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The Sorry State Of Gaming's Truthers And Their #Gamergate
by Tadhg Kelly on 08/31/14 11:57:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Politically speaking I'm very live-and-let-live. I'm a moderate on most issues, but also an avid debater. I think this is because I have more of an arts- rather than business- or engineering-brain. I give more credence to critique and rhetoric than is fashionable, and through them I learn. That’s how I initially approached the questions raised by feminism in games, representation, legitimacy and so on. At first I knew very little about it, but then poked, prodded and thought out loud and learned. 

I admit “white male privilege”, “social justice” and others sounded a little jargony to me. I had a phase where I felt non-specifically tagged. I supported (correction: support) the empowerment of women in the games industry and for their stories of mistreatment, demeanment and marginalisation (and worse) to be heard. But, as one of those privileged cis straight white guys, the blurring of the usual boundary between content and player felt blame-ish. It felt like the finger was pointing at me personally. 

It took me a while to realize that the feminists were asking for action, support and consideration. Anita Sarkeesian wasn’t saying that I was personally to blame, or that because I had played games with objectionable content that I was directly promoting misogyny. She was saying that I was operating within a certain framework, a framework that I should really take a step back from and regard. And then consider what I might do to change that relationship. It was one of her Feminist Frequency videos, about how female characters in games are often reduced to a single class (the tall one, the fat one, the weird one, the girl) and depicted using pink coloration that finally made me understand. 

So I got to the other side, but because of my journey I think I understand where many current reactions in gamerland come from. In a sense I was there. "Hey," Joe Gamer says in response to Sarkeesian's latest video, "that point you're making about Hitman being misogynist because you maybe might  do bad things in it seems to be saying that I'm a misogynist! But I'm not! She's twisting something!" I sort-of thought that for a while too.

Now on the one hand Joe's somewhat missing the point. One rejoinder to Sarkeesian’s videos holds that her videos cherry-pick and amplify and are not representative of the actual games, or by extension the players. In one scene she shows, for instance, the titular character in Hitman beating strippers to death and dragging their corpses around. Joe retorts that that’s not how you’re supposed to play the game, that the mechanics dissuade you from doing so, and that the typical player actually sneaks around that level, bypassing the strippers entirely. Joe says that it’s kind of like claiming Gran Turismo is a car crash simulator rather than a racer because if you really want to do that in the game, you can. But you're not supposed to.

The break here is Joe misunderstands what cultural criticism actually is. Criticism isn't science, but nor is it just flat opinion. It's a carefully considered reading of culture through a lens to see how it fits/stands up/reveals itself. To write a Marxist analysis of a text, for instance, isn't to just read it and bluntly apply the Marx stamp. To provide a Barthes-ian critique is more than simply saying "So I think this story is pretty mythic". Feminist critique is the same. Some accuse it of cherry picking and trolling and not being “objective” (by which they mean analytical), as though to say that the argument should be about numbers. If Hitman is only 1% sexist and 99% not, that line of reasoning goes, then it’s not sexist.

But it's about the cherries. If you saw an otherwise hilarious movie that took 30 seconds out to go on a diatribe against black people, most reasonable people wouldn’t say “hey the movie’s only 1% racist, therefore not racist”. Of course it’s racist. The cherry, as it were, taints the whole of the rest. It calls it into question. The joke about tying women to back of your horse in Red Dead Redemption is uncomfortable, and it makes the rest of the play experience uncomfortable too. 

My understanding of what feminists like Sarkeesian are saying is essentially “why do these cherries have to be there” - and that is more a question for game makers than players. Critique is generally about the work itself and what it implies. It asks searching questions and brings a perspective to stuff that we might otherwise have blithely accepted, and that can be valuable. That's why Sarkeesian's work is received so positively in most places. She shines a much-needed light and makes us see differently. That sensation is sometimes uncomfortable, but also valuable.

Similarly games from different perspectives can have the same effect. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest is not a normal game as most of us would traditionally describe that term, nor is Anna Anthropy’s dys4ia. Both don’t dance to the normal beat in many ways, placing the player in a very different kind of situation to the usual active-hero trope. Some players find these games bold, some find them boring. That is, of course, their prerogative. However what’s notable - and has flared up again recently - is how these alt-perspective games and critiques nettle at Joe and Joe’s friends. How they seem to represent a threat to the host.

It has not been a banner fortnight for video game culture. It’s thoroughly galling, in fact, to watch how some of Joes’s friends choose to make their voices heard. They don't tackle the issue so much as the key figures, and cloak themselves in the garb of truth seekers. Theirs is gaming's Tea Party response, gaming’s birthers and gaming’s truthers. It's a world of hugely spun up conspiracy fodder resting on imgur "evidence" with even less credence than propped up the 9/11 Loose Change movement. Theirs is becoming a landscape of farcical videos promising to unveil "the secret truth".

And this just makes many of us (by which I mean men, people in the industry or just generally people) hang our heads in shame. For all the progress in games as an art form and the struggles outside the medium to define a voice, there's a segment of those within hellbent on truthing for reasons, cracking awful "Five Guys Burgers And Fries" jokes and demanding a lensed "objectivity" be seen as "truth". But where does this bonkers streak of the gaming community come from?

Like all truther logic, gamer truthism makes internally consistent sense as long as you unfailingly accept a couple of axioms about the key people involved. Chief among them is the idea that gaming has been taken over by a shadowy and self-serving "scene", a co-ordinated commentariat which does nothing other than promote an agenda for its own financial gain, which moves to shut out all dissent, which keeps a majority silenced, and which has the potential - even the intent - to wreck video games. Once you believe that then the rest is just process.

One recent victim of that process is Zoe Quinn. Already targeted as a "social justice warrior" (this is what truthers sarcastically call those perceived to be in the scene) for having released a Twine game that some consider unworthy, Quinn is often interpreted as someone on the make. Since she made a game that’s clearly not worthy but somehow managed to gain attention, the truther says, she’s in cahoots. She hasn’t really done anything yet she’s managed to dupe all these fools into paying her rent via Patreon. She’s clearly just an expert at being a gaming celebrity.

So when her ex-boyfriend's extended revenge porn (and that's what it is, and all it is) appeared it was ammunition. Truthers repeatedly argue that the reason these disclosures are so relevant is because of "worthy" games not getting their due because of a duped media. It just happens to be that the result looks a lot like slut shaming, but the truthers maintain that what they really want is an objective debate. Feeling that they represent a silenced majority, the truthers think they have no choice but to tantrum. Someone who props herself up as representing something and whose personal life "revelations" have shown otherwise deserves to be called out (as they see it). All is as corrupt as they feared, but now they can prove it. 

Thus is "evidence" that is little more than confirmation bias and some twerp's jilted feelings getting shared far and wide. Thus do threats become rationalized. This isn’t about a "girl game designer", this is exposé. But actually that’s double-standard nonsense. It's reasonable to have a debate about the merits of any game, and Depression Quest is no exception. It's also reasonable to question the relationship between some game makers and the press. Peter Molyneux has been playing his banjo for his whole career and questions have long been raised about certain sections of the press giving him a pass where they wouldn’t for others. But here's the difference: people may love or loathe Peter Molyneux, but nobody's sending him death threats. Nobody's posting his personal photos for all the world to see. Nobody's lulz-threatening to rape him, phoning his mother and so on. 

Yet that's what Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Mattie Brice, Anna Anthropy and numerous others have to deal with. Regardless of what Joe thinks should be fair, some of Joe's friends do not play fair. Nobody’s calling David Cage a manwhore or doxxing his personal information by way of "truth" just because his storytelling games don’t live up to their hype. But I see incidents of same against women writers and game makers every damned day. That's why it's hard not to read many of the attacks etc as being sexualized. There is something about Zoe Quinn and her implanted computer that nettles truther-gamers over and above “objective debate”. 

But the Bizarro doesn’t stop there.  Where it gets properly weird is when the truthers start accusing the scene of concocting outrage. Where all the hacking, doxxing, shaming and particularly unfunny lulz are actually tricks being perpetrated by scene for attention. "These people are hacking themselves”, the truthers yell, “Look at this screenshot! Look at this transcript of a phone call from some guy. Look at this mis-capitalised header data from someone pretending to be from 4chan. All of this is made up! See the truth!" 

Thus are rape and  death threats actively dismissed and denied. Sarkeesian isn't threatened for real, don’t you know? She's doing that herself just to get attention. That kind of denial is in many ways just as bad as the threats themselves. Quite apart from the mad notion that a shadowy cabal would form in order to take down something so ordinary as the video game industry, the will to loathe seems so strong that it becomes entirely self-reinforcing.

It also says tons about how the truthers perceive the media. In their world the gaming media has lost its way. At some point there was a happy time when the gaming media used to exist in some more balanced state, when it wasn’t corrupted by The Man, nor by the industry, and could be seen to be honest journalism. Those days, supposedly, are gone. Cats are literally lying with dogs. All is now agenda. All is co-ordination. 

This is what motivates the Sarkeesian Effect people and their too-weird-for-clown-college video promising to make a journalistically sound investigation based on secret knowledge only they have. With a  staggering lack of self-awareness or parody (and, ironically, being funded on Patreon) we see this argument that journalism in games has gone awry and so what’s needed is gaming’s Loose Change. So the truthers will patch all their “evidence” together, say that it’s not really about sexism but instead about fighting to bring integrity back to a rotten state of Denmark, expose the scenesters who do nothing other than self-promote and fake attacks in order to fan the flames of their indignation, who’ll happily sleep with anyone that might get them ahead and help them make Patreon bank, and to do so against the backdrop of a luvvy and denialist media in the service of a maligned majority that for too long has been silenced. 

---

But the silent majority is not real. 

9/11 truthers assumed that they were fighting a fight on behalf of a silent majority too, but it never materialized. Indeed the belief to speak for many is pretty common with many groups that gather in the dark places on the Internet. Either that or groups that believe the sheeple need to be awoken. The outcome is much the same, and is all down to confirmation bias. As people find those of like minds in the online and actively converse with them on the same lines, it seems as though many are nodding in assent. It doesn’t really matter who or what a particular group stands for, sociologically speaking it’s always the same pattern. The group as a whole does not realize how fringe it actually is.

Another common trait with “silent majority” truthers is this: Coming to believe their narrative represents the consensus view, they then fail to see it reflected in the wider media. So they conclude that the media is in on the conspiracy for a variety of money/power/sex reasons and cannot be trusted. In our case we're seeing the emergence of “social justice warrior” blacklists, of saying that since the majority is not being fairly represented this means that activists have to do it for them. All is justified. Pogrom is justified. 

But that logic is just not credible. If the argument goes that the Internet supplanted television by giving room to thousands of new voices, it does not make sense to then apply a television interpretation to what’s going on online. You can say that TV is a mass organ that can be controlled (see: North Korea) but when the outlets multiply in their thousands control is just impractical any more. Even China, which expends a massive amount of effort every year (up to and including arresting, charging and imprisoning dissidents) can’t really manage it. Genuine truth gets out.

We live in an age where anyone can set up their own YouTube channel and reach 25 million people, where what was the rule one year is not the next. Where PR types spend all of their time running around after journalists and others and trying to seed stories/beg for attention rather than giving them talking points like (supposedly) goes on in places like Fox News. With the diffusion of media comes the finding of niches over mainstreams, of speciation. Thus it finds every kind of audience worth a click and caters to it. All agendas get heard as a result, regardless of how normative or bizarre.

So if you’re not seeing your viewpoint reflected anywhere except in in the bowels of 4chan and some isolated angry YouTubers that evoke widespread distaste, when the broad and disorganized commentariat is shaking its collective head at the madness, perhaps it’s time to consider that your assumption of a silent majority just isn’t real. That maybe you made it up in your head. Or if you still think that you do represent a silenced majority, perhaps you should do something real to prove it.

--

Guys, seriously. This prankish zealotry that's become your calling card harms your case. This truther nonsense makes you look like crazies. It's pushing you out, not reasserting your voice. It’s why nobody’s taking your questions seriously.

Your essential questions are about whether there’s a games scene, and whether that scene is ruining gaming. And what the roles of the media mean, meant or could mean in the future. So let’s speak plainly, absent the histrionics or the Five-Guys-isms. 

I work in the industry and know a bunch of people in it. No I’m not famous but I am friends with some folks that you think of as the scene. Yes there is a scene. Yes, there are some parties at PAX and GDC that you need to know people to get into. Yes there are people who have found and become friends with one another over the years, and yes those people come from all sides, be they media, developers, PR people, platform people, the list goes on. We’re all part of a loose club.

Big deal. What exactly do you suppose all of us being connected amounts to? The answer is “helpful connections”. “Scene” is just another word for groups of creators and related folks who meet and get to know one another, who like to hang out, to get drunk and swap war stories, who sometimes want to do that as equals rather than in rooms of fans. Scenes help each other, not because they’re all in cahoots but because they know how hard it is for anyone to get to that point. 

Your perception of the scene is that it constitutes one large circle of insiders that pushes everyone else out, but it’s not accurate either. People come and go from the scene all the time. There are plenty of people in the scene who don’t know each other, for example, and have never met. It’s all friends-of-friends. Similarly there are many aspects of the scene about which even some scenesters know little. I’m connected to the indie scene through some folks I know, but I’m also a member of  the Gaming Insiders group. I’d bet most of you have never heard of it. What is it? A bunch of games executives who talk all day long about the industry on email, many of whom have other connections to the scene.

Is the scene ruining gaming? No. The scene helps make gaming happen because it’s a support network. The scene helps all sorts of games find exposure and visibility, from Rock Paper Shotgun’s support of Minecraft through to certain advocates pushing for us to notice Depression Quest. It’s through the scene that developers like Vlambeer meet super-talented contractors that they then employ to help make Nuclear Throne. 

And what of the media? Well, frankly, you’re simply out of your mind if you think that the gaming media of yesteryear was somehow more noble than it is today. It used to be way way worse. Back when magazines ruled the roost, for instance, there were plenty of bought reviews in exchange for promised advertising, feature coverage and the like, and far less ways for those stories to get out. You forget that today you have all these networks like Reddit on which you can gather and hear the real skinny. Back then you didn't, and were duped far more often than now. 

Today’s gaming media has never been more active or honest. Through outlets like Giant Bomb, Kotaku, Destructoid, YouTubers and the like a multitude of voices can be heard. The communities that form around them are barely corralled (I mean this as a virtue). The amount of quick analysis, exposure, true feelings about games and the reduction of paid reviews and the like is palpable. The conversation has long stopped being anything like a co-ordinated press organ of previews, reviews and columns and instead become delightfully anarchic. Sure it’s still a bit slushy sometimes (I’m particularly worried about the ethical standards among YouTubers) but still.

You often seem to carry on with this wacky notion that media journalism is a form of reporting similar to news media, talking about how journalists should behave like hard-hitting Woodwards and Bernsteins, but seriously think. A lot of gaming journalism is essentially a benign form of marketing. Coverage of E3, for example, is just video’d enthusiasm and debate over infomercials. The bulk of articles on sites are positivist coverage of new games, and that’s what you actually want to read. It may sound great in principle to have some uncorrupted soul-searing journos on the beat for the truth, but this is video games. There isn’t much truth to be found.

So if the scene is real but benign, its connections largely a boon rather than a hindrance and the extent, quality and honesty of the media is vastly improved, where does that leave the truthing? Out in the cold. 

Depressing though it is for many of us inside the walls to watch you have your bonkers say through the #gamergate hashtag, bonkers is all that it is. "LOOK", you say, "SEE". And we look, and we see, and what we see is a sort of sad ranting on a virtual street corner about the perils of flouridation. We see lulz that really aren’t that funny and we see folks targeted for “justice” or “retribution” or something that amount to sending around private photos and exposing one side of a toxic relationship, and a crowing that this constitutes a victory of sorts. We wonder just how long it will be until this becomes a matter for law enforcement.

Rather than go that way, I’d say this to those of you who still feel aggrieved by a lack of a media voice: Start one. Set up your own media organ. Not some janky "tell all" blithering video, but your own serious gaming news site. Everyone else has, so why don't you? If you truly believe that your silent majority exists then create a site that provides the coverage that you think is missing. Set up your podcast to talk about your views on your terms and be the reporters that you think are absent. None of these things are hard to do, really just a matter of registering a blog on Wordpress.com and off you go. Try. Validate your perception of the silent majority and see how far you get. 

Maybe you’ll get quite far, who knows? Maybe you'll actually be a part of the conversation rather than feeling shut out. Maybe you'll see that your demons really aren't demons at all, that your shadowy and manipulative cabal intent on filleting games for its own ends is actually just a group of geeks making cool stuff. Who knows, maybe you'll even grow to enjoy what they do.

--

It being PAX weekend, it’s an odd time for this issue to have stirred once more. PAX is situated on the border of Seattle's downtown and Capitol Hill. Cap Hill is the gay neighborhood, the young neighborhood. Depending on your reading that might seem ironic, but I think not. Seattle is the Emerald City. Seattle is Nerdvana. Seattle is a city that is consistently ranked the most progressive (and in my experience, just plain best) in the United States. As a place for all the sundry of geek to gather, it's rather apt. 

There are many women at the event, a relatively good feel about what’s going on and (so far at least) not much about this argument boiling over into everyone's fun. There was mention of a protest, but it all came to nothing. Most people seem to be having fun watching games, playing games, cosplaying and whatever. 

It’s comforting in a way. Like many I've found the last two weeks hard going. The truthers have seemed to go completely mental and drag all of us through a particularly torrid sewer on a swell of indignation that feels out of place. Leigh Alexander’s been retweeting some of the terrible replies that she’s receiving every day. So has Anita Sarkeesian. So has Zoe Quinn. Between them and some others a persistent picture of man-lunacy has emerged that is all too believable on the one hand and all too ridiculous on the other.

Perhaps the most depressing part is how many good voices have expressed the sentiment that gaming doesn’t deserve the games it gets. That, unlike other media, our fans are this and only this. More than a few of us have mentally thrown up our hands. Phil Fish has decided to get out entirely, but I hope he changes his mind.  There's a lot of genuine hurt, not the callous "butthurt" that the lulzists (and for some reason, Adam Baldwin) claim, but genuine hurt. People taking to their beds, people being depressed, people saying the hell with it and thinking about going to work somewhere else. It's bad, worse than any time I can remember. 

But if you do feel that way, think on this:

The truthers are a small minority. Most people actually don’t think that it’s cool to drag Quinn’s failed relationship out into the public for all the world to gawp at. Most people agree with Sarkeesian when she says there are some aspects of gaming culture that should be questioned rather than being assumed to be the default. The Tea Party fizzled. The 9/11 truthers eventually just went away. The birthers ran out of steam. All such movements do. I can't guarantee that there won't be more incidents but this too will pass. 

I'm minded most encouragingly of this Buffy-themed tweet from Anita Sarkessian upon learning that Joss Whedon was in her corner: “I just realized something, something that really never occurred to me before. We're gonna win!” 

Indeed we will. 


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Comments


Un Subject
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To pull out just one point - I agree that a lot of gamers seem to think that games journalism should be high quality investigative-grade, but then turn on their AdBlock because they don't want to see the ads. And they certainly don't want to pay the site directly for what they get.

Lonnie Robinson
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Okay, I signed up here to speak my piece about this, and other articles appearing on Gamasutra.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/parker-marie-molloy/2013/10/15-crazy-ex
amples-of-insanely-ableist-language/

I'm going to use this as a starting point. Ableist and body-shaming language permeates this latest string of editorials by supposedly social justice-minded game journalists and supporters alike. I would even go so far as say I can't imagine this narrative existing without it.

Many gamers are introverse. Many gamers are on the autism spectrum. Many gamers suffer from social anxiety disorders. Many gamers have physical health-related issues with which they struggle every day. When you invoke stereotypes of gamers and include words like "lazy", "shut in", "socially awkward", "emotionally/socially stunted" or even "retarded" as some have, "ugly", "fat", "virginal", "unygienic", or as this author has "crazy", you are trivializing the real struggles against which gamers -- not just white, cisgendered, heterosexual males, but ALL people who play games -- face on a day-to-day basis, and capitalizing on their lack of privilege.

You're harming the people for which you're claiming to stand up, as collateral. This needs to stop.

When you engage in body-shaming and ableism in the name of inclusiveness and acceptance, and intersectional feminism, you have a serious problem. I'd go so far as to say it's emblematic of the very grievances levied against you. Shame on you.

James Morgan
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Thank you for writing this article. I found it to be very well written and I am glad to see such a rational, well thought out response to the chaos that has been going on of late.

No matter what happened or didn't happen with the parties originally involved, having what was effectively a campaign of hatred and terror waged against them was a totally irrational and inappropriate response.

Timmy GILBERT
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The sad truth is that some will see this rhetoric and see irony, what we call facts they call delusions and what we call delusions they call facts. This is something you could see happening in some comments in gamasutra recently, where some people where thinking enough of the "sjw" judging by the number of likes of some comments, some going as far as telling this kind of things never had brought anything goods. This is not true however, every times there was a rant video games had evolved, casual, serious, social, f2P, indie, all started with people venting frustation, and all of those have deeply change video games and shaken its traditional foundation. We are just on the threshold of a new evolution that will shaken how we see video games.

BTW what's happening now with "SJW" is the same thing when "modern" indie was created, aka if you are not indie fuck you ... ie carving a place where you aren't welcome until you became "normal". That's what the Leigh piece is all about. I don't get why so many people were so uppity about defending "gamers" ... where were they when real peoples needed defense instead of dismissing the reality of this happening? Most "gamers" remained silent when a part of them were abused for being different, they let the fringe appropriate the gamer term. I have no qualm letting the term dies in a fire. Remember when the term SJW was a derogatory term.

In the end it is about justifying the values behind the rhetoric, and in the end I value people more than games.

Make love NOTGAMES.

Cal Rd
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There is something that makes no sense about any point Anita makes. The violence and sexuality of women is questioned; so why is not all violence, all sexualisation, the problem with video games? For the line of thought to make sense, the argument should turn to banning 18+ or R-rated games, because surely, if a video game was to produce misogynistic thoughts or actions in someone then any seen violence would lead down the same path.

Why was Jack Thompson then, as a white male, shown such vitriol for his argument that violent video games would cause children to become, and act more violent? Gamers everywhere united to argue against him, that games such as GTA were harmless - but suddenly the narrative has switched and they do have damaging implications for society?

Tadhg Kelly
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Actually she does question that quite a lot, but points out how the presentation of that violence is often different per gender.

fred tam
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She doesn't. Mostly she omits pertinent information. The sheer amount of deaths to male characters in games like hitman or any others is just dismissed by her because again, its not about being honest. Using her style of cherry picking you could easily just point out the vast disparity in the number of male vs female deaths to claim mass misandry in games and culture.

Thiago Conceicao
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Your insistence in characterizing the media criticism as "fringe" is another variant of the "angry white male" stereotype. Games have always been social and about inclusion. Check the hashtag and you will find people of all origins there.

The real problems for more access to videogames aren't addressed at all by the sjw (games are expensive and few can afford them). Instead it seems that people are more worried about pushing an ideology.

I am tired of people referring to me as POC and using it to further this twisted ideology of exclusion. I never gave anyone authorization to do so.

BTW, in any group there will be bad apples. In football there are the so called hooligans, that go to stadiums with the express purpose of starting up fights and vandalizing property. It doesn't invalidate the sport or good football fans.

Finally, you don't get to decide what a gamer is or what it means. You are not kings and we are not your subjects.

Timmy GILBERT
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That would be true if you could not be less wrong, a quick google show that many of those so called social justice are involve in many initiative to bring games to the many, starting by blogs to make games, by pushing technology and format accessible to everyone and funding camp to help people get into the art.

Along this process they are silenced, harassed and ultimately fight back because they love what they do, aka sharing the love. They aren't pushing agenda just defending their right to be there when they are pushed toward the exits.

Marcelo Careaga
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"The real problems for more access to videogames aren't addressed at all by the sjw (games are expensive and few can afford them)" That's sort of rich taking into account that most of the games produced by indie developers that can be considered to be inside the "sjw" banner are actually very cheap or free. You know, like the one that actually started this whole "controversy".

The ideology of exclusion you refer to has been in vogue for many years directed towards anyone that does anything outside of the realm of what's known for "core gamers". Think about casual games, the Wii, social games, mobiles games, social issue games, alt games... all have been attacked and reviled by the so called "true gamers" time and time again, with arguments that have been very divisive.

"They are not even gamers"
"They are not even games"
"They are destroying the industry"
"They are not worth of being in the industry, even"

Yes, in every group there are bad apples. Among people that play games and enjoy them there are bad apples too. The problem is that they are very vocal and much more prevalent than in other types of media where the mainstream is bigger so the crazies less noticeable.

And what's a gamer...? Nobody gets to decide what a gamer means, except the ones that identify as gamers, as a group. For many of us that play games as a way of life and that even create games, identifying ourselves as part of a group with these... associations is painfully not an option anymore.

John Osborne
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I'm a PoC, and I hate - absolutely abhor - the term "Person of Color". Yet it's the best, mot inclusive term we have at the moment, but it's just so bad and easy to lump together.

In fact - in most of these cases - to me the problem is more class than race, or a lack of reflective representation despite a majority of console owners being PoC, (which actually have a LOT to do with both class and race, btw, and is the seedy underbelly of the whole PC Master Race stuff).

While games have "alwayss been social and about inclusion", a segment of gaming culture has decided it isn't. "Why are you bringing gender/race/sexual preference/religion into this?" because they don't understand that representation can mean something to a player, and that variety and inclusiveness helps this rather than not.

We can keep telling the same Campbellian story that blockbusters sell straight white males, and let gaming get sort of monochromatic and boring, or we can seek out new stories from many a different cultural background, and take risks on something new.

The game that brought the latest controversy is free, speaks to a mental illness, and ddeveloped by two person team of a man and a woman. Somehow it gets lumped into this wworld of "not a game" and the personal lives of the woman becomes evidence of corruption.

Despite having a quick glance at metacritic to find that no reviews have been written about this game, much less positive ones.

Thiago Conceicao
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Who are these people? Who is stopping you from making anything?

Create the games, let the market decide. People will buy what they like. Simple.

So what's the problem? The problem is the ideologues want to dictate how people are supposed to think. They were told to go f*** themselves, and that's why we have articles like this.

Did anyone from the press wrote criticism on Anita Sarkesian's work? Answer that question and you will start seeing what is wrong with the press.

The biggest limiting factor for expanding the audience is the price of the machines (a good PC or console or iPad) that are still luxury items and out of reach for many. Once people in 3rd world countries have access to those things, games would naturally get more diverse, gradually and over time as more people become developers.

The industry is majoritarily white and US-centric because that's where it started. And that's the group of people it appealed to first.

No need for paranoia or ideologies. Let the market decide what is best.

I am of the opinion that anyone behind this "diversity" crusade are just power tripping, and get angry because gamers aren't buying into it.

Adam Bishop
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"The real problems for more access to videogames aren't addressed at all by the sjw (games are expensive and few can afford them). Instead it seems that people are more worried about pushing an ideology."

Everybody has ideology. "Games should do a better job of representing women" is ideology and so is "The real problem of access is the cost of games" and so is "Why can't we just play games without talking about politics?"

Ideology is not shorthand for "things I disagree with." Any argument that boils down to "the people I disagree with have ideology but I am rational and do not" is a sign that a person is not being honest with themself about their own biases or beliefs.

Thiago Conceicao
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One is objectively verifiable, therefore not an ideology, the other is not. I am not trying to convince others of it, it is a quantifiable fact. Is U$ 100,00 for one game reasonable? That's how much it costs in some countries.

On the other hand, SJW want to convince everyone that there's a racist conspiracy in gaming.

That's not my experience and as you can see in the #GamerGate hashtag, there are several individuals from many different origins saying the same thing.

Adam Bishop
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"Some people can not afford video games" is an objective fact. "The real problem is ___" is a subjective belief.

Tadhg Kelly
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To be clear: This argument is about gaming's truthers, which is a small subset of the large group calling itself gamers. I have no issue with all the moderate gamers out there.

Ben Sizer
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I'm sceptical of reducing the so-called conspiracy problem down to one of "is there a scene". I think it's more about whether people feel that they can trust the media to be unbiased (or at least, to disclose any potential bias) in the presence of such a scene. As you rightly say, things are no worse now than they were before (does anybody remember the RAM Raider blog, for instance? http://ramraider.blogspot.co.uk/) and from the point of view of someone who welcomes deep and subjective thought about games, this sort of critical coverage seems perfectly fine. But a lot of people don't really care for this, and certainly not for periodic opinion pieces that (whether intentionally or not) make them feel like bad people for liking certain games. They basically want media to be a buyer's guide to whatever is coming on to the market, and they want that guide to not be swayed by personal relationships between writers and makers. I think that may be a little idealistic on their part, but I don't think it's an unreasonable thing to /want/.

And I'm not sure that it makes sense to, on one hand, say Sarkeesian's work is "cultural criticism", but then on the other hand support the idea that it's actually a battle that she is "gonna win!" When I think of cultural criticism I don't think of it as some sort of warfare that is attempting to change that culture or the people within it. But that seems to be what this is - and to the angry hordes, it is seemingly backed up by the writers that are not only less objective than some would wish, but seem actively to be involved in this 'war on Gamers' (with a capital G). So it's not surprising that these people feel a need to aggressively defend what they see as 'their' hobby. The only thing that surprises (and disappoints) me are the lengths to which they go to, and the self-delusion that many enter into in the process - but those are separate issues, I feel, with separate solutions that aren't anything to do with perceived cronyism.

Tadhg Kelly
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I read the "battle" bit as being about the abuse reactions.

Josh Neff
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Attacking Gamers is nothing more than yet another convenient scape goat. It is something to Other-ize. Something to declare "the enemy" without addressing the issue... gamers have already been through one demonization within recent history ... and somehow, we managed to pull through it... and now, because some disruptive minority group that self identifies as "Gamers", that whole category of people is to be demonized? Would you like me to wear a star of David on my chest too? How can anyone not see this as purely stupidly wrong?

If there are disruptive elements within society, by all means, go after them... I'd be among the first few to denounce wrong doings... but trying to punish the vast majority of innocent gamers for the misdeeds of a small few is folly.

nicolas mercier
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What punishment are you talking about?

Adam Bishop
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"Would you like me to wear a star of David on my chest too?"

Uh oh, he's onto us! It may look like we're asking people to engage in some calm introspection about how they portray women, but our real goal is genocide!

Tadhg Kelly
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Again, the article is about the small band of truthers and gamergaters, not gamers in general.

Kujel Selsuru
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I have an issue with claiming the problem is gamer culture. Gamers as I define them are nerds/geeks so people into video games, sci-fi, fantasy, science, tech are not a hateful group generally but can be prevoked. Gamers were always the people who as kids where picked on and found escape in these fanciful worlds so when some people start attacking our safe place we get mad. A very small minority may even cross the line and do things they shouldn't, like say doxxing someone but it was not the entire group that did it.

Gamers are used to being picked on outside of gaming but to have outsiders come in and try and uproot things to suit their world view is more then a little enraging, espcially when the outsider's claims are outright false or extremely exagerated. Even worse is when the people you thought should be on your side as they claim to love gaming like you start taking the outsider's stance.

Actually do some research and find out the truth cause it's not pretty for either side. Yes some gamers have at various points said some really appalling things but on the otherside the press has covered up their misconduct while also giving legitimacy to a known con artist. If more people had even looked in to these people and events a little more closely it would have never gotten this far.

RJ McManus
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This article is truly excellent. Thank you.

Amir Barak
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"If you saw an otherwise hilarious movie that took 30 seconds out to go on a diatribe against black people, "
So, a movie about Martin Luther King featuring a 30 second diatribe by a racist would make the entire movie racist. Hilarious...

Hey you know what, I just pointed a fallacy in one of your sentences. I guess your entire article is wrong.

The point to take is that everything is about context.

Tadhg Kelly
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The point to take is that not everything is equivalent, nor a matter of degree.

Amir Barak
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You make fun of people's acceptance of particular axioms. Yet partake in the same exercise (albeit with different axioms) and no proof either way.

You make the claim that "truthers" (whatever they are) think they work for the silent majority yet act as a minority. But isn't that the same for you and Leigh and Zoe and Anita? Who are you speaking for if not the "silent majority". What makes you think the silent majority gives a f*** at all?

You use insults to address people yet claim the highroad. Like with most of the recent rash of "writing" on the subject it diminishes your credibility.

All in all I think Anita is doing excellent work and I hope the people threatening her will be caught and brought to justice. I think Depression Quest is a crappy "game" and I think Gone Home is a crappy "game". I've never played any of the Hitman games. And (coming from the family history that I have) I have zero respect for any person cheating on another.

And finally, while it's true that (for example) Nathan's breakfast contents bear very little on his public image; if he sleeps with a game dev it should be public knowledge even if he doesn't write about their game. Because his public image is tightly connect to the indie scene (like it or not).

Perry de Havilland
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"You make fun of people's acceptance of particular axioms. Yet partake in the same exercise (albeit with different axioms) and no proof either way"

Exactly. *Everyone* operates within a particular meta-context, which is to say a set of unspoken axioms within which they frame quite literally every opinion they hold about anything. Indeed it is a characteristic of all critiques that they are preaching to the meta-contextual choir. This is true in spades for Marxist critiques.

That is why I find it very hard to give a damn about Sarkeesian or Quinn or frankly almost any of the people a certain ilk of games journalists think matter. Now I admit I have only read a few things by both of the people I mention, because my eyes glazed over pretty quickly due to the ChomskyBot quality of the prose, but mostly it is because whilst I understand the meta-context that informs them, I do not share it.

Hell, the fact I am even replying with a comment on the topic means it is a very slow day in my neck of the woods, because I just don't lose any sleep about the things they profess to care about. And this may or may not be because on any particular issue I disagree with them (I too think over-sexualised characters are undesirable, though almost certainly not for the same reasons the people being discussed do), but because I don't actually think it matters. I am sure even if games developers in certain parts of the First World shun the Chainmail Bikini and High Heeled Army Boot tropes, the glory that is capitalism will ensure that market niche gets filled elsewhere, where the cultural mores are rather more 'robust'.

And that is just fine by me, as my meta-context is a Trotsky-Free Zone when it comes to assumptions about the role of the arts and the role of business. I might not buy such games but then I refuse to buy a great many things on either aesthetic grounds, or because I just dislike a given business model and would rather not help it along. The truth is once you get outside the current very transient establishment of games journalists, Sarkeesian and Quinn et al are not just largely irrelevant, they are pretty much unknown. And that is also just fine by me.

David Canela
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Good article.
One thing, though, and this has come up several times, recently:

Comparisons with the gaming media of the past are a bit of a cheap trick. I'm not aware if that's what the Quinnspiracy people say they are yearning for. But in general, the correct question should be if games journalism is good the way it is and if some things should be improved, and not whether it's better than some deplorable state some time ago.

As somebody pointed out, it's silly to whine about the media and then use Adblock etc. I'm not taking a stance on the state of game journalism here, which I think has improved greatly. But as an avid debater myself, this kind of misleading line of reasoning (you say A is bad? B is much worse, so don't critizise A!) just irks me.

Tadhg Kelly
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I meant more the interpretation is wrong. The argument is that the media as a whole is controlled, but that doesn't stand up to even the most cursory examination. Since this article appeared for example, Brietbart also wrote has take. I personally consider his stance pretty repellent, but nobody's stopped him from doing so and it's been shared widely.

Zak Guthrie
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I've seen people use the gamergate hashtag for various different meanings- what do you think of every single gaming website saying "gamer/games culture is dead" for example-I mean I would never call myself a gamer- becuase it has always been a dumb word- but something is icky to me about everyone on these sites coming together in what COULD be reprieved as a fairly anti-consumer sentiment. All these articles I'm reading about this seem to imply people who play games are sexist wastes of skin, while game journalists and developers are flawless beacons of ethics- er, to exaggerate mind you. I thought gamergate was about that as well?

News is also spreadingabout a colleague of yours on this site being demoted immediately after writting a fairly balanced "Maybe media and consumers should try to get along again" article- I do hate to sound like the conspiracy theorist, but this is kind of fishy. Any thoughts on this? Do people get demoted of gamasutra often?

Marcelo Careaga
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Many people has been talking about the "gamer" label being wrongly used and problematic for many years. I remember all the talk that was in some communities about the usage of "hardcore gamer" before too... I guess I don't see the surprise.

About why all those articles at the same time... they all come from a shared sentiment, shared opinions and conversations on Twitter and other public forums, not from a conspiracy. You don't have anything to do but to read the public comments of people that wrote them to see that.

Also, nice "news are spreading", but you know this is not an official Gamasutra article, but just a blog post, right? And that anybody can write one?

Zak Guthrie
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I realize "gamers" usage has always been under scrutiny- but never really by people with influence.
I have two things I dislike about this. One being that a lot of the people decrying it are game journalists, the same group who, years ago, popularized the term, which seems at least slightly hypocritical. None of these people are bringing this up or taking responsibility, they seem to be laying it all on a vague group of people... whose advertising dollars they still profit from.

Secondly what I mentioned before, it seems anti-consumer/reader like an insult to anyone who plays games- or plays games regularly, or whatever gamer used to mean. Do you see where I'm coming from? I ask because I realize I may be making no sense at all lol

I don't know much about gamasutra to be honest- but I thought there was something to the expert blogger thingy and featured posts. I'm a bit confused about all of it, so maybe I did refer to these things incorrectly?

fred tam
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Sorry state?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJf6sFThGbs
ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_K13iEWQfY
It directly involves your site because of Leigh Alexander.
Which is why coverage has been so one sided, and that's what gamers have a legitimate grievance about.

There is no "white male privilege" in gaming.
http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/822/212/e49.jpg
If western women would take note from their japanese counterparts they might have already had a thriving industry in both gaming and comics already, instead of having to spend their time complaining about the sexiness of virtual characters in male orientated games.

What was Anita saying?

Anita Sarkeesian's narrative Debunked in Under a Minute
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW-69xXD734

Dear NoelPlum99: Anita Sarkeesian and Trolling
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m_zV3K3KNQ

And its not one rejoinder that her videos cherry pick, that's all she does.
And as usual, thunderf00t really slams her on this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57tXyqPCOCM
"Anita Sarkeesians 'death threats' and Joss Whedons 'misogyny'! "
And as you can see, using her method of "criticism" you can paint joss whedon himself as misogynistic. When something is that distorted, that slanted, that unfair and that propagandistic, you don't get to excuse that level of argument by calling it cultural criticism.

Trying to conflate gamers who are concerned with corruption and lack of concern for critical thinking and facts in games media with "truthers" aka conspiracy theorists really just is not justifiable. The connections within this industry are simply fact. The bad dealings are fact, the back of concern for honesty within videos made by Anita Sarkeesian are just fact. But since the media is working together in a corrupt way, only one side of the story is told, and this is a problem, it has nothing to do with "truthers".

What is wrong with being skeptical about the claims of death threats? When "I receive death threats all the time" becomes part of a person's case about there being misogyny in the gaming community, then that claim deserves scrutiny like the others.The number of so called "bad gamers" or "harassers" is so small that its hard to justify anything these people have said about us. Just calculate it out, according to industry numbers, ~200 million gamers just in the US, even discounting half and ignoring the rest of the world, that's 100 million gamers, and how many supposed threats? I'll be generous and just say the two victimhood queens got 100 between them, that's a % of 0.0001% of the population is a "problem". Compare that to other things to put this in context, a full 7.7% of african americans are felons according to the felony disenfranchisement numbers. Yet we all know that if someone started off any conversation with a black person with a lecture on crime, that would be patronizing bigotry, yet with so far smaller a number of gamers being a problem, we get lectured endlessly, and that just tells us how unfair our opposition is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57tXyqPCOCM
"Anita Sarkeesians 'death threats' and Joss Whedons 'misogyny'!

And again, as this video shows, even Jack Thompson received death threats. Hell, even thunderf00t himself does. Lets not pretend this is being made more of an issue than it is based on the fact that this is about professional victimhood. Its about benevolent sexism, and a type of misguided chivalry which is being perpetuated within certain circles.

And lets be honest about Anita. The reason why she takes such unreasonable positions and will never concede anything, is not because she believes in what she's saying, but because its her job. This isn't her side gig, its her job, the second she can't say she's outraged is the second she ceases to be employed, so she will always find something to complain about, no matter how dishonest. And its why she's stretched out her video series so long, she only gets paid as long as this continues, so she's motivated to do anything, no matter how vile to keep it going, and its time people called her on it. Even now I'm sure her patreon is at something like 2.7k a month, just for doing nothing but playing victim, and that will continue and perhaps grow the more she crys about her victimhood, its all very disturbing. When people ask why would she make up such things, well, she's got 2.7k reasons why, never mind the 160k. Zoe herself is at 2k at least on patreon.
Dear NoelPlum99: Anita Sarkeesian and Trolling
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m_zV3K3KNQ

So its not hard to see why she does what she does, she incites problems because that's what allows her to drag her video series out, the longer she drags it out, the more money she gets, and the longer she stays "employed". The only way for her to remain relevant is for her to instigate eruptions of controversy, and she does this with her inflammatory dishonesty, all the while blocking comments and criticisms to insight more anger. Its really just genius. You can call her many things, but you can't say her tactic isn't smart.

Lets not pretend the critics don't have legitimate grievances.


Here's a run down of some relevant sources on this.
#Gamergate Gamers Are Dead? No They Are Just Furious
GamingAnarchist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KuS979AiQA


This Week in Stupid - XL Gamer Edition! (31/08/2014)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_K13iEWQfY


Quinnspiracy Theory: The Five Guys Saga
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5-51PfwI3M

Quinnspiracy Theory: In-N-Out Edition
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKmy5OKg6lo


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km3DZQp0StE
"Quinnspiracy Theory: White Castles and Ivory Towers"




Honey Badger Radio: Zoe Quinn and Feminist Mean Girls
karen straughan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuFSMi5G3R4


Honey Badger Radio: Quinnspiracy II, Electric Boogaloo
karen straughan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIy4TfwK0cQ

Anita's Police Debacle: Something Doesn't Add Up
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQF7p08q6-4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irB8eZJFc70
Anita Sarkeesian and the BITCHY tweets
Thunderf00t



#Gamergate | Mangaminx & Luetin Discuss
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-rnW8XjQnE


Shitaku Stream
by InternetAristocrat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpwyEq_m0zc


The Zoe Quinn Saga: A Timeline and Analysis
Frank Gamer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUw_PWtX5m8

What motivates sarkeesian effect people? Perhaps her dishonesty? She claims her videos are up to an academic standard, fit for the educational system, but by any honest reviewer, its so far from an academic standard one has to question the credibility of someone who would make that claim, and then put out the product they did. These aren't critiques based on "secret knowledge" these are critiques based on critical thinking and fact checking. If all the media defended creationist "science" evolutionists would have every right to be upset, and that's basically the situation today with the people arguing with Sarkeesian, which is uncritically protected by the media.

Its notable how fact and "debunking" free this article is, its just a constant attempt to frame the opposition as nutters, and again, that is exactly the problem gamers are having with the media these days. You don't address the criticisms, because you can't.

Links on Anita's long record of dishonesty
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW-69xXD734
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6gLmcS3-NI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MQuEjiU2KQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqJCCnued6c
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwwFx-tz9TY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUxcLxClQ08
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9Ju-1I1DTU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpFk5F-S_hI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lERF9q40iS0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrOMP0hJPxA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7nO9F7okbo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hie1UFUdSRk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gHJ_cHr5hA
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQJW3WMsx1q3BAZh3XsK1cSwCiaqjSulc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAHt7RG67Ok
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMaObXKJDbs
On why in actuality there are more male protagonists in games and media.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5L2MBPBl3I
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etZRsZP64Xg

nicolas mercier
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why the heck are you so defensive about that. Did she name you in the videos? Did she say you were a loser or a liar or dishonest? Did she call you names? Personally? Did she discredit you, prefessionally? Why do you spend so much time trying to establish that she is wrong?
Because all of that, actually, YOU do to her. You have serious issues. You should talk to people.


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