What Gamergate Says about "Gamer" Culture

Gamer: “a person who plays games and especially video or computer games.”               – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We are many of us, gamers. What began as a small minority of people thirty-forty years ago has ballooned into a large portion of the present population. Games are everywhere. Computers brought them into the home. Consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) brought them to our TVs. Today, smartphones allow many people to carry a large game library around in their pockets. And of course, before that: there were board games. As time passed, the gaming population grew and diversified. People who were never “gamers” before suddenly found themselves glued to the screen. Basically: change.

The Nintendo Wii was the first console to explode gaming into entirely new markets.
The Nintendo Wii was the first console to explode gaming into entirely new markets.

With change comes great things. More gamers = more games. No two ways about it. The industry has exploded and now we have major publishers and casual people all making games together. Choices. Choices. Choices. New technologies, new controllers, new concepts. More gamers have greatly increased the variety of experiences to be found when gaming. Has there been a negative?

Of course: Gamergate (not to be confused with GamersGate… which is a really unfortunate name to have right now).

For those out there who don’t know, I will summarize. Indie game developer Zoe Quinn created Depression Quest, a game designed to help people struggling with depression. Following the suicide of actor Robin Williams, Quinn elected to release her game for free on the popular gaming marketplace, Steam. She charged people only “what they wanted to pay” and gave all proceeds to charity. I know, sounds like the pillar of controversy so far.

There were some who felt Quinn was using Williams’ suicide for personal gain, despite the before mentioned facts. Her largest detractor, however, came in the form of her ex-boyfriend, who alleged that Quinn had a relationship with Nathan Grayson in order to receive a favorable review for her game. Was there a relationship: yes. Did Grayson ever write a review: no. Did he write an article about Quinn: yes, months before the relationship.

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Regardless, some people felt that the ethics of video game journalism had been violated. This is not the first time such accusations have come up. Popular gaming review site Giantbomb was founded after a critic gave a bad review to a game that had wanted to receive a good one. The reviewing bias of other AAA titles, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty, Destiny, and others has also been called into question.

If we are to believe the most positive spin on Gamergate, it was misdirected anger after all of the other breaches in the ethics of video game journalism. Really though, even if those allegations were true: are we really getting mad at the person who designed a game that helps people with depression? A game she released for free? “What a bitch” are not the words that come to mind.

There are some who feel that games really are not a big deal and really should not be used in most areas of political and civil strife.
There are some who feel that games really are not a big deal and really should not be used in most areas of political and civil strife.

That’s the positive spin. In reality, Gamergate is nothing more that the extreme hateful reaction of a small minority in the face of change. In the weeks following the lies against Zoe Quinn, many people were targeted by Gamergate. To say there was a pattern in which people were targeted would be an understatement. Do a check right now. If you are a woman, you would have been targeted. Men: not so much.

Because receiving death threats and having information leaked is the most sensible way to make money.
Because receiving death threats and having information leaked is the most sensible way to make money.

I am not going to try to give the event a balanced spin because I do not feel it deserves one. Regardless of the state of video game journalism, Gamergate was wrong and, in some cases, illegal. People were threatened with physical violence and it even went as far as death threats. I say people but really: women were the target. Whether it was Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian (who I personally do not agree with), Felicia Day, Brianna Wu (again, notice the pattern), Crimes were committed against each of these women and that is never excusable.

Gamergate punched a black eye in the public image of gaming culture. Let me stress one more time: whoever leaked personal information, threatened to hold a shooting, made death threats: these are all serious crimes. I hope these individuals are tracked, found, arrested, and persecuted to the full extent of the law. Forget leaking nude photos, this is much more serious.

Chris Kluwe, one of the harshest critics of Gamergate, was not targeted. I could say more but please: read his words.
Chris Kluwe, one of the harshest critics of Gamergate, was not targeted. I could say more but please: read his words.

Okay, that said: Gamergate means nothing exceptional to gaming culture. It has been the actions of a few radicals, not the overwhelming majority. In the months following these unfortunate incidents, many in the industry have been very public in their condemning of Gamergate. Many gamers have also stepped forward and voiced their support of Quinn and the other victims involved.

To go back to what I wrote in the beginning: gamers are everywhere. If you have a population of at least hundreds of millions, some of them are bound to be a**holes. That’s just a fact. I do not say that to excuse the behavior, but let’s examine some other examples of large cultures reacting to certain situations.

Gay Rights

Popular opinion: whether you’re for Gay Marriage or not, most people conclude that homosexuals are human beings like everyone else. They are entitled to the same treatment of respect and courtesy, and really – being gay is (thankfully) no longer the incredible taboo it once was, in certain areas at least. Okay, here is the extreme:

Interracial Marriage

Popular opinion: sure, why should color of skin matter if two people love each other? Well, let’s ask this enlightened soul:

Immigration

Popular Opinion: Okay, very complex issue. There’s a lot of opinions out there. Safe to assume though, most people don’t think like this:

Gaming

Popular opinion: everyone is entitled to play games, they are for everyone.

Well f*ck.

There will always be idiots, in any culture. A vocal minority, composed of the worst humanity has to offer, who will spew their vile hatred at pretty much anything that offends/scares them. The good news is that: most are not championing their cause but rather speaking and acting against them. This is progress. Gaming is changing, becoming more inclusive every year. People are going to have to deal with that.

Being a “gamer” means nothing more than the fact that you play games. It is not an elite group, it is not something to be proud of or ashamed of. Men are gamers, women are gamers, children are gamers. Heck, even this lizard:

Hmmmm, actually now that I think about it, that lizard may have slept with someone to get a popular Youtube video. #Lizardgate

Is the Conjuring Misogynistic?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: While reading a review of Annabelle in the Boston Globe, I came across an unfamiliar accusation. Peter Keough opened his critique with the following:

“Some praised “The Conjuring” (2013), James Wan’s film about the exorcism of a possessed house, for being scary without resorting to gore or special effects. Others, myself included, found the scariest aspect of the film to be its misogyny.”

I have seen The Conjuring multiple times and enjoy the film very much. I find it to be a well-written, well-acted, retro film of demonic horror. Personally, I had never noticed the misogyny that Keough referred to. After a little digging, the internet was revealed to have a few writers with opinions similar to the Globe. Andrew O’Hehir‘s article,The Conjuring”: Right-wing, woman-hating and really scary, appeared to be the most notable piece of criticism. In it, O’Hehir damns The Conjuring for its portrayal of the Warrens, its use of female antagonists, and its implied message that the Salem Witch trials were justified. He also reveals that he had mixed feelings on the film.

Okay… slow down.

For the record, O’Hehir is not the only one to feel this way, there are other reviews that echo his own sentiments… but let’s look at the accusations. First off, the Warrens. For those out there reading this without seeing the movie, The Conjuring follows the horror standard of “based on a true story.” Ed and Lorraine Warren were real-life Christian demon hunters who roamed the land and looked for evil to exorcise. In short: they were/are religious extremists. The kind of people who are more likely to believe in the devil than Darwin.

Criticisms of The Conjuring take issue with the film’s validating portrayal of the Warrens. In the film, the couple’s faith is shown only as their greatest weapon. It is what allows them to defeat the demon and save the family from harm. While admittedly, the Warrens were not this positive in real life, I am curious as to what the solution here would be? In order for The Conjuring to work as a haunted house horror film – the Warrens have to be more than just religious kooks. The entire threat of the movie would vanish if the Warrens weren’t valid in their beliefs.

The real Warrens were probably wackos... but they are not in the movie.
The real Warrens were probably wackos… but they are not in the movie.

I feel that here is an instance where O-Hehir and other critics are projecting unreasonable expectations onto The Conjuring. EVERY MOVIE that uses the line “based on a true story” is fictitious. It is not the responsibility of any film maker to ever whisper to their audience “just remember kids, this isn’t real.” If The Conjuring were attempting a more meta approach, this criticism would be valid. As such, this is clearly a pure Hollywood thrill ride. The script does not address the fourth wall so director James Wan has no reason to either. It’s not that type of movie – these aren’t the real Warrens. They did not look like Vera Farmiga or Patrick Wilson either. Calm down about the portrayal.

Now, about the female portrayal:

Yes, the evil spirit haunting the house is a woman. A female antagonist does not misogyny make. It would as ridiculous as the claim that all black villains promote racism. Two of the main protagonists are women as well. Elaine Warren (who is depicted as the more essential of the couple) helps Lili Taylor‘s Carolyn defend her family from evil. O’Hehir seems to feel that the film labels women and their behaviors/identity as the source of all evil in the world. Again, this feels like a forced intrusion of perspective. Carolyn is not targeted for possession for neglecting her wifely duties – her family moved into a haunted house! If the ghost had attacked the husband, would that be a vengeful man-hating ghost uber-feminist? No, that would be a ghost.

What do you see? A man protecting a helpless woman or a husband trying to guard his wife? Perspective makes a difference.
What do you see? A man protecting a helpless woman or a husband trying to guard his wife? Perspective makes a difference.

But Carolyn is saved by the power of maternal instincts!

Carolyn is saved by loving her children and not wanting to kill them… you know, not becoming a monster. Could a person project opinions/commentaries of maternal identity onto this action – of course. Yet at its heart, it is a parent refusing to abandon their child, and fighting off an evil force to do it. It is the climax of the film.

Yes, this is a movie that projects religious salvation over evil – because it is a movie about exorcism. Is it validating conservative roles and proclaiming religious faith is the ultimate way to go? Sure… if any audience member actually fights a real demon in their day-to-day life.

The last criticism I would like to address is the charge that The Conjuring validates the Salem Witch trials. This is both a serious charge and a baseless accusation. By claiming (in a fictional movie) that one real witch existed in the 1800s, The Conjuring is somehow saying that those poor victims deserved what they got in the 1600s. There is no line of dialogue that refers to the Salem Witch trials. There is nothing to connect the dots at all. Having a witch in the movie does not condone horrible crimes that happened in real life. There are several witches in Wizard of Oz, and yet I do not think that film is looking to serve as a commentary either.

Yes, witches were totally real. Just look at all the totally real stuff they could do.

The Conjuring, despite its marketing campaign, is not trying to be fact. There are many films that cross that line far worse (The Fourth Kind comes to mind). It is not as intelligent as certain horror gems like The Exorcist, but it is not trying to be either. It is fine to not like a movie, that is a very acceptable situation. That said, projecting an unreasonable set of expectations – and labeling the film as misogynistic – when it fails to follow them, goes too far. Certain people will see scenarios where none exist. Certain people will read novels in the blank spaces between the lines.

There are people out there who feel King Kong was made as a commentary on racism. Sure, if one discounts the people who made it - that is an acceptable thesis.
There are people out there who feel King Kong was made as a commentary on racism. Sure, if one discounts the people who made it – that is an acceptable thesis.

In certain cases, there is something to it. That said, The Conjuring is popcorn. You either like popcorn or you don’t. Just don’t go calling it milk duds. Do not go looking for sin where none exists. That sounds like a witch hunt.

How James Wan probably reacted to the criticism.
How James Wan probably reacted to the criticism.

Do You Need Feminism?

Yes.

Seriously, is this a thing? Why is this a thing right now?

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Sigh…. all right.

This is one of those rare times in life when I will say that words truly matter. Moreover, the understanding of words and the impact they carry truly matters. Recently, the internet has been alive with the new viral slogan: “I don’t need feminism…” You can see one of its supporters above. In the face of it, this is a perplexing image. That woman does not look stupid. She has at least mastered writing… and wearing a shirt.

What the f*ck then?

In looking at these pictures and touring the websites, I have made a discovery: there are a lot of people out there who don’t know the actual definition of feminism. So, real quick – here it is:

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending a state of equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.”

Google the definition of feminism and that’s what you get. Also, have the Merriam-Webster definition for good measure. So really, what is the issue? According to definition, feminism sounds pretty reasonable to me – and I’m a guy. I gain nothing from sharing my power and rights with women but – I believe women are people (crazy) – so this really is a non-issue. Except it is an issue apparently, though not with “feminism” as it is defined above. Let’s look at a few more beacons of human hope:

Okay, but based on the definition of feminism - this doesn't make sense.
Okay, but based on the definition of feminism – this doesn’t make sense.
Again, nowhere in the definition does it say women are at a disadvantage.
Again, nowhere in the definition does it say that being a woman is a disadvantage.
Well this just... wait, what's that in the corner?
Well this just… wait, what’s that in the corner?

I think I have found the problem. Not only do people not know what “feminism” means, they are supporting a false definition. In the lower right corner, it reads “radical feminism sucks” – just in case you were wondering. “Radical” by definition means extreme and extreme ideologies, by tradition, tend to suck. Are there radical feminists out there who have demonized men as “villains” in an extreme distortion of basic views. Yes, idiots exist (I have pictures of four of them above). That said, those people are not the definition of feminism. They are not even really part of the movement.

Let’s use another definition to make an example: let’s use Christianity. Christianity is the belief in Jesus as Jesus Christ, the son of god and savior to mankind. Ever read the Bible? Jesus seems to be a very tolerant and open guy whose only real problem is the hoarding of wealth and the mistreatment of the poor (boy, he would love America right now). That said, there are radical Christians who believe that Jesus hates gays, immigrants, women, etc. etc. insert minority group here. Hating feminism because of radical feminists is like hating Christianity because of radical Christians.

Actually, it’s probably worse since there exists serious inequality out there between men and women. To anyone who doesn’t believe that: open your eyes. Watch the news.

So, the definition of feminism is becoming distorted and that is a shame. We need to take control of this word back. If the definition loses its meaning, this is a setback for human rights. Feminism is not an invalid movement. Human rights are not something you don’t need because a small number may abuse them.

Yet websites like this one keep existing.

I have written before on the dangers of willful ignorance: the belief that you and you alone hold the answers and any “facts” that say otherwise are either coming from a biased or erroneous source. When people are willfully ignorant, they ignore their own bias, they ignore their ability to be wrong. It must be wonderful to be right all the time, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a human trait.

Everyone knows that pretty quotes are the most true.
Everyone knows that pretty quotes are the most true.

Women Against Feminism is run by women. Emily Shire, a sane individual judging from her writing, tried to reach out and understand this group more thoroughly. Please find her article here.

Will this movement die? Very likely. It is fundamentally idiotic. When even Urban Dictionary can give this as a definition, there is little hope that these extremists will derail the feminist movement. Personally, I don’t need people who say they don’t need feminism. I would only ask that they read the dictionary.

When you don't know what a word means, you risk looking like an idiot (by the way, this photo was taken for solely ironic purposes).
When you don’t know what a word means, you risk looking like an idiot (by the way, this photo was taken for solely ironic purposes).