#GamerGate, Non Gamers, and Bad Reputations

If you have any connections whatsoever to video games or the gaming world, or even if you have none of those but have been on the internet at all in the last month or so, you’ve probably heard about GamerGate. The underlying sexism in the gaming world has been bubbling up and coming out in the form of a lot of disgruntled menfolks harassing women for being involved in gaming, all under the guise of “journalistic ethics”.

I have very little to say about the particulars of this situation that haven’t already been said, as I am not a gamer and I know almost nothing about the gaming industry. Miri has a great round up post of articles written about the incident, which are more thorough than I could ever be. So why am I writing a blog post about this? Because so far all of the voices I have heard have been from within the gaming community, and as someone on the outside it’s very clear to me that Gamergaters are doing themselves no favors right now. Here’s the truth gaming community: every time I hear about GamerGate I want less and less to do with you. Despite having many gamer friends, an active interest in nerd culture, and the beginnings of an interest in gaming, I am now 100% not interested in being actively involved in the gaming community and it is entirely because of the harassment that women have received.

There are lots and lots of people out there who are getting their first picture of gaming and the type of people who game (beyond the stereotypes of movies  and media) from GamerGate and the incidents surrounding Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. There are lots and lots of people who don’t do much gaming, don’t follow the media around gaming, and really haven’t given it a whole lot of thought…until now, when they’re reading articles about it, seeing vitriol posted on their social media, and hearing these names pop up again and again. You can bet that many people who wouldn’t have given gaming a second thought before now are going to be forming opinions about gamers due to this controversy.

This might be what you were looking for. Maybe you wanted the attention. Maybe you are still mentally five year olds who are convinced that any attention is good attention. If that’s the case, I want you to know something: Gamergaters are not coming off like the heroes here.

Throughout the articles that I’ve read about GamerGate, one of the common threads has been that gamers feel like victims: no one likes them, they’re stereotyped as lazy, fat, losers who live in their parents basements and eat Doritos all day, and the only place that they can be safe is in the gaming community. They cry out again and again that they just want the safe haven of games to be free from developers who get good reviews by sleeping with reviewers, from journalists who take sides or push “social justice” agendas on them, from women who want to criticize their games into nonexistence. Society has rejected them, and they just want their community to be their own.

Somewhere, buried in the confusion about purpose, GamerGate appears to be about the desire to be respected as a community. Update from the rest of the world: if you want society to treat you better and respect your community as a legitimate space for art, self-expression, and decent relationships, the way to do that is not by making rape and death threats to anyone who criticizes you. That actually makes you look even worse than the previous stereotypes, and will probably end with you feeling even more victimized because you’ve managed to earn the derision of society at large through horrible, abusive behavior. If you do want the respect of the world at large, you might have to act like adults, engage critically with other people, and be willing to talk through differences of opinion. Until you do that, gaming will continue to be stigmatized as childish and silly.

So if Gamergaters think that they’re improving their community or making headway into society by using their current tactics, they are dead wrong. What they’re actually doing is gaining themselves a fairly horrible reputation with everyone who wasn’t already a part of the community.

It’s quite possible that GamerGate had to happen, that this is the growing pains of a space that previously had been the haven for those who were hurt and lonely. It’s quite possible that the gaming community will come out of this much better, and will draw in new voices and perspectives, and gain respect. It’s possible. But from the outside it looks like the temper tantrum of a bunch of overgrown children who don’t want to let other people play in their sandbox, and if this outsider is anything like other outsiders, it is not endearing you to society at large. You thought you had a bad reputation before? You have made it so much worse for yourselves. Sometimes bad reputations are deserved, and right now you are making it clear to the world that yours definitely is. If what you want is respect, then you better start earning it.

Yours truly,

Everyone else

How To Be A Queen

This is a short story (kids book in the making?) that I wrote after a therapy appointment a few weeks ago. Enjoy 🙂

 

Once upon a time there was a little princess who knew in her deepest heart that it was her destiny to be a queen. Each morning she arose and undertook a perfect set of rituals to make her a perfect queen. She would dress in a pure white gown, stand up very straight, take her lessons quietly and follow every rule so that when she grew old enough, the people in her kingdom would see how perfectly fit she was to be queen and they would raise her to her rightful place on the throne.

She studied politics, languages, and diplomacy to be a good leader. She studied ethics and philosophy and social justice to be fair. She learned music and decorum and decorating to be lady-like and beautiful.  She was the paragon of class, charm, intelligence, and hard work. Someone had to see how suited she was to be queen.

As she grew older, the fair princess saw that despite her perfection, she was overlooked. The boys were stronger and faster than she was. They showed they were ready leaders through their competitions and it was clear to everyone that the victor deserved praise and power. She knew she deserved to be queen, that she was smart and could solve the problems she saw around her. She knew that she had done all that was asked of her.

And so she decided she had to prove she was the equal of the boys, prove she could keep up, and silently show everyone by her sheer skill that she deserved to rule. If she defeated the boys, they would have to notice her.

She marched straight up to the biggest, strongest boy of them all and challenged him to an arm-wrestling competition. He grinned mercilessly, and they each took their seats; she daintily so as not to dirty her white dress. She was a lady after all, and even if she was going to show up these boys she still had to live up to womanly standards. She couldn’t be perfect if she was dirty. And so they began.

Just after she had handily beaten the burly boy, the princess looked around, wondering where her praises were. There were a few onlookers who cheered, but most of the crowd quickly dispersed, unfamiliar with her and her story, unknowing of her potential or even her desire to be queen.

Sadly she turned to walk home. She turned a corner and came upon a nasty scene. A pair of bullies were teasing a little girl, shoving her in the mud and calling her names. The princess were outraged. If she were queen, she would order them to stop. But she knew she had to follow the rules to be queen and that they wouldn’t listen to her anyway because she was just a princess, so she looked around for someone to tell, someone with power who could stop them.

She saw a policeman and ran to tug at his sleeve, yelling and pointing at the children.

“Hm, that looks nasty. I’ll have to go file a report about it. Then someone will come back to monitor the situation,” he responded before walking away. Growing more desperate, the princess ran to the parents of the children, but they laughed and said “Kids will be kids.”

The princess was angry. Something needed to be done and no one would do it. She had followed all the rules and no one was listening to her, nothing was changing. But she was just a little princess and she couldn’t do anything by herself. She had to stay clean, and do things right until people began to notice. She had to be perfect in order to be queen!

She looked back at the little girl crying in the mud and something inside of her grew larger and larger with righteous anger.

“STOP” she yelled, throwing herself between the bullies and the girl just in time to get shoved in the mud. She sat for a moment in stunned silence. Her beautiful white dress was ruined. She had yelled. She had broken the rules. Everyone froze and stared silently at her, but through her fear words came.

“You need to stop you bullies. I may not be queen, but I will defend this girl even if it means breaking every rule in the world. This is wrong and I don’t care if people see me and hear me doing this, I will protect her! I’d rather stand up for the innocent than be queen if being queen means staying quiet about things that are wrong!” The bullies looked down, abashed, and slowly walked back to their parents. No one had ever bothered to stand up to them before. Everyone had followed the rules quietly before.

The princess’s mother came hurrying out of the crowd towards her.

“What happened?” she demanded, her eyes taking in the ruined white dress in dismay.

“I’m sorry Mother. I know now I’ll never be queen because I didn’t do things by the rules and I got dirty, but I had to stop those bullies.”

“Oh my dear,” her mother smiled. “You are more of a queen today than you have ever been before. You can only be heard if you open your mouth and speak. Today you will be Queen of the Mud, and today everyone will see you for who you are. A true leader.”

The Queen of the Mud stood up, looking around her in astonishment as all around her people knelt in the mud and dirt to applaud her actions. They didn’t care that her sheen of perfection had vanished, that her dress was torn, that she was not pristine and perfect. She had gotten her hands dirty, and they had seen her.

“So this is how to be a queen,” she whispered.