Monday, October 27, 2014

On GamerGate.

I am a gamer. Like most people I know, I enjoy the occasional tabletop RPG, I enjoy my fair share of board games, and of course computer games. Minecraft, League Of Legends, Terraria, Kingdom of Loathing, and MUCK-ing are my preferences.  But, you see, there's a dirty little secret in gaming, one that's neither little nor secret anymore.  Gaming space is inherently dangerous for women. Saying so out loud, in public, however you quantify what saying this to my limited audience as? That's even more dangerous. Happily, I'm not famous enough to actually see a lot of pushback from speaking my mind. But Felicia Day did.

This past week, iconic gamer girl Felicia Day wrote a blog post about what it's like to be a woman in the gaming industry while this whole fiasco is going on. She wrote a lot more eloquently than I ever could. I can tell you anecdotes - things like "I have gender neutral screen names so I cannot be immediately identified as a woman" and "have you seen the public chat areas of games - ever?" but these lack power compared to her personal experience. I'm "just" a stay home mommy, a blogger with a niche audience, a geek with a cause. I have no particular fame, and thus shouldn't have a horse in this race.  And yet.

I use a gender neutral screen name. I'm very glad I do. Every time I've been in a public - or close to public - game area with someone who has an effeminate name (things like "PrincessZero" or "JulieBean" for example), I'm reminded of exactly why I don't have my usual "Care" in these arenas.  When the game goes poorly, the first person called out on the carpet is the girl. Not because she's the one dragging the team down (sometimes she is, yeah, but more often than not, it's a lack of teamwork that deep sixed the game, not one person's performance) - a lot of the time, she's actually got one of the better records of the lot. Nope, it's because she's a girl, and inherently less able to play than the boys are.  A large number of times, chat devolves into nameslinging - people calling her (and others) a whore. "Asking" for sexual favors. Berating her for either a negative response or no response at all. Accepting, because this is all digital and hey, once we're out of this part of the game, we can just disappear does no good - the harassment continues constantly. Mercifully, now you have the ability to mute these players, but if they're heavily into the GamerGate "good old boys" end of things, you risk a whole lot just by not responding. 

The GamerGate movement likes to think it's irate about journalistic ethics. That people who profit in any way (or are in any way associated with the games) from reviews they write should disclose this in their reviews. I do agree on that point. However, their main point of contention is that a woman slept with a game reviewer in order to garner better reviews for her games. It came to light when her ex-boyfriend "exposed" her treachery. That's where it ends, in general, for GamerGaters. The problem is, this woman was not sleeping with said reviewer - and this was proven shortly after the fact. The bitter ex made it up wholesale. But nobody cares, they have Righteous Anger, and they're going to use it! The fact of the matter is, gaming journalism is only just evolving as its own "thing." Considering that the leading gaming publication was Nintendo Power, written BY NINTENDO, about Nintendo, and was one giant ad for game guides, games, and aftermarket controllers and trinkets purchasable from Nintendo.  Considering its start, the industry has come a long way. Is there still a long way to go? Yes. But tell me this: what is an effective way of dealing with this scenario?

I think that calling for disclosure statements (even I have one!), for blunt statements indicating whether or not a conflict of interest may exist, and whether or not one has been compensated for their time is a good start.  What isn't a good start?  Taking blog posts like Felicia Day's, and instead of seeing what is written there, taking it as a threat. She has spoken out against The Movement and must be punished.  That's right. People dare suggest that women are treated unfairly in games, the gaming industry, or by GamerGate specifically, and what happens? Their personal details are posted to the internet. For me, this isn't quite as huge a deal as it could be. I'm not exactly inspiring loads of people to read my words all the time, to seek me out, I don't have millions of fans worldwide, posting my name and address, while not something I want to do, isn't going to result in anyone stalking me, or any kind of threat to my personal safety. Doxxing, the posting of one's personal details online by another person without consent, will harm Ms Day. Hopefully the information was pulled before too many saw it. But, yes. Speak out about the troubles inherent in GamerGate, and - if you are female - you risk your life. If you are male, however, you can speak out. And interestingly, as quoted in the above Guardian article, Mr Kluwe makes note of his "punishment" for giving far more vitriolic criticism on the GamerGate movememt: “None of you fucking #gamergate tools tried to dox me, even after I tore you a new one. I’m not even a tough target,” he tweeted. “Instead, you go after a woman who wrote why your movement concerns her.”  And honestly, I think that speaks volumes about what GamerGate really is.