My Confusion about Gamergate
I'm not, like many other writers, going to sit here and spit out my gaming credentials here. I should not have to. And neither should anyone else.
I'm also not going to recap the GG story. You can read that here.
So here's my problem. GG has so far only come to be associated with a roving, leaderless band of online people who are spamming advertisers on gaming sites and who are harassing women who are critical of games. They like to insist that it's about journalistic ethics. But the person who was harassed in the catalyst event that led to the very claim wasn't a journalist at all, but a developer.
I just don't get it. You want ethical games journalism, but what the heck does that look like? I'm not being facetious. Is it a game walk through? Is it is a list of technical specs? Is it a neverending twitch stream of people paying to play games and taking no money from anyone while quietly playing without commentary?
Games "journalism" is completely and utterly subjective. Gaming magazines are a series of blogs that are supported by ad revenue, often paid by gaming studios. Most gaming magazines (online or in print) are a series of game reviews. These are, by their very definition, subjective opinion. How do we make that more ethical? Uh, it's an opinion. How is it unethical?
Look, entertainment reporting (and that's what this is, just like ESPN and E! network) relies on a positive relationship with the form of entertainment being reported. ESPN reporters, producers and executives need a working relationship with the sports it covers. Why do you think so many athletes become commentators? Not because they have such a great command of the language or because they know anything about broadcast journalism, it's because they have contacts and an insider's view. Same is true with movie or television reporting: people are usually part of the industry before they become reporters on it. No one is surprised or shocked by this. Well, no one but the people who want to do actual investigative reporting on sports (Ask the guys who made the League of Denial documentary).
In order to write reviews, those in games journalism get advance copies of the game, they get access to new hardware and software so that when the release date hits, we can decide based on someone's review if we like it. A good reviewer acknowledges his preferences in games ("I don't like exploration requirements" or "I love jumping puzzles" for example) and reviews it in that context.
My real point here is this, though: at what point will the GG horde feel like it has won or at least done something? When the current standard gaming sites crumble to dust? Probably won't happen. When women stop saying "hey I kind of like these games, but don't like that I can't play a female avatar"? Also not going to happen.
All I can glean from the pages and pages (and believe me, I've read more than I ever wanted to of GG tweets, 8chan posts and reddits) is that they just want everyone who isn't them to stop playing games and to stop demanding a better, more inclusive product. They are the old white guys in the current GOP asking for why they can't have their country back. (You know the one, where women just cleaned the house, served the drinks and shut the hell up? That same one where blacks knew their place and didn't get uppity. That country. By the way, that country did awesome things like help end 2 world wars and build a powerful economy, and it did some tremendously awful things like eugenics programs, Jim Crow and segregation, institutionalized sexism, internment of Japanese Americans, and the list goes on and on and on.)
I hate to break it to you guys, like it or not, and believe it or not, other people play games, too, now. Jocks, nerds, musicians, brainiacs, dorks, they have all played games at some point. Your mom plays video games, so does your sister and your cousin and your friends and your enemies. Pitching a royal fit will not change that. Claiming that you liked it first and so no one else loves it or understands it like you do doesn't change that other people are open about loving games too, now. Bullying, threatening and harassing women won't stop that. Threatening websites and advertisers will not stop that. It may cause them to rethink their ad dollars, but it won't make them stop making games, it won't make them stop advertising elsewhere and it won't make other people stop hearing about the games you so dearly claim to love and to want to save from the rest of the world.
So where's the end game here? I sincerely want to know. If your goal is to make feminists shut up and go back to the kitchen, it's not going to happen, so at what point does it stop? Do you even know? Do you even care? Or are you just looking for an excuse to cry and whine that while you only got one cookie, someone else got two?