In the wake of Brianna Wu and her studio dropping out of PAX East, I find myself talking about #GamerGate again. But I’m going to level with you denizens of the internet. I’m tired. I’m very tired. I’m tired of the death threats and the doxxing and the fact that the community that I looked at as a family, the community that brought me in when I felt like an outcast, now feels like something profoundly unwelcoming and dangerous.
And so… I’m going to approach this in a different way. I’m not going to make claims about #GamerGate. I’m not going to point out flaws or talk about inconsistencies or even try to make arguments about what each side wants. I, who consider myself anti-GamerGate, am simply going to post a list of things I want for the future of the gaming industry. Then you can tell me what you want and maybe… maybe… we can get close to a resolution in what I consider to be one of gaming’s darkest times.
I want safety for everyone, gamer or not, even if you don’t like them.
The first thing I want, when all of this is over, is to make gaming safe again. That means no more death threats. No more swatting. No more doxxing. We aren’t going to agree with each other all the time. That’s actually what makes humanity so interesting. But disagreements cannot put someone’s personal life at risk. This applies to both sides of the argument. People should be free to have whatever unpopular opinion they like without fear of physical retaliation. I want gaming to feel safe again, for everyone. Not just for a privileged few.
I want the industry to be able to critique itself, even if you don’t agree with it.
I do not want you to agree with Anita Sarkeesian. You can think whatever you want about her. But I want the permission for people like her to exist. I want people to be able to look at our industry, and criticize it, once again without fear of retaliation that will severely damage their lives, or the lives of those around them. I’m OK with you saying she is wrong, and crazy, and that she completely misses the point. I may not agree with you, but it is your right to criticize her, because she is part of the industry. Just like it is her right to criticize the industry. Frankly, it’s scary to me to think that we would want an industry that could never be criticized. When things cannot be criticized, they never change, and the feeling of a society that threatens physical harm over criticism makes me think of dictatorships, not gaming communities.
I want more equal representation of all types of people in games.
People call me an SJW like it’s some horrible thing. In reality, I’m just asking for things I’d like to see. I’m not saying there have to be fewer straight white males in gaming. But I want to see more main characters that are people of color, more main characters that are women, more main characters that are queer. Hell, what about a main character that is disabled? At the very least, wouldn’t this be interesting? At most you are giving icons and heroes to whole groups of people that are underrepresented. I don’t want women in games to stop wearing skimpy clothes. I just want men to wear clothes that are as skimpy, about as often. I don’t want men to stop being muscly war heroes. I just want to see women take that role just as often. I want everyone to have everything. I want you to have the games you like and already enjoy, and I want a bunch of new games to come out, that I and more people who think like me enjoy, and then everyone can enjoy gaming. That’s a good thing,right?
I want game journalism to abide by ethical practices, beyond what has been discussed in the #GamerGate debate.
Game journalism has some problems with ethics. Whenever I go to review events and talk with journalists from other outlets, I get these horrible stories about how they are paid something abysmal like .2 cents a word, or nothing at all! I get told how people have to pay for their own games to review, and then they don’t get to keep them! I get told about people who are forced to work on holidays, forsaking time with their families, under the constant duress of possibly being fired. I get told how editors change around review scores and force people to review games they have barely even played, and even then I’ve heard stories about how publishers wrote angry letters to outlets about bad review scores, threatening to pull ad support. None of these practices are ethical, and I feel like these ethical concerns have faded to the background in the wake of #GamerGate. I actually think anyone even bringing up “ethics in game journalism” at this point is shrugged off because of it, and I think that is unacceptable.
I want people to understand that not all gamers think the same way, and I want gamers to be free to hold the beliefs that they do without being ostracized.
There are two sides of the #GamerGate debate because there are two groups of people that feel two very different ways about this whole thing. That doesn’t make either side more or less gamer than the other. The term gamer is an identity. It’s more than just “one who plays games.” It’s “one who is proud to be part of the gaming community.” I’m proud to be part of the gaming community, I don’t agree with #GamerGate, and I’d like #GamerGate to not try and ostracize me from the community for it. I’d afford them the same protection. I don’t like the idea that all gamers have to think and act the same way. I once again find that to be scary, in a bizarre Stepford Wives sort of way. I think it’s important to embrace our differences and coexist.
I want to reduce hate, everywhere.
I hate hate… which is a really unfortunate and recursive feeling when I think about it. I don’t want any of us to hate each other. I’ve talked a lot about disagreeing with others and that being OK over the course of this list. I cannot stress how important that is. I don’t want us to hate people who have opinions that are different from ours. I haven’t once seen a discussion about #GamerGate end in “well I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.” I see it explode into insults and flames and personal threats. Heck, I’m sure the comments section of this very article will explode into toxicity just because it’s the very nature of the internet. But I don’t want that anymore. I want us to care about each other, even if we don’t like each other. Does that make any sense?
I’d like “game journalism” to stop being used as a term.
This one is a bit out there, but I hate the term game journalism, because I think it gives people the wrong impression of what we do. Journalism is defined by Mirriam Webster as follows. 1a) the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media. Game journalism is that, but is also more, like reviews and editorials. 1b) the public press. We qualify there. 1c) an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium. That’s less about us and more about the study of journalism. 2a) writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine. We may or may not fall under that definition depending on whether or not you count websites as magazines. 2b) writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation. In that aspect, we are mostly not journalism because reviews are by their very nature opinion based. But we do report on press releases and such, so we partially qualify. 2c) writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest. We qualify for that definition in spades.
Do you see the problem? Depending on which definition of journalism you use, game journalism either is, or isn’t journalism. So why keep using it? Why not just call the things we do by their actual names. When we report on press releases and events, its game news. When we review and preview games, its game critique. When we interview and write other features, its game editorial. All of this falls under the greater heading of game writing. There’s a place for all of these styles of writing in the gaming world. Heck, even purely journalistic publications, like newspapers, post reviews and editorials which are by nature opinion-based. But since the definition of journalism has been so hotly debated, I simply say we stop using it.
I want gaming to be open and welcoming to everyone.
I love gaming. I love the gaming community. So I want to share that community with everyone. Like, literally everyone. Gamers, people who we wouldn’t consider gamers, even dogs if they can learn how to hold a controller without opposable thumbs. Everyone! I want someone who just plays games on their iPhone to be able to call themselves a gamer, in the hopes that they then try MORE games, PC games, console games, and become even more of a gamer. I want the person who has only ever played board games to be able to call themselves a gamer. I want all sorts of gaming to mix and blend until we are all playing everything. I want my sons and daughters to be able to pick up their PlayStation 5 and my old Atari 2600. I want my grandfather to futilely try to beat a song on easy on my DDR mat. I want gaming to spread beyond the US, Japan, and parts of Europe, until it has saturated the world.
Most importantly, I don’t want gaming to be a possession. I don’t want gaming to be “ours.” I don’t want us to hold onto it saying “my precious” and shuddering to think that others that we might not consider to be gamers will come in and ruin it. I want gaming to be a golden Borderlands chest with infinite golden keys, and I want to give those keys to everyone. I never, ever, EVER, want ANYONE to be run out of gaming, not the community or the industry, not Brianna Wu, not Anita Sarkeesian, and not the people in #GamerGate.
I want gamers to be recognized for the good they have done rather than the bad.
While I never supported #GamerGate, I also never supported the “gamers are dead” philosophy. I never thought that gamers were horrible people, or misogynists, or trolls, or anything like that. I think gamers are people, and just like people, gamers can be good or bad and everything in between.
But we never focus on the good. We get this horrible Law and Order: SVU episode about how dangerous and stupid both sides of this argument are, and news stories framing us as basement dwellers who would attack anything with a vagina. Where are the stories about the millions of dollars raised for charity by gaming marathons? Where are the stories about members of the LGBT community making splashes in the pro gaming scene and being accepted by everyone? Where are the stories about the conventions where no one gets assaulted, or insulted, or hurt?
In a way, I very much agree with Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade. I go to gaming conventions, tournaments, and events, and I don’t see rampant misogyny. In fact I see a whole community of people who frown upon that sort of behavior. I see people working together to make not only gaming a better place, but the world a better place. I see goodness. Yes, when a person gropes a cosplayer at a convention, that’s horrible and they should be ejected, and that one person is an asshole. But at a decent sized gaming convention there are 49,999 other people who didn’t do that, and I just hate the thought that all that good can be overshadowed by the worst among us.
I want the claims of conspiracy and assassinations of character to stop.
Milo Yiannopoulos has called people who are against #GamerGate as “Highly Organized, Highly Educated, Well Resourced, Professional Feminist Agitators and Activists.”
I’m going to level with you here. I’ve never coordinated with another journalist on my #GamerGate articles. I’ve not looked to agitate anyone for any reason. Heck, the only point of my articles has been the same point as this one, to find a resolution and make gaming a better place for everyone. I’m not a professional feminist agitator (I wonder what professional feminist agitators get paid). I’m a dude. I’m a gamer, just like you. I just want to see more strong female characters in gaming. That’s just my preference.
Similarly, I hate when people characterize all gamers as misogynists. That’s a huge generalization. Heck, I hate when people even say a person is misogynist unless there is actual evidence that they have harmed, want to harm, or somehow have negative opinions toward women, and I do think that term has been thrown around far too much in this argument. Similarly, however, I hate when people are characterized as “feminazis” or “SJWs” or “white knights.” Do you know what both of these things are doing? They are boiling people down to an agenda. They are taking people with thoughts, feelings, opinions, hopes, dreams, and turning them into “the bad guy.”
I’m just a person who feels certain ways about certain things. You probably are too. There’s no reason why we can’t talk to each other like people, not as SJWs, not as #GamerGaters, but as people. Maybe we don’t see eye to eye. Maybe we don’t agree on where gaming should go. But we CAN be peaceful. We CAN be civil. We can bring all that bad stuff about this time in gaming, the hurt, the pain, the danger, the loss of jobs and personal safety, to an end.
Because we are gamers, and gamers can do incredible acts of good. So like Gabe and Tycho said, “Let’s just do it right.”
This is my olive branch.