This controversy first appeared shortly after I started this blog, and initially I didn’t write about it because A) it seemed for more oriented on smaller games than major MMOs and franchises like The Elder Scrolls, B) It was initially rather hard to actually get a handle on what it was all about and C) I did not want to start off on a note of politics.
TMC and Forbes have both had very good – if quite different – takes on the issue, and elements of both I agree with.
I suppose its best to take these issues piece by piece, so here goes:
In regard to Quinn’s alleged cheating and the larger issue of corruption in the gaming press.. I honestly do not really give a shit. Much of the gaming ‘media’ does not really have a fucking clue what it’s talking about, and are ‘journalists’ to about the same degree as I am – they’re just people exercising Freedom of the Press – which, by the way, is what blogging falls under, not Freedom of Speech, but that’s neither here nor there.
Back when Elder Scrolls Online was coming out – right before, or right after – there was a regular YouTube game reviewer who roundly criticized the game for various reasons.. actually there were a lot of these, but I’m thinking of one in particular and actually finding the same video again is beyond my skills. While a few of his criticisms had merit, the vast majority amounted to “This game is awful because it does not slavishly obey my ideas of what an MMO should have”, and many of his criticisms were either fundamentally inaccurate or contradicted each other. It wasn’t so much “have you actually PLAYED the game” so much as it was obvious that he had made up his mind beforehand that it would be awful, and set out to confirm it.
Then, I noticed a second, shorter video from him and I watched it, seeing as it was short. This second video only touched on ESO, but it related to responses to the first video where people had pointed out the problems with his coverage. His second video amounted to “Don’t blame the gaming press for bad reviews! It isn’t our fault games suck!”
No, it isn’t, but it is the fault of the gaming press that the gaming press sucks. Not all of it, of course. EVE has some of the best gaming press out there, Tamriel Foundry is a wonderful site for ESO, and people like HuskyStarCraft who specialize in a single game, or Dodger Leigh who is just a genuinely nice person and doesn’t talk down to her audience.
Unfortunately, however, most of the “gaming media” does talk down to their audience, and often hilariously badly becuase for the most part the gaming media has no idea what it’s talking about. Huge swathes of material is written as if the reader had never played anything beyond Candy Crush (or Pac Man if you’re my age) and needs the game explained in complete basics, and when you do get more in-depth material such as the aforementioned YouTube video you are hard-pressed to find someone who is not simply pompously blathering on in order to hear himself talk. If the point of gaming media is to give us some idea of what is out there so we don’t have to play every game ourselves just to decide if we like it, then it’s defeating itself by burying anything remotely useful or intelligent under barrels and barrels of hogwash.
As to Quinn herself, who she does or does not fuck and her “wallow in your psychological issues game” of Depression Quest really don’t concern me in the least. For that matter, I have a pretty hard time taking the “threats” against her seriously and while I think they’re pretty appalling, they are made by internet tough guys. Yes, one might be a nut and follow through, but if he’s that nuts, he’s eventually going to try to kill someone somewhere anyhow and this would just be the convenient excuse. Internet Tough Guys, however, are the internet version of the guy that likes to act like Billy Badass at the local bar but shuts right up when the cops walk in. I know Billy Badass because I’ve arrested him quite a few times. Yes, people are making horrible threats on the internet. Some of them use the phone, or do various electronic attacks.. because they’re anonymous. They are not going to firebomb your house, Zoe.
Now, on to the next part. My lack of sympathy for Zoe is heavily informed by the Fine Young Capitalists angle, especially after hearing an interview of one of them on Honey Badger Radio. While they call themselves “radical feminists” I found him to be quite articulate and reasonable – and if anyone is inclined to dismiss that (lengthy) interview because ZOMG antifeminst MRA misogynist apologists!! well.. you’re part of the reason you see these people making incoherent ranting threats. Feminism, and the left in general, are so used to shouting down everyone that disagrees with them by inventing some new form of bigotry to label them with that there’s often no point in rational discourse. Some of these people evidently feel they may as well troll and make vile threats because hell, if they typed well-thought-out arguments, logically presented they’d still get called misogynist assholes.
Zoe decided, evidently, to get into a controversy with the FYC’s over their alleged treatment of transgendered folks. Essentially it came down to the FYCs wanting a way to determine if people who “identified as female” really did, or were just males trying to get in on the contest for some reason. Anyone who does not think this is a problem.. try playing EVE. If you PLAY EVE and think this is not a problem, I’d like you to know it’s safe to autopilot your neutral freighter through CFC Sov space, too. Please, by all means; the space highway is a public service.
Finally, there is the whole Social Justice Warrior/Ignorant Geek comparison, and the “misogyny” and so forth.
#GamerGate has plenty of misogynistic comments, but actual misogynists are… pretty rare. In fact, they’re pretty rare anywhere, much like actual racists are near-nonexistent anymore. You can still find residual racist effects that are the product of past racism (poverty among minorities is generational, and hard for families to get out of; it is not a result of active discrimination right now.) and you can find occasional misogyny and sexism, but real bigots are the boogyman these days. These people are not misogynists, they’re trolls, and if you’re a feminist, you’re very vulnerable to this kind of trolling.
This habit, in fact, of simply assigning a label as a hater to anyone you disagree with and never acknowledging social progress of any kind has become part and parcel of leftist politics ever since the 1980s when the Women’s movement and Civil Rights movement had had about 20 years to have an effect. In the mid-late 1980s, society was very much turning a corner on many of these issues – but social change is gradual, and like a parent that is still telling a kid who is old enough to drive that bed time is 9:00, the left hasn’t noticed. Instead, it’s substituted newer and ever-more-absurd sensitivities to try to keep the political capital of fighting for the oppressed alive. This is where we get the Anita Sarkeesians of the world – they are professional umbrage-takers who contribute absolutely nothing to society except to cover their personal hypersensitivity with a veneer of science and research and then loudly and moralistically preach about it.
This is what gets people labelled as Social Justice Warriors, and speaks to a problem highlighted in the Forbes article above – the gaming press, and most of the organized discussion on this issue is driven by a heavy leftist bias. Unfortunately, the #GamerGate supporters deserve their own share of blame for totally failing to get organized, not only meaning no effective counter has been made, but also not getting the aforementioned trolls and Internet Tough Guys to shut the fuck up.
What’s unfortunate is that moderate, or even liberal but reasonable voices like Dodger Leigh’s get sucked into the overall umbrella of “feminist” because people actually still think feminism ever had anything to do with equality – which it doesn’t. It has to do with “equal rights” which is great, except that “equal rights” means equal responsibilities, and feminists have studiously avoided that. One need only look at the Duke or UVA rape scandals to see examples.
People like Dodger are really egalitarians, not feminists, despite what the definition of a feminist is in the dictionary. It’s pretty much impossible that as inherently gynocentric a word as “feminist” would ever actually be about equality; claiming that it is is sort of like opening up Das Kapital and claiming that’s how communism actually works in practice.
The other side of this is the idea of games as a “male space” that need to be more “female friendly”. The Forbes article, again, says it best, and I’ll quote:
I’ve heard from many readers claiming they have no problem with more women and gay people represented in games; they simply don’t want every game to be critiqued based on these factors. I’ve heard from others who readily admit that they miss the days when games were more male-centric. One reader emailed to say that he has no problem with women, but video games were a nice boys club of sorts, a refuge from women where the boys could play for a while undisturbed.
For quite a few people, any “boy’s club” means something reminiscent of the Tailhook Scandal. It’s something do be dismantled because no doubt those boys are sitting around being.. well, boys, and probably in a sexist manner! This attitude isn’t limited to feminists; quite a few moderate and even anti-feminist people are all to quick to decry a “boy’s club” despite the fact that any “girl’s club” of any sort is generally accepted universally. My local model railroader’s club is also a “boy’s club” but it does not need to be “more accessible to women”, and neither does gaming.
What needs to happen is that women who want to game need to adjust themselves to gaming culture. In fact, women who genuninely like games do exactly that – and that does not mean be subservient or accept sexism as the norm; it means be there for the game, not for the social justice. Dodger Leigh is one such woman. Anita Sarkeesian isn’t.
Most “sexism in gaming” comes down to that – nongamers and liberals who just can’t let it go. Probably a lot of people think I’m some sort of reactionary after this. I’m not. I work with women in the most traditional-male environments there are; law enforcement and the military, and women certainly belong there. Women belong in gaming too, but this is not the 19th Century. We do not need to sanitize male environments for female sensibilities, or those that want only to criticize from the outside anyhow.