Thursday, September 04, 2014

#GamerGate, The Ratner Effect, and how to get rid of a SJW infection

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).


  1. If this continue at this rate, we get something similar to the video game crash of 1983.

  2. >>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.

    How is this different from what you've previously called "censorship by the masses"?

    (Sorry of this is a repost. I tried posting a longer reply before, but I think there was an error.)

    1. Looks like the original comment has been swallowed - I've had that happen a couple of times to me here.

      To me, this looks to be a case of producers with large audiences losing track of what a chunk of that audience wants and that chunk of the audience consequentially turning their back on the producers.

      Censorship by the mob is when a large group dislike something a producer is making and take active measures to shut it down even though the producer already has an audience that is receptive to their work.

      It's very easy for the former to tip over into the latter and I hope that doesn't happen in this case.

      I'm certain there is a market of gamers heavily interested in the social justice aspects of gaming. But this is a subset of the whole gamer market and if the majority of gaming sites are catering disproportionately to this one subset (and actively attacking gamers outside of this subset), the inevitable consequence is the rest of audience will move on and look for gaming news sources that better match their interests. This is what appears to be happening here as far as I can tell (although trying to follow this through murky social media is an inexact science)

  3. This is a really insightful article, and I wish I could share it with my friends without showing them that I read excellent smut. :-) Good points all around.

    1. Thanks. I will get back to the smut fairly soon. This is a place for smut with me occasionally hacking up the odd rant hairball whenever I get something stuck in my head. :)

  4. The only video game critic I really watch is Zero Punctuation-Yahtzee

    watching his videos, it doesnt seem like hes buddies with game devs

    Since you are far more knowledgeable, what critics are guilty of disconnecting with customers? I dont really read to many reviews

    1. I'm pretty much the same. I like Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation. I think he's whatever side doesn't censor.

      Sites like Polygon and Kotaku are taking the most flak. When you have high ranking editors/writers telling readers to fuck off on social media you know they're not long for this world.

    2. Actually, I'm just about to add a link to an article that covers the same ground I did, but with better organised sources. I'd assume any of the sites that contributed to the "gamers are dead" article blitz are toxic and avoid.

    3. god I hate Kotaku, and not just because they gave the MGQ trilogy a bad review XD

      I think reddit users call it shit-taku

    4. Saw that Kotaku's main editor posted something that was slightly more balanced than screaming about misogyny. Suspect it's too late and they've already lost a vast chunk of their audience.

  5. I'm... wasn't really 100% interested in this whole "Gamer Gate" thing, but I think I'll throw my two cents in for the opposition. I *do* think that, generally speaking, there's a little too much cronyism and corruption in the reviews process, but there's not *that* much of it. I do think that the gaming press is a little too incestuous and critically inbred and disconnected from its core audience, but that's just the way all critics are. I'd probably be more jaded too if I had to play *every* similar game that came out every week for years until I was sick of them all, instead of just picking the best one and using that.

    (As Bobby the Tongue once eloquently put it, "The gaming press will hold water for the industry... but it won't hold *too* much water.)

    I also don't think that this whole "Gamer Gate" situation really swings in the gamers' favor. People can critique things made by people they like in a meaningful way, without necessarily jumping straight to "Everything is corruption!"

    On the other hand... bleh. I get that, yeah, the fact that one party's a woman was probably the tipping point for so many of the angry jerks of the nerd community who kick up garbage like that "Fake Nerd Girls" whatever that people *actually talked about* for some reason, but I wasn't necessarily comfortable with that either.

    I guess just as you're naturally biased by your personally negative experiences with "SJWs" to be on the "Gamer Gate" side, I'm personally biased by my negative experiences with the slimy muck at the bottom of the nerd community barrel to be on whatever the "target of the week" is's side.

    In a double-metaphor, consider infamous indie game "Gone Home." What's the worst part about hating "Gone Home?" Why, the other people who hate "Gone Home," letting everyone assume that you hate it because whir's the jump button, whir's the guns, bleh, wimmin' amirite? Complaining about the legitimate flaws in its story, tone, and characterization would be much easier to communicate if not for the jerks pushing them into "circle the wagons" mode.

    That's what it boils down to to me. *I* feel it's the worst elements of the nerd community, the *genuinely* racist, sexist, elitist dickheads who flip out every time something besides more of themselves penetrates the holiest of holies, every time *more* of the *wrong* people start liking that thing they like, that are the biggest problem here. If their constant death threats and palatable misogyny weren't always getting in the way of our legitimate grievances, we might *actually gain some traction* for a change.

    SJWs are scum, but at least they're scum whose theoretical goal (social justice) is a laudable endgame. There are too many in the nerd community who want to feel special and unique more than they want to admit other people can like that thing they like and there's nothing to stop them, no barrier to entry here.


    1. Good to raise 'Gone Home'. I haven't played it but I've seen a lot of the flak it's picked up. I think it's okay for someone to have the personal opinion they don't like it because it's 'not a game'. It crosses the line if it becomes a mobbing that makes the dev feel harassed and other devs reluctant to make a similar game in future.

      A similar example from the other side is Dragon's Crown with the infamous sorceress design. I think it's okay for someone to have the opinion they don't want to play the game because they think the art is sexist. That's their opinion. It goes wrong when a bunch of articles mob the game, harass the artist and brand anyone that tries to defend the game as a misogynist.

      People should be allowed to have different opinions without being battered for them. I'm guessing we're both in agreement there.

      I think I'll write something on the SJ vs SJW thing sometime next week to clarify what I think on that. I hate SJWs. To some that means I must be anti-social justice, or anti-diversity, when in reality I'm anti-Holier-than-thou bullying assholes.

      Labels meaning different things to different people probably doesn't help matters either.

    2. To paraphrase a wise commentator; The problem is not that there's too much rage in among the gamer community. The problem is that, rather than focusing that rage on the things that *actually deserve it* (predatory business practices that punish customers for the crime of custom, incompetent and out-of-touch management at the top crippling creatives with unrealisitic planning and projection, willingness to break with artistic integrity to meet executive demand, etc.), they get mad at the *wrong* things.

      And I feel that both SJWs (as you would define the term) and the legitimately misogynistic and elitist chunks of nerddom (let's not pretend they don't exist) are firmly in the "getting mad at the wrong things" camp.

      If I felt that "Gamer Gate" was a case of the gaming community being mad about legitimate corruption and cronyism, yeah, I'd feel free to be on the "gamers'" side here. But as it bears the unmistakable whiff of "How dare she get her hormones and lady thoughts near *my* games! How dare her games cover anything more thematic than 'Here is gun, there is evil, use gun on evil repeat!' Why can't we go back to the nonexistent good old days when only 'the right people' played games and everything was absolutely perfect?"

      ...Eh, you get the picture. Once again, I never spent any real time, say, hanging out on "The Guardian"'s web page, but I run into "good old days" elitists all the time on the parts of the web I do frequent. If you were doing my web rounds, and I yours, I have no doubt that we'd be here taking the opposite sides from one another.

      You're about right. I agree that everyone's free to have an opinion, but the flip side to that is respecting other people's. You aren't allowed to, say, mail a lady dev a picture of her children's school with a threat to kidnap and murder them. That's not the same thing as having an opinion, man!

    3. Also, the best education you can give about "SJWs," a proper definition thereof, and whether or not it's a legitimate label to append is over here:

    4. Goddamn, blogpost ate my reply again. Sigh :(

      I'll do a full blog post on this. My thoughts were looking that long anyway.

      I agree with your points anyway. Both sides would be better off if they aggressively weeded out the nasty plonkers first.

  6. Personally, I think the whole problem starts that Gamer Gate and other one's that act in the same way, react and criticize in a political way.

    Do game sites, reviews and reports need to be censored through these political or any other similar ideologies ? All this talk about ''corruption'' or ''rascistic tendencies'' is just a bad headache. They are a waste of time to deal with in my opinion. Ignoring them cuts their roots and makes you keep your sanity for a longer time.

    Same thing goes for the gaming review websites. Let's face it.....80 % of them are being paid by big budget companies so that they can promote their titles in the most positive light possible. They spent like 30 minutes on the game, and then give it a score....this alone is ludicrous. Again, not all of these websites are doing the same, but the most popular ones are, and this is a reality. The only reason I visit any gaming site ( like gametrailers) is to check what new games or trailers are released. That's about it.

    As far as business is concerned...well if you don't value the income you get from your fan base or costumers and disconnect from'll end up in a tough spot. Think of Capcom.....terrible decisions, neglecting their fan base, taking advantage of DLC's without informing the consumer about the extra price. Look at Capcom now, they are in a pinch. Companies acting in this manner are marching to their own graves.

    Regarding SJW and other movements...well If you keep feeding them they will continue to pursue their own agenda. It's all about discernment really. Social justice through political ideologies are pipe dreams....because politics do not work this way. Conflict is their nature, and separation their middle name.

    Journalists and the Press are affiliated by companies and people who pay them, and there are always restrictions and rules on how they cover things and do their jobs. People need to read between the lines and become aware of the why's.

    1. I was less bothered by the corruption allegations than others. These things are always corrupt or wrong-headed. Critical opinion to determine whether I want to buy something is only useful if the critic has similar likes/dislikes. For example, mainstream critics are always completely valueless when it comes to things like horror movies or heavy metal music. I look for a source I can trust and stick with it (eg Metal Storm's best of year awards normally determine my album purchases for the next year because they've rarely given me a dud recommendation and some bands I've never heard of have turned out to be amazing. In contrast, I never pay attention to the Bram Stoker awards when looking for new horror books because the ratio of dud to gem has trashed my confidence of it being a useful predictor of interesting books to try out).

      Back to GamerGate and it was when the press really started laying into the audience that I started to get interested. That kind of thing is completely unacceptable (not to mention insanely stupid) and I suspect a few of those sites will be putting out much more apologetic articles when it sinks in how badly they've screwed things up.

  7. You said that, critical opinion to determine whether you want to buy something or not is only useful if the critic has similar likes/dislikes. I cannot agree more...this is very true for me as well, because you can relate your own interests with those of the critic/s. I think it also helps to know the critic in general ( a little bit of background) to determine whether his judgement is somewhat clouded or not ( if he is a huge fan of something)

    Also it is really frustrating that artists like the one who designed the sorceress or amazon, are being ganged by these kind of groups. Time for them to grow up already.