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Good Morning, Orthodoxy! #1

Todd Wohling / September 23, 2014 at 8:00 AM / Gaming, Opinions

Good Morning, Orthodoxy is a series of articles examining posts made on August 28 and 29.  In this first installment, I examine how the articles attempted to change the definition of the term “gamer”.

Right before I joined TechRaptor, I’d compared the goings on surrounding #Gamergate to 1984.  One of the specific points that I’d made was that the attacks made by multiple sites on August 28th and 29th was equivalent to the 2 Minutes Hate in George Orwell’s cautionary tale of totalitarianism.  Further, the articles had a sameness of message that was too coincidental to have been by accident, almost as if they were an attempt to impose a new orthodoxy on video games.  As it turns out, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest these articles were a coordinated attack on gamers, and by extension, gaming.  So, as I’m fond of doing, let’s start picking apart the 2 Minutes Hate and see if we can’t reverse engineer the orthodoxy.

We’ll start with Devin Wilson’s Guide to “Ending” Gamers, since it does us the favor of being a list of orthodoxy compliant talking points. We can ignore the first point, since it is about expediency, and, well, the self-proclaimed “cool kids” were in the middle of trying to rewrite gaming orthodoxy when this “Featured Post” showed up on Gamasutra.  Let’s proceed to item 2:

We listen to those who are less privileged than we are, and we don’t adopt a default stance of skepticism towards their views and claims. We support them when we have the power to, we involve them when we have the power to, and we don’t ignore it when institutions fail to do these things. We each proudly claim the label of “social justice warrior” (if only to subvert its use as a pejorative). We do whatever we can to learn about the inequalities in the world, and we examine what we can do to change things for the better.

The assumption made in this paragraph is that “gamer” is a title held exclusively by white, heterosexual, reasonably well-adjusted males.  The paragraph goes on to assume that as the most privileged or dominant group in gaming, we are oppressing those less privileged than ourselves in some nondescript way.  Perhaps in the fantasy land of academia that’s true—every physics and math word problem for the last 20 years has been gender biased in academia fantasy land.  However, I’ve played video games in four countries, and I can assure you that white men were the vast minority in Mexico City’s arcades as far back as the 1990s.  Further, one need only spend an evening in one of the “barcades” that’s sprung up around America recently to see relative gender neutrality in the real world as well.  These are 2 small, direct counter-examples to the point, but debunking the points isn’t really our goal.  Our goal is looking at the posts from the 2 Minutes Hate to look for commonality in message.  Chris Plante from Polygon chimes in with this:

This week, it should be clear to this community that games are at a cultural turning point. No longer are games designed, marketed and sold to a niche group of young men. Games are now ubiquitous, their ability to provide a safe space for experimentation and empathic experiences serves a population that, in a time as economically and politically bleak as this one, need them desperately.

Dan Golding’s The End of Gamers, which is referenced in the Wilson article, says thus:

They [harassment campaigns] are dismayingly common among those who happen to be women, or not white straight men, and doubly so if they also happen to make the sort of game that in any way challenge the status quo, even if that challenge is only made through their very existence.

When, over the last decade, the playing of videogames moved beyond the niche, the gamer identity remained fairly uniformly stagnant and immobile. Gamer identity was simply not fluid enough to apply to a broad spectrum of people. It could not meaningfully contain, for example, Candy Crush players, Proteus players, and Call of Duty players simultaneously. When videogames changed, the gamer identity did not stretch, and so it has been broken.

From Ars Technica:

Many of the people slagging off Sarkeesian and Quinn bind their arguments up in bigger issues, saying that Quinn’s situation shines light on ethical quandaries in games and gaming journalism, and Sarkeesian’s illuminates crowd-funded “scams” where “social justice warriors” “cherry-pick” evidence to undermine the massive business and culture of video games, rightfully owned by a particular kind of white man.

And, of course, what discussion of asinine stereotyping and gender bashing would be complete without words from the High Priestess of Orthodoxy, Leigh Alexander:

It’s young men queuing with plush mushroom hats and backpacks and jutting promo poster rolls. Queuing passionately for hours, at events around the world, to see the things that marketers want them to see. To find out whether they should buy things or not. They don’t know how to dress or behave. Television cameras pan across these listless queues, and often catch the expressions of people who don’t quite know why they themselves are standing there.

Kotaku’s part in all this was to post a passive-aggressive call for cooler heads to prevail while citing the Alexander and Golding character assassinations.

As I stated above, the narrative here is that “gamer” only means straight white men.  Well, if you’ve followed twitter over the last 3 weeks, you know what happened in response to the 2 Minutes Hate. #notyourshield was born. A hashtag born of diversity, much to the chagrin of those writing the new orthodoxy.  Pictures of passports from all around the word, pictures of women and men, gay and straight, of every color imaginable standing together in direct opposition of the orthodoxy presented and the totalitarians attempting to impose that orthodoxy on us.

The question, then, is, “who is a gamer?” In the new orthodoxy, the answer is everyone.  However, nomenclature becomes irrelevant when it is used as a synonym for everything or everyone.  For example, think about all the ways you can get from Point A to Point B. Now name them: car, bus, feet, skates, bike, and horse among many others.  Each of those is a conveyance, but all of them invoke a different visual in the mind’s eye because each item excludes all of the others.  That’s the very nature of nomenclature.  “Gamer” can’t mean everyone, because we are all different.  The casual Candy Crush player isn’t the same as the Marathon Civ V enthusiast who isn’t the same as the hardcore CoD player who isn’t the same as the obsessive Skyrim modder.  It seems like a disservice to attempt to label them all under a single blanket “gamer”.

Do we then apply “gamer” to only the enthusiast?  That seems like a disservice to those people who game as a primary hobby, but who have real life pressures where they can’t dedicate enthusiast levels of time.  Time spent seems like an arbitrary standard for determining who is and isn’t a gamer.

Perhaps the best thing to do is let people self-identify as a “gamer”.  That way a person who took up gaming at a very young age, used the gamer identity as a means to cope with the awkwardness of teen years, started a podcast that ultimately led to meeting his/her spouse can fly the gamer flag by choice or not.  This way “gamer” is as diverse as it could possibly be.

In the first installment of Good Morning, Orthodoxy, we examined how the coordinated attack against gamers on the 28th and 29th of August attempted to rewrite the definition of gamer to mean straight white male.  Next time, we’ll examine how these articles attempted to change the definition of “game”.

Read Good Morning Orthodoxy! #2 Here!


Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.