Anybody paying the slightest bit of attention to games-related parts of the internet will have heard, at least in passing, of the “gamergate” hashtag on Twitter. You may even have followed or supported it. I’d like to say that, regardless of ones personal opinion, I don’t and can’t get upset that someone else holds a different opinion to myself. Anybody reading this is entitled to hold and express their own opinion, and I shan’t begrudge you that right.
Nevertheless, I have steered clear of hashtag gamergate for one important and serious reason: harassment. This whole saga started by the toxic accusations and actions of a small (and, later, much larger) subset of people on the internet. Originally, it centred around shaming a female game developer for personal and inherently private actions. Private is where those things should have stayed, but people (not “gamers”, or “the internet”; people) took an active decision to harass and threaten other people with whom they disagreed. Not only do I disagree with the original complaint, but I disagree with the methods by which some people have decided to effect change.
Some people (a lot of people, perhaps) have made this issue about the ethics of journalism relating to games. While I feel that this is a very important subject with interesting things to be discussed, the current campaign is so tainted by its roots that the nuggets of useful conversation are almost impossible to separate from the vortex of abuse. The important messages have got lost in the vitriol. When harassment like this happens, nobody wins.
So I don’t support hashtag gamergate, and I won’t ever. But this has come to signify more than “just harassment” (how fucked up is that phrase?). No; as a result of the commotion, reactions, and re-reactions, the community of people who enthuse over videogames (“gamers”) has supposedly lost something. “Gaming is dead”, “Gamer culture is dying”, and so on – some people have told me gaming has “lost its innocence”. I personally find my own feelings on the matter too complex to discuss adequately, but I do know that gaming – as a pastime and a culture – has been centrally important to me for many years now, and the shitstorm has questioned something fundamental about how I view the community.
This brings me to the article which inspired this post; “Why I Still Call Myself a Gamer” by The Escapist’s Editor in Chief, Greg Tito. In a concise and touching essay, Greg discusses the main issues central to the recent fuss, and the steps he’s taken as part of the editorial team there to address the key learning points from hashtag gamergate. Greg has obviously made an effort to express his personal feelings, but as I read the article I couldn’t help but think that he was refraining from saying something. Then, right at the end, it becomes apparent quite how much this has weighed on Mr Tito’s mind;
I do not support harassment by gamers or of gamers. Abuse is wrong, no matter what you believe or who you support. Engaging in debate is important. Publicly stating ethics policies is important. Encouraging all voices to participate in the discussion is important. Insulting, abusing and harassing those who disagree with you is bullshit.
This paragraph is one of the simplest in the essay, and is cunningly disguised as a closing statement of the topics at hand. I think, though, that this is all Greg really wanted to say – it’s like an outlet of feelings, almost a rant. It’s almost as if this paragraph was written first and the rest of the article built around it. It feels as though the author wanted more than anything to just make the whole article more of the same thing.
The article struck a chord with me. It resonates with the same struggle to express a whirl of different thoughts and feelings that I have suffered from of late. I identify with that difficulty of having a nuanced opinion on a polarized and very personal matter, and I want to say that I’m very glad Greg wrote the article. I’m thankful that I could read it.
It restores a chunk of my faith in the community, simply because it’s concrete evidence that other people are wrestling with strong and nuanced opinions in the midst of this shit storm. It’s a small article in a big world of worrying things, but I treasure it nonetheless.