A topic that I don’t find fun to revisit but I feel it must be discussed.
A while back, when I still actively wrote for The Uncommon Geek, I made a post explicitly speaking out against the gamergate movement. The main point of posting that was my declaration for standing up against bullying and threats, as a female friend of mine was terrified to play games online, or if she did, was scared to mention she was a woman in said game. She and her spouse were afraid to even utter the term gamergate online because of threats their own acquaintances received when doing so. I found that situation deplorable and spoke against it.
Why am I revisiting this topic? Because I feel that I am a better writer than I was then and can articulate my points in a better way. I have also gained more knowledge and context with which to approach the situation.
Where do I stand now? I am still absolutely dead set against bullying. I still think making threats against someone’s life, or threatening to rape them, is one of the lowest levels to which a human being can sink. I don’t care if the person is only saying it because they can do it anonymously, or because they have no intention of ever carrying through with it. The recipient of this hate can never know that 100% for sure, and the way that can make someone feel is disgusting. Whether or not someone ought to have thick skin is irrelevant to me. Yes, this is the internet, this is the world, one reasonably ought to be able to handle some criticism, negativity, et cetera. If you do or say something stupid, society has a tendency to put you in check. That is still no excuse for disregarding any and all respect and decency toward another human being.
What experience and some additional research has shown me, of course, is that there are people out there who do purposely rig the system against themselves, so that they can appear more sympathetic. Some take this as far as to become professional victims. I suspect there was some naivete on my part when the whole gamergate thing was still a fresh topic, and names like Anita Sarkeesian were in the headlines. I didn’t necessarily believe everything she and other heavily publicized victims said, but at the time it never occurred to me that some victims were not above creating fake accounts to make fake threats, or coming up with other ways to artificially inflate their victimization or discrimination, to the point where they could even financially benefit from their new publicity. I also was naive in believing that the toxicity of the SJW movement–the extremes of which seem to have no clear objective or end goal other than to bash–was incapable of spilling over into my hobby in a tangible way (as ended up being the case to an extent with Mass Effect: Andromeda).
This makes it tough for me, because I do believe in equity between men and women. I think men and women ought to be represented fairly both in video games and in the industries that create them and cover them. I am against discrimination and am steadfastly against bullying. But, when professional victims stir the shit pot on purpose, when their shenanigans muddy the issue and make it more difficult to discern what is and what isn’t unfair treatment or representation, then we have a problem.
What is the solution? There, to me, doesn’t seem to be a one step or otherwise easy fix, but we can start by being more discriminating about the stories we read. The truth is often buried somewhere between the two extremes. Conversely, we can check our bias at the door. If you start reading an article and change your first impression because it was written by a woman, there’s a problem. The other thing I think will help is if people who claim to care about equality and social justice will get off their soapboxes and make the kinds of positive changes they claim to want to see in the industry. Do you want to see more minorities in video games? Make a game with a more diverse cast. Buy games that have more diverse characters. Actively support those who make those games and stories if you can’t make them yourself. Encourage women and minorities you want to see represented, to get more involved themselves. Instead of bashing what is already in place, maybe you ought to do more to encourage underrepresented groups of people to participate in the industry. Think more women should be making games? Maybe if you stop pumping so much toxicity into the industry through the media you propagate, stop bashing the people who already make games because they happen to be a certain gender, skin color, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, stop getting mad because the existing consumer base is made up of certain groups, and do something positive, gee, maybe more women and other underrepresented demographics would be more encouraged to participate?
And for the love of all that is sacred, don’t play the victim if you really aren’t one. All you really accomplish in the end is making things even worse for those who truly are victimized, and you end up weakening the position of the group you espouse to represent.
(I could have spent countless hours and energies complaining about gender equality in books and the lack of introverted heroes. Instead, I started a science fiction series to address this and ergo create more of what I wanted to see)
There is a stigma about gaming being a boy’s club. Some SJWs would have you believe this is rampant across the industry. That isn’t true. Now, I have personally come across more foul boys pretending to be men on Xbox Live than I care for, and have personally witnessed too many examples of insane racism and sexism online, but that is not representative of the entire industry or player base. Most of us gamers only want to see this industry prosper and grow, to include everyone possible in the hobby we enjoy. It would’t be as successful as it is now if it wasn’t able to accommodate peoples from varying backgrounds and walks of life.
There is a quote I see that is sometimes overused or misused, but I think it applies here: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The extreme feminists and SJWs, quite frankly, I think need to knock it off with their petulant, overblown analysis of every perceived slight against a demographic they claim to protect. Everyone is free to espouse their opinion, but maybe instead of making these fancy Youtube videos and woe-is-me Patreon accounts, they ought to direct that time and energy into creating positive change, or supporting those who are working on that change. By the same token, those gamers or those who work in the industry, who do think gaming should be a boys club, or should only be for whites, or what have you, are also full of shit, need to step back, and accept that gaming is for everyone, not just their anachronistic treehouse club.
If all else fails, remember, “don’t be a dick,” and “be excellent to each other.” If we start there, we can make the positive changes we want to see.