I am a gamer, and I’m not ashamed to say so.
I am, however, sad.
I’m sad because a thing called Gamergate is tearing the online gamer community apart right now, and it is making everybody miserable.
Whose fault that is, of course, is up for debate.
I have an opinion on that, but let me set that aside for a moment.
There are a lot of people in Gamergate, and not all of them are there for the same reasons.
If you are a Gamergate supporter, I am not going to try and argue your points. There’s plenty of that going around already, and it has not, it seems to me, been very productive or helpful.
Instead, I’m just going to ask you this:
Whatever it is that you personally hope is going to come out of all of this…
Is it really worth it?
I’m not talking about the natural tendency to try to fight tomorrow’s war today. I’m talking about what changes might get made to the industry right now. Think about what it is that you want to have happen. Be as specific as possible.
Want such-and-such a website to promise to disclose writer-developer relationships?
Want so-and-so who was mean to you online to be fired?
Want to make sure that your favorite games are not tampered with?
You tell me. What is it, specifically, that you want to change?
And don’t say: “Ethical journalism” because that is an abstract, and not everybody would agree on what that is. Think about real, tangible, specific things. What is it you want?
Now, let’s say you got it…
How much difference would that make in your actual day-to-day life?
Maybe you think it’s a lot. I can’t speak for your life or your priorities. My guess though, is that, other than a sense of victory, it wouldn’t really change anything very much at all unless you are personally a games developer or journalist.
So, in any case, whatever that change is. Is it really worth all this discord and fighting?
I can’t answer that for you, but let me talk a little bit about what else the gaming community is sacrificing in this battle:
- Real actual human beings with thoughts and feelings are made to feel afraid in their homes.
- People are angry and polarized. Trolling is rampant on both sides, with no end in sight.
- Indie games developers may leave the field for a less controversial, less aggressive medium, robbing all of us of whatever games they might have made.
- Potential games developers will not even enter the field.
- Big triple-A games makers will see the controversy and become more risk-averse than ever, for fear of pissing off anyone. The result will be more-and-more annualized bland franchises, with no innovation, because who knows what change might set off the next big fight?
- The mainstream perception of “Gamers” is being damaged more by this fighting than by any other thing I can think of in my lifetime.
Again, regardless of whose fault this is, it is still happening, and it is happening because the fight over “Gamergate” is happening.
Still worth it?
Regardless of who started it or why or how or whatever, Gamergate has become the online equivalent of a riot, with looting and violence.
You may have joined something that you hoped would be a peaceful protest. Now, you look at the looters with genuine dismay, upset that they have co-opted your message. But if you continue to stand there in the streets with them, you cannot be surprised when the tear gas starts flying.
Is that “fair”? Maybe not. Still gonna happen.
(As a side-note, everybody knows that simply “reporting” the trolls is 100% useless. The preponderance of burner Twitter accounts on both sides of this movement means that any troll that gets their account suspended just creates four more the next day and keeps on trolling.)
So what am I saying you should do?
Go home. Play videogames. This is not a “battle” that needs to be “won” today! It is not a “war”!
The games industry is not going anywhere. Games journalism will exist as long as games do.
Neither industry is going to make sweeping changes overnight. In either direction.
There will always be games that you like, and games that you don’t like.
The future of games and game journalism will be forged not with demands and harassment, but by calm discussion and good-faith engagement over time.
Continuing this fighting on Twitter will accomplish nothing except further trolling, further anger, and further division in the gaming community.
Instead, I suggest that you find games and game websites that you like and support them. Be involved. Give constructive feedback and help to shape the community there.
If you feel a site is not worthy of your business, then leave it at that. Just don’t go there. It is really that simple.
And finally, please, to everyone on every side of this thing. Remember that your fellow human beings are fellow human beings! People say dumb things sometimes. People say things that they don’t mean. They say things that they mean but phrase it badly. They have strong feelings and irrational feelings and conflicting feelings and they like and don’t like and love and hate lots of different things because we’re all people here!
There are real human stakes here. Real lives that are being damaged.
Or is it really all just a game to you?