When I recently read that a #GamerGate supporter threatened Anita Sarkeesian out of a speech at some college, I was furious. I wasn’t surprised that there was a backlash against the rising wave of feminist gamers, but to finally see a name for all those who paralyze and stunt the culture I love… I was seeing red, and knew this was the fight to be having.
I hopped on Twitter and popped out a few comments as I did light research on my phone. “#GamerGate, history will not remember you fondly.” Something about Adam Baldwin. He started #GamerGate? “Let’s fight for ethical journalism by harassing women #StopGamerGate2014.” Something about a guy accusing his girlfriend of cheating.
I check my account a day later to find my normally isolated ramblings had received far more feedback than ever before. Not a lot, but enough to tell that I had hit a nerve. It was nice to see a few favorites and retweets, but the critical comments threw me off. They weren’t toxic as I had imagined them to be. They seemed annoyed, almost frustrated.
Hold Up, Who Do I Hate?
One of them sent me a nifty link, which began my trail of understanding where #GamerGate started. Looking at a massive timeline of an online cultural movement was a lot to take in, and I had a lot of trouble pinpointing where it truly defined itself. I’m not sure I do now. But through all that I’ve read and learned, I just can’t stand against #GamerGate.
I wanted to, so badly. On first description, GamerGate doesn’t sound good: a bunch of gamers banding up online to bully female developers and journalist, flooding indie game sites with hatemail. And now a death threat on Anita Sarkeesian- I just didn’t like it.
Whether you’re down or not, I’m a feminist, through and through. I believe that everything should be equal for men, women, and all inbetween. I also believe that everything is not, and that we, in the game culture, have proven ourselves to be a long, long way from there. Even if you’re in the belief that people like me talk too much, and that we’re just ruining good entertainment, you have to admit; we have a point. There aren’t many chicks you can play as.
The thing is, we also have a real lack of transparency in our reporting. Having to wonder all the time if a game is as breathtaking as a preview describes, or if that unusually early review has an unusually high score, it’s disheartening. In an industry run by press hype, there needs to be some trust between critics and consumer.
There Can Be Only One?
So somewhere along the way of these two uprisings, we decided we don’t like each other. We, collectively, came to this conclusion, or at least I did. The school of thought I subscribe to was attacked by those under the GamerGate Banner: the trolls, the hackers, the ranting misogynists, and every infuriated editorial I’d read. I couldn’t trust it. It was the enemy, if I ever saw one.
Because, the truth is, I just need an enemy. Gaming is the electronic love of my life, but when I look at it, I know it’s a flawed culture. An overwhelming majority of it centers on thoughtless violence, and most girls shy from talking about it. When that describes an entire entertainment medium, you know there’s room for growth. On first hearing, GamerGate sounded exactly like the enemy I always imagined. Imagination can really go running.
Because the truth is, there are a whole lot of different people. There are the tons of passionate, dedicated gamers that just want to see the world in wide, honest eyes, and there are the radicals and bullies peppered anonymously within the ranks. The latter get most of the press.
It’s not so different on my side, either. A bunch of people banding up for a righteous cause, with a few jerks hopping on and blending in. We’re all sort of noble and we want to make a difference, but we don’t really know how.
The publishers and the media moguls are too smooth to be bothered by us, so naturally, we turn on each other. Someone gets hacked, another person gets shamed. Things escalate and get ugly fast, and folks get swept up in a spiral of harassment and publicity.
The Enemy Within Our Ranks
The worst of us are the ones that really keep the ball rolling. Angsty gender-fluid bloggers spam terms from academic essays like four-letter words begging for confrontation, while shadowy web-mobs lash out at low rank devs and journos, often women. The press retaliates, some of them maturely, and some with the accusatory grace of Ace Attorney. #GamerGaters, as well as most of the gaming population, is vastly offended, and the wedge is driven further.
We’ve begun a descent down a very slippery slope, and I pray that there’s some going back. This isn’t fanboyism or the console wars; this is politics, cold and unremitting. This is Republicans and Democrats, and already we’re seeing those distanced from games joining the fight. The New York Times released a fiercely partisan editorial on the section’s front page, and it’s only a matter of time before Fox News takes a definitive stance.
So here’s this movement that I’d like to stand behind for its cause, but I know it’s become so much more since then. #GamerGate has been forever tied to internet gaming misogany, the very thing I stand against, but for those recognizing inherent systematic problems in the press, for those thinking of solutions, I salute you.
I know “Social Justice Warrior” is thrown around like an insult, but I’ve become partial to it. You see a problem in society, so you band up to work towards a just solution: essentially what the best of both of us are doing. Instead of counterweighing ideas and sharpening solutions, though, we end up infantilizing and smearing.
Although I can’t readily join the ranks of #GamerGate, I like the initials #GG. It has a wide potential of usages. I said it recently in conversation with a friend to mean “Girl Gamers,” it could also mean gay gamers, or even just good gaming. A blanket term for all gamers would be a nice thing, especially if it were to hark to the principal ideals of honest game journalism.
Anyways, I’d like to see the meaning of #GG evolve. #GGforAll anyone?