It is a strange sense of business acumen to demonize and dehumanize to attack your customers. Imagine if when confronted with a series of recalls, Ford Motor Company decided to launch advertisements and articles claiming the “Death of the Redneck”, labelled all Ford customers “redneck”, and brazenly declared “good riddance” to all of them because Ford no longer wanted their money anyway. Ford would, more than likely, get their wish and find that if they are not completely going out of business, then they are certainly enjoying a dramatic loss in sales and corporate worth. In short, it would be a decidedly stupid corporate move.
When the sordid details of Zoe Quinn’s sexual relationships, which included game reviewers, hit the internet, there were indeed the usual trolls that hit upon this issue and behaved in a sub-human manner. As I said before, I have no sympathy for these trolls, who thrive on doing harm wherever they can and to whomever they can. Those that have made death and rape threats deserve jail time, and I doubt you’ll find few people, including very few actual gamers, that will disagree with me on this point.
But beyond the trolls there was, and remains, a reasonable questioning of the integrity of some in the journalistic press. And, to be fair, some in the gaming media actually did revise their ethical practices, and even lay off some of the worst ethical offenders for such things as taking bribes, unethical collusion, and so on. And kudos to those members of the gaming press that chose their integrity over their ego.
Unfortunately, a large chunk, and certainly the loudest chunk, of the gaming press chose not to go this route. Instead a group of so-called ‘reporters’ and editors got together on their own mailing list to devise a plan to deflect all criticism away from their own behavior by equating any and all video-gamers with the internet trolls attacking Zoe Quinn (and also now Anita Sarkeesian). Within two days over one-dozen near-identical articles were released in the gaming press declaring gaming culture “right-wing”, “misogynist”, “tea-party-like” and, above all “dead”, along with the idea that the gaming culture itself deserved to die for being so incredibly evil.
And to a point, this cadre of propagandists successfully played upon very old and outdated stereotypes of the ‘college-loser-gamers’ to push the notion that the whole affair was not about how the media was acting, but about another chapter on the “war on women” with the virtuous feminists against the vile gamers. The relatively handful of vile tweets from the internet’s most disturbed was and is cited as proof of the ‘evil gamer’, and anyone who dared question the media’s role in all this was automatically thrown in with the worst misogynists.
Personally I think that this is the most disturbing aspect of all of the Gamergate controversy. What we have is a large segment of the ‘gaming press’ deciding to take the entire gaming culture, consisting of millions of fans worldwide, and making them social outcasts (once again). They’ve used the terrible behavior of a few dozen, at most, internet trolls and used that to justify the demonization and dehumanization of – quite literally – tens of millions of people.
So in closing up this whole sordid affair, I leave this as an open question: How is labelling all those who play video-gamers ‘right-wing misogynist would-be-rapist basement dwellers’ any different or any better than the internet trolling that has victimized Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn? Is degrading a whole and sizable subset of the world’s population really supposed to support the ‘feminist’ position, or this all a very juvenile response on the part of a chunk of the gaming media to deflect away from their own maleficence, even if it means destroying their own audience?
In the end, the so-called “Gamergaters” (and I do not mean the trolls) are really the only winners here, though it may not feel like much of a victory. The gaming press has revealed itself, and the good players – the ones that revisited their practices and treated their audience with some respect, will be the ones to carry the ball forward. For them, the beginnings of a much-needed journalistic reform have begun, albeit with great reluctance involving a great deal of kicking and screaming.
The losers, then, are those chunks of the gaming press that doubled-down, infuriating their audiences and alienating their sponsors. It’s hard to imagine that sites like Verge.com or Kotaku will ever command any level of respect that they once had, or even if they’ll survive the dramatic loss of their audience. But they should remember that journalism requires a high level of intregity, one that too many of them have failed to live up.