I’ve been watching the “Gamergate” brouhaha with sick fascination. We all know the Internet’s got ugly corners and suddenly the ugliness came out of the corner. I honor the courage of the women who’ve been standing up to the creeps. But I was kinda puzzled by who the creeps actually are and why they’re so upset; I know lots of heavy gamers and they’re by and large pleasant well-adjusted people. So I went looking for them.
Where is it? · I looked at #gamergate on Twitter but it’s just a continuous ping-pong howl of rage. It certainly reinforced my lousy opinion of the GG folk; I screenshot one to dodge track-covering. But it didn’t help me understand anything.
I also tried 8chan but I just couldn’t find any signal among the noise. 8chan, I’m pretty sure it’s not me, it’s you.
Then I spent a while reading /r/KotakuInAction, which you might not want to visit if you’re not feeling thick-skinned and well-centered. But I will say there is a considerable amount of cohesive narrative happening there in among all the ragebombs. [Disclosure: I’m not hip enough to discern the intended relationship to the Kotaku blog, a Gawker thing, reasonably sane on the face of it.]
Bullying · My first impressions of the KotakuInAction page were dominated by the word “bullying”, it’s all over the place. “Good,” I thought; “they’re talking about all that bullying we’ve been hearing about.”
Um, nope. They’re being bullied, they say. They seem to think that’s the big problem: gamers being bullied by non-gamers. There are other issues (the ones we’ve been hearing about) but all the emotional momentum comes straight out of this bullying thing, the feeling that they’re getting no respect and they’re mad as hell and they’re not gonna take it any more.
So, I’ll grant that people who play a lot of videogames have a lousy image, and I’ll go further: I think the image is largely unwarranted.
But shee-it, someone not liking your fave recreation isn’t bullying. People disapproving of gender treatments on your home turf isn’t bullying. Being unconvinced that games journalism is hopelessly corrupt isn’t bullying. Get a fucking grip.
Opinions · Here are the ones that stuck out in my memory.
“The media are all corrupt” · I guess it’s easier to believe gaming coverage is crooked if you believe the whole ecosystem is. Also, it apparently removes the need to bring forward actual concrete evidence. Which I didn’t see any of.
You know what? There’s so much money in the gaming biz, and it’s so hard to make any in publishing, that I would have been unsurprised had it been a cesspit of bribery and intimidation, ripe for exposure. On the evidence, it isn’t, which is sort of heart-warming.
They hate Ms Wu and Ms Quinn and Ms Sarkesesian · The contempt is visceral and apparently infinite in depth. They are scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one, looking for something — anything — to take down their critics. Jeepers, these women were niche sub-sub-subculture bloggers until GG’s blunt-edged frontal assault made them profiles in courage. I hear and understand the mainstream feminist critique — men thinking they should be above criticism from the Second Sex — and I suppose it captures truth, but I’m still baffled by the empty fury.
“We’re winning“ · Apparently, they think so. If they just stay the course (and here a few relatively-sane voices chime in saying “ease off on the harshing, bros”) the massed ranks of the corrupt media and the loathed SJW’s will undoubtedly crumble. Doesn’t look like that from outside, boyos.
That SJW thing · (Stands for “Social Justice Warrior” and wow do they hate ’em.) Guys, I got news for you. You know who was an SJW? Abraham fucking Lincoln. Mahatma fucking Gandhi. And so on. Me, I’m just a computer programmer but SJW is something to aspire to. The complete chuckleheadedenss of this targeting beggars belief.
The Politics · Well, they’re weird. There’s clearly a left-right thing trying to happen here: I got pushback to one of my WTF tweets pointing me at GamerGate: Part I: Sex, Lies, and Gender Games in Reason, pro-GG discourse in a pretty vanilla hard-right pub.
But I gotta tell you, the actual GG rank-and-file don’t know Krugman from Erickson or Piketty from Le Pen. They’re pretty sure that the people “bullying” them are in the grip of an “ideology”, and that must be super-bad. But near as I can tell they don’t have one.
Good news? · It’s not entirely absent. Erwin van der Koegh wrote So I read 1500 Twitter mentions that Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu got (20 hours’ worth) and yeah, there’s loads of ignorant meanness, but apparently the actual rape/murder threats have died down to zero. Maybe Twitter getting its shit together?
Part of me suspects there’s an upside to GamerGate: It dragged a part of the Internet that we always knew was there out into the open where it’s really hard to ignore. It’s damaged some people’s lives, but you know what? That was happening all the time, anyhow. The difference is, now we can’t not see it.