If you’re a lifelong gamer, go back to junior high a minute. Or high school. Remember what gaming was then? This target of mockery, a hobby exclusively for children that anyone over the age of eleven should never engage in. The preferred choice of entertainment by nerds and losers. It likely wasn’t as bad as portrayed in teen dramas for most, but there was still clearly a distinction. With rare exceptions, video games weren’t cool. Then something happened around the time the most recent generation of consoles were released. With the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 came a rush of new blood. As gamers grew up and had kids of their own, people started to lend gaming some credit. Not a lot, but there was recognition that there was more depth to video games than thought before. It fit in easily with the tech crowd, and now video game companies are often as well-known as famous celebrities, especially long standing companies like Nintendo. And it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the new generation of gamers would be able to experience their hobby without the stigma.
Then it all got ripped away. First it was a fundamentalist crowd desperate to stick what they viewed as the corruption of youth on a singular target, blaming video games for exposing young people to sex and violence. That wasn’t so bad though, because at least then the industry stood up for gamers. This group wasn’t feared, they were mocked, and the gaming journalists and industry veterans of the time made short order of them. Then things were quiet for a while.
Then the second group came along. And suddenly all the courage took a backseat to cater to a crowd that was only different from the first in superficial ways. The reason is that first group was diametrically opposed to the politics most people in the community held to. Gamers have always been a “progressive” bunch in the traditional sense of the term—constantly exploring, constantly building. The nature of any segment of technology requires progress. The new group, though, on the surface, had the same politics. The same desire for advancement, supposedly. And no one wanted to be the traitor.
And now, suddenly, the same gaming journals who defended gamers from accusations of violence are the ones making the accusations. The same game developers who scoffed at attempts to censor are staying silent out of fear. And the gamers who were once vilified for being losers now must put up with that as well as a myriad of other horrible stereotypes.
And, of course, the mainstream media is having a field day with this. Enter events and/or movements (depending on your interpretation) like #Gamergate, which become scapegoats for the press, who see no irony in treating gamers like automatic villains while simultaneously lecturing people on broadly brushing other groups like Muslims. Now, present year 2015, and they are still gripping to it. Even among horrendous tragedies, there are still people with the gall to call gamers “terrorists“. Even when evidence clearly dictates otherwise, they still insist gamers to fit solely into a specific group of identities.
And I am sad. A lot of people laugh at it, and I laugh too, but then I see people in real life I consider friends see this and fall for it, and realize how big a problem it really is. Because this is not a case of an appeal to religion or morality, but an appeal to compassion. A false compassion, but compassion nonetheless. Because if you dare question it, you are called a racist. If you dare point out the faults of a so-called developer, who happens to be female, you are called a misogynist. And lie, after lie, after lie. People still buy this. The ones taking advantage of it are clinging to it. A year and a half later, and still, you can find people insisting “#Gamergate targets women” and “Gamers are dead.” And the remarkable thing is these people claiming to be progressive use the same tactics once used against the very groups they claim to defend.
And, actually, still used against the groups they claim to defend. There are people alive today who remember when mainstream news would publish pieces insisting gay men were secretly pedophiles. During the time of Martin Luther King Jr., he was slandered by media outlets. These accusations of rape and threats and brutality were used in equal part to enact revenge on black men as recently as the early 20th century, such as depicted in the film Rosewood (and let’s be real, likely happens to this very day). History has a tendency to repeat itself, though often the targets may change. And perhaps the reason these so-called paragons of social justice pretend to support these groups is so those groups don’t recognize the obvious parallels between what they’re doing, and what has happened to them.
In a few weeks, the Christmas season will officially start (though if you’re like me, it started the minute Halloween ended). Christmas is a huge time for the gaming industry, obviously. Though the obvious greatest game ever created has already been released (that’s right, Undertale), there is still a certain joy being a gamer at Christmas time. You get more time off, to play with family. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s a certain joy to that time of year, but it’s one that you sometimes have to make yourself. Because currently, there’s not a lot of joy going around in the industry. Everyone is on their toes, keeping their mouths shut, not daring to be the person to step out of line.
That’s why, this Christmas, all I want is for gamers to get a fair shake. For some mainstream outlet, any of them. The Washington Post. Time. Somewhere, someone will let the other side tell their story. It may seem like “bowing to the enemy” to some who have become jaded by mistreatment—not that anyone could blame them. But you can’t always win a battle in your own yard; in fact, you rarely can.
So this should be the time for gamers to share their stories. Not to be bitter or angry at the ones running the show, who in the long run are unimportant faces just capitalizing on fear and anger. But to be genuine, honest. Gaming changes lives, from the veteran who was able to reintegrate into civilian life by playing World of Warcraft, to the kid who’s bullied but finds solace in playing classic Nintendo games, to every person who stared gleefully at a computer screen or waited in the cold outside a gaming outlet to experience Fallout 4. Everyone has a story to tell,about gaming, because video games really have done it all. Brought families together, made depression and terminal illness manageable, became a bonding experience for a couple, and created communities of unlikely friends, all over the world.
So in the spirit of the holidays, tell your story. Share it with everything from your personal blog, to your local newspaper, to the most viewed news outlets in the world. What has gaming done for you? What have gamers done for you? Because that’s the story people need to see, and it is those stories that truly represent gamers. What better time for that then during a season of good will?