The Cankerous Slime-Slick Shame Pit That Is #GamerGate
I imagine that when the meteors were coming, and the volcanos were sharting great globs of lava into the sky and onto the ground, and mammals were conspiring to survive the pyroclasm, the dinosaurs were probably pretty pissed off. They had been phased out by nature — they saw that the world was changing and that they couldn’t survive in it anymore. They probably started a hashtag. Like, #meteorgate or #nomoreextinction or something. Carving them on trees and rocks with saurian claw. And they probably filled these hashtags with a lot of anti-mammal rhetoric. Then they stood around yelling at the sky, shaking their tiny fists or swishing their spiky tails in rage, hoping it would change what was coming. Hoping it would stop the meteors from popping their big dumb dinosaur heads like grapes. Hoping the lava would not cook them from the feet up. Hoping that this whole “mammal” thing was just a glitch, a gimmick, a short and forgettable chapter in the Big Book about How Dinosaurs Are Fucking Awesome.
And then some of the dinosaurs became birds and flew away while the rest of the dinosaurs ate hot meteor and died. Or something. I don’t really know precisely what killed the dinosaurs — Dino Flu, or Arrogance, or a Free U2 Album — but I do know that the world was eventually done with them and had moved on. Evolution and change are hard to deal with.
That brings us to #GamerGate.
If you don’t know what it is — *whistles* — oh, man, it’s fun. And you should read that word, “fun,” with all the quiet connotation of taking a bath with a plugged-in toaster. Here’s an article at WaPo about it. GamerGate seems to be a beast with many, many heads — some want ethical responsibility in games journalism, some want agendas and so-called political correctness out of their game reviews, some want that out of their games.
Thing is, all these heads lead to one common monster, and it is a beast whose hide is thick with the grease of misogyny, sexism, prejudice against… well, anybody who doesn’t live on Heteronormative White Dude Mountain. Mostly, it reads like they want social relevance out of their games. Or, worst, they just anybody who isn’t like them to shut up and stop talking.
It’s an ugly thing, this beast.
It is is, in fact, a dinosaur.
Because GamerGate feels like the rantings and ravings of a dying, wretched, angry species. All this seems to rise up from a fruiting, fungal corner of pop culture — mushrooms tended in the dark of their expectations and experiences, fertilized by great heaps of horseshit.
I said as much on Twitter last night and I received…
Well, let’s go with a lot of responses.
Some asserted GamerGate was a good thing and it was anti-prejudice and actually was itself the target of misogyny and racism and also truth — and then you go ahead and click the hashtags (#GamerGate or #notyourshield) and you find it full of misogyny and racism. Like, I don’t mean in the charitable sense — well, if you poke around, this might be a little bit sketchy — no, I mean like, I just got face-punched by a shit-shellacked fist clutching a handful of foul ideas that had been shoved up some jerk’s nether-hole. Down that rabbit hole is a thick, malodorous treacle of nasty business. Or you go and watch some of the Truther-like conspiracy videos. Or you read some of the blog posts (which suspiciously read like they were torn out of an MRA playbook and then rewritten just slightly, like some kind of gamer-version of Mad Libs.) I looked at all the responders to my tweets last night and, almost hilariously, they appeared to all be dudes. And when you looked at their Twitter feeds, you saw their social media existence just brining — marinating, even — in this septic nastiness of racist and sexist and prejudiced rhetoric. They claim lies and toxicity on the other side (despite having their own claims refuted again and again, like the no police reports were filed ‘fact,’ which is of course not at all a fact, jerks).
Forget it, Jake — it’s Troll Town.
(I also found this world populated with that least pleasant of not-Baldwin-brothers, Adam Baldwin, who I used to think was bad-ass until he started opening his mouth on social media.)
Of course, the last two paragraphs conflict with one another, don’t they? And despite any message of nobody should be harassed, that’s exactly what’s happening. All over this thing is harassment and horribleness. It’ll take about four seconds to see that. One or two clicks in and it’s like —
Blink, blink, holy shit.
(Oh, and news flash: you’re against agendas? What do you think GamerGate is?)
(Spoiler alert: it’s an agenda.)
If you associate with GamerGate — you’re associating with all the toxicity that comes with it. Even if you’re not like that and you think there’s something valuable at the heart of this, guess what? This thing is deeply, grotesquely shitty. You can’t roll around in it and keep clean. You’re going to have all that feces and venom and overall awfulness spackling your every inch. You can’t support this without supporting bad people saying bad things. Talks like a troll, walks like a troll?
You know what? Don’t be a dinosaur. Grow wings, man. Join the birds, or hang out with the mammals. The ground is shifting. The meteors are coming. You can survive this — you can adapt and start to realize that there are other people in this world. You can start to figure out that other worldviews besides your own not only exist, but actually — gasp — have merit. At the bare minimum, you can figure out that if you don’t want to see these things in your games, you can not play those games. You don’t have to play Depression Quest or Gone Home. You don’t have to go watch Anita Sarkeesian’s videos — and, if you do, you don’t have to agree with them. (Related: good article on her at The Verge, with the money quote being: “One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences.”) You want more literal game reviews unmarked by any bias or agenda? Go start a review blog. Or read some of the review blogs that basically already do this.
And then, y’know? Shut up. Because you don’t own games. You don’t own this space. The lock is busted. The door is open. The mammals are calling from inside the house, motherfuckers. The birds are flying. This space is evolving, dear dinosaur. As it should. As all artforms should. It doesn’t take away the games you have. It brings new games to the table. New voices. Voices by people who are long under-represented, speaking to audiences who have long been under-served. You can’t stop that. You shouldn’t want to stop that, because that’s something assholes want. We should want everyone to be allowed to make games that speak to their experiences — whether it’s depression or sexism or LGBT issues. We should yearn for a game industry that has room for people who don’t just want Assassin’s Creed 14 or Call of Duty: Mortal Kombat III. Just as we should yearn for films and comics and books to be able to explore both popcorn pop culture fun alongside far meatier and more meaningful territory.
We should be cheering folks like Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Leigh Alexander. We should be championing if not their voices (though I do), then at the least their right to have those voices and use them in this industry. We should be asking for greater diversity in big games and little games and all the games journalism that surrounds it. (And this is where someone says, oh oh oh but you champion their voices but not my voice, to which I respond, if the use of your voice is used only to shut others out, then no, I do not need to tolerate your intolerance. Game over, man. Game over.)
You stand in the way, you’re gonna catch a face full of meteor.
And, frankly, if that’s the case, then you fucking deserve it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go hang out with the birds and mammals.
(For added ranty-pants fun, check out Greg Costikyan’s rant on the subject. It’s by no means perfect, but its anger is pure, its message is righteous.)
(And noooo way am I turning comments on. I don’t think the SPAM OUBLIETTE is prepared.)