GamerGate Forewarned of Trump Win; Why Didn’t Game Journalists do Anything?

2014 After a female game developer cheats on her boyfriend, he pens an online tell-all series of blog posts revealing that one of those liaisons was with a reporter for online gaming website Kotaku. This was the beginning of GamerGate.

Seemingly uneager to address just how close journalists and developers sometimes get, the gaming press decided to use one word against the Balrog-esque mob gathered outside, as if facing it on the bridge of Khazad-dûm. Gathering their energy, they cried out, “You cannot pass, misogynists.”

We know what happens in the Lord of the Rings: the Balrog is sent spiraling down into the chasm below, but not before catching the unfortunate Gandalf and pulling him down with it. So too, did game journalism lose quite a bit of respect and stature when it chose to make a stand with such a silly and juvenile rebuttal.

Instead of penning op-eds making the industry more transparent and straight-forward for the average gamer, article after article accusing everyone remotely involved in GamerGate of hating women were fired off. It eventually expanded to include all minorities; anyone reading something from Kotaku, Polygon or other mainstream sites would not be wrong to assume, based on what they’d read, that people with continued concerns about where gaming journalism was headed were also out to bar anyone who wasn’t a straight, white, heterosexual man from creating games.

Generally such arguments which rely on tossing labels, rather than replying with any substance, are dismissed as strawmen. I had been used to seeing these sorts of tactics used by the right (such as the annual scare reports about evil atheists and their “war on Christmas”), but this time it was the progressives who didn’t want to calmly lay bare their explanations and let them stand on their own.

It was about a month later that the gaming press, which clearly had nothing to hide from the misogynistic mob pounding on their door, was revealed to have had a secretive mailing list that not only included collaborating on journalistic narratives across sites, but also blacklisting certain people who raised uncomfortable issues. Oops.

The minority of people who were harassing people and the most problems were actually aided by this scorched-earth press narrative. Since most people involved in GamerGate were not harassing anyone it was an easy argument to dismantle. Where were the critical thought pieces on what was fueling GamerGate’s most virulent 1%? Or even just bitterness expressed by average male gamers that the gaming press was trying to take developers to task for not shoehorning in as much identity politics as they could into each new release?

What I wanted to read was some well-researched, original documentation of social issues affecting male gamers and why GamerGate became the flashpoint that it did. Games are for fun, but if the people covering them are going to call themselves journalists (and they do), then where is some decent writing on the topic? There were almost no looks at the topic which did not paint its entire membership in one grand stroke.

Unfortunately, there was no ultimate redemption for the gaming press a la Gandalf’s return. So it goes.

2016 Hindsight is 20/20, so certainly journalists in the gaming industry would have had enough time to contemplate the results of calling large swathes of people bigots based on the actions of a small minority of trolls (some of which, I assume, are good people). I wouldn’t fault anyone for optimistically hoping that people such as Christopher Grant, head honcho of Polygon, or the Editor-in-Chief of Destructoid (I’d include a name, but their staff page is a jumble of people and it wasn’t noted in their self-aggrandizing site history PDF; so much for transparency) would note the similarities between how the gaming journalists responded to GamerGate and how the mainstream media was beginning to craft their narrative against Trump supporters.

“NO! STOP! DON’T DO IT!” might have been a nice sentiment to hear from them. No such luck. Just as the gaming press had alienated many of its own readers with ridiculous insults, so too did much more esteemed news outlets such as The New York Times with cries of “Racists! Misogynists!” as people questioned Hillary Clinton.

As we can now look back, simply hiding behind slurs did not quell the resentment and did not stop the mob. That is not a personal opinion; former Gawker editor Max Read called GamerGaters the most effective enemy of the blog network. That article went up on August 19, 2016—just one day shy of the two year anniversary of Kotaku breaking their silence on GamerGate.

There were two obvious lessons to be learned:

  1. The well-meaning majority of a movement doesn’t like being mischaracterized
  2. The trolls are simply egged on by name calling

How and why did the gaming press miss these lessons? As near as I can tell, many gaming sites are stacked with ideologues who are less interested in moving the world forward and prefer to keep their views on society untainted by reality. That is unfortunate, because now we have President-elect Trump set to be sworn in next month.

Dear god, why? How could this same awful tactic be reused after its miserable deployment against GamerGate?

The press coverage is eerily similar. I will actually go out on a limb (as a liberal) and say that I believe that the majority of Trump supporters are not bad people. They’re frustrated, they’re misunderstood. I followed the election closely and there seemed to be no general push to dispel the notion of them being a generally deplorable group of Americans. This was a mistake.

If journalism is to succeed, gaming or elsewhere, it needs to dedicate itself to seeking the truth. The press’s response to both GamerGate and the 2016 election was to push a narrative. There is no doubt. In being so dogmatically defensive of women and minorities (GamerGate) and Clinton (2016 election) against slights, perceived or otherwise, it ended up being a moment in which journalists shot themselves in the foot and hampered themselves from actually moving society forward.

This time there was much more at stake and we should have expected better from the people who sat through the first storm. Another bitter year for gaming journalism.

 

SJWs Didn’t Do Their Homework: Link is Gender-Neutral by Design

Seen a lot of moaning about how Link isn’t a female in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? We have. Turns out, however, that those complaining were quick to judge the character on his biological appearance. Producer Eiji Aonuma is setting the record straight and reminding those in social justice circles that male anatomy might not be everything there is to a character:

…after Twilight Princess I went back to the drawing board and decided Link should be a more gender-neutral character.

In his longer interview with TIME Magazine he expressed that the design is meant to appeal to a wide range of players and not pigeonhole Link into one identity.

I wanted the player to think ‘Maybe Link is a boy or a girl.’ If you saw Link as a guy, he’d have more of a feminine touch. Or vice versa, if you related to Link as a girl, it was with more of a masculine aspect. I really wanted the designer to encompass more of a gender-neutral figure.

Go figure. 

The Verge is Right; Violent Video Games Behind Mass Shootings

I saw an interesting article on the The Verge today about EA’s Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference and I couldn’t help but nod along in agreement. Authors Chris Plante & T.C. Sottek speculated about why gaming executives didn’t comment on the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida which left 50 dead:

Perhaps EA executives thought it would be hypocritical to comment on a real-life shooting before promoting a first-person shooter.

The only reason it would by hypocritical to talk-up virtual guns and virtual violence would be if it had any effect on real-world behavior and that insinuation is completely on point.

The production of video games that require or reward people for taking digital lives are causing outbreaks of violence around the world. Late last year an attack in Paris was perpetrated by killers who were undoubtedly much more skilled at DOOM than even the most studious Polygon reporter. If research were carried out to compare the attackers in both cases the only link would probably be their love of gaming.

How can we let gaming companies completely ignore and neglect their responsibility in these tragedies? Completely failing to acknowledge real, actual shootings that were probably practiced in their games? Unforgivable.

Let us strive to make our voices heard: we want violence out of video games. To end mass shootings and end terrorism we, as gamers, need to look at how our hobby is fueling hatred worldwide.

Please… think about it. For world peace.

Movies should be judged by cast diversity, not entertainment value

There is a common misconception in the minds of today’s moviegoers and that is the idea a great film is one which has impeccable acting, masterful direction, and brings a story to life. I’m here to disavow that myth: it’s not. What really makes a motion picture transcend its medium is a cast composed of ethnically diverse actors and actresses.

The first trailer for next year’s mythological blockbuster Gods of Egypt has certainly proven this. The movie won’t even be out for months, but the reviews are in; this film is just too damn white. It should be common knowledge that the real gods of Egypt were racially similar to the mortals that they ruled over. Well, the human parts of them were.

goe-wiki-whitewashingHollywood has yet again tried to “whitewash” history with its large stable of actors and actresses of European descent. How would one even know that those hailing from the Nile river basin have dark skin?! If media moguls won’t provide historically accurate depictions of events, who will?

This could have been a real turning point for Western media. There is only one main black actor in the film, but think about the impact of having even more. In the United States alone it could have changed millions of lives for the better. Some activists waste time on tackling poverty and incarceration, but in reality those issues simply stem from employment practices in Hollywood. Thankfully, some brave souls have already made sure that the Gods of Egypt Wikipedia page already reflects what a travesty it is.

I hope studios listen to the loud voices demanding change. Together we can make a difference in the world and that starts with holding movies accountable for historically accurate and racially correct depictions of mythological deities.

VICE uses Paris attacks to smear gamers

Veerender JubbalEver the beacon of journalistic excellence, VICE recently published a piece by Rich Stanton blaming GamerGate supporters for circulating a photoshopped image of a journalist and fingering him as the mastermind behind the recent terrorist attacks in France. The victim, Veerender Jubbal, had one of his selfies edited to look as if he was holding a Quran instead of an iPad while wearing an explosive vest, as well as a dildo sneakily added into the background. Twitter users @turd_wartsniff and @Bl4ptrep seem to have been behind the image manipulation and the two were quickly deemed supporters of GamerGate because of past tweets and participation in the movement’s subreddit KotakuInAction.

Of course, journalists are supposed to understand that you cannot paint an entire group by the actions of extremists. There is the general consensus that not all Muslims are terrorists, because of that exact reason. Even after so many attacks carried out by Islamic militants, people still understand that the majority of followers do not hold the beliefs that the perpetrators of these violent acts do.

If you’re the gaming press though, there is no room for such courtesies if a party does not hold the same fawning idolization for identity politics that you do. Which is why it is considered acceptable to publish such articles as Mr. Stanton has done. I’m glad that he was able to use this experience not to condemn this prank alongside GamerGate supporters, but instead blindly accuse a subset of gamers of being racist.

Although I don’t consider myself a part of GamerGate, I understand where they’re coming from. It’s articles like these which highlight the cognative dissonance shared by so many “progressive” writers which now litter the Internet with a lot to say about very little. I spend a large amount of time reading both sides of this topic and people involved in GamerGate don’t spend a lot of time discussing how to cause harm to people. It is simply not the majority and should not be treated as such.

I’ll wrap this up by pointing out that @Bl4ptrep even distanced himself from GamerGate months ago before these events unfolded. My adVICE? Try fact checking next time on a hit piece.