Latest posts by Guest Contributor (see all)
- The Difference Between Gamification and Serious Games - November 26, 2015
- The Rise of Korean Online Games - May 14, 2015
- Ethics In Games Journalism Sounds Ridiculous – It Isn’t - February 1, 2015
The following Guest article was Sent and Written by Asian-American Writer Binh Tran
One of the fascinating things about communications in this information age of ours is the speed in which ideas and messages are spread. A single tweet or hashtag can be seen by millions of people all over the world in the blink of an eye. Online trends can radically reshape the landscape of popular culture, and at times even mainstream society itself. But, unfortunately, while the message reaches everyone, something is often lost: nuance. Seemingly inherent to the nature of communications mediums, particularly the internet, is its tendency to veer towards extremism in all directions. Often times the inertia driving these trends and discussions leads to extreme polarization of issues. It devolves into simplistic cases of good versus evil. In the case of the video gaming world, the conversation has been distilled into two extremes: Gamer and Anti-Gamer.
If you’re reading this, there’s a very high chance that you’ve already seen the kind of discussion i’m talking about. Zoe Quinn. Gamer Gate. Misogyny. Corruption. The battlelines have been already drawn, and if you’re wondering what side you’re supposed to be one, all you need to do is look in a mirror. The current narrative on gamers contends that if you are white, straight cisgendered and male, you are by default a misogynist and an opponent of feminism and diversity in gaming at large. Conversely, if you don’t fit into these categories, you are automatically assumed to be a supporter of diversity in games, social justice, etc. This is the constructed reality that shapes the current GamerGate discussion; a simple, binary scenario that forces everyone into a convenient, neatly labelled little box.
It is also a terrible oversimplification of the situation; one that conscripts people involved in this issue into specific ideologies based upon demographics. This is a concept that unfairly ignores the wonderfully complex and beautiful range of different perspectives that make up the human experience. The people that are most left out of this discussion are minority gamers themselves. “Gamer vs. Anti-Gamer/Feminist/SJW/Whathaveyou” is a scenario manufactured by a hostile games media. The issue ignores the perspectives of minorities and even those who may share the same progressive-egalitarian values and opinions that the games media claim to champion. People who identify as persons of color, LBGTQ, left-leaning liberal, etc. are all being ignored and misrepresented by a corrupt gaming media that claims to speak for them. They don’t. It is a fallacy to even assume that minorities in the gaming media are somehow a monolithic entity or hive mind; that people of different racial groups, gender identities and sexual orientations can all be lumped together as a single collective. THAT is broadly stereotyping about people. THAT is stealing agency from minorities. THAT is racist. THAT is sexist. THAT is appropriation. THAT. IS. OPPRESSION.
The gaming media at this time, writes from a perspective of false moral entitlement, propped up by institutionalized corruption and cronyism. Issues that should be important to all gamers are sensationalized and cheapened to produce clicks and page views. It’s not even about the cause for these writers and bloggers; it’s about the paycheck. It’s about ad revenue. The most ridiculous part about it is that most of these writers and editors aren’t even making that much in the end. I’m pretty certain no one is making six figures off any of this garbage. Sure, I get it, politicians and corporate executives are corrupt and shameless, but they do it for billions of dollars, and the power to control the lives of every man, woman, and child on Earth. A gaming “journalist” wantonly engages in corrupt practices to do what? Make a few bucks on ad revenue? Get some nice freebies at E3? Get a job at some indie gaming company that’ll go under in a year? The idea that anyone’s pride and dignity can be so cheap astounds me.
You know truthfully, I never wanted to have to write this. I don’t. I would have been just as happy playing my video games, laughing with my friends, and occasionally complaining about Nintendo and/or JRPGs don’t seem to get enough respect these days. I would’ve been fine with that. But after seeing the gaming media devolve into SJW demagoguery the last few years, as well as the insanity of GamerGate unfold recently, I felt the need to say something. For years, I have stood in silence on these issues, but as of late, I find the situation simply intolerable. The use of identity politics as a smokescreen for corruption in the gaming media is sickening. It reeks of the most vile kind of yellow journalism; the kind that even William Randolph Hearst would have condemned. The pervasive narrative in the gaming media these days is hateful and appalling, and makes a mockery of the values in which I believe and hold sacred.
I’m going to lay my cards out on the table. I am a straight Asian-American male from a working class family. My family survived wars, political purges, and 3 different refugee camps just to be able to come to America. I consider myself politically a left-leaning liberal. I do support worker’s rights, women’s rights, gay rights, transgender rights, religious freedom, and oppose racism. Yeah, the whole deal. Hell, number of the writers and commentators that are vilifying me right now are people I used to enjoy reading and watching. It’s not as if I was always against everything they had to say all the time. I’ve often shared very similar views at times.
This is why the behaviour of the gaming media as of late sickens me. They use the causes and values that I sincerely believe in, and turned it into a shield they can hide behind to avoid criticism. As if claiming to fight for justice forgives corruption and general cruelty to others. They’ve weaponized these issues and values for their own cynical gain. The gaming media presents the narrative as if opposing their corruption and insanity would mean turning my back on the values and issues I care about. As insane as it sounds, this is deeply troubling to me; painful even.
I’m not going to lie, a part of me is uncomfortable with the fact that more and more of the opposition against games media corruption are turning out to be right-wing fringe entities like Men’s Right’s Activists, Religious Right Groups. I’m already starting to see videos on this issue pop up and see MRA commentators, Conservative Christians, and borderline White Supremacists coming down on opposing this kind of anti-gamer narrative. I readily understand the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, but I don’t want to be drawn into that. I realize how much of a tightrope walk that can be in some ways. I suppose I’m less liberal than the crazy SJWs in the gaming media, but way too liberal to want anything to do with ultra right wing conservatives, MRAs, and other groups I consider just as bad if not worse. I realize in many ways how how unfair it is to paint that side of the spectrum with a broad brush as well. I’m really really sorry if I’ve offended anyone. (And unlike some of the feckless cronies supporting Zoe Quinn, I actually mean it.)
One thing that I’ve noticed that the gaming media needs to be called out on is their own diversity issues and hypocrisy. I’m probably getting a skewed perspective only looking at the bigger sites like Kotaku, Gamespot and IGN, but it seems to me that most of the people talking about diversity and misogyny are mostly straight white men. A number of them seem to be from pretty well-off middle class families. (I mean come on, Stephen Totilo has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, for god’s sake.) That’s only one perspective on diversity, and in my opinion as a minority, it’s a skewed one. In my personal experience, the kind of white liberal radical view that a lot of gaming writers subscribe to is outright offensive to me as a minority. Whether that’s due to ignorance or subconscious racism is an issue for another day. Oh, but what about minority writers in the field? Yeah, there’s a few. The problem is a lot of the minority writers and editors in this field seem to be more cases of outright tokenism to me. (Hell, Patricia Hernandez seems more like a three-fer to me.) Though I’m sure if anyone said anything about that, they’d be accused of using rhetoric and gotcha journalism to prop up “The Patriarchy”. In the case of various minority individuals calling them out on this stuff, the common response seems to be a condescending assertion that we’ve internalized our discrimination and been brainwashed; that we’re victims broken by the system. How someone doesn’t find THAT disgustingly offensive, I don’t know.
Video gaming, hell, nerdom in general has come a long way. From fringe to someone mainstream fashionable. It’s still strange to me. I think the old story is true; a lot of gamers get into the hobby because they feel like they don’t belong anywhere else. It’s not simply because they weren’t wanted by anybody else, but because this is where we all felt comfortable. Felt happy. Being who I am and dealing with some of my identity issues certainly hasn’t made things easier, but gaming really did feel like it was something for people like me. Though I have my doubts at times, I still feel that this is who I am and where I belong. I hope that in time, these scars in our community will heal, and we’ll all be back to arguing over game consoles and systems specs before long. There was a certain immature sincerity to that which I now miss.
In the mean time, I urge anyone who reads this to just slow down and think about it all. Take it in, and form your own opinion. This rant of mine is simply intended to show that there’s a lot of diversity in the range of views and opinions you see on this matter; it’s not just a 2 sided issue. If you decide after reading this, considering the facts, and forming your own opinion, that gamers are indeed misogynists and worse, I’ll still respect that. I’ll fight for your right to express that view, no matter how much I disagree. The games we play may be digital, but the people who play it can’t be categorized as 1 or 0. There’s a lot more perspectives out there than you think.