Technothugs, Misogyny, and #GamerGate

Many years ago now, the Internet brought a terrible tabletop RPG to my attention. It was a complete mess of a fantasy game. I can’t in good conscience call it a fantasy heartbreaker because there was absolutely nothing to like about the game. Character creation was a multiple hour slog that resulted in characters that made no sense and had no business engaging in any of the activities of a fantasy adventure. It defended its many-layered mysogyny as realism, and then had a bunch of magic items based on racist stereotypes. Its mechanics were simply terrible, mistaking extreme randomness and multi-step mathematical calculation for system complexity. The attribute its creators crowed about the most – the inclusion of mechanics for adult situations – was ground-breaking only in its ability to rob the sex act of everything that makes it exciting, fun, or meaningful. The whole game was at once offensive and pathetic on every level.

We talked about it on a forum I frequented at the time. The response to every aspect of the game was overwhelmingly negative, though, so “talked about” was probably less accurate a descriptor than “mocked relentlessly as the worst game we had ever seen.” We were in our early and mid-20s, with all the stupidity about human relationships that implies, so a few of us wrote sarcastic emails to the creators (which I regret in large part because I knew, even then, that it was a waste of my time and energy). Mostly we laughed, confident that this game had no cultural value and would soon sink into obscurity, which it has except as a cautionary tale. Those of us who remember that game from those days still shake our heads in wonder at how terrible it was.

I haven’t forgotten what it means to hate a creative work. I’ve long held that no one can hate a book like an English major. I try not to let myself dwell too long on stuff I despise, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work up a towering rage over a book or movie or TV show that offends my sensibilities. People are welcome to disagree with me, and maybe they’ll even make a good point or two, but if dialogue isn’t going anywhere the easiest thing to do is just drop the subject.

By the same token, I have no trouble getting excited about a creative work. This blog is a testament to that enthusiasm for awesome things. And if someone disagrees with me and calls me a Star Wars prequel apologist or worse, that’s their prerogative. They might level some fair criticisms, and they might recognize some of the good elements I see in it, but if the gulf of individual tastes is too wide to bridge I’m not going to convince someone to love something they hate. It is almost never worth the attempt.

Art (even if we must hold our noses as we call it that) is subjective as hell, and it is always fair game for criticism. Shakespeare had his critics, and Dickens had his critics, and Tolkien had his critics, and even I have my critics (obscure as I am). Michael Bay has an awful lot of critics, too. Anyone who is putting their stuff out there is opening it up to criticism. It comes with the territory of producing media for public consumption.

In turn, criticism is itself fair game for criticism. It doesn’t take much higher education to make a student aware of the huge disagreements in academia. If you make a claim you’d better be prepared to back it up with textual and contextual evidence, lest other critics in your field eat you alive. That’s why they call it “defending a thesis.”

By the same token, criticism of criticism is subject to the same rules of logic as the criticism of the art itself. Ad hominem attacks, slippery slope fallacies, and all the other lazy attempts to dismiss the argument without equally rigorous logic are beneath contempt. All this applies to non-academic settings as well, by the way – politics, workplaces, charitable or religious organizations, and (believe it or not) Internet arguments. If you can’t formulate a rational argument in favor or against an idea you cannot expect reasonable people to take your argument (and, by extension, you) seriously.

The last several weeks have seen ad hominem attacks, threats of violence, and really despicable (if not downright illegal) tactics deployed against women gamers and any men with the audacity to defend them by an organized band of dudebro gamers who want…what exactly? Judging by their misogynistic ramblings, they want anyone who doesn’t agree with them to die, to become victims of violence, to live in fear of violence, and (above all else) to be silent.

They seem to think that astroturf shenanigans like #GamerGate will sway public opinion about dudebro gamers like them. They have been tremendously successful. I haven’t played video games regularly since the days of Starcraft and Diablo II. The last console I owned was a Super Nintendo. But I now have a much worse opinion of straight, white, male “gamers” than I’ve ever had. Someone who would engage in the Twitter equivalent of black-face using #NotYourShield doesn’t strike me as someone worth engaging in constructive debate – or worthy of consideration in any artist’s creative decisions, and I must say I hope the people who make the games they play feel the same way.

We were all young and stupid once (while thinking ourselves oh-so-clever), but despite our strong and emotional reaction to a game for which we were clearly not the target audience, my fellow forumites didn’t make rape/castration/death threats against the creators in a public forum. We didn’t stalk the creators and send them pictures of their houses or the places where their young relatives play (children, siblings, cousins, whatever). We certainly didn’t organize DDOS attacks or online black-face campaigns involving thousands of sock puppets. If anyone in our community had suggested stooping to that low we would not have egged them on or encouraged them to still greater heights of ad hominem terrorism.

Because all the shit the #GamerGate crowd are engaged in is utterly contemptible – a sad reminder that misogyny and homophobia and racism are alive. If we want a world in which the first response to a woman’s reasonable critique of some of a medium’s problematic tropes (while going out of her way to remind viewers that she loves the medium, because otherwise why would she bother?) is not a massive outpouring of death/rape threats that target the critic instead of the critique, we need to kick those fuckers to the curb.

You want your games to be fun according to your (head-shakingly narrow) definition of fun? Oh boo hoo! Some of us would like for our friends and colleagues to stop receiving threats of violence against their children for saying it would be kind of nice to have more examples of empowered women and people of color in their media of choice. As long as you keep harassing non-white, non-male dudes (or sniggering while other dudes  do so), you’re not exactly bringing tears to my eyes.

This is not a fight the faux geek dudebros behind #GamerGate and #NotYourShield can win. They’re shouting at an advancing glacier, but they can’t slow it down. The demographic and societal shifts are already underway. And every time they resort to pathetic, childish tactics like these that attract the attention of people who are otherwise completely uninterested in video games they only make frustrating their backward notions more appealing. To wit:

When Anita Sarkeesian ran her Kickstarter some years ago I had never even heard of her. Again, I don’t play video games very much at all. I heard about the death and rape threats, though. Then I took a small stroll around the Internet and saw them. My first reaction wasn’t “wow, she must be a controversial bitch whose opinions are suspect.” It was more along the lines of “Jesus fucking Christ, what is wrong with these people?!? Is this what geeks have come to – misogynistic technothugs? Take my money, dammit! Anything that stops these douches from getting what they want is clearly good for society. Holy shit!” It is so horrifying to see dudebro geek antics that I want to ally myself with anyone who opposes (or is opposed by) something with so few redeeming qualities.

They would have done a lot more for the cause of dudebro geeks if they had kept their stupid mouths shut. They didn’t do that. Now is the time when we laugh these technothugs into irrelevance and obscurity. This time I won’t even send any of them a sarcastic email. They’re not worth it. Let’s change this shit from the top.

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5 Responses to Technothugs, Misogyny, and #GamerGate

  1. Iris says:

    Looks like someone hasn’t done their research. For one, #GamerGate and #NotYourShield condemn any and all harassment against anyone. These are the actions done by a few sick individuals who thought to ascribe their actions to our cause on a medium of communication where anyone can post anything – even lies. I find it likely that you have read any number of smear articles on us.

    #GamerGate is and always has been about ethics in games journalism. We would’ve reacted to the scandal that was the flashpoint of the whole situation exactly the same if it had been anyone else that got caught doing it. We are actively supporting a campaign by The Fine Young Capitalists to help women enter the video game industry, a fact which makes your quip about how we are ‘a sad reminder of how misogyny and homophobia are still rampant’ ring false.

    Finally, #GamerGate and #NotYourShield are in no way orchestrated by any person or group of people as any sort of assault or attack on anyone. If they had been, I wouldn’t have gotten involved. I am Iris, a female gamer, and I will not stand for this slander, or for being told I’m a white cishet male misogynerd.

    • You’ll excuse me if I have difficulty taking your claims seriously. This is the Internet, and the #GamerGate and #NotYourShield folks are notorious for their love of virtual black-face.

      Your Twitter account has been active since 9/5/2014, posting non-stop #GamerGate and #NotYourShield posts. This doesn’t say “ordinary person weighing in on a topic of importance” so much as it screams “shill.”

      Your first tweet claims that this was “an alt.” Know what the word for “an alt used to deceive people on the Internet as to one’s identity” is? Sock puppet.

      In fact, there is only one post – from 2012, marveling at how the Twitter account is still there. Pretty sure you either hacked someone’s Twitter account or, as you claim, this an alt that you used for some other purpose ages ago.

      Actually, I lied. There are *two* tweets for 2012. The other one is a reference to another Twitter user: @CommanderLovely, whose tweets prior to (*gasp*) early September 2014 are a wall of retweets of homophobic, misogynistic, and racist jokes (plus at least one joke about pedophilia). No seriously. This is lovely stuff. Howard Stern would blush.

      Your use of the dismissive, dog whistle acronym SJW and your resorting to the old “I’m offended!” tactic to derail discussions of social justice issues (2009′s trolls called and want you to cease using their trademark technique) does nothing to convince me that you’re not fucking with me here. A well-decorated sock puppet is still a sock puppet.

      This is the Internet. We’re all sock puppets unless we can prove otherwise. I’ve posted under my real name – as I have done for well over a decade. My web presence is widespread and well-documented. My identity is easily verified.

      Real people have virtual fingerprints, so why don’t you? Sorry, Pinocchio, but you don’t make a convincing real girl.

      If you will lie to me about who you are and your motives for involving yourself in this controversy, why should I click your cherry picked links to potentially altered/Photoshopped/falsified/smear web sites? (I’ve stripped them, by the way, because I’m not gonna boost your web visibility – spammers try the same thing here all the time.)

  2. Alex Clippinger says:

    “Because all the shit the #GamerGate crowd are engaged in is utterly contemptible – a sad reminder that misogyny and homophobia and racism are alive.”

    Do you have any commentary on anti-GGers harassing the pro-GG crowd? An outspoken journalist tweeting for the raid of WizardChan to harass depressed, vulnerable individuals on Suicide Awareness Day? Minorities and women having to post pictures to ‘prove’ who they are?

    Your article reeks of the pseudo-intellectual, holier-than-thou, but poorly researched drivel that has been rehashed and repasted time and again for days now.

    “The last several weeks have seen ad hominem attacks, threats of violence, and really despicable (if not downright illegal) tactics deployed against women gamers and any men with the audacity to defend them”

    Funny, because pro-GGers have been harassed and ‘doxxed’ (if you’re not aware of that term then you’ve REALLY not done your homework), including a transgender youth. At least one Twitter account existed (hopefully banned now) posting names and locations and personal information of the pro-GG crowd. They bragged about this being a ‘throwaway’ account.

    Your snoody, dismissive tone borne from ignorance is wholly offensive, and the hypocrisy of your statements about harassment, your dismissal of all #NotYourShield users as ‘blackface,’ ‘sockpuppets,’ etc, is bigoted and vile.

  3. Alex Clippinger says:

    There’s a few examples for you. I’ll bet it’s encouraging to see industry writers and supposed professionals calling for GamerGate supporters to be “shot” or similar.

  4. Someone far more invested in this issue than I am (he’s a game developer) wrote a thorough and better-written discussion of this topic, complete with in-line citations, which I regrettably neglected to take the time to include.

    You can find it here.

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