Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, but I only learned about the #Gamergate controversy today, via an article on popular humor website Cracked. Well, perhaps not under a rock, but I don’t use Twitter much, and don’t regularly bother with Reddit or tumblr, or with 4Chan at all, and it seems that the uproar has mostly been aired on those venues. After reading one side of the story on Cracked, I decided to check out the other side’s viewpoint, because that’s a thing I do; I’ve realized over time that the truth of a matter generally lies somewhere in the shades of gray between the black and the white depictions that are presented by opposing factions.
For those not in the know, #Gamergate is supposedly a grassroots reaction to purported cronyism in the world of gaming journalism. I had to scratch my head– people actually pay attention to GAME REVIEWERS? It’s my stance that actual “gaming journalism” hasn’t been around since the heyday of Nintendo Power and GamePro. What suffices for such today is basically a bunch of bloggers, some of them no more qualified than I am, simply offering their opinions, as you do. That’s the nature of the internet. Anyway, writing about video games is not as cut-and-dried as, say, movie reviews, because gaming is an immersive experience that not everyone perceives in the same way, and I have thus had little truck with “gaming journalism” because someone else’s opinion of a game means squat to me as an individual. I play what I want, when I want, and how I want, and what some faceless reviewer thinks of whatever game I happen to be enjoying of a moment means less than nothing to me. I’m a fully formed adult capable of making my own decisions as to what I play and don’t. I haven’t read a game review in years. I don’t need them. If the graphics, the genre, or the concept appeals to me, I’ll play it, and if none of those things do, I won’t. Maybe I’m alone in this, and perhaps even belittling what I do as a blogger in the first place, but I prefer to form my own opinions, and honestly didn’t even realize “gaming journalism” was still a thing, other than random websites of the “OMG GTA5 is UNREAL BRO U GOTTA PLAY IT!!11!!” persuasion, as any other so-called gaming sites are covered in so much malware that my browser gets PTSD after visiting them just to check out upcoming release dates.
Anyway, that was my first big revelation; I was incredulous that this was something anyone took seriously for reals. Back to the story. The entire brouhaha started with a rambling blog post from an embittered ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn. The ex accused her of sleeping around behind his back with influential guys in the industry and the industry’s press. Supposedly this was to be for her benefit in the form of positive reviews for her text-based game Depression Quest. (On a tangent, speaking as one who has suffered from severe clinical depression, to me this does not sound like my idea of Happy Funtimes.) In reality, it only garnered her game a brief mention in one of her supposed paramour’s blog posts. Somehow this is supposed to qualify as a conflict of interest.
This is where the anarchist in me pops out a bit. I have an opinion on conflicts of interest, which is that they should only apply in a court of law, because my further opinion is that conflicts of interest are a load of crap. If my own husband made a video game I thought was rubbish, I’d tell it like I saw it to him or anybody else, if anyone asked. Conflict of interest? I don’t think so. Like I said, I have an anarchistic bent and I am bluntly honest. If Zoe Quinn wants to bang the LA Raiders from the coach to the waterboy, that’s her right and her business. I truly couldn’t care less, and it perplexes me that anyone else would give a rat’s behind, either. As for journalistic integrity, did anyone really think that in the age of TMZ, Fox News and the like, that it was even still alive? There is no such animal as journalistic integrity in the modern era, because media outlets tailor their coverage to specific audiences to create a specific response. A while back I wrote about the concept of yellow journalism and why it sucks, which it most assuredly does, but a belief that it somehow does not exist in certain pockets of the internet is nothing more than denial. No, it shouldn’t exist, but human nature is what it is, and like it or not, everyone on Earth has an agenda. Even I have one. Mine is that ignorance is a curable disease, but stupidity is a fatal one, and we should be putting as much effort into its eradication as we put into our misplaced moral outrages. Why don’t we start an ice bucket challenge to cure stupid? Stupid people, just fill a large bucket with ice and hit yourself over the head with it until sense starts to seep into the cranial cavity.
Sorry, I just keep veering off into rant territory, even though I’m not getting angry in the sense that those on either side of this issue would like; my eye rolls are my own. Quinn presented quite a bit of evidence for her claims of harassment, and I believe her assertions as to how far it’s gone. She’s received death and rape threats. She’s been doxxed (her personal details leaked to the internet). Her dad gets random callers who tell him his daughter is a whore. Not even child murderers go through that kind of idiocy on a daily basis.
To be fair to those on the other side of the argument, they have also managed to present credible evidence that Quinn is not exactly the nicest person. She cheated on her boyfriend, once with a married man. She managed to put the kibosh on a charity project that would have potentially rivaled one she was planning herself. She has allegedly doxxed others, which is never okay. But ya know what? It’s not illegal to be a huge jerk. Telling her she needs to get raped and die in a fire? Yep, that’s illegal. There is free speech, and there are little things known as “terroristic acts and threats,” and the level of vilification Quinn has been enduring definitely qualifies as that. The
trolls lovely folks over at 4Chan have taken time out from pushing the tolerability limits on Rule 34 to bitch about the deletion of their threads on the subject by mods and have resorted to talking about it in a very obvious and pointed code that could have been made up by a third-grader; suffice to say that if anyone is talking about Five Guys on that site, they are not referring to overpriced hamburgers, but to how many dudes Quinn allegedly screwed behind her boyfriend’s back. (Apparently, there is even such as thing as Too Messed Up For 4Chan.)
This brings me to the whole slut-shaming aspect of this fetid mess. Who, in the year 2014, gives two flying farts about whether or not a woman sleeps around? As long as you’re using protection, go for it, ladies. I don’t care. Let your Freak Flag fly. It’s decidedly Not My Problem, and nobody else’s business but your own. I have seen comments to the effect that Quinn is responsible for setting back the female gaming community. I’m going to assert that there IS no “female gaming community”, there is only a “gaming community,” and if anyone wants to make an issue about gender within that community, that is, once again, their problem and not mine. I’m there to have fun. If anyone has a problem with my unabashed femininity, well, God Bless ‘Em. I’ve been told to “make a sammich” a lot, but for the most part I can give back as good as I get, and I don’t feel any need to be a victim. Both sides of the issue are carrying on the drama as if it actually matters in the grand scheme of things. ISIS is beheading people, Venice is sinking into the sea, and cancer still exists (*drags on cigarette, blows smoke at the haters*). Somehow, the integrity of reviews about video games is more than a blip on the freaking radar?
I guess my point boils down to this.
- Game reviewers, review; I won’t be reading your reviews anyway, so whether they’re bought and paid for via cash, sex, merchandise or otherwise is irrelevant.
- Trolls, quit trying to justify yourselves by hiding behind the banner of Social Justice. Yes, you are. As much as you decry feminists for it, you are guilty of the same. Guess what, it is #NotYourShield, either.
- Feminists, which I count myself among: Quit playing the victim card and own yourself. Don’t fear being called a “bitch”– I’ve told people for years that they call me that as if it’s a bad thing. If all women actually did this, there would be no need for a feminist movement any longer, and I thought this didn’t need saying anymore.
- Zoe Quinn, be yourself, and do what you do. Everyone makes mistakes, but that’s what we do as human beings. Your mistakes have not warranted this level of ugliness, and while you may not be on the pristine side of the antediluvian/mentally disturbed Virgin/Whore dichotomy, note that those who adhere to said dichotomy have deeper issues than you or I could possibly be held accountable for.
- Most of all, everybody: Straighten out your priorities, for Chrissake. Apply your indignation to something that actually makes sense, and if you have trouble with that, go volunteer in a soup kitchen or an animal shelter or something, and let gaming be about letting loose and having fun. Why so serious? Life is too short to waste making much ado about nothing when Hyrule needs saving.
That is all. Deal with it.