In light of recent developments in the comic, gamer, and cosplay worlds, I’m doing a series of entries about “fake fans” and how established fandoms treat newcomers, women, and minorities. This entry is the Gamer Edition, wherein I focus on the gaming community. You can read the companion Comics Edition here.
How do you decide if someone is unworthy to be part of your fandom? How do you label someone a poser, a noob, or a fake? Whom do you invite into a fandom and why? Whom do you reject and why? What are the criteria to go from noob to knowledge-master? How does someone graduate from being a “fake geek girl/boy” or “fake fan” into a “true fan”? Is such a thing even possible?
I’m not sure if I want to write this entry. I’m not sure if it’s safe for me to write this entry. In the wake of #GamerGate, it’s become more obvious how dangerous it can be to be a woman online and have opinions. Especially if you are a woman involved in games, and particularly if you have some level of popularity. Granted, my profile is no where near as high as the targets of GamerGate, but the very fact that I’m nervous about posting this also makes me mad. I shouldn’t be afraid to have an opinion, provided I try to express it respectfully.
If you don’t know what GamerGate is, I’ve provided links below to various journals, news articles, and individual blogs that talk a lot more about it. To summarize, GamerGate is the outpouring of misogyny in the gaming world that people tend to ignore, disregard, or minimize. It is the systematic anonymous attempt to destroy women in gaming, be they game developers, journalists, critics, or just outspoken fans. This hate has spewed forth in a fashion that cannot be covered up or explained away (although lord knows that GamerGate tried.)
The movement (if it can be called that) is ostentatiously about calling for greater transparency and ethics in game journalism. This would be an admirable goal…
…IF they actually discussed things rationally instead of doxxing their enemies.
…IF they were calling out female AND male journalists for unethical practices rather than blatantly attacking women (only one of which so far was involved in journalism).
…IF the majority of game journalism didn’t consist of reviews. And what are reviews exactly? Opinions. Dressed up neatly and presented a little more formally perhaps, but reviews still boil down to opinions. And opinions, if you’ll forgive the vulgarity, are like assholes: everybody has one. No one should receive death threats or rape threats if their opinion differs from yours.
Regardless of the stated goals, the lack of any organization for this so-called “movement” and the eagerness of individuals involved in GamerGate to point fingers at bad behavior and say, “This isn’t what GamerGate is about!” makes it difficult to understand, mitigate, or combat the results. And while there are good, decent people who call themselves GamerGaters, they are drowned out by the vitriol of pervasive hatred and misogyny. (My advice is to disassociate from the hashtag and find a new banner to promote ethics in game journalism. #GamerGate is poison.)
While #GamerGate is relatively new, in practice, it’s been around for about as long as games have. Gaming has long been considered a “Boys Only” club and the fact that more women are becoming gamers seems to get a lot of male panties in a wad.
But what does it take to be considered a gamer? Like so many other aspects of fandom, the term can be fluid, depending on your own point of view. Do you have to just like games? Play them regularly? Know about, like, or play old games like Nintendo 64 or just the newer ones? Does the term “gamer” only apply to players of video games? What about table-top, role-playing, online, card, or board games? And what about exercise games like Wii Fit or dancing games like DDR?
Generally, when I think of “gamer” I’m picturing people who play video or computer games with above-average regularity, intensity, or both. Depending on your personal definition, I could qualify for or be utterly excluded from the realm of gaming.
I enjoy playing games on boards, consoles, and computers. I don’t obsess over them, but I like them well enough. It’s taken me a long time to acquire newer gaming systems, and I still haven’t beaten most of the games I have, which makes me less inclined to upgrade.
I don’t have much experience with video games (although I play a mean round of chess), and I go through dry spells where I don’t touch a console for weeks, even months, at a time. (I wrote a piece called “History of a Newbie Gamer” for Geek La Femme if you want to know more about my gaming history and experience.) I think that games are an important part of our modern culture. I enjoy reading about games and their influence. I enjoy browsing through Game Informer and seeing what is coming out, even if I know I’ll probably never play it.
I like visiting GameStop and ducking into smaller game stores at the mall. The online game store Steam is amazing and makes me wish I had more time to play games. Eventually I’d like to try out an arcade game or attend a gaming tournament.
But for many, because I’m not obsessive and don’t have a vast collection, I don’t qualify as a gamer. To some, simply being female means that I’m “not a real gamer.”
Even men can face this exclusion if they don’t fit someone else’s arbitrary demarcation. My brother Richard could be considered a gamer because he plays a lot of modern console and PC games regularly, often intensely, but he has no experience with games older than the Xbox. My onii-san David could be considered a gamer because of his eclectic collection of games and consoles from all eras, but he doesn’t play as often. I’ve heard both of them get teased about their relative deficiencies in various areas of gaming.
Are they both gamers? Is one a gamer and one a “collector” or “aficionado?” Is one a modern noobie and the other a “true gamer?” It really depends on who you talk to, and to me, that makes the label seem rather silly. Pointless, even.
Gaming is no longer the realm of nerds; almost everyone plays them. Or, even if they don’t play themselves, they have friends or family members or acquaintances that do. Game releases can have as much press as blockbuster movies. It’s accepted. It’s mainstream.
So why are so many people acting like being more inclusive will mean taking their games away from them?
Why is it such a big deal to point out flaws in pre-existing games?
Why is it so taboo to ask for new games that aren’t necessarily geared towards the heterosexual white male demographic?
Is it really that hard to contemplate games that don’t degrade women, or offer that more relationship options, or that don’t involve gender or violence at all?
How will destroying the women who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in your cross-hairs help your cause? After all, when it comes right down to it… it’s just a game.
Now, I know that’s been used as an excuse as to why we should ignore the misogyny in games and the gaming culture. But ignoring it has left real scars, real consequences, and real trauma on women and marginalized groups. Games are stories which reflect our cultural climate and we would be foolish to ignore it.
Stories help bring inner societal and personal issues into sharp relief, and then it’s up to us to deal with the consequences or the enlightenment that we find. Personally, I think these GamerGaters are either taking games too seriously for all the wrong reasons (promoting the status quo with no thought to the human cost) or they are using gaming as a smokescreen for their own petty hatred of women.
I really don’t understand the horrific backlash against people like Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and Felicia Day. I am outraged by what has happened to them and other women and minories who have suffered from GamerGate attacks and Internet harassment. And yet, as horrible and destructive as #GamerGate is, it’s almost a good thing that it happened.
Because now it’s out in the light. People are talking about it. People are seeing how petty and cruel and destructive these people are and are disassociating from them. The misogyny is being brought to life to the point where gamers and non-gamers, women and men, are standing up and saying, “No more!”
It’s about time.
“GamerGate and the New Misogyny” by A Man in Black on Medium
“Felicia Day Wrote One Blog Post On GamerGate, Was Doxxed Within An Hour” by Carolyn Cox on The Mary Sue
“Stop Supporting GamerGate” by T.C. Sottek on The Verge
“GamerGate’s Economy Of Harrasment and Violence” by Jetta Rae on Ravishly
“GamerGate Trolls Aren’t Ethics Crusaders: They’re A Hate Group” by Jennifer Alloway on Jezebel
“How Chan-Style Anonymous Culture Shapes #gamergate” by A Man in Black on Storify
“Gamergate Should Stop Lying to Journalists — and Itself” by Jesse Singal on Science of Us
“Don’t be silent! Things you can do about GamerGate” by Patrick Miller on Tumblr
“#GamerGate Manifesto Translated Into English” by somewhat_brave, posted here by manboobz on Tumblr
“The Cankerous Slime-Slick Shame Pit That Is #GamerGate” by Chuck Wendig of TerribleMinds and the follow-up article, “A (Slightly) More Polite GamerGate Rejoinder”
“Why #Gamergaters Piss Me The F*** Off” by Chris Kluwe on Medium
“The Best Rants of Gamergate” links collected by Angela Alcorn on Storify