I've struggled with gamer gate for a long time. I've gone back and forth on whether or not to write a piece about it because I felt that I wasn't knowledgeable enough, not prepared to write on a world that I certainly don't belong in anymore, if ever. However, I think that the causes of my inhibitions are fodder enough for a complete, insightful article.
For a more detailed explanation of gamergate, I'll direct you to Eliana Dockterman's piece for Time, as it does an adequate job, and it's someone else's skin on the line if the summary is deemed to be biased. For those desiring a more tl;dr response, I'll try to condense it the best I can. Long story short, a combination of questionable behavior and negative reviews of popular games from female games industry workers has led to all out war between casual and hardcore gamers, as well as a battle between the new generation of game players and the old guard of "gamers."
That distinction is at the core of this issue. A minority of predominantly white, young men hold the term “gamers” extremely dear, and see affronts to it as a personal attack. These people devote a significant portion of their lives to games, consume gaming media, probably play a wide variety of games, and have for a long time. These "gamers" go far beyond the confines of the worlds of Call of Duty and FIFA and often mock those who play more mainstream games exclusively as “casuals.” And they have begun to defend their way of life with threats of violence against those who work to undermine it.
Arguments could certainly be made that I, at least at one time, belonged to this selective group. I'm a young, white male who played upwards of 40 days of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I certainly put the time in. For those of you Gladwell lovers, I'd be 1/10 of the way towards being a master. And that's just one game. For most casual observers, like your mom, or your mailman, or your school principal, I probably meet the requirements swimmingly. But the adults who run the real world have no say in whether or not I get the gamer title in the eyes of some college student or obsessive young adult on the other side of the interweb. These “experts” will criticize my lack of gaming diversity, my lack of involvement with the world of gaming journalism, or maybe even my lack of interest in cosplaying or larping, (the gaming world’s version of dress up.)
"Gamers" might be the most exclusive club that doesn't have an application process, no selection committee, and frankly, confusing and convoluted requirements for admission.
And this is where the real trouble with gamergate. The people who see criticism of misogynistic tropes in games as an affront to who they are, and particularly those who are willing to become violent for the glory of their games, are so far removed from the mainstream gaming world that people that society might classify as gamers may not even know about gamer gate, let alone care enough to form an aggressive opinion. I have a plethora of friends who play games, and took an informal survey the other day, and discovered that none of them knew enough to feel confident enough to have something to say about it, and only two of them had even heard of it.
I'm not trying to say that those who have an opinion and identify as a gamer are automatically violent misogynists. In fact, I really want to communicate that the violent misogynists are to self proclaimed card carrying gamers are what ISIS is to Islam. These misogynists are to people who play games what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christians. This is a microscopic minority of people who dominate the public space of our media and therefore our conversation about these issues.
These people are fundamentalists, and their bible is the games they play. Any attack on their religious text is an affront to them personally and any who follow the gamer creed. It is a sin punishable by death. So, the next time you get caught up in the gamer gate hooplah and wonder if someone in your life, your child, friend, the kid who sits in the back of history class and reads kotaku all day, is a closet murderous misogynist, ask yourself if the woman in the head scarf on the train is a terrorist, or if your pastor would picket a soldier's funeral. One bad egg shouldn’t spoil the whole carton, particularly when the other eggs have no idea the egg is even spoiling it. Gamer gate is undoubtedly a disturbing development for the gaming community. However, it isn’t reflecting of the sentiments of a vast, relatively silent majority of gamers who couldn’t care less about the comments of female journalists. They just want to enjoy their games.
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