Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gamergate, or how I learned to start worrying and hate the comments

I've written before on sexism in gaming, specifically Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Unity, but I've not mentioned Gamergate. As a casual gaming commentator, this feels remiss; like a home design pundit refusing to at least acknowledge the statement of an indoor pachydermal installation.

I'm not going to go into background detail, as anyone reading this journal almost certainly knows them, but just in brief: Gamergate is a movement within the gaming community dedicated - they say - to the purity of gaming journalism and the elimination of the corruption created by certain female game designers and critics determines to use sex to foist a gynocentric agenda on the holy, phallocentric temple of gaming. In reality, it is a campaign of toxic hatred targeting female critics and designers, ranging from passive-aggressive comments to actual death threats.

I find the whole thing to be upsetting, not just because people like Zoe Quinn (the designer of the indie game Depression Quest) and Anita Sarkeesian (of the Youtube channel Feminist Frequency and, specifically, the critical video essays Tropes vs Women in video games) have been subjected to such a vicious tide of vitriol and hate, but because it reveals a level of toxicity which I would not have thought possible. The sustained death threats are bad enough, or the threats of rape, but what truly shocks me, after a decade and a half of regular internet access, is that there are people on the internet, people who purport to represent a community of which I am a peripheral member, who actually believe that they are right and righteous in threatening children.

Not long ago, Sarkeesian cancelled a speaking engagement at the University of Utah after a graphic threat was made to perpetrate 'the worst school shooting in history' if the engagement went ahead.

What the actual fuck is that?

I'm not going to start on the Utah Police and their refusal to conduct weapon searches of people entering an institute of higher education which had been threatened with a massacre, because I would probably never stop. In the same way, I'm not going to talk about rape threats, because it would end up as a meaningless spew of expressions of horror and disbelief. I will, however, reiterate my utter horror that there is anyone in the world that thinks that this is in any way something that is not just okay, but right, and that there is a substantial body of gamers who support them to one degree or another.

Now, in fairness (because I like to be fair, possibly to the point of fault, although not to the point, you may notice, of actually putting any links to Gamergate sites; I'm fair, but I absolutely have a side in this*,) the incident created some schism in Gamergate itself, because apparently some of them are able to see that there is a degree of evil that isn't legitimate protest against journalistic corruption (although the lower level hate-speech really should have tipped them off, but internet comments are a natural breeding ground for complete idiocy) I am still disappointed that it hasn't ended it completely; that the sane end of the spectrum haven't looked at this, or the other death threats, and said: "Well, fuck; we're part of something pretty damned vile here, aren't we?"

Gamergate, in short, has actively and materially damaged my faith in human nature.

*In Gamergate terms, this makes me a 'white knight' hoping that backing the feminazi agenda will get me laid. If I believed that the world as a whole was as misogynistic as Gamergate, such that merely expressing this opinion made me irresistible catnip to any woman not completely ground down by hate, I would be too mired in depression to ever have sex again.