I should be writing other things, but this #GamerGate thing currently causing some seismic upheavals in the videogaming community has burrowed into my head and I’m going to have to write something on it to get rid of the damn thing so I can get back to my other writing projects. What is #GamerGate? Uh, it’s complex. In summary, a section of gaming community has risen up against a gaming press they no longer believe represents their interests. A good summary can be found here. And this piece here covers the background leading up to it.
This is something like my third or fourth attempt to write this. On the previous attempts my utter loathing of Social Justice Warriors (SJW) - a group I despise for their intolerance, shocking hypocrisy, and quickness to censor and stifle opinions they don’t agree with – rose to the surface and drowned the piece in too much hate. I do have a bias towards the #GamerGate side, but another screaming rant about interfering SJWs doesn’t really add anything new to the discussion.
It’s not about them anyway. Oh, they play a part, but it’s not the full story.
After following the story on social media for a while, there seem to be several distinct complaints coming out of the gamer camp.
Some are unhappy about the corruption and cronyism displayed in the gaming press. They think the relationship between some game devs and some game journalists is too pally and this is making the reporting untrustworthy.
Some are unhappy with the adversarial and condescending attitudes of some game journalists. They’re fed up of going to read articles on their hobby only to be insulted and denigrated as “neckbeards”, “misogynists”, “manchildren” and other slurs.
Some are unhappy with the infiltration of the gaming press by SJWs. They want to read articles on gaming, not political opinion pieces telling them that game they liked is sexist/racist and they’re a piece of shit for liking it.
On the other side, the gaming press think it’s about angry white males being misogynist assholes, again. Which is why they’re in a lot more trouble than they realise.
I’ve followed it festering away in the background for the last couple of weeks. It was when the main gaming sites all put out very similar articles announcing the death of the “gamer” within roughly the same 24 hour period that I sat up and took notice.
I’ve not seen this before. I’ve not seen media declare war on their own consumers and viciously attack them, which is what the gaming press appeared to be doing. The reason I’ve not seen it before is because it’s totally fucking insane. Generally speaking, unless you’re a dominatrix running a BDSM parlour, insulting your own customers is usually a very quick way to go out of business. A lot of the gaming press (and some gaming devs) seem to have completely forgotten this and are still in attack mode, not realising the only thing they’ll win from this fight is a pink slip from the audience they just alienated.
It reminds me of the Ratner Effect. Before working as a software developer I spent some years working in the jewellery industry. Most of my family still work in the same industry. In 1991 Gerald Ratner was head of one of the biggest jewellery companies in Britain. During a speech he jokingly referred to his product as cheap and “total crap”. His customers took this as an insult and voted with their feet. Within a year Ratner’s off-the-cuff joke had wiped 500 million off the value of his company and nearly destroyed it.
Ratner disconnected himself from his customers. They wanted nice jewellery. He told them it was tacky shit. They went elsewhere. He lost his job.
What’s happening with #GamerGate looks remarkably similar. There is a disconnect between producers (gaming press and to some extent game devs) and a large chunk of their consumers (gamers). Only in this case the relationship has become hostile and extremely ill-tempered.
This can be seen by how #GamerGate is covered.
Some sections of the gaming press have blamed it on misogyny because they’ve become unhealthily fixated on what they see as misogyny in gaming. Unfortunately this has left them out of touch with the majority of their audience, who are currently upset about issues of content and transparency, and are well and truly hacked off with being branded misogynist for not toeing the media line. (Not all of the people tweeting the #GamerGate tag are white males. There are a lot of women and persons of colour. The one thing they have in common is they’re all dissatisfied with the current gaming press.)
This is a problem I’ve noticed with people who are heavily interested in social justice (As an aside, I believe social justice is a good thing and a laudable aim. I also think it’s a completely different thing from social justice warriors, who are basically scum), they’re not always aware that other people don’t share their interest to the same intensity. For the worst of them, the ones that tip over into SJW-asshattery, they see lack of interest as evidence of sexism, racism, etc., and are quick to accuse others of it. For most normal well-adjusted people that aren’t sexist, racist, homophobic or transphobic, being accused of any of these things is extremely insulting. The typical human reaction is to lash back . . . and then you end up with the vicious trench warfare seen over the last couple of weeks.
Again it’s a disconnect between media and audience. Imagine you and your friends are watching an awesome movie. But you have that one friend that can’t help themselves and has to drone on and on about how the crew was mistreated, that the wildlife was disturbed, that one of the female characters is being objectified, that the foreign character is a negative stereotype. At some point you’re going to snap and say, “Shut the fuck up! We’re trying to enjoy this awesome movie here.”
This is why some gaming sites are in real trouble.
Gaming sites have disconnected from gamers. Gamers wanted cool articles about gaming. They got academic and political analysis that didn’t interest them. Gamers wanted trustworthy reviews they could use to determine where they should spend their money. They got hints of conflicts of interest and possible corruption. Gamers raised concerns. They were told they were “dead” and irrelevant. Gamers will go elsewhere. Some journalists will lose their jobs. Some sites will die.
How do you get rid of an SJW infection? Same way you get rid of any business that no longer serves your needs in a free market – you stop giving them money and they go bust.
While sections of the gaming press are still trumpeting about the misogyny problem (and attacking their readers), their former audience has stolen a play from the classic SJW manual. They’re boycotting the sites, journalists and game devs they believe no longer speak to them. Not only that, they’re contacting the advertisers to these sites and telling them they will also see a reduction in business and brand damage for associating with the broken sections of the games press.
By the way, the above, way way more effective than impotent rage-fuelled death threats.
I’m curious to see how this will all pan out. It could be a seismic change that completely changes the landscape. Or it could be another one of those internet things that has plenty of sound and fury, but fizzles out after a couple of days and is forgotten after a couple of weeks.
The current web traffic stats for the more hated websites make for interesting reading. The expression “falling off a cliff” comes to mind. I’m cautious about reading too much into those graphs (you can google them – alexa + [name of site]) as I don’t know the seasonal variations in web traffic for gaming sites. However, they do appear to show a sharp downward trend. I wonder what will happen if these sharp downward trends are still happening a couple of weeks from now. Will we start to see personnel changes and grovelling apologies?
“Hey gamers, you know when we said you were dead. We didn’t mean it. Please come back. Pleeeeeeeassssse.”
Remember that xkcd cartoon about free speech.
It doesn’t only apply to bigoted old duck-whistle guys. Insult your audience and they will show you the door.
I wonder if we’re at the beginning of what will be known as The Great Gaming Website Cull of 2014?
I found a link to an article that came out just after mine that comes to the same conclusions, but is much better sourced. There are more links there explaining the background and also to the articles that detail exactly where the gaming press committed collective suicide. The writer also keeps a more detached tone (I've had too many run ins with unpleasant SJWs to be able to remain totally objective on that subject unfortunately).