Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Polite Explanation Of My Issues With GamerGate + Why I Prefer To Avoid Discussing Serious Topics

OK, I'm going to have to step out to discuss a serious issue in the gaming scene. But first, I want to discuss why serious topics are so rare for me to discuss...not just on this blog, but in real life as well.

As anyone who has read this blog before now and who know me in real life will know, me and serious discussions about topics like feminism and religion are very rare topics of conversation for me. Even when I talk with people offline (it does happen!), I'll nearly always keep discussions of serious topics to a minimum. Now, some of you might be wondering why I'm so opposed to discussing serious topics when I've also made it very obvious that I have a live and let live philosophy: so long as you don't force your viewpoint onto me, I'm more than happy to let you have your own opinion.

Well, it's fairly simple: I don't like discussing serious topics because, for so many people, a serious discussion is something which, if you disagree with someone on, you have to beat them in an argument, or discredit your opponent if you cannot find any way to win the argument. That is not my way of dealing with things in the slightest: a serious discussion for me is just discussing a serious topic and is NEVER an argument. My opinion is just that: my opinion. If I am discussing a serious issue with someone and the other person does not agree with my opinion, I'll listen to their opinion and, if they raise points which I agree with, I will be honest about the points they have me in agreement with. I will never say anyone's opinion is wrong unless their opinion is one which has no basis in logic or has no factual basis to accept as being something I could believe someone having come to reasonably, and, even then, I will simply try to point them in the direction of facts instead of forcing my own opinion onto them. This is simply because I don't feel my opinion is the final word in the matter: my opinion has no more weight than anyone else's opinion and I actually like to see how other people come to their own opinions, so I'll rarely discount an opinion if I can see how someone came to the opinion they have.

On top of that, most controversial topics just don't interest me. Even with the ones that do interest me, I have no interest in wading into a hornets nest, because I personally don't want to be stung. On top of that, whenever I see an argument happening, I tend to get very nervous about the whole thing. Not necessarily cautious, but you'll rarely find my voice being raised whenever an argument starts: if anything, you're more likely to see me trying to get away from the argument just because I don't want to be dragged into it. Pin me down to get me to raise my opinion on a controversial topic and I'll still try to get out of the discussion because I don't want to have my opinion taken as any definitive statement and I don't like confrontations. Safer topics like music criticism are far easier for me to talk about because I like to talk about them and, even if I get controversial, it's rarely about something that people will take far too seriously. To put it another way, Walter from The Big Lebowski would be the kind of person I would not want to play bowling near, so people like Walter (except, you know, not bowling fanatics) are people who I actively try to avoid offending.

So my article involving Anita Sarkeesian was REALLY out of character for me because I basically stuck my hand into a hornets nest while holding a lit cigarette and having a small tattoo saying "please sting me" on my hand, and I'm honestly thankful that the article hasn't got any notice. If I'd gotten a heap of scorn piled upon me during the night and found that once I'd woken up, I'd have probably found it hard to want to come back to my blog until the storm had passed because, for all the fact that I'm hard to intimidate (peer pressure honestly doesn't bother me in the slightest...granted, I have always had few peers, but still, point stands!), I'm really not great with dealing with people who act like Walter. You know the sort, I'm sure: their hobbies means so much to them that they'd put them above real life in terms of importance to them.

...OK, I guess I'm like Walter in that regard, but I mean by this that they're willing to go to ridiculous extents just because their hobby is threatened. For me, at the end of the day, my blogging and music fondness are just things I do because I enjoy doing them: at the end of the day, I would be willing to give them up if real life got to the point where I simply couldn't continue them. That doesn't mean I'd be happy to do that (especially the music one: I love music so much that it's honestly one of the few things that I get passionate about these days!), but I would do it. For these people, though...I wouldn't be surprised if, had I had a more arrogant personality, I'd have ended up like these people I'm calling out now. In a way, I can see that I could have become one of these people and it's only because I've had most of my ego beaten out of me through the way my life has gone that I never became like them: these same people who are willing to go to ridiculous extents over things which are really not that important at the end of the day could well have been me today had circumstances been different in my personal life. And, for me, that's quite a terrifying thought that honestly makes me glad for the fact that I refuse to let myself become egotistical, for I would not like to be one of those people. At the end of the day, I'm into everything I am because I enjoy it, nothing more and nothing less.

So it's seeing stuff like what I covered in that article that just makes me question why I'm even bothering to take up gaming again after so many years of having been out of it. Anita Sarkeesian, 60FPS, PC master race...none of that crap is why I got into gaming in the first place, and seeing that being placed at the forefront of what is important in gaming today just has me wondering whether I have any place in the gaming scene: a gamer who thinks that the important part about gaming isn't the controversies connected to it, the frame rate a game must run at and the petty insults that PC gamers are determined to fling at gamers just because they have the superior platform, but is the games themselves. I'm not saying these aren't important discussions to have (...well, OK, maybe the PC master race thing can disappear for all I care: I'm more than happy with my PS3 at the minute, thank you, I don't need people acting like I'm all that's wrong with gaming just because I don't currently have a gaming PC!), but, when they become more important than the games themselves, you have to wonder whether the point of gaming has been forgotten.

With all of that said, one movement in gaming that has caught my attention as being the domain of a bunch of gamers who I simply have no respect for is GamerGate. Now, GamerGate is a VERY hot topic group, so I'm going to stress this now: what I'm going to say is not going to apply for every member of GamerGate. It does, however, apply to a distressingly large number of them and, for that, I may have to risk offending readers who are part of the movement, but do not support the decisions that I'm about to criticise the movement for, by making blanket statements related to the movement. If such is the case, then please accept my apologies in advance and know that I'm not trying to target you specifically, only the members of the movement who are involved in the actions that I'm going to be critical of.

For the benefit of those not familiar with GamerGate, the movement is a movement which originally started on Twitter (it has expanded from there since) that is supposedly against shady video game ethics (which is honestly a movement that I would support: how can gaming journalism be trusted if the journalists related to the subject cannot be trusted and developers are willing to pull off dirty tricks just to make their game get more praise before it is actually released and, nearly always, revealed to be terrible?), but, in practice, tends to be known for being the domain of a bunch of misogynistic gamers who will ignore serious issues just for the sake of harassing those journalists and developers (most of them women) who they simply do not like. The movement technically existed before they had a name, but, as known now, they are a movement who you can basically thank for being the source of a distressingly large amount of the hatred seen towards Anita Sarkeesian and various other female members of gaming media. Now, I'm not sure whether the original purpose of the movement has been distorted due to a bunch of misogynists taking over the hashtag or whether GamerGate was always like this, but, as stands, the movement, in my eyes, is actually making a very good case for it being the single worst movement in the history of video games, as it is a movement that is opposed to anything that speaks out in favour in feminism in gaming and, through how vocal it is, is the voice that is technically representing gamers in the eyes of the mainstream. You can thank these guys for basically putting Anita Sarkeesian into the public eye: so many members of this movement loath her with a passion that I'd not be surprised if most of the movement is formed of people who only seem to have one purpose in life (that being to completely destroy Anita Sarkeesian's life just because of her series and her opinions). Ironically, you can thank this movement for highlighting everything wrong with gaming at the same time: just about every type of negative gaming stereotype can be seen in members of GamerGate. While I cannot be sure whether GamerGate has any connection to the massacre threat that prevented Sarkeesian from making her speech (since standard policy from GamerGate is to not mention the tag in emails, apparently), I would not be surprised if this attack, and every other one that I mentioned in my angry article, can be traced back to them, as their track record indicates that this would not be an unusual move from them in the slightest: in fact, somewhat depressingly, they would actually be the most likely people to make this threat if it was a co-ordinated attack and not just one idiot acting on his own.

Now, I don't really need to go into detail about why I dislike GamerGate. However, I want to cover it without the anger, so let me try it again.

For me, any movement which has formed to make anyone's life miserable is not a group which deserves any support from me and has no right to exist. Everyone deserves their right to speak their mind, so suppressing that right simply because you do not agree with them is just flat out disgusting behaviour, as you are not only violating a person's right to give their own opinion, but you are effectively committing a hate crime by doing everything that you can just to suppress their opinion. What a lot of people get wrong whenever they mention their right to freedom of speech (which has no jurisdiction on the internet, technically: the internet is something which affects the whole world, so quoting the First Amendment means nothing to everyone outside of the US, but let me pretend, for a minute, that you can legally count the internet as being on US soil) is that their right to freedom of speech gives them the right to say what they want to say...but not their right to be heard, so, by bringing attention to a person, you are making them more likely to be heard. In addition, there are limitations on free speech, including the use of that speech to threaten violence to a person (which is counted under the term fighting words) and the use of untruths to harm others (which is known as slander), so one could make a very valid argument that GamerGate as a whole is guilty of fighting words and slander against most of the people that it has attacked and, as such, is not an entity that has any legal basis to exist due to being able to be branded as a hate group.

Yeah...puts some perspective on things when put like that, doesn't it? Again, I know that one could make a case that actions on the internet are not able to be charged under the law because of it being a worldwide thing with no real jurisdiction of its own, but a user is still able to be charged under the laws of their own country for what they say on the internet if caught breaching those laws, so, unless you can prove that your country does not have laws against what you say, you are still technically in breach of the law if you do something on the internet which would be against the law if you did it in person.

Moving back to Anita Sarkeesian for a second, I have made it fairly clear that I do not support her web series and, even now, I have no intention of actually watching her series. That said, I will not go out of my way to hate her simply because I do not intend to watch her series: she has the right to put her series out just as I have the right to do my blogging and, so long as her series is not forcing itself onto me, I couldn't give a rat's arse about it. The discussion she is clearly trying to have is one which I support, however, and, as such, I can consider myself in agreement with her in that I would like more games to come out which do not have the protagonist be a white male (or, at least, do not seem purely aimed towards that demographic) with the proper marketing that they deserve and that a more balanced and fair portrayal of people of all genders would be something I would like to see. At the same time, I can agree with the GamerGate crowd that honest and open journalism is a very important thing to have, for shady practices that harm the consumer ultimately harm everyone in the long run for the sake of short term gain...especially if the practices are revealed.

Yet I do not support either side. One could say that, because I have far less dislike of Anita Sarkeesian, I am on her side, but that would be an insult to me and a gross oversimplification of my thoughts on both sides: neither side is a side that I support and each side is examining a very important issue related to the video game industry (Anita is examining tropes in gaming from a feminist viewpoint to explain why gaming is still very much a male dominated market and GamerGate CLAIM that they are examining the ethics of video gaming journalism and trying to expose the most corrupt journalists involved in it). The only difference between the two sides is that one side simply does not accept that the other side is anything less than a blight on the human race that must be destroyed...over an issue as trivial (in the grand scheme of things) as video games.

Here's the really sad thing: both sides are looking at very important issues and, if I could support them based purely on what they are looking at, I would. Unfortunately, neither side has made themselves look good...yet GamerGate easily looks FAR worse compared to Anita Sarkeesian, as she has done nothing to deliberately antagonise the other side.

I've still not decided whether I'm going to discuss both issues that both sides have brought up on this blog or leave them for everyone reading this to do their own research and draw their own conclusions on: both are issues that I want to talk about quite seriously and I imagine that my voice would not be a source for controversy in the same way that Anita Sarkeesian and GamerGate are, but I think both topics are too serious for me to tackle on this blog and I do not know how many people would want to read about those topics from me. For now, however, I must urge anyone who is involved in GamerGate who does not want to be associated with the unpleasant implications that the tag has gained to drop the tag. You can support their desire to have less corrupt journalism without necessarily being a part of the group, as I have no doubt proven just over the course of this article, and I feel that supporting GamerGate if you do not approve of the unpleasant nature of the group only tars you with the same brush that you want to avoid being associated with.

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