Art by Austin Smith
If you haven’t spent the last two months panic-stricken by media reports that Ebola will spread from Dallas to kill us all, you might have come across the scandal known as Gamergate.
What is Gamergate? At this point: whatever you want it to be. Corruption or Sexism. Choose your own adventure. Most Houston game developers and journalists want to stay the hell out of it, and for good reason. It’s not hard to lose your job for having an opinion.
I contacted several Houston-based game developers for this story. Two responded.
“That’s a big fat *NO* on the Gamergate opportunistic sound bite,” one said. “You should write that everyone had years of me bringing actual game and tech news that has gone ignored, and now that this *thing* is trending you’re wanting some kind of opinion/statement.”
The second agreed to talk under anonymity.
“The whole debate on both sides seems to have poisonous elements. I’ve tried to stay out. Giving it more attention would just add fuel to the fire. I need to get back to work,” they said before adding: “OH GOD EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE WHY ARE PEOPLE SO MEAN TO EACH OTHER, PLEASE EVERYONE JUST BE NICE.”
A quick Twitter search turned up similar:
“Avoiding Gamergate. I like video games and craft beer. I lead a simple semi-freelance life., tweeted Houston Chronicle blogger Cody Hardin.
[UPDATE: As of Oct. 20, Houston Chronicle video game reporter Willie Jefferson wrote a very objective piece on his LinkedIn account titled “A simple solution to Gamergate: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” which was later posted on the Chron’s blog.]
One of the few Houston video game journalists who would talk, a brave soul by the name of Bryan Dupont-Gray, told me the following:
“I honestly could care less about Gamergate at this point,” Dupont-Gray said. “Recent news about a few of their bad apples making death threats has made me feel so removed from them. The only concern I have with this movement is it’s scattered, and when you have a large group of people with no leader, you have a scatterbrained effect.”
Full disclosure (journo speak for “being a professional”) Dupont-Gray and I worked at the same student newspaper two years ago.
Attempts to find anti-Gamergate protesters in H-town were unsuccessful, but a Houston-based activist and gamer who had a few relations in the now-defunct Timegate studios did respond to an interview request. The activist, who goes by @PwnParrot, thinks developers just want to work in peace.
“I started off slightly on the other side. Saw the Polygon article ‘Bad time to be a gamer’ about some misogynists attacking a female dev and thought it sounded awful,” @PwnParrot said. “Later I found the link to the Internet Aristocrat video. I did step back and look at both sides. It looked like people just talking past each other. It still is, in many ways.”
When I asked PwnParrot about their relation to the industry, PwnParrot identified as “a consumer.”
“I’m a PC and Nintendo gamer. Play a lot of FFXIV, I don’t play games as much as I used to. I really didn’t even identify as a gamer until I saw the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles and found them insulting.”
And that’s Houston. You want the mainstream answer to “What is Gamergate?” Simply punch a few keywords into Google. Not that you’ll get a the truth that way.
The journalism industry’s handling of Gamgergate is confusing as hell. They’re fixated on death threats. For a group proud about how it tells both sides, we sure love to demonize the unpopular. How so? By pointing out death threats sent only to anti-Gamergate protesters. The death threats sent to those in Gamergate? Deep sixed.
And for an opportunity to prove gamers also received death threats, feel free to call up Portland’s police department and ask the public information officer about report 1484066.
Wait, I forgot: Don’t mention harassment aimed at Gamergate. Their death threats are less equal than anti-Gamergate. I mean, we all know how Gamergate is full of angry (negative noun) and (unpopular adjective) losers.
To nudge a biased narrative is one thing but to claim victory in an attempt to shut up the opposition? That’s beyond yellow journalism. Gawker Media (heavily involved in the scandal) did just that when they used several of their sites to say Gamers/Gamergate are dead and encouraged everyone to block/ignore/ban anyone who disagrees. Is this what journalism has come to? Thoughtcrime? Thinkpolice?
Meanwhile, any outlet that interviews both sides receives a rude awakening. Huffpost Live discovered this in the second week of October. After a segment that included an anti-Gamergate game developer, they interviewed three female pro-Gamergate supporters: Georgina Young, a staff writer at Gamesided, and gamers Jennie Bharaj and Jemma Morgan. All three pointed out that if Gamergate WERE about attacking women, the three of them wouldn’t be there to interview.
Good to Huffpost for maintaining standards. More than what CNN did. Matter of fact, about the only other news sources that did their objective jobs were TechCrunch with their “A tale of Two Sides” piece by Allum Bokhari and National Public Radio’s “On Point” which interviewed several people for and against. Everyone else, from VICE to Stephen Colbert (Wikileaks is pro-Gamergate, if that matters) basically went with the politically correct one-sided story. If you point that out however, you’re not objective. You’re sexist.
Have you screen-capped hastily deleted tweets from a moral crusader bullying a gamer? You’re a misogynist. Pointed out how media are speaking with only one side? You’re pro-rape. Mentioned it in the comments section of Jezebel, Kotaku or basically anything owned by Gawker? Comments disabled — and you’re a bigot. Started a thread about it on 4chan? Thread deleted, you’re banned and a neckbeard loser aspie.
Point is, Gamergate is a teaching moment for how close we are to censoring people for no crime other than hurting someone’s feelings. This issue is past video games and feminism. It’s now freedom of thought. Gatekeeping in the media. Social Righteousness. The ability to discuss, debate, argue, bitch, moan, flame and complain. As in, one of the most basic human rights: Speech. The media says this argument is an excuse to target women under the guise of journalistic reform and anti-censorship. So you’re virtually allowed three options:
1-Oppose Gamergate, become a social justice hero.
2-Support Gamergate, become a boogeyman.
3-Ignore Gamergate, worry about rent money, Houston traffic and Ebola.
Or as one Houston Chronicle opinion writer told me: Oh barf.
by Guest Author