No doubt by this point you’ve heard of #GamerGate, a movement quickly spreading across the internet from discontented gamers who felt attacked by the very journalists who cover their hobby. However, claims that the movement is a misogynistic attack against women in the gaming industry abound and it is very easy to see the movement that way: Though we claim to be about ethics in game journalism, there is a large focus on Social Justice Warriors.
It is no secret that I am vehemently pro-GamerGate. However, nothing is going to be accomplished by attacking people, we need to reach across the aisle.
I recently read an article from The Escapist where a random collection of female game developers discussed their opinions on GamerGate. While one was in favor of it, many of the others were opposed to it. What I saw was a lot of confusion, misinformation, and good questions. These people are not our “enemy”. No one is. Even the people actively attacking us are still people, they think what they are doing is right. In reality they don’t understand that we too are people, that behind the incoherent and offensive ramblings of enraged gamers are some very human grievances. We need to make them understand our side of the story and we need to understand theirs. As such I’ve decided to answer some of the good questions raised in The Escapist’s article so as to clarify what is going on.
#1) Why hasn’t anyone complained about “Corruption” before?
Okay I have to be honest, when folks in GamerGate hear this one it is almost a joke. We have been complaining for years about how corrupt game journalism is! There’s the running joke of Geoff “Dorito Pope” Keighly, there’s /v/ The Musical, there’s the legend of Jeff Gerstmann, there have been many noteable instances of corruption and we have complained. So this raises a more important question…
#1.5) What’s different about this instance of corruption?
It is clear that there is something different this time though. This is more than just some complaining and jokes on a messageboard, it’s much bigger this time. On the surface the difference appears to be that a woman was involved in the aformentioned corruption, making it seem incredibly sexist. However, I disagree. The thing that made it different “this time”, was censorship.
When MundaneMatt’s video on it was pulled, many people raised an eyebrow and began talking about it more. When those discussions on Reddit and 4chan, some of the least moderated sites on the internet, got covered up? People took notice. That is a huge red flag! They censored 4chan?! Considering all the filthy, dirty, awful shit that gets posted there, this is what crossed the line?! This has never happened before. Not with Geoff Keighly, not with Jeff Gerstmann, not even with Anita! The degree and magnitude of censorship was startling! Either someone has too much power, or someone is hiding something big.
In reality, the indie dev in question just happens to have a magnetic personality it seems. Seriously, I have a friend who retweets her stuff and she seems like a really fun person. I could easily see her making a lot of friends in high places without needing corruption of any kind.
However, we’ve also uncovered a lot of questionable things as well: Indie Fest scams, journalist collusion, conflicts of interest, censorship, harassed devs, honestly there are so many things I can’t even remember them all. Even if some of them are exaggerations, the facts seem to show what can best be described as “a fucking problem” in the industry.
Then the journalists decided to all write articles telling gamers how awful they are. Nearly 15 articles all posted on the same day from different news sites.
Yeah, that is gonna go down in history as the gaming equivalent of “New Coke”. This whole discussion would have fizzled out by now had they not gone and attacked gamers directly like that. I’ll be honest: I didn’t really care until then. Game Journalism is corrupt? So what else is new. However, when they confirmed my suspicions that game journalists feel they are superior to gamers and even actively HATE them?! Okay, now I’m mad.
Then you get idiots declaring that games shouldn’t be fun and you get people demanding their heads! …or at least their jobs. They clearly don’t understand the medium and hate their audience so it is kind of hard to consider them qualified for the job anymore! I get that this is a harsh statement but it’s mind boggling. Why would you attack your audience like this?
This isn’t a new thing either. The Mass Effect 3 ending debacle or the DmC reboot showed a clear divide between game journalists and gamers. They were more content to just declare gamers to be a bunch of whiny angry babies than actually try to understand their legitimate issues with these things. Is it so much to ask for game journalists to try and understand where their audience is coming from?
#2) Why is #GamerGate so focused on SJWs if this is about ethics in journalism?
This is a very good question, and one I asked myself as I will be honest: I’m here more because of the SJWs than ethics. So what do the two have to do with eachother?
Well first we need to understand what an SJW or Social Justice Warrior even is. SJW was coined as a derogatory term for people who took their Social Justice causes too far and attacked people (hence “Warrior”, though “Crusader” would have been better). It is not anti-Social Justice and speaking personally I have no qualms with Social Justice Activists. I also approve the term because it directs people away from using the word “feminist” as feminists are not the problem either and I don’t want to paint them with a broad brush.
In essence a Social Justice Warrior is like a Troll, except for Social Justice…and I think that’s what makes them worse.
Because, you see, Trolls understand that what they are doing is wrong. They get that they are harassing a person to get a response out of them. Social Justice Warriors, however, do not. They feel they are fighting for what is right, that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. As such, the ends justify the means. Anyone that tells you to cool it? Shout “Tone Policing” at them! I have even heard some say “It doesn’t matter how you say it as long as the message is good!”. I disagree.
I think my favorite example right now is a harassment campaign against The Empire State Building. Yes, seriously. A campaign to get it lit up for Childhood Cancer Awareness was rejected due to it coming from an individual instead of an organization and it not being planned a year ahead of time (which is standard procedure for the Empire Stat Building). The response? A gang of people complaining about the Empire State Building whenever it is mentioned and active phone harassment of it’s employees, with people wishing them to “get cancer”.
Yes, I’m sure that’s fine. I mean it doesn’t matter how you say it as long as the message is good, right? You’re just raising awareness for Childhood Cancer is all!
With people getting so morally self-righteous, it ironically becomes easy for them to leave their morals behind and thus engage in corrupt acts.
However, as mentioned, the thing that really “blew up” and turned a mild scandal into the beast known as #GamerGate was when 15 articles declaring “Gamers are Over” all came out at the same time. The sentiment in all of them was the same: that the general gamer demographic is vile, hateful, and misogynistic. These kinds of statements were dripping with SJW-ism. To say it “struck a nerve” would be an understatement. It is because of this that gamers really got mad and as such SJWs remain at the forefront of the issue.
This article on sensationalist journalism and how it pertains to #GamerGate is fascinating as well and also shows why SJWs are a major focus of anti-corruption.
#3) Why does it seem like women are most frequently attacked if this isn’t about gender?
Ah, now this is a really good question! I admit, even to me it looks this way.
Let me make one thing clear here: Yes, women are being harassed. Yes, this is not okay because harassment is never okay. No one deserves to be harassed. No one is an “acceptable target”. Even Jack Thompson, the legendary anti-gamer lawyer, did not deserve the level of harassment he got.
So are women being harassed more than men? I am not sure.
First of all, there are multiple layers of confirmation bias to wade through. Game journalists have been insisting that women get more harassment than men for years and as such we’re trained to believe it. We see a woman getting harassed? Oh that’s proof that women get harassed more than men, even though we have no men to compare this against.
Men definitely get abuse too though. The difference is that no one gives a crap. Men being harassed on the internet isn’t news. However, women being harassed is! So when a woman is harassed, they get a lot more attention. Journalists will hold up the woman as yet another example of the blatant sexism and misogyny in the industry.
Making matters worse are the guys who just want to do good and feel defending a woman is the best way to do this. These “White Knights” often mean well, but they draw attention to the suffering of women they agree with, again emphasizing it. They would rarely do this for a man because men “can defend themselves”. These White Knights also frequently ignore any legitimate complaints against the woman in question, because they are a woman. This makes matters much worse. People who disagree with the woman in question see the hoards of men blindly following everything the woman says and attacking all who disagree with her. This makes them resent the woman even more as she inadvertently acts as their ring leader. Admittedly this raises the hostility of people who disagree with the woman and aggravates further attacks. They see the actions of a hoard of blind White Knights acting in her name as being her own actions. On top of that, the woman may see her blind army of sycophants as “allies” or a target audience or whatever and they begin to isolate her from legitimate criticism. It becomes too easy then to ignore the outside world.
This can happen to the most innocent, well meaning woman. Let’s not even think about what happens if a woman has an ulterior motive.
It is in this way that women may well get more abuse than men. They also get more support and that support in turn can be abusive to others.
In many ways this is also at the heart of GamerGate: We’ve seen women say and do some awful things, yet we are not allowed to criticize them otherwise we’re “misogynists”. This puts us in a tight spot: where is the line between criticism and harassment? Are we seriously not allowed to speak out if the person we are speaking out against is a woman?
I know this statement sounds sexist. It is. I have found it is impossible to talk about sexism without first being sexist: You have to accept that one gender is getting unequal treatment and thus, in turn, you give that gender unequal defense. Thus those who feel it is the other gender which has it worse will find your statement to be sexist. It’s unavoidable and I apologize, but the fact is that both genders are treated differently in both “positive” and “negative” ways.
I guess what I’m saying is that no one deserves harassment, but no one is exempt from criticism and exactly where the line between criticism and harassment is can be difficult to figure out.
#4) #GamerGate has some sketchy origins, why not use #GameEthics if that is what you really care about?
The general consensus is that if we split the movement like this, we would weaken it. #GamerGate is an accepted hashtag that many have heard about. If we were to use #GameEthics we’d inadvertantly leave some honest people behind. More than that, it would allow #GamerGate to be attacked while #GameEthics is ignored.
“Oh I support #GameEthics, but #GamerGate is full of horrible awful people! Look how horrible these #GamerGate people are!”
Let us not forget that many very intelligent claims have been made under the #GamerGate banner and if we let it be attacked, then we wind up discrediting ourselves. It’s complicated, messy, and tricky but there is good reason behind it. Yes, #GamerGate has some reprehensible assholes in it but we have to stand by it or it loses it’s impact.
#5) There are plenty of games made for gamers, why are they complaining?
This is something I think needs to be clarified. I repeatedly hear people saying this and listing off games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Indeed those games are in no danger of going away. However, they aren’t the games we’re worried about. While gamers do enjoy these games for the most part, they are “mainstream” games and aren’t really made for gamers, they’re meant to appeal to the mainstream audience. Most videogames are made for a mainstream audience, especially AAA games. As such, gamers do feel marginalized in their own hobby that they’ve loved for decades! It is a very awkward feeling, but one we understand for the most part: these games are what sell.
So what do gamers want? Well it varies depending who you talk to as all gamers want different things. Generally it’s the older console gamers that feel really burnt. Gaming has become very PC-centric (even on consoles) and arcade-style or Japanese games are becoming an increasing rarity. To be honest, I have met all my friends through gaming. Most of them did not buy a 7th gen console. They didn’t stop gaming, they just stuck to emulators and the DS where good old fashioned games still occasionally flourished like Radiant Historia and Monster Tale. I would kind of like you to think about that: some hardcore gamers skipped an entire 7 year console generation because of the lack of appealing titles. I think you’ll also find a lot of #GamerGaters are hardcore JRPG nerds, hence the anime avatars.
The anger, however, comes from the way these games fall through the cracks. GTA and CoD are guaranteed good scores, they’re popular big name games. Meanwhile art haus indie games that are more focused on a “message” than on their own gameplay get held up as these pinnacles of what gaming should be. But what about everything else? What about those mythical mid-tier games? Well they get lazy reviews, minimal promotion, and frequently become the target of claims of “sexism” and “misogyny”. It’s almost as though they’re used to show the publication isn’t biased! “See? We give out bad scores too! Look at this otherwise decent mid-tier game we slammed!” “See? We care about serious issues in gaming, we gave this obscure Japanese game a boatload of crap!”. I know that’s probably sort of confirmation bias, but it certainly is how it feels to me.
Of special note for me is the reception of the DmC reboot, whose main menu featured an animated image of Dante getting a psuedo-blowjob from angel strippers. I did not see a single review complain about that and instead they focused entirely on bashing Devil May Cry fans for being whiny babies. Now I am not implying that this should be changed or that Ninja Theory shouldn’t be allowed to have controversial imagery in their games, merely that it comes off as hypocritical. Why is DOA5 featuring sexy fighting women who make up half the cast “sexist and horrible” while DmC which features no playable women and continually features them as sex objects “okay”? It feels like the answer is “because one had a huge marketing budget and the other didn’t” or “because one had a huge backlash from gamers we hate and the other has a bad reputation”. It just feels weird to see them turn off their self-righteousness out of nowhere for this one game then bring it back later in full force.
One can’t expect every reviewer to have the same taste as you. Taste is subjective, we all like and dislike different things. However we see a lot of homogeny across various game publications. We see a lot of the same attitudes, the same messages being pushed, the same games getting promoted. I have to say I am very glad that #GamerGate has inspired more alternative game sites who aren’t part of an insular clique and may have some different opinions than what we see in the mainstream gaming press.
#6) No one is trying to “Take away your videogames”!
I hear this statement all the time from people, usually said in a sarcastic eye-rolling manner. However, I disagree. Though they may not realize it, they are trying to take away my videogames and I have an issue with that. Let me explain: The major focus of much of the sensationalist SJW message being pushed by the gaming media is negative. Videogames are sexist, this character is sexist, this story is sexist. What are we supposed to do with these claims? The only logical answer is to change or get rid of the sexist things, right? This seems reasonable on the surface. No one likes sexism! It’s bad!
However, what if my reading of a character is different from yours? What if what appears to be sexist to you actually seems super progressive to me? What if the developers intended something to be progressive but it came off as sexist to some? These questions appear to not be allowed. Anyone that would dare question if something is or isn’t sexist is clearly a misogynist! Trying to spin a blatantly sexist thing to be positive just shows how blind you are to your own sexism and how systemic the problem really is!
But, if you look for sexism hard enough, you will find it. Some sexism is a cultural artifact of ancient times (“women are weaker than men”), some sexism is actually pushed as being progressive (“violence against women is the ultimate evil”), some sexism is utterly accidental (“Lara Croft isn’t psycho, she just has 5 different writers!”). These issues need to be discussed with nuance on a broad cultural scale, not with a pin-point focus on videogames exclusively. and accusing a developer of “sexism!!!” isn’t going to help anyone.
Let me give you a few examples of things with multiple readings:
Hyperdimension Neptunia – A bunch of cute girls representing different game companies reenact the console wars. The characters are all female and designed to blatantly appeal to various male tastes. Outfits are tight and skimpy, skirts are short, faces are adorable. This game is frequently held up as the pinnacle of sexist game design. However, with an all female cast the Bechdel Test is passed with ease. With this many women they have to act differently or the game would be bland. These ladies run their own countries and fight villains in the name of good. Isn’t that progressive? Or does their attire and questionable age invalidate all of this?
Dead or Alive 5 – Busty women fight it out in a tournament while wearing skimpy clothes. Clearly sexist! These women are just meant to be eye candy! …that fight and win against men. The case is (or was before DLC) a 50/50 split between men and women. With this many women, once again, differing personalities are required and some of them must be important to the plot. The inciting incident of the series was Kasumi trying to rescue her brother from an evil corporation. Helena acts as the head of the reformed DOATEC now years later. Lisa is a brilliant scientist responsible for many of the ethically questionable scientific breakthroughs of DOATEC despite being a nice person. It is also worth noting that DOA5 features the option to wear normal clothes for many female characters and the ability to turn off the boob physics. On the other hand, some of the DLC outfits are jaw-droppingly skimpy.
Ar Tonelico – An RPG series about guys who fight alongside robot-ish women who use magical singing power. Initially I was very much against this game because the main women just sit in the back row and sing while the men fight and defend them on the front lines. What’s more, you cannot date the one woman who actually fights on the front line. This annoyed me and I considered the game horribly offensive. However, in retrospect there is some positivity there. Though most of the women don’t fight on the front lines, their songs do have incredible power. More than that is the dating mechanics which involve diving into a world made of the robot-ish ladies’ own mind. Again a weird premise which could be interpreted as being brainwashing OR it could be interpreted as a very personal psychiatrist session. In these worlds you help these women through their problems. The one that really stood out to me was one character whose world is this cute happy fairytale world…until you get further in and you find a disjointed broken world made of nothing but darkness. Come to find out her cute happy personality was just a mask hiding her true feelings and that deep inside she’s got serious issues. It was an unexpected and interesting twist that showed the character as someone much deeper than what you see on the surface.
Tomb Raider (reboot) – The game goes back to Lara’s “origins” showing how she became the “Tomb Raider” and the struggles she went through in a more action-centric adventure with a focus on survival. To me it was clear that they were trying to reboot her as a “strong female character” and a “survivor”. Her redesign was de-sexualized, her walk animation is procedurally generated to avoid excessive wiggle, there’s even a weird feminist undertone to some conversations. However, I myself found Lara to come off as an unhinged psychopath as her personality seemed to change between cutscenes and that the random nameless men you’re killing were far more interesting and likeable as characters. It felt like they were trying to hard and finding out the game had five writers explains many of the characterization issues. It’s no secret that I really really hate this game, but it’s intentions were attempting to be positive.
Atelier Meruru – An RPG where you play a Princess of a small kingdom who wants to learn alchemy. The agreement is that she can learn alchemy as long as she helps to improve the kingdom in both violent and non-violent ways. However, according to GameSpot, the protagonist is sexualized and thus the game is awful. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that all of the men (with the exception of the blacksmith) are smouldering hot pretty boys who you get to see naked in the bath at some point. Admittedly the same goes for the ladies too.
I admit that all of these opinions are incredibly biased and I do not pretend that one reading is more right than another. Rather I just want to show that something that may seem incredibly sexist to some may appear progressive to others and vice-versa. As such, trying to censor or ban these things would be unquestionably bad.
However, I have actually heard the argument that we do need to get rid of these games because, I kid you not, they “scare women away from gaming” and act as a giant “no girls allowed” sign. I am not even kidding. I remember both 1UP and MovieBob making this point as well as a friend of mine. In fact it is actually a commonly accepted response it seems. I find this highly problematic! As I just established, these games can be read in more than one way which is why censorship is never good.
However, let me throw you another odd fact: there are women who enjoy these games. Seriously, I have seen more female players in Dead or Alive 5 than in any other fighting game. One of my friends is a hardcore Neptunia fangirl who learned how to rig models exclusively so she could take the ripped Neptunia V models and put them in Left 4 Dead 2. One of the women who works at my local GameStop is a Bayonetta fangirl who cosplays her and bought Anarchy Reigns just because of Bayonetta being in it.
There are also women who hate these games and do find them offensive, or at least off-putting.
Is one group more right than another? I do not think so. As such, how can you ask to get rid of the games that one group likes?
“But no one is saying that!”
Perhaps not intentionally, but again: the excessive focus on the negative without any acknowledgement of the positive is a driving factor behind the belief that women are represented poorly in videogames. If all we do is complain about offensive games, what are companies supposed to take away from that? How is that not suggesting censorship? I have seen a few articles that actually end with “I don’t support censorship but…” which is just like saying “I’m not a racist but…” and you know it.
Even bad art has a right to exist.
#7) But isn’t #GamerGate just an attempt to excuse misogynistic actions in the gaming community?
I literally did not understand where the statement comes from but it keeps popping up. After thinking about it I guess it is referring to the harassment some women in gaming have received recently. In many ways this is a muddy area because while none of us condone harassment, we do find a few women worthy of criticism and often our criticism is painted as harassment because we’re criticizing women.
Similarly though, there is some rather harsh criticism that borders on harassment that sort of blurs together with the legitimate criticism and some legitimate criticisms are mixed with pot shots and ad hominim attacks at the subject.
The women are not being criticized because they are women though, it’s because we disagree with what they say or do and we feel we are not allowed to discuss this. While the criticism may be harsh it has nothing to do with gender. As has been repeatedly shown, Jack Thompson said similar things and received the same level of criticism and harassment. While he did not deserve that level of harassment, it does show that this is hardly gender related. Again, the reason why it feels that way is because while no one cared when we gave Jack Thompson crap, giving women crap on the internet is treated like a crime. It’s messy, but I do not feel misogyny has anything to do with it.
#8) What do #GamerGaters want?
There are so many varying voices and opinions on #GamerGate that it can be hard to figure out what we even want. When those anti-gamer articles dropped it pissed *everyone* off! In general though we would like at least some slightly stronger ethics in game journalism with more varied voices within the industry. We would like both sides of a story to be examined as well and for there to be less politics in game discussion. I know you can’t leave your politics behind and that everyone has some degree of bias but egad don’t push it so hard! Do not assume your politics are right, try and find a way to discuss your complaints in a more neutral way which may actually get more people on your side.
But above all else, we’d really just like it if game journalists showed some degree of respect towards their audience. I know some gamers are stupid. I met a guy in line once who was complaining about how there were no games on the Wii, *really* wanted Donkey Kong Country Returns, *owns* a Wii, but refused to buy it because he didn’t want to use his Wii…and proceeded to tell me about how it should have been on PS3 because Nintendo doesn’t own the rights to Donkey Kong. Sometimes gamers say some dumbass shit. However this person does not speak for all gamers, he speaks for himself. Just because there are a bunch of people saying stupid things doesn’t mean we all are and to lump us together like that is disingenuous.
Please, just try to see our side of things sometime.
So that about sums up the questions I’ve seen so far regarding #GamerGate. If you have any others, feel free to post them in the comments and I will try to tackle them, possibly in a second piece. I know some of my fellow gamers can be harsh and I hope we can learn to be more accepting and reasonable in the future.
I also hope that #GamerGate has taught us all a lesson. I frequently say that the people who most enjoy escapist media are those who have something to escape from. Many gamers are part of a traditionally marginalized group, a lot of them suffer from depression with games as their only escape, and I think a surprising amount could best be described as “not gender normative”.
Heck, it seems like there are so many transgendered people in gaming that you could actually find more evidence to support “Gaming makes you want to get a sex change” than “Gaming makes you violent” or “Gaming makes you sexist”! Interestingly, this isn’t some new trend either as if Jamie Fenton is to be believed this has been the case since before The Great Videogame Crash of 1983!
GamerGate and #NotYourShield have provided an instance where traditionally marginalized groups within the gaming community can stand up and say “I am a minority of some kind and SJWs do not speak for me”. I cannot stress enough that the focus on Social Justice pushed poorly by game journalists has actually increased the rift between various gamers. When you hear that everything you love needs to be changed to appease a random minority for no real reason, people can’t help but get angry at that group of people. In many ways it portrays them as an invading group of “outsiders”. Hearing them instead say “can you stop arbitrarily changing things, please?” has brought us perhaps a bit closer to eachother. I hope that it has opened the eyes of gamers to realize that these people are not an invading force trying to take away our games, but fellow gamers who have been here all along.
There is nothing I support more than increased inclusivity and character variety and I feel everyone deserves a game for them. However, there is nothing I oppose quite as much as arbitrarily changing the things we love in a ham-fisted attempt to make people feel socially conscious. I want people to make the games they want to make without fear of backlash. Criticism is deserved, but there is such a thing as taking it too far and that goes to all of us both Game Journalists and #GamerGaters.