Unless you live under a rock, you may have heard of the events of GamerGate that started last year. The scandal more or less surrounded the harassment of several female game developers, as well as some strongly-opinionated feminist speakers. The movement originated with the social sites 4Chan and Reddit, and gained attention using the #gamergate hashtag on Twitter. Those behind the hashtag originally stated that they wanted to encourage ethics in gaming journalism, and stop strongly-opinionated feminists from “ruining” gaming culture. Things got pretty serious; a number of the ladies who were attacked received serious threats that brought police enforcement into play. If you’d like to read the full story, check out Wikipedia’s breakdown.
Full disclosure: I call myself a feminist, although I’m more of the Emma Watson variety, and tend to disagree with the strongly-opinionated Anita Sarkeesian crowd. This means that I think gender equality is important for both men and women; neither is more important than the other, and both should be treated equally in every way possible. (BTW, if you haven’t seen Watson’s presentation on feminism to the UN, check it out!)
Recently, a group of men’s rights advocates who identify with the GamerGate movement put together an exhibitor’s booth at the Calgary Expo comic convention. Their mission statement, although intending to be sarcastic, had a bit of a bite to it:
We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own. Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware.”Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way.
As men’s issues advocates and defenders of creator’s rights to create unmolested, that’s what we have to say to the nerds and geeks and gamers. You are fantastic as you are, carry on.
Yep, in today’s political climate that’s considered an extremist position. Just letting creative communities create; consumers consume what they want; and gamers get down to the business of vidya without being judged.
So if you share our vision of a world in which nerds and geeks and gamers roam free and unfettered, help us spread that message by throwing a few shekels our way to attend the con.
Sounds fairly positive, right? We all want developers to be able to make the content they see fit. We’re all adults here; if you include something distasteful in your content, some folks won’t like it. If you’re secure as a person, the voice of a minority won’t hurt your feelings, and it shouldn’t! As I mentioned earlier, supporters of the GamerGate movement have made it their goal to keep feminists and “social justice warriors” out of gaming culture. The group at the convention, Honey Badger Radio, proclaimed a message of anti-censorship, then proceeded to harass female panel members. According to panelist Brittney Le Blanc, two members of the group spoke about their views when called upon to ask a question, derailing the topic of the panel. While the panelists were up front about their desire for equality in comics, the group continued to berate the panelists without listening to what they had to say. While that may not sound like the extreme sort of harassment normally perpetrated by Gamergaters, taking over a panel to loudly promote one’s opinion is hardly respectful. Justice was swift; by the second day of the convention, the Honey Badgers had been asked to leave.
Ethics in journalism is a damn important thing, and sadly, one that isn’t very important to our nation’s mainstream media. The Gamergate controversy started by claiming that female developer Zoe Quinn had garnered unfair support for her game by having an affair with a reporter for gaming site Kotaku. The problem with the movement is that it doesn’t know how to separate the personal from the professional. Gender equality and feminism are huge issues in our culture today, and with the rise of the nerd, it’s inevitable that these cultures could begin to clash. Our generation has a responsibility to make things better for the ones that come after. Yes, content creators should be able to make what they want, but they should do so with the understanding that the worlds they create impact those of us who spend days on end running around in them.
One of our writers wrote a piece last year calling out the nerd community for rebelling against their all-inclusive roots. I’d posit that the gamer community has experienced a huge amount of change and progress in the last 10 years, both good and bad. Gaming is no longer a male-dominated world, but in an effort to prove this, radical feminists and Gamergate proponents alike have gained ground. The saga has become a complex story that has pitted nerds from all walks of life against each other. While the main center of controversy seems to have quieted to a degree, the events at Calgary Expo tell us that the journey is far from over.
TLDR: Opinions are awesome, harassment is not.