#Gamergate as seen outside games

Published on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

They should be friends

Talking tech with friends, making games, playing games, it’s just plain awesome.  It saddens me to see people seeming to lose sight of that.  I was doing an interview last week with a journalist and we spent hours talking about Kurzweil and the singularity. 

The typical gamer and the typical journalist are kindred spirits. The escalation between those who support #gamergate and those who oppose it has been almost entirely because of a few bad actors on both sides trying to pain the other side with incredibly broad strokes which in turn infuriates the non-bad actors on both sides.

No moral equivalence here

One reason I’m sympathetic to #gamergate is that at least those guys realize there are total scumbags doing bad things in their name and they do honestly try to police it. 

By contrast, those who oppose gamergate don’t seem to be willing to even acknowledge that there are bad actors on their side or that there are a few that are cynically trying to use the controversy to forward their careers in ways that their actual work doesn’t merit.

I saw a tweet just yesterday by Anita Sarkeesian complaining that a game she found objectionable wasn’t being downgraded or criticized by the gaming media.  I mean, come on! If it was Bob Sarkeesian and he was complaining that the games should have been marked down because of violence or something the press would have lampooned him. 

If Sarkeesian wants to complain about the depiction of women it seems like there are much bigger targets that have a lot more influence over how women see themselves than games…

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While the social justice crowd was complaining about Spider-Woman and women in video games, this was the cover of Cosmopolitan that month (September 2014 issue)

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Meanwhile, the most popular female character in games of the past couple years has the power to rip open space time.

 

 

GG outside the game industry

I’ve gotten a couple (at least 2) anti GG articles killed off simply by explaining GG is really about as accurately as I can.  I wasn’t trying to kill the articles, I just got asked what the deal was because sometimes I’m the only “game person” that these journalists know.

Here’s how the conversation typically goes:

Journalist: So what’s this “Gamergate thing about”? Are gamers really afraid of women playing or making games?

Me: No. It started as a tempest in a teapot. An indie game developer got caught sleeping with some journalists and some people thought (wrongly) that she was trading sex for reviews. 

Then the gaming media decided to do a series of articles, within 24 hours, insinuating that not only was the harassment of this poor woman due to her being a woman but also that gaming culture was inherently misogynistic. This caused a consumer revolt against the gaming media as they were offended at being insulted by the very game sites that they trusted and believed in.

Journalist: So they’re not harassing women?

Me: There’s always harassment of women on the Internet.  It’s the Internet. That doesn’t excuse it. Trolls and jerks target anyone and anything they can. But laying blame on that to Gamergate is ridiculous. The fact is, ANYONE who is vocal on the Internet is going to face harassment. 

I’ve gotten abuse online for years peppered with the occasional death threat.  So have most publicly facing game developers. My friends at Blizzard have told me some real horror stories. 

Of course, the difference is that it never occurs to us to screenshot this stuff and post on Twitter because, you know what the response to that would be. We’d get called “man babies” or whiners or what have you.

Me: Seriously, picture what the response would be if I went online as recently as 3 months ago and posted one of the death threats I get. Do you seriously think any journalist would write a story on that?

Journalist: No, it would be a dog bites man story.

Me: Exactly. So the problem here is that some in the gaming media have an existing narrative: Gamers are misogynists. Then, they simply cherry pick examples to fit that narrative.

Journalist: So what is the purpose of writing these articles?

Me: I have no idea. The anti-GG people think this is a “PR war”. That if enough anti-GG articles are written they’ll somehow “win”. But unless they have the power to change demographics based on PR, which they don’t, when the dust settles, they’re going to have to live with the consequences of antagonizing their readers.

Journalist: Well it sounds like the issue is a lot more nuanced than what I was led to believe.

Me: It is.  Their best strategy would be to just cool down and resist the urge to lash out.  I don’t like getting harassed online either. I’ve had years of time to get used to it though and can say that the best tactic is: Pick your battles.