Note: There’s some strong language in this piece. I’m not sure how The Morning Bell readership feels about c-bombs, but they’re in this article. Thanks, abusive internet commentators.
As someone greatly entrenched in the world of video games, I have been following the events Gamergate quite closely. For those who don’t know about Gamergate, you clearly don’t get most of your news from Reddit like I do. Here’s a quick recap:
-In August, a jilted ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn wrote a big ol’ diatribe, which amongst other things claimed that Quinn was in a romantic relationship with Nathan Grayson, a journalist for popular video game news site Kotaku. This lead to some internet-goers to believe that Quinn was sleeping her way to good reviews for her recently released game, Depression Quest (Grayson never reviewed the game, by the way).
-Quinn received a shitload of violent threats, causing her to fear for her safety and flee home.
-At this time, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian released a new video in her series Tropes vs Women in Video Games. The series had received large amounts of criticism and bile in the past, but the latest episode, ‘Women as Background Decoration’ received particular attention.
-Sarkeesian received a shitload of violent threats, causing her to fear for her safety and flee home.
-Then someone sent an email saying there would be ‘the deadliest school shooting in American history’ if Sarkeesian went through with a talk about her work at Utah University. Sarkeesian cancelled her talk.
-Indie game developer Brianna Wu criticised Gamergate on Twitter. She then received a shitload of violent threats, causing her to fear for her safety and flee home.
There has also been a lot of discussion of the meaning of the term ‘gamer’, or even if it has meaning anymore, as the gaming industry grows and diversifies, and whether self-identified gamers feel their identities are being compromised. There’s also been discussion about the integrity of games journalism as a whole, but it’s hard to focus these topics when people are threatening people’s lives over video games. Video games. You know, those things on computers with buttons that you play to enjoy yourself.
What’s worried me the most whilst following the Gamergate coverage, apart the rampant misogyny, is the frequency of violent threats and even death threats in the place of criticism. If you want to emphatically make a point about how much you don’t like something there are better ways than saying ‘I’ve got a knife and I’m coming to your house so I can shove it up your ugly feminist cunt.’
No-one is benefiting from this. There are women fearing for their lives because people rather act violent than actually say something intelligent. Instead of criticising these women’s work, the women themselves are under attack.
Want to know my opinion of the Tropes vs Woman in Games series? I think it’s a great idea with not so great execution. The videos in general are a bit dry and could be condensed, as there are some examples that don’t quite need as much of an examination as others. The most recent episode was definitely an improvement content-wise, though.
Notice how I didn’t mention anything Anita Sarkeesian had done in the past, or questioned her qualifications as a gaming critic or a gamer? And that I was calm, measured and didn’t mention wanting to stab or rape her once for making a video I didn’t think was excellent. You may think this doesn’t need to be said, but you would be surprised.
Often when I see situations like this, I think of the online disinhibition effect – ‘a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the internet’ – also known as the greater internet dickwad theory, courtesy of webcomic Penny Arcade.
But this seems a lot worse than just being a dick because no-one can touch you, though I somehow doubt that if the situation arose where an online detractor of Anita Sarkeesian met the woman herself that they would threaten to impale her private parts. I know most people are discussing issues in the gaming industry like civilised human beings, but as always, it’s a very loud, very dumb minority that ruins it for the rest of us. And I repeat, these people are being very loud and very dumb about video games.
There have been some parties calling for the end of Gamergate – a truce of sorts between journalists and vitriolic commentators. It may help, but the gaming industry, particularly the women who have been working so hard to break into a traditionally male-dominated industry and make it more inclusive, deserve better. They won’t get it unless the loud, ungrateful section of the gaming community learn some harsh lessons, like that threatening people with death over Twitter is not okay.