Editor’s note: this is an opinion piece by the author indicated and does not represent the views of the publication or its staff.
I‘ve been following the GamerGate saga with great interest over the last few months but not for the reasons that most have been; divorcing Gamergate from all that harassment and looking instead at what many of those entrenched in the headless movement believe it to be about: Ethics in Games journalism. That itself is a noble pursuit, even if its current trajectory is off the mark. For me it’s been a great example of the power of media and the folly of fanatic liberalism.
When GamerGate first hit the mainstream it had, and I believe, still has, some extremely relevant points. People, the sort who identify as gamers, were upset by their perception that certain journalists were attacking their hobby, community and culture – by essentially labelling everyone who labels themselves as gamers as racist, woman abusing assholes.
GamerGaters had hard facts that high-profile gaming journalists had colluded together to push their liberal views and personal preferences onto the world in a determined and co-ordinated effort. That goes totally against everything that a journalist should be standing for and really is both saddening, and sickening. I found the entire saga interesting because we in South Africa struggle with this sort of soft journalism and collusion; from big brands inviting the soft influencers to cover their brands when they can’t even spell the brand properly, to journalists who are buying followers, to those websites that are lying about traffic stats to brands – mostly so they can keep getting free stuff.
Can you believe that there are websites in this country which point blankly refuse to release traffic stats to advertisers or marketing companies and yet are still given advertising money and perks because they are ever only supportive of the products they cover? It’s a disgusting mess that isn’t confined to our country; it’s a global problem. People enjoy taking digs at the IGNs and Polygons of the world but at least those sites are incredibly influential, with the requisite traffic. They aren’t being looked after purely because they’re part of the PR machine at the marketing departments of big brands.
So when top-tiered gaming journalists were called out and the facts presented, I was intrigued to see if they could weather the storm.
They did more than that; they managed to turn the entire situation against their attackers – to the point where “GamerGater” is the new insulting go-to response to anyone who dares share any sort of differing opinion. I myself got called a Gamergater the other day because I questioned someone about their stances on diversity within an already established fictional universe. I was accused of participating in “chan” culture and rallying against the “gamers are dead” narrative, when it’s just not true. It’s become the instant, pseudo-intellectual, knee-jerk reaction – to any sort of contrary view – by those so vociferously against the movement that they’ve become mirrors of the harassers they’re trying to fight.
The way that the journalists, and media outlets, not only survived the gamergate scandal but also prospered is a testament to the power of the media, especially a co-ordinated media that isn’t afraid to use all the dirty tricks in the playbook to ensure a victory. They managed to dominate this discussion so well that you now cannot question the ethics of a gaming journalist without instantly – and incorrectly – being labelled a misogynist who has no other desire than to spew bile at women, non-whites, homosexuals and anyone who isn’t cis-gendered. They’ve done it so well that it’s now close on being an insult if you’re even attracted to the opposite sex.
From an academic standpoint it has been an incredible case study: insinuate your attacker is the very worst type of person and then use that denial to shore up your attack on people’s basic civil rights of freedom of discussion, freedom of media and freedom of choice. It echoes the way politicians use the idea of protecting our children from child pornography to push for internet censorship. From a human stand point it’s been a depressing case study on how a powerful few really do control the media and the way society functions.
In the end the GamerGate movement has completely lost. Its questioning of ethics in games journalism – if that was its original intent – has become muddied to the point where it no longer exists, and it will be years before the problem of abusive fantastical liberalism can be touched on again in gaming without being instantly labelled.
Gamergaters may still believe there’s good news, though: while many developers have pledged to be more inclusive and there’s a great big drive for diversity, for the most part, games in the AAA retail space are made to satisfy typical target markets – and this isn’t likely to change. The gaming industry is based on market demands and there will always be a demand for good-looking characters in video games for the same reason that the vast majority of Hollywood celebrities are the beautiful people.
By all accounts I’m probably a liberal. I don’t label myself, but I vehemently believe that people should never be discriminated against because of their colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin or religious beliefs. I dislike all religions equally. That said, I don’t believe that the less than 1% of people who don’t align with a specific identity should force the rest of the planet to change to accommodate them. Life is tough. Yes, it may be tougher if you’re marginalised, but that doesn’t mean the world needs to bend to your will.
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Last Updated: February 12, 2015