"In need of white knights, and not just male ones"

#Gamergate highlights why sexism in the video game industry needs to end

The Spectrum

When a game developer is afraid to go home at night, fearing someone might follow her there and harm her; it’s time to reflect on the tragic misfortune that has become the face many people think of when they hear the word “gamer.”

People can say the trolls of online forum Reddit aren’t part of the gaming community at large or that the vile things people say to women attempting to find a place in and enjoyment from the games industry and its community are a minority. Minority or not, they’re the vocal “misogynerds” many people outside of the industry and games community think of, and that’s truly a shame.

They’re the face of “the gamer” because they’re vocal and the people vocal against them get drowned out in the Internet wars trolls relish in creating.

I don’t want to be associated with the sexual harassment women face within the gaming community, nor the sexist nature of the industry itself. I don’t want to be associated with the misogynerds of yesteryear, who are afraid to see the industry that has catered to them change directions.

And I certainly don’t want to be grouped into a community that has maliciously and virulently torn peoples’ lives apart, making them fear for their safety.

If the burgeoning $8.5 billion games industry is a melting pot with a few bad eggs then #Gamergate is the hotplate that might finally burn the rotten eggs out.

Gamergate began in August after independent game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend wrote a lengthy and malicious blog post, insinuating that Quinn cheated on him with a writer for Kotaku in order to receive more press and a better review of her game, Depression Quest – an indie game exploring the effects and feelings of depression through text-base choices.

Finally, the Internet had “proof” that game developers and journalists have become too close. “Proof” that games journalists are being bribed in one way or another into giving games unfair scores. “Proof” that their biggest fears are real.

As a result of the blog, Quinn received numerous death and rape threats, had her personal information and photos hacked and displayed on the Internet. At one point, she was forced from her home, fearing someone would follow her home and harm her.

She wasn’t the first to be subjected to such scrutiny or malice, and she probably won’t be the last.

The explosive discourse that resulted from Quinn’s harassment or the creation of #Gamergate isn’t just about the industry and community’s sexist nature; it’s about the distrust between the games journalism industry and the community it hopes to inform, it’s about the dying image of “the gamer” as a white nerd and it’s about the diversification of the industry’s creations and its community.

The free-for-all between all involved has been anything but quiet and civil.

Industry members bicker back-and-forth, community members put on their troll caps and type more forum posts and hundreds of tweets, Facebook statuses appear by the hour.

This backlash and public outcry has left industry members caught on either side of the crossfire, penning articles or columns and creating videos of their own to battle the Internet and gaming community’s unbridled fury.

A fury that had a resounding silence during its conception with comments/posts on various forums being censured for their content and industry members and critics afraid to speak about either side of the issue, fearing the backlash that would ensue. Silence and censorship that only stocked the fires.

Silence is no longer an option.

Hopefully, the current shouting match that has lit a fire under the gaming community and industry at large brings about the end to the disgusting practices many of its members help perpetuate, or take part in.

Gamegate might be a wide net that was inevitably going to be cast in one way or another.

Games are in the hands of more people than ever; hands that want far more than blockbuster titles like Call of Duty or Halo. The iconic experience of male power fantasies and the big titles that have made “the gamer” feel catered to for years – not that those games are going away anytime soon or dwindling in predictable commercial success.

“The gamer,” however, is a relic. A dying, blanket term for a community that has become just as diverse, and outspoken, as the experiences it consumes. Indie games and unique experiences have replaced many gamers’ lust for big explosions and high budgeted games.

Perhaps Gamergate’s inevitable discourse, like “the gamers” that perpetuate it, is just as much a dying breath for the age of arguments it represents as it for the identity of “the gamer” itself.

A loud, but necessary dying breathe – one that has brought resounding awareness to these issues and will leave its corpse in the hands of the community to fix.

Independent German game developer penned an open letter to the gaming community stating:

“We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.”

If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or Reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites.

If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in.”

If you’re like me and agree with Zecher, and the thousands of industry members who co-signed the letter with him, then speak up.

The letter is an expression of solidarity from an industry at war with itself and under siege by the community it works to entertain and support.

Whether it’s a person on a game trying to silence his or her fellow gamers from harassing another community member, a developer speaking out about women being marginalized within the industry or female characters becoming less sexualized, these problems need voices and attention to find resolution.

Gamergate has exponentially increased awareness to these issues, giving voices to thousands of people on all sides and bringing the problems to the forefront of a previously growing conversation. The conversation, like a budding flower, is now in full bloom.

Regardless of where it ends, it still falls on people within the community to continue the conversation and help fix the horrific harassment of women in gaming – let alone the other issues this scandal represents.

So who ever you are, speak up; become a white knight, or a dreaded “social justice worker.”

email: jordan.oscar@ubspectrum.com