The Electronics Entertainment Expo — better known as E3 — is the highlight of the gaming calendar. As the biggest video game companies in the world gather in Los Angeles for a string of exclusive announcements, it’s a time of year when gamers put down their controllers and gaze eagerly at their newsfeeds.
If you’re a floundering social justice warrior desperate to maintain relevance, it’s also a great opportunity to embarrass yourself in front of the entire gaming world.
And that’s exactly what has happened. Puritanical culture critics Jonathan McIntosh and Anita Sarkeesian, famous for 2-year-late Kickstarter projects and being massive downers at parties, took the opportunity to annoy gamers, game developers, and even their own supporters.
The first reveals of E3 took us back to the moral panics of the 1990s. While the show didn’t officially start until June 16, on Sunday, June 14, Bethesda Softworks held a pre-E3 press conference to unveil a number of new titles. Ultraviolence was on the agenda, as McIntosh and Sarkeesian expressed their horror at bloodsoaked previews of the highly anticipated shoot-em-up Doom.
“This is sick,” huffed
Jack Thompson Jonathan McIntosh. “There is something deeply disturbing about anyone cheering for this.”
“It’s wall to wall glorification of grotesque violence”, squealed
Tipper Gore Anita Sarkeesian. “I can barely watch.”
Even GamerGhazi, a lonely online hangout for the outcast social justice warriors of gaming, were bothered by the outbursts. Some of them even began to notice the parallels between McIntosh/Sarkeesian and 1990s moral crusaders —a parallel we’ve been highlighting for months.
They may wear the clothes of progressive activists, but their arguments echo the logic of the parents groups and politicians who went after violent games and song lyrics in decades past.
Sarkeesian and McIntosh weren’t completely alone, though. A technology reporter for the UK’s Daily Mirror also pointed out the “grotesque violence” of the Doom trailer. On the other hand, he later admitted that he “abhors violence” and thinks that video games are “killing young men.”
E3 hadn’t even officially started at this point, so most observers were content to ignore the fringe histrionics. But not everyone could resist getting involved.
I'd discuss violence in Doom more but I need to go rehearse for a community theater production of Titus Andronicus.
— WhatCouldGoWrongHat (@Popehat) June 16, 2015
Great example, Femfreq bemoans violence in E3 games yet loves Towerfall, a game which contains nothing but violence.
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) June 15, 2015
Jurassic Park in cinemas, Doom revealed, moral panic over video games. And you say time travel is impossible. pic.twitter.com/5QgtD0ewJd
— Adrian Chmielarz ♀️🔥 (@adrianchm) June 15, 2015
The old moral panics weren’t just about violence, of course. They were also about sex. Indeed, it was sexualised rather than violent songs that made up a majority of the “Filthy Fifteen,” a list of rock titles targeted by parents groups in the 1980s.
Sarkeesian also leans towards the sex-negative school of feminism, also known as the Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan school. So she was pleased to see the famously buxom video game heroine Lara Croft wearing a sensible winter jacket in the latest Tomb Raider instalment, which is set in an icy climate.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) June 15, 2015
— Red Hot Take Ranger (@ShinGokaiRed) June 16, 2015
For a moment, it looked like Sarkeesian was living in a world of political narratives instead of facts. But I’m sure it was just an honest mistake.
But it wasn’t all fun and winter jackets. Sarkeesian was extremely triggered by E3’s official badges, which feature a female dancer from the Persona 4 spinoff title, Dancing All Night. In unusually mild terms, Sarkeesian described the image as “unfortunate”.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) June 17, 2015
The sex-positive feminists of the gaming world, many of whom are still in denial about Sarkeesian’s obvious puritanism, found her tweet to be highly problematic. “How am I not supposed to read this as slut-shaming?” said RobotAnna, a notorious SJW from Reddit. “Really we need better people in the gaming feminism spotlight,” said another.
Mockery, missteps, and infighting. E3 wasn’t going at all well for SJWs. But the worst was yet to come.
3. MECHANICAL APARTHEID
Deus Ex is a series close to the heart of many gamers. Set in a dystopian cyberpunk future dominated by secret societies and global conspiracies, the title has won plaudits for its innovative story and creative blending of first-person-shooter (FPS) and role playing game (RPG) elements. E3 saw the announcement of further details about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the latest installment in the franchise.
As we saw in the cases of Jurassic World, Anne Rice, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, outrage jockeys have a habit of picking on incredibly popular targets, alienating large swathes of fandom in the process. They weren’t going to pass this one up.
The outrage focused on the game’s use of the term “mechanical apartheid” to describe a division between cyborgs and humans. “Apartheid??” shrieked the gaming SJWs. “They’re belittling racism! This is what happens when you have white privilege!”
There was just one problem. The phrase “mechanical apartheid” was thought up by Gilles Matouba, a veteran games developer at Ubisoft and Eidos Montreal. Gilles Matouba is black.
And very, very annoyed with SJWs.
So annoyed in fact, that he went to KotakuInAction, the hub of Gamergate on Reddit, to rail against the stupidity of SJWs. “They don’t deserve our attention,” said Matouba. “They don’t deserve our industry, our games, and the dedication we put in to them.”
After remaining silent for months, game industry figures chose this moment to speak out against the stupidity. Mark Kern, former lead developer of World of Warcraft even offered his formal support to Gamergate. Kern had previously been sympathetic to the movement but reluctant to fully embrace the hashtag.
Thank you @GGMatouba
— Clint Hocking (@ClickNothing) June 17, 2015
How dare videogames attempt to explore serious social and political issues? Stupid totally white male game devs.
— Elias Toufexis (@EliasToufexis) June 17, 2015
@rhipratchett Yup, I gathered as much. Calling them a "white studio" that only makes "white games" is pure erasure.
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 17, 2015
Social Justice Warriors (in gaming) are over
They were on their way out anyway, but the events of E3 have exposed the isolation of social justice warriors in gaming. Once upon a time, they dominated social media, naming and shaming “problematic” game developers at will. Now, their efforts are faced with little more than ridicule and disdain.
The games industry never really liked them in the first place, of course. If big developers want to know what female or minority gamers want, they ask market research firms, not grandstanding culture critics. Moral crusaders are useless to the industry, and developers are well aware of it.
They will rarely reveal their thoughts publicly, of course. But every so often, you see faint glimmers. Just look at the websites that received coveted E3 invites — NicheGamer, BasedGamer, LewdGamer, TechRaptor, APG Nation, Breitbart. These sites are all notable for their pro-gamer stance and for their criticism of outrage jockeys.
Meanwhile, Kotaku was snubbed by Ubisoft, while goodthink stronghold NeoGAF didn’t even get an invite. Journalists who try to spread alarm about diversity are placated with soundbites and leaflets. The signals from the industry are subtle, but clear.
Like rainbow-haired Napoleons, the SJWs of gaming press on, convinced of their own invincibility. But the social media chilling effect they once presided over is long gone, and their efforts are now met with a growing chorus of opposition. Former allies have deserted them, and big game developers openly fraternise with their mortal enemies. For the opponents of outrage culture in gaming, E3 has been a flawless victory.
Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter