I should preface this post by saying that the inspiration for this first Talkback Challenge came from Kelly’s post over on Link Saves Zelda. Not only is Kelly a fantastic writer, but she covers the most important points of GamerGate and how it affected the gaming community. I encourage you to read her post, as some of what I’m going to say is going to be a rehash of the story of the movement, and she goes into more depth that I am going to.
It started in August of 2014 when Zoe Quinn (a female developer) was accused of dating and giving sexual favors to a Kotaku journalist in exchange for a high review score of her newly released game, Depression Quest. That’s where the moniker of “it’s about ethics in games journalism” came from. Whether or not that was the real reason for the movement, whether there’s actually people out there who believe that, the hashtag was hijacked by anyone with a hateful agenda, and has persisted for 8 or so months. Soon, some prominent female content developers were being threatened with death, rape, had their personal information leaked (doxxed) and the whole concept of “swatting” took off right around the same time. It was becoming a bleak landscape for gamers. People were afraid to speak their minds. Many no longer wanted to be associated with the word gamer.
Anita Sarkeesian was also attacked, being a feminist who calls for equality in games. Others took similar harassment, particularly if they were female, a minority, or a supporter or equality/feminism (social justice warriors and white knights). It was only a few short months before GamerGate really took off that I was also one of those people who weren’t all that interested in equality, didn’t care about social issues, and wanted politics and the like left out of my gaming spaces. GamerGate changed that.
Being apathetic about politics, social issues, equality, feminism, etc, doesn’t help anyone, myself included. I have come to understand that as a white male, I’m the default. I come from a privileged background, because the world revolves around me and my viewpoints. Equality threatens that default status, and the perception of things being taken away from me is a scary thought. However, equality and all of the solutions that would make the world a better place don’t necessarily take away from me, they only give others what I was born with. Coming to this conclusion took some thought and effort on my part, and watching GamerGate unfold made me realize that I didn’t want to be part of that problem, I’d rather be a part of the solution. This doesn’t mean attacking GamerGaters, this means taking attention away from them and letting them fizzle out and die.
I don’t think there is anything that could really take the gamer out of me. It’s been three decades. Gaming is for life. But associating with the hateful discourse that happened over the past few months is horrible, and being apathetic about it tends to be worse than being a part of the problem. These reasons are part of why I started the Couch Podtatoes podcast, to bring a more positive voice to gaming and highlight some of the underlying social issues surrounding the culture.
I used to be someone who used the word “fag” and used “gay” in a pejorative sense. Other racial slurs. Degraded women. Made commentary that could hurt people’s feelings without a care. These days I want the LGBT community to have equal rights. I want women to be just as valued and paid well for their time. I want everyone to just get along, and I want to play video games with members of any and all communities. I’ve curbed my language, I’ve changed my attitude, and being a part of the community that has sprung up around the NBI has done more to broaden my horizons than any group I’ve been a part of prior to it.
So how did GamerGate affect me? It encouraged me to be a better person, and to seek out like-minded individuals. Thanks to you all, I have grown so much in the past year. I know it’s only a matter of time before GamerGate disappears and is just something we reference as a “dark time in gaming culture,” but that doesn’t mean I’ll forget the lessons it taught me.
In the words of the late George Carlin, in his role on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure:
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