This has been a very frustrating summer.
Personally it was frustrating but my personal frustrations are quaint in comparison to the frustrations around the world. From ISIS to Ferguson to the backlash against the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, heck just today I’m seeing stolen photos get posted on Twitter of nude celebrities and wondering what is going on. But the one that has really got to me is now being dubbed #GamerGate.
I could write 3,000 words on Ghostbusters without a blink of an eye and the only reason I didn’t write more was because friends were coming over. In November I plan to write a lot of articles on revisiting Final Fantasy VI for its 20th anniversary. When I’m passionate about something it’s easy to write on it… usually. I’m also passionate about one day writing a published novel but I don’t because I’m terrified about it. It’s a fear that was once compounded by recently diagnosed ADHD but now it’s just a fear that I try to battle every day. #GamerGate terrifies me as well. I have had no issue writing Twitter tweets or putting up Eren Yeager as my Twitter avatar to support #reclaimanimeavitars but to write more on it scares me. It scares me it’s something I’m familiar with and it’s something that directly affects me. Two weeks ago I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown about it. That’s how much this gets to me.
If you don’t what #GamerGate is there’s a lot of sources to look for. I’ll post a few links here which I’m sure someone on the other side is going to call shenanigans on because I’m not posting a video from Internet Aristocrat. I’ve watched and read a lot from the other side and every time I do I feel a little sick inside. Not only that, but the primitive viewpoint that journalism is just reporting both sides is the same kind of irrationality that leads to creationism getting taught in science class.
New Statesman: http://www.newstatesman.com/future-proof/2014/08/tropes-vs-anita-sarkeesian-passing-anti-feminist-nonsense-critique
Bad Ass Digest: http://badassdigest.com/2014/08/26/video-games-misogyny-and-terrorism-a-guide-to-assholes/
Zoe Quinn’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheQuinnspiracy
Fine Young Capitalists Statement: http://thefineyoungcapitalists.tumblr.com/post/96064216295/on-zoe-quinn-our-last-statement
I should also go ahead and say you should read Devin Faraci’s “Why I feel bad and understand the angry #GamerGate gamers” since it’s going to be very similar to what I’m writing now.
I grew up on videogames. I’ll always own them. I’ll always love them. I also always defended them. I thought that generally, it was a pretty good industry. It wasn’t perfect but we defended each other. We were all accepted. Whenever it seemed like videogames could be pulled from stores for mature content, we fought back. We fought back and won. Some games still don’t get sold but if you really want a game? You can get it. This isn’t an industry that has to hide.
There’s a moment in the TV movie Warning: Parental Advisory where Jason Priestly’s character, years after defending the right for music to be in stores without warning labels on obscene content, yelled at his child for listening to vulgar rap music. It was that full circle moment. I had one of those moments when my sister was telling me about my nephew’s playing Grand Theft Auto. We both grew up on videogames. My sister purchased me Mortal Kombat for the Super Nintendo when I was nine years old. We weren’t sheltered from mature content because our parents felt we could play these games and understand the difference between fantasy and reality. But now I had questions on if my nephews could. If immersing themselves in the world was the right thing to do. I tend to come to the conclusion that this stuff, like books in a library, should be open for anyone to experience them. That said, it’s up to the parents judgement if the child is mature enough to understand it.
While I never tried to take out anyone’s throat after playing Mortal Kombat, I did once almost choke my friend out after watching some UFC. Children are impressionable. That’s not a bad thing. It just has to be monitored.
Point being, at 29 years old, I’m now becoming a lot more critical about the game industry and how it’s handled. And more importantly, the walls are coming down for me on the innocence of gaming. It’s kind of like listening to someone valiantly defend marijuana and deny that there could be any negative effect of the drug. Or that they are not addicted when they smoke it every day and need a joint just to drive on the highway. Marijuana shouldn’t be illegal, but to deny it could have any negative issues is balderdash. The same, sadly, goes to videogames. We have the proof. Go check out the Twitter account Moms Against Gaming. They tweet and re-tweet how people who play videogames are dangerous and that games are bad. It’s a very deftly crafted parody account. But the replies are not parodies. The replies are vicious. The replies show the negative impact gaming actually has on people who have mental instabilities. People who sheltered themselves from society. The people we defended and said, “Let them play their games”? They are now adults and have a world in front of them they don’t understand.
This isn’t just games. This is geek culture. This is Internet culture. It gives me pause.
For many, the reason people are arguing about Zoe Quinn is what they feel is an injustice of relationship between the people who make games and the people who write about games. This “reason” falls apart when the attacks are against Zoe Quinn and not the journalists.
Let me explain why. Let’s say for example sake Zoe Quinn did have sex with those guys for the SOLE INTENTION of getting better press for her games. While that’s a dishonest thing to do and unscrupulous, not to mention devalues who you are, IT DOES NOTHING TO HARM THE GAME INDUSTRY.
Why? Because Zoe Quinn could have sex with a thousand people and not once does it mean she’s going to get an extra review or news story. It’s the journalist that has to write. As a journalist, you’re supposed to hold your personal biases aside and do an impartial story. Having sex with someone in the industry you are covering isn’t an immediate transaction of integrity. When you write about it? Then it COULD become one.
But Zoe Quinn has no guarantee the sex is going to get her the positive writing. As a matter of fact, when you do get yourself into an intimate relationship with someone, chances are the fear of being accused as impartial will be stronger than the interest of promoting the person. When I have written about people I know and I know my article could give them press, I try very hard to be critical. Sometimes too critical. That’s right, I’ll be a bit harder on them than I would if I didn’t know them at all. The reason? I don’t want to look like I’m in their pocket.
Not only that, but has anyone ever watched a movie involving journalists? Take State of Play for example. Russell Crowe is just an old school journalist who has two conflicts of interest: he’s doing a story on an old friend and he ends up fucking his wife. The only reason a romance between Denzel Washington’s reporter and Julia Robert’s law student in the Pelican Brief was cut was because interracial romance was still taboo in 19 fucking 93, not because conflict of interest in journalism is too risqué or unbelievable in film. Are these fictitious examples? Yes, but they do happen in real life. I won’t name drop journalists who have told me about doing it.
But let’s back up from just sex between journalists and their subject. Why is it suddenly a revelation that there might be some shoulder rubbing in the game industry? And why is this being treated like something that’s going to kill the business? You want a real issue to worry about that’s prevalent in not just gaming but all industries that are covered? Native advertising. I’m not talking about when Mercedes pays Nintendo to add a few cars in Mario Kart 8 or Creative Assembly paying the folks at Extra Credits to do a great series of videos on the Punic Wars. That might be native advertising but I’m in support of that. I’m talking articles and videos online made for to look like journalism but were paid openly to just promote. Openly paid. No backdoor deals. No sex. They tell you in small letters that it was paid for and everyone goes by their day thinking it is fine. That’s the real problem. And it’s a problem created because it’s difficult to pay people for gaming news. Or any news online anymore. That’s the real issue. That’s power (marketing dollars) being used for persuasion. It isn’t new, but it’s getting more prevalent. And it’s getting harder to figure out what was paid for and what wasn’t.
If game journalism integrity was the real issue, Zoe Quinn wouldn’t have been attacked. She would have been the key witness to expose game journalism integrity. Instead she was painted as the villain. That’s all the proof you need this is about a woman, not about integrity.
When I first watched a video on Anita Sarkeesian, I didn’t care for it. While I wasn’t doing like a lot of men have done and tried trashing her name, I felt the first video was flawed. The problem I had was that it lacked context on the examples that were shown. I felt that in a video made for educational purposes there should be context for the examples instead of just “This is what you see”.
But eventually I realized I was missing the point. Sure, context is important for those scenes and I wouldn’t mind someone doing another video and maybe explaining that context but the purpose of a video about Tropes is not the context reason for what is being shown. The purpose is to show you that videogames have had so many terrible representations of women that eventually everything blends together and becomes acceptable. In her latest video, most of the examples from Bioshock and Red Dead Redemption I didn’t remember at all. And that’s the point. The way women are portrayed in videogames has been so awful for so long that we either don’t remember or because we focus on a case by case basis, we don’t recognize it at all. We’re so desensitized. Not only that, but it isn’t about censoring these things either. It’s about recognizing them and evolving as a medium.
One of the points I always argue when it comes to the Mario series is that Shigeru Miyamotosaid after Super Mario Bros. 3 that the games are really like seeing a play and that Mario, Peach, Bowser and company are just actors. That’s why Mario and Bowser can be mortal enemies in one game and in another they can be Tennis partners. That’s why Peach is a helpless princess needing to be saved at the start of Super Mario RPG but by the end she fights right alongside Mario and in Super Smash Bros. she can beat up Bowser all by herself without Mario’s assistance. But this is the context and explanation. In the static dissonance of modern gaming, Peach is just another damsel in distress trope. And that’s the point of the Feminist Frequency series.
End of the Gamer
In Leigh Alexander’s fantastic article on “Gamers don’t have to be your audience. Gamers are over”, much of it speaks how the recent problems have allowed us to once again investigate the use of the term gamer and if it applies anymore. Much of the problems brought up I feel work right into nerd/geek culture. These are the same problems we’re seeing too. The film/TV folks have already dealt with the representation of women and the “creeping death” that is feminism and social justice. Same goes to the music industry and even sports (yes, even sports has a geek culture. Ever argued stats with a person? Sure you have, you nerd). We hear the complaints over and over and it really boils down to society evolving. At one point, the answer was to censor or act as though these things never happened. Today, companies like Warner Bros. are now admitting to their troubled pasts and simply warning viewers. No censorship. No bans. Here is history in all its ugliness. But it’s history, not today.
The same will come for videogames. Grand Theft Auto will likely continue to be the ultimate male power fantasy. It’s why it sells so well. It could change if the creators decide it needs the changes but then another company will just make the decision to be the ultimate male power fantasy. What will change will be alternatives will come up as the industry recognizes that it is ignoring a huge segment of its own buying population: women. Not just women, but also men who don’t want to play the ultimate male power fantasy. Much like how it was a lot more like back in the day. Instead of a AAA market trying to constantly vie for the GTA/CoD dollar we will get more games that fit the equitable interests of feminists. Nobody can take away your games. Especially when they have already been made. But the future games might change. Or they might not be the best-selling titles anymore. Or they might not be the only titles that get AAA money. That isn’t censorship.
But to my original point on “gamer”. I could discuss how self-identifying as a gamer is silly today (My name is Aaron. I am a gamer, an eater and an occasional sleeper) but the real point is that the term is poisoned. The people who are harassing Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Brianne Wu and more? The people who are upset when Joss Whedon, Richard Garriott and Tim Schafer share Feminist Frequency videos? The people who hijacked the Reddit Games? These folks are self-identified gamers. It’s kind of like calling yourself a communist. Or a feminist. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with playing videogames, but due to common misconceptions in what you like/believe in, you’ll be accused of being a misogynist, sexist asshole. And maybe you’re not. But if you’re not, why align with those that are? The term is going to become a Scarlet letter. Everyone knows that playing videogames is okay. But defending it with such fierce vitriol is not.
You may not be for “social justice”, but you sure as heck look like a warrior.
When JonTron originally objected to Tim Schafer supporting Anita Sarkeesian, he spoke about how body image goes both ways. How men are also objectified. He gave the example of a Conan cover. Here was a reply to someone after his original tweet:
— JonTron (@JonTronShow) August 26, 2014
And that’s when I understood JonTron in this. He isn’t a skinny guy. Playing games where the men can be Duke Nukem’s or Link’s, they were desired body types. They were to him what someone might find desirable. These bother him. And when a video is made only showing the sexualized bodies of women and not pointing out how the same can happen to men? It disturbed him.
This is what leads a lot of lost men into Men’s Rights Activism. Men do have trouble becoming single parent fathers in custody cases. Men are unfairly biased against in divorce cases. Men are rarely believed or respected in rape cases. When a man is raped, it isn’t held to the same severity as women. These are problems that need to be fixed.
What the men don’t understand is that feminism isn’t against them, but they feel that way when they improperly make these points and receive the slightest shade. And it pushes them to The Red Pill. “Why doesn’t my problem get the same attention?” is common from men. Especially white men. If they grew up poor, then black poverty shouldn’t be talked about without bringing up their poverty. If they were sexually assaulted, it doesn’t matter if women are raped at greater numbers. Their rape should be just as discussed. This is their version of equality. And this is what JonTron’s problem basically amounts to.
I get the feeling that JonTron is a hurt guy. He isn’t malicious. He just feels misrepresented, like many of them are. I’m sure he has said more on the issue since but I wanted to make it clear that his issue is valid. It’s a valid issue but he doesn’t have the maturity or awareness to make it properly. What makes it worse is when people argue back with him without the awareness of his situation and we’re now at an argument impasse.
The moment he accused Tim Schafer of sending a mob on him just because he replied to him was proof of the “outcast/outsider/us vs. them” mentality that the gamer has these days. Schafer didn’t tell anyone to reply to JonTron. This reminded me of when Patton Oswalt got in a Twitter discussion with a guy and had to tell his followers to quit insulting him. Schafer has no control over what people do when he replies to someone. But to JonTron, merely engaging with him was an act of violence against him. “Mob your entire fanbase on me”. He did nothing of the sort. But to JonTron he did.
It’s interesting because JonTron is also quoted in saying he, “supports unpussification”. In other words, to him? Social justice is pussification. But when a person with a bigger Twitter account replies to him in disagreement of his opinion? He’s being mobbed.
Again, I think him and others are hurt. They grew up with a very limited viewpoint of the world because they were weird growing up and didn’t have the luxuries others had. So now everything he loves is being attacked through progression. Unlike the people sending death threats, I think guys like JonTron are not poisoned wells. As Devin Faraci put it, he was once an angry white guy too. So was I. In a lot of ways, I still am. I’m just angry about new things. I got hope for guys like JonTron. I have zero hope for this guy.
Well look at that. I did get to 3,000 words. I guess I found the passion at five in the morning nursing a hangover from the night before.
At first all I wanted to do was mock the people who felt maligned. I knew where I stood. I knew who I supported. I wanted to attack them more but I realized that they could go ahead and hack me too if I angered the wrong person with an anime avatar. As the days went by, the introspection on the game industry for people growing up in it as I did made me wonder just how many people are getting a poor sense of reality because they play too much videogames, watch too many movies or do too much on the Internet. And I’m one of them. Just because I’m not reacting like one of them doesn’t mean I wasn’t at different times in my life that kid on the Internet bashing people and getting super angry about stuff that doesn’t really hurt me. I know in the past I’ve said that feminism is a dumb word because it doesn’t express equality in the genders. I have said terrible, heinous stuff online I hope never resurfaces. Things I’m sure would make me look like a hypocrite.
But just because I understand their side, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be confronted. They do. The terrorist types need to be exposed and charged. The angry types just need to be educated. There’s a thing about the left leaning folk in that we have a tendency to introspect so much on our own actions that we can never present our argument properly against someone just looking to character assassinate you in order to make their point. That goes both ways. If nobody learns from this, everybody loses. The victims lose first. They get denied progress if we don’t learn.
This was hard to write. It doesn’t get any easier. Change never is.
“Ernest Hemingway once said the world is a fine place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part.”