GamerGate is a thing for some reason. Some people actually think it’s a viable movement for their belief system and that floors me a bit. For those of you who don’t follow Internet drama, GamerGate purports itself to be a social movement fighting to improve the ethics in video game journalism. The aim is to correct a pretty well known problem where game development studios and the big game publishing houses influence review scores for their games in return for ad revenue, exclusive news, and demo copies of games and systems for journalists.
This is a good thing.
But that is not what GamerGate is. GamerGate (coined by Adam Baldwin of Firefly, and his magnum opus, DC Cab) started when an Indie game developer, Zoe Quinn, released Depression Quest. It was kind of a choose your own adventure that helped bring to light the lack of resolve and dedication that accompanies depression. I played through it (it’s free online) and felt that it was a great representation of what I’ve gone through. I showed it to my wife, that was the end of it on our end.
Fast forward to late summer. Zoe’s ex-boyfriend writes a scathing blog post about her, implying that she slept with 5 different game reviewers while she was dating him, all in order to get good reviews. This has been completely debunked, and none of the gaming journalists even reviewed the game. It’s at this point Zoe begins receiving hateful emails, twitter posts, blog comments, and death threats, all “supposedly” because of this rumor. In reality, she was attacked because she is a female game designer. Those who belong to GamerGate, claiming to focus on cleaning up ethics in gaming journalism and the link with AAA game publishers, instead targeted Zoe. Zoe Quinn is an Indie game designer. She does not have a multi-million dollar marketing budget at stake with these news outlets. Instead of organizing a boycott of the AAA publishers, or something similar, the GamerGate group ended up sending her death threats and started putting her home address online. They also said some really horrible fucked up shit about they would do to her if they found her. So, Zoe moves out in fear.
GamerGate claims it has nothing to do with women in gaming, but then have been bemoaning editorials wondering if ‘Gamer’ is no longer a valid label for an identity. Gaming has gone so mainstream that nearly everyone plays one game or another, shattering the traditional young white guy image. This brought out another shit storm, as the ‘hardcore gamers,’ having their identity threatened, lashed out at the writers with the same tactics they used on Zoe. All due to a hypothetical. Brianna Wu, another game developer, was targeted simply for standing up for those who spoke out against GamerGate. She has had to leave her home due to the death threats she has been receiving to her home address.
Finally, Anita Sarkeesian. A few years back, Anita Sarkeesian set up a KickStarter to make a series of web videos that focused on the tropes that female characters primarily fall into with video games. She asked for $6,000 to help her upgrade equipment, production costs, etc.
Some gamers and ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ (MRA’s)went apeshit. They’d claim there is no gender issue in gaming, and that this was an attack by radical feminists against gamers! What follows is straight from the playbook we’ve seen from the MRA/GamerGate group: attempts at cracking passwords for social media, threats, releasing personal information, etc. So, you know, proving there is no sexism and bias against women in gaming clearly. Anita recently had to cancel a speech due to a bomb threat, and a threat of a mass shooting. All because she was going to give a talk. On her thoughts of women’s representation. In gaming.
There’s also the issue of trolls, people setting out specifically to disrupt what’s happening or just cause trouble. They’re also kicking the situation into gear by fanning the flames, but I want to focus mainly on the true believers.
Now, I’m sure there are naive, well-meaning people associated with the GamerGate movement that feel they actually are fighting for ethics in games journalism. Of course, all of the attacks thus far have been against women who either had no real association with gaming journalism, or spoke out for more gender equality in video games. Those people probably need to start fresh because GamerGate was never theirs to begin with.
This is where my confusion sets in. Why the hell would anybody be angry about women pushing for better representation? I’m a white American male in my late 20’s. I am in the demographic frequently focused on by game marketing. I support the push for equality in gaming, because personally, I’d love to be able to play a game with my wife that’s main character customization for women isn’t what color of super tight sports bra will she wear over her hilariously large boobs (with realistic jiggle! This has been a thing that has been listed as a feature for a few games.) I’d like my wife to have mature games targeted with her in mind with a strong female lead, or here’s a frightening thought, a AAA title that isn’t a shooter, for women, that isn’t ~-~rainbows and sparklez~-~! I don’t like being embarrassed that my male avatar in a game wears heavy armor that covers his entire body to his neck, and the women avatars wear armor that emphasizes bust size and doesn’t cover their midriff or legs.
Now, I’m not saying that women should be ashamed of their sexuality or anything like that, far from it. However, having that be your only choice for games with customizable characters? That’s not cool. Male soldiers and space marines in video gaming are kitted out with enough tactical gear to put Delta Force to shame. The women pretty much get camo-cammies and short-shorts, with a cute belt and some pouches.
In what world does pushing for more variety in gaming, especially that it has gone so mainstream, a bad thing? For MRA’s and GamerGaters, what do you really have to lose in a push for more women being involved in gaming? It’s not like there’s a feminist cabal that is plotting the overthrow of all male characters or some shit. The only impact it will have on your life will be they may be dressed differently, or playing a different role in new games, in addition to the release of more games on the market. The diversification of gaming is a good thing. It leads to new ideas and concepts. Don’t worry, there will still be 20 male centric shooters for every game like ‘Gone Home,’ which even though I had nothing in common with the protagonists, I personally loved.
I have several friends that count themselves as female gamers. They really only play co-op with my gaming group due to the harassment they get online as soon as it’s discovered they’re girls. As the aforementioned white American male in his late 20’s, that prime demographic, I actually want to see more stories. I want to play a game where I’m not a grizzled 20/30something soldier/detective/criminal. Now, I still love those games, however those won’t magically disappear if I can also play a game about being a lady in an aristocracy, schmoozing my way through dinner parties, ruining reputations, and clawing my way to the top of the ladder. That would make a cool as hell RPG. No violence or war, but still about conflict. Focusing on a character instead of an avatar for the player to project themselves on top of. Gaming is supposed to be able to transport you into someone else’s shoes far more personally than movies or books, so why do we fight ever playing from a different viewpoint?
I think of myself as a feminist in the way that I’m pretty sure that other genders, sexual orientations, and races shouldn’t be treated like shit. I am not up to date on feminist theory, but you don’t have to be a Women’s Study major working on a ‘SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!’ webzine to realize that something is very wrong.
So, let Zoe, Anita, Brianna, and all the others, do what they want to do. It will have virtually no impact on your ability to enjoy a game. In fact, we’ll probably see improved stories because of it. If you only play online team death match or the like, well who gives a shit what changes, there will be no real upsetting the applecart on that one. Anyone still on board with GamerGate that isn’t an MRA prick (because we have it so hard right guys 🙁 ) start a new movement. Start boycotting preorders and retailer specific bonuses in gaming. Prevent me from spending another $60 on a game as shitty as Colonial Marines that had pretty much been falsely advertised from the start, or Mass Effect 3 that was so rushed towards the end of development that nothing made any sense. Boycott gaming websites until they disclose in each article any connection between the author and the company in question. Contact the AAA publishers and say you aren’t going to purchase any of their games while they threaten gaming journalists with restricted access just because they’re doing their jobs. This way, you’ll help the Indie game scene flourish, while cutting down on puff pieces that AAA publisher marketing departments have to approve.
Also for the ones who think they’re fighting the good fight by targeting these developers: grow up and quit being assholes. Did you ever think that maybe your issue with women doesn’t stem from society, but from yourself? A lot of these same guys bitching about women being sluts or frigid bitches also complain about no one wanting to date them. Because it’s clearly the woman’s fault on that one, and not that you treat them like a goddamn lesser species. But counterpoint: ewwww girls.