I’ve always been a gamer. Hell, I was gaming online before you could easily show pictures in a web browser. I remember getting up early before high school to log on to a multi-user domain (MUD) using a 1200 baud modem. After middle school, a group of us used to walk to a friend’s house where we’d play Nintendo games for an hour or two after class. And, all the way back in elementary school, my parents got me a Nintendo while I was recovering from a broken leg. I even wrote my first video game on a Commodore 64.
It says “gamer” on my business card. Really:
Gaming has always been a passion. I still run a weekly table-top Shadowrun game and have done so almost without pause for fourteen years. I have an active subscription to World of Warcraft and I’m looking forward to two days off from work this November to play its new expansion from sunrise to sunset. Assuming, of course, I don’t get lost in Civilization: Beyond Earth which I’ve asked for from my parents as a gift for my birthday.
Speaking of my parents, I suppose I should admit that, for a while, I’ve even lived in my mother’s basement. That’s right; I was cisgender white male in his 30’s gainfully employed as a telecommuting programmer who played World of Warcraft while living in the basement of his childhood home.
I’m sort of the Platonic form of the nerdy gamer.
And then: GamerGate.
Okay, so I get that there’s a portion of the GamerGate phenomenon that seems to be trying to focus on the idea of ethical journalism related to gaming. But, frankly their (weak, seemingly spurious) signal is getting lost in the misogynistic noise created by the personal and public threats delivered to women in gaming and the venues offering to boost their signal and the doxing (doxing defined) of women who dare to comment on the matter.
Gaming has trouble portraying women; it’s undeniable. Female characters in gaming are often non-existent; simply arm/eye candy for male characters (and players); only represent supporting roles; successful only if they get married to, saved by, or bear the children of a male character; or are subjected to the sort of activity that, in a virtual setting, offers you bonus points but, in the physical one, results in jail time.
Things are changing … slowly. From Blizzard Entertainment to Volition, game designers have begun to talk about changing the way women are portrayed in gaming and that’s a good, necessary thing. Even better, maybe we should start talking about how to change the culture of game development so that women (and people of color) feel welcome. But, it’s not the designers that are threatening and endangering female gamers, it’s the players.
And, that’s why I wrote this. I haven’t written on this site in almost two years. But, this shit has got to stop. You’d think that gaming–especially semi-anonymous online gaming–would be a meritocratic bastion where it matters not what gender a person chooses outside of the game but rather on their success in playing the damn game. But, evidently, that’s not the case.
I get it. Cisgender men, especially cisgender white men like me, feel assaulted as our privileges are called in to question, as the playing field is leveled, and as the opportunities that we’ve had offered to us for millennia are extended to others. But, that’s shit, and to such men I offer a sincerely felt: get over it. The world is changing, and it’s changing for the better. The old patriarchies are beginning to crumble, and yes, that means that we who have benefited from them for many years may not be able to assume a propensity for success based on skin tone and the externality of our gonads.
I understand those feelings. I don’t share them, but I can recognize that they are had by others. What I cannot respect, support, or understand are the actions by some within the gaming community that endanger others as a result of them. Hell, I can’t support the endangering of others period, but in this case it hits home in a way that’s far more personal. The actions of these people tarnish a part of my own identity, and while the turmoil this causes me pales in comparison to the danger that others have had to face, it is nevertheless personally motivating.
Words seem trivial when compared to death threats, but they’re all I have at the moment. And, thus I offer this prayer: may this time pass, may the threats and the doxing cease, and may gaming and gamers everywhere and of every type rejoice in our own personhood and the shared camaraderie that we find within these virtual spaces.