What is #GamerGate All About?
Normally, I wouldn’t comment on a subject having to do with games or gaming since I’m not a gamer and never have been and know nothing about it. What made me decide to write this piece is not any newfound interest in playing video games, but a recent controversy (or “scandal”), within gaming cybersphere, that broke out into the open and into the society at large and revealed some ugly and disturbing, though not at all surprising, reality, within its culture.
I don’t want to bore the reader with the details of what happened – news networks have done that, already. Suffice it to say that the ex boyfriend of a female gaming developer, Ms. Zoe Quinn, accused her of having a relationship with a gaming journalist, who writes reviews for a gaming site called Kotaku, for the purpose of getting a good review for the game she developed, “Depression Quest”. It turned out there was no such review, but, he went on, nevertheless, to post details of his own prior relationship with her to discredit her. Somehow, this accusation caused some men within the gaming cyberspace to begin a campaign of attack, under the hashtag campaign called #GamerGate against her and all women within the gaming sphere, with some men going as far as making threats of physical violence against her, which led her to leave her house out of fear of getting hurt or killed. The participants of the #GamerGate campaign claim that their “cause” is about journalistic integrity with some distancing themselves from the threats of the more extreme members, though most of their comments are sexist attacks against women.
The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group for US developers, released a statement (reported by BBC), saying: “Threats of violence and harassment are wrong.” Oh really? Nice to know! I wonder how much time and effort the Association had to put into formulating and composing this courageous and controversial statement, which they felt compelled to undertake, at the risk of potentially damaging their bottom line. But, hey, you have to do the right thing even if it hurts you, right?! Sarcasm, aside, I think Ms. Quinn was being too kind calling their statement “milquetoast”.
My point from relaying this isn’t just to report it, which anyway has already been done. Reports of events that take place in the world are useless and pointless, if all we get from them is that such and such thing happened, as disjointed and isolated events, without understanding their historical, social and political context or meaning and without connecting them to larger trends and realities around us. We have no use for such pieces of information, if all we find out is the information itself, devoid of any context and learn nothing from it. That’s usually how we’re fed information about events taking place. Hardly ever is there an analysis beyond the 10 second sound bites and tidbits of isolated information, stripped of any social and historical meaning. And when there is any report at length and within a larger framework, it’s generally when the status quo and their media wants us to form a particular opinion about something or someone because their interests call for it, such as preparing us for war against another “brutal dictator”, who must be stopped. Nor would I claim, as news reporters often do, to be unbiased. There is no such thing or such a person as unbiased. We all are biased. It just depends where or rather on which side our biases are.
Now, to my main point, which as Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist media critic who writes for Feminist Frequency blog says, the gaming industry is rife with sexism and misogyny, full of stereotyping and objectifying of women, reducing them to sex objects to use for men’s pleasure, calling them “whore” and treating them like trash. What a surprise, heh! So, what was your position again, dear Entertainment Software Association? You’re against violence? Is that why you let developers create games that encourage violence and misogyny?
But, as important as it is to know that that’s what’s happening in that so called industry, it’s not enough. We must also search for solutions. To do that, we must go to the source and see what causes such prejudice and hate towards half the human population. You see, when a socioeconomic system is driven by what’s profitable rather than what’s right, what’s just or what’s needed, it will latch onto any established and prevalent mindset to exploit it for profit, no matter how reactionary, how unjust, how destructive or harmful it is. Take the environment, for example. It matters not, what the environmental consequences of an enterprise are. What matters is the bottom line. Same with the food industry, which literally, though slowly, is killing people, while siphoning off huge amount of money and channeling them into the coffers of drug industry and insurance companies to deal with the consequences. A profit based system won’t try to discourage bad behavior or prejudices or culture, but will, instead use it for profit and will thus encourage and perpetuate it, instead of helping to eliminate it. It doesn’t bother our friends at the Association, who say they’re against violence, that their so called entertainment software promotes violence against and harassment of women. What matters is the profit margin. That’s hardly a good yardstick to measure civility and culture or the the means for advancing understanding, equality, progress and social justice.