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The Truth About #GamerGate

Courtesy FullHDWPP.com

“It’s actually about ethics in games journalism.”

To some, it’s an argument against inflammatory, despicable behavior that arises from and is associated with the GamerGate movement. To others, it’s the punchline of the bad joke the movement has become, in the light of threats of rape, damage, and even school shootings in protest of women speaking out. Evidence suggests that the movement has all of the markings and makings of a hate group. But hate groups tend to have a unified vision that, to the deranged, make perfect sense. Normally, you don’t see two narratives in a single group. You don’t have some saying the goals are one thing, and others acting in ways that completely undermine the legitimacy of the first. To this writer, it made no sense.

I backed away from the issue and looked at the bigger picture. What makes games journalism different from regular journalism? Reporters have had a very long tradition of seeking the truth, being offered rewards for hiding the truth, and risking a great deal in pursuit of the truth. Asking for ethics in journalism of all kinds is part of that tradition, and it hasn’t gone away. Even through the lens of comedy and satire – The Daily Show and The Colbert Report – people are on the lookout for peddlers of corruption and misinformation. But there’s not a lot of groundswell for that sort of lookout in general. Not with the sort of momentum GamerGate has had.

So, I put the question to some of those people. I was, frankly, surprised with the answers I got.

Responses from Twitter

Now, it wasn’t the content of the answers that surprised me. It was the tone. I wasn’t expecting respect from people who use that hashtag. It got even stranger when I started putting questions to a young woman who is very proud to be a part of the movement.

Answer from Vivicool

Answer from Vivicool

I experienced what can only be described as a colossal amount of cognitive dissonance in the wake of these exchanges. This made sense. This was reasonable. This was, dare I say it, positive. I looked at the words in front of me, and then I looked at the words of others, from Chris Kluwe to Felicia Day, and I started to get a sinking feeling in my gut.

Are they talking to me like a human being because I’m a white heteronormative male?

Once the idea got into my head, I couldn’t shake it. It colored the majority of my interactions and I had to question everything I had just experienced. Too many people associated with the movement are rampant misogynists. I could not just ignore that fact and take it on good feelings that what I experienced was how they really behaved when they weren’t threatening to shoot up universities because they don’t like Anita Sarkeesian.

Answer from Vivicool

I must confess that, for a moment, I wanted to believe this. I really did. It seemed like there might be hope for the notion that this is, in fact, about ethics in games journalism. But I couldn’t hold onto that. Not for long.

Not when just one day later, I saw David Hill reporting on a teenage girl talking about her interest in game design. She had written about how GamerGate and other groups made her afraid to follow her dream. She was forced to delete her Twitter account and the article she’d written because of messages telling her she’s the problem, that feminism is at fault, and she’s irrational because GamerGate has had zero negative effect on things around them. A girl likely the same age as the one with whom I’d interacted.

The argument will likely be made that it wasn’t true Gaters saying those things, that the movement isn’t about harassment, so on and so forth. And that is if any argument is made in response to this article at all. Because it’s been written by a white heteronormative male. Even if I am a journalist, and a games journalist at that, I am not the target of GamerGate. I have not been doxxed, threatened, or even treated badly.

Somehow, that is even worse. If my question had been met with accusations of being a social justice warrior (I’m actually a social justice wizard, thank you very much) or implications that my mother performs sex acts for cash, at least that’d be consistent. But no: I was treated very differently from a Zoe Quinn or a Susan Arendt.

The origins of the movement are public and available. Its impact is palpable and overwhelmingly negative. Some in the community feel betrayed by the movement’s behavior, and many have an empathetic feeling of outrage at its treatment of women. So where does that leave people who are legitimately looking for ethics in journalism, and refuse to give up the tag?

It pains me to think that someone truly intelligent, truly well-meaning, and truly compassionate has been roped into the hype used to try and whitewash the movement. To such an individual, propaganda should be obvious and deplorable. Conspiracy theorists would put it that there is a deliberate smokescreen being used to try and obfuscate the true nature of every single person who uses that hashtag. I think the truth is far simpler, and far more terrifying.

Since human beings are complex and nuanced creatures, the movements they perpetuate are also complex and nuanced (for the most part: organized hate groups are not very complex). So, there is room for disparate narratives within a single polity. Especially when said polity is a disorganized, ill-defined, and relatively aimless one united under a label proposed by, at best, a very vocal and prominent public figure with inflammatory and very subjective opinions. The terrifying part is that some are so entrenched in their own intentions, positive though they might be, they will not divorce their quest for ethics from the majority of a movement. And the fact is, that majority behaves in a way that is not only unethical, but downright disturbing and deplorable. There are truly people within GamerGate who do not do this. Their intentions are good. They believe they can change the movement from within. And I want to believe in them so much that it breaks my heart.

It’s important to look at the facts. Look at where the movement started. Investigate the origins of its hashtag. See the results of the actions taken by those who carry its banner. Yes, there are some who speak in a positive way and convey earnestness in beliefs that are not objectionable. But the vast, vast majority speak and act in despicable ways, and their outlook and behavior casts a pall on the minority who do not, to the point that even an outside observer has to question positive interactions. This is not how gaming, and gamers, should be. This is wrong. This is dark. And it has to stop.

From the Vault: How to Survive Living with a Writer

For the benefit of my new flatmates, here are some tips on living with a writer!


Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

One of the most popular posts ever over at terribleminds is this one, entitled “Beware of Writer.” He also penned a sequel that’s just as worthwhile to read. But let’s say you’ve ignored his advice. You’re going to fly in the face of common sense and good taste and actually shack up with one of us crackpot writer-types, in spite of the tiny hurricanes of impotent rage and the nigh-constant smell of booze. Here’s a couple things to keep in mind that may help you keep from running screaming into the night.

Writers are Finicky Bitches

In addition to being very easily distracted (if you didn’t know, we are), writers can get new ideas all the time, at the drop of a hat. It’s not uncommon for a writer to have a few projects at work at any given time. Let’s say our subject is working on a novel and some poetry, and all of a sudden gets an idea for a new tv series about puppet detectives. It’s not enough for us to be distracted by video games or movies or pet antics or offspring or bright flashing lights or loud noises. No no, we need to distract ourselves on top of all of that.

Writers either drift in a slight miasma of barely cognizant perceptions as they indulge in their distractions, or they’re frustrated by efforts to reassert their concentration on something they’re righting. It can make a writer seem bipolar. And if they really are bipolar, woo boy you talk about fun times!1

Surviving this as an outsider requires a metric fuckton of patience. Either you will be asked to participate in some sort of odd habit, or you will be all but ignored as something new distracts the writer. You can go along with it or rail against it, but the important thing is to remind the writer that they should, at some point, write. Yes, you may get bitten over it. That’s what the rolled-up newspaper is for. Aim for the nose.

Writers are Masters (and Mistresses) of Excuses

You’re going to catch a writer not writing. This can be like catching a teenager with their pants down and making them explain the nature of the self-examination they seem to be enjoying. You just need to keep in mind that procrastination is perfectly natural and lots of writers do it. There are even some writers who encourage other writers to procrastinate.

Before I stretch that metaphor any more uncomfortably, the important thing to note is that writers will tell you all manner of tall tales in an effort to avoid your scrutiny. Especially if said writer’s bailiwick is fiction. I mean, come on, these people lie for a living. Or at least as a primary hobby. Of course they’re going to tell you space monkeys invaded in the middle of the night and that’s why the lawn hasn’t been mowed or the dishes remain unwashed. Damn dirty space simians!2

Just as writers need and, if they’re responsible and good, want to be told when something they write doesn’t quite work, writers also need to occasionally be called on their bullshit. “Space monkeys? I don’t see any poo on the walls other than your own. It’s time to shut off the Internet and make some more of that word magic happen, pooplord.” Your exact wording may vary, but you get the idea.

Writers Do, In Fact, Want to Write

So let’s say you’re keeping a writer focused on the now. You’re getting them to help out around the house. They’re watching the kids. They’re cooking meals. They’re renovating your siding and keeping you in whatever it is you like to do when you’re not working. Guess what they’re not doing?

If you guessed “writing”, you just won a bigass shiny No-Prize! Congrats!3

Take a look at any writer pontificating on the need to write, and you’ll see something emerge. There’s definitely a deep-seated compulsion there. On top of any other madness or psychosis, a writer needs to write. Yes, the writer may procrastinate, putter around, put off writing because writing can suck a big fat one from time to time, but at the end of the day, writing is at the core of who that person is, otherwise – Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? – they wouldn’t be a writer.

So do them and yourself a favor. Take the kids for an hour. Put the video game down yourself. Mow the lawn or wash a few dishes. Just give them space, and a little bit of time. If it’s been a while since they’ve written, you bet your ass words will happen while you’re tending to chores.

Or you could not, and they’ll resent you in a deeply personal way. Your call.

I think this may be the biggest key to surviving life with a writer. Giving a little measure of time to write, moreso than calling them on excuses or distractions, relieves the pressure in their minds and helps them get closer to their goals. And the writer will love you for it.


1 I can’t say anybody acted all that surprised when I was diagnosed as bipolar. There was plenty of relief that legitimate psychosis wasn’t involved, though. Not that the doctors could detect, at least. Suckers.

2 They’re rude as hell, too. Coming in the middle of the evening and keeping me from finishing a blog post with their howling and poop-slinging and I was researching League of Legends champion builds and got distracted from finishing this last night I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry please don’t bap me with the newspaper again.

3 Actual contents of No-Prize may vary, from “absolutely nothing” to “sweet fuck-all.”

Change Isn’t Always Fast

Have you ever walked into a room in your home, be it yours specifically or just one you tend to occupy, and look around with a feeling of “Boy, I have got to clean this thing up”?

That’s been my feeling regarding this website lately.

I’ve never had a whole lot of success selling myself. I have some ink here and some recognition there, but it’s difficult not to feel put off by a litany of rejection that is evident with even a cursory glance. And while I can’t necessarily do one specific thing that will magically make all of that do a complete about-face, there are steps that can definitely be taken to make it easier to present a marketable, business-like face to the public.

So in addition to other work I’m doing, I’m looking into the best way to push the blog to a sub-section of the site, and put a better face up front for folks to see. I know it’s been done by others (Chuck Wendig for one), and I’m curious as to the best way to go about it.

This is part of a plan I need to define for and impose upon myself to make change happen. It isn’t easy, and it’s not always fast – in terms of personal growth, it’s never as fast as we’d like. But I didn’t move out here to not change things.

As always, I am open to suggestions. That’s what the comments section is for!

Reset and Realignment

Test Pattern

Today is a busy day for me, but I’m still having trouble getting the day started as early as I’d like. I’m doing what I can to reset my schedule so it’s easier for me to rise when my alarm goes off, not when my cat paws at my face until I feed him. But I still managed to pay bills, toss out some resumes, and get myself ready for some errands. So that’s something, I suppose.

My writing waits to be completed, words and ideas crouched for employment in the corner of my mind. I’ll be unleashing them soon. But first – cheap gasoline!

… in my car, I’m not going to drink it or anything.