On #GamerGate and games reviewing, or Awww, Our Little Hobby Is Growing Up

(cross-posted from a comment about #GamerGate on We Hunted The Mammoth, because this encapsulates why I think a lot of GG’s outrage is mistaken or misplaced)

I just want to know where this theoretical games journalism industry habit of assigning games to people who hate those kinds of games is happening. At least in the places where I read reviews, of course you give an action game to a fan of action games and a strategy game to a fan of strategy games, because that’s how you assess a game amongst the body of work that already exists within that genre. No different to music reviews – if someone hates classical you don’t get them to review orchestral stuff, because a) they have no working knowledge of the genre and b) there’s going to be more of an appreciation for the details among someone who does indeed enjoy that kind of music. Plus if someone hasn’t played the previous God Of War games, for instance, they can’t tell you why the latest one sucks in comparison to the last two. 😉

I think where the gamebros are losing their shit is that it’s getting harder and harder to keep games in specific genres (RPG elements in action games, strategy elements in FPSs, platformers with puzzle-solving emphasis). Add to that the explosion in indie games that don’t follow a set formula and the idea that you can find a reviewer that fits every niche gets a little ridiculous. Games reviewing is being forced to broaden its assessment criteria. Plus with “adult themes” being ever more prevalent, and the average gamer being in their 30s, it makes sense that concepts like narrative themes, setting, context within current events and social influences are becoming a part of what’s considered when reviewing a game.

Add to that the pervasive defensive crouch amongst a lot of gamers in that 30-something age bracket, who have never shaken the stigma surrounding gaming 10-20 years ago which is barely a thing anymore, and you get a little insight into why their assurance that Everything About Gaming Is Awesome is shaken when they see reviews that aren’t just cheerleading Gaming Itself but picking games apart with a critical eye – which they are mistaking for attack.

It’s a nesessary phase in the maturation of the medium. I still don’t really grok the howling opposition to games becoming Srs Bsns, except that it’s a convenient hobby horse for a certain strain of hippie-punching, How Dare You Tell Me I Can’t, tolerance=oppression! redpill-esque belief that geeks are still a persecuted class who are more enlightened and underappreciated but will some day rule the world.

Obviously they didn’t get the fucking memo that geeks do rule the world now. 😉

JERNLIZTIC INTERGITY

So, tl;dr rundown.

A friend of Brianna Wu, indie game developer, put up a meme making fun of GamerGaters.

It used this pic:

55250585

Some GamerGaters who took offense to this comparison to a crying child have websearched and found that same pic in a PowerPoint presentation about autism:

http://www.templatesforpowerpoint.com/powerpoint-autism-symptoms

Never a movement to let detailed analysis or fact checking – or a momentary consideration about how photos are used on the internet – get in the way of calling somebody an evil hypocrite, GamerGaters have spent a couple of days covering Reddit with accusations that this just shows how SJWs are the REAL bigots! How dare they use a poor autistic kid in their attacks on Gamers!

You may be able to see where this is going…

It turns out this is a … stock photo! From Shutterstock! And in fact people who make websites or presentations don’t necessarily go out and find a kid with oppositional defiant disorder or autism, sometimes they just use a stock photo of a kid acting angry.

I mentioned this on Twitter, and used the Hashtag Of Troll-Summoning Doom (#GamerGate). I suggested a few Gators who were sincerely interested in the truth might like to go and straighten out the record on Reddit.

Predictably, I’ve been met thus far with nothing but attempts to somehow say SJWs are still the bad guys and this isn’t *really* a colossal fuck-up by #GamerGate.

This, people, is your movement dedicated to “journalistic integrity”. When faced with a matter of public record, where their own side has clearly made a mistake in assigning evil actions to their critics, where they could easily put it right … they continue attacking.

Because at the end of the day, no matter how many lofty pronouncements they make about “ethics” and “rooting out corruption” …

Attacking is all they have, and all that unites them.

Prove me wrong, #GamerGate

Alrighty. Apology and explanation time. (SVKA & Shakesville)

So I was hoping the first time I got some recognition was not going to be for something negative and I failed in that pretty spectacularly.

See that? That was really not smart, or fair. I really wish I hadn’t said that, but I will own it and happily discuss why it was wrong and what I could have done differently there.

I made some inflammatory Tweets which I probably should have considered much more before posting. And I did something I usually hate seeing others do – launching into a discussion site with views contrary to mine with more emotion than empathy.

So I’m going to lead with the important part:

I unreservedly apologise to the participants of the Shakesville Koolaid blog for direct comparisons to MGTOWs, MRAs and 4chan.

I believe there are people who have genuinely felt upset, angered, saddened and betrayed by the actions of Melissa McEwan and her mod team.

Now for some explanation – not to excuse my behaviour, but so that at least people can understand I wasn’t motivated by malice.

I’ll start by saying the idea of “takedown” sites, or sites devoted to dislike or opposition of one person or small group, have always creeped me out. Defining yourself by negativity has always stuck me as a strange choice and made me personally uncomfortable. I’m aware lots of people disagree, and that’s up to them. But my first gut-level reaction to a site like Shakesville Koolaid is always going to be straight-up cringeing. When a group of people is constantly poring over the actions or words of another person or group they dislike, the hyperfocus can appear unsettling to those observing.

Secondly, I hate seeing bad tactics being used in a good cause. The stated purpose of the SVKA site according to the site’s own “Stop Listening to Melissa McEwan” page is to completely discredit Shakesville’s owner – and those who choose to associate with her – and separate them from mainstream feminism. What I know of social justice movements throughout history doesn’t gel with that idea. When feminism was ignoring the needs of women of colour and queer women, the answer wasn’t to silence prominent feminists, it was to find new and better ways of doing things that took those needs into account. By the same token, if McEwan’s alienating feminists (and she certainly is alienating some) then pointing out what she’s doing that might be harmful is a great idea if the aim is to, in her own words, expect more from her. But that leads into my third point…

During the few days I was reading the site, at least, a lot of what I saw was not constructive criticism but just opportunities to take a shot at McEwan or her associates. Even the mission statement for the page drops into snark several times that just reads as backbiting for the sake of it. The link asking for contributions is labelled “Let me know if she says something dumb”. People are slamming her for trivial things like saying she liked one piece of dancing more than another, or for making statements of inclusivity on her open threads. Now, I understand that SVKA is a lightly moderated forum in contrast to what they portray as a harshly regimented discussion space at SV. From what I’ve seen the commenters pride themselves on being a loose coalition and they appreciate the light touch. That’s a double-edged sword – a multiplicity of opinions is great in some discussions, for some purposes, and terrible for others.

The posters and commenters at SVKA, from what I have seen, are indeed a disparate group with no single unifying goal, save criticising Shakesville. The problem I have with the site is how vastly different the definitions of “criticism” vary. I asked for a different perspective on the fracas from commenters on another feminist blog I respect, and the general opinion echoed my own concerns with the level of zero-sum you’re-with-us-or-against-us animosity and schadenfreude on display at SVKA, but they also agreed with the sentiment that McEwan’s blog can sometimes be unwelcoming and come across as a mutual admiration society where the emphasis on “safe space” is often compromised by those purporting to maintain it.

So taking that into consideration, I read about some harassment affecting a space I care about, noted the language of progressivism being used against a prominent progressive (not all that long after the #EndFathersDay garbage using similar tactics to stir up anti-feminist sentiment), I reacted angrily and without fully fleshing out the backstory, and unfairly maligned a large group. Any sweeping generalisations I made about SVKA are grossly unfair. Once again, I am sorry for criticising the entire SVKA tumblr’s posters and commenters.

One thing I am not going to apologise for is leaving a conversation on that site when I tried to initiate a conversation that quickly turned into a dogpile. After eight or ten responses I just couldn’t handle the deluge of people responding to what they saw as an attack on their community. It was pretty dumb of me to have charged in there the way I did. But I also think that a lot of things are being rationalised away there under the banner of “criticism” which a lot of feminists would find at least disagreeable and at worst horrifically anti-feminist if they were directed at another prominent feminist. Happy to expound on that if people are interested in hearing it.

Snippet: today in What Creeps Me Out About PUAs, or Women Are Not A Game

Silly me.

While reading a discussion about a PUA today, I inadvisedly jumped off to a pualingo link (running it through donotlink of course, to deny these creeps the web traffic) and Oh My Dog… the entry on “compliance momentum” reads like something out of a freakin’ interrogation guide. The pseudo-military pseudo-psychologist language (“target”, “compliance”, “rewarding good behaviour”) and ass-covering “you totally shouldn’t use social pressure and all her actions should be uncoerced and not the result of power plays, winkwink” while discussing how to manipulate someone’s emotions and insecurities to gain power over them is disgusting. So far as I can tell “compliance momentum” is a synonym for “establish a basis for guilt-tripping a girl about ‘leading you on’ when she decides she wants to set a boundary.”

Then there’s the entry on Field Reports, which read like a bunch of gamers collaborating on how refine their technique against a particular boss enemy. You’re using the wrong weapon! No, you have to parry first, THEN you can use the Spear! She’s immune to Elemental damage!

These ideas, and from my experience a lot of PUA mentality, share two certain base assumptions:

That women are essentially interchangeable, like the dudes you kill before you get to the Boss

This one is obvious. Any mindset that tells you there’s a “right way” to pick up women is fundamentally flawed and assumes that individual variations between types don’t matter. To extend my further analogy, it’s treating a woman at a bar as an Orc that you have to jump towards, sidestep an attack then backstab! Instead of as Jenny, who works in marketing but is thinking about doing something a bit more meaningful, who likes to chat with people but has a thing about being touched on the elbow, who can’t stand insincere people. So any attempts to “escalate kino” are likely to frustrate the PUA when she recoils at him moving his hand up her arm, and his body language is going to totally tip her off that he really couldn’t care less about her job. Then the Field Report will no doubt pick apart the “tricks” he should’ve used to “close” despite the fact that what actually happened was he went for a backstab and found out Jenny wasn’t an Orc, but an actual person who can’t be reduced to tactics.

That any simple and reasonable idea is still reasonable when amplified and turned into a “playguide”

This one is more insidious. Because on the face of it, and in the shallow end, a lot of PUA ideas seem innocuous and even beneficial. Helping shy guys talk to girls, that’s totally a worthwhile pursuit, isn’t it? Most people do in fact only allow a minimal amount of touch with people they’ve only just met, and become more comfortable with greater tactile interaction as they spend more time together. It’s just common sense that someone will be more agreeable to later suggestions if they’ve found earlier ones agreeable, surely.

Theeeeeeeeen you go starting to think of those ideas as the rules of the game engine rather than as consequences of individual people’s preferences, and it’s a short jump to the idea that “women” are just a particular class of enemy that needs a particular set of equipment or skills to defeat. And then you start buying into the idea that if you’re unsuccessful in defeating them, you just need better equipment or to level up your skills! So you go deeper into the community, and look for cheat codes. This is where we get to ideas like “negging” and “compliance”, which in the PUA world are discussed as just showing you’re a Manly Guy who Knows What He Wants and can Win Women Over With His Force Of Personality. Whereas negging is actually seeing if a woman is vulnerable enough or insecure enough to swallow the mouthful of shit you gave her in order to get the compliment, and compliance is the process of continually disrespecting a woman’s boundaries to see how much she’ll force herself to put up with because of social norms about Not Making A Scene and Not Overreacting and generally questioning her own autonomy.

Then you get to the far end, where these guys have entirely bought into the mentality that Women are indeed an enemy that needs to be defeated, and that any impediment they put up to letting you sleep with them can be overcome if you’re just aware of what glitches to exploit in the game engine. This is where we get truly awful concepts like the Anti-Slut Defence, a construct PUAs have invented to justify sexual assault. The basic premise is that no woman wants to think of herself as a “slut” even when she really wants sex, so when she wants to change her mind about the idea just before the deed is done, it’s just so she can think of herself as a “good girl” and she really wants to go through with it – it’s just another way of playing hard to get, and once you’ve fucked her you won’t hear any more about how she didn’t want it because you’re so good in bed, amirite?

Of course if you think that’s reasonable you’ve swallowed a lot of harmful assumptions – that women have no right to revoke consent, that the fact she changed her mind it had nothing to do with seeing you for the predator you are once you got her naked, that women shouldn’t want sex and will not admit that they do, that women say “no” when they really mean “yes”, that women who don’t complain afterwards were fine with the experience and certainly not raped, that women who DO complain are just regretting the act and really wanted it at the time…. I really could keep going but you get the idea.

This is what feminists mean when they call PUA a “guide to rape”.

Women are not a game.

First post: Isla Vista and misogyny, or Why Men Need To Step Up

A week ago I’d never heard of incels. I’d always assumed that MRAs were a fringe group of bitter divorced ex-husbands and PUAs were entitled spoiled brats, and that both groups were tiny slivers of resentment. I thought that people who rejected the PUA mentality finally grew up and realised that it was bullshit because it’s about treating women as less than human and tricking or intimidating them into sex.

I thought that mass murder was a big red line marking the Moral Event Horizon, and that people wouldn’t come together to condone a mass murderer’s actions even if they agreed with parts of his worldview.

I was a lot happier a week ago.

Now I’m sick to death of seeing “NOT ALL MEN~!~!” plastered all over the web. I’m almost moved to tears by the resignation and despair emanating from the #YesAllWomen hashtag, where so many women have told their stories about everyday abuse, rape, harassment, stalking, and generally having men ignore their boundaries … and the response to these stories is that the women hate men?! I can’t even fathom that level of self-centred-ness.

I’m sickened by the number of men trying to argue for some kind of twisted state-sanctioned obligation for women to put out for any man who wants sex. Or that if The Murderer had just learned better tricks to fool women into sleeping with him, lives would have been saved, and just BY THE WAY we have a book you can buy which details those tricks!

The thing that fills me with the most rage and sadness? That newspapers, TV news, bloggers, commentators, they’re all scratching their heads and saying “What caused this? Why did this man turn violent?”

It’s not a fucking mystery, guys. This individual left 141 pages of venomous ranting about women’s inferiority, about how he thought they should all be punished for the “crime” of not worshipping him. He left a goddamn YouTube clip detailing what he was about to do – murder women he felt had denied him what he deserved.

We know why he did what he did. HE TOLD US. Because he thought women existed to serve men’s desires, and more specifically his. Because he didn’t think of women as people, not really. Because he’d grown up in a world that had reinforced the message, time and time again, that what he deserved was whatever he wanted, because he was a (white cis able-bodied affluent) man, and that made his wants and needs more important than other people’s. Because he surrounded himself with other men who believed, as he did, that if he wasn’t getting what he wanted from women, it was the fault of women.

This is rape culture. This is misogyny. This is all too typical, and all too accepted, and all too depressing.

Why isn’t misogyny being discussed as a factor in this horrific incident? My guess is the same reason that air pollution and sunshine aren’t – because they’re accepted as such constants that most people don’t even acknowledge their presence.

Mental health wasn’t the issue here. Let’s flip the “Not All Men!” defence for a minute. Not All Mentally Ill People go out and kill people. In fact, statistically speaking they’re far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Millions of people with mental health diagnoses are not going to go out and kill women who don’t sleep with them.

Gun control isn’t the issue. It’s certainly a factor, and that’s a whole other discussion I’m not gonna have here because while I believe gun control is a feminist issue I don’t think it was the primary problem in this case. The fact that the first three people killed by The Murderer were stabbed is pretty clearly indicative that gun fetishism wasn’t this guy’s major malfunction.

And women were not to blame. I shouldn’t even need to say this because c’mon, what the fuck? You cannot fundamentally believe women are people and also believe that they were responsible for this fuckwit’s actions. If anybody thinks getting turned down for a date or sex is justification for violence, that person is the problem, not the person who turns them down. I’m not sure I can put it any more succinctly than that except by screaming incoherently.

The problem here was misogyny – the hatred of women. The refusal to accept women as valid agents of their own lives. The denial of their humanity. The attitude that when a man wants something, it’s a woman’s duty to provide it with a wink and a smile. The poisonous entitlement of Nice Guys(TM) who are anything but, and resent both women who don’t fall for their deceit and men who gain female attention through honest, up-front interaction. The mindset that “involuntary celibacy” is a huge problem that requires the world re-aligning to grant the complainer everything they want with no effort on their part. The fact that domestic violence kills every day and it’s not newsworthy. The wounded-bear rage of “Men’s Rights Activists” who hide their crusade to punish women behind a veneer of legal and ethical pseudobabble and flimsy statistical “evidence”. The sneering contempt of “Pick Up Artists” for women’s values and wants and boundaries. The constant, ever-present depiction in popular culture of a guy who Won’t Take No For An Answer as endearing, determined, truly devoted, until the incredibly hot girl realises she’s been in love with him the whole time – and the guys who fall for that idea without ever acknowledging that it’s really stalking.

It’s all part of the same insidious thing, guys.

This incident has opened my eyes to how many men there are who genuinely think women are not worthy of making decisions about who to date, kiss, fuck or spend time with. That disgusts me. Men are better than that. We are. We need to let these men know what we don’t share their caveman views about women’s inferiority. We need to step up and show the world how many men their are who don’t think of women as blank canvas for the projection of our desires or trophies to be brandished to prove our Man Power. We need to reinforce positive ideas about the value of women’s perspectives and opinions. That we won’t tolerate them abusing women’s insecurities to get into their pants. That we believe in appreciating all that women have to offer the world and that we want equality, not domination.

Women are people. Men are also people. Can’t we just be people together, without stupid notions of “winning” and “losing”?

Striving towards a world where equality isn’t laughed at as an idea,

-=SA=-