On #GamerGate

Dear Gamers,

Hello! I hope that all of you gamers are well. Yes, ALL of you, men and women of all colours, body types, sexualities, creeds and nationalities. Whether you are a vocal games journalist or an anonymous forum poster, I hope that you're all doing ok. If you've been harassed, I'm really sorry. I've been there myself. In some respects being a harassed person is what defines me. It's what made me love the internet, for one thing, and it's what made me love games back in the day, way back when it wasn't a cool hobby to have, especially for girls.

I've used the word 'gamer' twice so far in this post and if that doesn't clue you in, the next sentence will. If you are a journalist and you think that 'gamer' is a withering term, a dying trend, you are a fool. A gamer is just that: someone who games. You can't take the very real, very worrying undercurrent of anonymous harassment and misogyny and saddle ALL gamers with it. It's an insult. I'm insulted by it, and I probably agree with a lot of the motivating sentiment behind it. And take my word for it, ridiculing the core demographic in all of these shenanigans is a sure fire way to make them even angrier. The hateful bigots and trolls among them will redouble their efforts to send death and rape threats, and those who mean well but are ignorant of social justice movements will only be turned off by this ill-woven narrative.

Journalists are supposed to be proponents of free speech and ethical practice. How is dismissing thousands of gamers as 'misogynerds' going to help ANYTHING? It's just a way to shut down debate and claim the moral high ground. You're doing a disservice to feminism, which is supposed to be about equality and empowering women, by dismissing the FANS who will be reading women's blogs, reviews, op-eds and articles after this scandal blows over. You are doing a disservice to female developers by dismissing the CONSUMERS who will ultimately vote with their wallets about whether or not to buy their games. See, 'gamer' isn't a word like 'feminist;' it's not an ideology. It's a word for someone who games, and especially for someone who games enthusiastically.

So without further ado, I'm going to talk about my favourite computer game moment of all time. It comes from a lovely game called 'Earthbound' on the SNES, so if you haven't played it and don't want it spoiled, don't read on. At the very end of the game, during the final battle against Giygas, the evil alien that is threatening the future of mankind, it isn't some kind of macho brutality that ultimately wins the battle in the end. It isn't overlevelling your characters, min-maxing, getting the best weapons or 'rescuing the princess' that destroys evil. It's cooperation. And fittingly, it's cooperation that is brought about by the power of a woman: Paula, a party member who joins Ness on his journey early on in the story and remains at his side to the bitter end.

When I think of strong women in gaming, I don't think of Lara Croft, or Samus Aran, or even Bayonetta. I think of Paula. Paula possesses a unique ability known as 'Pray', which during the game serves only to heal everyone's health a little. A little morale booster. It's an ability that most people forget about by the end of the game (at least I did) and certainly not a power that you would be worried about using against the ultimate evil. But in order to defeat Giygas, you have to Pray. You have to Pray so that all of the characters you have met on your journey, some of whom may have even antagonised you, lend you their strength. You have to Pray because outright aggression simply will not work. You have to Pray because you can't do it alone, no matter how strong you think you are. And when you Pray, all of the people you have met on your travels hear your plea, and you become united.

This iconoclastic, doomsday rhetoric will only serve to copper-fasten the boundaries that have been thrown up between 'misogynerds' and 'social justice warriors,' two utterly fatuous labels. Journalists, instead of dividing up your audience and stoking the flames of conflict, you should be bringing people together. It's disingenuous to stereotype gamers just as it is disingenuous for gamers to attack women. Whoever sent out death threats to a woman just because they disagree with her should be arrested and jailed, not used as a springboard for an intellectually dishonest whitewash.

All of this toxicity, this rhetoric, this bile, is our Giygas. We can't beat it by infighting. We can't do any side quests for some ultimate weapon in the social justice crusade. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because the answers have been around for years. I saw them in the soft glow of an old CRT television all those years ago, when Paula, near death and without any apparent hope, sent out her plea:

"Please give us strength, if it is possible. Please...somebody...help us..."


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