Some quick thoughts on recent drama and "gamers"
There's a battle going on. An Internet War. Over the past two weeks it's spilled out all across the web, to the point where it's hard to go online without feeling part of the impact.
On one side of this battle there are The Gamers--a group of self-proclaimed hardcore video game fans who have made a crusade out of defending their hobby.
On the other side there are The Social Justice Warriors--the people who fight for, well, social justice.
The Social Justice Warriors are upset because The Gamers are all fedora-wearing misogynistic manbabies who harass women and send death threats to critics.
The Gamers are upset because The Social Justice Warriors are an oppressively radical group that censors debate and wants to kill video games (or replace them all with Gone Home).
A couple of days ago, the Internet War really escalated. A number of high-profile media sites declared their allegiance; "'Gamers' are over," proclaimed Leigh Alexander at Gamasutra, and some other sites followed.
Now, any rational human being with a sense of empathy and a desire for equality might think, "Well of course we should fight for social justice. Sexism is a serious problem in the video game industry. That needs to change." It's true: anyone who doesn't think video game culture needs to be more inclusive is stuck in a world that will not exist for much longer. Games are getting more diverse, progressive values are growing more popular, and big publishers like Ubisoft will no longer be able to get away with flimsy excuses like "women are too expensive to animate."
But anyone who dismisses the concerns brought up by The Gamers because they are The Gamers--because so many of their points are buried in sloppy, misleading imgur compilations and nasty YouTube videos--is also doing a disservice to video game culture. There are ethical concerns being ignored or dismissed because they are smothered by misogynistic rhetoric. There are some reasonable points among the grime. Some of those points--that games reporters loathe their audience; that games reporters are too close to the people they cover; that games reporters are too unwilling to see multiple angles of an issue--are valid, critical, and worth plenty of scrutiny.
OK, now here's the big secret: the Internet War doesn't actually exist. The Social Justice Warriors, The Gamers... they're all just caricatures. Most of the people who believe in social justice are not frothing radicals, and most of the people who consider themselves "gamers" are just normal people who really like video games. By viewing all this drama as a big two-sided conflict between stereotypes, we're missing out on a major opportunity to improve things. Too many in the press believe in this idea of "us vs. them"--us being "developers and press," them being "gamers"--which is exactly what leads to this idea of Video Game Journalism as one big bubble where the press serve themselves and their buddies instead of normal people who play video games. If we want better journalism in gaming--and who doesn't want better journalism in gaming?--that's gotta change. We need to listen. Fuck the Internet War. Let's all just do our jobs better.