GamerGate, for those unaware, is effectively the umbrella term given to a number of aspects of video game culture: sexism and misogyny in the community, for one, as well as questions about journalistic ethics – particularly conflicts of interest between video game journalists and developers whose seeds lie in the fact that the first video-game publications were products of the gaming companies themselves . The problem is, none of this is unique to the gaming community.
From Caroline Criado-Perez receiving a deluge of rape and death threats over her campaign for women to appear on the bank note, Andy Murray being targeted with comments the police described as vile, disgusting and distasteful comments because he voiced an opinion, to Ben Flower receiving death threats for punching another player during a rugby league match; the behavior being seen by the gaming community is all over the internet. I have my own issues with the gaming community. I was subjected to such horrendous abuse that I stopped playing online and now I will only play if I can mute all the other players. Like pretty much anyone who launches such attacks, they think they have their own “justification”:
It’s trash talk, I do it with my friends all the time, it’s part of the game.
Well yes it certainly is trash but I’m not their friend, I’m a complete stranger and no it certainly isn’t “part of the game”. It’s something that seems to have developed over time and is now ingrained in the culture and accepted. This is not unique to gaming as I said, anytime this kind of abuse appears on the internet, many people just say “oh it’s the internet”or “well they did this so this is acceptable”. I sometimes think the internet was an experiment, to see what would happen if you created a free-for-all space, free from consequences and ability to be anonymous. I think we now have our answer. It seems virtually inconceivable that we would say these types of things to peoples faces.
Reading comments on the internet forums regarding these issues, the gaming community is basically in denial. There have been comments of “saying death threats is bad is obvious so it doesn’t need saying”. Well clearly some people haven’t gotten the memo; and I’m not going to get started on those saying those saying they’ve been threatened are doing do for publicity. You’re not going to solve a problem if you don’t believe one exists. The thing is, there are some genuine concerns regarding journalism and the way women are portrayed in games and the gaming industry as a whole. Like every other community though, those with the most extreme views get all the attention. When was the last time you saw a story about people with moderate views combating this kind of behavior get attention? You usually find those sorts of stories in the “and finally….” section of the news. Herein lies another problem that goes beyond gaming.
Whilst we continue to provide excuses for this behavior nothing will change. Because the problem goes beyond gaming, focusing solely on it will be like trying to take down a brick house with a toothpick; and nothing will change. If we’re serious about combating sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia and any other ill of society, we need to go far far deeper than one hashtag.