Gamer Gate or Growing Pains?

(This was also released in spoken-word format as an episode of LilTooClinical’s podcast, “VideoGame Construct,” which can be found here: or on iTunes.)

I only have one thing to say to anyone in the Gamer Gate movement: If you consider yourself a gamer and you consider yourself an adult, grow up. I could end the podcast right there but of course, that’s not my style. Rant ensues.
I don’t like Anita Sarkeesian’s video series either but not because she’s a feminist, not because I don’t like the things she has to say, but personal reasons, that have nothing to do with her as journalist or a person, that makes them opinion. Because they’re opinion and by definition not objective, while I have a right to feel any way I choose, I am not entitled to special treatment nor do I have a right to judge.
I can also admit as a calm and rational adult human being that while I might believe that Ms. Sarkeesian’s method is flawed, I defend her right to say it and I defend her overall message which I understand to be one that encourages game designers to stop relying on lazy writing, cliches and tropes in their games but especially any that treat women as a concept and not as people.
My opinion on the state of video game journalism is even less important. I think I can honestly say that I don’t even have one. Once again, as a calm, rational adult human being I can take what I read and separate it from a larger narrative. I can view it with enough healthy cynicism to understand that their may have been a bias in it and recognize what is editorial versus what is information. Additionally, I understand that if I am unhappy with the way something is reported, or unhappy with the circumstances by which it was reported on, I can exercise my right to get my information elsewhere.
On the opposite end of the argument, the ones that believe it is their mission to do something about the state of videogame journalism have been collecting evidence of journalists acting very un-journalist-like. I have seen screenshots and blog posts chronicling these so-called journalists resorting to the same methods of intimidation, hate-spewing person shaming vitriol as the “gamers” (in quotes) that they are asserting are a dying breed.
Websites devoted to videogame journalism, that I will not name because I believe their names to be irrelevant to the larger discussion, have published articles in recent weeks insisting that “gamers” are going extinct. The issue as I see it is that the term gamer is almost as all-encompassing these days as “person” or “human being.” Everyone plays games! I have to assume that the same juveniles who think it’s ok to bombard journalists and video game designers with hate, or worse, have no conception at all that videogames were first created, designed, and played by adults, and not children, before the videogame market crash of the mid-1980’s. When Nintendo managed to reinvent the market with the NES, they did so by marketing it as a toy, something for children, but I knew plenty of adults who bought the systems because they also played games on personal computers, a pastime which was far more complex than it is today which precluded most children, and even the technophobic, from participating.
While the journalists are heralding the end of gamers, I have to assume they’re thinking of the preteen to twenty-something male who plays predominantly action and shooter games, who curses incessantly in multiplayer matches and rages online about social issues of which they likely have no real understanding. What they, the journalists, fail to realize or perhaps are choosing to ignore is that you can find the same attitude by the same relative group in almost every other enthusiast culture. Sports fans, movie buffs, comic book nerds, name a pasttime and I can almost guarantee you that they have their own idiot man-children sub-culture to deal with.
Right now in our country we’re dealing with a brand new civil rights movement revolving around the equal treatment of many different social classes and cultures. The issue of a hateful fandom versus misogny in game design and marketing is just one more example of that larger movement but in every single case, I can assure you that the loudest voices are certainly not the majority. You see, just like Second Amendment supporters like to constantly remind the gun control movement, many gun owners manage to not commit any acts of a gun violence every single day, but unfortunately in our culture, tens of thousands of people abiding by the law of the land and behaving isn’t news. So while thounsands of videogame enthusiasts are happily playing their games without heading to the internet to voice their non-opinion in support of the game, a couple dozen angry, nasty, hateful idiots make news when they harass an indie game developer for expressing an upopular opinion.
Perhaps the videogame culture is too insulated to realize, or once again the angry voices too preoccupied with their petty issues to notice, but NBA basketball fans just drove an owner out of their association because of things he said privately to another individual that became public. Objectively we know that the man’s privacy was violated and he didn’t break any laws but that didn’t stop a culture of calm, rational, adult human-beings from exercising their right to express displeasure. The NFL is fighting a two-pronged public relations battle right as they deal with the socio-political fallout of one team that possesses a name that some find offensive while simultaneously dealing with the fact that members of their organization are potential and confirmed domestic abusers. The NASCAR organization is still reeling from the death of a rookie driver at the hands of veteran driver while the culture fights over who is to blame and continues to apply social pressure that would lead to answers in the still ongoing investigation.
I can admit that none of these three issues are directly analagous to the Gamer GAte (in quotes) issue, I mention them if only to point out that the enthusiasts themselves are just as integral to the culture as the providers. While I am certainly no expert, I can say that videogame culture is experiencing growing pains. The multi-billion corporations that provide the games continue to find ways to entertain the masses at the smallest possible cost to themselves for the biggest possible return, which sadly results in the use of the very tropes that Ms. Sarkeesian is attempting to illuminate. I’m not so gloomy as to say that the industry is headed for another collapse, as game budgets and scope inflate, a large part of the market is already showing dismay for those same games as indie games and smaller, more unique titles gain popularity and continue to grow in the internet age.
This debate doesn’t exist in a vacuum either, as comic book companies struggle to please their growing audience of women the movie and TV industry is doing the same thing. Modern female content consumers are a growing market and not simply content to read and watch and play the same things as their male counterparts. Some of them are, but the larger point is that they have a right to ask for it, to express displeasure about it, to illuminate the problems inherent to that and even do it themselves if they feel others aren’t doing it adequately enough.
They also deserve the respect that we give, or at least should be giving, to everyone else. NOBODY deserves to be bombarded with hateful rhetoric simply because the possessor of an opinion cannot properly express themselves, calmly, rationally and maturely. While I will say that freedom of speech does not mean freedom of the consequences of speaking freely and that goes for both sides in this whole Gamer Gate issue, nobody deserves to have their lives threatened for simply existing in defiance of someone else’s narrow minded view. We are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where people are allowed to express themself any way they choose without being jailed, or worse. We also have a free market through which we can express ourselves, and if you don’t like the content you’re being provided you are free to look elsewhere for it. If such a thing as what you desire specifically does not exist then you need to ask yourself a couple of questions like, is what I’m looking for realistic or reasonable? Would it appeal to others? Would those others be a large enough market to make it viable? Would I be willing to make it and if so would I be willing to deal with the consequences of putting content out there for the world to see and form opinions of? If the answer to any of those questions is no then it might be time to reevaluate what it is you’re after and consider that perhaps your wants and desires do not necessarily reflec the wants and desires of others.
Sadly, the conclusion that I have come to regarding all of this is that on both sides of the argument, like any other socio-political issue being argued and reported on in this country and in this culture today, neither side is blameless. Neither side is behaving completely calmly, rationally and maturely. Widespread assumptions are being made in both directions and ultimately what is being argued isn’t even relevant to the primary issue at its core anymore. Not all videogames, their designers, their players or their reviewers are complete and total misogynists but not all journalists are being perfectly unbiased, objective and staying away from editorializing.
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not blaming Anita Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn for the hate and harrassment they received. While they appear to be the impetus of this whole so-called “movement”, these two individuals are the most blameless for what it has become. When I said that neither side was blameless what I meant was that other journalists and game developers, in their defense, were found to be engaging in the same kind of immature behavior and hate-spewing rhetoric as Ms. Sarkeesian’s and Ms. Quinn’s harrassers. I’m not a journalist, I’m what would probably be referred to as a blogger and ultimately this is just my opinion, but I can say that as a gamer who cannot easily adopt or even identify with either side that I have seen evidence of both sides behaving immaturely. Sadly, like many pioneers, these two women will not be properly upheld and respected until sometime in the future after their contributions have had time to take effect and culture has had time to grow.
I tend to stay away from direct confrontation to the best of my ability the majority of the time, but I have to say, Gamer Gaters, no one is going to take you seriously as long as you act like there is no problem and you certainly can, but most definitely shouldn’t, get angry when someome tries to address the problem with the express purpose of trying to fix or improve it! Journalists, you cannot expect your readers, listeners or viewers to take you seriously if you’re going to make assumptions that color your content but you certainly can’t, or once again rather should not, get angry if those same content consumers want to respond with criticism, corrections or dissenting opinions. I think participants on both sides need to learn both how to be a little more thick-skinned but also be a great deal more open-minded.
I’m sure all sorts of people might listen to this and have plenty of things to say about this episode once it’s out there but if I wasn’t prepared to have the discussion, i wouldn’t be putting it out there in the first place. This is my chosen favorite past time and what happens in the culture and industry matter to me, but I also realize that ultimately none of this is so important to me that it’s going to trump my life and responsibilities. It might irritate or even upset me, but it’s not worth getting angry over and it’s certainly not worth calling names or spewing hate or making threats!
In the end, the conclusion I have drawn is that a handful of insecure people, on both sides, let their emotions get the best of them and reacted before they were able to calmly, rationally and maturely reflect on what it is they had just experienced and work it out before also attempting to defend the various issues and make counter accusations. Assumptions were made, but also assumptions were met, and in the end all that happened was a bunch of people ended up screaming at each other, literally and figuratively, until it escalated to a level that damaged the credibility of EVERYONE WHO MAKES, PLAYS AND COMMENTS ON GAMES.
So with all the sarcasm I can muster I will close by saying, thank you children for embarassing the rest of us with your ridiculous and juvenile behavior. I look forward to your poorly worded, horribly misspelled, ill-informed arguments to fill the various inboxes this show uses for correspondence. I will ignore all of them and continue to enjoy, and talk about my favorite past time as a calm, rational and mature adult.
This has been Jesse, “Babies to babie, still looks like Billy.” PEACE!


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