pictures along with very personal information being publicly released on social media.

And I honestly don’t think anyone outside of a small cadre of neanderthals on 4chan dispute this.  It’s a plainly and self-evident phenomenon, and it’s wrong.  Everyone knows it’s wrong.  The only people who claim its not are summarily ignored (if not deservedly scorned) by the rest of civilization in most normal situations.  The gaming community doesn’t exactly know how to fight it (hint: The Fine Young Capitalists have a very good start going, you should all check them out), but they certainly don’t pretend everything’s okay.

B) That gaming journalism is infested with corruption, bias, and other shady dealings.  As I mentioned before, this is hardly unique to gaming journalism, and it is also a heavily cataloged fact of the matter.  It’s true.  Even the gaming media knows its true.  Honestly, in some ways, that the influence is so brazen is kinda perversely a good thing considering how under the table it could be (trying to figure out who is in bed with who, both literally and metaphorically, in the political arena often takes full teams of private investigators several months of effort).

Many publications do the best they can to minimize the effect, but there’s no escaping it.  Much like with sexism in the industry, there’s no good, all-in-one answer that would solve the problem.  Whenever you have an industry entirely dependent on another industry simply to remain relevant, this level of co-dependence is going to happen.  It’s not even a matter of if or when, it happens from Day 0.  Welcome to society at large.

The problem in #GamerGate, that both “sides” want to limit the discussion to what they have decided the terms shall be, and thusly accuse the other of not caring about their argument.

Which brings up…

2) The battle lines have been drawn by the extremists, and the rest of the crowd is stuck in the middle.

Would it surprise me to learn that the roots of #GamerGate stemmed from a cluster of mouthbreathers on 4chan’s /v/ who wanted to destroy some “uppity” female developer and feminist critic?  Not really.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that is how it started.  I know the environment of the chan network, especially in their IRC channels.  It can become a very despicable cesspool very, very quickly.  But that’s honestly irrelevant to the legion that have picked up the mantle since its inception.  Even if that small cluster is still active and using the shield of “journalistic ethics” to spout their sexist, racist, bigoted screeds (and for the record, I’m sure they are), that does not invalidate every single person who says, “Ya know… a publication shouldn’t be mingling so close to the developers of games they’re supposed to be reviewing.”

Likewise, someone who points out that cluster of misogynist twerps are making the movement as a whole look bad and giving people far too easy of a way to dismiss the movement as a whole isn’t some “femininazi” or “man hater” or “SJW” or whatever pejorative you desire.   They are correctly pointing out that there is a very seedy underbelly to the movement with some pretty disgusting motives, and as such makes it hard for the public as a whole to accept the argument that has percolated from the brew.

Yet, even as both are correct, both are also wrong, because…

3) There really isn’t much of a pro or anti-GamerGate side to begin with.

One of the major criticisms against the “War on Terror” was and is that trying to fight a conventional war against an unconventional enemy is a fool’s errand.  The power structure of terrorist organizations is not the same as a political body, and traditional attacks are extremely ineffective because of the independent nature of the cells and the autonomy that they have in their actions.

Now don’t get me twisted, I am not comparing 4chan or Anonymous to Al Queda or ISIS (which is apparently a real insult that was leveled).  But it’s a reasonably apt analogy to note from those who level criticisms against the #GamerGate hashtag.  There isn’t a centralized body to those that pick up the tag.  There is no primary manifesto.  There aren’t even any specifically defined terms that fit across the board beyond some very general bullet points.  On the same token, there really isn’t a “feminist” army leading their charge, or even a “female developer” interest group that is forming the head of the amoeba attacking the patriarchal culture within the video game industry.  Seeing the hashtag and immediately prescribing a certain set of beliefs, either for or against, is a dangerous assumption that winds up adding nothing of value.  It’s not effective shorthand, and it only raises dander.

I know that tends to run contrary to human “tribal” nature, but thanks to the modern Internet giving the means for more and more people to voice their opinions as individuals to a broad audience, we are seeing the flaws within the inherent tendency for people to coalesce other people into groups, and the “you’re either with us or against us” mentality that shoots up from it.  The people who point at the missteps of the gaming media with the tag aren’t necessarily supporting the fuckwad using that same tag to tweet obscene pictures to a female journalist or game developer or critic.  Someone pointing out those fuckwads isn’t necessarily claiming that journalistic ethics aren’t a problem or aren’t important.

They might be… but you won’t actually know that until you engage that person as an individual and find out what they’re actually saying.

Personally, I think that is what we need more of.  Individual engagement rather than groupthink.  Perhaps, if you see the #GamerGate tag, individuals need to take it for what it is (as a convenient way to put their thoughts into a larger discussion on social media), and take the time to learn what that individual is actually saying as opposed to prescribing a certain set of beliefs based on preconceptions.

But hey, as Dennis Miller used to say, “That’s just my opinion.  I could be wrong.”

One Response to “#GamerGate (Addendum)”

  1. Willhammer Says:

    Very well put. I enjoyed reading this, you hammered all the logical faults that were causing my brain to glitch whenever someone I liked or respected would start using this tag.

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