I don’t usually cover gaming news on this site for fear of being confused as a “gaming journalist,” but hashtag-gamergate is quickly becoming more than just a gaming story. In fact, it’s reaching the point where it’s a proxy battle between the extremist factions of tolerance and freedom. Those two things are both honorable goals to strive for, of course, but we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; both sides have members who have radicalized and twisted the message into a self-serving ideology that they whisper to themselves about in the mirror as they slowly comb their hair. That being said, one side is clearly in the right here, and it’s not the one most game websites seem to be backing.
At its core, #Gamergate is about corruption in game journalism. There being corruption in the industry isn’t news for most of us—hell, I created this site in March 2012 because it became apparent that no one in the industry could be trusted. There have been instances of people being fired for low review scores (Jeff Gerstmann), people responsible for a game’s PR being allowed to review that game’s sequel (Julien Chevron), and even so-called game journalists shamelessly shilling for companies (Geoff Keighley, now known as the Dorito Pope). All of that is just the tip of the iceberg, and these are things that happened before the internet blew up. What makes this situation worthy of the -gate suffix if those things weren’t?
Indies are just like you and me
Indie games were supposed to be better than that. For many people, that was the entire point of indie games. Yes, it was probably a bit naive for people to be surprised that indie gaming wouldn’t end up mirroring mainstream gaming after all of the cash that huge indie successes ended up bringing in, but illusions are like stars: they die slowly, and they explode big.
And that’s where we are now. Lots and lots of people are angry, and not helping the situation any is the fact that the targets of that anger seem to have no actual understanding of why everyone is mad. This makes some kind of sense when you think about it given how many scandals “game journalism” has survived without erupting into the kind of debacle #Gamergate has. On the surface, the only difference seems to be that this scandal involved a female developer.
That’s short-sighted, however, because there have been controversies involving women in the industry that didn’t escalate to this level. Google “Lauren Wainwright” for an example, and revel in the sweet, delicious role John “sexism and misogyny infest the game industry” Walker played in it. Did that blow up into a giant #Gamergate-esque scandal, though? Of course not. If the controversy was rooted in the hatred of women and/or an attempt to expel women from the industry—and I’ve seriously seen this suggested—then I wonder what everyone was waiting for?
Initiate panic mode!
There have been some abhorrent things said on both sides. The thing about the internet and groups of people in general, however, is that you’re never dealing with one unified whole that can be accurately generalized. Yes, some people hate women. Yes, I’m sure some of them are also gamers who have written some truly repulsive things over the past several weeks. I, for one, don’t feel that the existence of such people speaks to my own character, and I hardly think I’m alone in that.
Once the “game journalists” realized that this scandal wasn’t going to blow over like everything else did, they went into a full-on panic, rushing to convince everyone that they’re the good guys in all of this. Don’t you all remember how they so gallantly defended everyone from sexism in games? Don’t you all remember that the gamers are the problem, not them? When that didn’t work and frustration on the part of “game journalists” and their supporters set in, the personal attacks began. “You’re all just white male neckbeards,” they said. It’s worth mentioning that not everyone on their side believes this. It’s also worth mentioning that many higher-profile “game journalists” do, and can be seen saying things of this nature on Twitter.
Everyone always thinks they’re right
It’s hard admitting that you’re wrong, and when you’ve spent years educating people about the bogeyman of misogyny in games and are suddenly beset by a huge number of angry gamers, it’s easy to see the two things as being connected. No one ever sees themselves as the villain of their own story, and this is important to keep in mind lest we unfairly caricaturize individuals we disagree with, transforming them into conveniently hideous monstrosities existing only to inflict pain and suffering on gamers. Still, despite the fact that this entire thing started when an ex-lover created a blog post about his ex, the #Gamergate movement as a whole is zeroed in on things like undisclosed conflicts of interest, and this is something that “game journalists” need to come to terms with.
This matters, after all
One of the more ridiculous defenses I’ve seen in the past several weeks is that we’re talking about games, so who really cares about silly things like integrity? Why care about something so silly and trivial, after all? What those making this argument seem to be missing is that we’re talking about a huge industry that needs objective voices. For better or worse, many people are basing 60 dollar purchases on the words of these “game journalists,” so they’re obviously going to be held to the same basic standards an ordinary journalist would be. Media is largely meant to police the industry it’s focused on, so the industry we all love suffers when people who consider themselves “game journalists” have their objectivity tainted.
This is why I support #Gamergate.