Home > Uncategorized > The Absurdity of “Gamer Gate”

The Absurdity of “Gamer Gate”

For a long time, I have been ashamed to call myself a gamer. I’m certainly not ashamed to announce that I like video games and enjoy them to the same degree a cinephile laps up movies or a bibliophile is unable to walk into a book shop and not emerge with about 10 new books to add to their growing pile (although, admittedly, I do have that latter issue too). If I can have a conversation with someone about video games, then I’ve made a friend for life. Video games are not the issue. No, my issue lies in the term “gamer”.

For a while now, I’ve considered “gamers” to be the worst side of people who play games. The type who yells slurs in online games. The type who has no frame of reference outside of games. The type who gets terrified at anything outside the current trend of the two-colour-palette dudebro shooter. They’re alarmingly vocal, but in the last couple of weeks, they’ve become even more vocal, and not in a good way.

First of all, we have the Zoe Quinn situation. Without too much detail, the Internet has turned on the director of indie text adventure Depression Quest, Zoe Quinn, as a result of an angry blog post from an angry ex-boyfriend claiming that she cheated on him with various male games journalists (ostensibly in exchange for positive comments on her game). Discussions about journalistic ethics have sprung up, but abusive comments have been hurled in Quinn’s direction repeatedly, all with no proof that any wrongdoing actually occurred. One of the journalists, Nathan Grayson, seems to have only written about Quinn in vague terms, mentioning her in various articles about indie games in general, which feels like a bit of a poor trade-off if you ask me.

Sure, the gamers on the Internet have flung around claims that they have proof, but all that seems to come up is more angry gamers shouting more about “I heard this happened” and “some guy told me this happened here”. Everything’s all over the place and nobody is making any sense. Any time a claim is held up to scrutiny or questioned on its relevance, the goalposts get moved. Essentially, it’s become a bit of a dick-waving contest to “prove” who’s the most right.

Here’s a hint. Everyone is wrong. Not one person comes out of this well, on either side of the debate. If the accusations against Quinn are true, that she cheated on her boyfriend with five journalists for positive coverage, then that’s terrible and shouldn’t be praised. Her ex is a terrible human being who is airing dirty laundry in public when he should be working through his personal issues with his former girlfriend in private (as someone who has experienced a similar situation with an ex being secretly involved with other people on the side, I can safely say that telling the whole world is not the solution). Everybody else is just having a shouting match about what’s true and what isn’t when ultimately, no one really knows anything except for the people directly involved in this situation.

I don’t actively support Quinn at all. Her game doesn’t look all that interesting to me, and feels very much like a particular brand of indie art game that gets made without any thought for interactivity, but my reaction to is to simply not pay it any attention. It’d be nice if others could do the same, and she certainly doesn’t deserve what she’s been getting lately. Nobody does.

And then there’s Anita Sarkeesian. Oh boy. Sarkeesian is the gamer’s favourite monster. Stories are told about the Sarkeesian around virtual campfires. I hear that if you say her name three times, she appears in your house and eats all your video games. If you watch all of her Tropes vs. Women videos, you get sealed in another dimension where you have to constantly contribute to her never-ending Kickstarter, which by the way, is a sham and a fraud and a…sham!

She recently put up her latest Tropes vs. Women In Video Games video, and within a day, she has apparently been forced to leave her house due to extremely personal death threats against her and her family. This is not a sensible reaction to anything ever.

Again, I’m not someone who actively supports Sarkeesian at all. Her videos are okay, and raise some decent points here and there, but her arguments are flawed in places and there’s a feeling that she takes certain things out of context to prove her point. I watch her videos out of curiosity, because I feel it’s better to have people looking at games with a critical eye, flawed views or otherwise, than to blindly accept that VIDEO GAMES ARE 100% AWESOME DUDE. You want gaming to be considered art, expect critical analysis from all directions. And that’s fine. Even if you disagree with the points being raised.

But again, no one deserves this amount of abuse and hatred. If you really hate her videos, a better idea would be to simply…not watch them! I know, it’s a wacky idea but it’s worth giving it a try.

And I can’t be bothered to go into the whole Kickstarter debacle. Most of the people claiming that she ran away with everybody’s money for nothing didn’t contribute, and most of the people who contributed aren’t complaining. It also seems bizarre to throw these issues at her when a counter Kickstarter aimed at debating her opinions and showing the negative effects on men literally did take the money and run without producing anything. Which is considerably worse than someone actually releasing videos, albeit somewhat slowly.

Now, there’s also a new claim that Quinn and Sarkeesian, and to a lesser extent, Fez developer Phil Fish, are all faking their claims of abuse to further their careers, and are demanding proof of this abuse. First of all, aside from the fact that these claims never work to make people more famous, there is also no proof to the contrary either. Well, apart from the same “he said she said” hearsay that allegedly “proves” that Quinn is a harlot who’s the downfall of gaming and ethical journalism in the industry. Again, no one knows exactly what’s what, but the mature response is to treat the abuse claims with some respect, not throw more faeces at the person making those claims. Also, in response to Sarkeesian talking about the death threats she’s received, people are asking why she didn’t call the police. When presented with her statement that she had “contacted the authorities”, people were demanding photos of the police report to prove it. What was that I was saying about moving goalposts?

Support for these people has come from various game developers who are siding with Quinn and Sarkeesian, at the very least on the same level I am, with a desire to stay moderate and point out that no one deserves any kind of abuse or accusations that they’re somehow in the wrong. As a result, these same “gamers” are deciding to boycott companies like Double Fine because Tim Schafer linked to a Sarkeesian video on Twitter, and Mike Bithell for the vague claim that he “support SJWs” or something.

After rolling my eyes at this, I decided to finally buy Broken Age and Thomas Was Alone (both of which I’d planned on buying at some point anyway), just to send the message that those of us who don’t feel the need to put heads on spikes every time there’s a minor disagreement genuinely do want people like Schafer and Bithell in the industry. It makes it a more interesting place.

But, let’s be honest here. All of this? It’s so goddamn pointless. Aside from many claims being unsubstantiated and everything dissolving into a shouting match with nobody winning, there are worse things going on in the industry. If anything’s killing video games, it’s all this mud-slinging and pettiness, not a no-name indie developer with a text adventure and the creator of a YouTube series that probably would have been niche had all this fuss been kicked up.

I would also argue that this ignorant brand of gamer is further killing gaming by issuing DDoS attacks on Sony, Blizzard and Riot servers, prompting them all to shut down temporarily to fix things. And you know what else isn’t helping the image of gaming? Calling in fake bomb threats to an airline just because the head of Sony Online Entertainment was on a plane. That’s pathetic, and also incredibly likely to get you arrested on terrorism charges. Also, to those getting offended by journalists calling these kind of gamers terrorists lately, this is where that came from. A gamer calling in a bomb threat to a real airline just because the head of a gaming company was on it. You may not agree that it’s a terrorist act, but the law certainly doesn’t see it that way. It was a malicious, deliberate attempt to ground a flight out of fear. If you’re really bothered by people calling you terrorists, prove that you don’t condone actions like that.

If only all this negative energy could be pooled into something more constructive. If the Quinn shitstorm was actually a catalyst for a discussion about ethics in gaming journalism, why is nobody kicking off about EA’s order to journalists about not reviewing The Sims 4 prior to its release, or the fact that Activision are clearly paying Gamespot to give the latest Call of Duty game ongoing positive press with a regular online show? These are bigger and clearer issues than the murky waters of Zoe Quinn and her alleged extracurricular activities.

Let’s take it further. Imagine if all this energy could be poured into attacking the AAA publishers for all their terrible tactics. Microtransactions in full-priced games, obfuscating PR speak that treats the audience like idiots, nonsensical exclusivity deals that do little but anger the fanbase of a certain long-running series, content being slashed up for pre-orders, the alarming prevalence of on-disc DLC, and companies like EA wishing to place game demos, currently available for free as they should be, behind a paywall.

THESE are all bigger issues. THESE are the things killing video games. Not a woman wanting to make a niche game about her experiences with mental illness to help educate people. Not journalists potentially forming relationships with developers (it happens all the time). Not a critic on YouTube suggesting that maybe things could be done better. Corporate nonsense with a disdain for the consumer is absolutely the thing that is ruining games for everybody, because it’s prevalent, and it’s being imitated by everyone else. Why is no one kicking off about those things to the degree everyone’s kicking off about these petty things?

Gamers want their hobby and favourite form of media to be treated with the same level of respect as movies, literature and music. But we won’t get there unless this behaviour stops and those on the outside can start taking us seriously. Let’s make a change. Let’s be better. For the love of video games.

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  1. September 1, 2014 at 2:47 am

    > this ignorant brand of gamer is further killing gaming by issuing DDoS attacks on Sony, Blizzard and Riot servers … Calling in fake bomb threats …

    You forgot about Kootra and the Colorado SWAT hoax:

    http://ktla.com/2014/08/29/colorado-gamer-held-at-gunpoint-in-apparent-swatting-hoax/

    Add this up, over the last week ‘gamers’ have been associated with:

    – Death threats against Sarkeesian. Felony.

    – A release of Quinn’s personal correspondence with intent to harass by her Ex-BF, violating Massachusetts privacy and harassment statutes. Felony. Not to mention civil libel laws.

    – Bomb threats against Sony executive Smedly, related to international air travel. Federal felony.

    – Calling in false reports to police in order to harass. Felony.

    The gamer community thinks they’ve set the PR agenda to be about ‘corruption in journalism’. No, the agenda will be about criminal conduct by gamers. They think they can set the media narrative. They’re wrong.

    > Imagine if all this energy could be poured into attacking the AAA publishers for all their terrible tactics. …

    Totalbiscuit made this point. It only got him a pile of abuse on twitter. I tried making that point on a reddit /r/video forum for InternetAristocrat’s latest libel fest. Downvoted to -10 and censored.

    You understand these people are not rational. They are dangerous. Andrew Todd rightly called them terrorists.

    http://badassdigest.com/2014/08/26/video-games-misogyny-and-terrorism-a-guide-to-assholes/

    The leadership of this movement is poking a hornets nest in government. They think they can remain anonymous, even after revelations of pervasive warrantless wiretapping. They are wrong. It will escalate until it ends with real SWAT raids and numerous arrests. Let’s all home no one is killed before that happens.

  2. Jordan
    October 10, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    By correctly identifying that everyone involved on both sides of #gamergate is completely in the wrong; you’ve paradoxically written something completely spot on.

    This has proved to be a real fucking relief. I might be actually able to enjoyed games again after reading this.

  3. February 12, 2015 at 12:52 am

    The truth about the gamer gate nonsense. It’s a cluster fuck of trolls trolling trolls, and it’s still going on somehow.

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