Fear is a powerful demotivator

There remains no doubt that the anti-gamer narrative peddled by gaming journalists and echoed by the gaming media uses fear as its fuel. People have long ago cast the social justice advocates in gaming as new moralists, and their actions and words in regards to Gamergate only reinforced the notion. Dubbing it fascists, sociopathic, “a culture of terror“, the Tea Party of videogames, “ISIS with Steam accounts” and a million other delirious insults. Even allowing for the obvious hyperbole, the fearmongering is the clear goal: these people will stalk you, hack you and potentially explode vans near you.

But a post from Kazerad has brought to my attention to just how much the fearmongering really does work into bringing people to oppose Gamergate. People with little experience in the games market or the internet are absolutely terrified not of what Gamergate is, but what Gamergate is said to represent by distorted media accounts. Here’s the post, with the operative part highlighted.

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Chan board posts are more insightful and honest than gaming journalism. What a world.

This drove the point home for me that the fearmongering really is a viable tactic. The reputation of videogame press is pitiful, so rather than defend themselves, these journalists paint their critics as even worse. And it does work, because it’s aimed at a demographic less used to the internet beyond mainstream sites.

The Feminist Frequency week of harassment he mentions provides a perfect example. In 27 January, they showed the 157 arassing tweets they received between the 20 and the 25, with ample echoes in the usual echo chambers. Nevermind that @femfreq received exactly 16,948 tweets in that time frame, making the insulting 157 represent less than 0.01% of the total. I wish the messages I get had such a low ratio of threats and insults. Oh, and only 3 of them were connected to Gamergate, but obviously that didn’t stop some the the articles and a lot of the commenters from attacking it.

Such publicity stunts, cherry-picking, misrepresentation and occasional fabrication are part and parcel of fearmongering. Way before this current crop of liberal moralists, the religious right had that market nearly cornered (with some assorted pseudo-academicians thrown in), and used the exact same tools. Rock music, comic books, RPG, and of course videogames were all targets before. The only real difference here is that it’s people inside gaming itself who are attacking it for their own gain. And unfortunately, these crooks have managed to kickstart another moral panic against the very medium they claim to love, but this particular moral panic is a subject for some other post.

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Imagine if these were printed in old RPG magazines. Well you just imagined modern videogame journalism.

Sadly for all involved but the crooks themselves, they have managed to scare a lot of people into equating Gamergate with blackshirts. By hanging over their heads the fabricated threat of being harassed if they thought of developing a game that didn’t have a white male protagonist, they have stemmed criticism against their own abuses. And that’s where it gets ugly: anyone on the internet will face trolls and harassment from time to time, and any public figure will face them as an occupational hazard. As Kazerad said, you will face harassment if you make any game, or webcomic or art or any other creative work on the internet.

And I know that some anti-gamer pundit will twist that to mean “see, gators admit they will inevitably harass others”. No, what it means is that everyone faces harassment from a whole lot of people. Internet harassment is far older than Gamergate — fuck, it’s older than a lot of people in either side of it — and attempts to prove Gamergate-related harassment is worse than average have fallen flat. But that’s wholly beside the point, because certain central anti-gamers have a very keen interest in showing themselves as martyrs, no matter how intellectually dishonest they have to be. If no one would troll then, they would have to invent someone to do it. And they probably do.

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If you replace “global warming” with “Gamergate” you are a gaming journalist.

At the end of the day, most anyone on the internet, and definitely anyone with a public profile, will face harassment. It’s universal. What isn’t universal — in fact it’s extremely discriminatory — is how gaming journalists and similar pundits will treat a game developer. I could post plenty of links here to demonstrate this, but the wiki pages on this site already have them and much more. And of course, there’s all the people who have been harassed, threatened, doxxed and otherwise harmed by anti-gamers, and went almost completely unreported.

So, if you’re involved in Gamergate, you will face one of two scenarios:

  • You get harassed by jerks and random trolls, OR
  • You get harassed by jerks and random trolls, and unfortunately for you they work in gaming journalism and are friends with mainstream journalists, so you will be ridiculed and your reputation smeared. Additionally, if you’re a developer, you will be blackballed and your game will receive no publicity from any of their sites because of collusion. Oh, and you can forget about having a fair chance at any contests and awards either, because they’re run by these same journos and their circle of friendly devs and assorted hangers-on. Thinking of resorting to an association that claims to defend developers? Too bad, because they’re staffed by… well, you can guess.

It’s extremely clear by now that the gaming press and certain few indie devs and “cultural critics” are the worst enemies not only of gamers but of developers as well. If you know someone afraid of Gamergate, let them know under no uncertain terms that anti-gamers are a far, far more destructive force than even the most hyperbolic depiction of Gamergate they can imagine.

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