Gamers Are Not Dead, They Just Leveled Up
Some of you reading this may have read editorials and reviews by me on sites I’ve written for. My name is Ashton Liu, and I am a contributing editor for RPGFan. This post is not endorsed or approved by RPGFan. By writing this, I have effectively “gone rogue.” I am attaching my name as a sign of solidarity for my fellow gamers, and as a statement that what is happening needs to stop. My colleagues at RPGFan have nothing to do with this, they are excellent journalists and writers who have a passion for gaming and writing about gaming that is unequaled by anyone else in the industry. Yes, you can quote me on that.
But that’s not what I’m here to write about. Today I come to you from a position of humility. Some may recall that I have previously made scathing remarks about fans of the RPG genre, as well as admonishing those whose complaints regarding Jennifer Hepler veered into harassment. I still stand by those editorials, as they reflected the behavior of the gaming community at those respective points in time. Today, however, I am here not to vilify or condemn you, but rather to add my voice to yours, in a situation where the shaming and bullying of one side towards the other has become out of control.
I am, of course, referring to GamerGate.
It has been no secret to the gaming community that many video game news sites have been employing increasingly extremist and reprehensible tactics to gain site hits and forward their ideology. I have long tolerated these tactics, erasing and moving back lines in the sand against my better judgement because I believe that at the heart of these tactics were genuinely good intentions dedicated towards progressiveness and inclusiveness within the gaming community. I have recently been disabused of that notion.
There has been evidence of people within the industry approving of tactics such as shaming sexual harassment victims, blacklisting charitable indie startups that are helping to get more women into game development to ensure a lack of competition for their industry friends, and instigating a campaign of harassment and bullying against suicidally depressed individuals with no evidence whatsoever to promote a game about depression. When their audience caught wind of this kind of behavior, they were aghast. These were the people pushing for equality. They were the “righteous” ones telling us how to behave. How could they treat obvious victims and minorities in such a way?
At first the industry responded with silence. Then, they began to censor and ban anyone who spoke of these events. This only caused the situation to spiral out of control. Now, they have resorted to character assassination. There have been a deluge of articles on many sites calling gamers misogynists, man children, and all manner of terrible things in an attempt to shame all of them into backing down. Journalists have started behaving abhorrently on twitter, likening people like me to terrorists and Nazis. These journalists behave terribly and browbeat anyone whose opinions don’t fall lock step with their own. While they claim to - and may honestly believe that - they fight for equality, they are actually representing the exact institution which they decry - a hegemony where they are in the positions of power and privilege attempting to shout down anyone who takes issue with their tactics.
"But Ashton," "In all fairness," "In their defense," some of you may be beginning to think. Stop. There is nothing worth defending here.
They will attack anyone, even people they claim to be protecting and representing. They will intimidate all who disagree or voice dissent. They bully those who have less influence and power than they do. They doxx anyone who steps out of line. The depressed NEETs over at Wizardchan should have been their primary focus if they wanted to promote a game regarding awareness of depression. Instead, they were harassed, abused, and verbally assaulted at the whims of a few game journaiists. They were the victims of opportunistic jackals who believed that bullying and harassing others is okay. It is not. When we object to this kind of behavior, game journalists will use the standard “straight white male” argument to dismiss us. Some will call us traitors to “the cause.” Some, like game developer Chuck Jordan, will accuse us of lying about being minorities while attacking us, unprovoked. Still others reframe the argument to make us out to be women haters. This is incredibly alarming behavior because it echoes many immoral and unethical actions that have taken place during the history of our country. The Salem Witch Trials, the Red Scare, and McCarthyism were all propaganda driven character assassination campaigns aimed at people who were deemed “inconvenient” or “not progressive.” On a more personal level, it parallels similar incidents that happened to individuals such as Wen Ho Lee, who was crucified and virtually mob lynched by public opinion and bad journalists simply for being different.
We currently find ourselves in an oddly opposite predicament than we were in a few short years ago. Gamers have changed. They don’t care about gender politics. They don’t care about sexuality. They don’t care about race. They just want to enjoy games and play with those who share their passion for gaming, regardless of what they identify as. Progressiveness has won, and is now the rule of the day. Gamers have leveled up, and are playing a new, better game.
It is now game journalists that refuse to change. They refuse to change, continuing to play an old, broken system that doesn’t work anymore. They have been left behind. They are the self-described cool kids in high school who can’t tolerate the fact that everyone else has grown up and don’t think they are cool anymore, so they utilize increasingly extreme and underhanded tactics to gain others’ approval, and when they fail, they accuse others of being “uncool.” Now that they can’t curry favor by being “cool” they resort to strong-arm tactics such as bullying. Game journalists cannot grasp that their methods do not work but instead of adapting to the new environment they stamp their feet and hold their breath until they are blue in the face. If game journalism is to have any respectability as an industry, then this kind of unprofessional and disrespectful behavior needs to stop. It is absolutely unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
These journalists believe they can hide behind “progressiveness” and claim to represent the only defense minorities have against the “straight white male” gamer, despite being almost exclusively straight, white, and male themselves. I am a minority and I absolutely repudiate what they are doing. I am not a tool to be used to defend their incompetence as journalists. I am not an excuse for them to act as bullies. I am not a shield to be used to deflect legitimate complaints aimed at their vitriol and hatefulness. I am not a convenient defense one second, a liability the next.
What I am is tired.
I am tired of coming back from work every day where I do my best to help people and see others who sit in front of their computer all day tell me what a horrible person I am for having passion for my hobby.
I am tired of toeing a party line that has been alienating me more and more while calling me names and attempting to shame me for disagreeing, even while they claim to be representing my best interests.
I am tired of the activity I partake in to forget the cruelties of real life becoming the battleground for ideologies and extremist propaganda.
I am tired of self-styled “progressive” journalists who grab onto individuals’ immutable traits as a reason to drag them through the mud.
I am tired of game developers who behave in increasingly abhorrent and infantile manners.
I am tired of opinion pieces and propaganda being put forth in lieu of facts and news.
I am tired of innocent individuals like those at Wizardchan being the victims of a campaign of verbal violence to forward the interests of selfish journalists.
Most of all, I am tired of the constant viciousness the gaming press shows more and more of with each passing day, daring us to object to their methods.
I was raised to respect all people equally, I still believe in the basic human decency all people deserve, and that will always matter to me far more than making other people feel bad about themselves because game journalist A at shady game site B told me to.
I am now writing this because out of all the people who work in the game journalism industry, I have the least to lose. I am not a game journalist by trade, I don’t make games for a living, and my livelihood does not revolve around games. I only started working at RPGFan because I loved the games I wrote about, I loved the industry, and I loved sharing my passion for my hobby with the world. This is a labor of love for me and it is heartbreaking that my labor of love has turned into such a toxic environment almost overnight. The fact that I am not a journalist by trade and yet have a better grasp of journalistic ethics and accountability than people who purport to be journalists is appalling. I find the politicization of gaming to be an absurd trend that only foments resentment and decreases the quality of both game journalism and game development.
I have seen some people - mainly women - quit their jobs as game journalists in the aftermath of GamerGate. While I am sorry that they were “forced” out of their jobs, I am not sorry for the reasons they had to go. Did Jade Raymond quit her job? Did Jane Jensen? Amy Hennig? Yuki Kajiura? Any of the women in game development? No, because they actually have passion for the craft and love for the medium, rather than a chip on their shoulder and lack of basic human decency. If a few individuals need to be evicted to bring ethics and accountability back to the industry of game journalism, then it is a small price to pay, in my opinion.
I have seen many people - fellow game journalists and game developers whom I used to respect - resort to tactics that revolt and disgust me, and as such no longer deserve my respect. If I am run out of the game journalism industry for writing this, then let it happen with the knowledge that I did so pursuing the truth and defending those who couldn’t defend themselves. The victims of this entire debacle, like Wizardchan, deserve that much at the least. My head will be held high, and my conscience will be clean.
Whatever happens from here on out, don’t forget to game on, and game well, valued readers. Know that not all game journalists are against you.
A. Ashton Liu