Lately, when thinking about #Gamergate I am reminded of the intro to Total Annihilation:
Warning: this is long…
Part 1: The participants
What started as a relatively minor dispute regarding whether the gaming media was choosing who and what to cover based on pull rather than merit has become a massive, cross industry conflict that shows no sign of decreasing. Two sides: #GamerGate and its opponents (anti-#GamerGate?).
Each sides has their points (I’ll try to represent each side as best I can, comment if you think I’ve been unfair to either side).
The #GamerGate Points include:
- They think the gaming media is corrupt. Specifically, they think that gaming journalism is a clique that chooses what to cover and how to spin it based on their shared politics and relationships.
- They think the big publishers buy positive coverage outright and that the little indies sleep/schmooze their way to positive coverage.
- They are outraged at having their criticism misrepresented as misogyny
- They strongly object to having their movement characterized based on the misbehavior of a tiny group of trolls and jerks.
- They are angry that attempts to discuss the topic get blocked, censored, deleted, etc.
- They are outraged at what they see as collusion in the gaming media openly attacking gamers as a bunch of “nerds” “gamers are dead” “basement dwellers”, etc.
- They have evidence demonstrating double standards in how the gaming media treats different issues based on their politics
- They believe that the gaming media has become infested by “Social Justice Warriors” who are using their platforms to jam their politics down the throats of people who just want to read about video games.
The opponents of #gamergate points include:
- Any legitimate points the #gamergate movement might have had are far outweighed by the harassment and threats against outspoken women in the industry that is done in the name of #gamergate
- They (gaming media) are outraged at being called corrupt
- They (gaming media) are upset at the suggestion that the gaming media has some sort of organized conspiracy
- They (general) believe gamers are inherently insular and want to shout down any attempts at reforming it.
- They (general) believe gamers are entitled and thin-skinned, unable to show empathy or accept even mild criticism of their hobby.
- They (gaming media) are angry that their entire profession is being mischaracterized based on poor choices made by a few
- They (general) are very skeptical of new #gamergate claims because of the misrepresentations made during early claims
- They believe that the “sane” people who support #gamergate are being used/tricked by the vile, misogynist core that is at the heart of #gamergate
And of course, you have fringe forces on both sides: The trolls and toxic scum that use #gamergate as a shield to attack people and the misandrists, social justice warriors (SJWs) who have their own hateful agenda.
Part 2: The Escalation
Roping more and more people in
I’m not going to do a moral equivalence here. In my mind, the balance of wrongdoing is heavily weighted on the opponents of #gamergate. Mainly, because its opponents have had a long head start of character assassination and harassment. I know some of my friends in the media will be appalled by that but that’s mainly because they haven’t seen the shit storm directed at anyone who dares not support the “social justice” narrative for the past few years.
Without the August 28th mass “gamers are dead” article series on multiple sites, none of this would have happened. Let’s remember that. It was a tempest in a teapot before that.
Every major escalation I’ve seen in this industry conflict has begun with one side mass misrepresenting others with a very broad brush.
The anti #gamergate people are the ones who brought me in
One thing to make clear here: The pro-#gamergate people didn’t ask me to stand up for them. They made no demands on me. All I did was, as game developer, was tweet that I like gamers and don’t like seeing gamers misrepresented. For that, the anti-#gamergate people started smearing me. (SJW logic: Make up allegations, use allegations as evidence, repeat).
In other words, I was not/am not trying to use #gamergate to get a pound of flesh. You want me to quit throwing in the misdeeds of the SJW crowd in SJW faces? Then tell them to quit character assassinating me. Because, let’s face it, I have a large, heavy, blunt instrument in the form of having been falsely accused of sexual harassment and having won that case so thoroughly that the plaintiff had to publicly apologize. You don’t get more clear cut than that in the legal world. I’d be delighted to just talk about games, tech, etc. But if you’re going to suggest I’m some sort of misogynist or rapist or sexual harasser then yea, I’m going to use the 800 pound mace that SJWs carelessly crafted for me.
And for those truly concerned in the gaming media: If you want to do “the right thing” (even if it’s two years late): Feel free to have the articles and threads that smear me set to just not be indexed by search engines. Is that really asking for a lot? No censorship. No retractions. No apologies. Just make it so that new harassers aren’t born every time someone looks at the first page of Google results on us. I’ve been doing stuff 20 years, I’ve helped invent a number of the technologies you guys use on your PCs every day. But it’s all crowded out because the media chose to use me as a cartoon villain to push forward an agenda. Thanks for that. I just love having to discuss the Kotaku article every few weeks with some investment banker or enterprise customer. I really enjoy having to answer awkward questions by extended family. And the occasional random “You fucking shit lord, I hope you die in a fire!” emails I get are just..well they’re just so heart warming. Thank you for that.
The double standards
When I see a Ben Kuchera arguing for the deletion of threads because they might encourage harassment of game developers, I ask, where was he when I was taking a beating on nearly every gaming forum for something I didn’t even do? Oh that’s right, he was helping spread it! Yea, thanks for using an image that shows a claim that I asked my female employees if they enjoyed tasting semen. And you know what? I didn’t hold any of this against anyone. I didn’t send PR people to demand threads removed. No DMCA messages. But it’s pretty infuriating to see calls to censor discussion based on “harassment” when they had no problem when I was the target.
Except, of course, in my case, I hadn’t actually done any of the things I was alleged to have done. No, I’ve gotten to fry for the past couple years in countless threads across the net. I also want to point out that even though we won, and we got a public apology, some don’t consider that enough because apparently we were supposed to demand the plaintiff admit in writing to committing perjury. So even mercy is frowned upon by these people.
Part 3: Both sides are recklessly escalating it
Like I said, I’m not going to go with the moral equivalence. One side has definitely, in my estimation, been worse overall. But the #gamergate side is creating its own impassioned, long-term detractors as well through its excessively broad brushing:
The PRO #gamergate are roping people in too
Just as the anti-Gamergate people have managed to bring a lot of people against them, it’s escalating the other way around too.
Let me make a few points clear about the gaming media:
- There is no general gaming media “conspiracy”. There are thousands of journalists in the gaming media and they wouldn’t be able to agree what shade of blue the sky is. When you attack gaming journalists with a broad brush, you are alienating these guys just like when the anti-gamer articles roped in so many thousands of gamers.
- The average gaming journalist has immense integrity. They would quit before taking a bribe or writing something intentionally biased.
- Many of the major game sites really do have strongly enforced policies to ensure fairness in games.
- Most gaming journalists are extremely tolerant of other points of view. I will happily disclose that I am pretty good friends with many journalists who have the opposite views on many topics and yet we’re still friends and it has never negatively affected coverage.
- Despite being friends with journalists, it has never affected coverage of our games. I remember when Elemental bombed. I felt bad because it must have sucked for the reviewers to pan our game but they did because they have integrity. We’re professionals. It’s my job to make games. It’s their job to write about them. It really isn’t that hard to separate friendships when doing your job.
- It is important to understand the rather unique structure of game “journalism”. You can’t lump it all together like you could, say, business journalism or political journalism because of the origins of the gaming press as we know it today sprung from the Internet itself. It would take a whole article to explain this. The TL;DR version is this: It is hard to tell where game blogs stop and game journalists start. There is no clear line.
Part 4: It’s going to get worse
Next up: All hell is going to break loose
There’s no way around it, the people who crapped on gamers and #gamergate are in for a rough couple weeks.
Let me preface this: NO ONE can survive detailed scrutiny. This is doubly true if the person doing the scrutiny is not giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Historically, the activist columnists in other industries have gotten away with trashing their opponents. It’s easy to lampoon the Tea Party people, for instance because their core base aren’t very technical and have no real means to strike back. Same was true of the Occupy movement which got overrun by SJWs and was easily dismissed soon after.
But gamers are technical. They do have the means to fight back. I’m sure it never occurred to the columnists who wrote “gamers are dead” that their targets would be able to effectively return the favor. Those who have had great success cherry picking and editing quotes/emails/tweets to create a false narrative of their opponents never dreamed that doing so would come back to haunt them.
Part 5: GamerGate: What is it you want? Define it soon or it will get defined for you
I won’t claim to be straddling the fence. But as someone who does feel that the gaming media is being unfairly tarnished with the broad strokes, I have to say: Don’t let your movement end up like the French Revolution where everyone is eating each other.
I recommend that the #gamergate movement come up with say a 5 point consensus on what their goals are. I don’t know what those 5 points should be but if they don’t craft a message soon, this escalation will soon carry far beyond what even its most reasonable supporters would be comfortable with.
The TL;DR version:
The gaming community is experiencing a schism that has manifested itself around the #gamergate twitter tag. Each side has escalated it by demonizing the other escalating it to uglier and uglier extremes. The #gamergate side of things should create a consensus on a ~5 point list of specific things they are looking to achieve before it escalates completely out of control.
P.s. You’re welcome to discuss this issue on our forum. Hopefully it won’t get DDOS’d…
Update #1: I've come to the conclusion that the 5 objectives should not be constructed in the form of a demand. Rather, consider up to 5 constructive, tangible things you want out of this. In case someone asks what the difference is, a demand can be a Specific type of objective but objectives don't necessarily involve another party's cooperation to be achieved.