Tonight, I want to write about Gamergate.
Actually, let me be clear. I don’t really want to write about Gamergate. I wish I’d never heard the term. I wish we could get in an epic Doctor Who TARDIS the size of the planet and go back to before two months ago (by god it’s been that long already) when all this madness started. If that’s when it started. Some folks say the Gamergate controversy was just brewing, waiting in the wings for an incendiary incident to drag all those feelings of misogyny and rage and resentment to the surface. I personally agree, that there’s been a lot of awful beneath the surface as the gaming community goes through its adolescent growing pains. As it grows from a haven for interactive technology, play, and those who sought to turn that into an identity, gaming has come to mean a lot of different things. And now, Gamergate has become that bone-rattling clash of cultures as what was once a subculture rockets towards the mainstream and the intrenched majority suffers from change-shock.
I’m not going to rehash the discussions about Gamergate here. There’s been a dozen analyses done by gamers, game scholars, thinkers, news mediums, and even cable news networks. The mainstream media has caught on and if you want to go through the entire history of this debacle, there’s plenty of timelines to catch you up. I would suggest this article talking about the knee-jerk rage of movements and even my own discussion about the decrying of the term gamer from a few weeks back. I’d also suggest this brilliant take-down by Brianna Wu, who went on HuffPo Live after she was threatened out of her home, where she takes on the so-called issues of Gamergate. But in talking about Gamergate, reading about it, seeing it go on for so long, I’ve become full up on it, saturated to the gills. I realized upon trying to write about Gamergate today that I don’t know what else needed to be said. It had been analyzed in relation to the Men’s Rights Movement, defended as a reactionary movement based on fear of change and deconstructed on the front page of the New York Times. The Verge has practically been camping out on the issue. Compared to all that, what else do I have to say?
Something. I need to say something. To get out of my system the feelings rising up whenever Gamergate is discussed. Whenever I see some ridiculous tweet or the comments section rebuttals to articles. Or worse, when I see a friend stand up and defend gamer-gaters as part of our gaming community. There is a feeling that goes full circle, back to the fundamnetal issue that most Gamergaters seem to ignore.
Guess what? I’m against the Gamergate movement and I’m a gamer too.
I’m a gamer. I’ve been one since I was old enough to have a gaming console, since I got my first computer, since I played Mortal Kombat in arcades and played online roleplaying games in chat rooms. I made gaming my business and loved every second of it. Still do. I call myself a gamer, proudly. I’ve been a gamer for twenty years and in half dozen different mediums. I don’t need to spit my cred and I don’t cred check others. I don’t decry the title or say that now is the end of gamers. I share my community proudly and speak loud and proud about my love for games.
But I am also a woman, and until recently, the tension between those two parts of my identity- that of being a woman and that of the community I love- were always at odds. For every ten great experiences in the community, there were awful moments. There were feelings of exclusion, of ridicule. There were moments of outright harassment and earnest moments of terror, of feeling unsafe, of feeling alone. This is not an unusual story. I’ve heard it from gamer women from the video game world to the LARP world, from tabletop RPG conventions to playing in D&D in the home of a friend. So I stand up to be counted with those who speak against inequality, who are demeaned and maligned and called Social Justice Warriors. I laugh like hell when people use that term as an insult because I wear that title proudly. Yeah, what?! I am a Social Justice Warrior. What’s wrong with being a warrior for a cause you care about? I don’t shout at people, I don’t harass. I stand for zero tolerance on bullying and harassment and for representation of all kinds in our community. That’s how I am a gamer, with social consciousness in my mind and happiness in my heart.
Then Gamergate happened. And all that awfulness just under the surface, all that mistreatment and harassment and misogyny that’s been there for years, it comes bubbling up. And because it’s couched in the language of some kind of ‘ethics’ discussion, because it’s hidden behind a supposed defense of the gamer hobby based on ‘assaults’ by those nasty, evil SJWs, then the real disgusting behavior gets marginalized. “Well that’s not us,” says the poor, maligned Gamergater. “We’re here to defend the gaming hobby and talk about journalistic ethics! We’re not about death threats!” And suddenly, they’re an equal part of the conversation. They get an entire segment on HuffPo Live to defend their ‘stance.’
And it makes me furious.
Their stance is built on supporting maligning women. In maligning any critic who stands up for unequal treatment in games. They stand to be counted with harassers – or they did, until the mainstream attention to those threats made them start looking like a lynch mob. Then suddenly, the language changed to “please, listen to us, we’re just misunderstood.”
And I’m just so tired of it. If I could, I’d wish it all gone.
I wish it was back before this pseudo-movement/ consumer revolt/ journalistic integrity thing / hate mob was born. I wish we were back in a time before I knew the name Eron Gjoni, before I knew that boyfriends could be so hateful as to record their relationships and pour them out on the internet to become the springboard for a malicious campaign against a woman designer. I wish we were in a time before I knew what the hell a false flag was, before I knew something called 8chan existed, before I knew they were the folks so bad they got knocked off 4chan. Before I had to learn about sock puppet twitter accounts made to feign actual discourse in an effort to troll. I want to go back to a time when misogyny in the gaming industry didn’t have a movement that got a B-list Hollywood actor like Adam Baldwin to use his social media reach to malign women and perpetuate attacks on social justice.
I wish I didn’t know that this post might attract all kinds of negative responses. I wish I didn’t know that I might get threats. I wish I didn’t know that somewhere, someone might read this and wish me harm.
I wish a lot of things about the gaming world. But right now, I wish this more than anything: I wish I knew what to say with more delicacy about a horror show of consumer superiority complexes and entitlement gone rampant. I wish that I didn’t go online every day and read about another person who has been harassed, about infographs full of half-truths and conspiracy theory language pointing to women in the industry and saying “Hah! I deny your experiences!”
I wish more than anything that I could put up my hands and say, “Jesus Christ, people, we are talking about a community of making games that has room for criticism, that has room for discussion, that has room for evolution of ideas! That has room for a better day where everyone can find themselves represented and respected, not just a target demographic! Where women can feel safe at play and at work within the gaming world! And where you, you over there, you with the angry look on your face and your hashtag full of hate, can accept social justice as a THING without flinging the internet equivalent of monkey shit.”
I wish I could just say: I’m a gamer too, and my opinions are just as valuable and valid as yours. And my opinion is that we need some change up in this community. And you don’t get to say no because this community isn’t yours. It’s ours.
So tonight, I wanted to write about Gamergate but I really wish it didn’t exist. I wish people could find some other way to express their concerns about journalistic integrity, if those are actual issues to be explored, without couching it in a language of hate. And I wish people could see that any actual conversation about issues was long ago tainted by the horror of rape and death threats, by the sad reality of women forced from their homes in fear.
By the real possibility of a goddamn school shooting because a woman criticized video games.
I want to write about Gamergate because there is some horror coming off this upheaval that gets lost in the news stories and the fighting on Twitter. It lies in the cracks between the MSNBC coverage and the New York Times article, the death threats and the IRC chats. It lies in the silence that fills up the minutes when you write a post about games, when you post that Tweet, when you say something on Facebook. It lies in that moment when you wonder, “Is this where someone on my feed comes and tells me I should die? That I should be raped to death? Am I going to be next?”
It comes in the conversations with your friends at IndieCade about who might be targeted next. Or who has been targeted. Who has gotten threats and who got things thrown at them. Who is going to be doxxed and who is afraid to walk alone.
It comes from waking up in a cold sweat in an LA hotel the night before IndieCade, wondering if you’re going to get into a dust-up with someone who read your Twitter account and thinks you should just die.
It comes from wondering if it’s all worth it, in the end. If this community is where I want to be.
Well here’s my answer: Screw that noise. I’m here to stay.
I’m a gamer. I’m a game designer. Brianna Wu stood up and said she is the Godzilla of bitches to those who would take her on. I might not be a kaiju, but I’m a gamer woman. I’ve taken slings and arrows all the damn time since I joined the community. I’m not afraid to be told that I don’t belong here because I’ve ALWAYS been told that. What else is new? So you’ve got Adam Baldwin on your side, Gamergate. I’ve got Chuck Wendig and Joss Whedon, Wil Wheaton and Patton Oswald. I’ve got women like Anita Sarkessian and Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu to look to as examples of women who have continued on after you’ve tried to warp their public image and destroy their lives. I’ve got people whose talent knows no bounds telling me that this is OUR community, ours and not just yours. And there’s a new day coming when maybe I can get on Twitter without hearing about someone I care about getting harassed into hiding.
I’m a gamer woman. I’m here to stay. And that’s all I gotta say about this damn Gamergate.