I’ve been thinking about writing down some thoughts on this rather inflammatory subject for a while, but steered clear of it because of the almost inevitable flak it draws to those that write about it, and because I thought it would fade away after a couple of weeks. Well, it hasn’t, and I’ve been reminded that some of the things done in the name of this “movement” are inexcusable, and those responsible need to be called out for their behaviour – by as many people as possible.
Depending on how this post is received, I may remove it – I’m not here to start a war with either side, so let’s try and keep this civil shall we?
So, you may well be asking yourself (or the monitor in front of you) “What’s GamerGate?”. Well to that, I say “Google is your Friend” – it’s a massive topic, and one I don’t know all the intricacies of myself. There are plenty of news sites and blogs that summarise it for you, but I recommend you also check out the hashtag #GamerGate on Twitter (Twitter is the place this thing really took off, and is at the heart of it in some ways), and the people tweeting about it tell quite a different story to what you’ll read on most news sites.
Now, the people I’ve spoke to who are in support of GamerGate claim it is a movement that wants integrity and equality in games journalism – it’s been suggested that the relationship between game developers and the games journalists is too close, and there’s some collusion going on. Developers swaying the journalists to get a favourable review. That’s about the one goal they all agree on. Because then it gets messy; some want a return to the “good old days” when the games journalists were gamers that were pretty much in bed with the publishers, and games reviews were little more than press releases. Some want games journalists to shift away from reporting on feminist issues in/with games and their portrayal of women; in fact some people want the games journos to not write about anything but the games – nothing about the gaming culture, issues, or potential of this rapidly developing art form.
Others – and these are the ones that seem to be getting all the limelight – seem to want women (and everyone else that isn’t a white male under the age of forty) to get the Hell out of their little world and stop interfering with what they see as their personal domain. And because this is the Internet, there are the ever-present Trolls just in it for teh lulz/internet notoriety.
And it seems that some of these people will go to almost any lengths to get their point across – decency and tolerance be damned. What do I mean? Well here’s a quick hit list of some of the things some (and I stress that point – it is only a minority of GamerGate supporters that are hijacking the movement for their own misogynistic ends) of the pro GamerGate folks have been up to;
- Death threats – ten-a-penny online these days if you stick your head above the parapet. But they become much more sinister when combined with the next one…
- Doxxing – whereby, through the marvels of modern technology, someone online finds all your personal details (Home address, phone numbers, spouse/family members, etc.) and makes it publicly available. Y’know, to all those people threatening to kill you, or burn down your house.
- School shooting threats – One GamerGate supporter threatened to shoot-up a University if it let a prominent female games journalist go ahead with her intended talk on their campus.
- Smear campaigns – Worse than any electoral campaign. They’ll claim you’re a whore, a junkie, violent, a plagiarist… pretty much anything to discredit you in the eyes of the public.
- Torrents of vile abuse – Again, all too common these days online. Nothing’s taboo anymore.
Now from what I’ve seen and conversations I’ve had with people from both sides of this thing, there are valid points. As in every struggle, each side has its heroes and its villains. I’m not here to decide which side – the Pro GamerGaters, or the anti GamerGaters – is right or wrong. My meagre support will not be thrown behind either argument until such time as the goals of each are clearly defined and stated (if such a thing is even possible in a sprawling, convoluted debate as this).
No, what I’m here to do is call out those on both sides that thing the sort of behaviour listed above is acceptable. I’ll keep the core of my message simple, lest the finer points be lost:
It’s not big, it’s not clever, and it’s not cool. Stop it.
The people you’re threatening are just that – people. They are other human beings. They’re not perfect, but nobody is. The women you’re telling to “die by rape” (an actual quote from a tweet I saw) are someone’s mothers, sisters, daughters. How would you feel if it was your mother, or wife that had people hoping for her to be raped to death? The people you’re threatening to kill have done nothing to deserve the fear you’re causing them. I know asking you to empathise is probably an exercise in futility since if you could do that, then you wouldn’t behave like this in the first place, but imagine it’s your Dad, your brother, or you best friend that’s had to flee with his family into hiding because some lunatic on the internet is threatening to kill them all because he doesn’t agree with his views on a video game. It’s fucking insane.
We as a community need to step up and shut these people down. I was tempted to remain silent on this issue, intimidated by the immensity of it, but there’s one fact that is clear to anyone with half a braincell and a shred of human decency in them: this behaviour is not acceptable. They need to be told that it is not acceptable.
In chatrooms and forums, on Facebook and Twitter, in gaming Guilds and clubs, online and offline, they need to be told “That’s not OK. Stop it”. And if they don’t? Cut them out. Kick them from the guild, block them on Facebook. Shun them. Report them if possible (remember harassment is a crime, as is making death threats!). People willing to behave like that are not welcome in our community, and they need to see that our community will not accept them. At the end of the day, we’re the only ones that can really change the behaviour of those in our community – and if we sit idly by and let them carry on like this, then we are tacitly encouraging them. And that’s also not cool