"Gamergate, I have one message for you so listen up.
When you take your last dying breath, I want you to know this. It was an absolute pleasure knocking you on your ass for the fine women in this field."
This message was for originally, but I realized this is really for all gamers.
Jermain, you seem to be a reasonable person, and honestly surprised that some people have a problem with your gaming hobby and by extension your identity in what you thought was a private and non-harmful enjoyment. I appreciate the time you've taken to share some of your experiences and try to help me see things from your point of view. Bear with me because I have a few thoughts and personal experiences I'd like to share.
From what I understand, you feel like you've been targeted as a person unfairly. I think I understand, and I understand you're not alone.
There's hundreds and thousands of people like you who are mystified, baffled, upset, and feel personally attacked for being gamers. You're a stand up guy. You'd never send rape threats or death threats to anyone. You've never been creepy to a woman in public. Maybe the worst you've done is say something like "Eat it bitch!", and that was to a friend or a fellow player in an online game where it's all cool. I mean even Ripley said 'bitch' when she called out the Alien queen, and all women agree she was fucking AWESOME (amirite?)!
I completely agree with you. To be stereotyped and belittled like that based on things you've never done or would do would totally suck and be totally unfair.
To be fair, I'll admit that now some of it is happening. Noelle Stevenson (who writes awesome comics BTW) tweeted something hilarious yesterday and I came this close to retweeting it. It's since been deleted, but it was demeaning to gamers as a self identifying class and while far from the same scale or scope as misogyny, it was indeed to the same type.
I'm genuinely sorry it's happening.
I could ironically quote the advice you (and I'm sure many other are providing) - basically throw rocks and expect to get stung. But I don't think that's right. I don't think anybody deserves to "get stung" whether getting stung means anything from having your group of "gamers" demeaned as "babies", or having you personally called out with death threats or rape threats.
No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that in the storm of online hate and disinformation some people are broadly painting all gamers as "babies, immature whiners, and sexist". I'm personally taking responsibility to never do that, and to call out anybody who does it (I called out Noelle because even though I don't know her, she's awesome enough that I know she can take it).
Sadly, so far I haven't heard a single self identified gamer apologize or take responsibility for preventing, calling out, or condemning online harassment, death threats and rape threats. Not just saying, "Yeah I agree in principle that's wrong," but putting it into practice. Going to the gamer forums, going to 4-chan, posting on their personal feeds, saying "that that kind of shit has got to stop". That this campaign of organized online harassment and verbal misogynist abuse is wrong no matter how good the cause.
But maybe we could start with one?
Bear, with me a little longer if you don't mind? You made a heartfelt plea asking me to understand things from your point of view. Again, I want to tell you that I think I do understand a little bit...
You see not just twenty years ago, but thirty years ago I was that kid who was mocked and teased for spending all my time playing games and not being any good at sports. I understand. Twenty years ago I didn't just play some games, I was making games for Playstation (no bloody, 2, 3, or 4 - yes, that's a Scotty reference) and Sega Saturn. I don't work in the game industry anymore but I regularly do play games of all kinds. I know so many gamers both online and off that I do know gamers aren't violent misanthropes as a group.
I understand, because I've walked in those shoes.
And that's why when I find someone who's not copy-pasting some rhetoric, but honestly, desperately trying to communicate how besieged they feel I want to listen and engage.
And I'd like to ask that you return the favor to try to really understand me and the people you feel attacked by.
I know you feel like Anita Zarkeesian is painting you with a broad brush, like she's stereotyping you.
Let me ask you to take a minute and try to see things from her point of view. Just to watch her videos, maybe just one, and listen, really listen to what she says. Now I know this will be upsetting, but for a moment put your emotions aside and listen to what she actually, really, says.
She never says gamers are sexist.
She never calls you out as broadly misogynistic.
She never says there's not a lot of good things to love in these games.
What she says is simply, look how badly women are treated/portrayed here. Nothing less, nothing more.
You've been told she says more. But's not true.
Maybe you've been told that she's using "weasel words", she doesn't actually say gamers are sexist pigs and their hobby is trash.
I don't think so.
Set aside what you've been told and listen to what she says. Listen to the way she says it. Listen to how she caveats and tries to explain. Really try and see things from her point of view.
When I do that, I see someone who deeply loves games.
I see someone who loves games and who undoubtedly also got mocked or shunned for playing games as a child. Perhaps even more cruelly than we were - because I hear young girls can be especially cutting to their peers who don't conform.
And where we as children found solace in our games and in a few buddies who maybe were outcasts like ourselves, maybe she didn't even have that. How likely were fellow boy gamers to be able to make her feel comfortable and accepted?
Hell, even the games themselves - the wonderful games which provide so much excitement, exploration, enjoyment of skill - even her beloved games seem to reject her. Her role is only supposed to be that of the goal or object.
How did she feel?
When I try to give her the benefit of the doubt and see things from her point of view I don't just understand why she'd want to make those videos. I'm freaking amazed she's so nice and upbeat and understanding in those videos.
She loves games. She loves gamers, because how could she not - she is likely more of a gamer than I am anymore!
What she says, all she says, is that some of these games could be better.
I understand that's not what you feel. I understand that's not what you've been told.
But you should consider that maybe you aren't yet seeing the whole truth. That maybe your honest outrage is being used.
It doesn't have to be a secret cabal of crypto patriarchs lurking on 4-chan. A few griefers here, a few genuine sexists there, a whole lot of miscommunication and emotion that plugs our ears and keeps us from seeing the other person's point of view. All of a sudden there are memes that exist broadly - Anita and corrupt journalists want to tar gamers! Those memes can use you just as certainly as a shadowy puppet master.
This post is already too long. It's no longer a comment reply, but a post in it's own right, yet there's one more plea you made. One last thing you asked me to see from your point of view, so I want to try...
You made a comparison to football - which I have a hard time responding to because 1) I don't sport and 2) comparisons are slippery because the details matter.
Instead let me respond by saying again, I think I understand. Nobody what's their enjoyment or expression curtailed.
Do I really understand? I think so. Just yesterday I was defending the right of people to play games with whole lotsa sexy skin. I don't think we should ban sexy times, or violence.
I understand the role of fantasy, and titillation - particularly transgressive titillation. I'd be upset if someone tried to keep those kinds of games or movies from being made because yes I personally enjoy some of them.
I think we're on the same side!
Now, please, once again, look at things from my point of view.
Very literally, very practically, if we looked at the criticism Antia levels at games and acted on it - what would actually change? What would happen? What is the worst case scenario?
Five years from now, when my oldest daughter is mature enough, she and I could sit down to play a game of Call of Duty together, and she could choose to play a character that actually looks like her. Under all that tactical gear she'd likely be so covered up that she'd almost certainly look like maybe just a shorter thinner guy, but in the selection screens, when she sees her face, when she see's her rankings, she'd see someone who she can identify with, can aspire to be.
Is that so bad?
Does that justify even mild name calling or tarring a group with a broad brush? Much less death threats? Online harassment? Making someone quit their job?
Five years from now when we play some game that just revels in violence and transgressive behaviour - where I can kill and rape and torture and dismember as part of the sandbox world that explores gritty fantasy - maybe in that world I could do the same thing to mean as I do to women. Maybe I could kidnap a young man, not an athletic one, maybe not a popular one who wouldn't be missed. Maybe he's not even just a jigolo, maybe he works the bar, or is a clerk at a store, maybe he sells used games in a seedy part of town. Maybe when I push the buttons on my controller that make it so easy to perform horrible violence towards this person totally under my control, maybe as the game has him beg for mercy like the women in our games do today, maybe I'd feel more realistic empathy for the victims. Maybe I'd really get a true feeling of horror and disgust and really get a "realistic" experience of crime if I can see my younger self in my victim.
That sounds repellant honestly. I don't want to play that at all... but of course that's what women get to play today, so maybe it would be good for us to play that as well.
I mean, I'd personally never play out those abusive sequences in games, so if it were equally treated... would it be so bad?
I don't know what other consequences there would be, or what bad outcomes we could imagine. But sexiness in games and movies is not going away. Violence in games and movies is not going away. Horror is not going away.
The worst I can see is that all three get to be more inclusive. More people enjoy them. More people means more money and more and better games. That seems like a good thing (tm).
Sure maybe you could imagine a worse totalitarian future where no games exist expect Tetris. But none of us want that. Instead of fighting among those of us who loves games, why don't we agree that this future I imagine looks pretty good - let's fight to make that real.
If someday you have daughters. If someday you marry a gamer wife. If someday you have gamer girl friends what do you want to say you did?
Do you want to say that you helped harass women so badly they felt they had to leave their homes and quit their jobs?
Do you want to say, "well I never harassed anyone, but i did defend those who did the harassment..."
Do you even want to say you stood by did nothing and let it happen?
Or do you want to say you helped build bridges, and tried to talk to people on both sides, over and over again however long it took. You cut through the disinformation and hate. You called out the unacceptable behaviour, loudly, clearly, no matter what people said, no matter what bad outcome you feared, because the future we hoped for together was worth it.
We can do this.
On the other hand, you would never find out half this stuff if you didn't have the Internet in your pocket, and that can totally be enriching...
Verse and Vodka is a theater troupe based in Arlington that does staged readings in a casual theater setting. Their next performance is "The Lady's Not For Burning", a farce of romance and politics set around 1400 (more or less exactly). I play Richard, the mayor's clerk.
Performances are October 10, 11, and 17. Tickets and much more information about the troupe available at the link. Come see me!
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"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." - R. W. Emerson
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