The reality is, if you don’t like Phil Fish, if you think Zoe Quinn colluded with the gaming press or you don’t agree with Anita Sarkeesian’s stance regarding the portrayal of women in video games that does not justify the response they have received. I personally do not always see eye to eye with Ms. Sarkeesian in her interpretation of gaming as a whole and at times I’ve felt Mr. Fish was somewhat less then delicate and I in his place would have said things differently and regardless of what Ms. Quinn’s former partner said we all have pictures and words on the internet and actions in our past that we may not want to share and are none of the business of the world at large.
The reality is the demographic that makes up “gamers” is not the same as it was when I was a kid, when I was young it was a boy’s hobby. These boys have grown up and become men as well young girls and women have joined the hobby in increasing numbers to the point 48% of self identified gamers are female with 36% being 18 years of age or over. On the other hand only 17% of self identified gamers males under the age of 18 (as identified under the latest ESA surveys). This is no longer the domain of the young man but the medium still treats it as such.
We are slowly getting more and more titles catering to the real diversity of the gaming public and that’s great but this is not a story about the games or the industry but the “fans”. We have a population that is being held hostage by a vocal and frankly insane minority. Most gamers are not avid console enthusiasts who question the moral turpitude or genetic quality of those who use a different console, most PC gamers do not feel they are members of some kind of “master race” and most of us can get along and talk about our shared hobby without resulting to violent words or actions.
We as a society and we as a culture of gamers need to address this sickness, yesterday a pro-gamer was assaulted in his high school as part of a swatting prank. Swatting is becoming a regular occurrence, last week the Sony network was brought down by a DDOS attack for no other reason than they are Sony but the group escalated by issuing a fake bomb threat targeting the president of Sony which is really a Swatting incident writ large. In short, they went from attacking a company’s servers to domestic terrorism causing the loss of thousands if not millions of dollars and inconveniencing everyone on that plane which has knock off economic effects. In short, this has got to stop.
The reason I started this blog was to lend a safe space for mature enthusiasts of geek culture to come and talk and not be attacked, not have vicious lies and hurtful words hurled at them. We may not all agree (I know several games that I like that I know people on the staff dislike and vice versa) but we can do so in a manner that is adult and adds flavor and colour to the discourse and culture of gaming, comics, literature, art and all the things we love.
I’ve not been untouched by this series of events, I’ve certainly not had it near as bad as some of the other victims of abuse like Sarkeesian who had a video game made using her picture where players can beat her or the vicious hateful trigger words thrown at supporters but I’ve been accused of being a “White Knight”. Having grown up with some really incredible and empowered women in my life I've always identified as a feminist and even before I knew what the word meant I was of the opinion that women and men were equal only their soft bits were different. During one discussion someone I was discussing things with on the Joystiq forums went out on to the internet, found a photo of my wife, created a sock puppet account (a fake spoof account) and used her photo. They then proceeded to say the most vile things one could say using my wife’s photo as an avatar and actually trailed me around to different threads. They went after the ones I loved because I disagreed with them on the forums of Joystiq over this topic and making fun of me and my appearance wasn’t earning dividends.
Now regarding this picture, it’s not something I shared publicly. I do post under my real name most of the time because I believe in transparency (though there are times I have to post using my Twitter handle which can still be easily tracked back). This photograph was one I took on a honeymoon date after we got married last year, it was only posted in my private Facebook account which means they had to hack one of my accounts or go through a friend’s account. Joystiq were great, they deleted the posts and banned the IP the guy was posting from and it went away (if they were smarter they’d have found ways around that but thankfully it stopped). Even Joss Whedon is not immune; he supported Sarkeesian yesterday and ended up on the receiving end of vicious attacks today. This is a man who is by many considered the king of the geeks.
So what do we do? I wish I had a simple answer, I wish there was a “ban-hammer” we could ban these people from our lives. The desire for violence is a very palpable one but solves nothing. So where does that leave us? In an unenviable position of “the higher ground” we can only sit here and “take it” as these people poison the well. Eventually I can only hope through natural selection they die out, solutions like “Real Name” policies on YouTube or Blizzard’s Battle.Net are pretty much universally panned and backed out of before they can have any real effect which means we are victim of what the boys at Penny Arcade call “The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” which is Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Fuckwad which is what we have here, an infinite Fuckwad generator and I fear it’s going to get worse before it’s better. We’ve already lost immense talents from the industry like the Doctors over at Bioware, Fish and a host of other content creators, and critical voices like Sessler and Sarkeesian are struggling to be heard let alone involved (Sessler, who inspired me to persue games criticism, has quit from criticism and is taking a back room industry position). This is unacceptable enough but it is not endemic to games alone, bullying and attacking people on the internet has become a sport to some driving people to quit the arts, sport, politics and numerous endeavous. Short of becoming the monster what do we do?
Escape quickly from the company of fools; they're a waste of your time, a waste of your words. The wisdom of the wise keeps life on track; the foolishness of fools lands them in the ditch. The stupid ridicule right and wrong, but a moral life is a favored life. The person who shuns the bitter moments of friends will be an outsider at their celebrations. Lives of careless wrongdoing are tumbledown shacks; holy living builds soaring cathedrals. There's a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again - it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak. Sift and Weigh Every Word A mean person gets paid back in meanness, a gracious
person in grace. The gullible believe anything they're told; the prudent sift and weigh every word. The wise watch their steps and avoid evil; fools are headstrong and reckless. The hotheaded do things they'll later regret; the coldhearted get the cold shoulder.