The past week has been, by a long shot, the worst week in the recent history of gaming. With finger pointing, tantrums and some absolutely vile abuse aimed at so many prominent figures on both sides of the debate, nobody has come out of this situation on top. We have experienced the ugly side of every sector in gaming and it’s left a lot of us lacking enthusiasm for the industry that brought us all together to begin with. Although the original fever has passed, it looks as though nobody in the industry is truly moving on. And I believe a large portion of that is down to the narrative that has been created by the dismissive, sweeping voices that stand in opposition within gaming media.
Much of the anger surrounding the ‘GamerGate‘ climate (a tag coined to represent the injustice felt by a community of gamers at odds with its industry), has transitioned from the petty back and forth surrounding individuals and fallen firmly on the doorstep of the journalists that have in the past, and continue to, stand in the way of progress. I have talked a bit before about journalistic responsibility, as well as simple ways around potential conflicts of interests, and received an incredibly supportive and open minded response from the gaming community. So frequently now I am confronted with the accusation that gamers are overall a misogynistic group of individuals. However, I am a woman, I am openly and outright feminist, I have spoken out against the treatment of women in gaming, especially over this past week – and yet the responses I have received have been almost entirely to the tune of “whether or not I agree with your point of view, I respect you for discussing it reasonably”. So why is it that I’m seeing articles from other, far more prominent and connected figures in gaming media claiming that ‘gamers are over’, that our culture has expired, and the general sentiment that the community has outstayed it’s welcome within it’s own supporting industry?
This overarching disconnect from the reality of gaming culture speaks strongly in favour of the need for reform. Journalism has become an incredibly defensive sector due to recent ethics and conduct concerns expressed by the community, and a great deal of the response has been dramatic knee-jerk reactions such as dubbing all gamers sexist, or blocking writers from offering indie support. Unfortunately, the defensive reaction of the gaming media has closed almost all formal channels of communication between the industry and the community, and this complete refusal of discourse has only served to heighten the divide, and fan the flames of frustration felt on both ends. When the only means of communication is informally through networks like Twitter, it increases the anger, it perpetuates the feeling of ignorance and lack of understanding between both parties – all of these factors increase the likelihood of abuse and aggressive attitudes.
It still doesn’t feel as though it’s a fair fight, and it isn’t. There are many figures within the industry that carry a great deal of influence, and in picking sides either way have perpetuated the ‘Gamers v Social Justice’ narrative we are experiencing right now. But that isn’t what’s actually happening. Sexism is a real issue within gaming, but it has become a false target, the reality of which is belittled by the unfounded, misrepresented and often entirely baseless accusations being casually thrown around. There has of course been undue and unwelcome harassment and abuse suffered by many people in gaming over the past few weeks, regardless of which standpoint they have taken. The accusation that this outward form of hatred is prevalent only in the ‘gamers’ sector is entirely dismissive of the abuse names such as TotalBiscuit and JonTron have faced. It is entirely dismissive of the utter insult, disrespect and hatred the community as a whole have faced, to the point where we have been compared to a terrorist organisation. Is this reasonable discourse?
By the same token, feminism has become a scapegoat for many gamers, with a large number of people viewing it as a movement under the umbrella of Social Justice, and therefore opposing their ideals. That’s nonsense, please do not align yourself with that closed off way of thinking. The “feminism” that you see being flaunted from high horses right now is a fraudulent use of the term – the goal of feminists is to open channels of communication, encourage discourse and understanding. That movement is unfortunately associated with several poor names in gaming, and I feel as though that reflection has encouraged many in the community to actively reject all discussion regarding the subject altogether. This movement against gamers under the guise of ‘Social Justice’ does more damage to legitimate social concerns by effecting their welcome within the community in the future. It is under attack just as much as the community itself.
The only way the industry can begin to move forward is by opening formal channels of discourse that will allow a free flow of thoughts, ideas and opinions. Conversation cannot be censored anymore, and one sided articles cannot flippantly align entire sites one way or another for good. It cannot be the case that a violent reaction from a minority defines an entire movement – we have seen this ham-fisted approach demonstrated in nearly every controversial discussion, and it only serves to halt progress with reinforced elective ignorance.
This conflict will not go away, gamers are not ‘over’ – it’s about time everybody sat down, shut the fuck up and heard each other out.
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