What I Realized About “GamerGate” Years Later

By:  H.T. (@Gees3Howard)

One of the biggest and still polarizing issues that exist in nerd culture is that of GamerGate.  GamerGate was, by all accounts what happens when social justice gets put into video games and tries too hard to get an agenda pushed that isn’t very popular amongst the core audience.

Truth is, I don’t think Zoe Quinn fucked anyone to get her reviews.  Knowing sad beta male hipsters, these guys probably wrote those glowing reviews TO get sex from her.  But the overarching issue was that many gamers, regardless of gender, age, race or political leanings were tired of the fact that a great deal of video game “journalism” were annoying hipsters writing articles, not actually about gaming, but about the socio-political implications of certain elements in games.  It ranged from the typical trope of saving the princess, to most games having predominantly male heroes, to how women were portrayed.

Granted, just a decade ago the debate over whether or not video games were considered art was held, but I think in classifying video games as art, many decided that if games are art, then its message mattered more than its execution.  But when it came to many journalists, the belief was that if games were art, why wasn’t more of gaming being pushed to be on the cultural vanguard?

But it is.  It’s always been.  If anything, the GTA games are prime examples of what satire is by definition.  The problem is that the idea was that truly artistic games couldn’t be the AAA titles that come out every year.  Never mind the fact that Hideo Kojima (creator of the metal gear franchise) and Shigeru miyamoto (creator of the Mario, legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong franchises) by any cultural critic worth his salt would tell you that the characters they created alone are some of the most influential pop culture icons of the last 30 years.

No, because games still dared to show a badass woman who guys think is hot and another where a man saves a woman from an evil tyrant, games were regressive.  Or at least in their eyes.  Meanwhile the anti-GamerGaters kept putting out the usual neon colored haired girl coming of age stories or more 8-bit retro games and said they wanted gaming to progress.

If anything, the GamerGaters only real crime is that not enough people spoke out against the targeted harassment against people like Anita Sarkeesian, as this only emboldened them to get more ridiculous in their ideas for what gaming should do.  While I believe harassing anyone in gaming is wrong, the fact of the matter was that many people were labeling gamers as the real threat to societal progress as we didn’t feel a need to bow down to social pressure.

People get mad at games like The Last Night for showing a world that went to hell BECAUSE of social justice.  But if these types of games are the bad guys but dozens upon dozen of indie games about fighting misogyny, sexism and patriarchy are okay, then again, it can’t really be about equality.  If anything, this proves what many gamers still say:  that this is an attempt to force the gaming industry to adhere to the tenets of social justice rather than actually fixing the issues.

What I took away from GamerGate was that social justice in the age of social media really feels like an attempt to build a culture wide echo chamber for the “woke” millennials who feel like this change needs to happen, lessen the powers that are labeled sexist pigs.  But the reality is that to the average gamer or game developer, we, and they, don’t really care.  Fact is, for all the labels you can throw on them, none actually stops them from their goal of making games that people want to buy.  This is something that the average indie game developer doesn’t realize as they are beholden to the whims of their small audience.  Big name developers are not as restricted.

GamerGate, to me, is funny as now I knew how I sounded when being upset over comic book characters being lampooned on non-nerdy shows.  That I took things FAR too seriously and ruined a good time.  Here’s to hoping many of them learn this too.

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