Outrage culture – The culture that sells

10 min read

Wonder Woman has been celebrated for so many reasons. For one, it was a relief that DC didn’t crap the bed with a new film. More importantly, it was a female directed film that did incredibly well financially and is set to become the highest grossing live-action film of all time from a female director. (Source) If that wasn’t enough, it featured a strong female superhero lead who did incredibly well, the much talked about Gal Gadot.

There were a lot of problematic narratives that reared their heads following Wonder Woman’s success. Many people, mainly men, tried to downplay the significance of the film’s success in the context of women, but not even naysayers could detract from the shine of the film.

In the latest narrative spin of the film, it was highlighted by author Jaya Saxena, from Elle, that Gal Gadot was earning $300K whilst Superman’s Henry Cavill was earning $14M. (Source)

Lauren Duca, an award winning journalist in the US, highlighted the article and with her formidable presence on Twitter, the story spread like wildfire. The outrage was fast and impassioned. Arguments around the gender wage gap were reignited and despite overwhelming evidence to illustrate the very real issue, due to Lauren’s choice of evidence, it became a debatable topic again.

Lauren’s tweet and the story she linked was disputed, with many claiming Gadot’s male counterparts earned similar amounts. The figure of $14M was also shown large amounts of scepticism. Soon after, Lauren admitted that the $14M stated in the article was “sloppily sourced” but continued to complain about Gadot’s salary, irrespective of the now failed comparisons.

And just like that, another illustration of outrage culture occurred.

Outrage culture – Deadly and widespread

Outrage culture is a term that many are misinformed about. It’s a phrase that is bandied about, largely to silence important discussions or deflect from the real issues at hand. Other times however, its instances can also harm those same, vital discussions. Lauren’s misinformed tweets and resulting outrage culture moment harmed the discussion around the gender wage gap, a very real problem.

In the gaming community, it is a phrase that has become twisted and abused to fit a certain narrative. For many in the scene, it is used to silence those who call out problematic behaviour. It is used to deflect from real issues and prevent serious and uncomfortable introspection.

The Urban Dictionary definition of outrage culture is most likely how many of those deflectors would define it (Source):

When people play the victim card and bend over backwards to be as offended as possible when they really aren’t. Using hissy fits, political correctness, character assassination, and a false sense of moral authority, the outrager hopes to gain power and public recognition for their brave act of justice as well as a sense of control over their meaningless existence. Often accompanied by demands for financial compensation for their “pain and suffering”.

This misinformed view of outrage culture is exactly why it has become so prolific in both the gaming scene as well as society at large. It has arguably also been given life due to how polarised the world has become on a swathe of issues. Rhetoric from either side of an issue has become so aggressive, with a zero-tolerance attitude, that there is no longer an acceptable middle ground on the battlefield.

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The gaming scene has become a war-torn region for some time now. Gamers have always been a passionate group, with strong feelings across a myriad of topics, but it feels more divided now than ever before.

Every gaming news story feels like a reason for war and for sides to be declared. From Tracer, a female character in Overwatch, being revealed as being in a relationship with another woman to Far Cry 5’s portrayal of white, extremist Christians to an Arabic City being added into Overwatch’s map pool, everything seems like a reason to fight.

In the gaming scene, and largely the rest of society as well, outrage culture is seen as something that “SJWs” bring to every facet of the culture, where they are seen as overreacting. The reality, however, is that the scene has become so polarised, strong reactions are encouraged by everyone on every side and outrage culture becomes prevalent no matter what side of an argument you take.

Media’s abuse of outrage culture

Outrage culture has become so widespread and so ingrained in society at large, it has become a social currency upon which many media publications are staking a living. Take a fairly straightforward story and spin it to fit your narrative and create outrage. Exploiting this newfound culture for financial gain is an accusation that has been justly, and unjustly, levied against some of the biggest media publications in the world. From NY Times to Washington Post, Kotaku to Polygon, Breitbart to Fox News, CNN to Huffington Post and then everyone in between, all have been accused of feeding outrage culture.

In the past, it used to be that sex sold, but in this day and age, it’s outrage. Media has a huge part to play in fanning the flames that have led to the dominance of the culture in everyday life. People are becoming conditioned to become upset about almost anything without any thought for scepticism and analysis.

Critical thinking and fact checking have fallen to the wayside in favour of a more emotional and reactionary approach. It is exactly this flaw that Lauren Duca exposed with her series of tweets about Gal Gadot’s salary. It is this flaw that some men, incensed about women-only screenings of Wonder Woman, also revealed.

Bringing it back to gaming, the outrage created from Overwatch for its various actions along with Far Cry 5, show that gaming, too, is susceptible to this reactionary and emotional approach. Despite what many anti-SJWs would have you believe, outrage culture has no side. It is a phenomenon that is sweeping the world, regardless of which side of the political aisle you lean on or your viewpoint on controversial issues.

The baton to beat down social activism

As with anything in life, there are always those that hijack a phenomenon to further personal agendas – Outrage culture is no exception to this. The term has, for a considerable time now, been used to silence any meaningful discussions across a host of issues, especially those in gaming.

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From studios to game devs to the gaming community itself, whenever problematic behaviour is called out, many resort to blaming outrage culture. To be very clear, outrage culture is not the act of getting upset about problematic behaviour. Calling out people that perpetuate issues is hugely important and a vital step in taking the gaming culture forward and making it more progressive and inclusive.

Outrage culture is also not a blanket statement that can be used to sweep issues under the rug. It is also not illustrated by being upset all the time – there is a lot wrong in the gaming world and still some way to go to fixing it. The Urban Dictionary definition of outrage culture that so many in the gaming scene subscribe to is not outrage culture.

Outrage culture is about people becoming polarised and letting their emotions override critical thinking and fact checking. It’s about media abusing genuine pain and issues to increase views and push an agenda. It involves turning a non-issue into a divisive battleground for the sake of a narrative. Outrage culture is making the world more of an arena and less of a place for discussion and real engagement.

Outrage culture will never be about standing up for what you believe in. Fighting against sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination big or small, will never warrant the tag of outrage culture. Despite Duca’s blunder, she remains an important and inspiring journalist that does her part to fight against sexism and a host of other important issues.

Outrunning the culture

The amount of momentum that outrage culture has, it is a difficult beast to escape from. However, things cannot continue going the way they are right now. The status quo is unsustainable and does not bode well for society as a whole. In the gaming scene specifically, we need to find a way forward to move on from outrage culture.

The first step to fighting it is to understand its true definition. This idea that outrage culture is limited to “SJWs” is absurd and woefully ignorant. The community needs to stop trying to silence social activism by beating it down with a bat.

The next step is highlighting and valuing the importance of critical thinking. If people took the time to read, take in and critically think about what they consumed information-wise, there would be less emotional, reactionary outbursts. Not everything that challenges your beliefs needs to be met with anger and contempt. Before reacting as such, take a moment to dwell on what is being said.

Perhaps it is too late and outrage culture will leave an indefinite mark on the gaming scene and how everything works, much like the lasting damage Gamergate left. It’s possible that navigating through daily outrage culture will become as necessary a skill as traversing the constant stream of fake news. After all, outrage sells.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: June 23, 2017

Glenn Kisela

I’ve always loved video games as well as writing, so mixing the two together was inevitable. When I’m not doing that, I do photography and design. I’m also a big fan of English Cricket. Ask me about the ICC.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Have a thousand words in response:


    • Where’s his cola?

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Right there in the glass, it’s breatherian cola.

        • I thought that was only a legend!

  • Ricardo Harvey

    Great article, was something that i wasnt really aware of yet saw happening so often.

  • Skittle

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find an unbiased news source.

    • Phillip Defranco’s show on youtube I find is fairly unbiased.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Biased or unbiased? 😀

      • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

        He’s actually pretty level-headed on most issues … for a red-livered libtard 😛

        • HvR

          But according to Verge and Washington Post he is an alt-right couch potato

          • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

            lol the Verge is so far left (and up their own bums), that even Trotsky, Lenin or Mao would be seen (by them) as rightwing couch potatoes.

          • You back of Mao man, you are about to cross some serious lines!

          • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

            Mao’s little red book is hilarious!

          • You shut up! That book rules my life!

          • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

            Hehehe “To read too many books is harmful.” Good ol’ Mao!

          • Just the one, the RED BOOK!

      • HvR

        Same here, although bit US orientated.

        Also loving Colin Moriarty’s new channel; but that is probably for my weekly dose of bias confirmation

        • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

          I’m shocked that Colin Moriarty has done such an amazing u-turn. From essentially being a sad cuck like Ben Kutchereretcetera to becoming a true voice of the people.

    • Original Heretic

      Check out Signs of the Times (sott.net). Not ALWAYS unbiased, but they try harder than other news sites.

  • Some comments.

    You said:
    “Outrage culture is about people becoming polarised and letting their emotions override critical thinking and fact checking.”
    Earlier, you said:
    “Lauren’s misinformed tweets and resulting outrage culture moment harmed the discussion around the gender wage gap, a very real problem.”

    Here is an example where outrage culture has already triumphed over critical thinking. The wage gap. The United Nations loves to flout the “70c for every dollar” statistic but using 1mg worth of critical thinking brain mass would tell you that the wage gap derives from misrepresenting the aggregation of wages based on gender, rather than on the various uncontrolled factors. In other words, they are not considering things like work experience, qualifications, job position, and number of years worked, so the final figure is scientifically incorrect. But it looks so outrageous and unfair that, despite being legally unconstitutional, it is held as a factual figure. In reality the same person working the same job with the same number of years of work experience and all other factors being held constant would result in only minor differences in salary (in some situations where these were taken into account, women earned more than men).

    You also said:
    “Perhaps it is too late and outrage culture will leave an indefinite mark on the gaming scene and how everything works, much like the lasting damage Gamergate left.”

    GamerGate in many ways validates what you say about outrage culture, that it is the product of the media using outrage to sell, rather than critical thinking. In 2014 when X number of people were calling for accountability and ethical reporting in media, Y number of people were being abusive/harmful towards others, and the media reported only on Y people but grouped X in with them (which I find ironic since in any other context this is misrepresentation (see: feminism, terrorism, etc.)). The net result was GamerGate got a really bad reputation and all the genuinely good people (X, above) who were just tired of being talked down to by games media were left with a bad rep.

    Finally, you said: “The community needs to stop trying to silence social activism by beating it down with a bat.”

    I would argue that this is not necessarily the case, but rather another “fact” perpetuated by media. In any instance where the facts are presented, I think you’ll find that the vast majority (or, the ones we should care about, not the 1% of shit-stirrers) will absolutely band together in instances where it is clear that fundamental human rights are being trampled, or there is some sort of clear injustice present.

    One last thing on the subject of character assassinations: I strongly encourage you read this article on Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, to get a solid idea of how the internet is its own worst enemy when it comes to the outrage machine. https://uploadvr.com/fake-news-happens-reporting-palmer-luckey-nimble-america/

    EDIT: Sorry I forgot one more quote:

    “Every gaming news story feels like a reason for war and for sides to be declared. From Tracer, a female character in Overwatch, being revealed as being in a relationship with another woman to Far Cry 5’s portrayal of white, extremist Christians to an Arabic City being added into Overwatch’s map pool, everything seems like a reason to fight.”

    I love that you mentioned specifically these examples because they are all great examples of the media taking a molehill and making it into a mountain.
    The Tracer in Overwatch thing was NOT a thing until someone went, “Oh look Tracer is a lesbian hashtag deal with it” and people responded “So what?” to which the response was “SEE PEOPLE CAN’T DEAL WITH IT” and the outrage machined kicked into gear.
    Similarly, I recall the Overwatch map you mentioned (Oasis) being celebrated by everyone until someone tried to make it political by claiming Blizzard were trying to make a point about current-day Iraq.

    I am interested though that you didn’t mention the most recent outrage in gaming, from E3 2017: That an indie developer was ostracised and alienated because he (a) was sympathetic towards GamerGate in 2014 and (b) created a game where progressivism was taken too far and resulted in a Dystopia of sorts. The message based on the outrage machine clearly being, “Politics in games are only okay when it’s our side pushing the politics.” I would argue that if we can have games echoing one political belief set, we should get the other side as well. Alas, I do not speak for the world.

    • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

      Dammit Cavie… bring back eGamer. 🙁 I miss you guys so much.

    • HvR

      Well said

      To add a lot of the problems in the local gaming scene will not be solved until “blame the others” culture is not put to rest and critical thinking employed to see what the actual problems and obstacles are.

      Another recent example is the standpoint how the local gaming development community is dominated by men because they are not hiring women. But just scratching the surface any person will see that 90%+ of the local gaming development companies are 1 or 2 man shows where the all the employees are also the founders of the company and simply not big enough to hire anybody.

      So the actual problem becomes why aren’t women starting their own game dev companies? What are the obstacles? Is BEE just presenting them with better opportunities in the formal sector than starting something high risk like a gaming dev company?

      • Yeah, fully agreed. And even then given the opportunities that the likes of Tech Girl and ChaniZA (together with everyone already around, of course) have created for themselves, it’s clear to see that the industry welcomes progressiveness/diversity with open arms when people DO step up. But it’s easier to simply “ask the question” of why diversity isn’t already a thing, rather than work towards it actively. The industry is doing this (see: #AcerForGaming, and similar). We mustn’t let the pot-stirrers do their pot-stirring thing by claiming otherwise, in this respect.

    • Sageville

      What are your views on people who do this: “Oh, something SJW happened, prepare for group X to be offended!”… like when people preempt outrage that doesn’t always happen?

      • I think that being able to have a laugh at the things we do (and try to get away with) is the best way to open people’s eyes to it, in much the same way most comedy tries to low-key highlight inequality to us using humour. That said, I also think it’s a kind of cynical take on the current goings-on, like a commentary on it if you will. Especially when you start seeing the pattern of, “Thing gets posted -> ONE person displays slightly questionable opinion -> massive outcry in the days to follow” so regularly online.

    • Weanerdog
  • I am so desensitized by outrage culture I skip most of the “news”. Far Cry 5 looks boring. Overwatch is fun sexy ass poses and all. Too much swearing in the Beyond Good and Evil trailer? You can **** right off I say. That trailer was awesome!

    • Original Heretic

      What does **** right off mean?
      I’m thinking of a Slap Koekie song….

  • So much win

    • Hammersteyn

      Unlike your cooking vids

      • Alien Emperor Trevor
        • Hammersteyn


        • Original Heretic

          I so miss this show. I gotta rewatch it!

          • When Trev and I cook @[email protected]:disqus no one will miss him! NO ONE!

          • Hammersteyn

            I normally watch them as I’m about to go home, else I’d starve behind my desk.

          • Original Heretic

            CAN you actually cook or do you just go into a kitchen and pretend that you know what an egg is?

          • What is, ohhhh, you almost got me! And yes, I am actually a damn good cook.

          • Original Heretic

            It’s an awesome skill to have. As long as you have ingredients, you can make stuff taste good.
            And if you can bake as well, then that’s also super awesome.
            My wife loves it when I bake cakes. She’s a great cook, but her baking skills on non-existent!

          • I can bake pasta, never tried with cakes! Need to some time.

          • Original Heretic

            If you read and follow a recipe. then you got no problems.

          • yeah. My mother is brilliant at baking and says the same thing, do NOT deviate from the plan. I love changing things when I cook, freestyle yo!

          • Original Heretic

            Yeah, with cooking you can still get away with it. With baking, not so much. Not until you REALLY know what you’re doing, anyway.
            I tend to make very small changes here and there. And even then, the difference in taste can be quite vast.

        • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

          You’re ghana get cooked and eaten in Ghana!!!

      • Sageville
        • Hammersteyn


  • Original Heretic

    We live in a world where being offended is considered completely taboo.
    And what hard does offending someone do? Do you wake up with the plague? Does your food taste worse in your offended state?

    It’s such a useless emotion.
    “Oh no, I’m offended…!”
    “NOBODY CARES! Nut up or shut up!”

    • Hammersteyn

      A generation of snowflakes

      • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

        Fortunately, the generation coming after the millennial snowflakes are proving to be a bunch of conservative hardasses, who laugh at the millennial crybabies. The world is going to be fine in their hands.

        I have faith in Generation Z.

        • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

          When they asked a bunch of Generation Z middle-schoolers how many genders there were. The little kids screamed “TWO”, and mocked the idea of “gender being a social construct”.

          My faith in humanity has been restored. Now if only the Millennials could bugger off to their safe spaces and never breed. Generation X and Generation Z are all this world needs.

        • Original Heretic

          What’s that quote? Something like…

          Hard times create strong men.
          Strong men create good times.
          Good times create weak men.
          Weak men create hard times.

        • Hey just because genders can be split into 2 separate parts with proven genetic differences doesn’t mean that gender is binary.

          • Bi Nary, I see what you did there…

  • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

    I would offer the counter that it actually doesn’t sell or at least it’s proven to be unbelievably unprofitable. The reason is simple; outrage culture offers nothing constructive. I suppose initially a publication like Polylolygon or Kotaku could get away with clickbait articles about race, gender identity etc., but if you visit kotaku now, their website cries at you for using an adblocker. Buzzfeed has toileted their reputation with fakenews, and Salon isn’t much better. No one with half a brain reads Jezebel and Huffing Paint Post is considered a joke. The Guardian has been hemorrhaging readers and is currently begging their increasingly-shrinking reader base to donate to keep their servers running.

    In a syn-Trump world, people (normies) aren’t interested any more, and the quickest way to turn readers away is by offering clickbait nonsense with a social justice spin on it.

    • Shut up Nana! You fool no one with the new name!

      • Original Heretic

        I THOUGHT he looked familiar!

        • It was the SMELL I bet!

          • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

            You sick bastard.. stop smelling my neck!

      • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

        You shut your mouth! My name is Chuckles von Clausewitz the third, son!

        • *The third, son, of a plumbers bum!* hahahaha

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          Banana-flavoured Chuckles are an abomination. Everyone knows the only true Chuckles are mint and coffee flavour.

        • LordOfDaZombiez

          Any relation to Jim ****ing Sterling Son?

  • Sageville

    Can’t really add much here..

    …except this current generation is damn weak, everything offends them and it’s making a society that
    just cannot handle stuff.

    I mean look at that Helen Zille’s colonialism tweet, in poor taste given history and against the current acceptable narratives. The outrage fed on itself until you couldn’t even have academic discussion about the matter. Even the intellectuals put down the debate and ran with the outrage.

    The sad thing is I think it’s seeping into all corners of our day-to-day and I’m worried what the end game will be. All these offended people, dragging their perceived psychological harm around with them, wearing it like a badge and using it as sympathy leverage and to shut down debate.

    When people say “I’m offended!”… clearly they didn’t die, they remain unchanged, so what exactly happens to them? If they were as fragile as they suggest (I call bullshit here) then they would all be quivering in a puddle in a corner, but these guys somehow survive each day and then deliberately seek out further outrage on the very platform that so injured them last… The Mind Boggles….

    • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

      Sage! SAGE SAGE!

  • Deceased

    “When people play the victim card and bend over backwards to be as offended as possible when they really aren’t. Using hissy fits, political correctness, character assassination, and a false sense of moral authority, the outrager hopes to gain power and public recognition for their brave act of justice as well as a sense of control over their meaningless existence. Often accompanied by demands for financial compensation for their “pain and suffering”.

    For this you said:

    “This misinformed view of outrage culture is exactly …”

    I don’t think this is misinformed at all… When you take away the fluff around this perspective and focus squarely on the issue at hand: “blah, blah, blah … *a sense of control over their meaningless existence* … blah, blah, blah” you’ll realize that it’s not so misinformed at all – simply because, at some point, this universe will end and at that specific planck ( smallest unit of measuring time as far as I know ) ANYTHING/EVERYTHING we as a species did would be meaningless – thus, the perspective has some validity to it ( granted, focusing on the rest is just a waste of time and energy )

    Nobody exists on purpose,
    nobody belongs anywhere,
    everybody’s gonna die

  • MonsterCheddar

    The whole world is outraged about everything these days.

  • Andre116

    Information that was also committed with the Wonder Woman outrage, is that the 300k does not include any performance bonuses her manager may have negotiated with the studio (which any good manager would have done). With such bonuses she will be receiving a couple of nice squelches during the next couple of months.

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