In all of the distracting, hysterical, evidence-free and unfair allegations of misogyny and bigotry hurled at supporters of GamerGate, the consumer revolt that continues to surface outrageous misconduct in the video games press, something is being forgotten.
GamerGate is remarkable—and attracts the interest of people like me—because it represents perhaps the first time in the last decade or more that a significant incursion has been made in the culture wars against guilt-mongerers, nannies, authoritarians and far-Left agitators.
Industry after industry has toppled over, putting up no more of a fight than, say, France in 1940. Publishing, journalism, TV… all lie supine beneath the crowing, cackling, censorious battle-axes, male and female, of the third-wave feminist and social justice causes.
But not gamers. Lovers of video games, on seeing their colleagues unfairly hounded as misogynists, on watching journalists credulously reporting scandalous sexual assault claims just because a person was perceived to be “right-wing” and on seeing the games they love attacked and their very identities denied and ridiculed, have said: no. This will not stand.
The reaction in the press has been bewilderment and, then, apoplectic rage, driven at least in part by a media establishment that sees video gamers—the supposed dorks and basement-dwellers of popular imagination—mounting a credible and effective defence against the liars, frauds, neurotics and attention-seekers who have already destroyed morale and wrecked culture in the comic, sci fi and fantasy worlds.
In other words, some of the bitterness comes from people who are shocked that it took video gamers to say, “No more of this, thank you.”
Because hard-core gaming is overwhelmingly male—don’t believe cherry-picked statistics that tell you women now make up 50 per cent of gamers; they don’t, in any meaningful sense—and because those men are often of a stubborn, obsessive, hyper-competitive and systematic bent, it has produced an army finally capable of launching offensives against the censors—using the censors’ own tactics, such as advertiser boycotts, against them.
And thus a front has opened up in the culture wars; an opening through which others might peek and from which others should be seeking inspiration. The language of the authoritarian Left is quite often outrageously hateful—you can regularly hear even mainstream journalists talking about “killing all men” and excluding “all white men” from industries and cultures.
What gamers have done is draw insistent, unapologetic attention to the fact that, were the tables turned, such language would be regarded as socially unacceptable. They have exposed it for what it is: bigotry and hate speech. And they have not shied away from revealing the personal shortcomings of some of the far-Left loons who seek to poison their hobby with finger-wagging about “sexism.”
They are right to consider those shortcomings. The opponents of GamerGate include a former soft-core porn actress who claims to have stabbed someone in the face and killed him but not reported it to the police, and who, by her own definition, is a rapist.
They include a neo-Nazi who has written that Hitler was “my f—cking idol” and has written things about Jewish people not repeatable here. They include a dishevelled, psychologically unstable transsexual, said to have been the subject of a restraining order, who is a proven liar yet whose claims are repeated uncritically by a credulous press.
No arrests have been made as a result of her reports and many suspect her threateners are figments of her own feverish imagination.
And they include a former multi-level marketing scammer turned feminist heroine, who has never really been particularly interested in video games, but who can be seen at conferences revelling in her newfound fame and wealth which has come about not because her critiques are effective, but because she embarked on a massive press tour off the back of threats she says she received, not a single of which has ever been traced to a GamerGate supporter.
This is the pantheon of self-promoters, opportunists and oddballs who have made gamers’ lives a misery over these past few months. And yet: gamers are not going away.
For years, it was accepted that once the finger-wagging feminists moved in on your industry, you would capitulate quickly to their pseudo-academic treatises on the “male gaze.”
Video games, and GamerGate in particular, have bucked the trend, showing that with politeness and persistence bogus feminist critiques can be rebuffed and self-obsessed attention-seekers can be subjected to the same degree of scrutiny they set out to shine on others… with occasionally gruesome results.
There are signs of political consequence to this awakening—a realisation among gamers that in fact their hobby is intrinsically what we might call libertarian, since it focuses on individual agency, personal responsibility, ties between allies… all in service of goals and specific achievements. That is the essence of libertarian psychology.
Left-leaning media typically luxuriate in the helplessness of a perceived victim in the face of oppression, whether real or imagined. Observe the focus on narrative, and deprecation of gameplay, in soppy indie games such as Gone Home, to which the Left-wing press of course gave glowing reviews.
Jonathan McIntosh, the writer behind far-Left feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian’s videos, says that: “The core value of patriarchal masculinity is control. It’s not a coincidence that control is central to many video game mechanics & stories.” He intends this remark to be pejorative, but in fact it is individual agency that represents mainstream gaming’s greatest achievement: it gives power to typically powerless people.
It sounds odd, when the press is so full of claims that women are being victimised—never with any proof beyond personal testimony, mind—to say that gamers are the real victims in all this. But it’s true, just the same. Often marginalised, lonely people, sometimes with challenging psychologies, gamers retreat into “vidya” to escape a world in which they feel they have no control.
So video games aren’t an expression of patriarchial tendencies. It’s absurd to even call gamers representative of the patriarchy: at the risk of generalising, they are more often sensitive, introverted, sexually inhibited or even confused people. Rather, games allow people on the margins of society to experience what it’s like to have their actions matter, in a safe, virtual environment.
That’s the essence of the clash between GamerGate supporters and everyone else: most people don’t grasp what sort of people gamers are, nor why they play games. And how could they? Most of them have barely a passing acquaintance with the immersive action games that make up most of the libraries of most gamers. (Just enough of one to see a scantily-clad woman and cry: “Sexist!”)
Great art asks questions. It is provocative, and it empowers. That’s what immersive games such as Call of Duty provide for players. Feminised, infantilised, social justice-oriented art sets aside creativity in favour of politics, wallowing in faux victimhood, robbing players of agency and individualism in favour of identity politics and meditations on “oppression.”
So that’s the real war here. It’s not just about who slept with whom, and whether that affected coverage, nor even about whether some outlets have financial relationships with publishers that go beyond what readers consider acceptable. It’s a battle for the soul of the games industry and a wake-up call to journalists that their personal politics simply aren’t welcome in their coverage, because they don’t reflect anything like the views of their readers.
As Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, puts it: “The concern is that game developers and publishers will compromise the artistic vision of their game in order to avoid Metacritic-related punishment or negative editorial coverage rather than based on what gamers actually want to play.
“Many in the gaming press, see any objection to encouraging feminism, social justice and alternative-lifestyle representation in gaming as misogyny and bigotry. It doesn’t occur to them that most people who play games aren’t political and simply don’t like seeing game publications using their platforms to push their ideology on them.”
In perhaps the clearest sign yet that the authoritarian Left knows it is losing this war, perhaps because it realises gamers have the upper hand in numbers, intelligence and purchasing power, repeated personal attacks on supporters and even on sympathetic journalists are now a staple of coverage. This comes at the same time as lifelong gamers publish funerals to their own feminism and declare their support for the GOP.
Chillingly for free speech, mass suspensions of Twitter accounts that have the temerity to publicly support press reform and reject feminist critiques of video games as irrelevant, sneering, pseudo-academic drivel are now being attempted by impotent feminist groups whose only weapon is the silencing of dissent.
GamerGaters should be joyful. But they should also remember that, rather than responding in kind with personal attacks, doxxing, threats and totalitarian tactics, they should concentrate on the very real concerns they have and have had for a decade with a press that, swamped with discredited far-Left ideology and unintelligent, poorly-trained writers, refuses to tell basic truths.