How Law & Order: SVU Handeled #GamerGate in the Worst Way Possible

How Law & Order: SVU Handeled #GamerGate in the Worst Way Possible

When I heard that Law & Order: SVU was going to do an episode tackling #GamerGate, I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much. I’m not a big fan of police serials and whatever hot button issue they decide to tackle tends to be handled with as much finesse as a rampaging bull attempting to perform interpretive dance. What I didn’t expect, however, was the trainwreck that was this episode. This episode did a great injustice to everyone and everything. It was perhaps the worst portrayal of what I consider to be one of the worst conflicts in gaming history that I could have possibly imagined. Oh, let me count the problems.

First of all, they make it appear as if all gamers are these weirdo geeks that are too absorbed in their subculture to take anything seriously. In the beginning of the episode a woman gets sexually assaulted, and she shrugs it off through gaming lingo when talking to the police.

The “bad guys” in the show were gamers who had played enough games that they couldn’t tell the difference between a game and real life anymore. But that’s not what either side of this argument is. The people inside #GamerGate are choosing to be part of that movement and the people who stand against it are choosing to stand against it. This is a battle of ideology, ethics, philosophy, and personal values, not a struggle between the good non-gamers who have their feet in reality and the gamers who have their minds in first person shooter land. Heck, they even had a segment of the episode shot from FPS perspective!

Then, in the end of the episode, when everyone is talking about how “this isn’t a game anymore” while they have a stand off on a roof, Ice-T, that corpse of a rapper, comes up behind the bad guys and shoots them. This was met with “What, were you camping back there?” and Ice-T says something like “It’s a dishonorable strategy but an effective one.” Wait… wait wait wait wait wait. So it’s a horrible and dangerous thing when gamers think that playing with guns is a game, but when the NYPD thinks it’s a game everything is OK? Need I remind you the NYPD has also been the matter of quite a bit of scandal recently? Do I really want my officers to treat disarming a hostage situation as “camping”?

The victim in this episode, Reina Punjabi and yes, that is almost racist, is some sort of weird amalgamation of all the women involved in the #GamerGate scandal, Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, so on and so forth. But she is framed as this total business minded asshole who cares about games, specifically her own game, so much that she doesn’t cooperate with the police. The whole episode paints a “she brings this on herself” vibe when she doesn’t postpone a game launch even though her life is in danger. Note that Anita Sarkeesian did step down from a talk when a school shooting was threatened. Also, what point did not having security on hand prove? A couple decent officers would have stopped the whole plot from happening!

Not to mention the motivations of the bad guys in the episode, while perhaps synching up with the “no social justice in games” cries that we have heard from anyone who uses Social Justice Warrior as a pejorative term, were totally screwed up. The episode made it appear as if they wanted to stop a game launch because the game was developed by a woman. This misses the point of the conflict so incredibly hard. In fact, the issue of corruption in the gaming world never even came up. I myself am anti-GamerGate but the sociopathic motivations portrayed here speak to the shallowest understanding of what has been going on in the gaming world.

Speaking of the games themselves, the games portrayed in this episode were horrible ! They were all blocky polygonal PS1 era rejects. While you might think that this is nitpicky, it’s actually really important. The low quality of these titles made it appear that both the sociopathic villains of the episode and Punjabi were going to extremes for something that looked like rejectware! It was almost mocking the importance of gaming by showing how shoddy the games were. In fact, the episode did directly mock gaming by having the non-gamer characters in the episode frequently comment how these things weren’t important and how crazy it was that people liked them.

“I heard her game is better than Civilization 5 and the Brave New World expansion pack.” My god, Ice-T, just shut up forever. But on another note… the major conflict of this episode is that a 4X style game was made where you can control women. Frankly, it already looks like a piece of shovelware. Secondly, the title Amazonian Warriors is entirely misleading for a game basically about peaceful civilization. Thirdly, Reina Punjabi’s smug “now you can build civilization right” line during her release once again frames her as some sort of man hating developer with a chip on her shoulder, which is once again not what this conflict is about.

Oh, and whose good idea was it to make Ice-T the gamer dictionary? OK, maybe he has to explain what an FPS is even though I’m pretty sure that’s common knowledge by now. Maybe he has to explain what camping is to someone who has never played an FPS before. But the word noob? First of all, why would the police even be using the word noob in an investigation? Second of all, the meaning of that word was easily figured out by context! Can the NYPD not even figure out something as simple as that? The constant exposition of gaming culture via Ice-T made me want to throw my monitor through another monitor.

But outside of my rage, his explanations once again served to frame gamers as “others” to the rest of the world, when the knowledge that gamers are just people like you and me is really important to understanding the whole #GamerGate issue.

The episode couldn’t decide on a tone for its villains. On one hand it tries to frame them as gamers who have just lost touch with reality. On the other hand, it frames them as hacking masterminds. They were able to hack into the security system of Reina Punjabi’s release venue remotely, which is just not a thing you can do. They had plants inside the security team of the building, which is another thing random gamers don’t have. Yet in the end these guys were taken down because one of their own geotagged a video post? Did they not watch their own videos to figure this out? So they are highly irresponsible genius hacker deluded sociopaths that think they are inside a game.

And if I want to get really nitpicky there are a ton of other problems that are just littered around the episode. For example, there would never be a bathroom that empty or silent at a gaming convention to allow a stealth sexual assault to actually take place. The whole idea of an IRL meeting between gamers that doxxed an important figurehead in order to let the police bust them is just crazy. The fact that a NYPD swatting call apparently went through to Reina’s house while the NYPD was actively investigating and protecting this woman means that the NYPD have to be incredibly incompetent in this universe.

But perhaps the thing that I was most upset about, is that this episode, like so many other places, refused to mention #GamerGate by name. It kept this safe distance from the movement, while still using it at a Snidely Whiplash-style villain. It’s cowardly, frankly, and it speaks of a desire to distance themselves from the issue while still using it to their own gain. It’s exploitative at best, and insulting to every side of the debate at worst.

How Law & Order: SVU Handeled #GamerGate in the Worst Way Possible

Simply put, I am angry. I am angry that the #GamerGate debate still rages on. I am angry that I, and several people close to me, have been hurt by this debate, being doxxed, having their identities stolen, being threatened, and worse. I’m angry that I have friends on the other side of the debate, and while I can speak civilly with them, it appears most attempts at civil discussion fail. I’m angry that so many women feel like gaming isn’t safe for them anymore. I retreated to gaming when I was being bullied as a kid, when I was told that I wasn’t good enough for the other cliques out there. I looked at the gaming world as a welcoming and understanding place. Now that there is a faction of people going “we don’t want you here” to another faction of people in the gaming world, it makes me feel like I have left one society of bullies to enter another society of bullies.

But most of all, I am angry that the slumbering beast was poked again. I felt like people were being more reasonable when I spoke about #GamerGate. I felt like there was a coming together and an understanding of what people wanted and how unsafe people felt. I felt like maybe we were all starting to realize that gamers were just people and that maybe we could do something that made everyone feel happy, safe, and included, like we were starting to focus on the good that gamers can do rather than the bad. But then this episode happened, and all of the sudden #GamerGate is trending again, and the arguments head up again, and the doxxing, the swatting, the toxic behavior, and the death threats flare up once more.

It’s a cycle of violence that I want to end, because I want gaming to be safe for everyone, male, female, everyone ! But this episode, all it did was stand back, point fingers, and say “Hey gamers, look at how dumb you and your #GamerGate are.” It was exploitative and insulting, and was the last thing we needed in our efforts to come to a happy conclusion to this dark time of gaming.

If there is any common ground between both sides of the #GamerGate debate, can it be that this episode is just a piece of sensationalist garbage? Can we agree on that?

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