I want to open this by saying thank you to PixieJenni for providing a forum for this. I suspect I would be hard-pressed to find a forum if she did not provide one, so I thank her for that. Though I do not always (or even frequently) agree with her, I respect her for at least extending a hand and being willing to discuss things with all sides of a very complex situation.
Second, I’d like to recommend absolutely everyone, period, ever, pick up a copy of Johnathan Haidt’s excellent book The Righteous Mind. I don’t care how you get it, just get it. I own it on Kindle and on Audible, and now that I’m done shilling for Amazon, I recommend just everyone go get it. It has helped me understand all the sides not just of this, but of society, so much better, even if I have some disagreements, or rather differences of opinion where certain traits come from.
Then, I’d like to explain who I am, as I think it is best to understand that first to understand what I write later. I would ask you to give bear with me, and not check out here, as I will attempt to do for anyone else writing anything else. It’s a fair system, I think.
My name is Tyler Joseph Marcoz. I’m twenty-five, I’m a male, I’m white (a mix of several European countries, though the last name is Italian.) I live in the United States, though I have lived outside the country, but only at a very young age. I’m heterosexual exclusively, though I self-admit to understanding attraction beyond that, I simply have no desire to pursue a relationship outside my sex for various reasons. I am a devout Christian, specifically I am a Presbyterian. On a doctrine level, I am a Calvinist, which I suspect some may not understand but I think is beyond the purposes of this write up. I tend towards deontological morality, I work as an armed Security Officer. I am a member of the Air National Guard, specifically with the AFSC of Security Forces. However, the dream that I am working towards is to be a writer, amongst other things. The ultimate dream, though, one I hope to end my life doing, is to become a Professor of Classical History.
Politically, I am a conservative. Specifically, though it is not a through test, I tend to orient towards Right-Authoritarian, a fact that makes me an actual outlier in a sea of Left-Libertarian’s inside #GamerGate. I consider myself a Reactionary, though not a member of the Neo-Reactionary movement. I am not an MRA, as I have many disagreements with them. I am not a feminist, as I have many MORE disagreements with them. Some may call my a TradCon, or Traditional Conservative. I voted Republican twice, disliked the candidates both times, and now no longer vote on ideological grounds.
I am a Military Brat. I am firmly middle class in upbringing. My father was an officer in the Army who spent a majority of his career in Military Intelligence. He is a master of it, and I learned from him, as well as the vast library he had. He has made a career out of teaching people to elicit information, counter people doing it, and detecting lying. One of the things I learned from him is that much of the fanciful Hollywood portray of these things, the tells and signs people make, or movements, are unreliable at best. If you want to tell if someone is lying, have them write a statement. Deception screams in text.
This is the background I am coming from. I suspect what I will proceed from will be somewhat disjointed, but I will try to be concise, or as concise as I can be. This is addressed to both members of #GamerGate and those opposed to it, and even those who are neither. Parts are for all, some are for simply one or two of the groups. From that, though, lets move into it.
Starting the Fire, or “The post that launched a million tweets.”
I rather like Eron Gjoni. He’s a big guy. I disagree with him on more things than we agree with, of course, but I still like him, because he’s remained remarkable calm during a time I think that he has been demonized, slandered, abused, harassed, and, perhaps uniquely amongst all those involved in the controversy, actually had constitutional (and human) rights abridged. Much has been said about Eron and his place in all of this, but I must at least be very quick to say the one thing I loathe the most out of this is how he has been utterly suppressed during all of this. Which is fairly shameful, given the clear and ample evidence of a pattern of behavior by his abuser.
I discovered the blog he’d written on 4chan. I admit it being one of the places I used to frequent, though for the past two months I’ve more or less cut it out after events unfolded there. I did not migrate to 8chan, I simply stopped going. As a small aside, I dislike the system of 8chan, as I don’t think having user created boards is really a good thing. By and large this is the main gripe, but that’s way off topic, and I already broke my promise not to ramble, so back to it. I found the post, read it, and found a sense of righteous indignation at it all. I found it conjunction with the early accusations of illicit behavior of various gaming news sites, ones who I’d mostly written off already because, lets be honest, their rhetoric was increasingly hostile to someone like, well, me.
Also, I was disgusted with the main subject of the posts personal behavior. I admit to feeling somewhat vindicated in the catching of an icon of an opposing ideology in such rampant hypocrisy. However, in the threads that spawned, I rather disliked the constant spam that went with it. The posting of nude photos in particular annoyed me. Not because it was wrong, per say, as they were taken with her consent and sold on the net after all, but mostly because I wasn’t sure how or why they were relevant and, honestly, didn’t find them that attractive. I mean no offense in anything I type, just as a warning, but I will be as candid as possible here.
This was a perfect intersection for someone like me. A mixture of an example of illicit behavior in gaming media AND hypocrisy in an opposing ideology? I was tickled pink. However, such things do not a movement make. Which is why I find it often brought up that the movement was ‘about’ this person at the start, or that it was about harassment, or that, well, anything about them. It is relevant only in as much as their involvement sparked it, and then fanned it. It is also relevant in that they are a terrible person that abused not only another human being to an extreme amount but also abused the legal system of the United States to further abuse that other human being.
Moving on, it was claims of impropriety by this person and games media that spawned the first embers. There has been much said about the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles (including a piece of analysis hosted by Jenni.) I think the analysis of these has been a bit mixed, and I think those that say they’re no big deal miss the point of the other side just as readily as the people don’t get why it upset people. The term itself is rare in the articles, but it is a sentiment that was clear to some. The weasel words of trying to say it was just SOME gamers or people who identify as gamers or similar such ways does not invalidate that the articles, taken in the context of a broader set of statements by people who have literally posted about how white men are the easiest difficulty or that the end of white guys is totally a good thing, or talked about being, you know, openly misandrist, a clear statement emerges. Or perhaps a better way is a sentiment emerges.
Well, that, and the fact that evidence shows that they allowed personal relationships and ideology to lead to blacklisting people and projects. How they covered impropriety from some people and yet not others. The way they treated Brad Wardell is most egregious to me. Not to mention that while some people think the journalist group on social media was no big deal, the things discussed at the least fly into the face of the idea that these sites are meant to be competing, and could branch into criminal conspiracy when they’re arranging to blacklist people. At the least, they show a lack of understanding of journalist ethics. So do many people who support #GamerGate though. Of course more on that in a bit.
But back to the way I originally started this. More or less, I want to dispel a notion. #GamerGate’s embers did form from the initial revelation of very bad behavior by a certain individual. You can argue over why it matter or why it got attention based on gender or ideology or any number of things, but doing so I think misses the point: it’s still bad behavior. Defending the person, or denying their provable actions, or at the least the fact that so many people come forward to report a pattern of behavior does not look good, particularly when you shame and insult an abuse victim in the process. We can debate gender politics all we want, but there is a human element that I think is missed. Some may find this ironic, given people getting threats and being reportedly run out of their homes, but, well…
I had a name for this but then it got ramblely, so I changed it…
Harassment is bad. Threats are bad. We all know this, and (nearly) everyone one agrees. However, I see a big flaw in the way the handling of this is done, to a degree on both sides. Primarily, though, I think one pattern emerges: threats happen. If on the opposing side, these are blamed on #GamerGate. Often, some loose connection may be attempted to be made, ignoring the reality that trying to link tens of thousands of people to a link that is a few in number is silly. Those supporting #GamerGate rallies to decry the threats (as even I have JUST NOW made the mistake of speaking as if #GamerGate is a THING or a being, rather than actually just an IDEA,) deny it was them, and often also ask for proof of the threats. The last bit is often very offensive to people, and it sometimes goes a bit far. Yet other times it uncovers a lot of questions that are still unanswered, particularly when there is a lot of evidence that gets a bit conspiratorial. Not even that the threats are fake, but rather planned. I’ll admit, I get sucked into it. I think some may be. I think others are more certainly third parties stirring the pot. The REALLY tin-foil bits come when you ask yourself if us finding evidence it was X third party isn’t ITSELF a false flag.
I think it’s sort of really silly regardless. Enough to dismiss it as an intent to cause chaos. However, the reaction on both sides gets dangerous. I think its MOST dangerous, though, in that the reaction that people who oppose #GamerGate have taken to demonizing it, lying about it, and thus feeding a false image OF it to other people. I think many people do not actually know much about #GamerGate except what they have been told and fed by a media who are either a. intentionally lying to defray attempts at
There is a mirror to this on the #GamerGate side, who have a habit of crying shill far too often, or grouping opposition together. In reality, there is basically a certain symmetry to those who are pro-#GamerGate or anti. Both are joined by a loose ideology. The main difference is #GamerGate has a tag and everyone else does not, at least not one that is really constantly used. There is not, however, symmetry in actual rightness. Flatly speaking, #GamerGate is an idea. It is ethics. Flatly speaking, there was unethical behavior on the party of games media. I think many people don’t actually understand ethics, and think things that aren’t unethical are so, but there is some unethical behavior. However, more importantly, and something I think #GamerGate is MORE about, even if people don’t like to admit, is that it’s about separating ideology from content and, more clearly, it’s about being angry that a product is not satisfying their demands as customers mixed with not liking the ideology of the people involved, as well as their behavior.
#GamerGate is about what #GamerGate is about. It ISN’T about keeping women out of gaming, be it actually doing it or the industry. It isn’t even about not changing things in gaming, though that’s a debate for another time. It IS about calling out the unhelpful demonization of things. I think there is a bit of toxic ideology at play. More on THAT later. More importantly for now, though, is the simple fact that consumers don’t like the behavior of the person producing the product they consume. They also don’t like being lied to, which, frankly speaking, has happened a lot. Repeatedly. They don’t like being insulted. Which has happened a lot. Repeatedly.
But #GamerGate is more than a consumer revolt, though that is what it is for a lot of people. I think this is also one of the things that keeps it alive for people, and is entirely valid. It is also, to some, a part of a larger culture war. It also is a series of scandals. It is also some other things, but I think this is good enough to move to the point I really want to make here: #GamerGate is so many things at once, it’s really hard to pin down to accurately even talk about. It’s the preciseness of language and concepts. And I doubt that’s going to change, it’s just a nature of things.
How to lose friends and alienate customers…
So, here is the short of it: #GamerGate is not, and I won’t list reasons because I don’t have to, a hate movement. It is not about harassment. It is not motivated by misogyny, even if you may not like how some people talk to or about people or the views they hold. I think we throw around misogyny far too readily. I think we throw around misandry too, of course. I think we throw around a lot of words too much. Like shill. And literally. We literally throw literally around too much. Literally. Well congratulations, you got yourself caught.
However, there was a narrative spun about what #GamerGate was, and a lot of people buy it and a lot of people who also don’t think critically. Particularly when they follow a train of logic that is basically “Well, people were harassed and threatened so that means #GamerGate is a problem EVEN IF THEY WEREN’T INVOLVED, because they created a situation that led to the behavior or act.” I see this a lot in people, mostly because they are being very groupish about the threats and the like rather than evaluating the actual merits of that argument. Which are few and far between. Which also leads to another problem that is very common.
People have been threatened. The certain person who was at the start of this has been threatened, and so on. That does not make that person NOT a bad person who did bad things. And being a bad person who did bad things does not make the threats a good thing or valid. But further, the threats don’t mean you cannot be a critic of that person or what they did. Moreover, while the tone may not always be liked, asking for proof or being doubtful is also not wrong. You may not, again, like the tone, but frankly, you are not entitled to be believed, on EITHER side of things.
I also see a bad set of behavior, a very aggressive tone. It’s not an us vs. them thing. Or rather, that’s not what is wrong. It’s human nature and trying to say we shouldn’t make it an us vs. them thing is akin to saying we should stop reacting human because… reasons. Even if your reasons are good, it’s not going to happen because we’re still human. And we also are doing it even when we say we shouldn’t do it, and don’t realize it. However, there is a habit of just saying “well, no use talking at all because they’ll never believe us.” Which, honestly, is maybe true that they won’t come around. But from a logical standpoint, you’re never actually trying to convince them. You’re trying to convince OTHER people who see the discussion. Which is why shutting down discussion is almost always bad.
Moving on from things, though, and back to the false narrative crafted around #GamerGate, there is a further bad habit to say that it is somehow to blame for scaring women or minorities off from the industry. Well, simply put: no. Because objectively, #GamerGate is not the above listed things, and indeed that’s just a fake narrative put forth to oppose it, both by people I think who honestly believe it and others who benefit from using it as a shield from people looking at their behavior, and then the people who BELIEVE the former two groups because they’ve no reason not to. The thing is, that image, and playing it up? THAT is why women or minorities will not join the industry, because you’re telling them, essentially DON’T DO IT. You are not pushing for inclusiveness by crafting a false narrative.
Moreover, claims that somehow that #GamerGate is ‘tainted’ now and we should either abandon it or should support certain individuals to try to change the narrative fall flat because they miss that the claims were always false and it is unreasonable to say we need to do something to change it. Putting aside ideological reasons not to support certain peoples that are often said we should, the flat truth is it’s not a reasonable request. A man is accused of a behavior, lets say kicking puppies, that he did not do and doesn’t support. People report he did it, despite there being no evidence he did it. Then, people say he should volunteer at an animal shelter to remove the stigma he’s gotten.
This is not reasonable. The man did not kick puppies. The label of him as a puppy kicker is unfair, and saying he needs to do something to get rid of the taint is just asinine. No, the people who falsely labeled him as a puppy-kicker should retract those statements, and apologize. What should he do? Continuing to not kick puppies and campaign for whatever he was campaigning for is a good option. Lucky for him, he has no deadline, and thus time essentially renders the claims impossible to maintain. Eventually, both evidence he never did kick puppies proliferates, and evidence that he has not kicked any puppies since makes it apparent the claims were false in the first place.
Some people may always think he kicked puppies. Some people still think Brad Wardell is a bad person or is a harasser. You can’t convince everyone. Some people may find old articles talking about the man’s puppy kicking days and bring it back up, but the morally sound and ethical thing for him to do is to just not change at all. He has nothing to prove, he has no obligation to appease anyone, the least of which are people who falsely accused him.
Did you get it? The man is #GamerGate. Don’t eviscerate me because I made it a man, don’t deconstruct it. I just did because it was a shorter word and I’m lazy. Gracias.
In short, #GamerGate (or rather people who use the tag) is (or are) not obligated to change anything or prove anything. This is not the same as making a claim, of course, to head off any claims of ‘well, why do people ask for proof of X then?’ Because that’s the difference. People are claiming #GamerGate is one thing or another, often with absolutely no proof. As such, those of #GamerGate have no obligation to disprove said claims.
Further on that, attempts to demonize the behavior of people that use #GamerGate is getting pretty ridiculous. There were claims that not only did they ‘weaponize minorities’ but even more silly, they ‘weaponized charity.’ That is, people donated only to spite. This works MAYBE for TFYC (which are not a charity, as some people say, but that doesn’t make it bad. It’s just a sign of bad communication) but falls flat when you get to mental health or anti-bullying or food supply or any other random charity they choose.
Namely, because it doesn’t make sense. In the case of the TFYC, it at least could be seen as a spite against someone, but at the least that’s a really nice spite, because TFYC were actually the aggrieved party in this case. I find it hard to condemn spiting bad people by giving to good people. Other charities don’t really work as this. You really cannot spin “I’m going to give money to an unrelated third party doing good work to spite you for being an asshole” as harassment.
Even if you say its just to get good publicity, the thing is, IT IS GOOD PUBLICITY. It’s a good thing, so you can deconstruct the motives, but at the end of the day, it’s still a good thing. So you just come off as an ass for complaining about it.
But I’m rambling again. The core principle is: eventually, the narrative of #GamerGate being misogynistic or sexist or any number of things pretty much falls apart. Some people will always think it, but because its not based in factual reality, the myth is not really self-perpetuating. It WILL collapse eventually, because you can’t lie about something that big for so long and so sloppily and expect it to actually work. It’s not an underdog triumph thing, it’s just the fact that the more hot air you blow into it, the sooner the balloon pops, and louder the noise it makes when it does.
The other, ideological bent of a hashtag…
There IS an undercurrent of anti-feminism (or anti-progressivism, if you want to get bigger) in some bits of #GamerGate. This is somewhat inevitable, because that group already existed, has a lot of overlap with the groups insulted by certain sites and who would already love the initial post for ideological reasons. Plus then you get people in on a censorship side, which is a bit murkier and harder to really get into because while, yes, it’s not an abridgment of the First Amendment to stop discussion, it’s still form of censorship. Eron is still the only person who actually has had his First Amendment rights violated, but far more of us have experienced censorship.
However, that’s not really what I want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about the merits of feminism or anti-feminism either. I want to explain at least why, in my view, you have people saying that certain individuals want to ‘destroy video games’ or the like. Simply put, it goes like this. When you claim that a game is Bad, or has Bad Things in it, like Sexism or Objectification or is pandering to the Male Gaze and the like, you are making a moral judgment. There becomes a line between critique here, particularly when you are also influencing the current system of reviews. When you are claiming to want to see a game get bad reviews because it exploits certain things, you are also wanting to influence a fragile and a bit broken but still very real economic system.
But more importantly, you are saying that that game, or at least parts of it, should not exist. When you get REALLY deep, you start dismantling how entire game structures go. And when you push your vision and ideals and want to connect to developers to implement them, you are doing so at the expense of what already exists.
I’ll be direct. Anita Sarkeesian and people who share similar ideals with her do want to change gaming. They DO want to essentially ‘destroy’ the way it currently is. They ARE exerting influence on reviewers, not in a direct puppet-mastery way (though the same can not be said for some of the talking heads), but rather by shaping the narrative and, well, ideals of people. When Polygon gives a game a lower score based on ideological reasons, it’s not that it’s wrong for them to do so per se. Certainly is not unethical as some people claim, but rather it’s seen as wrong because that sort of thing, if spread and becoming normal, can and will have direct market effects for people.
That said, Metacritic needs to die a quick and painless death, which would resolve some of these issues right there.
Also, on the side of the digging with DiGRA and the like. While the links to DARPA are a bit silly and maybe lacking, the idea that DiGRA is not an avenue worth looking at for things I think is silly. Much can be said about the volume of material that is ideological or not, but I think this is another victim of language and conceptual flexibility that is being missed. DiGRA, conceptually, as a research group is not the problem. What people don’t like is some stuff it says that is getting listened to. Moreover, saying that the views expressed by a few people in it on peer review not being unique to it also misses the point, just as I think some people digging into it frequently miss the point as well.
But at the same time, one has a hard time saying there is no link when you can directly show a chain from papers written by ideologues being cited by bloggers who are then cited by journalists and so on. You also have a hard time when you can show a link between researchers to PR and outreach companies to devs and the public via social media presentations and the like. Which you can for DiGRA.
That said, I think some people are bit to aggressive about this, and too quick to get TOO conspiratorial about it. But that’s just me.
Closing this rambling mess out…
God I wrote way too much. If you made it this far, I commend you. And thank you for putting up with me. I just wanted to close out by not saying that we should be more civil and get along and all that jazz. Everyone says it, its never going to happen, at least not because I said anything. I do encourage individuals to engage more often and discuss things, which is why I am thankful to PixieJenni even if she is an ideological opposite to me in so many ways.