Revenge of the white boys club – Whitelash in gaming

9 min read


2016 has been quite the year. 6 months later and grown men and women are still mourning the loss of a gorilla. The ANC suffered shock defeats across our nation despite winning the overall elections. Brexit happened and now, Trump has won the US elections.

Trump’s victory has shaken the world in many ways and the exact fallout remains to be seen. The shock however, is that the polls were wrong and so was the media. Just as with Brexit, the most unlikely scenario played out into a reality. You may be wondering what the US elections, and to a lesser degree Brexit, has to do with gamers? In gaming, as in other parts of the world, there has been a progressive movement taking place. A battle against sexism, racism, oppression and other injustices that marginalised groups have been facing for so long. There’s been a determined effort to dismantle systems built to keep marginalised groups invisible and powerless.

That movement has left some, predominantly white men, reeling at the perceived loss of power and personal injustice. The surprising success of Trump has been deemed a “whitelash”, a term first coined by Van Jones, as white voters react to a world they feel is leaving them behind.


In the US election, 58% of white Americans voted for Trump. Every other race voted overwhelmingly in favour of Clinton (Source). So again, how does this come back to gaming? White people, predominantly men, are feeling left behind and ignored and there is resentment boiling underneath.

The battle against the white boys’ club

It’s no secret that gaming has been a white boys’ club for a long time. I’ve written about it before, as have many others. The reactions to these articles are often the same.

It’s not true!

It doesn’t matter!

Don’t bring SJW Politics into gaming!

We were here first!

Added to that are the ever present death threats and intimidation tactics utilised by angry mobs of primarily white men. Often these reactions are written off as little boys unable to adapt to an ever-changing world. The anger and resentment is dismissed as well as ridiculed. So then why are we so surprised when, given the chance, white men voted for themselves and not the betterment of the general masses when it came to the US elections?


The battle against the white boys’ club in gaming has never been about tearing white men down, it has been about giving a voice and shining a light on those used to be ignored. The greater goal is, and always has been, to make the scene more inclusive and diverse. For many white men however, it feels like this is being achieved at their expense. Whilst this is a sorely mistaken sentiment, it is completely understandable. That sentiment is also not exclusive to the gaming scene; It is a narrative often expressed beyond our digital realm.

In a world that feels increasing hostile towards them, white men are struggling to find their place in the world. Thus, the whitelash. This battle, based on progressive and inclusive values, feels so personal to them and blinded by privilege, it is hard for many to see past that. The question that should be asked is, does the gaming world need to wait for its Brexit, its Trump election, before we come to terms with this greater issue –  this whitelash?

Whitelash in the gaming world

We may not have elections in the gaming scene that affects the world in quite the way that Brexit or the US elections have, but nonetheless whitelash needs to be taken seriously and we need to tackle it sooner rather than later.


It shows a disconnect between the battle for inclusivity and diversity in gaming and many white men. This disconnect is evident in the narrative that has been swirling around lately that nerds have been this oppressed group that was neither racist nor sexist. This desperate reach to rewrite history and ignore the current landscape is disconcerting and disingenuous. It feels like some white men are trying to paint themselves as victims and search for historical evidence to justify that fact.

It is a made up crutch that is used to prop up the narrative that SJWs invaded the gaming scene and took it over and ruined it. It seems eerily similar to the sentiment often brought up throughout Trump’s campaign of how immigrants had come in and ruined America and thus his slogan held so much power. MAGA. MAGA. MAGA. The acronym is plastered all over and with fervent, patriotic pride.

An argument could be made that Gamergate was an early form of this whitelash. Men trying to reclaim a space they felt was lost, hidden under the guise of a movement that claimed to be about ethics in journalism.


Again, similarities to the Trump campaign are evident. Many claimed the vote for Trump was about being “anti-establishment” and to some that may be true, but it doesn’t take away the fact that so many voters felt it was okay to vote in an openly racist and sexist president.

This fact, and the resulting success of Trump’s campaign, also shows the importance of activist issues, or SJW politics as many here call it, in every sphere of our lives, including gaming.

That so many Americans were willing to vote in such a hateful man as president, for whatever reasons, shows us just how much work still needs to be done in the hopes of creating an inclusive and caring world. That work is just as important in the gaming world.

These two tweets were so poignant, not just because of the weight of their words, but because both are members of the gaming scene, both local and abroad.

In the gaming world, we need to fight bigotry and hate and that means talking about important activist issues. Those that continue to feel that these topics don’t belong in gaming are looking at the world with a narrow and misguided lens. That and they are blinded by the privilege that allows them to be so blissfully ignorant of so much.


Trump’s success also marks another truth, one that I feel will be difficult for many to stomach. There needs to be a better approach to fighting bigotry and creating the inclusive world so many of us are fighting for.

It seemed almost every media publication across the world was against Trump, and yet he remained, persevered and won. There needs to be a nuance to how we engage with issues, something that was seemingly lost in the lead up to the US elections and something that has lacked often in the gaming scene.

Gamergate’s rise was so often fuelled by how aggressively gaming media pushed back. Whilst the points made were often valid and necessary, the lack of nuance led to it all falling on not just deaf, but angry ears. It served to only polarise two sides of the same community and created the ever-widening gap that exists today between GG supporters and those opposed to the movement.

This is not to say that all opinions are valid and should be entertained. Despite what it hoped to achieve, GG was a disaster that become an angry mob of predominantly men, seeking to bully people out of their space and reclaim it as their own.

The sexist and racist views of that movement have no place in our scene and nor should they be given any credibility. However, something has to change in the way we engage with these issues to bridge an enormous gap and create meaningful dialogue. Not specifically with GG, but more in the general sense.

Gaming can learn from the political stage

The gaming scene doesn’t need to wait for an unexpected whitelash to occur. We don’t need to wait for another Gamergate to explode. We can learn from what’s happening around us and grow without the pain, fear and misery that an event like Trump’s election is causing.


We need to fight harder than ever to talk about activist issues and bring to light the plight of so many oppressed and marginalised groups. We may not be electing world leaders or influencing issues like global climate change, but this is our world and we should fight to make it better.

To make it more inclusive, to call out those who oppose diversity in the scene, to not be okay with the status quo and to fight those who want to spread bigoted, ignorant views in our scene. But let’s do all that without polarising this community even more. It’s not an easy task nor one with a simple solution, that much is clear as post-elections the US media is going to have to do a lot of soul searching and deep introspection to figure out where it all went wrong.

Whilst the world seemingly falls apart around us, let’s not lose hope in our battles and our world and the vision many of us have to making gaming a beautiful scene that welcomes all, and pushes everyone to be a better person.

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: January 4, 2017

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