Column: Sexism isn't answer to gaming's problems
So let’s talk about #GamerGate. What an ugly mess of a manufactured scandal that is, huh?
Even if it’s ignored as an attempt to smear female indie game developer Zoe Quinn’s name by way of 4chan and a jilted ex, and the current justification is that it’s mission is to remove corruption from game journalism, it’s still, at its core, a movement to remove feminist, racial and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex criticism from gaming. It’s a movement to remove the idea of subjectivity from game reviews and to discredit experimental or arthouse games as “not really games.” All of these actions threaten to stunt gaming’s growth as an artistic medium, like the Hays Code did for film or the Comics Code Authority did for comics.
Despite its flaws, at least #GamerGate has a relatively comprehensive manifesto. The manifesto talks about wanting to keep games from becoming politicized to further an agenda and to keep reviewers from shutting out video games based on a reviewer’s political stance or their sense of justice, social or otherwise.
What I think of #GamerGate can be summed up in a document saved on my hard drive: “Bullshit Rules For Misogynistic Dickheads.” But, with this little hateball of a movement gaining momentum: Why not make a countermovement?
Gaming has problems, but reactionary misogyny and harassment are not the way to solve them. So we must push back as a movement of indie developers, analysts, journalists and even gamers themselves to show even now there is hope for gaming culture.
Instead of demanding games and game coverage remain apolitical and unbiased, argue that everything designed for a game has a meaning in the context of how it’s viewed , no matter how small.
Stephen King, in his horror piece “Danse Macabre,” said elements of art are “not important because [the creators] thought very hard about it, but because they didn’t.”
This truth applies especially to gaming given how much is conveyed through the subtle medium of gameplay. Though King was talking about the radioactive fish-zombie monsters from “The Horror of Party Beach,” the point still stands. When art is created, every aspect of it is meaningful, just as for games.
Instead of heeding the cries for objectivity derived from the “8.8 out of 10” scores, maintain the opposite: Analysis of art as both product and medium is inherently subjective. Different people like different things, so let’s stop trying to disprove voices that might provide valuable inputs outside of the norm, and let those who might put games in a new light speak.
The evaluation of political content and how relevant it is to a games’ score should be left to the professional critics. A game receiving a “bad” score does not mean a game is objectively “bad.”
And hell, let’s have those who are really being marginalized by #GamerGate have their voices as a banner flag in the medium. Let’s put the viewpoints of women, people of color and LGBTQ and intersex people on the stand, both as commentators and makers of games, to break up the discrimination the medium has gone through over the years.
Finally, let us end this manifesto with a call to reject the dourness that has set in the gaming landscape, the fetishization of the realistic and overt seriousness. Even critically acclaimed indie games like “Gone Home” fall into the paradigm of pushing towards serious drama that pervades the idea of what a medium should reach for to become more respectable in the eyes of adults. #GamerGate’s stance only penalizes the indie developers that go against this, given the way it’s pushed and harassed several indie developers out of the industry while empowering the corporate publishers pushing the same old factory-produced grim-and-gritty garbage.
This possible counter-movement should be a revival of the past. As the gamer identity solidified, many good things about gaming were tossed into the trash: the bizarre, joyfully whimsical aesthetics that slowly went to slumber after the death of the Dreamcast, and the willingness to experiment that fell apart in the mainstream with the bloat of the AAA console market.
I want that back, and at heart, I think a lot of the #GamerGaters do as well.
Tom Johnson is a film and television production junior. Follow him on Twitter.