Sunday, October 26, 2014

A pox on both sides of GamerGate

I've kept out of the GamerGate discussioon, which Clark at Popehat fairly summarized as yet another battleground between the forces of social justice and traditionalists, and I'm using this post to explain why.

Also at Popehat, Ken White did what he does best - launched a well-reasoned call for everyone to take a step back, reflect on the stupid assumptions they are making and admit that this is not a black and white issue. When I read Ken White I know there's a good chance I'm going to have my own attitudes and behaviors questioned, despite us being on the same side of most issues, and he did not disappoint:

Video game journalism has been ethically troubled for decades. There was controversy in the 1980s, when I was reading Computer Gaming World on paper like a caveman,over game magazines reviewing the same games that they were advertising. Suspicion that dollars drive game reviews have persisted, and with good reason. 
So if you choose this particular historical moment to become Seriously Concerned About Journalistic Ethics, and your timing just happens to coincide with a related pushback against women's activism in the gaming community, and just happens to be triggered by a campaign against a particular controversial woman, and just happens to be congruent with 4chan's declared campaign against "SJWs," people are going to draw conclusions about you. This is especially true if your sudden fury about ethics in journalism appears to focus on the coverage of tiny indie games instead of big-money games, which is just odd.
Well said. I've managed to have sympathies with both sides of this debate at different times, although I find myself closer to the pro-GamerGate than the opposition. Historically, video games makers have cultivated a frat-boy atmosphere and still pump out idiotic things like bikini armor that insult me as a consumer by assuming this is what I want. At the same time, online players have exhibited the worst behavior of the internet, on par with YouTube comments, and created an unpleasant atmosphere to interact in.

I am in favor of making video games more mature and classy and raising the level of discourse and civility around them, including issues with online players always wanting to discuss the novelty that a girl is interacting with them.

But then a leader emerged for that pushback, Anita Sarkeesian. At first I gave her my "nuanced" support and said while I don't like her radical feminist politics, at least someone was talking about these stubborn issues.

Sadly, over time I realized that she didn't have anything useful to add to the conversation, just a bunch of feminist textbook jargon and zero diplomacy skills. It was clear she wasn't interested in turning video games around, but using the video game world as a new territory to push radical feminism and I believe, make a name for herself. While GamerGate isn't about her in particular, the opposition has been about the ideas and tactics she represents.

So that's where GamerGate has left me: I'm stuck between defending the status quo of Maxim-magazine-style video game culture and replacing it with an oversensitive and joyless social justice pity party.

The only good thing about this, and I mean this sincerely, has been watching the awful Gawker media burn as GamerGate advocates have used their own platform-yanking tactics against them. Other than that, this has all been a waste of time and a lot of empty grandiose yelling.


  1. This false dichotomy of mass-churned garbage v. pseudo-intellectualism is played out in sphere after sphere. In this article, you express frustration with the two options that society seems to be presenting you (us) in video games. I think that there is a smallish handful of folks who find this false choice frustrating, you and I included.
    Unfortunately, the mental collectivism of our generation coupled with the the fear of being labeled an "ist" (E.g. sexist, racist) gives this false dichotomy real-world teeth. The few who love games and want to see them ascend (re-ascend?) to the works of art they can be are forced to stomach the swill that satisfies the swine because they drown us out, both with noise and numbers or water down our diet to satisfy the intellectually castrated social justice types who I think would like to see us just plain drown.
    If we think about it, we can change "game", in this article, to "music", "sports", "politics", or any other culture-based noun. How do we break out of this force-fed false dichotomy?!?!

  2. Has Ken White considered the possibility that corruption in video game journalism is beneath the radar of a fuck-ton of people, and that Gamergate is the first instance of such that said fuck-ton are aware of? Logically speaking, for them, this is the "particular historical moment" White considers suspect.

    Besides, Sarkeesian and her sympathizers aren't going to draw conclusions about those who oppose her; those conclusions were drawn long, so very long ago, before GamerGate was a glint in its daddy's scrotum.