The first time I knew something was wrong with gaming journalism was several months before I had ever heard of #GamerGate or anyone had told me something was wrong. Gamespot.com was my go-to site for gaming news and reviews at the time, and the PC port for Dead Rising 3 had just come out. I already finished Dead Rising 3 for Xbox One, thoroughly enjoyed it, and Gamespot had rightfully given the console version a good score and a glowing review. I was therefore very surprised to see the score for the PC port of the exact same game, a paperweight score of 3 on the same site.
Obviously this meant that something must have been lost in the port process. Terrible performance issues or controls that didn’t translate well –someone had gotten lazy in the porting over. Or so I thought. As I began reading the review to see where things went wrong, I was dismayed to see that it was nothing to do with the game and everything to do with some politically incorrect jokes in the game that completely went over the reviewer’s head.
If you haven’t played the Dead Rising series there’s two things you need to know here. First, the game is not grim-dark serious a la Resident Evil. It is more of a parody. You create ridiculous over the top weapons, fight outrageous tongue-in-cheek enemies and the game is based on humor aimed at zombie cliché stereotypes. The second thing you need to know, is that a running theme throughout the series is that humans are the actual evil –not zombies. This message of irony is conveyed through a collection of optional boss battles where the bosses are humans who represent the “seven deadly sins”: lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, pride.
Everything I have just said in the paragraph above was completely missed by the (second) Gamespot reviewer. Gamespot blasted Dead Rising 3 (which had already received a 7 on the same site) for making politically incorrect caricatures:
“One psychopath is a Chinese man, bearded and dressed as a monk, fought in a temple garden, who attacks you with a medieval polearm and kung fu. The game stops just short of playing “Chopsticks” as an accompaniment (but it does ring a gong). One is a sexualized policewoman wearing a Halloween-costume version of the uniform. One is a female bodybuilder that the developers, through Ramos, gleefully misgender. Another is a chap-wearing bisexual man in a pink cowboy hat. He has a phallic flamethrower…..It’s a cruel portrayal, and superfluous besides: in a game that’s ostensibly about zombies, shouldn’t the zombies be scary enough on their own?”
If isn’t already clear by now, the context of game is completely missing. If the game was somehow completely serious in tone, and then had you fighting an obese woman riding a scooter or an Asian monk, then yes I think you could draw an offensive message from the developers about their politics. But if you come to that conclusion after several hours of driving over zombies with a rocket propelled bulldozer and wielding a chainsaw powered phallic device while dressed as a sport team mascot–you are simply imposing your politics and outrage culture where it doesn’t belong. In art. In gaming.
I don’t care if you find a pimple faced, calculator wearing, white male nerd boss (envy) offensive (this boss strangely not referenced by the Gamespot review as ‘problematic’ aayyy) or an obese woman wielding a turkey leg as a club boss (gluttony) offensive. Keep your political correctness and outrage culture out of my review.
So yeah, before anyone ever told me something was wrong with games journalism, it was clear. Before I knew a games journalist ever proclaimed that “gamers were over”, “all video games are stupid” or declared “smash a nerd day” a national holiday, it was clear.
You didn’t need #GamerGate to bring you down, gaming journalists.
You were already doomed to fall.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. If you don’t know me, I have a very “heal and forgive” mentality so it’s actually particularly difficult for me to see the entrenched, motionless, culture war stalemate that is the gaming industry right now. So I suppose this is my appeal to the anti-GG crowd, to Anita Sarkeesian, or anyone else. Progress and dialogue can only happen when we try to understand the opposing side’s point of view, and I sincerely hope there might be some out there who are looking for such.
I began gaming as a kid on Sega Genesis. It was an awesome way to play with my siblings. In high school my friends and I avoided the party scene for religious reasons, and gaming was an alternative way for us to get 16 people together on a Saturday night and play Halo on Xbox LAN parties without ‘morning after’ regret. After high school we all went to different colleges, but we’d make time to stay in touch over internet matches of League of Legends.
Now that we’re all out of college, and married, looking to start families of our own, we can’t get together every weekend but we can put on our headsets and talk about life while we shoot terrorists and defuse bombs in Counter Strike.
As an avid twitch.tv watcher I had mustered up the courage to start a channel of my own in 2014. I had never been interested in Twitter before, but I knew as a streamer I wanted to make one to help build my online presence and build the stream. I began following all my favorite pro-streamers and professional gamers. Twitter started catching on and suggesting who I should follow. Some of the suggestions I took, and one fateful day, I followed the suggestion…Leigh Alexander. If you don’t know who Leigh is she is/was a prominent anti-Gamergate blogger.
I began seeing her tweets about this horrible, terrible group of men called #GamerGate that were apparently doing and saying violent sexist things. I was appalled. Certainly I was against such things, I mean gaming had always been the most inclusive environment I had ever known. Behind a controller or keyboard it didn’t matter if you were black, white, gay, male, female. It didn’t matter how much money you had or background or disability -we were all equals. In the game world none of that ever mattered. And if this GamerGate was trying to ruin that, then I was for ruining them.
But as time went on, the “anti-gg” tweets, especially from Leigh, didn’t make sense. They would say bad things about men in general, or all men, that didn’t sit right. I would ask questions like “As a man who’s completely against sexism and racism, what do you suggest we do?” but they always went unanswered. And more and more things didn’t make sense, and I was completely sidelined. The anti-gg people always talked about being silenced, but they never seemed to have anything to say -except that they we’re being silenced. So one day I decided to see the vile hate mob for myself, I went and searched for all the #GamerGate tweets twitter would show me. And I was stunned.
What I saw, despite what I had been told, was men, women, boys, girls, of every color -gamers like I had always known, saying something about problems with gaming journalism, and defending the right to make and keep games of every kind (yes even the violent ones). I suddenly thought of Galadriel’s line “But they we’re all of them…deceived,” talking about me. The equality, and freedom, and wonderful place where everyone is welcome and anything is possible was indeed under attack, but not by GamerGate.
And this is the part where I’d like to address you Anita, although this also applies to most of the prominent “anti-gg” crowd. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, and say you are completely sincere and want equality in gaming. I really want to. Sometimes I’ll see you on TV in an interview or something, I want to think “We could be friends, maybe she really could be a gamer.” But if you truly are, and want us to believe you, then you need to understand why that’s difficult for us to believe:
So to start, 2010 you start off saying you’re not a gamer, you’re not a fan of video games. So it’s hard to take your word on the state of the gaming community over…the word of the actual gaming community. Next, it’s really really hard to believe you are being genuine because you have never ever let your claims be challenged. You go on Colbert, you go on Nightline, and anywhere that it’s just you and a nodding head agreeing with everything you’re saying. That’s a problem. If you really believe what you claim, you should believe it enough to think it would hold up to scrutiny.
Which brings me to my next point. I don’t believe you are genuinely fighting for equality because your claims don’t hold up to scrutiny from anyone who’s actually played a game. GTAV does let you shoot and run over women. And that’s bad. But it also let’s you shoot and run over 1.5 million men, women, police officers, and do countless other heinous things. So when you come on TV claiming that it’s promoting inequality and violence targeting women, we know you’re lying. We’ll we think you’re lying. The only other possibility is that you just don’t know because you haven’t played it. Either way, we disagree, and we think the former is probably more likely.
And finally, I have to look at what is the outcome, what is there to be gained for you from your claims (you know, the ones that don’t hold up to any scrutiny). Unfortunately, it’s a lot. When you think of people fighting for real, honest, sincere equality and change, fighting “isms” of all kinds -you don’t think about fame, fortune and six-figure salaries. GamerGate has never succeeded in keeping anyone out of gaming as you claim, and even if they could, there is nothing to gain from it. But you have gained from the current situation, quite a lot. A massive amount of money, TV time, fame and support simply based on the claim that you are target and victim of some questionably authentic harassment, and some definitely inaccurate claims about the gaming industry.
So you see the problem? At the very best, giving you all benefit of the doubt, you are a well-meaning, but entirely misguided activist against inequality that doesn’t exist that just so happens to be making a stellar career and small fortune from your incorrect (but well meaning) claims.
Or. At the worst, you are very literally a fraud. You simply saw gaming (which you don’t participate in or know much about) as an easy subject to stir up public outrage, knowingly making inaccurate claims and pretending to be the victim in the name of that almighty dollar and a 30 minute spot on television. Either way, I can’t get behind you on that.
But what I can do, and hopefully many more GG’ers support me in saying this, is dialogue. If you’ll let us. Yes, it is completely wrong when a guy in game tells a female gamer “haha suck mah dick noob”, and in case you didn’t know, that guy also says that to male gamers. And it’s also just as wrong. Things like that, are a very real, valid discussion to have. We may disagree on something about violent video games, GTAV is violent there’s no debating that. But it’s not “inequality targeting females and misogyny” and the list goes on and on. It’s equal opportunity violence.
My point is there are actual real discussions to be had on things like harassment and violent games, some things I’m sure we’ll disagree on, but it’s still a valid discussion. And if you want to get to those valid discussions, you actually have talk to us, and you have to stop forcing the topic of discussion to be fake issues.
If you want real discussion and progress on real issues, if you want healing and compromise and change, then let’s talk about real issues that have basis on fact. If you just want to keep making tons of money off a stalemated culture war that you’re helping to create and fuel, engaging no dissent, weathering no scrutiny, then don’t change a thing. You’re doing that really well.