I don’t watch the Boondocks, and have never seen more than a few clips, the only one prominent being the one involving Ann Coulter. I know so little about the show that I can’t even find the clip I’m thinking of on Youtube because I literally don’t know what to search for. But while flipping channels one night, I happened upon Adult Swim. I happened upon a scene where a bunch of older black guys were trying to deal with another older black guy who was – I’m guessing – possessed. So they tried to beat it out of him. This went on for minutes; a bunch of guys beating on one guy, the word “nigga” being said every two seconds or so. While this is happening, the show’s main character, a child – while talking to what I remember to be a ghost – look sadly at this spectacle. The lesson ended up being: you cannot kill hate with hate.
The actions of the past two and a half months – Jesus Christ almighty, I can’t believe it’s been almost a quarter of a freaking year – have me coming back to that part of that episode.
However, it leaves me with more questions than answers, namely… if hate doesn’t work, and we know kindness hasn’t worked, what does?
It’s notable that the one and only time I’ve penned something professionally about the GamerGate… whatever you want to call it – is it a movement? I guess maybe a bowel movement – wasn’t for the video games site that I own. It was for a a political site, and one where my political opinions tend to put me as the minority. It was hard to remain disciplined through that piece – I could write a 5,000 word entry on GamerGate that is just “FUCK YOU NECKBEARD LOSERS” Ctrl-V’d 1,250 times – but I managed to pull it off, even if it was painful to write. The reason is simple: I didn’t want to pollute my site with something so emotional. I’ve had to dig into this nonsense every day for the past two and a half months, and every time I think I can put it to bed, and kill the last vestiges of a dying culture by suffocating them of the oxygen they need to breed – attention – something else happens that shocks the system, something that makes me scream “what the FUCK” on Twitter, or literally out loud.
Fun fact: the best time I’ve had with GamerGate was explaining it to my current, non-gamer girlfriend. “Wait. Wait. Slow down… what is 4chan again?”
What’s truly distressing for me is that we’ve seen this before. “I don’t even know why the fuck I bother anymore” is what I wrote last June. The context – in that particular case – is irrelevant; it just happened to be an Xbox One announcement that set it off. The problem I pointed out was that the industry’s pulse had become predictable, and it was measured by hatred. “I don’t like it… GO DIE!” “No, you’re an asshole. YOU GO DIE!” “I think we’re being unreasonab–” “FUCK YOU! DIE! AND HERE IS YOUR ADDRESS!” This has been going on for so long – doubly so for women – that it’s sickening, and frustrating, and tiresome.
Notice the lead image I used. The Google search I used? “Shawn Michaels losing my smile”.
Ultimately, it’s not the “haters” that bother me the most, it’s their enablers. I have friends who I’ve lost just about all respect for, and industry figures – looking at you, TotalBiscuit – who will never regain their standing, repeat the nonsense about this being about “ethics” – a notion that my entire writing career, and the “fuck you just talk about games” reaction to it over those years proves definitively wrong – with an alarming consistency that comes straight from the Chan sites. I don’t see that respect ever coming back, personally.
It’s been the silence that’s been deafening. The New York Times ended up running a front page story on the controversy on the 16th of October; that was a Thursday. By Friday – known in political circles as the time when you want to hide bad news – Giant Bomb and Game Informer had come out with their own pieces on GamerGate; IGN finally got on board this past Friday. The biggest sites in the games industry wouldn’t cover the biggest event happening in it for almost two months by that point; it was far more important to run video reviews and talk about movies than to report that game developers were being RUN FROM THEIR HOMES.
What’s perverse is that in a way, the hate movement – and that’s what GamerGate is, it’s a hate movement, don’t let Erik Kain’s pathetic attempt at calling it a “consumer” movement fool anyone – did prove a very telling aspect of the industry’s corruption. It’s still occurring; Electronic Arts and Activision have not said a word.
To my non-gamer friends – or more tellingly, those that stick to casual cell phone fare like Candy Crush Saga – this issue is laughable because people are being legitimately injured in some way over the perceived content of video games.
No, really, FUCKING VIDEO GAMES.
The most iconic game in our industry involves a gameplay mechanic that has a plumber kicking a turtle’s carcass across the floor to kill possessed mushroom soldiers. Other iconic titles include:
* A sliding block game from Russia.
* A game starring a mammal that is famous for being fast, despite the mammal being both slow and nocturnal.
* A partially eaten pizza that itself eats ghosts.
* A cockfighting simulator starring a ten year old child.
THIS is serious business!? THIS is the industry that “social justice warriors” are going to destroy? An industry where Call of Duty is the biggest franchise going, and where the year-old Grand Theft Auto V – basically a prostitute killing simulator – is already the sixth greatest selling game of all time, is going to be destroyed because people who play video games for a living really liked Gone Home?
I’ve been thinking about the gamer stereotype lately, and that brings me to the comic book nerd stereotype. They’re largely the same: shut-in men who eat poorly, have no social graces, and get way, WAY too into their culture due to a perception that they don’t have anything else. It’s been a problematic stereotype for years because the industry long ago got past that, and yet we’re often judged on the same metrics that we were when I was a kid. It took me a long time, when I was writing for a living, to convince my father that I was able to make a living writing about the “crap” I used to play as a child, and that others had been waiting for me to grow out of. I have had to convince a lot of people – despite another career as a successful ice hockey official – that I wasn’t Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
Unfortunately, stereotypes exist for a reason, and that’s largely because the biggest names associated with their hobby are the alphas. Alphas are hard to ignore, because they’re the loudest. They’re the person arguing over rule sets and derailing your Dungeons and Dragons game. They’re the person who can set a comic book series’ canon by forcefully arguing that their version of multiple timelines is the correct, predominant one. They’re also the person who flips their shit because the ending to a game they like – hello, Mass Effect 3 – isn’t to their liking.
Remember when I made my shitty, ill-advised crack against “a bunch of basement dwellers with Asperger’s Syndrome” all that time back? This was what I had in mind.
The difference between when I was growing up and now is that when I was young, the only audience someone had was those in their immediate vicinity, and ignoring them became as easy as walking away. The truly deranged had to act in such a way that they immediately became social outcasts at best and prisoners at worst, most of the time before they could actually do anything. Now, the internet has changed everything. These people can direct their attention to ways to get their message across to as many people as possible, and as that information war has escalated, so has their methods; for the truly deranged, that involves “doxxing”, threats, and other ways to legitimately terrorize those who cross them, all aided by the anonymity the internet provides the truly skilled.
The difference between the football player who beats his ex-girlfriend and the neckbeard who posts her nudes online is that the former is easy to see and even easier to correct. Even if he resists, there are people trained in restraining him. There aren’t many people skilled in restraining the latter, and if they are, they’re likely focused on more pressing issues – like attacks from China – than on someone threatening Brianna Wu with a burner Twitter account. The combination of abnormal intelligence and misdirected anger is more frightening than some walking GNC store who can bench 300.
Ultimately, these people are proving their own stereotype right, but to them, it’s OK, so long as the games they play stay the same. Edged on by those who do not care one iota about video games – if you think Alec Baldwin really cares about video games, not that he 1) doesn’t play and 2) has been bitching about “feminism” and liberals for years – they attack in the hopes that the games they play continue to cater to their tastes, which just happen to involve a lot of women as sex objects and trophies, and happen to involve a lot of shooting people. Because ethics.
It wasn’t until I started thinking about this very piece that I realized just how much I’ve been pulling back from my chosen culture.
It started when I left FESS in 2008, which I had grown too old to understand and too busy to administrate. I left message boards for the most part soon after; I just didn’t have time to debate things anymore, nor did I have time for the ten paragraph missives from our versions of Comic Book Guy. At its worst, I didn’t have time for the people who would literally find my address and mail me things (the box filled with other boxes, sent as a form of bomb scare, was fun). This was a big step for someone who is still, six years later, considered a “big name”, even as a ghost, in the Fire Emblem fandom.
Soon, I all but stopped playing games online, either competitively or cooperatively. It wasn’t my rapidly eroding skills – and lack of time to keep them up – that did it, it was the invective. There’s only so many times a grown man can be called a “faggot” by a screaming prepubescent who also happens to have a 20:1 K/D ratio and keeps pasting the same pornographic image everywhere on the server before he decides he has better things to do. It’s notable that the one game I will occasionally play online is Mario Kart for 3DS, which doesn’t allow any communication beyond canned messages. It’s kind of sad that I’ve become the target audience for Nintendo’s kiddy, family-friendly online offerings, considering how I’ve criticized it in the past.
Even the thing that literally used to put food on my table has been cut back severely: my writing. Just one look at the updates on my site proves that out, and the reason is largely because I just got tired of having hate mail. The Asperger’s comment was my last time in a hate storm, and as noted in the past, what was partly depressing about it was that it was over so quickly. It only proved that the internet knows two speeds: dead and full-bore rage.
The truth is, the hatred – the constant, never-ending hatred, and all of the attempts to manage, mitigate and otherwise deal with it – in a hobby that is supposed to be fun are directly impacting my ability to enjoy it. I’ve played some tremendous games lately, and wanted to write about them; everything from Valdis Story to MLB ’14 The Show, Nuclear Throne, even Dragon Quest II, these are all games I would normally be able to write intellectually about. My mind hits a dead spot, though. Every time I try, I just end up saying “screw it”. Why bother? So someone whose Disqus name is “FuckGamingBus538” can tell me I suck? I’m in my mid-30s for Pesci’s sake. And this is from someone who writes about politics.
One of the key comments that came from those sympathetic to GamerGate around the time that Leigh Alexander’s “gamers are dead” piece took a match to the gas leak was “how dare games writers hate their customers!?”. From a personal perspective, it got to that point. I got tired of writing about death threats. Got tired of naval-gazing at what my job really meant. Tired of writing about misogyny. It seemed like every other thing I was writing was about a group of people – my “customers”, don’t forget – making life legitimately difficult for someone else. Especially if that person was a woman.
Over video games.
I don’t know how to handle it anymore. I guess the better question is, do I really want to?