Ethical Gaming 21 Comments

This is not a GamerGate post.

For you fortunate souls who don’t know what “Gamergate” is, beyond a very poorly formed word, it is a current huge drama storm in the gaming community that involves accusations of corruption in games journalism, a great deal of trolling, and our old friend straight up misogyny. As someone who loves games, loves media analysis, and has done a lot of reading about feminism this would initially seem to be a subject that I would love to write about. So why haven’t I?

It’s because I am afraid.

As a woman who has public opinions about video games, even on my very tiny scale, watching the events of the last few weeks unfold has been, frankly, brutal. I have seen high-profile women and their families have to leave their homes because of threats that specifically mention personal addresses. I have seen women become targets of account hacking, right down to their pizzeria account. I’ve seen threats of assault and personal injury and horrible, horrible things.

I’ve seen what happens when a woman in particular mentions a hashtag or a key word on Twitter, and the anonymous opinion squad that immediately shows up to call them c****. I’ve seen links to porn of these women drawn by their detractors. I’ve seen women who even have a vague opinion be written up in lists of people who should have their livelihoods ruined. In the last few weeks I’ve seen women literally be hounded out of the game industry and off of social media.

A couple of years ago when I wrote for RIFT Junkies I earned a hater. For six weeks this fellow would be the first comment on any post I wrote, calling me a stupid bitch. He was never quite clear on why he hated me, just some mishmash of liking RIFT and having the temerity to be overweight and on the internet. The experience was so tiny compared to what I’m seeing happening right now, and yet it really bothered me. Admittedly I am a little sensitive, but I can’t even imagine dealing with something more vitriolic or on a larger scale.

There are a ton of brave men and women right now who have a bigger audience than I do, who speak more boldly on this subject than I ever will, and who take a lot of shit about it.

As for me, at some point a couple of weeks ago I literally became scared of stating an opinion about video games. I realized that there is no escape. You can never be temperate enough, talented enough, logical enough, kind enough to avoid the train of angry gamer mob justice when it spots you on the tracks.

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Talarian
    September 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    *hugs*

    I have nothing more to add. You’ve summed up my thoughts on the matter pretty well perfectly, though admittedly you’re in a far worse position than I. There are days where I wonder if the Internet is a net positive on the human race.

    Or maybe, just maybe, this is the light shining on those dark holes of humanity and we’re just seeing the scurrying of the cockroaches as they try to defend those dark spaces. Maybe the dark before the light. One can hope, anyways :(
    Talarian´s last post: PAX Prime 2014: Diversity and Handheld Lounges

  • Reply
    Miguelito
    September 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I heard GamerGate for the first time today, and I feel like the vocal individuals on both sides deliberately miss the point in lieu of addressing hyperbole and trolls for the sake of ‘winning’ the issue. I try to stay away from politics because at some point the gender, race, or crazy card gets pulled and productive discourse ends completely. There are no winners here. Corruption in journalism exists in the same way that corruption exists in all things where profit is the driving force, and it’s that very reason that I started blogging years ago.

    I can’t presume to know what it’s like to be insulted for having the audacity to be born a woman, but I certainly do receive threats on my life and family because of my opinions. I probably should take it more seriously, but on some level I enjoy having made people feel so strongly.

    What was my point again? Oh yeah, if someone is mean to internet ladies, I’ll beat them up on the cheap. Good day.

  • Reply
    Angelo Abela
    September 3, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I feel the issue is much more complex than you described. To put misogyny at the center of all of this can be a bit misleading. Yes, there is a lot of that, and a lot of hate and death threats and bullshit which makes me wonder what kind of people inhabit this planet. However all that is a by product of where this disagreement is taking place – the internet. Internet culture is caustic for many reasons and it brings out absolutely worst in people.
    Angelo Abela´s last post: Death to the Male Power Fantasy

  • Reply
    Ben
    September 3, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Its interesting I have the exact same reaction to #GamerGate but from the opposite perspective. I’ve long held onto the view that its never worth discussing identity politics generally (not just in the context of gaming) on the internet because its too easy to drop a rhetorical bomb “sexist” “homophobe” “misogynist” etc and move on. Reading articles on “the end of gamer culture” I’ve felt attacked, I feel like because I proudly define myself as a gamer I am being called “shitslinger” and “childish” but I don’t want to say anything about it for fear of being labeled as some kind of women-hater.

    There is a ready-made counter argument that would call my last paragraph false equivalence but I don’t think thats correct. Clearly being labeled a sexist isn’t the same as a threat to my personal safety but having the internet identity I’ve been using in some form for more than 10 years now made toxic and something I don’t want to inhabit is a terrifying proposition.

    We can argue back and forth which worry is more debilitating or destructive to the discourse but thats not really productive and avoids the larger more important point. Conveniently just last week Pew put some actual data behind both of our beliefs. The spiral of silence http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/26/social-media-and-the-spiral-of-silence/) where people are terrified to share views they think will be disagreed with is a reflection of the rhetorical arms race we see with many issues on the internet. Identity politics and gender politics in particular seem like one of the most destructive instances, both sides have their all purpose bad guy (/r/redpill and tumblr), their rhetorical super weapon (misogynist and misandrist) and pet issues (representation/wage gap and father’s rights).

    As with any arms race no side can afford to unilaterally disarm and the net result are reasonable discussions that should be happening and where common ground could be found are too scared to start.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      September 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      *sigh*

      I’m frustrated because you seem like a nice enough fellow but your response to “hey, women are having their personal safety threatened over video game opinions please help” is to … not address the problem at all. Like man, there was not a single word in your comment about how you think any of the reaction to women in the game community right now is horrible and should be stopped.

      I’m sorry that “gamer” makes you feel bad now but I’m not the one making that word toxic — you should be taking this up with the assholes who are harassing, stalking, and threatening women on this topic because they’re your actual problem.

      Are you going to help? Are you going to tell assholes to stop harassing women, no matter where their opinions lie? Like, straight up dude — are you going to help call this behavior out or not?

      For my part I will and absolutely do call out harassment and threats of violence against women even if we have different opinions on things. Will you do the same?

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      September 3, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      TRIGGER WARNING FOR HORRIBLE STUFF IN THIS COMMENT

      Also I’m sorry, but it is ludicrous to say that it is an equivalent experience to be called “childish” and to have a stranger post your home address and say he’s coming over to rape you to death with a tire iron.

  • Reply
    Grimmtooth
    September 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    This annoys me because it shows the trolls getting exactly what they want – your silence. THIS IS NOT A REBUKE. I fully understand your position. I’m just frustrated that intelligent women feel so threatened that they have to make the choice between speaking up or laying low for their own safety. I can only imagine how YOU feel about that.

    Maybe I’ll see this reversed before I die. I doubt it, though. :(
    Grimmtooth´s last post: Culture(ish) War

    • Reply
      Dataferret
      September 4, 2014 at 6:19 am

      It saddens me for the same reason. But in retrospect I think it’s more powerful that Jessica has humanized what it feels like to be afraid in this culture and reach out to those human beings who are on the fence (or where this reality wasn’t even on their radar). The heartless ones who this plight has fallen on deaf ears, or who are celebrating because they’ve intimidated another person off their playground weren’t the people we should be engaging with anyways.

  • Reply
    Ben
    September 3, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    I could have phrased that better. Threats to personal safety are not the same as threats on reputation because they aren’t the same thing however I think they are of comparable chilling effect. We are social creatures, we care about what people think of us and having people who you respect/think are smart and worth listening to condemn you is terrifying in its own way.

    As for your second point, I am, now what? This argument strikes me as a nasty double of the “why aren’t blacks talking about black on black crime?” or “If Muslims object to terrorism they should just condemn it.” I can scream from the rooftops “REPRESENTATION IN GAMING MATTERS IF WE WANT GAMING TO SUCEED AS A MEDIUM” or “THREATS OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE ARE NEVER AN ACCEPTABLE FORM OF DISCOURSE” but that will only go so far. I believe very strongly that the vast majority of gamers would agree with those two statements, I just got back from PAX where every diversity/representation/creating inclusive communities panel I attended was packed and thats been true of every PAX I’ve been to. I think most reasonable people would find the use of threats of physical violence unacceptable because it is fundamentally contrary to how we think of the concept of discourse.

    Heres the problem, when speaking to the unconverted the overheated rhetoric we’ve seen in the past week or so is counterproductive. I think most people are on my side or at least can be brought to my side but if I was working for the other side an argument like this seems very powerful.

    “You know what these people think of you?
    ‘These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience.’
    Thats what they think of you, they don’t get you, they don’t like you, they don’t want you.”

    Again, THIS IS NOT WHAT I BELIEVE, but it seems like a very compelling argument that I don’t really have a good response to especially because I find that rhetoric problematic myself. I’m not saying you should never get angry, god knows I get angry more often than I should but if your goal is to convince you should look like the most reasonable person in the room not engage in a mud slinging match with professional mud slingers.

    I also find proposals to try and curtail discussion and push it outside of our communities problematic on philosophical grounds. My most central personal philosophy is “a belief is not a true belief until it has been tested by argument.” Beliefs that have not been tested do nothing, they don’t need to be considered, they don’t need to ask the tough questions, they don’t know how to intellectually engage with counter arguments. Pushing out people with whom you disagree only creates an echo chamber of straw-beliefs, beliefs that can be blown over by a stiff breeze.

    I am not saying we should accept all comers, we should throw out people engaged in doxing and specific threats but we need to be really careful that we don’t nuke, even borderline speech so we don’t make a martyr out of people who are destructively wrong. This is what happened with the TotalBiscuit QuinnGate reddit thread. I’m sure some people in that thread were behaving badly but nuking the entire thread from orbit allowed people to claim they were being silenced and most people, all things being equal, have an affinity for the little guy who is being silenced.

    I’m trying to do my part, I’d like to think I’m doing a decent job but when find the very argument I’m trying to stand up becomes personally unpleasant it gets much harder to be a strong advocate.
    Ben´s last post: Late Beta Feedback Part 1

    • Reply
      Ben
      September 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      This was intended as a replay to the above replays to my comment but I screwed up. Sorry.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      September 3, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Look, Ben, there is no way I can have an open and intellectually frank discussion with you about this because ** I FEAR FOR MY WELL-BEING IF I TALK ABOUT IT **. Like, seriously. I appreciate that you do your part and I understand where you are coming from even if I don’t agree with all of it, but you have to understand that the last few weeks have proven that I am at a severe disadvantage if I have this discussion in a public place. That was the whole point of my post.

      Once I, and I assume other women as well although I don’t want to speak for them, feel we can engage in the conversation as equals THEN I will be more than happy to talk about censorship or media bias or whatever, but how can we possibly have a reasonable discussion until then?

      • Reply
        Orpho
        September 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

        I would add that it’s such a huge burden on you either way – speak up and you’re threatened or in danger, stay silent and feel complicit (or [insert feeling]). There is no good way, and that’s what oppression feels like and does. It is the no-win situation, it is only have bad choices, it’s paying for it no matter what you do, and it sucks. I am sorry.

  • Reply
    CutieDarkFae
    September 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    *hugs*

    You were afraid to post, and you posted anyway. Well done *hugs* You’re stronger than you believe.

    But nobody should have to feel afraid to post. There should never be a cause to feel that fear.

    There are some things you don’t post, or shouldn’t post, but that’s polite society. We’re not saying you can’t post them, just that you shouldn’t.

    This isn’t polite society, this is brutal anonymous trolling and destruction of lives and egos :(

    Unfortunately I can’t see it stopping until either the internet changes until it’s totally unrecognisable as the internet we currently know, or society changes. One of those is quick, and very likely to be bad :(

    How do we make this stop?

  • Reply
    Murf
    September 3, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    If it helps at all, know I do have your back because I know you’d have mine. I applaud what you’ve done even with just this post. You’re a talented writer, a kind human being, and I know you’re passionate about games or else you wouldn’t be here writing this much.
    Murf´s last post: An Odd Amazon Review I Found

  • Reply
    Dahakha
    September 4, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Liore, I am so sorry that it has come to this. I have admired you and your work for a while now, and although I know you’re not going anywhere, it still breaks my heart to know that you feel like you are forced to avoid certain topics, that you are unable to write *whatever is on your mind*, unable to share everything that you’d like to, because of this entirely justified fear.

    I think you’re being too kind by even backhandedly associating “justice” with the hateful wastes of life that have caused this shitstorm. I certainly would use far more terrible language.

    I hope that someday soon, you will feel safe enough to be able to write without restraint.
    Dahakha´s last post: WIP: Steam Challenge – A Valley Without Wind

  • Reply
    Shintar
    September 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

    This is really sad to read, especially since I think that your more controversial posts and the ensuing discussions in the comments have often been among the most interesting things on this blog. But… yeah. As a fellow Woman On The Internet (Woti?) I completely understand where you’re coming from. I wish there was an easy way to make it all better. Sadly I can’t really see the current situation improving very much until the authorities get better and more interested in cracking down on this stuff so people develop better awareness for the fact that threatening others with rape and murder is neither fun nor a valid form of discussion.
    Shintar´s last post: Conquests – What are they good for?

  • Reply
    ahniwa
    September 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Part of the problem is that we put up all these ways for people to communicate on the internet, and nobody is moderating them. As someone who runs a site, and forums, and a YouTube channel, and various social media presences, I exercise a zero-tolerance policy for abusive comments of any kind. They are deleted without hesitation and the people leaving them are warned.

    Can we moderate the entire internet? Maybe not; but someone should be in charge of various tools (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to make sure *strong* moderation tools are available to discourage outright abuse. On top of that I think that in many cases sites should be taking legal action for stronger cases of abuse; if someone’s actions on the internet make someone feel threatened, they should suffer consequences both on the internet and in “real life.”

    All of that aside, I’m sorry that you have been affected by this personally. I’ll continue to wage my own personal war against ass-hattery, and hope it does some good.
    ahniwa´s last post: Standard Pauper Show, Issue 9

  • Reply
    Doone
    September 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I’m just an echo here. Please never stop posting and voicing your thoughts. The community would be worse for it. It’s hard to know what to say to posts like these, but I wanted to show my support like others here have done.

    I don’t think some people really get it though. It’s the silence that does far more damage than the loud bigots. The bigots seem louder *because of* the silence. And I’m not directing this at women or other targeted minorities so much as I’m saying this to people like me who have the luxury of choice, who can “sit this one out”, can ignore the news, can afford to “wait it out”. We have to understand that a lot of people can’t ignore these things. When silence enables the haters to seem louder, it also makes the people who need support feel more alone.

    I see some bloggers feel exasperated. Ben commented here that speaking out only goes so far, but we have to use what we have any way. Sometimes speaking out isn’t about fighting the bigots directly. It’s about moving people of a like-mind to action. Like Ben said, most gamers probably find the violence of late appalling. But how many of them are going to say or do anything about it?

    The only thing that counts is what we do with the power we have. We can only do what we can do.

    I’ll commend game devs for being more vocal the past couple years about these problems – they’re waaaay more vocal than they were even in 2012. But I think they really have to take some action in our games. Thats what we build our communities around.
    Doone´s last post: Leading in the Gaming Community

  • Reply
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