Recently, a silly flame war has taken the gaming world – or at least a large part of gamers who are active on the internet – by storm. What started as indignation over an indie game developer having sex with game journalists in exchange for positive coverage for her and her game eventually provoked reaction from the so-called “social justice warriors” (SJWs) – internet enthusiasts creating blog posts and/or just making plain Twitter/Facebook/forum posts on issues like gender and sexual orientation equality, active mostly on social media like Twitter. And this sparked a flame war which has been raging for 2 weeks now. Aside from the constant Twitter exchanges (often marked with the #GamerGate hashtag), we’ve seen much more serious articles from both sides on serious gaming and non-gaming sites.
Here, I’ll try to give a clear picture of the current situation, as well as state my own opinion on the matter in a concise way. I’ve written on Anita Sarkeesian (also a minor part of the current mess – she wouldn’t miss the chance to insert herself, now would she?) before, so you can imagine where I stand…
The boyfriend of Zoe Quinn (an indie game developer of questionable fame) published a long blog post detailing her lying, manipulating and cheating on him with “professional” game journalists working on known game sites. The piece clearly showed that Quinn wasn’t a very good human being, but I maintain that the guy was also at fault for: one, dating such a below-average (in terms of looks) woman in the first place, and two, not ending the relationship for quite a while despite the clear evidence of her infidelity.
The blog post sparked immediate reaction from numerous gamers, and then some indie developers (like the clearly mentally unstable Fez developer Phil Fish), obviously pals with Quinn, in turn lashed out at them. Many “social justice warriors” supported them because they thought it was incredibly untactful of gamers to mess in the personal affairs of Quinn, and that her behaviour was her own business, not anyone else’s. And while many (maybe even most) gamers did attack her for what she did, the main problem was not her cheating in itself – it was that she had sex with game journalists, who in turn gave her positive coverage. The cliquey behaviour of indie developers who responded to the initial attacks (but to be fair, there were indie developers who supported the “gamer” side of the argument, as well), was also seen as a problem.
4chan’s /v/ (video games) board, where Quinn’s boyfriend’s initial blog post initially got popular, banded together as they usually do, and they looked into Quinn further, finding out that she had previously spoken against “The Fine Young Capitalists”, a self-described feminist video game charity aimed at getting women with no previous history in the industry to create ideas for new games, and get the best ideas implemented as actual games. Quinn’s initial outburst was supposedly because TFYC had discriminated against transgender people in their initiative, but it was quite transparent that her real problem with it was that it was powerful competition to her own similar idea.
TFYC had an IndieGoGo campaign that /v/ rallied behind in a never-seen-before organised support effort for a feminist cause, but SJWs who’d taken Quinn side from the very beginning quickly fought back and tried to get the campaign shut down, including through hacking its page. They eventually failed, as the campaign was reinstated and, in exchange for donating so much money (over $17,000 in total), 4chan even got the right to create a female character for the winning game. And they created Vivian James, a girl with surprisingly inoffensive design, who still drew incredible flak from SJW-friendly authors on major websites simply because she originated at /v/. In the meantime, an alegation came up that the Indie Game Festival organisers had given their awards out mostly to friends… Pretty discouraging for the average aspiring indie dev. Needless to say, this pissed gamers off further and they became more fierce in this battle.
Soon after, several gamer-bashing articles appeared in quick succession on major sites, describing gamers as “white male misogynistic nerds,” culminating in a “Gamers are over” article on Gamasutra that basically explained that gamers were a group refusing to let any “outsiders” in, but the world was changing and games – and game journalists – were about much more now than they used to be 10-20 years ago. Gamers were only using the game journalism ethics they were supposedly fighting for as an excuse to hide their refusal to accept anyone different (i.e. not white male nerd) having a call in the game industry. Surely, nobody’s surprised a game journalist would take game journalists’ side in this… But the sheer vitriol and clear intent to paint gamers as black as humanly possible clearly signify that the article in question has no credibility whatsoever.
And then, things kept spiraling out of control… Needless to say, the hostile articles by the gaming press only increased gamers’ displeasure with game journalists, even if only a handful of them were actually involved in this farce. Interestingly, as this war gained momentum, we had figures outside of gaming like Firefly star Adam Baldwin speak their mind on it – and they took the gamers’ side, too. Gamers, naturally, rejoiced. In the meantime, pressure from Quinn and her associates forced gaming sites and even the likes of Reddit to delete many negative comments towards her or even SJWs in general. But, on the other hand, a big site like Kotaku have officially stated that they have taken notice of the issue and will hunt down corruption among their writers. The saga continues…
As outlined above, there are two sides in this story…
People like you and me, right? Sure enough, there are people among us who are extreme enough to draw the ire of SJWs. But articles like the “Gamers are over” one couldn’t be farther from the truth. The extremes do not determine us. Most gamers are peaceful and, even if annoyed by sensationalist crap like Anita’s videos, we are not sending death threats. Yes, lots of us are white males, yes, lots of us dislike feminists we’ve come across – mostly because the ones likely to argue on the internet are of the especially militant type. But the majority of gamers are just normal human beings with moderate views – in fact, in my experience, a vast majority of gamers I’ve communicated with are actually left-leaning, as far as social issues go. There is overwhelming support for things like gay marriage and gender equality in the gaming community.
Yet, during the current crisis, even moderate people have sometimes resorted to name-calling and general negativity towards their opponents. Doubtless, they’ve been provoked. A flame war will often bring out the worst of us. But that’s not the way because it only adds fuel to the fire. It only gives more reason to our opponents to attack us. We should exercise restraint and argue our case in a respectful manner. In such a messy situation, it helps to be “the bigger man.”
At any rate, the bottom line is that there is genuine concern among gamers about game journalists’ integrity, and the lack of trust has been there for a long time. Many game journalists do not want to accept this and that’s why they try to play this down. By painting the gamer black, they’re going the way people like Jack Thompson went before – associating gaming with personality flaws and even criminal activity. The burden of proof is on them, but we still must show them they’re wrong because facts are on our side. And again, it must be in a calm way, with restraint.
SJWs’ hearts are (usually) in the right place, but their problem is that they need people, preferably groups of people, to victimise. The white male demographic is usually victimised by them, and since they believe most gamers fall into it, we are getting the short end of the stick now. Some hateful comments give them the much-needed excuse to go on this ridiculous crusade… I think these people need to learn that you can advocate causes you believe in even without labeling a majority of your choice as the enemy.
The way to counter them is simply to show them that we’re not the enemies they want us to be. By being firm, but civil, we can stop them from spreading their influence over the game industry like they would love to do. The good news here is that no big developers or publishers have really even shown any significant interest in the issue whatsoever. Hideki Kamiya’s tweets refusing to comment on what he obviously considers minor crap are a nice illustration of that.
Everything above amounts to a couple of pretty clear problems, and neither of them really has to do with gamers vs. SJWs, but they are rather the chief concerns of each group…
- Ethics in game journalism – due to numerous reports of lack of integrity over the years, gamers will no longer trust game journalists to the extent that they used to
- “Social justice” in video games – SJWs claim the predominantly “white male misogynist nerd” crowd sets the trend in the industry, leading to games corresponding to their “chauvinistic” desires, and they want that to change
This war simply cannot be won… Social justice warriors will remain social justice warriors forever, or at least until something more engaging comes up for them. You can’t convert them, you can’t force them to stop fighting their wars… It would be best for gamers to simply refuse to fit as their targets. This war cannot end in any other way than simply letting the flames slowly burn out.
On ethics in game journalism:
Yes, “professional” game journalists cannot be trusted. I’ve said this many times before, here on this site, as well on the various game forums I’ve posted on. “Professional” game journalists are not in any way better than you or me. In fact, the average gamer is every way as capable – and I’d say in many cases even more so – of discussing and critiquing the games he/she loves so much than “professional” video game journalists. Not only have those people often shown clear bias, not only are there the stories of publisher parties and advertisement money affecting review scores, of positive coverage for their pals (or sexual partners) developing on the indie scene… Furthermore, this current case has also reaffirmed that they have a deep complex to somehow become, or be perceived as, “real” journalists, which leads to them publishing politically-charged tripe that only tangentially has to do with video games.
And when these guys themselves carry this stigma, when they cannot themselves believe that their work is actually important, that gaming has grown way past the days when being a gamer meant you’d be bullied at school, that today it is a massive, important industry, and they are expected to cover it in a much more professional way… How do they expect us to trust them?
For that issue to be solved, I urge talented gamers, gamers with a knack for writing to do like me and start their own publications. Yeah, obviously a blog is a far cry from a major gaming publication that gets more views in a minute than we do in a day, but a team of talented people can, and has often made small things gradually evolve into great things! Channel your passion for gaming into something more than forum posts, tweets or article comments – write for an independent game site! Or at least follow one (preferably several!).
On “social justice” in video games:
SJWs want games to be different – they want more deep, well-written female characters, they want more LBGT characters, they want more games targeted at audiences different from the “white male” demographic they claim to hate so much. Lots of gamers also want games to be different, but for many different reasons – usually because the latest best-seller in their favourite genre is far from the quality from their own favourite… Which is merely a reflection of the industry having become all about the money and publishers playing it safe in 99% of the cases.
We need to understand that we actually have control over this! Gamers and SJWs alike. And that control is not exercised in posting angry Twitter messages and waging online war against each other… It’s called voting with your wallet! Buy and support the games you like, the games that take the industry in the direction you want to see it going. Avoid and discourage people from buying the games that go against your ideals for gaming. It’s as easy as that… If only people would figure out that their $60 make a far bigger impact than the hours upon hours spent arguing with strangers on the internet…
And, in line with the above, we reach the title of this article – gamers are very much alive! We are the ones who will determine how the industry will develop. Neither the non-gamer SJWs, nor the famous figures fighting on our side in this current little war, will have a real impact. Of course, there are also SJWs among us, and, as outlined above, they are capable of gaining some influence just as well by supporting the projects that fit their views. And that’s only fair. They will not push us out of the way. There is enough room for all of us! Gaming is so amazing because there are so many different views to what makes a game good, so many different genres and ideas expressed in them. As long as we allow this variety to continue to exist, I believe the game industry will always be able to offer enough different games to make all of us happy. So why try to destroy the fun of the people we happen to disagree with?