Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer on #GamerGate, Gawker and TGWTG

I have had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the #Gamergate hashtag, mostly I have supported it but there have been moments when I have questioned whether or not it was the right thing to do. You could say I have flip flopped a little and that would be fair, so much has happened and I have always been careful of getting swept along in the crowd. I have always sought to act as my own conscience dictates and be true to myself.

About a month ago I found myself in a conversation with someone who was anti-GG and it made me re-think my involvement with the #GamerGate movement. I wrote this blog about it at the time. Basically I felt that #GamerGate had become too toxic and bitter and I was beginning to question whether what #GamerGate has achieved has been worth it. Well I will now tell you all that the anti-GG person that I spoke to was Todd In The Shadows, a music critic for the That Guy With The Glasses website. I had been a supporter of Todd’s work for some time and though I was aware that he and most of his colleagues at TGWTG did not support #GamerGate I didn’t feel it was a real problem, they’re entitled to their opinion and some of them have personal relationships with some high profile people that are anti-GG. However Todd seemed particularly interested in #GamerGate and, at the time, willing to talk to GG supporters rationally and with a seemingly open mind. However in the weeks since Todd has gotten increasingly bitter and contemptuous in his dealings with #GamerGate supporters, almost making it a personal crusade to destroy what he sees as an anti-woman hate mob. He has veered wildly between suggesting himself as a leader for #GamerGate, suggesting we donate money to women seemingly affected by it, and lambasting us all as sexist, hateful scum who won’t be happy until we’ve destroyed every woman in existence. He has even used the name of Jewwario, a member of the TGWTG team who tragically took his own life in January of this year, to spew toxicity at #GamerGate supporters after seeing that some of them had Jewwario commemorative hats on their Twitter avatars. Now Todd is entitled to his opinion but speaking for someone that has passed away and therefore cannot speak for themselves is blatantly disrespectful, not only to the deceased but to his family. Other members of TGWTG have also behaved questionably when it comes to #GamerGate. Rap Critic, another music reviewer for the site, went as far as to compare #GamerGate to the KKK. As you can imagine supporters of #GamerGate, particularly those of colour, have been horrified by this.

This brings me nicely to Gawker Media, Gawker has been in the spotlight for tweets by one of it’s journalists, Sam Biddle, which supported bullying.

sam biddle

There were also tweets by Max Read, editor-in-chief at Gawker, which said how much fun he was having “fucking with” teenagers that he described as “damaged or neuroatypical” At first these tweets were dismissed by Gawker as a joke and so #GamerGate supporters began messaging companies that advertise on Gawker, asking them if they are happy to support a website that advocates bullying and belittles people on the autism spectrum or with other neurological issues. Biddle later apologised for his tweets and an internal memo was sent out to Gawker employees about “how tweets can be perceived without context” but this only happened AFTER Gawker lost advertising revenue from Intel and Adobe and not before Read wrote a scathing article denouncing #GamerGate supporters as “dishonest fascists” and called Intel “craven idiots”

In the month since I wrote the blog I linked above I have seen the actions of those that are against #GamerGate, people like Todd In The Shadows and Gawker. I have seen them say that #GamerGate supporters should be doxxed.

farcichu2

I have seen #GamerGate reported by the mainstream media with increasing amounts of bias and hysteria, clearly research and non-biased reporting is not as sexy as articles that call all #GamerGate supporters misogynists. I have seen #GamerGate supporters threatened and as for Gawker? Are they firing Sam Biddle? No, they’re promoting him.

So what have I seen #GamerGate supporters doing? I’ve seen them donate over $16 000 to an anti-bullying charity. When I have seen doxxing, trolling and harassment on Twitter I have seen #GamerGate supporters immediately stepping up to report and shut down those responsible. I have seen #GamerGate supporters welcome with open arms those who are on the autism spectrum or who are supporting someone that is that have been made aware of #GamerGate as a result of the shameful actions of employees of Gawker. I have even seen other members of the media look more deeply into the concerns of #GamerGate and see for themselves the media war being waged upon it’s supporters.

So here’s where things stand for me, this week someone told me (ironically someone anti-GG) that if people doing bad things support the same things that you do then it should give you pause about whether or not you want to continue supporting them and so I have made the decision about where I want to stand in this because at this point not caring is not an option. I have friends on the autism spectrum, my husband has ADHD and learning difficulties and it’s becoming increasingly clear that my children may have as well. Do I want to stand with those trying to make the world a scarier place for them? Do I want to stand with Gawker who supports it’s employees bullying and making fun of those that have neurological issues? Do I want to stand with Todd In The Shadows who bullies people and puts words into the mouth of a dead man? Or with Rap Critic and Joss Wedon who compare #GamerGate supporters with the KKK?

NO I DO NOT

I want to stand with feminists like Janet Mackay and her son @OmniUke, who made an awesome video about #GamerGate and the actions of Gawker. I want to stand with everyone who donated to the anti-bullying charity, Extra Life, TFYC, UNICEF and other charities listed here. I want to stand with the #GamerGate harassment patrol who routinely root out doxxing, trolling, harassment and abuse (even against anti-GGs) and spread the word, allowing the perpetrators to be reported and removed. I want to stand with all the fantastic, funny and caring people I have encountered through #GamerGate. I want to stand on the side of those who think that journalistic ethics are important because, as Janet says in her video, this is no longer about ethics in game journalism, it is about ethics in JOURNALISM.

So I stand with #GamerGate

Thank you so much for reading

Angela

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Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer. Does Gaming Have A Sexism Problem?

So recently I was invited, as a feminist and a gamer, onto the BBC World Service internet radio show World Have Your Say to discuss whether or not the gaming industry has a sexism problem. The experience for me proved to be somewhat pointless since the segment before it overran and I ended up with only a very short amount of time to speak (the last minute of the show) but the show itself was interesting and is well worth a listen (Here from the 36 minute mark) However I had so much more to say, about sexism in gaming in it’s entirety, so am going to say it here instead.

Now the question that was asked was does the gaming industry have a sexism problem? Now I define the industry as those that MAKE the games, not those who play them, and the simple answer to that question is yes. I do believe that there is a sexism problem in the game industry and technology industry in general. You only have to look at some of the accounts on the Everyday Sexism website, particularly accounts by those that work in technology industries to see examples. As for the gaming industry itself it is clear that they are behind the times in terms of who their audience is. According to a study by The Entertainment Software Association 48% of gamers, including those that play mobile games, are now women. ”Female representation equal to males among gamers is imminent,” wrote the report’s author, Jeffrey Brand. ”We saw girls increasingly get into gaming in the late 1990s and of course these girls are now women (playing games) and many of these women have children,” he told The Sunday Age. An industry tracking group found in 2009 that 28% of console gamers are women, 2009 is five years ago so it’s likely that number has increased since then. Yet the mainstream AAA gaming industry still predominantly markets it’s games to men, often completely ignoring that women too buy and play these games. Some publishers will actively fight not to make their marketing less male oriented. When making The Last Of Us the developer Naughty Dog had to fight game marketers to have the game’s main story focus Ellie, a teenage girl, on the front cover of the game box along with the other main game character Joel, a gruff middle aged man. Game developer Ken Levine made remarks about the box art for Bioshock Infinite, which featured the male protagonist, Booker DeWitt, in prominent position on the front of the game box while the female protagonist and main story focus, Elizabeth, was relegated to the back. This was despite complaints from fans of the game series.

Herein lies the problem, the game industry ASSUMES that male game players are sexist. The industry ASSUMES that male players will not buy a game with a female protagonist or if there is a woman on the cover. The game industry ASSUMES that male gamers will not want to play as a woman avatar, to the extent that including the option to play as women is often still seen as an optional extra. I don’t believe this is necessarily the case, look at the outcry from gamers when Ubisoft revealed there would be no playable women in Assassin’s Creed Unity. Immediately gamers of all genders took to Twitter to express their outrage under the #WomenAreTooHardToAnimate tag. It seems that the industry exists in a male dominated bubble (only 22% of the mainstream game industry workforce are women) and it has completely lost touch with how it’s own audience has moved on. The mainstream industry clings onto the bog standard white male protagonist like a security blanket, terrified to put it down and try something new once in a while.

So does gaming itself have a sexism problem? Well having covered the industry let’s move on to the media and heaven knows the media is trying to make it look like it doesn’t have a sexism problem. The gaming media has wholeheartedly embraced feminist criticism, however they only seem to focus on sex negative feminism and it’s focus on sexy female characters as a bad thing The gaming media is very quick to tell us that a game is ‘sexist’ in some way, examples of this can be found in the criticisms of Dragon’s Crown for it’s character design to the point where the artist was forced to apologise. Another recent example would be the release of Bayonetta 2, a game featuring an attractive female protagonist. In his review of Bayonetta 2 for Polygon Arthur Gies marked the game down, saying the the game’s “blatent over-sexualisation puts a big dent in an otherwise great game” Yet Bayonetta is a strong, capable hero with a very particular skill set and a very strong backstory and universe built around her, it’s also worth noting that she was designed by a woman. Yes she also happens to be sexy and obviously celebrates her sexuality, does that make her sexist as a character? Many non-male gamers actually find her empowering as an example of a confident woman that enjoys being sexy and in control of her sexual destiny. The problem with game media is that it can no longer tell the difference between sexualised and sexy. There is a major difference between female characters that are acutely designed to appeal and nothing else, basically nothing more than a pair of walking breasts such as DOA, and games that contain strong, well-rounded, confident women that also happen to be sexy. One of the most discussed female game characters is Lara Croft of Tomb Raider and she is often held up as an example of a strong female protagonist, yet the main focus by the game media has always been how she looked. Whether this be how her look has changed since her character was first created to how her face was changed in between console generations. The game media is rapidly becoming in danger of criminalising sexiness in female video game characters in a desperate move to not be seen as sexist and avoid criticism by sex-negative feminists. What they are failing to understand is that many gamers (certainly the ones I spoke to for my blog about whether sexy video game characters influence buyer choices) are not really concerned whether or not characters are sexy, as long as they are well designed and game play and story are good. The media only concerning itself with how female characters look is, in itself, a form of sexism, however good their intentions may be. The other issue that the game media like to talk about is violence against women in video games. Games such as GTA V are lambasted for giving the player the option to commit violent acts against women. Gamespot reviewer Carolyn Petit criticised the game, saying “All the game does is reinforce and celebrate sexism” This raises a question for me, why are acts of violence against women in video games such an issue while acts of violence against men are seen as ok? Why is it  that having a video game in which the player violently kill thousands of men it’s no big deal but if one woman is slapped it’s not on? As the video game audiences has matured (the average gamer is now in their 30s) so has the demand for more mature content in games. I have no problem with this provided these games are not being exposed to children, a responsibility of parents and carers. Violence in video games is a discussion all in itself that is being had but from my own perspective, if video game violence is bad then it is irrelevant who that violence is aimed it. The game media and critics can’t say violence against women shouldn’t be tolerated and then be ok with violence against men, either violence is wrong or it isn’t. They can’t have it both ways.

So that then leaves us with those that play video games, gamers themselves. Whether or not gamers are sexist is currently a very hot topic of conversation online and in the media at the moment, particularly since #GamerGate started. Now I am a woman and I have played video games my entire life. I talk about video games, game culture and feminism on Twitter all the time. I have made many friends doing so. Not everyone I talk to agrees with me, just as there are plenty of gamers that have opinions I disagree with. I have said some things that could probably be viewed as controversial (I have said I don’t like The Last of Us and I think it’s overrated) Here’s the thing though, if someone disagrees with me or any woman it doesn’t automatically make them a misogynist any more than disagreeing with a man would make me a misandrist, they’re only misogynist if they disagree or devalue my opinion BECAUSE I’m a woman, and that is not something that I have personally encountered. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I know there are some male gamers that believe that women are ruining video games just as there as some gamers, of all genders, that engage in harmful harassment behaviour. However I don’t think this represents the majority of gamers, Yes they can be a passionate bunch, yes they can get defensive when they believe they are being treated unfairly but does that make them sexist? Well no more than the rest of society, in that yes some do think less of those that don’t share the same gender but most do support equality and fairness for everyone. Stifling discussion because of fear of being called sexist will only cause resentment. The media perpetrates a myth of gamers as a strictly homogeneous group, composed of mostly white males, however you only have to look at the #NotYourShield tag to know that that is not true, Gamers are a varied and diverse group of people from all genders, ethnicity, backgrounds and walks of life. So why then the perception? Perhaps because it suits the media and industry purposes to do so, in order to use the weapon of privilege against them. The concept of privilege has become a big part of third wave feminism, it was originally meant to be a way to ask people to recognise that their background may make it difficult for them to fully understand the struggles of someone from a different background. But now the idea of privilege has become a way to shame people into silence. As Meghan Daum puts it in her LA Times article ” What used to be called “class consciousness” — the awareness of how social and economic structures shape the self — might as well be called privilege shaming now” Gamers are being shamed for their apparent privilege and it has made some of them angry and resentful, being told to “Check Your Privilege” whenever someone disagrees with them because of things that are accidents of birth is unhelpful at best, damaging at worst. Nobody wants to be silenced, nobody likes being told that their opinion is invalid particularly because of some arbitrary thing they can’t control. Even as a feminist I find the idea of privilege shaming abhorrent, after all I may be a woman but I am a white, cisgender, western one. My privilege card isn’t exactly empty. I would never support gamers that harass or threaten people and I do not believe the wider game community does either.

So do I think that gaming has a sexism problem? Well yes and no, yes problems exist in certain sectors as they do everywhere else but I don’t think the sexism is where feminist crititcs and media are looking for it. I honestly believe that the majority of gamers are good, decent, ordinary people that just happen to enjoy a hobby, this is certainly true of the gamers I have encountered. There is room for all kinds of games (if only the industry would allow it) and there is room for all kinds of gamers too. Disagree with me all you want to (as long as you do so respectfully) I won’t automatically think you’re sexist :o)

Thanks for reading

Angela