Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

#Gamergate: The alienation of the ‘gamer’ community and the fallacy of balance

For the past several weeks, as the #Gamergate phenomenon has unfolded, I have remained an observer, as I’m sure many other like-minded gamers have when faced with the raw hatred and furious debate that has become commonplace when talking about games.

As the school year ramps up again, however, I reasoned that I should add my own two cents, meager and insubstantial as they may be. I am deeply saddened and ashamed of the vitriolic harassment of both game developers and game journalists that has occurred, and I am even more dismayed at the systematic and inflammatory stereotyping of the “gamer” community by the individuals that claim to represent them. It is high time we try as best we can to put this unfortunate business behind us and get back to making, playing and talking about video games.

I feel that it would be imprudent to launch into a discussion of the situation facing the gaming community without providing some background about what has happened. Though the actual sequence of events is both wildly contested and imprecisely documented, the “powder keg moment” that signaled the beginning of the #Gamergate frenzy was undoubtedly a series of allegations made about the personal life and relationships of game developer Zoe Quinn.

In the original document, which was posted on Tumblr, Quinn was accused of cheating on her then-boyfriend with several high-profile personalities at major video game publications, a few of which covered her game “Depression Quest.” Though the original source of these allegations comes from a very interested party of questionable integrity (Quinn’s ex-boyfriend), many saw these allegations as an Edward Snowden-style exposé into the deeply corrupted heart of game journalism, where personal or romantic relationships influenced the coverage and exposure a game received. Several others saw it as grounds for intense and targeted malicious harassment.

Under the pretense of both purposes, the hashtag “Gamergate” was created, and spread like wildfire across social media ranging from Twitter and Youtube to 4chan, as game journalists took to the defense of Quinn and others. Many gamers also demanded greater transparency and accountability from an industry that they feel does not adequately represent their interests.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel that I should clarify that I am a white, straight, male who enjoys playing video games. I do not believe that the identity of a “gamer” is someone who is identical to me in the first three of those categories. The backlash behind Ubisoft’s exclusion of a playable female assassin proves that “people who enjoy playing video games” is more diverse than it  has ever been in the history of the hobby. Why then, does the gaming press seem unable to comprehend this diversity, and insist that the #Gamergate campaign is rooted in misogyny?

This entire situation, to me, embodies what is known as the “balance fallacy.” In simple terms, the balance fallacy is the notion that two ideas or contrasting sides of an argument are equally valid, independent of the argument’s actual merit. For example, BBC World News will never run a segment on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence featuring a debate between an astronomer and a Scientologist, because to do so would insinuate that Scientology is as equally reasoned and well-supported as modern astronomy. It is all too easy for Americans to place emphasis on the duality of a conflict, on both sides of the argument being equally weighted, even when one of those sides is something as rhetorically bankrupt and obscene as misogyny because of the freedom of speech that exists in this country.

The ironic thing is, most gamers seem just fine with social commentary in games and are open to changing the composition of games to match the audience who plays them. Games like “Bioshock Infinite” and the highly controversial, yet critically acclaimed “Gone Home”, prove that games can deal with extremely tough subjects like racism and LGBT intolerance.

Additionally, games like “Transistor,” the “Portal” series and “The Last of Us” all feature female main characters as well as a highly satisfying combination of gameplay and narrative. The conception of a gamer as a socially awkward, narrow-minded and bigoted young white male that is obsessed with a masculine power fantasy — which game journalism seems to cling to — is further from the truth than ever before, as the “NotYourShield” hashtag and videos of users like Taco Justice so clearly illustrate.

This, I propose, is the crucial error of the gaming press. They have subsidized the opinions of “gamers,” a largely silent yet massive and diverse community, into the ill-fitting and uncomfortable shoes of an extremely loud and malicious minority.

I do not mean to understate the horrible acts that have been perpetrated against figures like Quinn; but to target one’s own audience as the culprits of the wrongdoings of a select few, especially when said audience is so large, can only bode ill. By setting themselves up on the side of truth and justice, and the game consuming population on the side of evil and intolerance, game journalists have only set the stage for more aggression and conflict.

As for me? I just want to get back to talking about video games.

Johnny McCabe is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • A

    AnActualGamerOct 11, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    You seem t have not read, or perhaps not understood, the articles noting the “Death of the Gamer.” Those articles, particularly by L. Alexander, did not declare gamING to be dead. They were noting – correctly – that the industry must recognize that it is no longer populated exclusively by white 18-24 year old males.

    What happened then is a bunch of people – like the commenter “Gurney Halleck” above – got upset that anyone would dare to suggest that people start promoting other modes of narrative, alternative protagonists, and other culturally and socially aware forms of videogame. What “Halleck” decries as eeeevil ‘social justice’ (as if that were an evil thing) is no more than a request that games become what they can be: real art, reflective of the values of the actual society which produces it.

    All the whining about “journalistic integrity” and “corruption” in the Gater screeds boils down to that: they don’t *want* games to change. They want to keep it all boob physics and gun porn. And nothing else. Ever.

  • A

    AnonSep 20, 2014 at 8:08 am

    With respect to Quinn’s ex-boyfriend being of “questionable integrity”, one of the journalists has now admitted that the tryst occurred, it would therefore seem that any question over the ex-bf’s integrity has been removed.

  • M

    MJSep 18, 2014 at 10:11 am

    TL;DR: not all men!

    That’s what you’re saying, yeah? “I’m tired of hearing about this, and even though I’m a straight white male, *I* don’t act like a racist/sexist, so can we please just get back to games?”

    Trust me — you may be tired of what feels like a pointless/uncomfortable/finger-pointing discussion, but there are a whole lot of not-straight,or not-white, or not males out there who deserve to have it, and be heard, and get some shit in this industry FIXED, because our voices count just as much as yours.

    You don’t want to participate? S’cool. For the love of god and little green apples, SHUT UP, then!

  • J

    Jay C. L.Sep 10, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    “This, I propose, is the crucial error of the gaming press. They have subsidized the opinions of ‘gamers,’ a largely silent yet massive and diverse community, into the ill-fitting and uncomfortable shoes of an extremely loud and malicious minority.”

    This section of your article nicely sums up my dissatisfaction with the industry’s response to #gamergate: I was equal parts appalled and surprised to discover that it regarded self-identified gamers as such a hyper-specific (and woefully uncultured) monolith.

    In high school, I was guilty of a similar narrow perception of the hardcore gaming community, though even then the gaming community at my school prided itself on being a safe haven for outcasts and eccentrics of all stripes. The gaming circle I became a part of at my university completely shattered remaining notions that “gamer” was simply shorthand for a crass, ignorant male who occupied his parents’ basement and reveled in the use of uninspired pejoratives. Some of the best conversations about feminist and Marxist criticism I ever participated in were had over a rousing stock match of Melee/Brawl; many aspects of continental and existential philosophy were fiercely debated during equally fierce Tales of Symphonia multiplayer playthroughs. My comrades-in-arms came from all walks of life and were headed to an equally diverse number of lifestyle and career destinations; to see them written off as mere outliers in the community brought forth a tremendous rage, and finally convinced me that the sorry state of gaming journalism needed to take a serious look at its own twisted visage.

  • G

    Gurney HalleckSep 10, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    GamerGate is a rebellion by gamers against Social Justice Warrior gaming journalists who have spent the past few years lecturing at their core audiences about feminism and inclusiveness blah blah as if gamers were innately sexist or have been excluding others by passionately playing video games they love without giving a thought to the identity politics that so consume SJWs.

  • S

    Stefan HerlitzSep 10, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Excellent column! I’ve been following this too, and it’s been disappointing to see a general lack of level-headedness on the part of game journalism lately.

    Definitely one of the best analyses of this snafu I’ve seen.

  • N

    No one caresSep 10, 2014 at 8:44 am

    No one puts this much thought into calling themselves a gamer. The flow chart looks like this.

    Do I like games>all other forms of idle entertainment?
    Yes= gamer
    No= not a gamer.

    If you actually thing any normal people experience “raw hatred and furious debate” when talking about games please seek help.

  • M

    MassacredSep 10, 2014 at 4:18 am

    Sir I would just like to commend you for not taking the low road as many “journalistic” sites and authors have and dismiss this entire happening based off the actions of a few people who are using GamerGate as an excuse to harass people.

    GamerGate to me has always been about journalism, and how more and more regardless of divides in political or religious beliefs, the press often seems very distant to the audience.

    I will most certainly be reading any articles you publish in the future, as it seems you are one of the very few, who took the time to actually investigate and research before simply posting a reactionary piece.

    You have no idea how much this article is appreciated.