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On Disagreement and Vilification

by Scott Thompson - October 15, 2014, 11:57 am EDT
Total comments: 23

Those for and against GamerGate have created a tumultuous environment that encourages antagonism. It needs to stop.

My 2-year-old daughter is lying on her stomach, feet kicking gently back and forth in the air, watching Mario Kart 8 replays on the Wii U GamePad. Each time Mario drives over a ramp and deploys his glider, she excitedly yells “Mario fly!” and juts her hand out into the air. As she narrates Mario’s race, I’m reading about the most recent death threat levied against Anita Sarkeesian; an elaborate and ghastly plan that warns of revenge against feminists for “ruining” the anonymous writer’s life, complete with a description of the variety of weapons to be utilized and the promise of writing a manifesto in her blood.

The replay ends, and my daughter brings me the GamePad. “More?” she asks, pointing to the screen. “You want to watch Mario race again?” “Yeah!” she exclaims, before lying down on her stomach once more. I always think about my daughter when I read about a heinous threat made against a woman that is outspoken about video games, but this was the first time where I consciously wondered about her safety.

“Why don’t we watch Mickey instead?” I offer. “Mickey!” she yells, before sitting up and turning to the TV. I feel sick.

***

The past couple of months have been filled with vitriol, and if it were not for starting a new job and the birth of my son, I think I would have let the events surrounding GamerGate engulf me. I’ve been lucky in that regard; writing and podcasting about games is something I do on the side, and while I thoroughly enjoy video games, I don’t identify myself as a “gamer.” So, I’ve mostly fallen outside the professional vs. the player dichotomy. Because of this, I haven’t really felt motivated to speak publicly about the movement, save for a few sporadic tweets. When I do begin to feel overwhelmed by all the negativity, I can simply move along to something not related to games.

The egregious attacks on women, though, have been inescapable and infuriating. I don’t believe that every person who supports GamerGate condones these threats against women, and I do believe that most members of the movement truly want to see more transparency in games journalism. But it should be clear to everyone that hateful and angry people, minority or not, have latched onto GamerGate and used it to target women.

The combative, us-against-them nature of GamerGate (on both sides) has created an environment that is ripe for this behavior. When we begin to see people with different views as the enemy, we more easily accept the mistreatment of them. I’ve seen it across the board, with short-sighted and venomous insults hurled back and forth in endless 140-character rants. People who fundamentally want the same thing – to enjoy video games – seem to truly hate each other. So, when a death threat is made against someone on the “other side,” we shrug and think “they probably faked it” or, the much worse alternative, “they deserved it.”

That’s where we’re at, believing that someone fabricates or deserves threats for, ultimately, thinking about video games in a different way than us. It reminds me of a lyric from “Dear Coach’s Corner" by Propagandhi:

But I guess it comes down to what kind of world you want to live in, and if diversity is disagreement, and disagreement is treason, well don’t be surprised if we find ourselves reaping a strange and bitter fruit…

But I think we can change that attitude, and I saw glimpses of it earlier this week after Polygon published their Bayonetta 2 review, in which the overtly sexual depiction of the heroine was viewed as distracting and unnecessary. Initially, this caused the rapid sharing of the review, with people completely dismissing it and issuing angry or sarcastic tweets, as expected. But the following day, our own Guillaume Veillette led a calm, welcoming discussion, where a variety of opinions – including if/how Bayonetta’s sexuality empowers her and how that should impact a review – were shared freely and without consequence. It was a brief and comforting moment in an otherwise tumultuous time.

We need more conversations like these, coupled with the realization that disagreement isn’t an attack on you personally. The Polygon review doesn’t make you wrong for enjoying Bayonetta 2, just as the belief that games journalism can be improved doesn’t invalidate current practices or work. Progress comes from discussion. Dismissing other opinions entirely stunts possible growth and encourages the abuse that Sarkeesian and others deal with regularly.

***

I won’t tell you how to feel about the content of video games or their coverage. All I ask is that you allow others to express their own opinions without persecution. I have to believe that things as they are now can and will deescalate. I have to believe that the little pangs of guilt I feel when my daughter names the characters she recognizes on the back of the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS box or brings me the PS4 controller and asks to watch “hock” (NHL15) can and will go away. Because I can’t accept that I’m guiding her towards a hobby that will ultimately bring her harm.

I hope and ask that you help me.

Talkback

Well put, Scott.
And I totally missed Guillaume's Twitter conversation about Bayonetta 2.  I fully intend to get the game. I don't have a problem with the overt sexuality because it's such blatant lampshading--all in good fun, like Senran Kagura or, to a lesser extent, the Dead or Alive series.
But I agree that the point--vilification of those we disagree with--has got to stop.
I also think that "GamerGate" involves several different and unrelated arguments about video game culture that have been unfortunately unified by an incredibly broad, meaningless hashtag. Games journalism is one part of it, but vitriol against game criticism, and the people doing that criticism, is another.
This might be a good podcast discussion.

Triforce HermitOctober 15, 2014

Both sides are in a little bitch fight. The stragglers who join in on it are probably the only ones who have an honest argument.

ClexYoshiOctober 15, 2014

I've had quite a bit to say on all this, and even got the RFN crew to have a discussion on the ethics end of things. It's such a tangled ball of yarn. My support of Gamergate is out of wanting those covering video games to be held accountable for their actions and the continual evidence piles up that there is something going on that can't all be mere coincidence. The other thing is that I want for there to be equal treatment of devs and journalists regardless of gender. Folks on the Journalist end are happy to report one sex scandal involving one of the Cards Against Humanity devs (Who is male), but they refused to talk about the the very incident that was the genesis for this all.

I've only really discussed Gamergate here on NintendoWorldReport because I feel this is a safe haven where it can remain civil, and I've always felt bad because even bringing up the specter of Gamergate feels like I'm rabble rousing. I also can rust that unlike places like Reddit, NeoGAF, and 4chan that the conversation won't get censored and the contents of it won't get sold to Kotaku. the Talkback threads on these editorials here always stay open rather than getting shut and locked, and the writers here don't just plug their ears because the folks in GameJournoPros said it's for the best.

Thank you Scott, and I hope that this hobby cleans up in time that you can proudly let your daughter game to her heart's content!


superyoshi128October 15, 2014

In 3 sentences, what is gamergate?

Jo351October 15, 2014

Quote from: superyoshi128

In 3 sentences, what is gamergate?

A very VERY oversimplified explanation is exposed game journalism corruption and blame games.  Some big name writers called gamers some unflattering stuff.  Social justice warriors got involved and it turned into a threat filled cesspool.

ClexYoshiOctober 15, 2014

Quote from: superyoshi128

In 3 sentences, what is gamergate?

Indie game Dev Zoe Quinn got into a big sex scandal, including with a guy who writes on Kotaku and mentioned her game without disclosure. Nobody would run the story on a major media site and youtube videos, threads, and other forms of communication were being censored. Gamers started digging to see just how deep the Journalist/developer/SJW circlejerk goes.

I like getting into a heated argument about review scores for fun, but I don't really get why some people get vile in response to someone else's opinion. I love God of War 3 and think the review posted in that discussion is kind of crazy, and though I haven't played Bayonetta 2, what I've read makes it sound like some people are having a hard time distinguishing between sexy and sexist (though, because I haven't played it, my opinion there is worth ****). But you know what? Who cares? It's their opinion. You can think they're wrong, but the only time your life is affected by one not-even-that-negative review score in a sea of glow is when you decide to make your life affected by it.

Just go to a website that better suits your interests and opinions. Granted, if you don't lean left, that's going to be pretty tough, but Polygon is one of the last places you should go in that case.

Evan_BOctober 15, 2014

I really don't know what to make of Gamer Gate. On one hand, video games are a form of entertainment, like movies and books and what have you. Every person who critiques games or uses them to push their own social agenda has done very little in the way of actually MAKING a game. F you feel something is under-represented in the industry, it is completely possible for you to go out and try to fill that niche rather than complain about it.

But, of course, that isn't really what Gamer Gate was about, and I think this article misrepresents that issue in order to capitalize on another trend- while feminist agendas in video game critique are certainly a facet of the current media, it was, instead, the inner workings of the media that led to Gamer Gate. This is another issue entirely.

If social justice whatever's and people withe agendas are going to be vocal about something, it will receive oppositon. The only problem is, you are dealing with a community that is used to spouting curses over a microphone when something happens in a video game. I think that is something to consider. Make no mistake, I am not saying anyone deserves this sort of anger and resentment for the sake of artistic representation- I just think it is very difficult to address when the people throwing threats and insults aren't the ones who are willing to have a legitimate discussion and it's all of us, on the side, who don't want to be lumped into that group, that end up debating the subject.

l3ertOctober 15, 2014

I'm a gamer, I'm not ashamed of calling myself that and I take offense at the notion that I should. I've been playing video games for more than 30 years, been a game developer for more than 10. I'm enjoying playing video game with my son and I'm looking forward to be playing them with my soon to be born daughter. I refuse to be held accountable for the actions of others.

I'm a left leaning liberal and I fully support GamerGate. To me it's not so much about corruption or misogyny but about a bunch of smug entitled ideologues that are trying to enforce their agenda on an entire community and industry.

GamerGate might have started recently but this situation has been going on for longer than that. I've stopped going to sites like Polygon, Kotaku and Gamasutra several months ago because I was tiered of their rhetoric telling me I was evil, irrelevant and part of the problem for simply not agreeing with them.

I don't mind the discussions but these anti-GamerGate people are not interested in discussion, just in pontificating and shaming into silence anyone who disagree with them.

I'm gonna be blunt, I don't care about who is developping the games I enjoy, I don't care for social justice in my entertainment, I only care about playing video games.

SOctober 16, 2014

Quote from: superyoshi128

In 3 sentences, what is gamergate?

A guy was upset his girlfriend broke up with him, so he got people on the Internet to harass her. This activity was disguised as fighting for ethics in games journalism to make it appear more palatable.


I understand the author of this article being put off by the conflict surrounding Gamergate. However, just because you feel that way doesn't mean both sides are equally to blame or merely opposite sides of the same coin. It's not always merely a matter of differing opinions and people being unable to agree.


In this case, one side has been continually harassed. One side has received death and rape threats. One side has had their personal information distributed over the Internet with the intent to do harm. One side has had to leave their homes out of fear of serious bodily harm.

The other side is tired of "agendas" and being called names.

superyoshi128October 16, 2014

Sounds like the Internet is not helping at all with all of the extra attention being given. To much drama. Can't we just play video games again?

TheXenocideOctober 16, 2014

Jeeze, when did videogames stop being about having fun?

ClexYoshiOctober 16, 2014

Quote from: S

A guy was upset his girlfriend broke up with him, so he got people on the Internet to harass her. This activity was disguised as fighting for ethics in games journalism to make it appear more palatable.


I understand the author of this article being put off by the conflict surrounding Gamergate. However, just because you feel that way doesn't mean both sides are equally to blame or merely opposite sides of the same coin. It's not always merely a matter of differing opinions and people being unable to agree.


In this case, one side has been continually harassed. One side has received death and rape threats. One side has had their personal information distributed over the Internet with the intent to do harm. One side has had to leave their homes out of fear of serious bodily harm.

The other side is tired of "agendas" and being called names.

It really is shameful that anybody would have to go couch surfing because they fear the folks who are on a literal witch-hunt after them. the overall harsh tone of the angriest members of this are cowardly and wicked hearted.

That being said, I do not appreciate your dismissal of evidence, confession, and the conviction of people who more than anything want proper accountability to be taken regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, or political beliefs.

What I am about to say is by ZERO means me endorsing death threats, doxxing, or misbehavior of the people who have abused the cause Gamergate stands for.

That being said, when active efforts are being made to snip any friendly discussion of this at the bud, when Reddit accounts are getting shadow banned and threads scrubbed clean, when people's youtube videos are getting falsely copyright flagged and when media outlets wrapped up in this refuse to allow for discussion and gracefully take proper critique. . . and then after this refusal to listen, 14 different websites launch editorial against their target demographic all at the same time? people look for ways to get louder. desperate ways. improper ways that only feed the very agenda being pushed out. Some lost their patience far earlier than that. Some still even manipulate Gamergate such as the folks who were in the 4Chan raid IRC, attempting to herd something they cannot possibly police for their own gain.


Gamergate has had legs because there IS wrongdoing here. There IS an ethics issue, there IS a gender equality problem that both super liberal folk and the hateful people they actually should be focusing on combating are milking this for every ounce of drama they can...!

Triforce HermitOctober 16, 2014

Quote from: S

In this case, one side has been continually harassed. One side has received death and rape threats. One side has had their personal information distributed over the Internet with the intent to do harm. One side has had to leave their homes out of fear of serious bodily harm.

The other side is tired of "agendas" and being called names.

The super liberal folk are extremely antagonistic. They are purposely like that because if they get death threats, then their insults are overshadowed, their opposing party's argument is discredited, and they get more fuel to add to the fire. I'm not going to start into saying which argument is wrong or right, but the folks at GG need to find a better way to argue other then threatening death and the feminists need to stop purposely trying to get these death threats just so their argument seems better and actually try to persuade us why they are right.

Quote from: ClexYoshi

The other thing is that I want for there to be equal treatment of devs and journalists regardless of gender. Folks on the Journalist end are happy to report one sex scandal involving one of the Cards Against Humanity devs (Who is male), but they refused to talk about the the very incident that was the genesis for this all.

While I sympathize with the idea that the Temkin situation wasn't video game news and didn't have to be reported by game sites, it was news as the alleged action is a criminal matter. The Quinn situation is completely different as her alleged cheating, while shitty if true, is in no way a public or criminal matter. And the ex-boyfriend (who HAS been involved in coordinating attacks on Quinn online with GamerGate people) airing their dirty laundry in public is no different than "revenge porn". It's an attack.

Game journalists have no obligation to report on, and in doing so contributing to, the smearing campaign on Quinn. And sites like reddit and 4chan have perfectly the right (and responsibility!) to shut down the "discussion" when they realize their platforms are being used to coordinate attacks on a person. It's not censorship. It's doing the right thing. And I have to imagine we would shut down a thread here if people were using NWR to share youtube videos attacking people for things that have nothing to do with video games (to everyone: do NOT share here videos or sites claiming she got favorable coverage or awards from sleeping with game journalists, those allegations have no basis in reality and have been refuted).

Quote from: Triforce

the feminists need to stop purposely trying to get these death threats just so their argument seems better and actually try to persuade us why they are right.

Getting doxxed means all their personal info including all addresses past and current, social security number, phone numbers, etc. (and often the personal info of their friends and relatives) gets out there for anyone to see and use. It means getting constantly harassed not just online but in real life. And it means even online death threats have the potential to be serious. It means being chased out of your home.

There is NO WAY anyone, even feminists, would purposefully seek out putting themselves to those risks willingly in order to become martyrs. No reasonable person would think it's an effective way of getting their message across. Believe it or not, they are people like you and me, with friends and families, and opinions they believe in, and the good sense to understand that being chased out of your home and getting threats from terrorists isn't a boon.

The reason they say the things they say, if because they believe in their cause. Their speaking out does not harm anyone. And people who get mad at the things they say need to take a minute and do some introspection.

Triforce HermitOctober 16, 2014

Quote from: Pandareus

No reasonable person would think it's an effective way of getting their message across.

The people who want to their message across, both sides, are using spite and violence. Both sides believe "its my way or the highway". The people at the center of this aren't very reasonable. And yes I do honestly believe some of these feminists are purposely using the death threats to their advantage. They may not be purposely seeking them out, but they certainely aren't going to let them go to waste. Believe it or not, it is an effective tactic. Maybe not a morally correct one or a very good idea, but nonetheless, it is an effective tactic.

At least that is what I think.

I think it's false to say that "both sides" are using violence and spite. Being steadfast in your beliefs (my way or the highway) is not equivalent to the terrorism used to shut women up.

I think the idea that the victims are profiting from their abuse is a dangerous one. First, it doesn't acknowledge their suffering, or at least it minimizes it. Second, it banalizes the aggression. "Well sure, they're fearing for their lives, but look at the screen time they're getting!", as if celebrity were in itself a reward. It's not. And even if they get to talk to a bigger audience, it's usually about their current situation. It's not an effective soapbox from which they can communicate their original message. Third, it's a short leap from "they're profiting from their victimhood" to "they must have seeked this", which lets the actual aggressors off the hook.

The victims did not ask for the aggression. The sole responsibility for it rests with the aggressors.

Triforce HermitOctober 16, 2014

Fair enough

Has Anita cancelled her trip to Utah? No. They are going through with it. If she fears for her life more then she holds her beliefs, or if it truly brought her suffering, then she would cancel to be on the safe side of things. Either she values her beliefs more than life or she believes its a feint in which case this doesn't bother her. No logical person would go give a speech that risks their lives if they had a choice. Even if she is protected, the death threat says "One way or another, I'm going to make sure someone dies". So not only is she putting herself, but others at risk as well by doing this. I'm not trying to take the blame away from the aggressor, who should by all means be put in jail and if he does accomplishes even a single death be executed, but it seems to be that the feminists are somehow completely innocent when they aren't. Just as many feminists latched onto the girlfriend/boyfriend internet break up to try and make something out of nothing. Just because one side is making death threats doesn't absolve fault from the other side.

Your conclusion is based on incorrect info.

Sarkeesian cancelled her speech. And she's not going to Utah again until she can be sure it's safe.

I hope that you take into account this new info and correct your perception of Sarkeesian accordingly. Don't cling to old notions now that you know their premise was false. And if you were deceived by someone's tweets or some blog article, definitely start asking yourself what else you could have been deceived about.

INH5October 16, 2014

Quote from: S

In this case, one side has been continually harassed. One side has received death and rape threats. One side has had their personal information distributed over the Internet with the intent to do harm. One side has had to leave their homes out of fear of serious bodily harm.

The other side is tired of "agendas" and being called names.

You're wrong. Here's just a few examples of what the "other side" has had to deal with:

https://twitter.com/mylittlepwnies3/status/521744012466999296
https://twitter.com/ForemanErik/status/522529173705736192
https://twitter.com/QueenyMartha/status/522531549393076224
http://gamergateharassment.tumblr.com/image/100147770005

John KreeseOctober 16, 2014

Umm... did you "honesty in gaming media" guys know that the backroom palm-greasing you're so gosh-darn concerned about is absolute child's play compared to our own government's relationship with big business? I think it's really sweet that you're so upset with the gaming press for not liking the same games as you BECAUSE OF CORRUPTION, but you might want to take a look at the world around you. Everyone has an agenda. The best an honest person can do is attempt to rise above the slop-throwing and reconsider any opinion you share with manifesto-writing sociopaths.

Triforce HermitOctober 16, 2014

Quote from: Pandareus

Your conclusion is based on incorrect info.

Sarkeesian cancelled her speech. And she's not going to Utah again until she can be sure it's safe.

I hope that you take into account this new info and correct your perception of Sarkeesian accordingly. Don't cling to old notions now that you know their premise was false. And if you were deceived by someone's tweets or some blog article, definitely start asking yourself what else you could have been deceived about.

I avoid most social media aside from a few forums. I got the information from the link in the article posted.

Quote:

LOGAN — Utah State University plans to move forward with an event featuring a prominent Canadian-American author, blogger and feminist, despite threats of terror, a spokesman said Tuesday evening.

Though of course, I now see a link to the update. So it was my honest mistake.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterOctober 16, 2014

Quote from: ClexYoshi

Quote from: S

A guy was upset his girlfriend broke up with him, so he got people on the Internet to harass her. This activity was disguised as fighting for ethics in games journalism to make it appear more palatable.


I understand the author of this article being put off by the conflict surrounding Gamergate. However, just because you feel that way doesn't mean both sides are equally to blame or merely opposite sides of the same coin. It's not always merely a matter of differing opinions and people being unable to agree.


In this case, one side has been continually harassed. One side has received death and rape threats. One side has had their personal information distributed over the Internet with the intent to do harm. One side has had to leave their homes out of fear of serious bodily harm.

The other side is tired of "agendas" and being called names.

It really is shameful that anybody would have to go couch surfing because they fear the folks who are on a literal witch-hunt after them. the overall harsh tone of the angriest members of this are cowardly and wicked hearted.

That being said, I do not appreciate your dismissal of evidence, confession, and the conviction of people who more than anything want proper accountability to be taken regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, or political beliefs.

What I am about to say is by ZERO means me endorsing death threats, doxxing, or misbehavior of the people who have abused the cause Gamergate stands for.

That being said, when active efforts are being made to snip any friendly discussion of this at the bud, when Reddit accounts are getting shadow banned and threads scrubbed clean, when people's youtube videos are getting falsely copyright flagged and when media outlets wrapped up in this refuse to allow for discussion and gracefully take proper critique. . . and then after this refusal to listen, 14 different websites launch editorial against their target demographic all at the same time? people look for ways to get louder. desperate ways. improper ways that only feed the very agenda being pushed out. Some lost their patience far earlier than that. Some still even manipulate Gamergate such as the folks who were in the 4Chan raid IRC, attempting to herd something they cannot possibly police for their own gain.


Gamergate has had legs because there IS wrongdoing here. There IS an ethics issue, there IS a gender equality problem that both super liberal folk and the hateful people they actually should be focusing on combating are milking this for every ounce of drama they can...!

And that's why I say it would be better to move that discussion elsewhere and let the trolls devour eachother.

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