Vengeance Of The Nerds, Ctd

A few readers provide key counterpoints to the controversy:

Your latest post presents only one side of a very complex, many-sided argument and unfortunately perpetuates the narrative that #GamerGate is mostly a reactionary, misogynistic movement. Please understand that the vast majority of GamerGate is not misogynist. The vast majority of GamerGate does not think death threats are trivial. GamerGate is a movement that has embraced women, gays, trans-gender people of all political stripes and nationalities, worldwide.

GamerGate is many things, but it is largely a reaction against the huge amount of abuse that gamers have suffered over the years, culminating in a coordinated campaign by a dozen or so articles that appeared on numerous gaming news sites nearly simultaneously on August 28-29, proclaiming that gamers were dead, spear-headed by a piece on Gamasutra by Leigh Alexander, who called gamers:

These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers – they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.

Now is that any way to speak to a large number of your target audience? Most of the other articles weren’t quite as strident, but the mass coordinated nature of this campaign was not lost on many gamers. Understandably, being called “shitslingers” and “childish internet-arguer” upset many people. Hence GamerGate really took off.

It’s a horrible thing that Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu have received death threats. However, there is very little evidence that at least the threats against Sarkeesian and Wu have had anything to do with GamerGate. And yet, instead fingers were immediately pointed to GamerGate, in an appalling example of guilt-by-association. It is grossly unfair that a movement comprised of thousands of people worldwide is being tarred for the actions of the very few destructive people who just want to watch the world burn. That’s like blaming all Muslims for ISIS!

GamerGaters have been quite vigilant, often being the first and most vocal in calling out harassment as soon as they discover it online. This is a totally open movement. Anyone can do anything and claim that they did it on behalf of GamerGate. Even then, it’s abundantly clear to anyone who has actually talked to GamerGaters, that nearly all of us condemn harassment and welcome women into our movement. In order to counter this misrepresentation, the hashtag #NotYourShield was created in order to demonstrate just how diverse and inclusive the movement is.

Despite all this, GamerGate are being constantly insulted by others as “misogynerds,” “pissbabies,” “worse than ISIS” and god knows what else. Supporters of GamerGate have been given death threats, doxxed, lost their jobs and God knows what else. Yet none of that has gotten any exposure in the mainstream media.

The abuse received by people for the mere mention that they support GamerGate has been so bad that it has caused more than a few people who initially positioned themselves as anti-GG to realize that GamerGaters are on the whole good people who condemn harassment and just want to be able to enjoy video games without being constantly told by self-appointed social activists that their hobby is awful, degenerate, and they should be shamed. It’s part of a larger movement that has been touched upon by you in the past. Just listen to the voices of women here and here who received far more harassment from those opposed to GamerGate than from GamerGate itself.

There’s much much more that I can get into. But I’m just a nobody. GamerGate has been covered more fairly by conscientious, articulate people like these, both supporting and neutral to GG:

There are many more. Please contact them and listen to their voices. Fairness is important.

Another reader details another major part of the story:

I was surprised to see that your take on #Gamergate ignored its central issue, chiefly because it’s one of your own pet issues – corruption in the media. And by “corruption,” I mean the press acting as a form of PR and not as a source for news. Gamers are upset because it seems, and has seemed for a while now, that the press is no longer interested in talking to them. Leigh Alexander’s piece declaring gamers to be “dead” (alongside a slew of other insults) was just the purest expression of that trend.

But make no mistake: these accusations of misogyny are deflections meant to shift focus (successfully, so far) from their own wrongdoing.

Take, for instance, Jeff Gerstmann, who was fired from GameSpot in 2007 after rating a game as “fair.” The game publisher, Eidos Interactive, pressured the GameSpot to fire Gerstmann, and GameSpot complied. Take also the review of Aliens: Colonial Marines, produced by Gearbox Software, which the press lavished with praise after being shown a “demo” that, in truth, represented nothing contained in the actual game. Or take the latest scandal, wherein WB Games offered review copies of Shadow of Mordor under the condition that the resultant review praise and advertise the product.

The gaming press is too busy begging for the developers’ scraps to care whether or not their readership gets taken for a ride. And in a $93 billion industry, that ride can be quite expensive.

Which leads us to #Gamergate, a scandal that sprang to life after evidence emerged that Zoe Quinn, an indie developer, had leveraged her inappropriate relationship with the press to boost her profile, including shutting down a rival feminist charity (one #Gamergate would later help get back on its feet). Rather than report on these relationships (as they had Brad Wardell and Max Temkin), the press went silent. This, naturally, prompted further digging, which revealed the gaming industry’s very own Journolist, wherein certain members of this press pushed predefined narratives.

Outraged at having been lied to, silenced and manipulated, gamers revolted. #Gamergate. This revolt won’t end by calling gamers misogynists. They’re not. No, this will only end when the press debrides itself of the notion that it reports to anyone other than its consumers. It’s time they stopped lecturing gamers, and started helping them find a fun game on which to spend their hard-earned money.

Another zooms out:

I think the actual point is completely missed by everyone there. It would not have been missed if people didn’t stereotype and objectify nerds as much as they accuse them of stereotyping and objectifying women.

The point is, nerds never wanted to “win”. The ascendancy of their subculture is a horrifying development for most of them. They grew up being marginalized by the in-crowd. They found interests and a common ground with the rest of the persecuted non-alpha class and they were relieved to never again have to be bullied around and to find a social subculture in which they could express themselves freely and, shockingly, even become admired by their peers. Like, really admired. Socially admired, not just admired by their parents and upstanding grown-ups in their community after receiving another scholarship or citizenship award.

And now here come the alphas to take this from them, as well as their eighth grade lunch money. They aren’t undermining themselves; they are sabotaging the movement. I see so many people throwing their hands up and wondering why these guys are behaving so beastly, and if you take five minutes and realize how they got where they are, then you could see where they’re going.

The nerds want the women to go away, because when the women go away, so will the alpha males. High school never ends, not really. Alpha males hate everything new or different, but they learn to feign interest in things that women are drawn to. And so now you have these massive audiences for comic book movies and video games, because women started liking these subjects and the alphas are following along. The producers of this content know that to keep those big audiences spending, they need to lower the sophistication to a level that the casual, obtuse consumer will like. The women will still prefer the alphas to the nerds, no matter what the nerds do, and the nerds know this. They don’t have the tools for the game the way that the alphas do.

Now here is the perfect storm. Everything they like is overrun by women who don’t really want to engage with them and want to see the subculture change to be more appealing to them (and this is where things like feminist critiques of video games drive them even more bonkers). The women are followed by alpha males, who the nerds revile and who will try to seize control everywhere they can, like alphas do. The quiet living room of the nerd has become the scene of a giant house party hosted by the cast of Jersey Shore. Oh, and that’s about to be the level of sophistication coming across in comic books and movies now that there’s billions of dollars to be made by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Now I don’t sympathize with anyone who engages in death threats or who expresses anti-feminist ideals, or who essentially falls under the sway of their worst fears rather than their highest hopes. But I also gotta say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you.

So I’m not saying you need to sympathize with these people or ally with them or approve of the obscene ends that some of them go to. But you will never, ever, understand nerd behavior if you think that they are exultant at the new attention on their subculture, and that all this misogyny and anti-social behavior is just exactly what your objectifying, stereotypical model of them says that it is. They are not struggling to express themselves and grappling with zero-IQ social intelligence. They aren’t fumbling their way through their moment in the spotlight because they don’t know how to behave. I know that’s what everyone has been raised to believe about them, and it sure looks like it’s what they’re doing. But the fact is, all this acting out and hostility isn’t awkwardness and it isn’t a dominance play. It’s a simple message to the newcomers: get. the. fuck. out.

Another touches on something we were suggesting with the choice of tweet-image above:

Wow. That third reader doesn’t so much zoom out as much as he spaces out. Apparently there are no female nerds, and the only defining characteristic of nerd-dom is being a social outcast. Really? I thought it was liking scifi and being socially inept was an unfortunate side effect of spending so much time reading as a kid (maybe that was just me?).

And the whole idea that the “sophistication” of some monolithic nerd culture is going to suffer is ridiculous. You know what is happening? They are making more geeky, nerdy things – from movies to comic books to novels. Sure, some will be less sophisticated. Some will be more. Some will not appeal to your tastes and so what, go read or watch something that does, there’s a ton of it. I personally find the idea of Depression Quest ridiculous; it seems more like a psych class than a game to me, but if enough people want to play it to make that kind of genre popular, it’s not like it’s hurting me.

I’m a female gamer, though I admit I haven’t been following the GamerGate nonsense closely. Mostly because yes, there is as much misogyny in gaming as in the rest of life, and yes, video-game review sites have been useless for a long time now. It would be nice if neither of these things were true, but you know what? I play video games to relax, and stressing about that shit isn’t relaxing at all. If sexism in a game bothers me, I stop playing it. If I’m looking for a new game to play, I’ll look at one or two blog reviews and then download it and try it (if the game doesn’t have a trial version, there are plenty of others that do, so, move on to the next one).

The whole death threats thing is ridiculous and people need to realize that’s not ok, but I feel like summing this all up as a message to “get the fuck out” is unhelpful. Not just from a putting the genie back in the bottle perspective, but the vast majority of nerds aren’t issuing death threats. Only a handful of whack-jobs are.

Another gets the last word:

Oh Jesus Christ, can we just let this thing peter out as it should? Honestly, I already have four kids and I have to listen enough of he said/she said young love acquired, denied, lost and how it is the end of and most important thing in the world teen angst babble around the family dinner table. Do I also have to suffer through this at my favorite blog as well?

Sure, there are game developers out there who have an agenda against woman because they weren’t with the cool crowd in high school and carry that resentment into their apparently adult adolescent years. And yes, there are woman out there who detest game developers who seemingly objectify and reduce woman to sexual byproducts. Please, can we just let them go sling it out in their own high-school sophomoric fashion by posting nasty comments to each other on their blogs and the rest of us just move on and focus on more important things? Thank you.