GamerGate and why I care

I know I promised I would never talk about political issues again on this blog, but I just could not help myself.

I had no idea what GamerGate was until I sat one day during my working hours and listened (I did not watch as I am a good worker) to many of David Pakman’s videos and he was talking about Gamergate, and I thought “Wait, I play video games and some people often refer to me as more of a gamer than a writer (even though I have not had nearly enough time to play games with all the writing I have been doing as of late)”, so I decided to look into it. What I found was a mess of slurs, insults and accusations I had never seen before within my gaming experience.

Now I should explain my position on games. They are fun! I love playing video games. Once during my studies in Lillehammer (no, I was not in the Olympics) I stayed up for 49 hours straight playing Final Fantasy 10, just to get the right elements for a sword, resulting in me falling asleep on my then-girlfriend’s shoulder during the American version of The Ring, so I was an avid gamer for a long time.

The GamerGate conroversy seems to have started with Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest, which I have not tested nor had I heard about it, so I have no opinion on the game. Quinn received a lot of positive reviews and articles for the game and I’m happy for her. Nothing pleases me more than another creative person in the world. This generated a lot of backlash from gamers reacting to the hype by sending hate mail to the person and it also started the investigation on the link between favorable reviews done by journalists and their relationship with the developers.

The hashtag #GamerGate started when Adam Baldwin (who played Jayne on Firefly) used it in a tweet linking to two videos that were critical of Quinn. This then led to several of tweets (around 70 000 a day) that were critical of the power that the gaming sites might have had over the gaming industry. That led again to allegations of misogyny and gender inequality in video games. Prominante feminists then engaged in the debate and some of the critical views of the gaming industry’s link to the journalists covering said industry, were either censored or ridiculed from the established media. Death threats were issued from both sides to people within both sides of the movement.

I’m just a writer and a former avid gamer, so I do not hold much power from my little cave in the basement (Yes, I’m a stereotypical nerd living in the basement). The thing I was left with after I had seen a bunch of interviews by David Pakman, who think has had the coverage of this matter, and some pro-/con-Gamergate, was something close to despair. Games are meant to be fun and right now I think they are really fun. They’re not meant to be politically correct. They evolve just like us. Entertainment has always reflected the views of its people and I think we have come a long way. That does not mean that you should not fight for something. Fight for equality by all means. I would love for the entire planet to be equal, I dream about that day and I hope I’m alive while it is happening.

But do not try and make a movement about something it is not. Media has a way of distorting a movement to gain more clicks and to please those with the most power. The GamerGate movement is not about keeping misogyny in games. It is about the corruption among journalists covering the gaming industry. I do not know anybody within either the gaming industry, journalism or the movement, so I do not know who is right or who is wrong, but hear the people within the movement out before you shut them down. Have dialogue or debate about what can be done to safeguard against corruption. Do not marginalize your opponent. The second you treat someone with disdain, they will retreat inward and they will not seek an opposing view again. Ask them questions and treat them with respect.

Finally does it really matter? And I’m asking this of both sides. As I said before, games are meant to be fun, not life or death, even though some might treat them that way. I might throw my controller in the couch if I cannot finish Torment on Diablo 3, but I do not send hate mail or death threats. Death threats are not cool. That is in fact a matter of life or death.

JH Lillevik

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