Why #GamerGate Can't Work
I generally try to avoid getting involved in topical, controversial discussions (notice that my website and Twitter have been free of references to ISIS or Teapot Dome), but this Gamer Gate fiasco has been flooding my Twitter feed for several weeks now and the divisiveness it's generated is nothing short of remarkable. If you don't know what I'm referring to, read this. And this. And a couple of these. And then come back.
In the tsunami of shouting internet voices following this whole hootenanny, I think I can divide the majority of the responses into one of three factions: the first faction is simply "anti-gamer gate" for any number of reasons, but generally are horrified by the backlash that Zoe has received. The second group is "pro-gamer gate" and feels that Zoe is [insert awful insult here] and therefore exactly what is wrong with gaming today. The third group is "pro-gamer gate," condemns the attacks and harassment that Zoe has received, but feels that corruption in video games journalism is something that needs to be addressed and are frustrated with the categorization of their hashtag (#gamergate) as an inherently misogynistic and sexist movement when it's really meant to be about the corruption within the industry. It is this third group that I am addressing, but all others are welcome to read on.
It can be frustrating when someone paints your campaign with a brush based on a few bad apples, but I really feel like you're not understanding why people are upset. Stick with me, here. I will absolutely concede that corruption in video game journalism is a problem; I've long felt that gaming journalism is generally shit and there are examples of said corruption. I am not active in the indie gaming scene, but a large number of respected members within the community have also commented that nepotism is an issue among independent developers. I also believe that you feel the response that Zoe has received is completely out of line and uncalled for (or at least some of you do). The problem is when you try to turn the discussion back to journalism and corruption; see, you can't. That opportunity to discuss journalistic integrity with regards to games may have existed for the briefest of moments at the beginning of all this, but the second that Zoe began receiving death and rape threats, the chance to talk about anything else vanished, and you need to understand why. Even if every single thing that people claim about Zoe is true, we still can't make this about journalism ethics.
The reason you ostensibly want to address the corruption in video game journalism is to increase the legitimacy and integrity of the gaming community, which, as a gamer, I feel is a noble goal. However, this whole clusterfuck has laid bare (I can't dare say "uncovered"; if you think this is the first time this has happened, please, Google around) a disturbing issue, one that needs to be addressed far more urgently than the industry journalism. The treatment of women within the gaming community has been a long simmering topic that kept bubbling to the surface until it finally exploded with Zoe Quinn and, before her, Anita Sarkeesian. The fact that anyone receives threats of violence over comments relating to games is unacceptable and indisputably is a bigger problem than journalistic malfeasance. It's not that we can't focus on two problems at the same time, it's that one problem is so much more abhorrent than the other that all available resources should be devoted to solving it before attempting to resolve anything else.
Look at it this way. Imagine you live in a small, idyllic town, and one day you receive a parking ticket from a cop just because he felt like being a dick. Not being one to take this sort of abuse of power lying down, you decide to fight the ticket. When you arrive at city hall to dispute your ticket, you get lost on the way to the courtroom. Unable to decipher the inscrutable directions and signs, you take a wrong turn and accidentally stumble into a secret meeting of lizard people. Various local citizens from around town, teachers, doctors, garbage men: all lizard people.
Naturally, the rest of the community responds with a certain amount of shock and outrage. To your consternation, however, they're less outraged over the police corruption, and more the infestation of lizard people. "Hold on," you exclaim. "What about my parking ticket?"
The group looks at you, confused, before continuing to plan their counter-offensive against the evil, reptilian usurpers. Frustrated, you stamp your foot like a petulant child and demand, "What about my parking ticket?!"
After a moment, someone slowly replies, "Dude. We have to deal with the lizard people."
Completely nonplussed, you wave your arms in the air, your parking summons moving flaccidly with the gesture. "So now police corruption isn't a major issue?"
Another moment passes. "No, police corruption is an issue, but lizard people attempting to subjugate the entire town is a bigger issue."
"Oh, so so we can't focus on more than one problem at the same time?" you protest, indignantly.
"Fixing police corruption when lizard people are walking among us is like healing a sliced finger on a cancer patient. On its own, yeah, police corruption is a significant issue. But lizard people kinda blows it out of the water."
You look at your feet and kick imaginary rocks for a moment before mumbling, "Lizard people only make up a small percentage of the town, though."
"They still constitute a significant minority...wait, are you okay with lizard people walking around, trying to assimilate us all?"
"No, of course not, I totally disagree with what the lizard people are doing!"
"Then what's the fucking argument? Yeah, police corruption is a problem, but lizard people present a MUCH. BIGGER. PROBLEM. Once we deal with the lizard people, we can have a state of the union address about illicit parking tickets, we'll air it on national TV, and I will chair it myself," says Francois Englert, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. "But until such time, quit talking about your stupid parking ticket!"
This is how anti-gamer gate people feel. They aren't okay with corruption in the video game industry and they're not saying it's not a topic worthy of discussion. They're saying that the gamers who threatened Zoe with death and rape are a far bigger problem than any sort of corruption that Zoe could have perpetrated. Insisting that Gamer Gate is only about industry journalism is saying that "people being routinely threatened with death and rape and violence within the community I love doesn't deserve my full attention."
Yes, it really fucking does.
I love video games. I want the industry to prosper and flourish. I want to be able to talk about why I disagree with parts of Anita Sarkeesian's videos without some dipshit saying that she's a cunt who should shut her fucking mouth. I want to be able to talk the deplorable state of gaming journalism without some fucktard saying the Zoe Quinn is the epitome of journalistic corruption and should get raped. But as long as people continue to do the latter things, I cannot in good conscience ignore it by attempting to do the former.
If you really want to have an honest discussion about journalism in the gaming industry, the first step is simple: get rid of the goddamn lizard people.