I am a feminist. I believe that sexism still exists in the modern world. I believe that women should have the choice of what they do with their own bodies. I am sex positive. I believe that everybody has the right to fair and equal treatment regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.
I am a gamer. I owned a Commodore 64 and then a SNES as a child. I now game on console and PC. I also play tabletop role play games. I talk about gaming and chat with other gamers on Twitter EVERY DAY.
I’m not going to recap what has been happening in the sphere of gaming in the past few weeks. You know already or you wouldn’t be here. A war has been taking place, a war of online words. Battle lines have been drawn, positions fortified and every day new ammunition manufactured, condensed to 140 characters or less, and deployed. On one side we have the Gaming Media, mainly composed of journalists and a legion of feminists and supporters collectively labelled Social Justice Warriors. Gaming Media and it’s SJW supporters feel that women in gaming face a wall of misogyny and harassment perpetrated by those no better than entitled whiny children not wanting to let the girlies into their club. On the other side we have the Gamers. Gamers feel that the actions of gaming journalists have eroded the credibility of gaming media and that journalists should be more open about conflicts of interest, such as financial support of or a prior relationship with a game developer. Gamers believe that their cherished hobby has been attacked by the very media that is supposed to represent it and hijacked by feminazis and white knights wanting to push their own agendas. Gaming Media and SJWs see this as a smokescreen to abuse women involved in gaming and keep gaming professions male dominated. Gamers feel they’re being marginalised as various journalists and youtubers weigh in and toss labels at them like ‘neck bearded man-child’. Gamers have been labelled dangerous and compared with terrorists. Gamers have been dismissed by it’s own media as a bunch of white, bearded virgin men that dwell in their parent’s basements. Even the very name ‘Gamer’ has been declared over/dead. Individuals on both sides have been harassed, received threats and have even had personal details stolen and posted online.
So where does that leave someone with a foot in each camp? Somewhat uneasy
Here’s the thing, I do believe there are problems with sexism in gaming. I would like to see better representation and a wider variety of stories that include women in video games. I support women that want to forge a career in gaming professions. However, I don’t believe that is what #GamerGate is about. I believe that it is about the lack of even basic journalistic ethics present in gaming media and the blatant contempt it has displayed for it’s audience. When gaming professions become an arena which only those who ‘know the right people’ can enter? That is unethical. When journalists are writing articles about games they have financially supported or that are made by friends of theirs? That is unethical. when developers and others involved in gaming feel they cannot speak about this without their careers being damaged or destroyed? THAT IS UNETHICAL. Any journalism outfit, no matter the subject, has a responsibility to behave with integrity and hold it’s credibility in the highest regard. It is not entitled behaviour to expect to be able to trust those that report on gaming news. Whether they like it or not they have an influence on buying behaviour and with that influence comes the expectation that they be as objective as they possibly can.
These last weeks I have seen men that I know have the utmost respect for women being unfairly maligned and labelled as misogynists and dangerous terrorists for daring to question the ethical behaviour of gaming media. I have seen massive generalised statements about feminism being “stupid” and “a joke”. I have talked games on Twitter for years now and 95% of the interactions I’ve had with other Gamers have been very positive. But in the last few weeks the levels of toxicity on Twitter have been almost tangible. Yet all this does is alienate allies within both camps. There are feminists and SJWs, such as myself, that agree Gaming Media should behave with integrity. Likewise there are Gamers that are upset about some of the behaviour directed towards women that work in gaming.
But today something new appeared. People from all walks of life, of all genders, races and sexual orientations, myself among them, took to Twitter and openly declared themselves to be proud members of the Gamer community. The #NotYourShield tag is a stark message to the Gaming Media, that they can no longer use those among oppressed minorities as a shield against legitimate criticism. Truly it is a beautiful thing, the voices of a community that, despite what the media would have us believe, is rich with diversity. The stereotype of gaming as a white neck bearded male dominated hobby has been obliterated.
Yet there remains much to be done. The Gaming Media still has yet to fully address the legitimate criticisms of Gamers. Here are some things we all can do to maximise our chances of being heard.
1. Call out and denounce anybody you see engaging in harassment or abusive behaviour. These people hand ammunition to those that would see us silenced and are held up as representations of the community as a whole. It is not enough to say “But that is not me!” We must make it clear that harassment behaviour will not be tolerated and declare as loudly as we can “NOT IN MY NAME!”
2. Express your opinions with dignity and respect. Anger and bitterness is not the way, only calm and reason will win the day (hey that rhymes) Even if you have anger and vitriol directed at you, respond with succinctness and clarity (or kittens) Do not resort to personal insults, hyperbole or ad hominem. As soon as you do, you lose.
3. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you, respect that and walk away. There are those that are unable to talk about this because they will lose their jobs and don’t deserve to. There are times when you’ve been talking about this all day and are tired when someone messages you and expects a response. Then they get angry when you don’t respond. The thing is, time is a precious thing, something you never get back. You are not entitled to anybody else’s time any more than they are entitled to yours.
4. Understand that everyone involved in this, no matter where they stand, has a perspective. We all hold our own perspective to be valuable, we all just want to be heard. When we make huge overgeneralised statement or slap labels on people we dehumanise them and devalue their perspective. This makes people less inclined to want to understand our perspective. Don’t let your mind become stone, keep your ideas fluid. That way you can easily incorporate new perspectives as you find them. When someone you don’t agree with makes a valid point, recognise it. Let’s make it a discussion, rather than a war.
This is my personal message to the mainstream Gaming Media. We are Gamers, a community large and inclusive of anyone and everyone that loves video games (provided they’re not harassing anyone) I am a feminist AND I am a gamer, it is possible to be both. Do not hide behind me and those like me. You are accountable in this and we are #NotYourShield. I will continue to champion equality AND the need for ethics in journalism. What I am not, however, is a journalist or writer so if you feel the need to disagree with me on anything I have written above, please do so with respect. Just don’t be surprised if you occasionally get a picture of a kitten in response :o)
Thank you for reading and with much love