UPDATE: Below I linked to a blogger I called George (he posted anonymously) and quoted a piece he wrote. The blog has since been deleted. The cache of that blog post is here.
I believe that people who consider themselves to be good people believe that racism, homophobia (sadly to a lesser extent biphobia and transphobia generally), and sexism are bad things. I wouldn’t say that people who think that racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and sexism are ok are entirely bad people, they’re probably very nice to some people, but they’re certainly not the type of people that I want to hang around with. Anyone who thinks that their feelings about certain things trump the actual rights of others to exist and participate fully in society is wrong.
Why do I write this, this which would seem to be bleedingly obvious? Because there are people who seem to think that threatening people who think that racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia is bad, is entirely justified. Some people think that threats of sexual harm, death, and threats against family members are ok, because just because someone holds a different belief system to them.
Anita Sarkeesian recently released the next instalment of her Feminist Frequency, Tropes vs Women in Video Games project. Some people were so very upset that Sarkeesian was critiquing something that they held very dear, that they made sexualised, violent threats against her, published her address and threatened her parents. (TW for this entire link) Then several other people claimed that she was making the threats up for attention, while threatening her. You can’t make this shit up, though apparently some people appear to survive the cognitive dissonance to believe you can.
So at the same time Sarkeesian was publishing the threats she received, Gamer Gate kicked off after allegations that an indy developer of games had slept with a journalist in order to receive more favourable reviews. The allegation was made by her ex-boyfriend, and involved slut shaming, so those in the broader gaming community who don’t think that sexism is awful, piled on the developer, and then after a redirection onto the broader gaming media/press, suggesting that it was effectively corrupt. Evidence now exists that suggests the whole Gamer Gate saga was an orchestrated event by certain individuals.
One of the things that annoyed me most about both Gamer Gate and the treatment that Sarkeesian receives for being a critic, beyond the sexism, is those who think there is a middle ground. Those that argue that those in support of Sarkeesian and/or Zoe Quinn are behaving as badly as those against. Apparently one side calling the other side names (MRAs, misogynists, sexists) is as bad as the other side making violent sexual and death threats. I don’t see the equivalence personally.
An anonymous, indie game-dev (I’ll call him George) wrote a piece that suggested that only threats against women are taken seriously, and the men who receive both death threats and/or violent sexual threats are ignored by those who support Sarkeesian, and/or feminism within the computer game industry. George also thinks that the threats that women receive are solely because arseholes know that the best way to upset a woman is to insult her gender [emphasis in original]:
Sure, you say you hope someone dies of aids, that makes you an asshole. Some people are assholes. That will NEVER change, and assholes will always pick a stick to beat you with that is most effective and most offensive to you. If you’re a woman, that is what the stick will be. If you were gay, that’s what the stick would be. If you had big ears… And so on. Don’t confuse the choice of stick with the reason for wanting to beat you with it in the first place.
Assholes will mock someone’s disability. They will mock someone’s race. Mock someone’s appearance. Mock someone’s voice. Mock and insult anything that it is apparent to them will hurt those they are attacking’s feelings. Assholes will threaten you with violence, they will threaten you with death. They will threaten you of rape, in the ass if you’re a man and, well, it may vary with a woman. They will wish cancer upon you, or that you die in a fire. They are assholes, and are not representative of ANY group except a group of assholes. Stop drawing a circle around the assholes targeting you with sexist insults or threats and attributing what they say to our entire gender, painting us as rape supporting monsters, please? Can’t you see how that’s a horribly generalised and sexist thing to do? Double standards again. The amount of times I’ve read SJW pieces using ‘men’ as a collective term for a bunch of offensive opinions of the ‘asshole’ group makes me want to weep. ‘Men’ think this, ‘men’ view women as… and so on. If I said ‘women are manipulative liars’ because I’d had the misfortune to be hurt by several female manipulative liars I would rightly be called out as making a sexist generalization. Why is the same not true in reverse? Because the SJW’s dominate the online dialogue, and anyone who feels otherwise is by definition a sexist.
Yes, George went with the “not all men” part, because apparently it is all about him and other people like him. For those who don’t know, SJW means “Social Justice Warrior” and is meant to be a derogatory term. Quite frankly it’s one I like.
So instead of getting “assholes” to stop, by shunning them, by banning them from commenting in particular forums, by suggesting that perhaps that grow the fuck up and start being responsible for themselves and their actions, George would rather break down the numbers of male gamers that exist and the approximate realistic percentage of male gamers who are likely to troll and then scream, “SEE NOT ALL MEN”.
This isn’t helpful.
John Bain suggests that there really are two sides of this debate, that name calling isn’t helpful (he’s probably right there), and that there is no such thing as MRAs or SJWs (he’s wrong there). In this post John tells us how we are to have the debate, that we need to calm down and effectively think about why the other side may be reacting the way they are, and everyone needs to chillax. Quite frankly, John doesn’t get to dictate to anyone, especially the group under fire, how they react to something, and how they should respond. Despite John attempting to run the middle ground in this piece, he uses emotive language, such as “weaponize”, which will draw his readers to a certain conclusion.
John also believes that everyone is seeing this as a black or white issue, and that all shades of grey as lost. I’ll agree that some people are drawing a line in the sand and saying, “everyone on this side of the line is ok, this other side – not so much”, but I also think that is what people have to do to be safe and/or build safe communities.
What about the so-called “other side”? I’ve been placed on the opposite side to these people by representatives of these people and the side they supposedly oppose. I did not elect to be there and I decry being on it. I will not take part in such weak-minded labeling and neither should any of you. Where is the hate coming from? Women who have experienced abuse and those that aim to support them? Absolutely. A marginalized group? Definitely. I can’t speak from this perspective because I have not experienced it, but I will also not deny that this abuse exists. Unfortunately, the response to it has been to perpetuate a cycle of abuse. As I mentioned earlier, it’s so much easier to open fire when you think you can’t miss. The reality is, all you are doing is missing. Both “sides” have been spewing hate and poisoning any attempt to discuss this rationally. It’s almost as if everyone is bullying everyone else and then acting all surprised when they don’t see their point of view. You don’t convince people of your point of view by putting them on the defensive with aggressive, absolute language from the very start. An open mind often lacks defenses and if you feel attacked those defenses will go up and in doing so, your mind will close.
If we are to marginalize anyone, let’s marginalize those who not only refuse to take part in the discussion but actively seek to ruin it. This “war” is a sideshow distracting us from talking about the real issues and make no mistake, that’s exactly what an extremist wants. There are many worthwhile discussions to be had about all the topics I’ve listed and more besides but some people are vehemently against us even having them. I won’t be silenced by people like that and I also will not stop trying to discuss this issue with reasonable people, even if they appear unreasonable because of some 140 character soundbite on Twitter. Some of these people are those I know to be reasonable but have taken an unreasonable action at some point. As someone who has taken many unreasonable actions in my life, especially online, I won’t condemn them for that but I will try and offer a perspective.
I don’t believe that videogames cause players to develop sexist attitudes, just as I believe they don’t cause players to become violent. I also don’t believe that everything portrayed in videogames is ok. Lots of videogames are really bad for a wide variety of reasons, mechanical or otherwise. They’re often dumb, bull-headed and they pander oh boy do they pander. I want better videogames because I think our hobby can soar even higher than it currently does. I think for the most part, everyone involved in this wants that (or they don’t care at all, I don’t honestly believe there is a cadre of people trying to destroy videogames, at least, not that we interact with) but we are all approaching it from different perspectives. It is time to view those perspectives as something of value rather than try and shut them down. Experiment, invent, innovate in every aspect of gaming. Sometimes it won’t work, it might create something that sucks or simply something that people don’t like, but its only by learning from our failures that we create future success. Right now there is nothing creative about this debacle, it is purely destructive.
Overall John makes some good points, but I am sad that he does not clearly state that threats are bad, and suggests that both sides are equivalently bad. Personally I think that saying someone is a misogynist is less bad than receiving death threats.
Erik Kain at Forbes writes more about the press and their role, as he sees it, in Gamer Gate:
What it boils down to is many people feeling upset that the video game space has been so heavily politicized with a left-leaning, feminist-driven slant. I’ve heard from many readers claiming they have no problem with more women and gay people represented in games; they simply don’t want every game to be critiqued based on these factors. I’ve heard from others who readily admit that they miss the days when games were more male-centric. One reader emailed to say that he has no problem with women, but video games were a nice boys club of sorts, a refuge from women where the boys could play for a while undisturbed.
So we have many left-leaning members of the press writing about issues that matter to them—maybe sometimes doing it to bait readers, but often likely doing it because these are issues they actually care about—and a strong reader backlash because many readers don’t want to be told what’s good or bad about a game’s social politics, they just want to hear about the game itself.
This reminds me of the clip that James played for me the other day:
I don’t think that the gaming press is out to “bait” readers with left-leaning social commentary on games. I think that the gaming press, and gaming critics are doing their job. Quoted in Ian Steadman’s New Stateman’s piece is a quote from Pauline Kael:
Let’s start with a quote from the film critic Pauline Kael. In 1972, she reviewed A Clockwork Orange in the New Yorker. Here’s an extract:
There seems to be an assumption that if you’re offended by movie brutality, you are somehow playing into the hands of the people who want censorship. But this would deny those of us who don’t believe in censorship the use of the only counterbalance: the freedom of the press to say that there’s anything conceivably damaging in these films – the freedom to analyse their implications.
If we don’t use this critical freedom, we are implicitly saying that no brutality is too much for us – that only squares and people who believe in censorship are concerned with brutality. Actually, those who believe in censorship are primarily concerned with sex, and they generally worry about violence only when it’s eroticized. This means that practically no one raises the issue of the possible cumulative effects of movie brutality. Yet surely, when night after night atrocities are served up to us as entertainment, it’s worth some anxiety. We become clockwork oranges if we accept all this pop culture without asking what’s in it. How can people go on talking about the dazzling brilliance of movies and not notice that the directors are sucking up to the thugs in the audience?
If you are going to critique a game, then you’re going to critique all of it. Does it give an easy pass to racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, or sexism? Does it suggest that genocide is completely acceptable? Does it think that enforced sterilisation is acceptable? Are the only heroes/playable characters in the game male and white? Are the only enemies in the game male and not-white?
These are the discussions that a mature industry should be having, and not something that should be hurting anyone’s feelings. If you don’t want a part of those discussions, then don’t consume the media where they’re happening. Switching off isn’t hard. Making threats because you disagree with the views of games journalists or game critics is wrong, and makes those that are making those threats come across as dangerous, and as people who should be shunned from the wider gaming community.
You see, the wider gaming community should be safe for EVERYONE. It should be a place where anyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, age, or status should be able to have fun without having to avoid certain games. AAA companies through to indie developers should be considering how their game will come across for everyone, and ask themselves if they are negatively stereotyping anyone, engaging in lazy media tropes, and/or generally producing a product that only markets itself to a small percentage of gamers. More diverse games leads to more diverse experiences for everyone, and this is a good thing. Far too often a white male is the default character, and there is no good reason for that. It isn’t hard to model a woman (Assassin’s Creed), and it doesn’t take so much extra development time to develop playable characters with different shades of skin – not when you’re making multiple models for the city anyway (Watch Dogs).
So in summary, don’t threaten other people, because that’s a horrible thing to do. If you disagree with something, move on. You can rant to your buddies, but don’t threaten someone with harm because they have a different opinion to you. If you want to find a middle ground between a group that is receiving death threats and threats of harm, and those that are making the threats – don’t do that either. Also, don’t tell people who are part of a marginalised group, how they should be responding to an issue. Finally, make gaming spaces safe for everyone. Stop thinking that computer games are a boy’s club, and that women are interlopers. We’re now 48% of the gaming population, we’ve been here for a long time, and we’ll be here for the rest of time.
Update: Many people in this debate have pointed to a study which claims that men receive more online threats than women, therefore women are not worse off than me. This piece rebuts the entire study.