#Gamergate Book Crowdfunder

InsideGG.jpgGamergate was many things to many people, depending on their perspective. For some it was a harassment campaign, even terrorism, for others a key fight for ethics, against censorship.

Sadly the prior view had all the mainstream attention and is likely to be the only point of view that will go into the long term record.

It’s important, for posterity, to present and record the other side.

I was part of Gamergate. I want to tell it’s own story. I want to correct the record.

Linkypooh

#Gamergate Vindicated at Airplay

CMenzR7VEAAiqCpHere’s some initial thoughts on what went down at SPJAirplay and it should be read or viewed even by people who are sick of the whole thing or have written it off as a misogynistic hate movement.

The Society of Professional Journalists held an event in Florida, part of which was a separate event to discuss Gamergate. Gamergate representatives were chosen by popular votes on Chans, Reddit and Twitter and anti-Gamergate… refused to come. Even with offers of having their way paid, despite any and all inducements to do so. This may have been a tactical mistake.

In its final form the event became more like a panel of Gamergate involved people, trying to explain to conventional journalists a) what Gamergate was b) why it was more important than it seemed and c) why the media had failed so hard to report well on it.

There were two panels, the first explanatory and giving examples of some of the ethical breaches Gamergate has been concerned with, the second supposedly to try and find solutions and new practices, though the second panel was very poorly handled by the moderator and then interrupted by a ‘credible bomb threat’ (according to the local police department).

The event was simultaneously a huge vindication of everything Gamergate has stood for and argued, and a disappointment.

Gamergate’s ethical concerns regarding cronyism, corruption and collusion were agreed upon to be unethical, chuckles were had at the expense of Gawker Media (and others) and Gamergate got a well-earned morale boost and stamp of legitimacy from the SPJ.

This was a win.

The more frustrating part was the second panel. Panellists Cathy Young, Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Sommers tried to explain Gamergate contextually by reference to other problems and other, similar movements (such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter) but kept getting shut down before they could make their points, by the moderator.

It seemed obvious to me what they were trying to establish:

  1. That these issues are serious issues not just in games journalism.
  2. That it is possible to report on these issues in a more sensitive and balanced fashion.
  3. That these were, perhaps, more understandable and analogous situations via which conventional journalists might be able to understand Gamergate.

To take one example that the moderator seemed very keen to avoid, the problem of radical feminist influence on media in general and with special reference to Rolling Stone’s rape-reporting scandal the issue of blindly believing what you’re told, reporting it as true and causing a great many people a great deal of harm on the back of irresponsible reporting is obvious and a window into the sort of biased, activism-distorted reporting that has plagued discussion on Gamergate.

Thwarted at every turn trying to make these points, via constant interruptions from the moderator (who I think was trying to fill in for the lack of anti-Gamergate) the conversation finally had to turn to more simplistic examples of better ways to report on internet affairs… only to be interrupted by a bomb threat.

Every precaution had been taken, the police had been pre-warned of hoax bomb threats but this final one – the tenth – containing details on the venue and other warning signs, was enough that the police had to act. Everyone was evacuated out into the terrible heat and continued the discussion in smaller groups wherever shelter could be found.

Videos of those discussions haven’t emerged yet, but hopefully these small group discussions were productive.

The bomb threat was likely simply third party trolls, upping the ante having been shut out of the chats on streams and so forth. Another high possibility for me would be the conspiracy theorists who have – unfortunately – been lurking around Gamergate since Common Core and DARPA were mentioned. We shall see if anyone ever gets caught for these hoaxes though. It’s probably best not to speculate too much.

Something has changed though.

Gamergate is vindicated as an ethics/consumer movement.

Some parts of the media are now reporting more sympathetically.

The spin of anti-Gamergate on Airplay, and older events, is now ringing even more hollow.

The Gamergate meeting in Birmingham will likely be the endcap on my more active participation. Many of Gamergate’s goals have now been met and with Airplay I think Gamergate can smugly consider itself – rightly – legitimised and vindicated.

Gamergate won the war, on all fronts, and now there needs to be a negotiated peace. Hopefully we can continue what’s started with SPJAirplay – a conversation instead of a confrontation, a move to understanding and mutual tolerance that hasn’t been possible so long as Gamergate has been blamed for the actions of trolls and while ideologues have cowered behind automated block lists.

I hope some people will join me in trying to start conversations, and I hope some on the other side (rather than simply neutral people and journalists) will contribute.

Pax.

#Gamergate – For Great Ethics Versus Against SocJus – FIGHT!

15105767._SX540_

The guy with the horse penis is the broader context.

With so many enemies now crushed and defeated beneath Gamergate’s armoured boots, with increased ethics all around and with the separate but related victory of Chairman Pao being removed by the glorious counter-revolutionary wing of the Reddit Revolt, GG seems to have turned in on itself a bit and a divide that has been felt before (with the exit of Internet Aristocrat and others) has reared its head up again.

Are we fighting for ethics in game journalism – and ONLY ethics in game journalism, or are we fighting against the authoritarian censors of the Social Justice mob? What is appropriate to post on the tag and what isn’t?

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way quickly first.

  1. You can’t control the hashtag. People can and will post whatever the fuck they want on it. You can’t control other people’s output, only your own. If someone spams a lot of stuff you’re not interested in, mute them or something. Jesus. This isn’t difficult.
  2. Proposing a new hashtag is going to go down like a cup of cold sick. There’s strength in unity and some shitposting, spam and off-topic or semi off-topic material isn’t the end of the world. By all means, go make a new tag if you like (#mediagate was tried, I believe) but it’s unlikely to garner the same traction and impetus that #Gamergate has.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the ethics part.

The fact is, games media has been corrupt since forever with in-house magazines, bribery, extortion, threats (mostly coming from distributors and publishers rather than studios, to be fair) and because this was the status quo people kind of navigated around it while quietly seething. This was financial corruption, where threats and money are used to protect and further the bottom line.

This was all ‘background radiation’ to Gamergate, what made it achieve critical mass was a different kind of corruption. Political corruption and agenda pushing, initially exposed via Literally Who’s sexual shenanigans but much, much bigger than that. Political corruption is when threats, coercion, ideological naivety, bribery and shaming are used to push an agenda and socially engineer.

What, I think, made this blow up so hard was that the indie scene (like many other indie scenes in music, tabletop games and elsewhere) had become synonymous with activism, not independence. The kinds of people making these activist, high-concept games were looking down on popular games and their audiences (as exemplified recently with the meltdown of hate and arrogance from  Tale of Tales when their housework simulator failed to excite audiences). When people looking down on and criticising you for your moral failings turn out to have feet of clay, people get understandably upset at the hypocrisy.

One of the greatest tragedies of all this, for me, is that it was a massive missed opportunity for games media to sort its life out. Here was a massive consumer uprising which could have been leveraged against those companies offering bribes, threatening to remove early access, bullying for higher scores AND to assert press neutrality against egregious ideological corruption. Backing, using or surfing Gamergate could have allowed the press to assert themselves – with popular backing – against distributors, publisher and PR flacks and could have been used to regain trust.

But no.

And that exposes the first part of the problem in trying to separate these issues into two separate things. The big reason the games media didn’t do the right thing here is because whole wings of it ARE SocJus and that is seemingly the entirety of their identity and raison d’etre. When you ask for them to act ethically you’re asking for them to act against their core beliefs and personal identity. As we’ve seen, many think the ends justify the means and many think opposing their means, means that Gamergate is against their ends (Gamergate is not anti-diversity, anti-women etc, it is broadly very liberal on these things as a whole. It just values creative freedom higher and prefer organic, consenting change).

This entanglement of the ethical issues and the SocJus issues shows why the two are inseparable.

Another reason to include the fight against SocJus within Gamergate is that it builds alliances. There’s people in other communities who have, or are, facing the same kinds of issues that Gamergate has, from Sad Puppies in fiction, to ConsultantGate in tabletop gaming (and everything around it). There’s issues of this sort all over the place and things are starting to turn. Just as with Gamergate itself, internally, we’re stronger together.

Another aspect to this is that a lot of these other enterprises feed into games.

If writers are suffering in this way, generally, then writing for games will suffer by extension.

If artists are suffering in this way, generally, then art assets for games will suffer by extension.

If the internet becomes more controlled and legislated, then games are harder to sell and may fall afoul of the same legislation.

If shops are pressured into censorship then the same applies – and this is doubly true of online sales platforms and payment processors.

Let’s try an analogy.

Say your local political situation is horribly corrupt. The local council is full of shills for companies and they’ve all been bought off.

Voting them out won’t really solve the issue, money can buy whoever else is elected.

Changing the rules could work, but it’s almost impossible to change the rules in a system that is already corrupt.

Say you do manage to change the rules. Congratulations, you now have ‘ethics in local government’, but there’s still financial corruption everywhere else. Contractors that the government uses, the unions, companies are still offering bribes at every level, interest groups are still lobbying – sometimes via underhanded means, and on a national level the parties are still compromised – and they select the candidates.

Only fixing ‘local government finance sourcing’ does practically fuck all to repair the broader issue.

To point to another, analagous example, unwinding the Satanic Panic of the 80s  (we’re now in an Ism Panic) came about because everyone came to reject it. The groups being attacked and smeared, the media, the science. There was a broad group – if not a full-on alliance – of people all saying ‘this is bollocks’, and they were able to prove it.

Trying to separate these two strands is impossible, because just as the threats to gaming used to come from a broader cultural movement of the religious right, now it comes from the authoritarian left. If you want ethical journalism and free expression, you have to take an holistic approach to understanding it.

If you don’t want to, then don’t, but you’re not going to be able to stop anyone else anyway – so the whole discussion is fucking pointless.

Professor Grim’s Ethical Reality Climax

Ethics.

It keeps coming up and I’m breaking one of my own manifesto items by addressing it again since, I suppose, technically, pressing ‘don’t have an agenda’ is an agenda.

Anyway, screw that.

To reiterate what I said before it’s not so much that having an agenda is wrong per se, rather that clubbing people over the head with it every step of the way is both boring and intrusive. Letting an agenda emerge through play, through setting, without necessarily spelling it out. That’s a much better way to go and that’s why I have so wholeheartedly approved of Farewell to Fear, despite it being associated with the kind of attitude I’m normally considered to be scathing of.

I draw a sharp delineation between fantasy and reality and I think that’s where the disconnect between me and so many of this ‘new wave’ of ethical designers comes in. We spent so long fighting the idea that RPGs had influence, that they could make you a Satanist or get you lost in steam tunnels that cottoning to the idea that they might make you sexist (or whatever) is anathema (as well as being wrong).

If we absorb the things we’re told, that gender, race etc don’t matter then you can’t help but be nonplussed that they seem to matter very much to the very people who are telling you that they don’t matter. The idea that we can draw new people into the hobby from under-represented sectors with a few bits of inclusive art is patronising and even insulting. It also creates a lot of pressure on creators to the point where they may end up making the ‘ethical’ choice over the best choice. The scare quotes are there around the word ethical because it rarely is anything at all to do with ethics.

One person I’ve discussed this with made the valid point that they spend all day every day dealing with racism/sexism etc and it was nice to have a break in a game that didn’t involve it. That’s a fair thing to say even if it severely limits the available conflicts in a game world and if it ignores the cathartic ability to do something about it in a game. Still, there’s another side to this, the ability to play in a world, enjoy fantasy art, act as someone different to yourself without internally checking every single action and word for potential offence and political orthodoxy.

If we want more people from different demography to be into games it’s going to take something more than a tip of the hat to minorities in the artwork or the end of the chainmail halter-top. Gaming by its very nature appeals to people who read, who have space, who have a certain grasp over school subjects, a degree of disposable income. The demographics of gaming as a hobby are much more to do with these socio-economic factors than what colour skin the Paladin on Page 34 has, or whether the Space Ranger in the Terra sourcebook is wearing an urban camo bikini.

One just needs to look at mass media to see that people overwhelmingly couldn’t give two tugs of a dead dog’s cock about the issues that fire up this ‘ethical gaming’ push, which means that the whole ‘popularise and spread the hobby’ line is a lie, a pious lie at best. That’s not what it’s about at all, it’s about creating the kind of games that this minority of players and creators believes in and wants. Indeed our preoccupation and self-flagellation over this issue is dreadfully middle-class, white guilt infused, itself alienating

That’s fine, that’s great, I’m  firm believer in making the games you want to see but dressing it up as some sort of moral superiority and promoting it by denigrating others is not only self-deluded, but unethical itself.

We make and share fantasy worlds, utopias, dystopias, sex and violence galore, moral quandries, immoral characters, good, evil and everything in between. We merely provide the tools to make these stories we have our visions and those who play them have their own, let ’em, the ethics are much more their concern than ours.

Images taken from Saint’s Row III, a prime example of how fun things can be if you just say ‘Ah, fuck it’.