Gamer what?

Do you ever hear about something and just wonder at how inane it all is?  OK yes this website I know.  But discounting that?

I’m behind the times a little on this but I’ve failed to come up with anything that can summarise the sheer disbelief in how pathetic something can be yet somehow still retain the power to cause so much upset and offence.

The thing in question is “Gamergate” (gg from now on).  I won’t go through the history of it as that’s been done by innumerous other blogs and news sites.  It’s about “ethics in videogame journalism” apparently.

Did I mention how inane it was at first sight?

Only it’s not journalists and game sites that are being grumbled about really.  Mainly it seems to be about harrassing women in tech.  One female journalist (NB with no issues regarding her ethics) has left the games press due the stress she was getting from gg; one female game developer had the veil on her private life lifted by a grumpy ex and death and rape threats etc etc; another female game dev had to leave her house after rape and death threats again; one female game critic (independent – not even writing for a games site) had more death threats, a speaking engagement cancelled due to a significant threat of a school shooting if she were allowed to speak and on and on.  Yes you read that right.  Years ago gamers were outraged when people said that games lead on to violent behaviour; now they’re threatening a school shooting purely because of an intellectual disagreement about games.  It’s amazing to see how spectacularly mis-judged all this is from the GGers side.

The one connection being damn all to do with ethics but because they’re outspoken women.

I’ve had chats on twitter and followed sites where boys have been up in arms about these women “trying to take our games away”.  But they’re not.  2 of those people MAKE bloody games for heaven’s sake. And of course you’ll notice that there’s no mention of any bloody “ethics in game journalism” in there.

So then let’s go their preferred route; ethics.

Thus far their ethics have consisted of threatening women out of the industry, out of their homes, and more recently laughing and gloating at them when one of their dogs was dying (not unreasonably she was concerned re poisoning, turned out not to be the case and she publically said so – but apparently she’s paranoid – after receiving death threats pushing her out of her home). Their ethics also include trying to get game sites shut down, trying to get journalists to write “objective” reviews (whatever they are) and getting advertisers to withdraw from certain sites that don’t meet their approval (read any sites that have a conscience).  Nothing wrong with a boycott of course, not that I agree with this one.

And they think they’re winning.  One web forum has people gloating that they’re winning in that fewer people are using the “anti” tag on twitter now.  That’s not winning.  The other side have left the game.  The “anti”s are enjoying themselves in the clubhouse having a drink before going home whereas these whingers are still on hole 13 arguing about a rules infringement that’s long been settled.  But the women “anti”s are being threatened with having their cars keyed (metaphorically) in the member’s car park if we don’t listen to these imaginary ethical concerns.  Enough of the golf analogy.

My favourite bit of the this kafuffle is the whole “objective” reviews thing.  Despite asking questions of them I’ve still never had a good answer as to what this would be.  Surely “objective” is measurable, unbiased fact.  Sounds good but what would this mean in practice?

“The game works and runs at a decent speed.  Controls are tight and responsive”?

A that’s rubbish.  Almost any first party game on Nintendo machines could be effectively summarised by that review.  It tells you nothing at all of interest.  And b: even that’s subjective.  I hated a game called “Super Smash Brothers”, found the controls awful, the game a waste of life and I, and friends collectively, came to refer to it as “Super Random Button Pressing Brothers”.  But it was well loved by loads of players and the newest version is likely to increase sales of Nintendo’s latest machine massively in the US and probably the UK and Europe too.  So I’m wrong then?  Objectively maybe.

So how would fillum reviews be if they were objective?

Transformers: “Bright and loud; shot well with clear dialogue; runs for 144 minutes.”

The Artist: “Filmed in black and white, no dialogue only music but they kept putting cards up to tell us what the characters were saying; runs for 100 minutes.”

Well that’s that sorted.  We know which is more to our taste.

I’d say we’re at a stage with games now that we can assume a certain level of quality on controls.  If a particular game fails on this meter then I seriously doubt any reviewer on a decent well-thought of site won’t pick up on it and at least mention it.  Again in fillums we hear time and again something along the lines of “I loved the fillum, it has its problems but these don’t subtract too much from the enjoyment” or “I wanted to like it more but its problems just kept rearing their heads”?  Happens all the time.

So then content.  The actual issue that many GGers have is that people are critical of the content of some of the games.  This has been true since the start of computer games.  Nothing new under the sun.  Hell even novels were seen as “a bad thing” (especially for women) when they first became popular.  Imagine an objective review of a novel:

“Pride and Prejudice: Clear typeface, x many pages, bright picture on front cover”.

So what makes games different?  Only that you participate really.  Nowadays there’s a story, there’s surprise, joy, upset, fear and more.  Do people really not want any of that mentioned?  Or how well those aspects worked to the reviewer in question?  That’s purely subjective of course hence not allowable under this objective system.

And all of this is happening at a time when the games industry is at its healthiest.  More games written by more people than ever are being released covering myriad genres and styles.  The turnover of the game industry is way bigger than the Hollywood move industry.  It’s worth billions.  There’s room for everyone.

Of course the big issue isn’t ethics at all, it’s feminism.  Women getting uppity and pointing out that women characters don’t get much of a look in in certain games.  And that’s it.

Apparently one of them (Anita Sarkeesian) is the devil because she’s pointed out that women in games consist of a: victims, b: eye candy, c: captured princesses to be rescued, d: cartoonish harridans and e: an occasional playable character.  That’s her thing; it’s what she talks about.  She doesn’t talk about outlandish representations of men in games because that’s not her thing.  But apparently being biased is bad.  So that condemns all of us as we all have our biases.


She can’t censor, she doesn’t want to censor, she wants games to get BETTER at representing women.  And that’s it.  Cue death threats, rape threats, threats of a school shooting etc etc.

Another, Brianna Wu, runs a game studio (hilariously the common refrain of the GGers is “If you don’t like games as they are then go and make your own”.  She does!) and talks about needing more women involved in tech, in the games industry, in journalism.  If that doesn’t happen she reasonably suggests that women’s voices won’t get heard so you’ll get a male only opinion constantly feeding back into itself, hence more very male games getting made.  AARRRGGGHHH, SHE’S A WITCH! BURN HER! AND LAUGH ABOUT HER DEAD DOG, HAH THE STUPID COW SHE HAD IT COMING. KARMA AT ITS BEST. ETHICS RAAA….

Yes again, we have someone who wants to expand minds and opinions and vistas.  She clearly must be stopped.

I’d never heard of these 2 and others before all this kicked off.  I’m a massive fan of both now.  Depressing to see how insular and infantile certain other folk can be.

(Of course I’m a man so I’ll no doubt be labelled a “Social Justice Warrior” or “White Knight” – both apparently perjorative terms for someone who isn’t a raving misogynist.)

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