NBI Talkback challenge: ok, let’s talk about Gamergate

One of the recurring events in the NBI is the talkback challenge- basically, there’s a topic given and all who want to participate can write about it from their perspective.

This week’s topic is a dangerous one- but one that needs to be addressed- the question is “How did Gamergate affect you?”. Here’s my take on this.

Short answer

It didn’t. The thing is, i don’t view “gaming news” as news- that might be a bit shortsighted, but i treat gaming news just like the “economy” part of my newspaper. I might read them, but i don’t give much importance to them. So i didn’t follow up. What i knew before reading the wikipedia article about it was this: some female dev made a game that was rated highly…and she was somewhat connected to a video game reviewer (who didn’t review her game). Then, ugly internet things happened and because it was a female dev, there were misogynistic attacks. So that’s what i knew.

There isn’t much more to this, to be honest. But of course, you can extract different topics out of that “event”- how objective game reviews are, what about the social aspect of women working in game development or gaming in general, how internet baddies influence the lives of the people being exposed to that madness either by working in an industry with strong connections to the net or by being famous and things like that. Those are the three big topics that come to mind. So let’s take a look at this.

Objective game reviews

Don’t exist; they can’t exist, because even if the reviewer wasn’t directly influenced by the developers, he or she would still have preformed opinions on the dev and the game, then by art style, topic at hand and so on. We gamers see gaming as a discipline of art (at least some of us do) and you can’t rate art on an objective level. Nobody tells you that the Mona Lisa is a 7/10.

Returning to video games- when we were reading print magazines, we knew our authors.

German gaming magazine ASM- how i missed it when it went away
German gaming magazine ASM- how i missed it when it went away

There were the funny ones, those who preferred graphics over content and those who were the opposite. You knew what to expect and personally, i tend to do that nowadays, as well. For instance, i know what it means if you send Syp out to give a first impression of H1Z1- i don’t know why Massively-that-was did that, but the second i saw the author of the piece, i knew it wouldn’t be a good first impression.

If you want to read somewhat respectable reviews, i can point you to Rock Paper Shotgun – in my opinion this is the site where you’ll get the best reviews for games (they don’t do ratings, though and call their reviews “Wot i think”). But your mileage might vary. The only thing i’d tell you about game reviews is- pick your favourite content creator, know their preferences and act accordingly. User reviews are a waste of your time nowadays, especially for highly-anticipated titles; they tend to be 40% 1’s and 40% 10’s.

Women in gaming

Now comes the really dangerous part of this post, and what i feel is the main issue of Gamergate- how we, as gamers, treat women in our industry. Apparently, internet supermachos decided that the game of this particular female dev was rated too high because she is a female – first things first; if it was, and i only know about the title of the game (“Depression Quest” – an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression), i’d suggest it was the topic at hand that got it rated high. Tackling depression in a video game is a serious endeavor, it’s a piece of art, alright. So when someone gives this a high rating, it’s not only graphics/gameplay they rate.

For sure it’s not the female developer, in this case Zoe Quinn, that got rated. And, accepting that i might go off on a rant here, but all those who think that the game was rated too good because of Zoe? I need to tell you something….most (mentally sane) people view women as….well, people. They don’t represent their gender but themselves. And…*gasp*, women are working in the fields that used to be dominated by men, such as computer science, game development among many, many others.

This shouldn't be the only career opportunity for women in gaming
This shouldn’t be the only career opportunity for women in gaming

Here’s the thing: i am not able to understand why this is still a topic for people- at least from the direction the internet machos are coming from. For women, though? It’s a big one, and that isn’t because of some conspiracy theory of women wanting to rule the world, make us all mobile game players, but it is for people who watch those women working in fields where they are still somewhat of a rare sight and judge them because they’re female. This is not only true for gaming and internet, but in jobs, as well. Here in germany, women still get paid about 20% less than men in the same job while, statistically, having received a better education.

So that’s why this is a topic for women still- it’s because, sometimes, they’re being treated shitty- and when they call men/society out for that? They’re conspiring for world domination? I don’t know, personally, i can’t follow that line of thought.

The internet thingy

Last point on the matter- the internet makes this stuff worse. No-one would tell Zoe to her face what they wrote in eMails (the same goes for Anita Sarkeesian); the internet allows for anonymity. I know my blog gets a lot of readers from the US and you don’t like opinions from the left field very much, but i feel the anonymity in the net needs to end. Either that or we’ll be more comfortable in smaller, more strongly moderated audiences on the net in the future.

Also, this isn’t a gender topic anymore. Male devs get attacked, as well, they receive death threats for nerfing a class or some similarily insignificant thing. It’s only that women exposed to internet hate get additional vile things thrown at them. After the Germanwings-airplane crashed in south france, not only did people attack the co-pilot’s facebook account, but also threatened his parents and people having the same family name. This needs to stop, we need to be able to confront and prosecute these misfits.

This shouldn't be our self-image
This shouldn’t be our self-image

There’s also the fear of societal subcultures being changed. If you asked me, american Hiphop was at its best in 1993- as it was just before it became popular and very profitable. German hiphop was at its best in 1999, when it was in the same stage of popularity. What we experience here are people fearing that their subculture might change without them changing at the same pace. That their subculture becomes popular. But this was bound to happen when we didn’t have to save our allowance for months to buy one game and changed it to spending our own earned money more regularly.

The effect on me

Still not much. I’m shaking my head as i write, but that’s about it. You see, gender equality is a big topic in our societies and it well should be. But there’s just so much about that, that misogynistic attacks on the internet are only part of the problem, as bad as they are for the individuals that find themselves on the receiving end.

If i have to tell someone he should treat women as…humans, i think the case is lost. He’s a nutjob and will continue to be one; just like racism, sexism is an incurable condition per individual. There is, however, a need to confront them, because we can’t allow this kind of behaviour in the societies we’d like to build, because it can spread.

Do you think Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite and Summer Glau are less passionate about Firefly than the male actors? I don't think so...
Do you think Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite and Summer Glau are less passionate about Firefly than the male actors? I don’t think so…

But just like with racism, there is a more subtle danger- really dangerous aren’t those that make hopefully idle threats, it’s the people who make jokes, who seem to be funny, who “have foreign/coloured/female friends so can’t be racists/sexists” but still are, sometimes without knowing. We also need to call them out.

The bigger picture, though? We can, and we need to address this as societies. This includes, for instance, the characterization of female protagonists in books, movies and video games, but it’s not ending there.

For the “gamer subculture”? It doesn’t exist anymore, and we should be happy about it, because we aren’t seen as basement kids (does this expression exist in english? If not, let’s go with neckbeards) anymore. Our hobby is growing and provides a huge variety of entertainment- to really become art, in my opinion, there needs to be more education, more “tackling topics” (like depression, for instance), more meaning behind the obvious, more thought-provoking commentary introduced to it. I’d like that. More diversity in the audience and the creators only helps with that.

And really, if “gamers” or “core gamers” are expected to treat individuals like crap in the internet and put extra effort in threatening female members of their own group? Yeah, i don’t want a part of that, thanks.

In the meantime, i will continue to treat women as, you know, people.

9 thoughts on “NBI Talkback challenge: ok, let’s talk about Gamergate

  1. Wow! I find it interesting that the very only point in this whole posting wherei can disagree is on Syp not being a good tester for H1Z1. While i also was able to predict how the result might turn out, i appreciate that somebody with an already critical attitude towards it does the test.

    On the complete rest of gamergate, i just don’t get those people. When we started out, we were a small community. All the rest of the world was “hostile” and looked down upon us, and we defined ourselfes by our hobby and solidarity and tolerance, both among each other and towards others. (Especially towards other nichés, who suffered a similar fate. )

    By now a huge part of our community is dominated by elitism, arrogance and predjudice. Somewhere things clearly went wrong and i wish there would be a way to fix this. Standing up against those jerks which now are within our community (and are more visible than the much bigger well behaved part) is essential.

    That all being said, i also find your statement on anonymity here somehow correct, although i at the same time hate it from the bottom of my heart. I consider all the mumbo-jumbo the politicians dig out for more control on the internet to be irrelevant. My most likely death will be a traffic accident, followed by cancer, heart attack and a stroke, although i guess i’ll still have some years till that would happen. Also it’s much more likely that i’ll be struck by lightning or be killed by a meteorite than being hit by a terrorist, so the big bogeyman “terrorism” the politicans throw everywhere since over a decade is just a laugh for me.

    In contrast, bullying does ruin lives. There are many known cases where bad behaviour on the net drove people into suicide. So yes, in my eyes this is the reason why some control on the internet can make sense and why we will get control and censorship. Not because of some imaginary threat of terrorists, but because a sufficiently high number of people can not control themselves under the cover of anonymity, where they don’t have to fear punishment.

    Whenever i think/write about this, it makes me sad to realize that a significant percentage of humans can only behave under the threat of retributions, but it seems like that’s how humankind works. 😦

    1. Of course Syp reviewing H1Z1 can offer a valuable perspective. Back in the day when SWTOR released, Massively had two “first impressions” going- one by Jef Reahard, the other one i don’t remember the author. Turns out, one of them was positive, the other one not so much. I just wanted to point out that you need to know where the author is coming from, so that you know how to take his or her opinion.

      I’m no sociologist, but just from thinking about it, it is easy for subcultures to defend themselves from everybody else. That’s working fine until said subculture gains popularity. The hiphop-analogy could still apply: once, there was a love for the music, then there was west- and eastcoast hiphop, then there were record labels and so on. The subculture went ever more niche in false belief their version was the “real version”. You have this with gamers, as well- you have it in MMORPGs already, really. Raiders, Hardcore, Casual, Roleplayers, PvP players- somehow everybody believes it’s the other guys that ruin their fun. That, indeed, they all add to it (when not griefing) is forgotten quickly. We MMORPG players are still looked down upon by “normal” gamers…and so on. We stopped being “gamers” and became “human” instead- and now parts of the former subculture are trying to redefine what the subculture is.

      The terrorist threat is ridiculuous, i agree. While the risk is there, this shouldn’t be the reason for enforcing law in the internet. That’s just as silly as the first wave of taking-control by politicians when music piracy was their biggest worry (i guess we now know the problem was selfmade- music makers, movie and tv studios just weren’t providing their content on the net- nobody has a problem watching netflix nowadays).

      But it really is the behaviour of crazy people that needs to be kept in check. Harrassment in the simple form (exploiting in an MMO) is bad, but if it does go legally unpunished, we can live with that. Exposing people’s address and other personal data, stalking, making death-threats, identity theft and “swatting” (wtf?) are the real problems here. I really don’t know how to get rid of this behaviour if we aren’t able to prosecute these people (interestingly, at least in germany it is entirely possible to prosecute people who download an episode of the Walking Dead- finding out who threatened you with murder? More difficult and not as profitable- so noone does it.)

  2. ASM magazine! My older brother used to have stacks of that in his room, which I used to nick to read through them, along with PowerPlay.

    I agree with your assertion that the internet just needs to be better controlled. (But then, I also come from a German-speaking country. We do like to keep everything in order, don’t we?) People can continue to express themselves freely, but we also need to be able to hold them accountable for what they say. Right now it still feels way too much like some sort of Wild West where everybody can do whatever they want because nobody will ever catch up with them.

    1. They were great, both of them. One magazine had this really funny editorial, though- it was always the first thing i read. I thought it was in ASM, that’s why i chose that one- but maybe i misremember?!?

      Yes, we do like Ordnung very much 😉 There’s a reason english-speaking people know the word “verboten”. Sometimes, i think we go too far, but other times…yeah, we could do better.

      1. Hmm, yea. The old ASM. Printed on the equivalent of toilet paper, we still bought and read it. But alas, at least it was kind of “cost neutral” for me.

        After sending in a correction of a game guide, i got some money as reward. Knowing that i get money whenever they print something of me, i started sending them tips and tricks and guides for the SSI games, which i spent a lot of time on and many people found them intresting but hard. The little i sent (and the even less that got published) never made me much money but i was able to pay the abonement with it. (For any professional writer the payment would’ve been an insult, but for a schoolkid it was a nice and helpful. )

  3. I enjoyed this post immensely, my only not happy moment was the remark about US readers not liking views from the left (insert wink). I think there are a lot more open minded views out here amongst the savages lol. Over all a well written post that gives food for thought on some touchy subjects. Thanks for the solid read.

    1. Oh well, i hope you realize it wasn’t meant as a slight, because it wasn’t. I’m pretty sure political views and opinions are all over the place in the US, so my wording might be unfair.

      Otherwise i’m glad you liked it!

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