For over a month there has been an online collective push back against what many members of the gaming community see as an increasingly incestuous and generally insulting journalism industry. I believe that it is fine to be enthusiastic about an issue and I consider it quite productive to seek a better alternative to an existing paradigm that clearly is not functioning as intended. However I take issue with the idea being put forward that GamerGate is a debate that falls squarely into political partisanship.
There have been purposely provocative articles online for years and most mainstream websites such as BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post take full advantage of this. There is a litany of tactics for writers to abuse in order to drive website traffic. However having an author spice up a title or a website publishing the occasional opinion editorial does not immediately indicate abuse. Anyone that has taken a sophomore level college class in either journalism or law knows that objectivity is a goal, a recognized standard by the profession and academia. The greater question in utilizing tactics for a profit is not about the idea that “The Left”, as many have referred to, hates capitalism but rather how far one can go before they violate professional ethical standards. Moreover if someone wants to call himself or herself a “liberal” but is perfectly content with the use of censorship to avoid any possibility of actual discussion with another person that is fine by me. It should be obvious however that that person, as socially liberal as they may claim to be, is not a civil libertarian.
The debacle of GamerGate has slowly built an irreparable chip on my shoulder in regards to particular conservative commentators taking potshots at “The Left” while members of the mainstream gaming journalists do everything in their power to excuse the gross censorship of an actual issue as being “progressive”. Censorship is not a tool of “The Left”, it is a coward’s last attempt to live within an echo chamber. In my experience people do not like being told that their opinion or belief system is wrong. I highly doubt the person reading this article enjoys being factually incorrect and believe me when I say that I can become incredibly self-conscious when proven to be mistaken. We all want to be right in our beliefs. That does not mean every person is petty and tries everything in their power to avoid admitting when they are wrong but no one makes an assertion expecting it to fly right back into their face. I seriously doubt that the person reading this does not already know that most people do not possess any public relations training whatsoever. The average person is far more likely to stumble in their argument before actually “winning” the discussion.
To avoid any miscommunication I am squarely on the side of GamerGate. I have been since the beginning but I also have my share of issues with the way things are progressing. I am a gamer in the sense that I have spent thousands of hours playing video games in the past and unless something drastic occurs I will continue to add to that accumulated amount of time. Unlike some members of the GamerGate movement I am very much on the social and economic left side of the political spectrum. I want a more egalitarian society, a single tier of justice and the current climate of economic idiocy to be curbed but this is not a conservative versus liberal issue. The question can be leveled at me as to why I care about this matter. As a lefty-lib idealist why should I care about a bunch of articles by online feminists? After all these people associate themselves with “equality” so where is the issue?
There is a difference between being a partisan leftist, which I do not pretend to be anything otherwise, and being within an echo chamber is where reality starts to blur, facts cease to exist. The so-called journalists that work for the assorted bad actors in this unfolding scandal, for lack of a better way to phrase it, have gone so far off the fucking rails that they no longer know which direction to go. The cost of hyperbole and nonsense narratives is knowing when one has simply gone too far. The gaming press jumped that shark weeks ago when they published ten or so hack articles on the same subject and thought no one would notice. Berating the gaming community as being full to the brim with bigots that are actively conspiring to undermine actual progressive policy is lunacy. Every editor at every single one of these hacky, click bait websites should have “gamers are not a monolith” tattooed onto their foreheads so that they remember now and forever that we are the consumer.
There are plenty of supporters of GamerGate that have very little argumentative eloquence and if taken on by someone with decent training in public relations I doubt the gamer would leave the conversation as the decisive victor. However I am putting the cart before the horse so to say as this discussion is not happening. Censorship is not a genuine means of addressing criticism. An individual does not win an argument simply by denying the opposition the right to speak. It seems as though every person that spends an inordinate amount of time on the internet has a pocket glossary of fallacies handy but for the sake of keeping this opinion in perspective I will skip the exposition of discussing logic. The key concept that I believe needs to be addressed is the idea of identity versus that of holding a principled position. The problem in utilizing censorship as a tactic against an opposing opinion is that it is the hallmark of an authoritarian personality clinging to an intellectually bankrupt belief system. Before anyone reading this pats themselves on the back I should include that spewing venom, while a tad more genuine in my view, is still a stupid way to debate an issue.
If I were limited to a single point of criticism to push against the general argument of online feminism it would be the basic idea of efficacy. To put it plainly: what do you hope to accomplish from this? For every article “analyzing” the industry as perpetuating sexist behavior or endorsing bigoted positions in some capacity what are your goals in essence? I could be the bastard skeptic that I am and demand actual proof. That backwards, old-timey quantitative, demonstrable evidence as to your assertions of perpetuating bigotry but I will limit this to the intention of the author. What do you hope to accomplish from these articles labeling gamers as every form of bigot and decrying that the community is a monolith of hate? What can be gained from an outsider’s perspective on video games when the author does not intend to play particular titles other than to utilize them in reinforcing an already held position? I resent the damage done by pseudo-activism. Authoring what amounts to a rambling blog post about how you feel, that day, regarding the video game community is not political participation. Informing gamers as to how bad they should feel for what you assume they believe, making grandiose allegations regarding what you believe goes on in the minds of developers is not activism.
Let us pretend for a moment that one of these fools actually had definitive proof that Ken Levine, the creator of BioShock, was a full-blown chauvinist. Proving that one developer, even if they operate in the most critical role, of one company is a sexist it is not sufficient evidence to argue that the game they helped create is also sexist in any capacity. This also does not prove that players of that particular game are chauvinist in any way. One can read Ayn Rand’s material and not agree with her political beliefs even though her writing if rife with objectivist arguments. When online feminists make the argument that media influences the viewer in such a large way it undermines the intellectual capacity and individual agency of that person. Every person is their own autonomous being with their own beliefs. While it is almost guaranteed that not all of what they hold as convictions is going to be factual, when one starts assuming things about them based on nothing other than the specific type of media that they consume it undermines that person’s autonomy. If a person told you that all that they consume is rightwing media it may be safe to assume that they are also very conservative but it still pays to ask that person about their political leanings rather than write them off as mindless.
I believe one of the real issues here is that one side of the argument has not taken the time to check their beliefs prior to applying an already held worldview to something as abstract as media. I find it odd that authors can act as if it were common knowledge that video games reinforce sexism in young men but at the same time scoff at the idea that older Americans believed that Elvis’ hip gyrations impacted sexuality on a societal level. A common thread that can be found in the defense of this untenable assertion is that video games are somehow different from other forms of media. I am told that in some way playing a game has far more impact on the mind than reading a philosophy book, listening to punk rock or watching a televised political speech. In the end this assertion lacks facts and relies on the same conventional wisdom that eventually resulted in the infamous anti-video game attorney Jack Thompson being disbarred. When one of these individuals argues about sexism in gaming they do not take the time to discriminate, or specify as to which genre or particular title they are referring to. They treat video games and the gaming community as a monolith. Not to mention they lack actual evidence to support the idea that video games create sexist players or that consumers are necessarily sexist already.
I want to address the online feminists on their goals. Nothing in the world irritates me more than apathy. As a political junkie I believe that I have some level of understanding when it comes to the idea of how little can come from raw emotion. I truly sympathize with those that strive for an ideal world but wishful thinking is not enough. There are countless organizations seeking volunteers and plenty of populist leaning politicians of differing ideological alignments needing interns so excuses can only cover a limited amount of someone’s apathy. Societal change only occurs when someone with genuine political power starts making waves. I will be very clear on this subject in that an opinion is not sufficient for genuine change. Nothing less than action is required for the contemporary paradigm to shift. If you wish to drape labels over your shoulders and make yourself out to be something that you are clearly not it always comes at a price. Members that consider themselves loyal to the establishment will target activists that work towards a new paradigm, but the commentators, the apathetic, will rightly be referred to as pretenders. Either way the action you take will result in feedback but it is up to the author as to whether they want to be an activist or just another person with an opinion.
If there has been any miscommunication in this post I preemptively apologize as I am a novice writer but please try to sympathize with the idea that I am advocating political activism for those you that deeply care about women’s issues. Political power results in paradigmatic movement, not online angst. For those in opposition to the GamerGate movement that is not interested in the political scene I would suggest video game development. The video game industry is a multibillion-dollar market containing youthful demographics with mostly disposable income. I suggest that if demand exists for your ideas a wise decision would to capitalize on the opportunity by creating your own content. If large publishers notice a trend in the market one can expect them to react to it.